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The Gig Economy: My Presentation and Notes from the CDC @ BCCDA 2017 Conference

My father had one job in his lifetime, I will have six jobs in my lifetime, and my children will have six jobs at the same time.” ~ Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar

For many, the quote above makes no sense at all; some think it doesn’t apply to them as they have traditional, stable jobs and careers…for others, that is already an everyday reality. For me, coming from places where collapse and change were so common that people made jokes and songs with them (and where you had to be creative about how you got your basic needs met), and with a deep understanding gained through permaculture life-design and observing (sometimes also coaching) unusual people live diverse lives, this concept is not only not new: it is seen as an opportunity, a waking call to re-think what we are, how we live and why we work.

Here, for those of you attending my presentation at the CDC Conference organized by BCCDA yesterday (March 27) and today (March 28), and for my usual readers, I post as promised my PPT and notes. You are free to connect with me for further exploration of these topics, having a tea together and talking about how to change the world, creating a social business together or just brainstorming ideas of what’s needed and what’s possible.

In the upcoming weeks and months, I will be sharing more details about my integrated vision of how to make this work for us and the clients we serve. A version of my posts will appear as articles at both the Canadian Immigrant Magazine (one of my “gigs”) and the Canadian-Filipino Magazine (again) in case you want a printed or more “polished” version.

I want to credit Diane Mulcahy, the author of “The Gig Economy” with whom I’m in contact via email, for her amazing and innovating book which served as a main source of inspiration for this presentation; I have taken the liberty of adding my own ideas (mostly coming from my permaculture systems thinking) to her “10 rules” of how to survive (and thrive) in this emerging economy. I also want to acknowledge Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, university professors and authors of “Designing your Life” as I took some of their ideas and spiced them up with my own knowledge and experience as a certified career councellor and life coach. You can find information about how to get their books and materials at the end of this post.

Finally, as a permaculturist and social justice activist myself, I will add some ideas that go beyond career counselling: I see the Gig Economy as both a result of our times (and a sign of deepening inequality, loss of values and the emergence of potential abuse and exploitation of those less privileged ) and as an extraordinary opportunity. If we leave it be, we will see more and more of the former (abuse and exploitation and the celebration of unhealthy, unethical and selfish as a “model” to follow)…but if we “design” the change and intervene in the right places, we may end up with a re-distribution of work, a re-evaluation of why we are here and what our priority are and a focus on holistic and global health and equality, ethics and co-operation instead…

Without more preambles, here is my presentation, enjoy!

“Look to this picture above for a minute…what do you see? What’s the first word or thought that comes to you?

Some will see this as a sunset: the day is over and darkness is approaching…others will see it as a sunrise: the sun is raising after a long dark night.

What about the tree and its branches? What season is that? Again, some will see this as the start of the fall: the tree branches look bare, as if all the leaves have fallen…others, will see that it may actually be spring, and the bare branches are now beginning to cover themselves with small buds…

I chose this picture to represent my views on the emerging gig economy because it can be seen as both: the start of a dark period for workers or the rebirth of independence and the opportunity to re-think career, work and even life design!

In the next hour and a half, we will explore the options and you will decide whether this is an end, a beginning or both and what is our role as career practitioners, program developers and managers, funders and social advocates.”

You can download the entire PPT with my notes here: Navigating the Gig Economy PPT with Notes by Silvia Di Blasio

The Books:

The Gig Economy:

Designing Your Life: (for book and materials you can download):

Note: this presentation was recorded. If the video is good, I will be publishing it here too for those interested.

More than ever, we at the end of the last century were finding ourselves with big houses and broken homes, high incomes and low morale…we were excelling at making a living but too often failing at making a life. We celebrated our prosperity but yearned for purpose. We cherished our freedoms but longed for connection. In an age of plenty, we were feeling spiritual hunger.” ~ David Myers


Navigating the Gig Economy – Part 2 – What is Success?

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
~ Bob Dylan

The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson



What is your own definition of success?

