Archive for category Long-term Planning

Neptune in Aquarius – Free, the Radical Price

Back to Free, The Future of a Radical Price, the book by Chris Anderson.  I heard Chris speaking with Terry Gross on NPR (Listen) and it was so intriguing I listened twice and started reading the book, which, of course, is free.  His idea/observation is that free can be a profitable business model and the first new business model based on the internet.  And the model is this:  making lots of money charging nothing. 

Free is not new as a business marketing strategy.  It’s long been known that giving away one thing free can create demand for something people are willing to pay for.  But in this internet kind of free, 99% is given away and a tiny majority pays for everyone else.

One example Chris cites is the Wall Street Journal.  Their website is free and is full of useful information.  But the archives and more specific data are only available to those who pay for it.  Google is another example.  Google’s services are available almost completely for free and yet the company is making a huge profit.  How is this possible?

There are some standard economic principles that play into this equation:

  • In economics 101, you learn that the entire supply and demand cycle is based on having to make choices in the face of scarcity.  Not in the freeconomy.  Free is driven by abundance.  Abundance of what?
  • Bits, digital goods.  Moore’s law says that the digital world gets cheaper, 50% each year.  (Actually, Moore was talking about transistors, but his basic axiom has become applicable to the digital world.)
  • Marginal cost – unlike atoms, which are inflationary, based on the scarcity principle, bits get cheaper and cheaper until the marginal cost of producing products digitally becomes zero.  Take this blog for instance.  Does it cost me anything more to have 10,000 people read it than 1 person?
  • Barriers to entry – when marginal cost is zero, standard barriers to entry into a market are virtually zero.  Not that long ago, a writer would have either had to self-publish at considerable cost or spend many, many hours submitting manuscripts.  Now, publish on-line, for free.

So, with marginal cost of production down to zero, anything that becomes digital will become free, or available in a free version.

What does this mean for us as business people?  If your product can be digitalized and you don’t make it free, someone else will.  As Anderson says, either you’re giving it away for free or you’re competing with free.

One of my regular readers commented on the Neptune in Aquarius trends.  Some excerpts:

My work (commercial art, illustration) has been seriously affected by the internet, both positively and negatively. Over the past decade or so the computer has allowed me to reach clients all over the world, has introduced me to markets I couldn’t have even imagined, and has streamlined the research I do in preparing my graphics.

On the other hand, competition has gotten more and more fierce, availability and quality of “stock art” has gotten progressively better, and my asking prices are being driven down by this culture of “free.” In the arts, which is the area I know about, the internet has created a situation where “professionals” and “amateurs” can compete on almost-level ground. For example, there was recently a Superbowl ad done for free by an amateur. These usually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the sponsoring company in this case basically got the work for free. So we who have been considered professionals in the arts are suddenly threatened by throngs of amateurs, do-it-yourselfers who have access to technology that enables them to make a fine looking product that in the old days only a pro could produce.

So what’s an old pro to do? As you mentioned in your last post, we’ve got to find a way to distinguish ourselves beyond just craft. We have to have better ideas, or a better ability to address the real needs of our clients, or … I don’t quite know what. That’s the problem!

The downside of free.   Have you experienced the downside of Neptune in Aquarius?  Let us know in the comments section below.

More on Free, tomorrow.

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Neptune in Aquarius – Free

I’ve been thinking about Free lately, as in Chris Anderson’s book, Free:  The Future of a Radical Price.  Chris is the Editor-in-Chief of WIRED magazine, my favorite monthly read.  He is also the author of the megahit, The Long Tail and was previously the U.S. business editor at The Economist.

I did my own research on the word free and found that it has many different meanings.  I’ve decided  to personally append the following meanings to the sign Aquarius.  From the Encarta Dictionary:

  1. Costing nothing, a free meal
  2. Not restricted in rights, a free country
  3. Self-ruling, a free people
  4. Not regulated, free to choose
  5. Not attached, the free end of the rope
  6. Disregarding traditional limitations, free verse
  7. Not blocked, free flow of electricity
  8. Giving something readily, free with advice
  9. Open and honest, a free manner
  10. Favorable, a free wind

And then there’s freedom, free will, free lance, free trade, and the newer freemium, and freeconomics.  This word free has some big shoulders!

