Bootstrapping Independence

You have an awesome product, but marketing isn’t your core expertise. You just want to tell people about your product in a non-sleezy way and not worry about all that marketing stuff.

But what if you could create a growth plan that aligned with your values and helped you sell more?

That’s what we’ll talk about today – creating a customized marketing plan for your startup, even if you have no marketing experience whatsoever. I’ll be drawing on information you developed in parts one and two of this series, so be sure to read those for the best outcome.

Start by generating a list of customer focused marketing activities

I believe every marketing plan should be personalized to the person and business executing it.

The ideal marketing plan for your startup is found at the intersection of your creative passion, and your customers passionate attention:

A Startup Marketing Plan Venn Diagram - The intersaection of what you love to build and your customers love to viewIn part two, developing a customer blueprint, we spent a lot of time developing the right side of this diagram, which is usually the harder one to come to grips with. You should have a nice list of places customers consume content, the kinds of content they like, and a good understanding of why they like the kinds of content they like.

Once you have customer understanding, it is much easier to look across that list and find things that you would enjoy creating – video’s, apps, blog posts, graphics, books… the possibilities are endless.

Next, align your marketing to customer engagement levels

Next up, you’ll want to understand the full funnel – how someone goes from being ignorant that you exist to becoming a buying customer to a raving fan.

This is known as your marketing funnel, and there are several distinct phases of the funnel: customer awareness, customer engagement, customer interest, paying customer, and raving fan.

Startup Marketing Funnel

Click to view the full size funnel

Customers start at the bottom, and work their way up. This is an inverted funnel, much like they show at marketing experiments , because gravity is always dragging your customers down and out of your funnel. (If you want another great marketing resource, I always recommend checking out marketing experiments)

Generally, the further down on this diagram you are, the more materials you may need to generate, which corresponds to the size of each section. The activities will generally not be the same for each segment however – a blog post that attracts thousands of viewers and gets them aware of your product is likely not the same post that convinces a newsletter subscriber to sign up for a free trial.

To do that, we must come up with a strategy for each stage of customer development up the funnel – from awareness to raving fan.

Finally, develop your full fledged startup marketing strategy

For each stage of the funnel, we will create a class of materials to drive customers to the next level and outline what those might be for your specific market.

Let’s create a chart diagramming what you will do to get your customers moving up each stage of the funnel. Each action you write down should come from that nice venn intersection of what you love to create and what your customers love to consume and do.

Here is an example chart outlining some common strategies seen today on the web, though your specific chart will and should look different – it will give you everything you need to start executing today.

The activities section is a list of things you will do or provide to try and move customers to the next stage of the funnel. The goals for each stage outline how you will know that a customer has moved from the current stage to the next stage (note that some strategies can overlap).

Funnel Stage

Activities

Goals

Frequency

Budget

Awareness

  • write blogs
  • post blogs to Reddit
  • guest post
  • google adwords
  • youtube videos
  • Get people to add my blog to their RSS reader
  • Newsletter signups

three times per week

$500/month (adwords)

Engagement

  • Write specialized blogs
  • write newsletters
  • create webinars
  • view product pages
  • ask product questions
  • free trial sign up

2 x month

$0

Interest

  • Product webinar
  • Product Demo
  • Free Trial
  • Lifecycle email
  • Productivity guide

customer purchases product

one time

$0

Paying Customer

  • product itself
  • advanced user guide
  • social tools
  • lifecycle emails
  • get customer to share with 10 friends
  • customer testimonial
  • buy second product

ongoing product development

$0

Raving Fan

  • thank you emails
  • special discounts
  • free guides
  • guest passes

Maintain raving fan status

2 x year

$100/raving fan

Now, create your plan – and go even deeper

Now it is up to you – put together your one page marketing plan in a diagram like the above. This will give you a clear list of every activity you need to do, the frequency to do it, and how to reach out to customers.

Over time you can tweak this plan in response to your actual users and how well they respond. There are many other things you can do to enhance this plan as well: Going deep into your customers head, combining strategies to maximize engagement, and capitalizing on competitor weaknesses. All tools and strategies I go through in much greater detail in my book, bootstrapping growth.

Jumping from one customer acquisition tactic to the next exhausts you. Trying to find the best way to reach customers seems like an endless and boring task. However what if you knew exactly which methods your customers would love?

Today, I will show you one of the most powerful techniques you can use to grow and sustain your business – creating a customer blueprint. We will be using the data you gathered in part one, so now is a good time to review that lesson and complete the exercises i you haven’t yet.

