Now you’ve ‘Raised your flag’ … what’s next?

The events in the Ukraine, and specifically Kiev, over the last couple weeks have been extraordinary. A group of determined protesters overthrew a government with heavy backing from Russia. And most amazing is that the protesters were not driven by irrational religious zeal, but rather by a desire for economic reform. They’ve ‘Raised their flag’ in pursuit of having lives dictated by their of own doing … not according to decades of old ideas hatched in the former Soviet Union. And if the rebellion in the Ukraine isn’t enough, it appears a similar situation may be unfolding in Venezuela.

Ukraine Protest

About twenty years ago I coined a phrase. “On the Road to Your Perfect World. It was used mainly in the context of my recruiting business. It’s premise was that life is a journey, not a destination. Thus the “Road” moniker. I told my candidates to view a job as step to where they wanted to go. And if the job they had or the one they were considering didn’t go down the path they wanted to go … then find one that did.

Well the “Road” and “the Perfect World” has taken me a whole lot of places I would have never envisioned back in 1995. But that’s a whole different story and the concept itself has evolved. “The Road to Your Perfect World” is now about more than just work and career. “The Perfect World” is my way of looking at life. It’s about breaking from the way you’re supposed to do things and the being on the road you’re supposed to travel according to societal norms (or what others think ). Everything is in question – even the our whole system of how we value ourselves and our place in this world. I got into this a couple of weeks ago in my post, Can We Ever Stop the March of the Neanderthals.

Greg Rader over the years has also articulated a lot of the same issues in his blog. Two years ago he posted a piece on making the jump to this alternative way of thinking and breaking from convention. I commented on this post about what happens after one makes this break. Below is my comment:

“Well here we are. We’ve done it. We’ve waged war on the status quo for control of ourselves. We’ve thrown out conventional wisdom concerning education and the value of a traditional institutions. We’ve decided that the accepted professional ladder climbing is no longer acceptable. We’ve even redefined our system of value – with the ‘undying sole pursuit of material goods’ being a casualty. The welfare of all is to be held above our own personal desires and wants. Our knuckles are bloodied, our will tested … but we’re here.

Now what’s next. We’ve deconstructed every norm we can find. We’ve sought them out in the classroom, in the boardroom and even the bedroom. No room was left untouched.

But now … what’s next!

It’s easy to tear down, to point out the faults of convention and the “one model fits all” thinking. But it’s harder to actually break loose, to endure the ostracism of the masses, the lemmings on the crusade to the cliff.

But again I ask  … what’s next. It’s not enough just to declare victory. One can only look at Egypt. They won the battle for freedom from tyranny – to be replaced by what? Have we, us fellow “sociopaths” relegated ourselves to a similar fate? What will fill the void of conformity and a life not unlike the one Donald Sutherland so valiantly tried to escape in the ’70s classic, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers?”

Reminiscent of post World War II, now is time for us to develop our own person Marshal Plan. How are we going to succeed in this new world we’ve thrust upon ourselves? It won’t have a timetable of months or even years. It is a plan we will need to follow, to implement, over the course of our lives. And our plan must take into account not just ourselves, but all who we have a vested interest in, and  those who have a vested interest in us; including the generations who will follow. For all them are stakeholders and will be effected.

We’ll lose some of them. Some just won’t be able resist the pressure to conform and step back into the old societal comfort. We’ll have to accept that. We’ll just have to make it so that those that matter most remain in our fray, and realize their own “Perfect World” – even if it’s not in lockstep with ours. All we can hope for is understanding and empathy. Because to succeed in this rebuilding effort, we’ll need them.

We’ve raised our flag, assessed the damage – envisioned the possibilities. Now it’s time to go to work!”

This very well could be a mantra for the heroic of Kiev and the other nations who have sought and will seek to break from the convention of physical and societal tyranny. Or it could just be your own. Discarding the status quo is only the first step. It’s only the first of many battles that will have to be fought. The hardest ones will be ones of choice, of what to do next. Deciding the goal to ‘tear down’ is an easy one to make. The decision of what to build in its place and how to do it … not so much so.

I’m not going to tell you what your “Perfect World” should be. And I’m not going tell how you should travel your road. That’s up to you. All I’m saying is it’s alright to map your own journey. Moses didn’t have an eleven commandment saying you have to blindly join the crusade to the cliff.