I went to my The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language because I couldn’t figure out how this same little word could contain meanings as diverse as costing nothing and self-ruling.  What I found was fascinating.  The word free comes from the root pri, which means love, beloved, belonging to the loved ones, dear, precious, peace, noble, joyful.  The etymology cites that the primary sense seems to have been “beloved, friend, to love;” perhaps from the terms “beloved” or “friend” being applied to the members of one’s clan – the people free to come and go through your territory at will.  The sense of free as “given without cost” was first seen in 1585, presumably from “free of cost” to members of your clan.

Isn’t Free a great concept for Neptune in Aquarius?  Neptune is the connector, the urge to merge with a beloved ideal, and Aquarius, the group, the extended clan.  The word free goes right to the root of our time in all of its senses:  costing nothing because you don’t charge your kin, the extended, global community; not restricted in rights, as in open-source software; self-ruling, like the agreements on how to use the social networking sites; disregarding traditional limitations, abbreviate those tweets; giving something readily, the law of reciprocity.

We have utilized this concept for ages, of course.  I don’t charge my son for tax or astrological advice; he doesn’t charge me for computer and internet advice.  He is my kin; we exchange our skills and talents freely.  What has morphed with Neptune in Aquarius is who we call kin: now people across the globe who we’ve never met in person support our endeavors and we support theirs.  There are forums in every imaginable subject in which people freely share with each other the best of their wisdom.  I can call on the community, the global community, to answer any question I have with a simple Google search.

My son uses this often in his work.  When he has a thorny technical problem to solve, first he looks on line to see if anyone else has resolved it.  He often finds the answer or at least a clue that provides the opening for him to successfully resolve it.  If the answer is not online, when he has resolved it, he posts it.  The next person that runs into the same issue can access his best thinking, instantly and free of charge.  Why does he do it?  Reciprocity, certainly, but also for the pure satisfaction of contributing to the advancement of shared knowledge.  This is kinship of another kind, Aquarian kinship, based on a deep understanding of who are our kin:  those who love the same knowledge as we and who share the desire to advance its frontier.

More on free in the next posts…

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Neptune in Aquarius – mind-to-mind connecting

For previous posts on Neptune and Aquarius, use these links: Neptune-in-Aquarius Aquarius

How’s your mental telepathy? I read back on predictions by other astrologers pre-1998 for the period when Neptune would be passing through Aquarius.  There were some who predicted that mind-to-mind telepathy would be a feature of this time; that man would develop the ability to communicate over vast distances through the mind alone.  This was virtually accomplished through the internet and the various applications like Facebook, blogging, flickr, twittering, and many others .  Second Life and similar environments have created spaces where we can meet with people we know from across the globe or meet and get to know others, attend events together, live and play in an electronic community that can become as real as your first life, depending on your definition of reality.  In Aquarius, reality is an experience in the mind.

I’m not making a judgment here although I do tend to get excited by new ideas and directions.  I’m encouraging all of us as businesspeople to recognize what is happening.  Certainly there are many activities that are not conducted in this way, but the internet has captured the time and minds of many millions of people.  If we are competing with the internet while Neptune is in Aquarius, we need to recognize it and be sure we are offering services and products that cannot be had for free in the internet medium.  People used to use accountants to do their taxes; now they can be done for free on line.  People used to use travel agents; now free on line.  People used to use stockbrokers; free or almost free on line.

And the knowledge that is free and available on line is astounding.  Need medical advice?  Go online.  Need lawn care advice?  No longer do you run down to the hardware store.  Want to try that new restaurant?  Check it out online, where you trust the opinions of others because there are so many contributors that there is a leveling out, a consensus that can be achieved.

Neptune in Aquarius isn’t just about the internet.  The urge is to blend by forming groups and communities.  Of course there are many communities online from Geekdads to , yes, lawncare tips.  But the urge is happening outside of the virtual world too.  What do your employees and customers want under this influence?