A Customer Blueprint is a cheat sheet for your marketing plan

Once you have a blueprint, you can refer to this in all your marketing planning and ask “does this make sense for my customer?” with confidence. My next article will tie this into how to create a startup marketing plan with no marketing experience, based on your work today.

For marketing guru’s, this has also been called an ideal customer profile or customer avatar. However both of those I think overemphasize many things that turn out to be irrelevant, and underemphasize or leave off critical information about a customer.

How to write an effective blueprint

Writing an effective blueprint is key to your long term success. Here are a few items to remember while writing your blueprint:

  • Write each section as if you were writing about one specific person. Don’t be general, be specific.

    • Example: Describe customers hair color
      Bad Answer: any color from blonde to brown to black.
      Good answer: a gentle brown, never colored

  • Use data to fuel your answers. If you don’t know some information, ask yourself what steps you can take to find out?

  • Don’t restrict yourself to the information below – add information highly specific to your audience. If selling to developers you might include information like preferred programming language, coding style, IDE, etc.

  • Remove questions or information which has no bearing on your market, but be more conservative removing data than adding data. It may not seem like some of the demographic and psychographic information applies to you, but chances are they can influence your marketing significantly (in a good way!) so be judicious and honest while culling information. Don’t remove it just because it is hard for you to answer.

Creating the Blueprint

Let’s jump into it. This exercise is a little more involved than my other ones, and will take more time, though it is worth every second! Open a document and copy over the questions below, then fill out detailed answers using the data you gathered in part one.

Blueprint questions:

  1. Outline your perfect customer demographics:

    1. Age range

    2. Location

    3. income range

    4. Gender

    5. Sexual orientation

    6. Race

    7. Education Level

    8. Employment status (what is their title?)

  2. Psychographic information:

    1. Strong political beliefs

    2. Favored activities

    3. Important values & morals

    4. Extrovert or introvert?

    5. How analytical are they?

    6. How much does emotion play into decisions?

  3. List products your customers love, purchase, and discuss. For each product, in one sentence, describe what they LOVE about it.

  4. List products your customers deride or make fun of. For each one, in one sentence, describe what they HATE about it.

  5. List your customers fears. What scares them, keeps them up at night, or makes them worry irrationally?

  6. Describe your customers dreams. Make this highly descriptive, as if you were writing a fiction novel. Make sure to include their core dream, as well as how they feel today when wishing for it, how they will feel when they achieve it, and the struggle they are willing to undertake when they get there. Also include surroundings – what else about their life will change then their dreams are achieved?

  7. Is there anyone the customer is trying to impress which your product can help with? Describe this.

  8. What language and slang does your customer use? Any words, acronyms, or other ways they speak which are unique to their place in the world.

  9. Do you solve a specific problem for them? What other things do they do to solve/overcome/avoid/ignore this problem? What other related problems does this create?
  10. What are some related interests of your customer? List out websites, magazines, communities, and other places they might spend time (enjoyably).

Once you go through this exercise, you should have a good grasp on your customer and what makes them tick.

Over time, as you delve into focused marketing efforts, organic growth, customer acquisition, and product development, you can refer again and again to this living document to make sure you and your customer are aligned.

In my upcoming book, Bootstrapping Growth, I include an even more in depth customer blueprint guide, including exact worksheets and questions you can use to get even further inside your customers head, as well as specific tactics and strategies to apply this blueprint to all your marketing efforts.

The marketing choices seem endless, how could you possibly pick one thing to try and grow your business? Website optimization, talking to customers, blog posting, newsletters, direct sales, social media – You really should be doing these things. Right? Maybe? Staring at the to-do list you wrote down paralyses your mind – starting seems a herculean task and your heart beats a little faster just thinking about it.

But what if you had a simple system you could use to always know which method to use next? A way to talk to your customers which they would actually appreciate.

The majority of businesses skip the most crucial step.

Whether in product design or planning for growth & marketing, knowing your customer is the basis for everything else.

You can’t create products your customers will love if you don’t know what your customers love, and you can’t excite your customers while you talk to them if you don’t know what excites your customers.

Today, and over the next several blog postings, I am going to take you through a few simple steps to know and understand your customer – then really get inside their head so you know how to excite them, talk to them, and where to find them. This knowledge will become the lens through which you evaluate all future marketing efforts.

The goal of knowing your customers is so you can elicit stimulating conversations with them.

The key to having a good conversation is in knowing the material that interests your customers.

At the end of the day, good marketing is really a mutually beneficial conversation with your customer. There is no sleaze, no pushing of unwelcome products or information, no spam, only honest & helpful conversations.

Understanding customers is more of an art than a science, but everyone can do it.

It begins with collecting data about your customers, then compiling that data into a simple profile you write out to remind yourself about your customer in the future.