But once you have ‘Raised your flag’ and you ask yourself what’s next … you better have your own Marshall Plan.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Can we ever stop the march of the Neanderthals?

Update January 19, 2013: I wrote this post three years ago. And just, if not more appriopriate today than then. Naively so I thought that maybe by 2014 things might be different. Maybe in some respects they are. A new generation is gaining more of a foothold in the world (For the better I believe). But at the same time, the old guard of attitudes, those resident in the ‘ivory towers’ of materialism are digging in deeper … reminiscent of siege of the Civil War battle Vicksburg.

Yesterday (February 21, 2011) I commented on a provocative blog post by my friend Greg Rader, “The Future of Status – Conspicuous Production.”

Imagine if there was no money and no things to buy. How would you show the world your worth? How would you show yourself?

Would your value lie in the number of friends you have – physical or electronic? Would it lie in the quality and depth or your relationships with these friends (kind of an esoteric three-dimensional assessment)? Maybe it would lie in the number pieces of art you produced, or books and articles you’ve written.

Or better yet … what about the number of nebulous karma points you’ve accumulated by doing random acts of good? Haven’t we reached a point on Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ where we can at least flirt with self actualization?

Over your last couple posts, I think you’ve been us leading to this. It’s obvious, the standard societal measurement of wealth and worth just isn’t cutting it for you. I join you brother.

Maybe this is the first step – discontent. Only then we can find our own “store of value.” and from there truly maximize it’s worth. Maybe this is what I mean when I talk about “On the Road to Your Perfect World.” Thanks for pointing me the way.

I viewed the focus of Greg’s piece as: “Isn’t there a way of presenting our value to world other than just through the money we make and our consumption habits?” As you can tell from my comment above – it’s a topic that’s been on my mind also.

Recently, in light of the sky-high valuations of several dotcom 2.0 stocks, such as Facebook, Groupon and Twitter, this matter seems to be especially relevant. Recent investments have Facebook worth $52 billion and Twitter at $10 billion, while Groupon recently turned down a $6 billion offer from Google.

But I ask you … on what are the values based. In the first two it’s their ability to act as advertising platforms, and Groupon is worth what it can take as a cut of the pie. Isn’t there more though … more than just advertising, more than just a vehicle to accommodate more and more consumption. God I hope so.

Let’s put Groupon aside, they are what they are – a group buying coupon service … nothing more, nothing less. Eventually they will fall prey to another ‘new and improved’ version of the same.

But Facebook and Twitter are different. To label then as just advertising platforms is to vastly understate what they really are – what they’re really worth. One needs to look no further back than one month. Only thirty days ago the political environment in the Middle East was much the same as it’s been for the last thirty years. No longer. Tunisia is liberated. Egypt is liberated (well kinda). Libya will be in a matter a days, and whoever is next is anyone’s guess.

While Facebook and Twitter didn’t overthrow these dictatorships … they played an integral role. They facilitated strategic and tactical communication that was on the level of a sophisticated military sorte, only performed primarily by young civilians. These social networks provided something that wasn’t there before … coordination. The results to this point have been the liberation tens of billions of dollars and ten millions of people, people who now have the prospect of governing themselves and having a say in their future.

What’s that worth?

Have you evolved?

How can you put a monetary value on person’s freedom? How can you say in dollars and cents what it’s worth to know you have something to get up for in the morning, to know that just maybe your children might just have a better life than you … a life you could only dream of.

Why does everything have to be based on money and what we spend it on. Just because you drive a Mercedes 450SL and I drive a Ford Taurus – does that make you worth more than me. I could make a case on the contrary. We focus so much on our children making sure they go to college and get a job that pays a lot of money. How many us even discuss any other options – any other means of worth? This valuation system seems Neanderthal in the light of what’s happening in the world these days.

I have been there and done it. I’ve had the nice car, the apartment on the water, the original art on walls. But it sure wasn’t “the be all end all.” The car’s gone (well,not a Mercedes – didn’t have one of those), the apartment gone and my daughter has the art. The memories are good, but now it time to move on.

It’s like the pursuit of possessions had put me in a cloud. I had other pursuits, but the almighty dollar seemed to reign supreme. No longer.

