The Rise of Personal Infrastructure

The company person is dead; long live the entrepreneur. There are plenty of people who have written extensively about reasons this change is happening; the gig economy, neoliberalism, the winner-take-all system being just a few of many factors. I’ll leave it to the experts to talk about macroscopic changes. 

One very clear factor is, each individual will need greater support. This support can show up in many forms, including friends and family, but I think one thing each person is in control of can make a drastic impact: personal infrastructure. Examples of personal infrastructure:

  • A note-taking system to support your thinking, capture your experiences, and enable you to mine mental gold.
  • Relationships. This might include mastermind communities (e.g., Slack groups, email threads, webinars) where people learn from each other. Or just expanding your network, with requests for introductions. Managing these relationships with personal CRMs like Superphone and Clay. (This is what entrepreneur and recording artist Ryan Leslie means when he talks about making 30 phone calls per day.)
  • Equipment including hardware like 3D printers, or software like Norbert. This requires learning new tools and a basic understanding of UX/UI, as well as keeping up with the tools that come out and free alternatives.
  • Your own automations and apps, which can be built with code, or with no code (like Zapier, IFTTT). I call these small machines. The greater your understanding of building products, the stronger and more useful these small machines can be.

Your personal infrastructure should be as free as possible; that is to say, you should be able to control it and make most of the rules, and you should minimize its costs. That way, there’s no reason it can’t stay with you regardless of your income and very basic mobile phone or laptop. (3D printers can be portable.)

Most of us spend our time in our work; we’re laboring and toiling away to get our tasks done, either for ourselves, for our clients, or for our employers. But every hour we spend in our personal infrastructure will enable us to do things more efficiently or effectively; if we write, then our infrastructure enables us to put ideas together faster. If we need support, we can reach out to people. If we need to print an iPhone dongle, we can use a 3D printer. 

With each hour we spend working on our work — working on our personal infrastructure, we’re potentially saving dozens, hundreds, or thousands of hours on future labor. 

Ideally, some of this time and energy we rescue from our personal infrastructures — as well as the solutions we devise — can be re-allocated to producing value for other people, supporting them with their own personal infrastructures. Sometimes, this will be an exchange of value; for example, maybe people will pay you money for your product, or for your perspective on something. 

Rescuing time and energy means regaining control of it, and freedom. That’s ultimately the purpose of personal infrastructure, to expand your capabilities so that you are free to pursue your greater calling (obviously within the boundaries of the law, in case you had to ask).