Living In Fear

My first job out of college was as a math teacher at a small private school in Connecticut. The woman who hired me, let’s just call her Susan, was the division head and one of the top administrators on campus. She answered directly to the head of school who answered to the board of trustees. During the Fall, Susan was abruptly informed that she would not be asked to return the following year and that she should start looking for another position. She was devastated. It was October and the school year had hardly begun. Susan fell into a deep depression and started missing work frequently. Before long, she stopped showing up altogether. By December, she was completely gone from the school. Last I heard, she was running a yoga studio in MA (I’m glad her story didn’t end tragically).

Stories like Susan’s serve as cautionary tales to people primarily motivated by fear. These are the people who advise you to act a certain way in order to make sure you get a good recommendation. They tell you to work long hours and sacrifice thyself for the greater good in the hopes of fortifying job security or maybe even gaining that promotion. These people are glad to live in a situation that can be completely upended at the behest of just a few decision makers. These people live in fear.

Everyone knows that the middle class is being phased out and corporate loyalty doesn’t exist. Job security is a quaint notion of the past and wages are being driven down by automation and global competition. It’s scary out there and the companies know it. What labor needs to recognize is that this sitatuion can be empowering. No matter what companies tell you, good human capital is still the rarest commodity and cannot be automated or outsourced. Now is a great time to be an independent worker. There are myriad opportunities for people who can find untapped value. For example:

1) When I lived in Connecticut, there were many many times where I was starving at 1am but was not well-suited to operate a vehicle (ahem). An enterprising young man could have easily started a service that delivered to people like me for a 30% surcharge.
2) Have you been to the mall lately? Have you seen the wait times at the Cheesecake Factory or PF Changs? Why hasn’t anyone started a professional waiting service? They wait in line for you, and when it’s your turn to get a table, they text you. $5.00 for the convenience of not waiting in line for 30 minutes? I would pay that.
3) In NYC where I live now, there are a TON of people who want websites/apps/software made on the cheap but don’t want to hire oversees. They can’t afford people at my rates but I also know a lot of developers who are trying to gain experience and are willing to work at cut-rate. I’m not a headhunter so I’m not interested in brokering this kind of deal but there is a definite opening here for someone who can bridge that gap.

The common theme here is that you have to find value where ever you can and exploit it. It’s no loner enough to be a moderately skilled assembly line worker and exepct to be employed for 30 years. But for those with the right motivation, it’s actually a great time and there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Even if money is tight and and it’s hard to get things off the ground, it’s better than living in fear.

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