My valuation lies not in my financial net worth, but rather in what Greg says, “my conspicuous production” and what results from it. Production can be anything. It could this blog post. It could be the comments that result from it. And as I said in my comment above, it could be in the karma points I accumulate by doing good things. So here it is, here is my new definition of “my value:”

My value is the sum total of all positive synaptic connections I have a role in creating, both in myself and in others. In other words, the more I can get people thinking in ways they wouldn’t otherwise think in – and correspondingly, act in ways that benefit themselves and others … the more I’m worth.

There you have it.

Now it’s time to pick up my hands … my knuckles are bloody.

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And if you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Nurture your “Weirdos” … and let them bloom!

“We have a new bigotry in America. We don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with us about anything.”~ Bill Clinton at the 2013 GLAAD Awards

We live in world of conformity. Being different, being … “not like everyone else is or like your supposed to be” – is bad. Because if you’re different, then you’re unpredictable. And most people need predictability. Their minds aren’t programmed to understand, or even accept these “outliers.”

And it seems like it’s getting worse.

In the misguided (and ineffective) effort to be globally competitive in the education world, we have sacrificed all for the pursuit of rote math and science instruction. This relentless focus has left all creative pursuits, such as art and music, nothing more than carnage in the ditch along the academic road to mediocrity. It’s like we’re programming an army of drones.

nonconformist

Instead of nurturing creativity, we test. Instead of teaching applicable real world problem solving, we test. And we test by filling in ovals on multiple choice tests. Easy to teach, easy to grade … and mostly irrelevant. We do this instead of nurturing art and music – disciplines proven to ignite synaptic connections, ironically the same connections used in math and science proficiency.

The march towards further standardized testing is only intensifying with the implementation of the Common Core Standards. On face, these standards don’t seem to be so bad. But digging deeper, you’ll find that the initiative is headed by David Coleman, president of the College Board. The College Board is the testing behemoth behind the SAT and all it’s siblings. Reading the signs … with its focus on math and English, Coleman’s appointment as “overlord” of American education curriculum, does not bode well for a well-rounded instructional approach.

The education dilemma in the United States has deteriorated to the point where hundreds of thousands high paying, intellectually stimulating jobs go unfilled. But it’s not so much because of lack of math and science … but lack of creativity and problem solving skills in math and science. These are skills that can’t be acquired when all attention is paid to short-term memorization designed around ovals and #2 pencil.

So disparate are these technology companies … a years worth of H-B1 Visas are snatched up in a mere three days. Foreign educated prospects have been schooled in real world application of the fundamentals. To these students, the fundamentals are means to an end, not the end itself – only to be forgotten in a couple of weeks.

Normal is not something you aspire for … it’s something you run away from! ~ Jodi Foster

It’s the creative people, the out-of-the-box thinkers … who are ones who push the boundaries and shatter the status quo. They tremble at the words – normal, or conventional. These are the “Weirdos.” The ones that don’t conform, the Albert Einsteins, the Steve Jobs, the Truman Capotes and the Orson Wells. These people “scare” other people. They scare the normal people, the ones who do what their parents did. The ones who are “politically correct.”

When this country has made strides and moved ahead – it’s the “Weirdos” that blazed the way for others to follow … often to much prejudice and ostracism. But we forget that those proverbial roads we often take for granted – were the result of the chances they took … and not us.

2013 GLAAD Awards

It’s easy to say to point to successes of the people I mentioned above and recognize them for their accomplishments. But what about the “Weirdos” close to us. The guy down the street with the dreadlocks. The Goth girl who always keeps to herself writing … always writing. Or even the boy next door that his teacher is “hell-bent” to get him on ADHD meds because he doesn’t sit still (through her boring detached lectures). These “Weirdos could be the next Bill Clinton or Jennifer Lawrence, both of which were bullied and looked at as outcasts. But too often instead of embracing them – we brand them with a Scarlett Letter.

They say, “all politics is local.”  So is misunderstanding. So is prejudice. What you do to accept the “Weirdos” in your community, whether young or old, will help construct the flavor and individuality of your community.

And it’s how you nurture these nonconformists may very well influence the future of your community … the nation and even the world.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Your children’s education is your responsibility … not the school’s

Schools are designed around curriculum that is learned in increments. Learn one thing and then move on the next thing. One builds on the other. But what if you didn’t understand that first thing. How can you learn that second thing or the third, fourth or fifth. In many cases you don’t. And then you just fall further and further behind. And with that comes disengagement and very often dropping out of school all together.

When my daughter, Alex, was in 2nd grade – she went to school in Tiburon, just north of San Francisco. Tiburon is a very affluent area and its school system is considered one of the best in California.

