The Middle-Class is Not What We Are Losing
These days much is being made about the disappearance of our middle-class. Unfortunately, framing what is occurring as an economic issue distracts many of us from the real truth.We are not witnessing the elimination of the middle-class, we are eliminating task workers. This is a seismic shift so frightening that many of America’s underemployed workers resort to blaming others for the loss of this work. During this essential turning point in the world of work, it is time for all of us to learn how to change.
Let’s begin with the fact that advancing technology has always introduced new freedoms. But, if we happen to be clinging to industrial revolution thinking, we are not looking for new freedom. We want another job, perhaps just like the one we hated. I’m not trying to trivialize the challenge at all. But, our political leaders not telling us to change. They promise old jobs will return. Employment numbers have always been a political number. The real malaise hitting our country’s workers is underemployment. In a recent poll from The New York Times, 48% of America’s workers viewed themselves as underemployed. That means approximately half of our talent is not keeping up with change.
The industrial revolution is clearly over, but the conditioning built into our psyche can and for many will haunt us for years to come.
Prior to the industrial revolution, change happened at a glacial pace. When we invented mass manufacturing, the world went through a revolutionary change that lasted for three hundred years. Now, we compress more change into fewer periods of time. The kind of resulting anger and political unrest that we witness today has a great deal of similarity to what happened three hundred years ago. Back then, the industrial revolution handed out pink slips to virtually everyone who worked. But, work didn’t stop, it moved. This is what we are witnessing today. Task-based work is going away.
In the face of this fundamental change to the nature and meaning of work, I observe that a large number of our co-workers, friends, family members and loved ones are too frightened to change themselves. Others want to change but don’t know how. A smaller percentage are changing themselves and encountering exciting new lives. The last category is the one we ought to be studying.
When I began Inspired Work, participants came to our programs to change careers, change how they related to work, and become more fulfilled. At the time, I didn’t realize that what we were doing empowered people to change themselves. I was more excited that people were giving themselves the freedom to define the work they loved. That fuel opened the willingness to learn the skills to make that work successful. As time went on, change in the workplace accelerated. Today, it is vitally important to set aside one’s protective garb towards change. That garb often includes cynicism and contempt, aimlessness and resignation,
In Daniel Pink’s seminal book, A Whole New Mind, he predicted that as we offload task-driven work to software and technology, new work would emerge. But it would be centered in the right-brain. At first, some of this work would be dismissed by left-brain workers. For example, right-brain work includes creativity, design, communications, influencing others, building relationships, engaging, consultative sales, and strategy. In essence, much of the new work resembles everything many of our parents warned us not to do.
In my new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution, I talk about how global engagement figures of 13% are not just a business problem, disengagement is a tragedy infecting our lives, families, customer satisfaction and day-to-day living. The great disengagement of the modern worker leads directly to underemployment.
There is good news. To see that requires that we shift our vision to the future. We have entered an era where freedom from that past opens the door for work that we actually love. First, many of us must take the initiative to step into this new world. The benefits of doing so are huge. There has never been a time where it is easier to start a business, write a book, telecommute, or find work that is far more meaningful.
Develop the willingness to invest in a new life.
Because as every epic change eliminates old jobs, new opportunities appear. For example, 3-D printing will wipe out assembly lines and portions of shipping, distribution, & warehousing. It will also produce a whole new class of entrepreneurs who manufacture goods, products, even art from their homes and offices. Artificial Intelligence will wipe out categories of work. But it will introduce millions of new ones. For example, when we cure cancer and make high-quality education available without charge, entire new careers will emerge. In fact, easily a third of the jobs we will have in ten years have yet to be invented.
The entry fee towards begins with the courage to insist that our work becomes more than a source of predictability and survival. I know this is possible because I have watched thousands of people up close as their eyes filled with surprise. Everything has just fallen into place. It is the moment when someone defines her or his own compelling mission, vision, and purpose.
I will not turn this into a New Year’s missive. Because this is what I want everyone every day of the year.
I want everyone to have a clear sense of personal, mission, vision, and purpose. I want everyone to find the work they love and to do that work with financial success. I want everyone to step away from history that no longer serves them. I want people to wake up in the morning and smile because they are engaged. I want breadwinners to become better role models for their children because they are happy with their work. I want everyone to do the work that matters. I want an America that recognizes this is a country with the largest and most powerful talent pool on the face of the earth. I want a world where none of us are waiting for things to change.
The future is bright. The opportunities are vast. The past is gone.
Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.
(C) Copyright, 2017, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)
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