In the first part of “Navigating the Gig Economy” I introduced the “10 Rules” (according to Diana Mulcahy, author of the book “The Gig Economy”) to be “successful” in this uncertain and new economy we are experiencing these days: a part-time, only contract and no benefits gig-to-gig economy that seems to be beneficial only to employers looking to reduce costs.

The first of these “rules” is to create your own definition of success: if you still go by what others have told you (parents, teachers, TV ads, society in general) of what success is (or not), you’ll be in trouble with your soul and with reality: your soul will try to get through, nagging you through procrastination, self-sabotage, negative thoughts, “shoulds” and “coulds” and even chronic illness or emotional issues, from anxiety to depression; Reality, on the other hand, will pay you differently, because the Gig Economy cannot guarantee the  “American Dream” type of success anymore: there are real limits and challenges to that “dream”, and that dream has also serious ethical issues around it.

What the Gig Economy guarantees is that you’ll have lots of work and not necessarily what we call “a job”. You’ll also have lots of “in between” time and the lazy attitude (“Get a job and drag n it until retirement”) won’t work anymore. Income won’t be stable and you may never get benefits, you’ll have to use different skill sets and adapt quickly to diverse teams, projects and ways to do things.

Defining success in your own terms has many benefits, starting by responding to the call of your inner needs and wants and not those imposed from outside…

What is your vision of success?

What are your priorities and values in life? What things are non-negotiable and sacred to you?

What is your definition of a good life and a good livelihood (how you “make a living”)?

Do not rush through the above questions: take time every day to relax and think about what you need and want and what’s truly important for you, your loved ones and those who contribute to your well-being and even survival.

Taking time off for yourself is not a luxury but a need, if you don’t know how, I suggest you follow my “Project re-Connect” for some ideas.

Some exercises that may help include:

  • Write two obituaries: the one you would like to be read and the one where you are most likely headed if you continue with the life you have right now. Comparing these two obituaries may show you where you may need to change, what’s working and what’s not…after all, why would you want to live a life that leads to an obituary you’ll regret or worse, hate? This exercise was designed by Roz Savage, read her story here.
  • Fill the space “between the dash”, how would you like to live it?. Linda Ellis wrote a poem called “The Dash“, where she was referring to the space between the dates when you are born and the date you die:

“For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars….the house….the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.”

  • Remember that definition of success is not a one-time exercise: our goals, dreams, even values change as we mature and our circumstances and needs change. Take time every year to review where you are at and where you want to be. For this, you may want to take some time off with a life coach, a mentor or what Jon Young (from 8 Shields Institute) calls “anchors” in your life. Finding your gifts and your purpose may not be a solo journey: sometimes we don’t see our own gifts as the wounds in our lives are too close to our gifts. If you want to learn more about this process, I suggest you take the Renewal of the Creative Path with Jon Young, or hire me to walk through it with my support.
  • Make a list of people you truly admire or consider successful in their own special way (not necessarily how society makes us believe success should be). Describe what they do, how they live and what is what you admire in them. This will give you a clue of what is your own definition of success and what you may need to do to get there.
  • Surround yourself with people who carry the traits or achievements you want for yourself. Jim Rohn (personal developer) says that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If you spend your time with people you don’t admire and care for or who drain your energy and dreams away, you will eventually become one of them. Look for your “tribe” and spend as much time with them as you can, success is contagious!
  • Author Diane Mulcahy recommends that you set up the appropriate timeline. Success may take time, and there may be things you may not be able to achieve his year or even in five years. You don’t have to go “either/or”, Mulcahy says, you an have “both” as long as you have a wide enough timeline for the things you want in life. Give yourself time and see things in perspective: you may not be able to start your own business this year, but you can start working on it on weekends.
  • Finally, adopt an “opportunity” mindset instead of an “employee” mindset. The employee expects the employer to provide everything: from the routine and structure to the “career path” and ways you should develop it. This is a very passive and lazy way to do things in life. It may have worked for your parents and may still work in certain places, but not only is passive, it is dangerous! Being dependent on your employer for everything makes you dis-empowered and dependent, unable to decide and act on your own. An opportunity mindset has a very different approach: see every job or contract/gig as an opportunity to learn something new. Take control of your budget, career timeline and goals and work on the skills you want to develop and not only those that are “marketable”. As a colleague said to me recently, don’t try to adapt yourself for the job, “create” your own jobs based on your gifts and dreams.