  • People want to contribute to the whole
  • People want to form groups of like-minds
  • People want to connect to others
  • People want their ideas acknowledged

So what are we saying here?  Recognize the impact of Neptune in Aquarius – people want to meet based on shared interests and are willing to meet purely through the realm of the mind.  If your business is bricks and mortar, how can you use this trend?  More on this in the coming posts, including another Neptune in Aquarius business concept – Free.

As I’m writing, my cat jumps up on my desk.  I stop to pet her silky fur and she perches next to me.  She loves paperwork and will always join me at my desk when I’m working.  She likes to knock over cups full of pens and snuggle into the paper tray of my printer.  Can I duplicate this online?  No, and yet I’m not likely to try to make a business out of it, either.

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Neptune in Aquarius – let’s get connected!

I found a great quote by Mikal Gilmore in the Rolling Stone Commemorative Issue on Michael Jackson.  Although he wasn’t describing Neptune, these words are particularly descriptive of Neptune’s energy:

In my mind, Michael Jackson, [Elvis] Presley and the Beatles all shared one virtue:  they bound together millions of dissimilar people in not just a quirk of shared taste, but also a forceful, heartfelt consensus that spoke to common dreams and values.”

This is a perfect quote for the activity of Neptune:  a forceful, heartfelt consensus that speaks to common dreams and values.  (To see my post on Neptune, use this link Neptune/) Neptune has been transiting the sign of Aquarius (Aquarius/) since 1998.  What are the common dreams and values that are inspiring us with Neptune in Aquarius? 

The Aquarius common dreams and values are

  • the equality of the common man;
  • responsibility to the group;
  • the ascendancy of man based on knowledge, rather than other types of power;
  • the right of humans to progress technologically;
  • the right of each person to contribute to the base of knowledge. 

Neptune in Aquarius – connecting, binding together through the dissemination of knowledge and information.  Aquarius is an air sign, so it’s through the realm of thinking and ideas that the Neptunian urge to merge takes root in the world. 

What does this search for connection look like?  Think of internet dating.  This hugely popular and successful way to connect to other people is done entirely through databases of attributes – bits of knowledge about other people matched electronically with bits of knowledge about you.  Mind to mind connection.  The bits of knowledge may be about your likes and dislikes, your beliefs, what makes you smile, how you feel, all little pieces of information that you choose to key into the screen – effectively turning your need for connection into bits of information.  No physical contact, no physical environment for meeting and yet thousands of successful matches. 

How else do we search for connection these days?  Facebook has become a phenomenon during Neptune’s transit of Aquarius, becoming more and more ubiquitous every day.  It has become unnecessary for any physical contact to keep up with friends and family and in fact this electronic connection has allowed more contact with a wider group than ever before.  No need even for telephones to transmit our personalities, we can just reach out and touch each other virtually.  And it really does feel like connection, more connection than ever.

Blogging is also a very Neptune in Aquarius activity.  The right of the common person to contribute to a base of shared knowledge across countries and cultures is a trend that has never been seen on this scale.  And twittering, blogging in fewer than 140 characters, is changing and some would say redefining our communication skills to match the lighting pace of our world.  The right to change centuries of grammar and punctuation rules with the abbreviations and short bursts required for text messaging is a purely Aquarian liberty.  Revolutionize!  Break the rules!

I’m interested in hearing from you.  How are you including these trends in your business plans?  In the comments section below, let’s begin sharing ideas about aligning with Neptune in Aquarius, a very Neptune in Aquarius thing to do!

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In the post and video on Neptune we examined some of the fundamental characteristics of the energy of the planet, Neptune.  To recap:

  • The urge toward unity and dissolution of separation between individuals, organizations, and for some, divinity. 
  • The search for underlying cohesive principles of reality, such as physics and mathematics.
  • Sacrifice of individuality in service to a higher goal
  • Compassionate support of other people’s aims
  • Imagination, dreams, inspiration, art, creativity
  • Interconnectedness, such as ecological systems
Aquarius pours water from a jar into the mouth of the southern fish, as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825. (Source:Wikipedia)

Aquarius pours water from a jar into the mouth of the southern fish, as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825. (Source:Wikipedia)

Since 1998 Neptune has been transiting the zodiac sign of Aquarius.  Before we look at this configuration, let’s spend some time looking at the sign Aquarius.  Aquarius is also called the water bearer, and is symbolized by an angel pouring water onto the earth.  But the water the angel pours is not liquid; it is the water of knowledge. 

