"At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable."
- Christopher Reeve
It's spring, finally, after a long, brutal winter for many of us. Warming temperatures tend to motivate us to do some spring cleaning - go through the closets and storage, appraise what's worth keeping, what can be discarded and determine what's missing. The same process could be directed towards our lives.
The past few TLVs have tackled rather big, complex topics. But in this issue, rather than looking outside to the big things that happen in the world around us, we are looking inside, to consider the big things that happen - or we wish would happen - in the world within us. How do we feel about the path we're currently on? Are we taking the necessary risks to realize our dreams, or are we moving along the humdrum, comfortable path without much thought? Are we happy with where we are, but perhaps could benefit from some form of shake-up?
In a recent TED talk, author and New York Times columnist David Brooks asks a question that is a very good place to start when attempting to spring clean your life. Are you living your life to build a great resume? Or are you living your life to end in an inspiring eulogy?
Brooks' five-minute talk provides a great framework to pause and take stock of your life - where it's been, where it is and where you dream for it to go.
Read on in the special section below for perspectives on unearthing your purpose and conquering fears to achieve big goals, and for inspiring stories of people taking risks in the name of fulfillment, as well as tips and ideas to do the same for yourself.
"Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears."
For many, this last winter was not just a distraction but also a challenge. For those of us living in the South, consider the extra effort needed by our Northern cousins, who had to dig themselves out of snow more often, drive themselves to work more times on dangerous roads, and for those who work outside, perform their jobs in one of the harshest winters in decades. Can you imagine what working in the North Dakota oilfields was like this winter? BRAVO to those American workers up there!
Most of us are aware that recent weak economic data may have been the result of this difficult winter. Might spring prove to be more robust as people and businesses catch up? Will the emotional boost from winter's end motivate us to put in more effort?
If you follow the Federal Reserve's regular perspectives, our economy appears improved, but it might not yet be out of the woods. Skeptics will surely point out that a lot of "economy" in the last few years has actually resulted from enormous government monetary and fiscal stimulus. What happens when the Federal Reserve removes the punchbowl? Will it cause our economic engine to sputter? This has certainly been the case in Japan over the last 25 years, most recently with Abenomics and enormous monetary stimulus.
The United States does have two very important catalysts, which Japan, Europe and even China lack. None of them has our enormous natural resource pool, a new economic driver. And none possesses America's greatest economic driver - innovation. After all, it was innovation that unleashed our current oil and gas boom.
Natural resources and innovation have the US economy poised for another growth period. But if the rest of the world sputters, we could still struggle. Since the world economy is now so interconnected, we have become more interdependent. Event risk is thus very real for everyone. If only Mr. Putin would find himself a more interesting "mistress."
It's probably time to shift attention from our unemployment rate to something more relevant to our economic circumstances and the plight of our citizens. Growth in temporary, retail and restaurant jobs may make our big picture employment data look better, but it does not provide an accurate perspective on the health of our economy.
What we need to see is more growth in production oriented employment. An economy where service jobs serve other service jobs that serve other service jobs is not sustainable. All service requires a master, a customer, a client. Unless you have a tourism-based economy, the ultimate buck for service has to stop at production.
At the end of the day, the most prosperous and sustainable economy is going to have a healthy amount of production. So we probably need to pay much more attention to the growth of jobs in production oriented industries, as this is likely our best economic barometer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an appropriate production oriented category for us to follow - "goods producing." In this category are minerals extraction and processing, construction and manufacturing. So what's happening in our goods producing employment?
Since its low in 2010, the number of goods producing jobs has increased by 1,160,000, a positive increase, or at least better than the alternative. However, the number of goods producing jobs in the US has not yet reached its 2006 peak. We are still 3,592,000 goods producing jobs short of our last peak. So as you can see, although our economy has improved, it has not improved measurably relative to production employment. In contrast, for what the BLS calls "private service providing" jobs, we have surpassed its 2006 number by almost 6,000,000 jobs.
Why is this data significant? It's significant because production oriented jobs pay significantly better wages than service jobs. Goods producing jobs are the best paying middle class jobs out there.
The BLS does not report wages for the same categories as it reports employment, making it difficult to develop a great wage comparison. But, general perspective can be gained by comparing weekly wages for service workers to others involved in various goods producing subsectors. For the natural resource, construction and maintenance occupations, weekly median wages are 50% higher than that of service jobs. And in production, transportation and material handling occupations, wages are 28% higher than wages in service.
