When I was growing up, my father used to wag his finger at me every so often and admonish: “Don’t take any risks.” He was not one to even risk a short step up in order to get ahead or improve his life, because he believed that was too much of a gamble. Consequently, he stayed in the same dull job, earning a lowly salary, for over forty years. On top of that, he tolerated way too much verbal abuse from his boss, and all for the sake of a secure monthly income that never stretched far enough.
Also, it wasn’t important to my father whether the work one did was enjoyable or fulfilling. That would have been the very least item he considered. In my father’s value system, if you were making good money, then you could tolerate the boredom. It was okay.
When I graduated high school, I went off and copied my father’s lifestyle. I got a clerical job in an office and earned a less than adequate salary doing work that did not interest me. Eventually, I became a legal secretary, then a legal assistant, earning just enough to cover basic expenses. And I stayed with such work almost my entire working life. My father’s message had sunk in deeper than the ocean floor.
I’ve long since come to see that my father’s value system was badly skewed. That may have been because of his experiences during the Great Depression. I don’t know; but, nevertheless, I eventually came to understand that those values do not bring rewards.
With just a cursory glance over today’s flattening economy and discouraging job market, I now realize that the age-old search for security and permanence is truly a wisp of a dream. Putting all one’s faith in the stock market, or any type of investments, or in bank accounts, or anything like that, is like trusting the ground under your feet to always remain steady. An earthquake can come along, and even the ground under one’s feet will give way.
The idea that you have security when you have money in the bank or a nice investment portfolio is a delusion. The truth is there is no security anywhere in this world. What looks good today can turn into tomorrow’s lost cause. This is a world of impermanence and constant change. You’re up today and down tomorrow, as they like to say in show biz.
The truth is that all you can really count on is ‘you.’ Your own ever-present creativity, ingenuity, imagination, and intelligence can never disappoint. Only these are constants. Too many make the mistake of putting all their faith in such things as government bonds or 401k’s, and so on. But these things are so fragile and fluctuate all the time. We know that, so why do we still put so much trust in them?
Consider those people who worked for decades at a company, only to find in the end that their pensions were gone? I wonder if they learned the hard lesson being given. Because there is a lesson here, and the lesson is that nothing in the material world is permanent or dependable. I like what General Douglas MacArthur once said: “There is no security, only opportunity.” Opportunity is always available. It exists abundantly as opposed to security, which actually is non-existent.
Life offers no guarantees. That’s an ancient axiom that has been repeated countless times down through the centuries. All you have is you. And that is a tremendous lot. It is more than enough. While you still live and breathe, you still possess all the great attributes that got your forefathers out of the caves to create civilization. How do you think your ancestors managed to survive in a world full of wildlife that had sharper teeth, long fangs and claws, tusks, poisonous sacs, and brute strength and endurance? It was human creativity and ingenuity, coupled with imagination and intelligence, that saved them from extinction.
So, in this sluggish economy where jobs are hard to come by, you will find a way to survive given the assets you possess. There are still so many needs to be met, waiting for discoveries and inventions that will improve the quality of life. Further, new ideas are forever welcome so that our perspectives can be elevated. Possibilities are endless. It has always been thus. Possibility and opportunity can never be depleted.
But you have to be willing to risk. That just seems to be a law of life. Nothing much is ever gained without some risk. Yes, risking can be dangerous, as my father well understood. You can lose quite a lot. You can lose time and money and many other kinds of resources. We call this latter failure, which has become a dirty word. But it isn’t really. Because it’s from our failures that we learn how to find the road to success. Risk is always worth its price. One reason I say this is because if you are determined and don’t give up, you are sure to attain success. Risk can be thought of as some god who is testing your endurance and courage.
Too many in this society have been grasping for a long time now for what looked like the gold ring. We worshipped at the alter of security, particularly financial security, which has come to mean a home in the right area of town; comfortable financial assets; the right car, the right spouse, the right lifestyle, the right this and the right that. In other words, the so-called ‘good life.’ And to attain this ‘good life,’ we have too often sacrificed our real desires and longings, our desire for adventure and our desire to express our own self in our own unique way. Instead, we wanted so much to fit in and be made welcome by our neighbors. This has led to widespread unhappiness that has frequently resulted in depression and anxiety, as well as alcoholism or drug addiction.
When we frustrate our natural inner urge to express, we pay a stiff price.
So, in a listless economy where jobs are hard to come by, especially jobs that pay an attractive salary, all we have to fall back on is our own inner resources. Yes, I know, you can collect unemployment insurance and that can tide you over if you’re careful with your money; but that will also insure a long-term stagnation for you as well. What is needed at this time is creativity and ingenuity, along with intelligence and imagination in order to go forward and reach for something much better than just a job.
We need to grow our own lives, as well as the national economy.
Sandra L. Lerner is the author of Connecting with Your Guardian Angel. See www.connectingwithyourguardianangel.com.
She also has written several articles on various topics that have been published on the web.