People are finally getting what they've always wanted: Choice. And not just choice alone, but the choice to choose. There's a significant distinction here, so allow me to explain.
Choice vs. Choosing Your Choice
If someone offers you an apple or a banana, you get to choose which fruit you want. But you only have two choices. So what happens if you don't like apples or bananas? All of sudden, your choice isn't very meaningful. You're still getting stuck with a fruit you don't like.
Now imagine the same scenario as before, but this time you get to choose before you choose. In other words, you can rig the options from the outset. So instead of apples and bananas, you're now picking between grapefruits and oranges. Or chocolate and cucumbers. Or iPods and Zunes. The possibilities are endless. And you get to choose them all.
This is the real beauty (and incredible danger) of personal empowerment. We're not just choosing. We're choosing our choices.
How Things Have Changed
In the past, our options were limited. Mass merchandisers churned out middle-of-the-road products for middle-of-the-road people. And we gobbled them up. It's all we knew, so it's all we bought.
Then came customization. And personalization. And infinite product diversity. You can now drink a Triple Bavarian Mocha Frappuccino with a double shot of Caramel-Macchiato-Infused Goat's Milk. All while creating your own running shoes from scratch at Nike's sexy custom design clothing site. Nothing is impossible. If you can dream it, it can happen.
Why It Matters
So what does this mean for people, brands, companies, families, governments, nations and just about everyone else? It means everything. It means the difference between poverty and riches, freedom and oppression, joblessness and employment, happiness and depression, loyalty and mutiny - even salvation and damnation. Everything that has value (no matter how tiny) is affected.
All of sudden we can go anywhere, talk to anyone, find anything, and create whatever we can imagine. Which we means don't have to wait around for choices to emerge. We simply fabricate them on our own. Don't like your job? I'll bet you can find (and get an interview for) a better one in a few hours. Tired of your Mother's old casserole recipe? Go look up thousands upon thousands of new ones. Want to sell your 10th grade homecoming sweatshirt? Give it a shot. Your choices are unlimited.
For individuals this is often a blessing. For companies it can be incredibly frightening. It means the cream of the crop rise to the top even faster. But it also means the losers plummet rapidly to the bottom. Quite frankly, it's capitalism on steroids. And caffeine. And more steroids.
As people we've been wanting this for centuries. As companies, it's time to strap on your "walking on eggshells" shoes.
What It Means For You, Today
When people are empowered, something remarkable happens. Not only do we have more freedom, autonomy, reach and control. But we also obliterate the barriers that once stood in our way. For centuries we were controlled by larger systems, organizations and bureaucracies. We could only play within their boundaries. Of course there were choices, but nothing like what we're seeing today.
In essence, the old barriers have been replaced with new ones. No longer are we subjected to the wills of the "powers that be." Instead, we are now those powers. And the only things standing in our way are ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. But we're also our own best friend. The decisions we make have magnified in importance as we've become increasingly empowered.
And therein lies the danger. We've got what we've always wanted. But now we must do something about it. With the old barriers gone, the new obstacles are our own creativity, perseverance, humility, insight, motivation and free will.
It's time to throw our excuses out the window. Say goodbye to blaming it on the "Man." We've got all the resources we need. The only question left to ask is: What will we do with them?
Ryan Karpeles blogs at Living Light Bulbs.