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Notes to a Discontented Generation Y

Notes to a Discontented Generation Y

Well, I just turned 25 last Saturday.

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been working for 10 years. During that decade of “gainful” employment, I’ve gone through a huge transformation in thought regarding careers, passion and purpose.

My first job was as a YMCA camp counselor. I was 15, and I was excited to be getting a paycheck with my name on it. I thought a little money in my pocket would be the ticket to freedom, but within 2 weeks, I’d come to the realization that while I was really good at “pitching” myself during the interview, the work sucked. It was boring and tedious, and it showed. It’s pretty hard to stay enthusiastic while you’re fishing HotWheels out of the toilet.

I thought it was just the job that sucked. Everyone told me that my first job would.

Over the next 6-7 years, I moved through a series of other jobs hoping that one would really appeal to me. I worked at museums, retail, grocery stores and restaurants. I even worked at UPS. Yes. With the brown short-shorts.

Each one had some element that I liked, but within a few weeks, the same familiar feeling always crept back up.

Emptiness.

I always felt like I was literally an indentured servant working for pennies, with no end in sight.

The worst part about this servitude is feeling like you’re the only one experiencing the pain. I can’t tell you how many people I’d see who had been at their jobs for 20+ years, in a state of zombie-like compliant quasi-misery.

I imagine that this must be what it feels like to have a terminal disease that takes 20 years to fulfill its promise.

I specifically remember during my training at UPS, one of the assistant directors pointed to his boss endearingly and said “Richard hasn’t missed a day or called in sick in 27 years.”

He flashed a grin at me, then looked expectantly, waiting for me to be impressed—as if this was a good thing.

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I just remember thinking to myself “What the fuck is wrong with these people?”

I quit that job faster than Kim Kardashian quit on Kris Humphries.

At this point, you might be thinking “Sure Daniel, but those were all just JOBS. You’ve never had a real career. Once you get a career, things will be better.” At least that’s what my family told me. Just toe the line, Daniel. Just toe the line.

Eventually, I came to a much different conclusion. I came to the realization that I could job hop my whole life and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. I could go to college and get a degree like I was supposed to and hop around with that on higher-paying jobs (which adults like to call “careers” to make ourselves feel better), but in the end, the problem wasn’t with the jobs or the employers; it was with me.

I had the problem. It wasn’t about getting a different job, or a better PAYING job. It was about having a job period.

I was experiencing a major case of cognitive dissonance between what I wanted my life to be and the options I saw available.  Part of this was coming because at a very deep level, I was afraid to admit what I really wanted. As funny as it is to admit this in writing, I felt wrong or dirty. I felt ashamed of these feelings and above all, I was afraid. I was afraid that I would be called lazy, stupid, impractical, a “leech”, etc by people I cared about. I didn’t want to be ridiculed.

I’m not afraid anymore.

You know what I want? I don’t want to work. Like, not ever.

I don’t want to be forced to show up anywhere and do something for someone else, simply because if I don’t show up, I might not be able to feed myself or have a home.

I don’t want to go to any more mindless meetings with 20 other people who also don’t give a shit, and are just there because if they don’t show up—you guessed it—they might not be able to feed themselves.

I don’t want to have to ask “permission” to take a day or three if I’m sick.

I don’t want to have to kiss ass for years to get a raise, just so I can work harder on more stuff I don’t care about.

I don’t want to spend my days punching Excel spreadsheets, hoping that I’m making someone happy.

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You know what I hate? When people ask me “what do you do?”

What do I DO? I breathe, motherfucker. What do you do? What do I do? I don’t DO anything. I AM somebody. And since I am somebody, there’s no limit to what I can DO. I’ve never felt it was fair or accurate that our culture defines people by the narrow set of skills they use to generate income.

What does that have to do with anything?

What you do to make money is completely separate from how you spend your life or who you are as a person. Ironically, many people auction their entire lives away to get more money.

Am I the only one who sees the twisted contradiction here? If it were up to me, you know what I’d do? I’d spend my life traveling, learning languages, practicing martial arts, reading, programming, eating good food and (eventually) raising smart, open-eyed children.

I’d spend the time that I was supposed to be “working” to create something of value for others and use my creativity to leave a mark on the world. Isn’t this what we were made for?

All the other shit can suck it.

Look, it’s just you, me and this letter. We can cut the pretenses. Just be honest with me: if it were up to you, you wouldn’t go to work tomorrow, would you? Come on, I said be honest. Even if you “like” your job, wouldn’t you much rather be doing exactly what you want to do at the pace you want to do it?

