3 Lies About Work That Threaten Our Democracy
Many of my readers are exhausted by the turmoil that is taking place in America.
For a while, I’ve asserted the underlying cause is not political. Our current political divisiveness is but a symptom of our nation’s relationship towards work.
Relevance is the purpose of democracy, where every voice matters. But nothing has eroded our confidence in being relevant than the biggest restructuring of work since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. That 300-year event offered us nothing of value in determining how to change ourselves fluidly and with little drama.
A large majority of our political leaders are using the symptoms of our culture’s challenges with work to exploit our fears by demonizing and blaming others. This is happening in both dominant parties and the result is a perfect storm. Too many citizens have lost confidence in their future ability to make a sustainable livelihood. Without significant intervention, the turmoil will continue to grow. Shifting our sight away from the problem is allowing fierce competition to step right past our country.
While truth sets us free. At first, it pisses us off.
Let’s examine the lies being routinely used throughout our culture that are making matters worse:
3.8% Unemployment is a Lie
Unemployment has become a political and one-dimensional number. It disregards all of the people who’ve given up on finding work or who settled on part-time incomes.
The American worker’s distress comes into sharp focus when we examine the more complicated and also more credible measure of underemployment. Recent surveys from Payscale and the New York Times indicate that 46-48% of our workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.”
Here is the crux of the problem. At the very time when we need a unified message around the crisis of underemployment, our leaders, on both sides of the fence, are putting forth their own confusion and using the symptoms to demonize entire categories of citizens.
The United States shouldn’t be going to war with its own people. We need to be declaring war on underemployment. While some would respond this is undoable, Germany, China, and Japan are well into preparing workforces that are educated in how to succeed in the modern world of work. Instead, we have leaders who promise to fix the problem and haven’t a clue in how to do that. More critically, this is not the time for hope, it is a time for action.
We have much to gain by making the journey to full relevance. Accelerating technology is introducing a whole new world of more interesting work, lifestyle options that we never had before, and the opportunity to grow in ways we could never have imagined.
How do I know this? I’m around people that live like this every single day.
The Middle-Class is Disappearing is A Big Fat Lie
The middle-class often viewed as “The American Dream,” began shortly after the end of World War II. Right?
In 1960, the average (middle-class) income was $5,800. Adjusted to inflation that would be $45,416.00 today. In fact, today’s average family income is $61,372.00. What did we do with the extra $16 grand?
During the last 60 years, individual debt load has skyrocketed and the practice of saving money has taken a nose-dive. Americans want more stuff more quickly. Many of today’s car buyers are driving new Volkswagens but are paying Mercedes S-Class loans because they keep folding old deals into new higher-interest deals. Many auto manufacturers are making more money from loans than building cars. It wasn’t long ago that people paid cash for big purchases like cars and drove them until they were falling apart.
The Middle-Class isn’t disappearing. It is in debt. The banking and finance industry is in the business of selling credit. Blaming them is like blaming the baker for gaining weight.
Immigrants Are Taking Our Jobs – A Huge and Very Fat Lie
Are you talking about the immigrants standing in front of Home Depot?
Mike Rowe, the infamous host of “Dirty Jobs” has made a career showing much of the work that America’s workers don’t want to do can actually be quite profitable. In 2013, Caterpillar and Rowe produced a new initiative called “Profoundly Disconnected.” It was inspired by the fact that Caterpillar needed thousands of recruits to get trained to run heavy equipment. After certification, income ran from $60-80k and increased substantially afterward. They continue to have challenges today.
When the immigrant lie makes it to Southpark the credibility is over! In one recent episode, the town became so sympathetic to laid-off coal miners and truckers they got rid of Alexa and replaced the electronic concierge with Jim Bob who quit because the job was “demeaning.” Take a quick break to smile before continuing:
Technology is Taking Our Jobs – Finally, the Truth!
Technology is growing so rapidly that repetitive and task-based work is disappearing. If that describes your work, leave! Or, at the very least, find a way to leave as soon as possible.
We have quite a few very bright people come through our programs. Many of them are distressed that their job or business is becoming more stressful every day. I often respond with a simple question.
“Is your industry shrinking or growing?”
If it is the former, leave!
It is not going to get better. It is delusional to hope that a shrinking industry is going to suddenly turn around and become a better place to work offering more abundance.
Rote, monotonous, mind-numbing work rarely brings great joy into people’s lives unless their history is so much worse, they are grateful to have any form of security at all.
The young people that are entering today’s workforce are far more advanced in their outlooks unless their parents imposed the old idea of finding security, survival, and predictability over every other more interesting characteristic of work. Technology is allowing people to start a business more easily than ever. It is giving us opportunities to solve real problems, which can be far more interesting than filling quotas. Many young people don’t look at want ads, they reach out to the organizations they want to work for.
Half the jobs that are coming towards us in the next ten years have not been invented. But, while change accelerates, the biggest gift it offers to all of is growth. Today, anyone who learns how to change will be able to learn more in 5 years than they did in the last 20. This is far more interesting than hanging on to task work, which happens in all forms of work. For example, associate attorneys used to do most of the task work in large firms. Now, Legal Zoom does it. “White-collar jobs” used to categorize millions of workers as having enough intelligence to do tasks that required a bit more thought. But, as technology washes this away it is time for everyone who is impacted to starting thinking again. Not worrying, but thinking.
Self-examination is key. I’m always impressed by how many of our participants as they define what they most want to do become far more willing to shed erroneous beliefs and outlooks.
Yes, it is time to go to war with irrelevance and underemployment. If we do not, the distress our country is in today will look like a primer course.
So, you might want to take out a notepad and answer 4 questions:
“How can I become most relevant?”
“If technology is giving me freedom from task work, how do I want to use that freedom?
Where could I find the greatest meaning and impact?”
How can I use the watershed changes in front of me to bring meaning, vitality, and purpose to my professional life?”
If you see the value in answering these questions, consider coming to our next program. 43,000 people have used it to answer the biggest questions of all.
Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.
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