The Federal Reserve has certainly done a great job ensuring our entire economic infrastructure didn't collapse after Lehman's bankruptcy. But it seems economic policy in Washington has not done near enough to get our economy into better health by supporting the most important job growth, that of the middle class.
A focus on what we shoulda, woulda, coulda done is significantly draining, while a focus on what we're gonna do is empowering.
Anyone out there who has not made a few, if not a lot of mistakes, is either very lucky or one of the very few blessed with perfect judgment. The great majority of us have stumbled some, or even stumbled badly. Stumbling is just a part of life. We certainly should not totally forget the mistakes we've made, but we should also not let them prevent us from still reaching for our dreams. And if we've lost grasp of any dreams, then it's time to consider another perspective.
Throw fear and pride aside and you can have everything your heart desires.
There seem no larger roadblocks to success and happiness than too much fear and/or too much pride.
In October 2013, 65.9% of 2013 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities. Recent high school graduates not enrolled in college in October 2013 were over twice as likely as enrolled graduates to be working or looking for work, 74.2% compared with 34.1%.
The college enrollment rate of recent high school graduates in October 2013 was little different from the rate in October 2012 (66.2%). For 2013 graduates, the college enrollment rate was 68.4% for young women and 63.5% for young men. The college enrollment rate of Asians (79.1%) was higher than the rates for recent white (67.1%), black (59.3%), and Hispanic (59.9%) graduates.
In October 2013, 34.1% of recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college participated in the labor force; that is, they were working or looking for work. The participation rates for male and female graduates enrolled in college were 33.7% and 34.5%, respectively.`
This writer, who admits to a tendency of putting off writing for tomorrow, when he hopes inspiration will come, had a breakthrough realization: Nothing has ever gotten done tomorrow. "It's a mechanical impossibility. There is nothing you can do tomorrow. I have never done anything tomorrow and neither have you. If doing it today might hurt, then either you open yourself to that pain or you decide it's not something you're prepared to do at all."
Chris Hadfield, quite possibly the coolest astronaut since Neil Armstrong, shares an edge-of-your-seat account of what it was like to lose his vision on a spacewalk. But since he and his team had prepared for any number of things that could go wrong while in space, he was able to avoid panic and calmly find a solution. His lesson? The fear is always greater than the danger, and deconstructing the danger is an effective way to kill the fear. This one is a must-watch.
In October 2012, with seven GoPro cameras along for the ride, Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,100 feet above Earth, in a record-breaking free-fall that broke the sound barrier. It's a must-see, and the backstory is a must-know. It's easy to assume Baumgartner is one of those crazy, fearless people. To an extent, he must be. But at one point during his training, he was so terrified that he dropped out of the project, so the team replaced him. Baumgartner then found himself watching someone else train for the dream he had long wanted to achieve. It tapped into his fear of regret, so he returned to the team, and the rest is death-defying history.
According to this article's author, fear of regret is a "good fear." It's what motivates, drives people to greatness. "Bad fears," on the other hand, hold, people back. The moral: Look at your fears. Which ones are holding you back? What things are you most fearful you'll regret not having done? And, as we learned from astronaut Chris Hadfield, what can you do to dismantle your limiting fears and turn them into motivating fears?
3 stories to inspire and remind us it's never too late
"Should is how others want us to show up in the world - how we're supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn't do. It's the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us...Must is different - there aren't options and we don't have a choice."
This writer asks the question: Can our work, our career be the same as our calling, our Must? This inspiring read offers a framework for finding your Must. In summary:
Ideas for finding your calling:
Write your future press release
Write two versions of your obituary
Take the leap of faith
Confront the three fears: 1) money, 2) time, 3) fear of failure and humiliation
Make a "What am I so afraid of?" list and write your top ten fears, then have conversations with yourself about each of them
Make "Must" a daily practice, a decision you make again every day
"When who we are and what we do are one and the same, we are walking the road of Must. When we choose Must, what we create is ourselves."
Thanks to incredible advances in healthcare, today's 65-year-old man can expect, on average, to live to 84. Today's 65-year-old woman can, on average, expect to live until 86. One in four 65-year-olds will live past 90. Retirement is ever more providing the opportunity for a second act.
