I had a relatively late start to REAL work. I was having such a good time at Uni (supported by my wife; I only agreed to marry her providing she graduated successfully and was able to keep me etc. etc…) Then after one year masquerading as a teacher, bumming around Europe for three years, until our first son was born.
That’s when the whole catastrophe became apparent, the world shrunk and got dark and cold. Gone was the freedom to do whatever I liked; nothing, if that seemed to be the thing that felt good at the time, all of a sudden I was responsible for feeding the wife, educating the kid and becoming a GOOD CITIZEN. Along with all my babyboomer peers, I knuckled down and went to work for a US multinational and became familiar with goal setting.
MOST OF us have been reared on the earnest advice of career counsellors about the importance of goalsetting. Identifying goals is Step One in getting our life into order and being a winner. Let’s see: first degree completed by 23, achievement of career milestones and travel by late twenties, house, partner and children in thirties. and CEO by 45.
Life becomes an audit of accomplishments approved by society and, the assumption goes, leading to success. prosperity and happiness. Our faith in goal setting is reinforced in business environments where inordinate amounts of time and energy are consumed by identifying strategies, translating them into business plans over the short, medium and long term, and then measuring whether that’s what people actually do with their time. From an existential point of view, goals and planning give fundamentally often anarchic or meaningless human activities a comforting illusion of purposefulness. We are told goalsetting is good for us, but is it?
Due to a life changing event, I became aware that, by being almost exclusively future oriented, one loses sight of the big picture, the meaning of life is misunderstood (something more than 42 I’ve found), and it’s necessary to slow down and smell the roses. Amanda Sinclair, on leave from her post as professor management at the Melbourne Business School, wrote an interesting article as an Endnote in September’s issue of BOSS magazine
The problem is not that people have goals but that they lose, over time, the capacity to aim for wellness and happiness their daily lives. The more cynical observer of capitalism would argue that the battle has been won – people have tacitly given up a capacity to shape their lives and identity: they are enslaved by habits of which they are unconscious. The rationale is “I’ll just get through this round of budgets or orders or commitments and then there’ll be time to refocus and do what I want”. But we get out of the way of being in the present so before we know it, we are back into a new round of targets.
In the individual case, the goalsetting mantra can collude with our tendency to put off and delay, to think we are immortal and have forever to do what is really important to us. A goal-orientation rewards us for rushing through life, in the process excusing, ignoring and denigrating what we do today in interests of vague, possibly improbable, futures.
An article in the lifestyle section of Friday’s AFR reinforces the benefits of taking another look at life by detailing the changed lifestyles of Grant Gravener who gave up medicine to become a house supervisor for Circle du Soleil, and Sarah Lovett, a former Sydney barrister.
Downshifters eschew the world of consumerism to live life on their own terms. Even though they were born into a society where success is measured by material wealth, they reject money as the yardstick. Some even hold the view that in an era when much of corporate Australia is discredited, those who do an honest day’s work – often manual labour – enjoy a prestige all of their own.
In the first survey of it’s kind, the Australia Institute reported in January that during the past 10 years nearly a quarter (23%) of Australians aged 30 to 59 have sacrificed income for the sake of a more balanced lifestyle.
I suspect there are a few bloggers, Scott for instance, who have done the same thing. And it appears that the future will be much more rewarding for them if Roger Martin
So there’s a new dynamic between the workers and the owners, a new power differential between labour and capital. In fact, forget labour now it’s all about talent and its ability to argue for a bigger share of profits. With human capital talent in the driver’s seat, financial capital is increasingly realising just how generic and undifferentiated it is.
By the late 20th century the terms of competition had changed dramatically and dominant physical and financial assets no longer determined success. By 2000, many of the world’s top 15 firms by market capitalisation (including Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and Wal-Mart) began with few or no physical or financial assets. Most of them depended on superior human assets great research scientists, inspired code writers, distribution geniuses, product innovators, and knowledge assets (patents, brands, know-how, experience) for their advantage. In short, in increasing numbers, leading companies were depending on talent. For talent, it has never been and probably never will be a better time to be skilled. Capital needs talent desperately, and in industries everywhere talent is beginning to understand just how badly it is needed.
So all of you (perhaps with the exception of Paul Watson) that are currently disadvantaged by your untapped intellect, inability to kneel down and salute the corporate flag, or chronological superiority, fear not ! Continue to develop those knowlege assets, particularly a wide range of experience and general know-how, and who knows, things may just go your way enough to enable you to get paid lots of money and pay the taxes that will keep me in a superior nursing home during my dotage (anywhere that’s somewhat distant from the billabong).