When money is everything and work is scarce

Is it my imagination, or does everything these days seem to revolve around money?

That seems to be the message coming out of the media. Ninety-nine per cent of us—and our governments—have become so good at spending that we’ve managed to rack up record levels of debt. The remaining 1% of us can’t seem to accumulate it fast enough—money, that is—and our economy is being hollowed out.

Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright, journalist, and critic and has been writing for more than forty years. His column appears Fridays in the Toronto Star. Passover, Easter and the ethics of a shepherd appeared on Good Friday, March 29th.

In his piece, Salutin wrote: “All the main founder-heroes there — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David — thrived in wandering, rural lives. Settled, urban locales like Babylon, Egypt, even Jerusalem, were far more ambiguous morally. Moses dies just as the Hebrew tribes end their 40 desert years. David’s moral compass deteriorates when he’s king in Jerusalem. Hazony implies an original biblical preference — albeit a complex one — for wandering.”

There aren’t very many amenities in a desert. Or roads, for that matter. The Hebrew tribes made it up as they went along. To be resourceful they had to be creative. They couldn’t fall back on the old ways or follow the old roads because both were behind them and there was no turning back. They had to confront and deal with what they found when they found it. But at least they had a leader.

We’ve been wandering in our own economic wilderness. Some of us realize it; most of us don’t. Our political leaders are so far removed from something that even vaguely resembles biblical stature that even they can’t figure out how things got to be the way they are, much less help us chart a course to where we expected or wanted to be.

The Hebrew tribes had strong survival instincts because they had to: they weren’t resource rich. Our children are, but they’re going to have to rely on themselves to carve out the life they want (read “survive”). How well they search for, find and apply the resources that are there, waiting to be used, will determine how soon they reach their own personal, meaningful destination when the one they originally had in mind doesn’t exist any more.

After wandering in their own deserts, advertisers discovered the power of information and learned how to be devilishly clever about applying it to plying their trade. In Hyper Targeting: How Brands Track You Online, the latest installment of Under the Influence on CBC Radio One, Terry O’Reilly surgically dissects precisely how advertisers have mastered the art of accumulating bits of data and using them to build deep, detailed profiles of the people to whom to pitch and sell their wares.

Whether it’s applied to selecting one postsecondary institution over another, or building a list of prospective employers, information is power. Advertisers are succeeding not only because they’re getting their message out, but also because they know to whom they should be pitching it. What you’ll be buying for your children from MMRU (Make Me Rich University) is what they’ll be pitching to a prospective buyer of their services. Navigating through the desert we’re in demands deep thinking, understanding and focus on a level unlike any we’ve seen before. The spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to preparing for and conducting effective job search is dead.

If you’ve been following this space, you know how often the print and electronic media have spoken about the employment dilemmas working people face. Another of those reports is on the front page of the Toronto Star’s April 2, 2013 Business section. Employment dilemmas are a fact of life in the wilderness we’re in and wilderness doesn’t reward miscalculations. The one we’re in now won’t either.

Personal Due Diligence doesn’t play favourites when it comes to choosing from among university, community college or skills training options. The U.S. Patent Office granted one of my uncles a patent for a consumer product. It never saw the light of day because it was never manufactured, much less sold or distributed. There is no less dignity in work that gives ideas shape and substance than there is in conceiving the idea in the first place. In hockey there is no less dignity in preventing a goal than there is in scoring one.

You won’t find “one-size-fits-all” in PDDs approach to guiding people to the resources they need and showing them how to use them. All that matters is that the approach be right for you.

We’re all in the same boat; we all have skin in this game. What we don’t have is the luxury of 40 years to reach our destination.

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