The Greek myth related to Aquarius is the myth of Prometheus, known as the first rebel.  Prometheus had been given a mission by Zeus to inhabit the world with living creatures.  After creating all the other creatures, Prometheus fashioned a being made to resemble the gods themselves.  And as a gift, he taught his favorite creatures astronomy, mathematics, the alphabet, how to cure diseases, and the art of divination.  Defying Zeus’ orders, he stole a spark from the sun, fire, and gave it to humans, fire to warm their homes and become the seed of civilization.  From this myth, we see the rebelliousness of the Aquarian temperament as well as the desire to uplift the disadvantaged and establish them as equal to the gods.

In astrology, Aquarius is known as an air sign.  Air signs are concerned with the mind and intellect rather than emotions (water signs), spirit (fire signs), or the physical world (earth signs).  The glyph for Aquarius is the lightning bolt, signifying flashes of insight and brilliance.  Airwaves and electrical systems come naturally under the influence of this sign and also technological revolutions, such as the industrial revolution in the late 18th and early 19th century and the digital revolution in our time.  The sign is also associated with revolutionary ideas, such as liberty, democracy, anarchy, and socialism that topple traditional institutions and is also concerned with the nature of one’s responsibility and contribution to the group.  Aquarius includes an egalitarian vision, where each person is created equal to every other, and can make an equally valid contribution to the whole.

Aquarius Glyph

Aquarius Glyph

Some current examples of the Aquarian spirit operating in the world:

  • Craigslist which by providing a free or almost free classified ad environment on the internet effectively demonetized newspaper classified ad revenue, resulting in the demise of hundreds of  newspapers and causing a huge transfer of wealth from large corporations to individuals.
  • E-Bay which has become an extreme form of decentralized sales, where millions of items are listed, bought, and sold daily.
  • Google AdWords, whereby advertisers bid for the right to place ads next to Google searches.  Quoting a recent article in WIRED Magazine, “By turning over its sales process entirely to an auction-based system, [Google] removed human guesswork from the equation [of what ads would sell given a related query].”  Note, “removing human guesswork” means taking emotions out of the equation and basing business decisions on engineering, mathematical formulas, and data mining.
  • Free, or very low cost, access to knowledge and information over the internet.  Of course, there are prior examples of this in history, such as libraries, schools, and museums.
  • Wikipedia, the free, open content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of a community of users.
  • Open source software which generally allows anyone to create modifications of the software, port it to new operating systems and processor architectures, share it with others, or market it.

No doubt you can think of many more.  We are living amidst a huge renaissance of the Aquarian spirit, supported by Neptune’s transit through the sign.  I’ll spend the next few posts examining this trend and exploring how to align with it in our business lives.

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These Changing Times


One of the most valuable insights offered by astrology is the tracking and timing of trends.  Whether you are already established in business or just starting out, or beginning to look around for inspiration, understanding the trends in the marketplace is a key to success.   

People were so surprised at the fall of the real estate industry, the investment banking system, the auto industry.  Not astrologers.  There was a period of excess dominating the economy (Pluto in Sagittarius) and the timing of the move to economic conservatism caused by revelations of what had been hidden (Pluto in Capricorn) was clear.  (Pluto moved into Capricorn in January 2008.)  This new era is a time of concrete expectations and practical climbing step-by-step to success, rather than the exuberant leap based on hopes and optimism which was rampant in the prior period.

We all are experiencing this return to economic conservatism and the extent we can capture this spirit in our products and the management of our businesses is the extent that we will be lined up with the tides of the time.  And this is an extended period of time, until the mid 2020s.  What are some of the essential aspects of this period?

