The Start-Up Of You

Posted by

Welcome to Generation Flux.

The January 2012 cover story of Fast Company magazine was all about Generation Flux. You’ve head of Gen X, Gen Y and more, but what is Generation Flux? Our business world has been through some tumultuous times: Recessions, financial meltdowns, the massive disruption of technology, natural disasters, nations defaulting on their debt, the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement and much more. For every catastrophe and massive shift emerge new breakthroughs and advancements. During these past few years, we’ve also seen some of the most interesting companies flourish and grow (Apple, Facebook, Lululemon, Amazon, Twitter and more), we’ve seen medical advancements at an unprecedented pace and the introduction of new technologies that will forever change our future. In short, this is a time of flux… uncertainty. This makes it hard to chart a course – let alone pull together a five-year plan. Have you taken a look at your investment portfolio recently? Do you honestly think that there is a reliable long view out there? It is with this sense of pandemonium that Fast Company has dubbed us – all of us – Generation Flux.  

Can we thrive?

“To thrive in this climate requires a whole new approach,” states the Fast Company article, This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business. “…some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux. This is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one: What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates – and even enjoys – recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. This is no simple task. The vast bulk of our institutions – educational, corporate, political – are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.”

Are you freaked out yet?

Reid Hoffman must be some kind of oracle at this, particular, time in the history of business. Hoffman co-founded LinkedIn – the very popular online social network for business professionals – in December 2002. With close to 140 million members in over 20 countries, LinkedIn’s IPO in May of last year made Hoffman a billionaire. Currently, he serves as Executive Chairman of LinkedIn and is a partner at Greylock Partners – a very popular venture capital firm. Hoffman’s passion is understanding how these connected networks that we’re all creating everyday as we connect, friend, like, link and follow one another creates new business opportunities. He also believes that in these highly networked times, we have to start thinking differently about business and the work that we’re doing. Along with Ben Casnocha (an award-winning entrepreneur and author), they recently published the business book, The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career (Crown Business February 2012).

The start-up of you…

“I was fascinated when I met people who were entrepreneurial but didn’t want to necessarily start their own companies,” said Casnocha via Skype last week. “That was my arrival at The Start-up of You thesis. Reid had been thinking about the idea of everyone as a business of themselves. In many ways, the LinkedIn vision is a manifestation of the intellectual idea in the book. We had both been thinking about these ideas independently… There is a convergence of two key trends happening now. First, is a trend toward entrepreneurship. People are looking to people like Steve Jobs and other business icons as the great heroes of the world. Secondly, globalization, technology disruption, unemployment, job crisis and this idea that the labor market is changing are making people feel less secure. This lack of security is  causing people to ask the question: ‘what do we do about it?’ So, people are looking towards the hot trend of entrepreneurship as the answer. While I think that people should start more companies, the reality is that not everyone is cut out for it. What can we do? We can learn from these dynamic entrepreneurs and figure out how to apply those lessons of success to our lives and careers.”

That is what the start-up of you looks like.

We no longer live in a world where young people are looking for job security and a pension (there are no gold watches in their future), but rather governing their careers and guiding their future by the lessons learned from some of Silicon Valley’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators. Famed business and marketing leader, Seth Godin, has a well-worn aphorism: “the safest thing you can do is be risky… and the riskiest thing you can do is be safe.” It turns out that it was a prophetic statement about our workforce (both the newcomers and the veterans). As more and more people leverage the thinking of The Start-up of You to build their own, powerful, networks, turn to proactive risk taking (and don’t see it as a risk, but rather an opportunity) and get very adaptive to the economic realities of a world where big business is no longer the preferred and revered career path.

Is small the future of big business?

The above post is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:


  1. “…an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.”
    None of us would have ever learnt to ride a bike, play an instrument or drive a car if we were incapable of learning. The challenge is to retain the ability (and desire) to seek out new learning opportunities and difficult problems to solve and recognize where your skills may be dated or diminished in relevancy. The deeper into a ‘planned’ career trajectory you become (or the higher up the corporate pyramid if that is your desired route) the harder it is to expose yourself to the vulnerability and humility required to adapt and grow. Its not just the Start-up of you (like this idea) but also the Growing and Maturing Business of you that requires this kind of thinking. The ability to learn and apply new skills is like flexing a muscle. Use it or lose it…

  2. I think some people tend to see a corporate job as something they might be stuck in, but maybe safer. That can kind of make ’employed’ seem like a waste if there’s a possible start-up they can be involved in.
    But it’s a waste to see that time as a waste, and I think the idea in those few words: the Start-up of You can maybe be a good focus to make the best of any work.
    Richard Clunan

  3. I just started reading Reid Hoffman’s book and it is terrific. We are truly in an era where everyone needs to begin to think about themselves as an entrepreneur… not because they need to start their own business, but because they need to think about themselves as something marketable.

  4. I believe as we awaken to reality we realize that the economy is not sustainable at the going rate. This effects all of us. We have done research and understand that we must take our lives into our own hands. This requires courage, taking risk, and the ability to overcome the failures we will face when running a business and following your passions.
    We always have a choice to follow or lead. With the power of the web we can do research and make our own decisions and we must never give up that right! This scares many in the 1 percent and it should.
    Make it a great day!

  5. Great article! I started a web design and SEO company about 12 years ago which has been quite successful over the years, but as things change and the future gets more and more questionable we as a company have started to make adjustments to make ourselves more flexible. What happens when (not if) the next big thing comes along and renders SEO obsolete? At one point the Yellow Pages were 4 or 5 inches thick…now you can roll it up and put it in your pocket. Remember those days? They and the Encyclopedia Britannica are a constant reminders of how important it is to look ahead and be flexible.

  6. My first thought is along those lines of the classic lawyer joke…anybody that decides to work for themselves has an idiot for a boss. But that’s actually what’s needed to succeed at being risky in business, having that ability to risk being foolish, or worse, in order to break the patters that create stability. In my case, I would also need the ability to recognize when to create the disruption of stability to create the new.
    Great post. Thanks for writing it.

  7. Mitch, thank you for writing this post about The Start-Up of You! This book and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries are the two most important books for me in 2012.
    I read Reid Hoffman’s and Ben Casnocha’s great book from cover-to-cover. I can’t remember the last time I was so inspired about professional opportunities especially because I’m someone who’s spent the bulk of his professional life in The Fortune 500. The only thing I would have changed? I would have read Chapter 6 on Taking Intelligent Risks first. It makes me smile that part of your post focuses on the importance of risk-taking.
    If folks are looking to participate in and join The Start-Up of You Tribe, I highly encourage them to stop by our LinkedIn Start-Up of You Community / Discussion Group. It’s comprised of smart people and stimulating discussion — just like what you find here in The Six Pixels Community.
    BTW, I can’t wait for you new book in Spring 2013. I can’t believe that’s still a year away …

  8. I read this article as well and felt it did a great job in part of describing this enormous upheaval. My only criticism of it, is that the people profiled all seemed to be the product of fairly conventional (not particularly revolutionary) routes to success: MIT, University of San Diego, Harvard.
    So the quote “To thrive in this climate requires a whole new approach,” states the Fast Company article” didn’t really resonate with me as new climate seemed to reward the same types of people always rewarded.
    But on the whole, I thought the ideas presented were fascinating and whole-hardheartedly agree that there has been seismic shift in our professional lives.
    Thanks for sharing!

Comments are closed.