One day I was sent a letter from the school. The letter read that the school wanted to put my daughter in a remedial reading class … since she couldn’t read! This came as a complete surprise to me. She was bright and curious and I was told in 1st grade in Irvine (where we lived the previous year), she was doing fine. She didn’t really have homework and I came from a family where my parents didn’t read to me, so I just missed it. 

One day a week, Alex went to this “special” class. The expectations on the students were virtually non-existent. I was told if they learned two words a week that was good. It was all about self-confidence. After six weeks, and reading a book called, “Why Johnny Can’t Read or Write but Feels Good About Himself,” I took matters in my own hands.

Alex had more than enough intelligence to learn to read. But, it was obvious, the “whole language” approach the school was using wasn’t happening.  Reading to a kid over and over again amounts to little more than maybe an interest in reading (which is great) and word memorization. But what if they run into a word they haven’t seen before.

Over the course of a weekend, I created a set of fifty phonics blends cards – like flash cards. I tried to think of every blend imaginable, depicted it in a word, and then a sentence on each card. After all – how would  someone know the pronunciation of “tion”  or “cial.” It make no sense. I thought if my daughter learned the blends then she could decipher the words … and in turn, read.

The next Monday I pulled Alex out of the “that special class,” much to the disconcert of her teacher and the principal. I actually had to sign a release. But within one month of using the the flash cards, Alexandria Forsberg was reading one grade ahead of the class!

Phonics card.JPG

With school budgets being just another target of austerity efforts, there’s little that can be done for those for that fall behind. Some creative and hard-working teachers put in extra hours or develop “ad hoc” tutoring programs with other students. But this is by far the exception … not the rule. And unfortunately this extra help is often done years too late, in middle or high school.

Parents need to realize the way schools operate today may not be the way they did when they attended them. I assumed “come hell or high water” my kid was going to be taught to read in school. If I was told that the instruction I provided was an equal part of the “grand scheme,” then I would have approached Alex’s education in a different way. Rather than just augment it with real world knowledge, nurturing her creativity and establishing a desire in her to always be a learner … I would have included the basics.

Unfortunately, not all parents can do nor have the time to do what I did. I worked at home, which helped a lot. But regardless, this doesn’t absolve a parents from the responsibility to take control of their child’s education. Whatever resources they can’t provide directly, they have to find access to. This is where friends, neighbors and community comes in.

This extended network of instruction and mentoring can be informal or better yet – be organized. Change your perspective or orientation. Rather than relying on the schools, view them as a supplement, as extra instruction. I know this seems backward, but what’s the alternative … mediocrity, or worse yet failure?

We can’t assume theat public education and the schools are magically going to get better either. It’s been thirty years since the  report, “A Nation at Risk,” chastised American public education and demanded improvement. Reform after reform, test after test, have come and gone. And all for nothing. Our national education rankings have actually declined during this period, rather than improved. Our government is incapable at looking past politics and partisanship to actually make anything better for the future of our children. And by the systematic destruction of the social services safety net – the worse is yet to come. As business becomes more technically and intellectually advanced, their future workforce become less.

There is no easy solution other than awareness, diligence, and most of all – resourcefulness.

After all … what other choice do you have. Your children didn’t ask to be put here.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and Google+

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Samson … where are you when we need you!

A year and a half ago Pew Research came out with a report chronicling the demise of the American middle class. According to Pew, the percentage of Americans in the middle class, households with incomes ranging from $39,000 to $118,000, has dropped from 61% in 1971 to 51% today. In percentage terms, that’s a drop of almost 20%.

Now of course, the report became front page fodder for the mainstream media. Not long after it surfaced came the polls. The one that intrigued me was a Pew poll that asked Americans who was to blame for this decrease. The “blame game” was as follows:

  • the government – 62%,
  • the big banks – 53%
  • the people themselves – 8%

Hmm, yes you read that right. Only Eight percent of the America populus believes that our current economic predicament  is due to the actions of the people themselves. According to them, the blame is equally distributed between Wall Street and Washington D.C.

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Currently, we’re mired “neck-deep” in another season of “fantasy land” political rhetoric. One common thread between both parties, one of the few, is the American Dream – or should I say, how to rekindle it. Now what is the American Dream? As far as I can tell, over the last fifty years … the American Dream has rested on two pillars; home ownership and a college education.