So, to start, you need to find some data about your customers. I strongly recommend against using things like gartner reports, surveys, statistical reports, demographics, and other data someone else created. It’s easy to get that data, and for you, probably worth less than you pay for it, which is typically zero.

Instead, I want you to compile your own data. You should feel a personal connection to your customers, something which won’t be achieved with simple statistics.

What you want to do is start understanding your customers deeply: How they think, how they talk, what they dream about, what drives them to succeed, what do they usually fail at.

Take action – How to start compiling customer data

Let’s take action. Don’t wait or put this off. Collecting customer data is a never-ending process which will give you an edge over all your competitors. Even big companies fail at this frequently, so keep at it.

Start by finding your customers. Where they hang out, talk openly, and gather. This is where good data is found. Follow these action steps to get started:

  1. Write down 10 places your customers hang out. If you need some ideas to get started, check out the bonus material at the end of this post.

  2. For each place you identified, brainstorm three ways you could use the gathering place as a way to get data. A few questions to ask yourself:

    • Can I physically talk to people here? (At conferences, for example)
    • Is there a public record I can read through? (online communities, for example)

    • What would it be like if I were a member of this community?

  3. Come up with a plan to get involved with the top three communities you find.

  4. Get out and talk to people!

  5. Take notes about the conversations you have, or the things you read people saying. What do they talk about? How do they talk? What topics really excite them? Which topics turn them off?

  6. Come back for the next post in this series, where you will take the data you find and converge it into a useful document to focus your future efforts.

Like this post? You might also be interested in my work in progress, Bootstrapping Growth, a guide to sustainable growth for solo entrepreneurs, where I cover this process in much more detail, including step by step action guides and worksheets.

BONUS: Where to meet your customers – a quick-start guide

Ready to collect some data about your customers? One of the most common questions I hear from first time business owners is “I don’t know how to find my customers”. To download this bonus worksheet, sign up to my mailing list and I will send you a link to the members only resources area.

Sign up to get the customer quick-start guide immediately



Your customers hang out online in forums, groups, and communities, but you aren’t sure how to reach them. Just telling people about your products makes you feel sleezy – you didn’t go into business to spam people, but to help them. Even thinking about searching out your customers creates anxiety in the pit of your stomach: you fear being banned or worse: alienating potential customers.

But what if online communities could be a fun way to get excited & happy customers instead?

Forums are a great channels to engage with potential customers and get the word out about your business

For a bootstrapper, it is a very attractive option because it is a very low cost way of attracting people. It can take significant time investment, but pays off very well in the long run.

Posting in places customers hang out tends to get a bad reputation because the most common thing I see are owners posting unhelpful information about their business – which is exactly what we want to avoid. Posting links and advertisey information will only hurt you.

But, doing it the right way is a powerful and useful thing. Combined with a strong product, a good content strategy, and website optimization, it can easily outperform many other strategies over the long run.

The right way to participate on online communities

The first rule of thumb is not to advertise directly – if the forums allow signatures, put your info there instead of just creating posts talking about your product – those are sure to be flagged as spam.

What I would recommend instead is getting involved in the forum as a helpful member, and directing them to your solutions when it makes sense – especially if you have other info on your site which can help them.

For example, say you sold products to help people save for retirement. Imagine someone posted to a forum something like “Hey, I want to invest in property X for retirement. Is this a good idea?” You might respond with something useful – a few common things to look out for, and then say “you know, I actually wrote an article about this – how to get started with real estate investing for retirement (with link).” This would get them to your site where hopefully you can convert them, or at least start a dialog.

The real secret here is that you won’t be able to link back to your site or product with every posting you make – and you shouldn’t. When you invest honestly in improving an online community where your customers hang out, they will want to be supporters and customers of yours. This is how you can build strong customer loyalty, trust, and a network of people helping your business succeed.

It takes work, but it will give you an edge over competitors who only use traditional marketing methods.

Let’s start your community sales funnel now

Let’s try it out – get started with talking to your customers directly right now. Don’t put this on a to-do list for later, or think to yourself how you really should try it out – take action.

As in all my articles, these actions steps will only take you a short 15-20 minutes and set you on the right path.

Complete the following steps – some you may have already done during customer development, research, or because you are interested in your market, but do them now anyway.

  1. Search out an online community where your customers hang out. For this exercise, don’t spend too long trying to find the “best” place, any one will do. Common places might be online forums, facebook, linkedin groups, or industry associations.
  2. Once you find one, join the community, and use your real name as your username. Browse the first page or two of discussion, and find one in which you have something useful to contribute.
  3. Since this is your first time here, read the entire thread carefully, and add your own advice. Don’t link back to your site at all at this point, just try to be helpful.
  4. Smile to yourself: you helped another human being!