Now, let me be clear: this whole idea of not working isn’t because you’re LAZY. Far from it, in fact. It’s because you see the Matrix for what it is, and realize the game being played around us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t put effort into anything or dedicate our lives to a cause. I’m saying we should design our lives around a cause that we believe in, and stop lying to ourselves if what we’re doing isn’t something we’re passionate about.

Essentially we are trading something very real (life/time) for something very fake (money) and we’re always on the losing end since our time on this earth is finite but technically, the amount of money out there is infinite. We will always run out of time before the world runs out of money. As long as we carry on with the traditional mindset that time equals money, we will NEVER be free of the constraints placed upon us.

Now, 95% of people will say “But Daniel, you have to do SOMETHING for ‘work’. You’re going to be homeless. You need to get a job or something and then do stuff on your free time. That’s just life.”

False.

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This is a perfect example of being caught in what I call the “culture box” and having been in there for so long that you can’t even see the walls anymore. American culture dictates that work should be placed squarely at the center of your life, with any  personal creative interests only being pursued in your spare time.

There’s no reason why we have to work 40 hours, 5 days a week. That’s a structure that people with money have put in place so that people without money keep their heads down and don’t have time to ask too many questions.

Even the idea of retirement is a joke. Working until you’re 60. Saving, saving, saving and contributing to your 401k in hopes that eventually you can stop working and live the last 20ish years of your life in budgeted obsolescence, hoping to at least maintain a semblance of your standard of living in a dwindling middle class as your savings depletes by the day.

Is this what we’ve become? Is this the dream we’ve waited our entire lives for?

If this is all, please tell me now so that I can find a rope and save us all some trouble. If I knew that this was going to be the “apex” of my life, I’d just off myself right now. It sounds bittersweet at best.

I propose another way.

The key for us is to figure out how we can manipulate our environments to produce more of this imaginary currency without sacrificing the time (which is the real currency). That’s the game. Most of the time, we go at it the wrong way, trading it 1:1, as if a certain amount of money could equal even a fraction of your time. I can’t stress this enough. Time is LITERALLY priceless. It can’t be valued. “I make $30/hour”. So you’re saying your life, these next 60 full minutes of respiration, are worth $30 of imaginary bits? I’d say there’s literally no comparison between the two. It’s apples to potatoes. Completely different. We have to set systems in place to make the currency come out without the time going to waste – because before you know it, the time will be gone…and the currency…that was never even there to begin with.

We’ve seen what happens working purely for work’s sake, spending all your time making more money or obsessing about promotions or possessions. You’re ashamed to actually admit the things that you actually want to do. You’re afraid of being labeled “different”. God forbid someone thinks that you don’t have “work ethic”. This is one of my favorite cultural insults. It’s as if there were some morality attached to laboring on things that you don’t enjoy. Since when did capacity to suffer become an ethical issue?

What about this…

What if you were to make your life and the pursuits that interested you—traveling, learning, physical activities, creation, art, time with loved ones, whatever—the center(s) of your life and fit work in like a planet in orbit, with it’s sole purpose to fund and support the pursuits above?

How would your life and self-image change?

What would you REALLY do with your life?

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What if I told you that your presence wasn’t actually required to generate the resources that support you, and you were left to roam the earth freely?

Have you ever considered that in a completely digitized society this is a very real possibility?

Now, before you start pointing the finger and saying that it’s not possible to generate resources without being present, I want you to think about your boss’ boss (or perhaps THEIR boss). Somewhere up the chain, somebody is reaping the benefits of a system they put in place to generate resources without being present.

“But Daniel, I can’t manipulate my environment or set up any systems to make money. I HAVE to work.”

So let me get this straight: the Wright brothers—in their shed in rural South Carolina—can figure out how to bend a piece of metal and build a machine lighter than air that can fly across an ocean… but you can’t figure out how to make money flow to you? I’d suggest that you try harder.

The CEO of Walmart isn’t clocking in to make ends meet. That you can be sure of.

And the great thing about our generation is that you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 CEO to set this type of system up anymore. Many independent business owners have already realized this truth. Entrepreneurship is the key.

To be sure, this isn’t a popular way of thinking. And it’s even harder to imagine yourself living like this if you don’t have any friends or role models doing it. It is really hard to imagine that this is even possible. You go through a lot of the “Yeah, but that won’t work for ME” scenarios in your mind. Trust me, I feel you. I’ve been there. But as I’ve met more and more incredible people through my blog—people who are living that “fictional” life—I realize that it’s not only very possible, but that there’s a formula to creating these circumstances. It’s not luck, and it’s not voodoo or “positive affirmation”.

In the past 12 months I’ve gotten increasingly closer to this reality.

Are you one of the few who believes a better way is possible, not just for people in books or in the news, but for YOU?

Leave me a comment below and let me know.

 

-Daniel

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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