Over the weekend, the “Occupy” movement organized a protest in my city, Corpus Christi, Texas. I stumbled upon it from the stream of messages on Facebook and Twitter. After spending Saturday morning at the 3E office (ironically planning the next few positions we’re going to add) alongside other entrepreneurs, I was irritated. To be honest, I’m not sure I even understand what exactly they want – or if they’re just expressing general frustration.
I think I’m most affected by the signs they display. Here were a few from the protesters in Corpus Christi:
– Due to the National Debt, we had to cancel the light at the end of the tunnel.
– Over-educated. Under-employed. Ready for change.
– Capitalism is cannibalism.
Now, these are obviously creative folks. Young, able-bodied, and in the prime of their life. And if you believe the signs, they’re hopeless, waiting on something else to change their future. It’s sad.
I support their right to protest. It’s quite the American thing to do, as Tom Peters reminded us. And other folks made lots of great points in Facebook debates. I agree that there are flaws in our financial system, and that American capitalism isn’t perfect. But I don’t think that’s the real problem.
The world has changed dramatically in the last few years. Young people are realizing that their education isn’t an express ticket to success, and it hurts. The introduction to Michael Ellsberg’s The Education of Millionaires summarizes the feeling well.
“You have been fed a lie. The lie is that if you study hard in school, get good grades, get into a good college, and get a degree, then your success in life is guaranteed. This might have been true fifty years ago. But it is no longer true today.
If you want to succeed now, then you must also educate yourself in the real-world skills, capabilities, and mind-sets that will get you ahead outside of the classroom.”
Ouch. I’ll grant you that the pain is real. But now what?
We want the world to go back “to the way it was” when things were different, more predictable. I think that train has already left the station. And I’m not sure any amount of protesting will bring it back, mostly because there’s no single point of control. If our economies could magically be “fixed” by the powers that be (however you define that), wouldn’t it have happened by now?
You can still “occupy” Wall Street and City Hall if you’d like. But I think you’ll get more results if you “occupy” your own life.
We have a choice. We can throw a temper tantrum about how unfair it is that the game has changed, or we can figure out how to play by the new rules. I choose option number two, and I hope everyone else does too. I believe it’s the only way we’ll turn things around.
It gets even better. There are already lots of roadmaps to learning how to succeed at today’s game. Instead of (or in addition to) protesting, study them. Apply them. Figure out another route, and share it with the rest of us. Deal?
Here are some I’ve found:
– Start with Ellsberg. He defines the problem better than anyone I’ve seen.
– Next up, Chris Guillebeau. Start with reading about his qualifications. Then understand his short list of unconventional ideas. Now, check out this list of $100 business ideas.
Got the wheels turning? Good, here’s some more.
– No More Harvard Debt: This Harvard MBA is determined to pay off his student loans by next July. Pedi-cabbing, SAT Tutor, he’s trying it all. His best idea so far: a landscaping business he started with his buddy for $25.
– The working world travelers: Jodi Ettenberg and the family Gilbert.
– World class freelancers and experts: Norcross, Brett Kelly, and Danielle LaPorte.
Once all the excuses are extinct, dig into the tactics.
– Escape your cubicle and join the free agent nation with help from Pamela Slim, Daniel Pink, and Jonathan Fields.
– Study the profiles of successful muses using the principles outlined by Tim Ferris.
– Learn how to use the resources of the rest of the world from Tropical MBA.
– Join the Impossible League to have a community of support.
– Apply the principles in The Lean Startup to radically reduce your uncertainty and risk.
– Automate your finances and make yourself recession proof with help from Ramit Sethi.
– Learn how to write code for free at Codecademy, or buy a course for very cheap at AppSumo.
There’s more than 100 hours of study outlined above, and the path to your success is in there.
As Ellsberg says, “a new breed of American is arising, and they are creating a new breed of opportunity.” Will you seize it?
If you’ve got a resource I need to study, please let me know. I’m always on the lookout for great ideas and inspiration. Let’s do this.
Note: All Amazon links are affiliates, meaning I get a very small commission if you purchase a book after clicking on them.
I love this quote from the movie, “Good Will Hunting”. (Will is a disadvantaged genius working as a janitor at MIT having a confrontation with an obviously over accommodated college student.)
(in a Southie accent)
Will: See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you’re gonna staht doin some thinkin on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And Two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f*!@*%$ education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library.
Having freshly graduated from TAMUK I remember thinking, “I’m sure glad I didn’t mortgage the next 20 years of my life on an over priced Ivy League education.” I think the most damning portion of this statement though, is the charge that so much original thinking has been stripped from the ideals of our formal educational system. We’re so entrenched in regurgitating someone else’s thoughts and ideas, we don’t freely explore the vastness of original thought. The idea that a college education buys you a ticket to a great life is dead and gone. We need to use our college education as a foundation to build something original. A foundation that allows us to create systems that are sound and well balanced but more importantly, new.
The other important factor is that the effective change the digital age is having on our learning habits is too profound to measure. At no time in history has man had what is essentially a world of knowledge at his finger tips. The speed and accuracy of the internet has changed and has essentially devalued much of the knowledge that was previously held at premium. This means if your livelihood was tied to a certain knowledge that is now freely available on the internet, you better get thinking on what you have to change, improve and embrace to keep yourself alive.
Bottom line is that we have to get thinking originally again. I think the “occupies” just haven’t realized the opportunities that are at hand. Innovation and originality always spike in times of economic downturn. Remember your School House Rock, “Mother necessity, where would we be?” 🙂
Love this line: ” . . . so much original thinking has been stripped from the ideals of our formal educational system. We’re so entrenched in regurgitating someone else’s thoughts and ideas, we don’t freely explore the vastness of original thought.”
I also came across this post from Dave Ramsey that articulated the same sentiment well and probably less offensively – http://www.daveramsey.com/article/dear-occupy-wall-street/lifeandmoney_business/
Thanks for sharing!