That’s it for today! By intention, no sales will come to you from this interaction, but, you dipped your toes into the water. Come back to this place a few times a week and contribute honestly. If there is an opportunity to add your site and sales pitch to your profile or signature, do so.

The final tip is to be consistent. Over time, people in the community will come to trust you and recommend you to others, thus creating a network effect for you and your business. Once you feel comfortable helping in the first community you find, invest the time to find places where more customers hang out, and try to frequent one or two places a week to give helpful advice and spread the word about your good work.

Like this post? You might also be interested in my work in progress, Bootstrapping Growth, a guide to sustainable growth for solo entrepreneurs.

Sales aren’t moving the way you want them to. You have a decent and growing following on Facebook & Twitter, a few hundred visitors a day, and a well designed site.

What are you doing wrong?  Is your social proof right for your audience? Do you need better photos? Videos? Testimonials? Maybe, you think, there is a long slow ramp to sales volume. Or, maybe you just need to spend a lot of money on advertising, fancy branding, and promotions.

But what if none of those things is the answer?

Let me tell you the story of someone facing this problem

I recently saw a premium e-commerce site with exactly this problem, and the fix I recommended was something simple which could be accomplished with a few hours work without spending a penny: clear messaging which resonates with your customer.

The site is an online jewelry store, Lazooli, which updates prices hourly in response to the gold market spot price, resulting in huge discounts on their jewelry compared to the competition. When the gold price falls, so do their prices. They are completely transparent – showing exactly how much gold is in each piece. Their mission is to bring honesty & transparency to the industry.

When I read the founders description, I knew it was a site I would like to buy from, but  he wrote it while asking for advice from other entrepreneurs – this message was not coming across on their home page:

lazooli_homeIt looks great, but it’s very hard to tell what makes them different from any other jeweler. The interesting bits are hidden away and non-obvious.

This is a very common mistake with startups. For a great series of examples, take a gander at the Copy Hackers USP break down (definitely check it out, and subscribe to their newsletter if you don’t already)

How to create a message that resonates with your audience

First, you must know your audience – but that’s a topic for another day. Let’s assume you already have a great idea of who’s buying right now. Do this exercise to discover your message and evaluate how well you are communicating it.

Step One: Take out a piece of paper – right now! Don’t procrastinate. It should only take 15 minutes (ok, the advanced steps take a little longer).

Step Two: Do the following:

  1. Write down what  your customers absolutely love about you, your company, and your product. What makes you the best fit for your customers? Take as much time and space as you need – the goal here isn’t to write snappy copy (yet).
  2. From the paragraph (or pages!) you generated, pick the top few items, and put them into a bulleted list of one to two sentences each.
  3. Boil one bullet down into a strong statement you love – the one you feel is the message which most resonates with your audience.

Step Three: Evaluate your current site. Open it up. Stare at the page without doing anything else. Honestly ask yourself – do the things your customers love come through clearly on the home page? If so, great work! If not, perhaps it’s time to think about how to get this message across.

Step Four: Post your top three bullets in the comments along with your audience. I’ll help you tweak them.

Advanced Stuff: If you want to create a really great message, I recommend also taking the following steps:

  1. Take the list from {2} to your customers and ask them. Which one statement  resonates with them the most? Alternately, you can create a split test, though I prefer a targeted survey first for additional customer insight & faster turn time.
  2. Split test variants of the statement on your home page until you find one which resonates with your values, and your customers.

Revisit your mission statement once in a while to make sure you’re still on target and resonating with your customers. A good story goes a long way.

Like this post? You might also be interested in my work in progress, Bootstrapping Growth, a guide to sustainable growth for solo entrepreneurs.

In the past, this site has been far to focused on my entrepreneurial journey and the lessons I learned along the way. I had some great feedback doing so, but I want to give more to you, my reader – less focus on what I am/was doing, and more focus on the principles I use to make decisions and succeed in business.

Going forward, I am going to refactor the site into information for you: the solo bootstrapper. After much introspection, I realized what I really want to do in this world is help people like you succeed in business using my vast experience.

The future belongs to the solo entrepreneur – whether offering services via consulting and freelancing, or through building products for helping companies and people do their jobs better. The past few years have accelerated this trend, and signs of it are everywhere.

