Mining the seam

business of wine

Mining the seam

The world is changing fast. Nothing is forever: we know that. But the pace of change seems to increase every decade. Sometimes it seems that change is so rapid that it’s hard to keep up. And cope with it, to. It messes with your head.

Technology has been the driver for a lot of the recent change, and many of the changes have been beneficial. Technology has had a massive impact on what I do for a living, which is communicating about wine. I create content and get paid for it. It’s a more complex narrative than you might think, though. It’s not just the simple story that I was doing a job and technology made that job obsolete. I came into wine writing through the emergence of the internet, and therefore I entered a world of work through the same technological change that is slowly killing that world of work.

But back to the topic of this post. It pays to mine the seam. I’m using a coal mining metaphor here: if you fin d a seam of coal, carry on mining it while it is still profitable to do so. Don’t worry about the next seam all that much. Focus on the current one. Yes, it will run out, but in the meantime, give it all your attention. There will be another one after, for sure, but don’t let the search for the next one diminish the current enterprise.

I’ve been a freelancer for ten years in a dying trade: wine writing. Wine writers with national columns used to have it a lot easier 20 years ago. But that’s not the point. My seam is still good. Have I had to work hard? Yes. Have I had to adapt to new technology? Of course. Am I scared of the future changes and do I wish that things could stay the same? That’s fruitless. Change is inevitable.

[But this doesn’t mean that I or anyone else has to embrace all change with open arms. Some changes are for the worst and should be resisted. It’s especially important to think of whether a change has the potential for any undesirable unintended consequences. Take genetically modified vines with resistance to fungal diseases. Vitis vinifera is susceptible to powdery mildew and downy mildew and with relatively simple genetic modification could be rendered resistant, and this would have massive environmental benefits in terms of reduced spraying. But the unintended consequence of doing this are that we’d end up with just a few varieties, and likely a single clone of each, and these would end up ousting all the other varieties. It would be a viticultural disaster.]

So, mine the seam. Focus on the work in front of you and while that seam remains, mine it well. Be prepared to adapt, but don’t give up while a good seam remains. Futurists aren’t always so prescient, and human behaviour is unpredictable. Cassette tapes hit vinyl sales and then when the CD came along vinyl was almost wiped out and cassettes were doomed. But now vinyl sales exceed those of CDs and cassettes are dead. No futurist saw this coming.

I make a living in a dying trade as a content creator. I enjoy my work immensely. Could I do something else that makes me more money? Yes. And even within my field, if I chased the money, I could be richer. But I’m also aware that in trying to become richer, I could become miserable quite easily, just as some people end up taking a promotion to earn more money and enjoy higher status, but with it they end up leaving behind work they enjoy to spend time doing work that is stressful and less rewarding. So I’m going to continue to mine this seam for now.

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