I’m not going to sugarcoat the state of things right now. We’re in volatile times as the manufacturing economy we’ve enjoyed for the past hundred years or so gradually recedes into the past. There’s been a lot of people left out in the cold by these changes, myself included.
Baby-boomers grew up in the jobs-for-life paradigm. If you worked hard and kept your nose clean, you could reasonably expect to be employed for most of your adult life – with the same firm. I myself had been in the print world for 31 years, and was with one employer 23 of those years.
And then I was cut loose. What have I learned?
First – and perhaps most important of all – that we don’t have to be victims; we can choose to succeed. It takes a lot of work, and you may not get it right the first time, but the only real failure is to give up. In the wage world, you’re always afraid of what is going to endanger your job and you do whatever you can to protect it.
Secondly, that there is much good in people. I have met so many generous people since I set out on this journey; optimistic, forward looking. It does a soul good to hang out with these folks.
Thirdly, even people of similar disciplines can be collaborators. Business doesn’t always have to be a zero-sum game. We all have our strengths: sell that, and surround yourself with experts you can call on should the need arise. Web design is a good example: I deal with the visual end, but coding and all the back-end stuff I’d probably job out. It’s more efficient for the customer, and it spreads the work around – everyone contributing lending their particular strength to the project.
Finally, there’s never been a better chance to find yourself. What’s your passion? Maybe, just maybe, you can do that for a living – making the job fit you instead of the other way around. Imagine a world where most of the working people had careers that spoke to their actual calling – people who enjoyed what they were doing because they were wired that way.
Maybe we’ve gotten complacent. Lulled to sleep by the security of a humdrum, rat-race career, we’ve settled for what merely pays the bills. I remember a quote I heard somewhere: “I thought I wanted a career; it turns out all I wanted was a paycheque”. Maybe what’s been going on the past few years is a good thing. It’s pulling talent out of the woodwork; people who have been forced to examine themselves and what makes them tick, and actually doing something for a living they care about. It’s re-introducing a morality and work ethic that can benefit all.
Don’t be a victim. We can choose to succeed, in business and in life. Carpe Diem!