But enough about this site and other people, what am I gonna do for you, if you choose to stick around? Here are the things I am focusing on now:

  • Teaching you how to grow a business in a sustainable way (as a solo entrepreneur) – with the goal of staying solo.
  • Boiling down complex growth techniques into actionable pieces so you don’t have to.
  • Publishing the best free content about solo growth on the web.
  • Giving you in depth information, with in depth articles (if you are a tl;dr type looking for a 5 minute read, this site isn’t for you)

So then, let’s get started on this journey. I’ve redesigned the site with this in mind, and started a new project for those who are really serious about growing their business – Bootstrapping Growth. Check it out, and stay tuned.

Something really rubs me the wrong way about the business of software conference. I can’t quite put my finger on it – something about the whole thing just feels wrong to me, which is (only partly) why I don’t go. But, being hypocritical, I do check out some of the output and even find it quite useful. Today, I watched Jason from A Smart Bear talking about rules and when to break them, which reminded me of one of my core businesses tenants, being authentic, though he never stated it that way.

I have met several founders who, for one reason or another, decide they are going to follow the conventional wisdom against their own better judgment. Later they ask: Why did I hit this rough patch? Don’t follow the conventional wisdom! I mean, ok, do it if it makes sense to you, but don’t do it just because you don’t have a better idea.

I read a lot. Every day. Probably too much stuff which fills my brain with interesting facts and figures and ideas and strategies. Some of them I really want to apply to my business. I want to apply them tomorrow. Sometimes I have even done that, but it has never worked out well. What has worked out, is taking some of those inputs, stepping back and saying “How can I transform this into strategic advantage for my business?” and then applying my analytical skills to it, making sure not to compromise with my goals and values. This is authenticity.

Take one example. I don’t like adwords. It’s too expensive. The only time I click on ads is when I am checking out competitors. I tried it. I took a competitors ad, did some research on how to make great adwords (what do I know about making good adwords?) and tried multiple variations. I lost money. Plenty of clicks, not so many conversions. Organic search converts at a much higher rate for me. Maybe I could improve my adwords strategies, but why should I? I don’t really like the model in the first place, at least at this stage in my business.

You know how sometimes, you buy from a business but just don’t feel quite right about it? Chances are, those businesses are very large and hard to replace in your life. Don’t be like them! That’s your competitive advantage. Not being like the companies no one (well, almost no one) likes. As explained in The Russian Fox and the Evolution of Intelligence, humans are really good at detecting cheating, or uneven social contracts. I think it’s similar when it comes to doing business which is inauthentic or in it only for the money. If customers get even a whiff of it, they’ll be out the door. If you compromise in one area, say, marketing strategy, where else have you compromised your core?

Sometimes, this leads to missed opportunities, or lost customers. That’s ok. In the long run, it enables growth.  If you have a good product, or a great service, then the customers you want will be well aligned with your business and will appreciate the authenticity. Those that don’t appreciate it probably aren’t customers worth having, even if they have a fat wallet.

So, where are you compromising?

Like most people, questions about the existence of God and all things spiritual plague me frequently. I want to believe in such things, especially when it comes to continuity of my consciousness. I don’t like the idea of disappearing when I die. I suspect most other people don’t either, which is what makes belief in systems like Heaven, reincarnation, or even Hell an attractive prospect to our minds. Despite my desire to accept religious teachings, I am constantly prevented by a simple fact: no one has found any physical evidence of something like a soul, or any mechanism which might enable a persistent consciousness beyond our current brain. The lack of physical evidence coupled with the strong benefit of believing in life after death, leads to strong doubt in my mind.

My assumption has always been: If something like a soul exists, and it affects our consciousness in any manner, then it must be detectable by some scientific device. I find it difficult to imagine that something can interact with my physical body without leaving any physical trace. But though I find it hard to imagine, is it possible for something like a soul to interact with me without leaving any physical trace?

I chose to test this hypothesis using a thought experiment, and ended up formulating a computer model to simulate our souls, the afterlife, and a spiritual model which requires no visible physical component.

Can Souls Exist Without a Physical Component?

I normally hate it when people use Physics principles or Mathematical theorems to justify something unrelated and not intended. That said, my thought process started with the wonders of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. It says, in a nutshell:

Any sufficiently complex mathematical system will contain truths which cannot be proved using that same system.

It is much more complex than that of course, but it basically means that, at least in Math, some truths will always be out of grasp in the current system. What if the system we live in – Earth – has similar properties? Of course, moving from a Math system to life is a bit of a stretch. Instead, I thought, could I build a real life computer system which has these properties??

Building a Computer Model – Background

I want to give some background for those unfamiliar with systems design and computer science, and to make the concepts accessible to everyone without requiring much technical expertise. Please forgive me for glossing over some of the more technical aspects of these systems, and if you are sufficiently versed in virtualization, it is safe to skip ahead to the next section.

