Today's Reading

Now the era of the warring Stanleys is over. That is what this book is about. Our economy can no longer be described with the simple binary of the twentieth century, where on one side is money, stability, and routinization and on the other is passion, personal expression, and financial uncertainty. The two Stanleys are now one. To succeed financially we must embrace our unique passions. We have to pay close attention to those interests and abilities that make each of us different. Becoming diligent about doing the same thing in the same way as others is the surest path to financial mediocrity or even ruin. That does not mean that this is now the era of my dad, where self-expression is sufficient for a successful career. We need a fair bit of my grandfather's business sense, too. Simply pursuing one's passion is not enough. We must pay close attention to the marketplace, seeking out novel ways to match our particular set of passions with those people who most value them. At the core of this book are stories of people who have figured this out and have been able to model an entirely new way of living, one that combines the financial goal of my grandfather's work with the personal passion and joy of my dad's.

The widget economy that gave my grandfather so much became too widgetized—it scaled up so much that it left most of the workers behind. Walk into a factory, any factory, today and you won't see a bunch of men like Stanley, wearing blue overalls, covered in grease, going home exhausted but proud of a day's work. Instead, you'll see machines—big, clean, white machines. There are only a handful of people. Those people don't lift things or bend metal. They wear clean white coats and are specially trained to program the computers that tell the machines what to do. Manufacturing in America never died. America makes more stuff worth more money than ever before. But American manufacturing employment disappeared, almost entirely, and the widget-type jobs that replaced it are worse. They are low-paying retail jobs that offer little chance for advancement. The Stanley of today, a young man with a growing family and no college degree, would have little hope of retiring—as the actual Stanley did—with three nice homes, a few million dollars in the bank, and the pride of a successful career. The world that gave
my grandfather, Stanley, so much opportunity was destroyed by two forces: technology and trade. Computers and the machines they run are much better at performing routine tasks than humans are. Today, robots make the robots that make ball bearings. At the same time, increasing global trade means that those tasks that do require human labor are increasingly often performed in low-wage countries. This is not a one-time transition. Countless hundreds of thousands of consultants, engineers, and business strategists are constantly studying technology and global markets to figure out how to make more things with fewer people.

This is not all bad news. The same forces—technology and trade—that destroyed the widget economy have given birth to what I call the Passion Economy. The Internet allows people who want to sell a unique product or service to find customers all over the world. Automation makes it possible for people to manufacture their unique products without needing to build a factory first. Advances in trade mean that those unique products can be delivered to the people who most value them, wherever they happen to be.

This book lays out the economics of how this change happened and how you can take advantage of it. I have always found abstraction hard to follow, hard to apply to my own life, so this book is made up chiefly of stories, stories about regular folks who aren't geniuses and who weren't born to wealthy, connected families. I find it most helpful to learn from people whose stories are relatable, people who overcame familiar struggles by applying simple, accessible lessons. Many of the people in this book took a long, rough journey to reach their success, and every one of them hopes that their story can make your journey less challenging. They want you, like them, to unlock your secret passion and turn it into a thriving business and a good life.

So here we go: on to the Passion Economy. For me, this book is the culmination of years of research, during which I have been shadowing entrepreneurs. I have spent many hours discussing theories with professors, reading academic journal articles, calling skeptics, arguing through fine points.

So many people in the media, politics, and the general public seem convinced that the American Dream has collapsed, that our economy will work only for the very few and the rest are screwed.

Well, I disagree. You're not screwed. Yes, there are new challenges, but virtually everyone can have a richer life, in every sense of the word. Perhaps most radically of all, I believe that this better life is not all that hard to achieve. It's within reach for tens of millions of Americans who, right now, are very nervous about their economic future. Thriving won't require an Ivy League degree or any inherent genius. On the contrary, with a handful of easy-to-learn rules, a shift of perspective, and a bit of hard work, a meaningful marriage of passion and business can be forged, and far more peoplecan do a whole lot better.

***** TABLE OF CONTENTS *****

PREFACE

1. A SHOE SALESMAN'S SON AT MIT
2. THE RULES OF THE PASSION ECONOMY
3. BEHOLD THE DAIRY BRUSH
CASE STUDY KIRRIN FINCH

4. ACCOUNTING FOR THE BRAVE
5. IN VINO VERITAS
6. KNOW YOUR STORY
CASE STUDY CONBODY

7. THE AMISH LESSON
8. THE NORTH CAROLINA FACTORY THAT LET CHINA DO THE CHEAP STUFF
CASE STUDY MORGENSTERN'S FINEST ICE CREAM

9. DON'T BE A COMMODITY
10. THE WORLD IN A CHOCOLATE BAR
CASE STUDY BREAKTHROUGH ADR

11. THE NUDGE
12. ALL IT TAKES IS A QUICK REMINDER
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