Now these two cornerstones may have been appropriate thirty or forty, or even twenty years ago – but today I’m not so sure. In fact, I believe it’s time to re-assess the whole idea of the American Dream. Because I believe this “dream,” and what it stands for, might very well be the reason we’re in the mess we’re in right now. And the sooner we readjust our thinking, the faster we’ll get out of it.

First, let’s discuss home ownership, the ultimate shackle of flexibility. The problem isn’t so much there aren’t jobs out there, it’s that the jobs aren’t necessarily where the people are that need them. For example, the Williston Oil Basin in North Dakota has so many open jobs they have to resort to paying a clerk at McDonalds $15 / hour to get anyone. Water truck drivers easily make six figures. These are not the highest skilled jobs, so most able-bodied workers could land one – probably within a day of arriving. But it’s kind of hard to get a job there, or any of the other employment hot beds, if you’re stuck upside down in mortgage that you can’t, or aren’t willing to, get out from under. After all, it’s your “dream house” and isn’t a dream house part of the American Dream.

And second, let’s talk about college, or should I say the “ball and chain” of student debt that is most often attached to it. It seems that anyone who graduates from high school, even with barely passing grades, has to go to college. Haven’t we’ve been told that the road to success is through the esteemed gates of an overpriced university? And even you, as a high school graduate, in a moment of sanity, decide to reflect on the actual benefits of that said education, your parents will be banging down your bedroom door, hounding you about the those colleges applications. After all, god forbid if you didn’t go to college … they’d be looked at as failures as parents. Never mind that the unemployment rate for new college graduates is around 15 to 20%, with underemployment probably twice that. And with little opportunity after graduation, you get the bill, a bill you can never get rid of, even with bankruptcy. Now I’m not saying college is a bad idea. I just don’t think traditional old-line higher education should be the default choice, without serious thought being put into other options.

So here we have the American Dream. One pillar, geographically restricts your employment and career opportunities. While the other saddles you with debt so high you feel like you’re behind the eight ball well into your thirties. But wait, isn’t it un-American not to pursue the American Dream?

This brings me back to the decline of the middle class and the reasons for it. It’s always easy to blame someone else. The government did it! And by the way, where’s my bail out, I pay taxes! A college education worked for my dad and even his dad before that. What about me! And if it wasn’t for the banks, well … I just hate ’em!

Well let me tell you something, neither the government nor the banks made you buy that overpriced ‘dream house’ and take out that mortgage that you very well couldn’t afford in the first place without giving up your first-born. And neither government nor the banks made you spend four years, if you’re lucky, getting that humanities degree and the few gainful employment opportunities associated with it.

These are just two of the examples of what’s happening in this country right now. We want times like they were ten or twenty years ago, times when we spent like drunken sailors. But like any good binge, there’s going to be a hangover. Well, welcome to the next morning! We can’t sit and lay the blame of our behavior of the past on others. And we sure can’t expect to be bailed out for this behavior.

It’s time to take responsibility!

The sooner we do, the faster we’ll recover. Things will not return to the way they were, no matter what Obama or whoever eles promise. Only we can fix our own plight. And step one is re-assessing that thing called the American Dream. It may have worked for generations past, but today it can be more of a nightmare than a dream.

In 2008, a teenage Jennifer Lawrence starred in movie called “Poker House.”  Three sisters fought for life with their prostitute, drug addicted mother in a run-down Council Bluffs flop house. In the opening scene, Lawrence, fifteen, who had just got done kicking out her mother’s last ‘john’ at 6:00 AM, explained her life in a nutshell, a line we should all take to heart.

“The man in the white hat, the man on the white horse … he ain’t coming.”

In Ancient Greek mythology, Samson brought down the pagan temple by destroying the two pillars supporting it. Maybe it’s time to bring down our archaic vision of the American Dream …

and build it new.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

The Fallacy of the “White Picket Fence”

Last week I wrote a post called “The real problem with Higher Education.” The premise of the piece was to discuss the real value of getting a college degree. In other words … I challenged one of the basic tenants of the “American Dream.”

For the most part, the response was positive – the benefits of a college degree didn’t always out-way the costs associated with getting that degree. But then there were others, others that disagreed. Disagree may be a polite term. A few stopped only one step short of screaming blasphemy from the roof tops. “How could I even question the value system on which this country is built?”