The Wall Street Journal online has launched a discussion forum, "The Experts," where industry and thought leaders engage in conversation about various topics. Among them is The Experts: Retirement, where people like Bud Hebeler (former Boeing president), Pat Sajak and Morgan Fairchild tackle questions about retirement, from how to deal with regrets to avoiding boredom.
From Bill Bengen, president of Bengen Financial Services and originator of the 4% rule for retirement withdrawals, responding to the question, "What will surprise people most when they retire?":
"Perhaps they will discover a latent talent, and find enjoyment in developing it. Not everyone can launch a career as a world-renowned painter in their 70s, as did Grandma Moses. But fame is incidental to self-satisfaction. Following a deferred dream, or an unsuspected path, can be enormously energizing and self-fulfilling."
A reminder that when we follow that which truly incites passion and wonder, we can find amazing success that fulfills us in ways our traditional form of success can't. (We recommend watching the video for incredible Lego renderings of famous pieces of art and design.)
4 strategies to find new interests, make changes, and set and achieve goals
In his three-minute talk, Matt Cutts shares how the 30-day challenge changed his life. Not only did he apply the challenge month after month and do things like hike Mount Kilimanjaro, he learned that time spent on new, interesting tasks was much more memorable. (There's science to back this up: Time feels like it moves faster when you encounter the familiar, and slows down when you acquire new knowledge. The new will slow down your perception of time.) He also reminds us that starting small can take us places we never imagined. What can you do for just 30 days?
Stefan Sagmeister runs a design studio. After a while, he noticed that the work he and his team was producing was starting to look the same. He decided to take a year off and travel. What happened was a creative rejuvenation that fed his work for years to come. He decided to recalibrate the learning-working-retiring timeline and intersperse 5 years of retirement throughout his working years as part of his goal to take a sabbatical every seven years.
From standard life timeline
To sabbatical timeline
Many of us are very much on the track that fulfills us. But that doesn't mean we're immune from occasional ruts and can't benefit from a shake-up, if even temporary.
What do you want in life? This question is likely to return a lot of generic, similar responses, like happiness, money, success, great relationships. A more insightful question is, What pain do you want? Because that which you deem worth fighting for requires struggle. The good feelings we want is a want more or less shared by all. It's the struggles and suffering we, as individuals, are willing to sustain that can help reveal what's most important to us, help unearth our Musts. What, to you, is worth the pain?
If you're stuck on the path to achieving something, zoom out to ask yourself what the larger goal is. Do you want to lose weight, or do you want to live a healthier life and feel more confident? Once the true goal is identified, experiment with the tactics to find what works best for you. If you've failed to get yourself to the gym before work, consider alternatives, like a midday work out or yoga before bed. Sticking to a failing plan, rather than focusing on the goal and tweaking the process, is a surefire way not to reach goals.
"Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears."
Recent BLS data revealed that 1 in 9 Americans work in retail and make an average of $38,200 a year. Retail is the most commonly held job, with 4.48 million workers in retail jobs. The second most commonly held job is cashiers, followed by food prep and serving staff, general office clerk and registered nurses. Follow the link for the next most commonly held jobs and more insights about the state of labor in the U.S.
A common impediment to leaders improving is the fact that people are hesitant to give them constructive criticism. A tactic around this is to ask not "What do you think of the job I'm doing," but "What are others saying about me and the job I'm doing?" Another approach could be to ask people to quantify a specific point of your performance on a scale of 1 to 10, and then ask them how they think you could have done your job more effectively to get to a 10.
Like the Yuppies of the 1980s, Muppies, currently ages 22 to 35, are driven by ideals of success, status and power and the search for what is important and cool. But the 2008 crash showed soon-to-be Mupppies that the Yuppie path of yesteryear was no longer reliable. For a full list of shifts from Yuppie to Muppie life, follow the link, but here are some examples:
Yuppie: Professional service organization to Muppie: Start-up
Yuppie: Getting a promotion to Muppie: Getting funding
Yuppie: Davos to Muppie: SXSW
Yuppie: Cash to Muppie: Social influence
Yuppie: Brand affiliation to Muppie: Personal brand
Yuppie: Making money to Muppie: Changing the world
Recent Gallup data showed that Illinois residents are the least trustful of their state politicians, followed by Rhode Island, Maine, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, California and Maryland. North Dakota is the most trusting of its state politicians, followed by Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, Texas and Alaska.
Thanks for reading The Leyendecker View. We hope you find these perspectives unique, insightful and valuable.
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