One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control. It’s just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenceless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software. – Richard Stallman
As I carry on with this book project, you’ll find related posts on the Getting Started category in the blog.
In the last few posts I covered methods to help you understand your situation better – both in terms of your own strengths and characteristics, and in the nature of the interactions you have with others.
In this post I want to look at resources, because the kind of resources you have and control are going to have a very strong influence on what you can and can’t do.
The resources you have limit what you can do
It’s not enough to believe in yourself, to have faith and will – you need to have the resources required to take action – resources that you can marshal and organise.
For a long time control of resources was all that mattered.
If you owned land or owned a mine – you had a resource you could control and exploit.
And the way you gained control of that resource was by the use of power – the power of force that your ancestors wielded and the power of the law that protects what they gave you.
It’s hard for some people to realise that some of the things they take for granted are actually resources handed down to them over generations.
If you were born in a modern industrialised country you take its huge resources for granted – from the education system to the opportunities for work.
Even in those societies, however, you have injustice – and that injustice can be seen in the resources that disadvantaged people have.
But this book is not about society and the fact that different people have different amounts of resources.
Facts are facts – they exist – and the facts will change as situations change.
What matters, however, is what resources you have right now – because they will limit what you can do with your projects.
What resources do you have that cannot be taken away?
The first thing to evaluate are the resources you have that exist within your body.
What’s in your brain? Did you do a degree in a particular subject or have you learned the social skills needed to work with people effectively?
You might be a trained engineer or you might have spent years working the phones in a call centre.
Both experiences will have given you knowledge – knowledge of how systems work and how people respond – and this is knowledge that cannot be taken away.
You will have also picked up skills along the way, things you can make with your hands.
These two types of resources – knowledge and skills – are the kinds of things you put down on a resume.
And the main thing about these resources is that they travel with you wherever you go.
What resources do you control?
Resources you control are of a different type from those that exist within your body.
When you’re doing a job you’re provided with these – a computer, software, equipment of one kind or another.
It’s possible that your business needs some large equipment, the kind of stuff you need to buy or lease – in which case you’re going to need some kind of capital.
Let’s leave those kinds of resources to one side for a while.
The kind of resources I’m thinking of here are the ones you personally have and can control.
These days that really comes down to hardware and software in a huge range of professions.
And that makes these resources available to many more people – because you have options.
For example, if I were to think about the key resources I use to create the material you’re reading here – what I need is a computer and software.
In particular, I rely on GNU/Linux because it’s free software.
Free as in free speech rather than free beer.
Free as in freedom.
That matters to me, because hardware is cheap these days, you can always get an old computer that still works.
If you’re a poor student from a disadvantaged background – you’ll actually get a lot of proprietary software thrown at you for free.
They want you to be a consumer, after all.
But if you really want to create something that you control then, for the first time in history, you have access to tools that you can control entirely – tools that cannot be taken from you because of the way they’ve been put into the world.
This may not be important to you – after all a tool that you can purchase and use is still a tool you can control.
But it’s important to me – it’s important that I can write these words and publish them without having to ask for permission from anyone else – and host the whole thing on my own computer if I wanted to.
And, of course, if you want to work with others you’re going to need to have tools that you’re both willing to use.
The market will settle those issues.
But the fundamental question that you need to answer is what tools do you have that are under your control – what would you still be able to use if you didn’t have a job tomorrow.
Those tools are precious and you need to take good care of them.
What other resources can you rely on?
There are a number of other resources that you will find are accessible to you.
Many of these are free, like email and social networks, and they give you the ability to work on the same basis as anyone anywhere else in the world.
Except, that’s not entirely true.
You can do that, with hard work and persistence, but when a product is free to use, then you’re the thing they’re selling to others.
You just need to get used to that and learn how to play the game.
There is a cost to everything so it shouldn’t surprise you that you have to pay a price to grow your business.
What you have to do here is make a list of the resources you can access – including the personal relationships you have and the places where you have spent time establishing your reputation.
We’ll come back to these later.
What would you do if you lost a resource?
An important thing to think through is what would you do if you lost a resource.
You’re unlikely to lose your training, but what if you suffered a disability?
How might that change things?
Could you keep working if your eyesight started to fail or if were unable to use your hands because of carpal tunnel syndrome?
This isn’t about being morbid but about facing up to what you would do if things went wrong – and whether you could keep doing what you’ve spent a lot of time working on – even if you have to make some changes.
Do you need more resources?
If you’ve made this first list of resources – what you might call your core resources – what does that tell you?
Do you feel like you have everything you need at the moment?
Or do you need to spend more time learning or more time practising your skills?
One of the things about getting started is knowing when to start.
Starting before you’re ready sounds like a good idea in theory – but really, you still need to have some resources in place.
Quitting your job and starting your market-stall business may seem like a great idea – but you will probably end up spending a lot of your own money learning how to keep your business alive.
Perhaps you should consider spending someone else’s money on training yourself first.
Remember – resources are the things you have right now.
If there are things you still need you should probably first figure out how to get them.
What do you need to do next?
The goal of this step – of analysing your resources – is to understand whether you’re ready or not to take the next step – and what kind of step that should be.
At a bare minimum, you need to know what needs to be done, you should have the skills to do it, and you should have the tools you need to get it done.
If you don’t have these three core requirements ticked off, then you need to spend some time working on that.
If you need training, go and get it.
If you need to develop your skills, practice them.
If you need tools go and buy them or learn how to use free software to get the job done.
All this takes time and money and effort – resources don’t just appear out of thin air.
You have to do the work.
When you’ve made that list of resources – made it as long as possible – it’s time to do the next thing.
Work out which of those are the most important.
We’ll look at that tomorrow.