Well … that was Part 1 of my dismantlement and reconstruction of the “American Dream.” Now welcome to Part 2 …  The Fallacy of the “White Picket Fence.”

Even more than getting a college degree – home ownership exemplifies the “American Dream.” Challenging the “American Dream” makes people uncomfortable. After all, this is how we were raised. This is what we are supposed to aspire for. The tenants were, and are currently used, to determine our level of success in society. In the past owning a home was the equivalent of having a guaranteed high-return IRA … always increasing in value, often double digits annually.

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“Stairway to Nowhere” by L. Sean Key

Then came the ’90 and things changed. That investment sunk into the piece of ground you’re standing on had lost its inevitability. It lost its guarantee. I was living in Los Angeles from the late ’80s through 2000s. The first crash came in the Fall of 1981. Real estate values fell over 40% across all sectors – literally overnight. Within two months … nest eggs (in-cased in overpriced homes) – were gone! And with this went  futures and the futures of children.

The next two decades brought several boom and bust cycles in the real estate market – with the last one hitting three years ago … and we’re still reeling! No longer is home ownership a “yellow brick road” to affluence and a prosperous retirement. Instead is seems more a trip to Las Vegas. The irony behind all this, is a normal investor, let alone a conservative one – would never put their life savings in just one stock in the stock in stock market. Yet that’s exactly what they’re doing  with buying a house … especially in this time of economic uncertainty. And on top of it, a stock is a whole lot easier to dump than a house!

But still we persist … “home ownership must be the ‘be all end all’ goal.” After all that’s what’s what our parents, and our grandparents lived for. It’s the “American Dream.” To be a renter, except in only a few of the country’s most expensive markets – meant you were part of an assumed “lower class.” To not strive  for that “White Picket Fence” was … well, just not American.

Well it’s the end of 2011 and were still hanging on to the tail of this stubborn recession. Home foreclosures are actually rising not declining. There will be more hardship before there’s less. The government is attempting to lessen the blow … but their gridlocked solutions are of little value to most in the dire straits of losing their homes, and their futures. I could go into detail, but it’s been covered ad nauseam by every news outlet, major and minor. Every community has more than its share of “sob stories.”

But aside from the financial roller-coaster home ownership can put you on – there may also be another issue at play here.

As we all know unemployment in this country, and if not worse in many others, is hovering around 10%. As this is only unemployment … underemployment is at least 25%. So much for that expensive college degree! Combine this job predicament with the millions of homes underwater, and families that are financially “up-side down,” owing more money on their house than it’s worth … you have a Perfect Storm!

And worse yet, very often these two factors exist in the same household. But there are opportunities that exist in many areas of the country. For example North Dakota has tens of thousands of high paying blue-collar jobs open right now. McDonalds is offering $15 an hour starting, and truck drivers can easily make $80k+.

But if you’re stuck in the quicksand of a “ball and chain” mortgage … these opportunities, whether in North Dakota or in other boom areas – are nothing but a “pipe-dream,” a dream that can never be realized.

All of sudden being part of the underclass of renters doesn’t look so bad. Without the encumbrance of a mortgage, the renter can follow the opportunities. Mobility in this country is at a forty-year low. I believe this is a direct result of the housing crisis (along with the student loan burdens). I don’t think that Americans don’t want to move … they just can’t.

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the “American Dream.” Times are not the same as they were for your parents. And the conditions required to achieve success and happiness during those times aren’t either. In this day and age, success requires flexibility, it requires mobility. Any obstacle you put in the way of these two conditions will greatly diminish your chances. Unfortunately, home ownership might very well be one of those obstacles. Just as college and its accompanying debt, home ownership and its accompanying mortgage could be more of a liability than an asset.

As times moves on, and things change – we have to recognize that maybe so does the definition of the “American Dream.” Instead of tying ourselves to a place, a place that may or may not be conducive for our long-term well-being … maybe we should look at flexibility, at mobility as the preferred course of action. These crazy economic times are not going to change anytime soon. You can’t, and the government can’t change that.

There are opportunities out there, many of them. They’re just not in the same places – professionally or geographically, they used to be. You have to go where they’re at … literally and figuratively.

The last thing you want to do is to have that beloved “White Picket Fence” … turn into prison – keeping you from the opportunity to pursue and achieve your future and your dreams.

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Will we ever stop dragging our knuckles?

