Advice to anyone, not just kids

Leo Babauta, on his Zen Habits blog, posted a wonderful piece today called “Advice to My Kids”. His thoughts on what to tell your children about life and living it are sound.

What I’d add to this is simple. It’s advice for anyone, at any stage of life.

The world we’re in right now isn’t generally a place that’s rewarding the kinds of behaviours that let us neatly separate our work life and our home/personal life. That is not because we’re tethered to our smartphones twenty-four hours a day. It’s not, in other words, a technological problem.

It’s because there’s no security left.

Back in the mid-1950s, William Whyte wrote The Organization Man. In it, Whyte wanted to show that our preference to be a good player inside an organization, trusting it to make good decisions on our behalf, was not as good for us as charting our own courses and trusting to our freedom rather than seeking security. A novel by Sloan Wilson that had come out a year earlier, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, had pointed out the emptiness of such a “secure” life.

Still, for the decades from the 1940s to the 2000s, most people found security by living within large organizations. Along the way companies that had made a point of never laying anyone off, not even in the Great Depression (like IBM) gave up and started playing the downsizing, reshaping and merger & acquisition games others had been playing for a long while. Even then, the myth that the corporate or governmental ladder was the place to be persisted.

It’s a myth that underlies all our thinking about company pensions, about the value of a title, about our résumés, and about why we tether ourselves to work all evening and weekend, and never take a real holiday where we truly “leave it all behind”.

Now, if you were living 24/7/365 building your own venture, from being an artist to a start up technology company and everything in between, that passion overflowing to fill every moment might make sense. Those would be free choices.

Security, on the other hand, should come with the ability to say “here’s a boundary”.

It should also come with loyalty — and the loyalty of those of us working in them is not reciprocated by the organizations we work for, is it?

Most of us don’t want to do what Leo advised his kids to do. We want security.

But it doesn’t exist. (If it did, you wouldn’t need to do personal due diligence, would you?)

Think about it. If you need help thinking it through, talk to us. That’s what we’re here for.

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