·         Real estate will become a good investment again, in the way it used to be:  a solid, slow-growing asset that is the largest piece of most people’s financial wealth.  A dependable, if illiquid investment.

·         Conservation of the earth’s resources will be a major focus.

·         Consolidation of power structures, perhaps merging of economies based on physical proximity, similar to the EU model.

·         Destruction of many of the large business conglomerates to be replaced by similar reconstructed conglomerates.  The actual new business model will wait until the next cycle (when Pluto enters Aquarius).

·         And yet, more and more people will go into business for themselves.

·         Dominance of markets by a few conglomerates will continue, and a social and political climate of dominance and striving to be on top will be apparent.  (Sorry to my readers who hope for change in this arena soon.  I’m afraid we’ve got some years to go before it is vogue to be your brother’s keeper.)

·         Body-based therapies will replace psychological and spiritual therapies.

·         People will be looking for new traditions and ceremonies to build into their lives.

·         A very strong materialism will be apparent, with a focus on the old-fashioned and traditional, such as antiques, conventional homes.

·         Even liberals will be conservative.

·         Long-term planning will be more fruitful than ever, and patient, persistent effort will pay off in time.

·         Services for the elderly will be more required as the baby-boomers start to get into retirement age.

·         Elderly people will be working productively well into their later years, by choice or not!

·         Long-term financial security will be a focus for almost everybody.

·         Credit will be harder to get and more collateral will be required.

·         Dressing for success will gain even more ground.

·         Consumers will be risk-adverse and will respond well to money-back guarantees, warranties, and service commitments.

·         Plans to pass the business to the next generation will be important.


This is a partial list only.  As more comes to mind, I’ll be sure to let you know.  And there are other shorter-term trends that we will examine in coming days.  If you review the list again, you may get ideas of how to transition your business to the new climate. 


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Rhythms and Cycles

A fundamental concept in astrology is that the great cyclic rhythms that are so apparent in our external lives, such as the seasons, the tides, the rise and fall of nations, can also be seen in more personal aspects of our lives: our relationships, our health, our work and careers. Some rhythms are daily, like night and day, some are weekly or monthly, like the moon and tides, some are annual, like the seasons. Some cycles, however, are much longer and so it is easy to lose sight of them and forget that they are operating in our lives and the lives of our businesses.

There are three major cycles that astrologers track because these cycles move slowly and have large impacts over long periods of time. In astrology they are symbolized by the planets Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus. Pluto’s complete cycle around the sun is 248 years, Neptune’s cycle is 165 years, and Uranus’ cycle is 84 years. We will look at each of these cycles over the coming days, and discuss the timing and meaning of the cycles in terms of their impact on our businesses.

Pluto’s cycle of 248 years means it stays as average of 21 years in each sign of the zodiac. However, its orbit is highly elliptical which causes it to spend more years in some signs and less in others. Pluto’s cycles’ impact masses of humanity and bring broad sweeping changes to life on the planet. Pluto progressed into the sign of Capricorn at the end of 2007, and its impacts can certainly be seen in the global environment.

As an influence, Pluto is the planet of major change and transformation. In any particular sign, Pluto reveals what is beneath the surface within the realms affected by that sign, whether for good or bad. It has been described as like lancing a boil, in order to let the poison be released and the wound heal. Pluto exposes what is secret and hidden, in some cases great riches and strengths, in other cases castles built on sand. Sometimes the process is dramatically destructive initially, but what is rebuilt is even more true to the purest energies of the sign.

So what are the energies of Capricorn, which Pluto entered a couple of years ago? Capricorn is an earth sign and so is concerned with physical, material reality, the most concrete parts of our world. As such it rules buildings, natural resources, bridges, roads and machinery. It rules the structures people build in order to preserve their physical beings and belongings such as banks, businesses, monetary systems and governments. It is an energy that is likened to a mountain goat climbing step by step up a mountain until it reaches the top. Its energy is careful, conservative, ambitious, and practical.

More on Pluto in Capricorn tomorrow.

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