Starting with a basic computer, we have a few key components – Physical hardware, Operating system, and programs running on the operating system. It is possible to abstract out the physical hardware from the operating system by using something called virtualization – essentially you can have one computer which thinks it is a whole computer, but is really just a wholly contained slice of a larger computer, also known as a virtual machine.

It is possible to build a virtual machine which has no way of knowing whether it is, in fact, a virtual machine or not. A user or program running on this virtual machine can run as many tests as they please, but will never find any evidence of whether it is virtual or physical. It may even share the same physical hardware with multiple other virtual machines, but will not be able to find any evidence of those virtual machines existing on the same physical hardware. Granted, in reality most virtual machines do not work this way, but they could.evolution of virtualization

So far, I have described two distinct systems – The physical hardware and the virtual machine. There must also be a third layer – the Operating system which runs on the physical hardware and controls the virtual machines. This operating system, known as a Hypervisor, has incredible power. Today, we use these systems in IT departments to dynamically allocate system hardware resources to virtual machines. This is the conceptual framework around which we can build our model of God.

Programming Life on Earth

I want to create some computer code in this system which represents life on earth. Forget actual intelligence for a moment – the programs only need to act in some way similar to a life form. For this, I recognize a few properties that represent our existence in this life: we use up resources to survive, and when we die our resources return to the earth for consumption by other natural systems and processes. So far as we know, nothing happens outside of this natural process. Said another way, we allocate resources to live from our environment, and return 100% of them when we die. We have observed nothing that leaves us to live on after death.

So, in the model system described above, where earth is represented by a virtual operating system with no knowledge of any other possible systems, I represent life with a simple process which runs in a loop for some specified time, after which it ceases to function. The programs are allocated a certain set of memory when they are initialized, which will never increase until they stop running. This represents the space we take up physically in the world. The program has internal states, which are never saved to disk, but are stored only in memory, and represent our changing mental states. When a process is killed or dies of its own accord, its memory is returned to the virtual environment for use by other programs, and nothing is ever saved about it’s existence. This process represents death in the real world.

As a result, we now have a simple, layered model of life (processes), the universe (virtual machine), all sitting atop an unknowable God (Hypervisor).

Approximating Life after Death

The Hypervisor I created controls and monitors virtual machines on a server without any knowledge, but I want it to do more than simply allocate resources to the model universe – I want it to manage virtual souls and influence the virtual world without leaving any physical trace as well.

To achieve this, I introduce a new function to the Hypervisor. This new function allows the system to look at any process running in a virtual machine by accessing (reading) a given memory location. In this way, the Hypervisor can view any processes state that it wishes. It may also store a copy of that state to disk without notifying or having the virtual machine environment have any evidence that it is happening. When a process dies, the Hypervisor can save the state of the process to disk, and still 100% of virtual machine resources are given back to the system. No evidence of this saving is left behind for the virtual machine to notice, since all of it happened outside the virtual machines scope and view.

It is now a simple matter for the Hypervisor to do some interesting things with the saved process states. It could, for instance, reincarnate the saved process into a new process in the same virtual machine by copying the saved contents into a new process, or perhaps only certain segments of the saved process state. It could also take the saved process state and insert it into a new process in other virtual machines, which could be completely different operating environments than the one the process originated in. In this way, the Hypervisor could approximate a process flowing through states of reincarnation or travel from Earth to Heaven or Hell, all without leaving a trace in the original environment.

Mutliple universes represented by virtualization

Conclusions

As you can see, this model is flexible enough to account for all major religious beliefs on earth today, and creates a cohesive thought model by which souls could interact with the human world without leaving a trace. Furthermore, it can actually be implemented on earth with some approximation, allowing a program to exist as if it had a permanent soul, even if the environment it was created in was completely destroyed (say, by shutting down a virtual machine). It does not say if any major religion is right or wrong, it simply shows it is possible that observation may miss certain things which are unobservable from where we sit, but does not completely exclude them from the realm of possibility.

I would apply a caution to those who want to use this to explain other religious phenomena, or even when talking of the afterlife. Simply because no physical observation or cause and effect chain have been established for certain phenomena, does not mean that no observable events exist. It would be preferable to search for physical evidence rather than take something on faith alone, keeping in mind that absence of physical evidence may not mean absence of phenomena.

Entangled

A poor seal who has been entangled by human wasteAs humans, we have two kinds of currency to spend at our leisure. The first is given to us at birth, a sum stored in a bank vault with a number on it, but we are never told what the total is. This is called Time. The second we start at zero, but can measure very precisely, and we call Money.