Update March 1, 2018: I wrote this post seven years ago. It’s every bit as applicable today as it was then – maybe more so. That said, the appearance of the #NEVERAGAIN movement gives me hope, especially in young people who I always had faith in. The young organizers of this movement from Parkland, Florida exemplify the spirit of this piece.

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Neadrathal

Yesterday I commented on a provocative blog post by my friend Greg Rader, “The Future of Status – Conspicuous Production.”

Imagine if there was no money and no things to buy. How would you show the world your worth? Or how would you show yourself?

Would your value lie in the number of friends you have – physical or electronic? Would it lie in the quality and depth or your relationships with these friends (kind of three-dimensional assessment)? Maybe it would lie in the number pieces of art you produced, or books and articles you’ve written.

Or better yet … what about the number of karma points you’ve accumulated by doing random acts of good? Haven’t we reached a point on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where we can at least flirt with self actualization?

Over your last couple posts, I think you’ve been us leading to this. It’s obvious, the standard societal measurement of wealth and worth just isn’t cutting it for you. I join you brother.

Maybe this is the first step – discontent. Only then we can find our own “store of value.” and from there truly maximize it’s worth. Maybe this is what mean when I talk about “On the Road to Your Perfect World.” Thanks for pointing me the way 🙂

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I viewed the focus of Greg’s piece as: “Isn’t there a way of presenting our value to world other than just through the money we make and our consumption habits?” As you can tell from my comment above – it’s a topic that’s been on my mind also.

Recently, in light of the sky-high valuations of several dotcom 2.0 stocks, such as Facebook, Groupon and Twitter, this matter seems to be especially relevant. Recent investments have Facebook worth $52 billion and Twitter at $10 billion, while Groupon recently turned a $6 billion offer from Google.

But I ask you … on what are the values based. In the first two it’s their ability to act as an advertising platforms and Groupon is worth what it can take as a cut of the pie. Isn’t there more though … more than just money advertising, more than just a vehicle to accommodate more and more consumption. God I hope so.

Let’s put Groupon aside, they are what they are – a group buying coupon service … nothing more, nothing less. Eventually they will fall prey to another ‘new and improved’ version of the same.

But Facebook and Twitter are different. To label then as just advertising platforms is to vastly understate what they really are – what they’re really worth. One needs to look no further back than one month. Only thirty days ago the political environment in the Middle East was much the same as it’s been for the last thirty years. No longer. Tunisia is liberated. Egypt is liberated. Lybia will be in a matter a days, and whoever is next is anyone’s guess.

While Facebook and Twitter didn’t overthrow these dictatorships … they played an integral role. They facilitated strategic and tactical communication that was on the level of a sophisticated military sorte, only performed primarily by young civilians. These social networks provided something that wasn’t there before … coordination. The results to this point have been the liberation tens of billions of dollars and ten millions of people, people who now have the prospect of governing themselves and having a say in their future.

What’s that worth?

How can you put a monetary value on person’s freedom? How can you say in dollars and cents what it’s worth to know you have something to get up for in the morning, to know that just maybe your children might just have a better life than you … a life you could only dream of.

Why does everything have to be based on money and what we spend it on. Just because you drive a Mercedes 450SL and I drive a Ford Taurus – does that make you worth more than me. I could make a case on the contrary. We focus so much on our children making sure they go to college and get a job that pays a lot of money. How many us even discuss any other options – any other means of worth? This valuation system seems Neanderthal in the light of what’s happening in the world these days.

I have been there and done it. I’ve had the nice car, the apartment on the water, the original art on walls. But it sure wasn’t “the be all end all.” The car’s gone, the apartment gone and my daughter has the art. The memories are good, but now it time to move on.

It’s like the pursuit of possessions had put me in a cloud. I had other pursuits, but the almighty dollar reigned supreme. No longer.

My valuation lies not in my financial net worth, but rather in what Greg says, “my conspicuous production” and what results from it. Production can be anything. It could this blog post. It could be the comments that result from it. And as I said in my comment above it could be in the karma points I accumulate by doing good things. So here it is, here is my definition of “my value:”

My value is the sum total of all positive synaptic connections I have a role in creating, both in myself and in others. In other words, the more I can get people thinking in ways they wouldn’t otherwise think in – and correspondingly act in ways that benefit themselves and others … the more I’m worth.

There you have it.

Now it’s time to pick up my hands … my knuckles are bloody.

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