Final thoughts:

“Success” has been both misused and overrated. So much, that people tend to become suspicious around this word.  Success comes from the Latin “succedere” which means “come close after” and “successus” that means “an advance, a coming up; a good result, happy outcome”. Think on what that means for you, take your time and start seeing the possibilities.

Next week’s “rule”: Diversify!

Navigating the Gig Economy – Part 1

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity.”
~ Gilda Radner


Welcome to 2017 and the start of an uncertain future…I don’t know of any time where the future has been “certain” but there were periods in the past (and applicable to some places and peoples, to be completely honest) where things seemed much more predictable that they look now.

Uncertainty can be frightening and paralyzing but can also be an opportunity to ground yourself into what’s always “certain”: that as long as you are alive and here, you have a choice. The choice of being intentional and proactive instead of reactive, the choice to respond in a way that works for that you believe on.

One of the trends we have been witnessing in the last decade is the emergence of the “Gig Economy”: more and more jobs are now contract, part-time, outsourced or project-based.

For employers, paying workers to stay 9-5 with no guarantee (or need) for productivity is becoming more and more disadvantageous. Contracting people for what needs to be done saves them time and money as there is no need to pay for benefits, vacation, employment insurance and the like.

Automation, demographics, trading and outsourcing are also factors affecting worker stability, and that without going deeper and mentioning the real limits to grow at the resource, energy and financial levels or the more social and psychological nature of boredom, skills gap or mismatch, lack of motivation, abuse and oppression, etc.

For workers, the Gig Economy can be a real challenge, especially in the case of vulnerable workers such as people with disabilities or chronic conditions, low skilled workers, women, seniors and people from minority groups such as immigrants, refugees and people from the LGTB communities. These are sectors of the population who have always experienced instability and uncertainty in their jobs. The Gig Economy has the potential to make things worse for them, but also to give them tools to empower themselves.

The Gig Economy is not new: we always had contract and temp jobs in the past. What’s new is the trend for these practices increasing…and showing no signs of going anywhere soon.

While “stable” jobs are not going to disappear, they are being reduced. Different studies predict that in the next decades (if we survive climate change, resource depletion, social, economic and financial issues and the like), between 40% and 60% of the population may be engaged in some sort of “Gig Economy”. This includes social entrepreneurship and small business in general.

If you still believe in the formula “Go to School, Get a Job+Get Married, Make a Career, Buy a House+Car+Form a Family, Retire and Enjoy”, your expectations may be shattered by the realities of the Gig Economy. Most people alive today has already have two or more jobs, those in their 20’s or 30’s can expect to change jobs at least twice per decade, if not more…salaries are stagnant and benefits are being reduced or completely dismantled.

For many, however, the Gig Economy may be a door to enjoying life in a very different way and the liberation from the enslaving 9-5 job. If designed and planned, the Gig Economy can give you time off between gigs to explore Nature and your inner world, enjoy quality time with friends and family, contribute to your community and support others in their life paths. The Gig Economy also gives you the opportunity to explore different career paths, work in different areas of interest and develop diverse skills instead of being attached to one sector, profession or occupation your whole life!

The Gig Economy has also another potential: to re-build our local economies and communities in a very different, more sustainable way and to take advantage of the many gifts each one of us brings to this world.

Diane Mulcahy, author of “The Gig Economy” and lecturer of a course of her own creation and with the same name, has developed a set of “Ten Rules” to succeed in the Gig Economy.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be posting my own interpretation of these “rules” as a preparation for my presentation at the BCCDA 2017 Conference for Career Development Practitioners.

If you are a Life or Career Coach or someone who has been affected or is curious about the Gig Economy, you may want to start following these postings. You’ll find my own twist (I am a career and life coach myself with a twist that embraces an eco-psychology approach), which includes my studies and activism around transition out of fossil fuels, climate change, resource depletion, social justice and permaculture, among other areas of interest.





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