As we grow, we are at first able to spend time on whatever we choose, until slowly the freedom leaches away in society, school, and social obligation. At some point we realize that we have a lot of time, but aren’t very satisfied with the state of having lots of time and nothing to spend it on (or maybe we are, but authority figures tell us we shouldn’t be, and we listen), so we trade away time for money. This is the beginning of the end.

The interesting thing about money is: once you have some, you forget how to live with less. Somehow, over time, additional income begins to feel a lot like the lower income, and nothing has changed. This is why people making $20,000/year struggling to make ends meet can be in the same situation as people making $250,000/year struggling to make ends meet.

How could they possibly end up in the same place?

The answer is not hard for us to comprehend, but it is a simple truth many people don’t ever realize – that the entire modern system is setup such that you will be entangled to the proper degree. Every dollar you earn is another way to become entangled. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that is how most people end up.

Entanglement starts with a need, or a desire. Often, these are valid things that every human desires: love, freedom, security. Fundamental human desires are simple traps to entanglement. If we follow one of the most basic human needs, the need for water, it is easy to see how society has manufactured various levels of entanglement.

I need to drink about 8 glasses of water per day. My only real requirement is that it is fresh and disease free – that meets my needs as a human, so I drink from the tap. My wife’s friend read a book about how tap water contains cancer causing things like fluoride and copper, so she bought a filter for $20 and replaces it every month. Now, when she comes to our house, if I offer her tap water she asks for filtered water, so of course I also need to have a filter for her, of equal quality (or else I’d be cheap?). Thus I, also, pay my dues to the water filter companies. I drink tap water, but I am entangled to filtered water because of social graces, though the entanglement is weak since I have no problem stopping (it is stronger for my wife’s friend, who believes tap water causes cancer. I guess it might, I honestly don’t know).

Another friend of ours decided that filtered water was not quite good enough, so looked around for the proper water to drink and found Evian. He decided that this would be the only water he would drink, and began holding days worth of drinking water at his house, in the form of Evian bottles which he brings everywhere. He probably consumes $20 per day of water now.

To feed habits like this, we must pay one of our two currencies, Time or Money. We could spend time if we wanted to – collecting rain, digging a well – but almost no one does that anymore (why not?) Or we could spend money in various amounts (“market segmentation”) through tap water or bottled or whatever. How has a simple and easily satisfied need, which could be satisfied for free (and was for thousands of years) turned into a $20 a day habit?

Societal Entanglement has brought us to the point where every minute must either be increasing entanglement through desire fulfillment, paid entertainment, or working to pay off our manufactured addiction to it. In the end, eventually, it leaves us only with The Mundane Existence.

Gulliver from Gullivers Travels

Gulliver from Gullivers Travels

I often feel like a slave in the modern world. A machine repeatedly doing slightly different tasks. When visualizing how life makes me feel, I often visualize a large number of soft velvet ties pulling me down with increasing pressure. Each thread is so soft it can barely be discerned, and alone could be removed with little effort. But over many years the number of small threads has built up to be an almost unbreakable series of tangled rope holding me firmly down.

I am, thankfully, not the only one who feels this way, and some people have been able to articulate it better than I. See on elevating humanity and are most americans debt slaves. The term slavery appears repeatedly, and it approximates how I feel, but isn’t quite the right word for it. To find a better way to describe myself, I tested the idea of modern slavery by contrasting traditional slavery and modern ideas of corporate slavery:

Historical Modern
Could buy right to be paid to work Automatically paid to work
Entered into by force or birth Heavily incentivized to participate
Desire to change owner out of slaves control Can change owner any time, or opt to have no owner
Owner cared for well being only individual cares for well being
Government / law supported Government / law incentivized

I also considered the idea of debt-slavery, which I also think falls a bit short. Although a person can rent themselves for a number of hours (at a given rate of dollars per hour) to make up for a debt, I don’t see it as the default paradigm in the modern world. Instead, I see the rise of salaried company-persons and independent contractors. Both are expected to complete a body of work by a given deadline rather than a rate of work at $x/hour independent of work produced.

With that in mind, I considered how the current system differs from economies of work in the past, such as slavery economies or serfdom economies, with the more modern industrial and information economies.

Some traits of modern work-life:

  • Work is governed by government laws, social norms, and company policy
  • Work performed is determined externally by the organization (rather than internally by the worker)
  • Time is generally used as the primary measurement of value. Payment is given in return for hours or weeks of labor performed.
  • As a general rule, finding a method of completing work in half the time results in double work being assigned, not in half as much work for the same reward.
  • Time for non-work is strictly allocated (To weekends and holidays). Variances to the schedule must be justified within company policy.
  • Appearance and other non-work related factors are dictated by the organization. This includes time spent within the organization working, and outside the organization, though to a lesser extent.

