Thursday, August 20, 2009

Food for Thought: The New Luxury...

Found this very interesting feature in Gradient Magazine which is definitely worth a gander!

Written by JOHN FAVREAU & Logo Variations by DAN BERKOWITZ

Much has been written about what has gone wrong, where did the system break down, and who is to blame. Good analyses all, and important information and history to know, but what to do with it all? Some say that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. I agree, but again, where do we go from here? The world as we knew it has changed, financial markets in a turmoil, American jobs, families, industries all at a turning point. And not only here, but worldwide. Are we at the edge of the abyss? Change is upon us and our new leader champions this point, but we still try to foresee the future, creating anxiety and doubt and depression. But why? Why try to foresee the future, it will come as we live and work, and it will come as a result of our actions. I propose that the new luxury: allowing for change, believing in hope, of starting anew, and having a free pass to change our lives and our behaviors. Let us four “c” the future, learning from our past and changing our way of thinking, of doing. Four “C”, what does this mean?

Competencies is a word bandied about by human resource specialists and re-engineering gurus. How do you personally define it, and does our current work environment and business practices help and/or hinder our growth? Across the business world and into all areas of work across America and the world, basic competencies have evolved into specialization and have led to isolation and futility. Piece workers know how to do one thing on an assembly line, financial analysts just know the numbers, and everyone seeks to specialize to prove their worth and satisfy their ego.

When we only know how to do one thing well, when that one thing is not needed any more, or there are too many who can do the same, we marginalize ourselves and end up disposable. Think of the car companies who have churned out the same vehicles, unable to adapt, only good at creating one thing and not expanding their horizons beyond their current capabilities. I have come across so many management teams that are paralyzed by the fear of invalidating their lives work by having to change. “I have always done it this way” or “this is the way it is done”, is no longer acceptable in the new world of constant change. Just because what is necessary to do now is not the way it was done in the past does not mean what was done in the past was not relevant/productive/appropriate. Self worth is validated by the ability to survive, not in the ability to rest on one’s laurels and refuse to adapt.

Knowing how to do many things in many ways puts everything in better context. Look at your skill sets, see how they can be applied to other areas, and seek out the new. My parents taught me well, my mom teaching me to cook, clean, sew, and write, my dad almost everything else. He taught me plumbing, electrical work, tiling, carpentry, farming, and a whole host of other skills. His work was electrical engineering, designing fuel cells for the space shuttle, and his motto was, “I’m a rocket scientist, and all this other stuff is not rocket science, so we should be able to do it.” And we did. Now I am not advocating that we all need to go out and learn the trades, but with what needs to be done in rebuilding this country, it is not a bad place to start. Don’t just watch HGTV, the Food Network, and, live it! And I have to tell you, the satisfaction of planting a garden and eating my own grown food is as rewarding as closing a multimillion-dollar acquisition.

Consideration is an area where America has lost touch over the years. Think of the day laborer who is marginalized as less than: less than a doctor, lawyer, dentist, master of the universe. When did pride and admiration in labor escape America? And can we get it back? Immigration is an issue because we all feel entitled. Entitled to everything we want, or what we are told we want. A college education, a fancy car, a mc mansion, luxury items and far-flung vacations. Is life simpler that way? Equally satisfying? Or are we so busy keeping up with the media and advertising dictated Jones’s that we never stop to consider our lives, how happy we are or are not? The farm worker, the mechanic, the domestic help, the landscaper, they all seem happier, hard working with a purpose, focused on the family and doing a good job. The day is over when the work is done, simple as that. They love this country for the opportunity that they can achieve, and do just a bit better, but always through hard work that they embrace and actually choose. Do we need more and more and more, leveraging our lives and our children’s lives with credit cards and second mortgages, while doing less and less, easy money and entitled good living for all? We see where that has led. Curious as to where the $700 billion went in banking? Look no further: it is estimated that mortgage loans of $60 billion a year in excess of the value of the underlying real estate were granted over the last 8 years. And that money was spent. Flat screens, new SUV’s, and all manner of consumer products and excess consumption. We went on a buying binge, inflating the economy and consuming, consuming, consuming. Now we have to pay for it, but now we don’t have the money, and this fiscal hang over is going to take more than a glass of Gatorade and a few aspirin to make it go away. What will work is what President Obama and his fiscal plan have in mind. Shovel ready and ready to go. Investment in infrastructure, education, healthcare and well being.

Retraining and rethinking will prevail, and maybe Wall Street will help to rebuild Main Street one financial analyst turned construction worker or cabinetmaker at a time. Maybe those hedge fund managers will have to learn to trim their own hedges in the Hamptons, if they still have the house.

As with work, play and life, doing it with others is a basic human need. We are social animals and society and community are an essential part of our daily lives. Whether on line at Starbucks, or on line on Facebook, community creates harmony, if done with consideration. Again, I am thrilled with President Obama, setting an example by giving back, focusing on the community, and lending a helping hand. It’s not always all about you, what you want, what you need. The funny thing is though, when you give to help out, you help yourself. Try it. Volunteer. Lend a hand. Reach out. And to people you don’t always know. Community takes an effort, and what goes around comes around. Feel the satisfaction of making a difference, one kindness at a time.

Communities are built by people with a common purpose, and often for the benefit of the new and next generations.

Children are literally the lifeblood of the future and we must take care of them well and always consider them in our actions and deeds. We are the ones who set an example, with discipline, devotion and love. I have always stayed young by embracing the new generations, learning from them and mentoring in return. Good management is the same.

Discipline is necessary, and the best lead by example. Organizations reflect the values of their leaders, and greed or goodness is systemic. Give where there may be skills that are lacking and never underestimate the value of a challenge, communicated well and with a clear and noble goal.

I had been recently lamenting the lack of news of noble and heroic deeds, the kind that are inspiring, showing the way, and instilling hope and a bit of pride in our fellow human beings. Now, no more. The recent landing of a USAir jet into the Hudson River of New York serves as a perfect metaphor to our current predicament. Seemingly undone by the high flying financial geese of the new millennium, our economy and country splashed down in the icy waters of doubt, despair and doom. Let those waters not engulf us in fear and anxiety, but let us flee that airship of no hope and rise above it, working individually and as a team to save our lives and our futures. Piloted by one man, but with the aid of those who came to the rescue, doing their duty and making a difference, all were safely brought to shore. Noble deeds and heroic actions, no matter how big or how small, will right the course, keep the waters at bay, and land us in a future safe, sound and with a new attitude on life, on love, on what matters. This is the luxury I covet, so let the future fall where it may.


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