Altogether, this is still not a very satisfying state of affairs, but definitely better than previous economic systems such as slavery or serfdom. Instead of trying to figure out how my life relates to an antiquated system, I decided to take a look at the current system instead and see what a more apt description might be. I started with what we currently call ourselves in the everyday: employees and employers. Employees are everyone who works for an organization, which is the employer.

One key thing I want to point out – generally an employer is not a human. It is almost always an organization – common examples include corporations, government, and non-profits. Every employee, including CEO’s and presidents, can be ejected by the organization and replaced, generally without material harm. The topic of organizations is too large to cover right now, so for today, I want to focus on the humans and the proper way to think of them – the Employees.

Employee, a word which derives from Employ, came about for the first time in the 1850’s, coinciding with the industrial revolution. Employ has been around since the 1500’s and consists of the following definitions: “make use of, apply; increase; entangle; devote”. It also derives from the word imply – indeed employ and imply started as the same word – which has remained largely unchanged as “to involve something unstated as a logical consequence”.

I would take this one step further with the observation that the word employee also has a common synonym  – resource. The company I currently work for often refers to employees as “Resources”. Though not often mentioned consciously, this term is codified in all companies due to organizational departments known as “Human Resources” which manage aspects of adding and reducing human resources (employees).

From these background definitions, a better understanding of our current situation and why we call ourselves, universally, employees, emerges. The synonyms making up the word are good descriptors of the modern workplace and the humans participating in it. One stood out to me however as a superior word to use to describe ourselves, with a larger meaning embedded within it: Entangled.

Entanglement

As our productivity grows, we must increase our work output to compete. As our debt load or lifestyle spending increase, we become further entangled in the industrial complex and less able to extricate ourselves from the system: we must work more to buy more, and work harder to compete. The more we buy into consumerism as a lifestyle, the less we are able to see clearly and become independent, as our social stature begins to depend on our consumerist successes. We are not bound by chains as in slavery, or by law as in serfdom, to a particular master or landowner. Rather, we are bound by the system in an ever increasing complex web of entanglement, from which the further we delve the less likely we are to escape. This explains why even CEO’s and entrepreneurs find themselves devoid of balance in their lives, unable to find satisfaction without the office, striving for ever increasing monetary value and property. They are as deeply entangled as the lower classes, albeit with more ability to escape if they so choose.

Consumer products at all levels are designed to reflect this phenomenon, striving to bring new consumers under their grip in a self sustaining spiral, simultaneously increasing entanglement of workers.

Consider products such as iPhones, which come out with a new model every year, encouraging pricey upgrades. The social pressure to have the latest one, coupled with the high cost of the device, ensures that a person must sustain income levels to match this pattern of behavior, or be threatened with social ostracism. The same product practice can be seen across the spectrum, from car re-models every three years, to fashion seasons or home decoration fads.

The traits I mentioned describing modern work fit nicely into this definition as well. They are either a direct result of entanglement, such as being able to choose a master but not go masterless, or a direct consequence, such as any behavior which benefits an organization and thus reduces the chances for someone to become dis-entangled.

The Rise of Entangled Persons

As laws supporting slavery in all its forms were being abolished worldwide, the industrial revolution was in full swing. The loss of traditional slave labor, coupled with a new way to mass produce consumer items, led to a system of entanglement emerging naturally. Organizations fight for their own survival, and because they are larger than a single person, they generate rules and systems to maximize survivability. By design, those who run the organizations are brought to believe that they are the organization, since the most powerful members have the greatest ability to harm an organization. In reality, they are not anymore able to escape entanglement than the common employee, and perhaps even less so since they must generally be highly entangled to reach such a position of power in the first place. Consider the kinds of perks CEO’s get, in general. Why are these needed in place of increased pay? Simply put: they greatly increase entanglement of someone into a certain lifestyle when increased monetary compensation is no longer enough to fuel increased entanglement at the same rate as other benefits.

Thus we have entered a system where even the perceived most powerful members of society are as deeply entangled as the average worker is, albeit using different mechanisms. Entrepreneurs, CEO’s, politicians. Each are entangled using intricate webs to decrease their likelihood of escape. Law, debt, equity, contracts, and property are the tools which can be used to tie someone to an organization and thus into the system. Only a few people have found ways to check out of the system and dis-entangle themselves.

Which brings us to possibilities of living which decrease entanglement instead of increasing it. I have recently begun to strive to dis-entangle myself as much as possible, and I have seen a number of people who have found ways for themselves to escape the system. The myriad ways to accomplish this, and how they work for individuals, are a post for another day.

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