Yes, It’s Hard.
Sometimes it serves us to admit that certain things are just plain hard. It does us no good to dwell on that fact, but facing reality is important. Without a doubt, life is much easier than it used to be for our ancestors. Almost everyone on the planet now has access to water, food shelter, even technology like radio, television and the internet. This was not always the case. The simplest luxuries today like refrigeration and air conditioning were not available to even to richest people just 150 years ago. Still, as humans we adapt to our environment and become habituated to the world around us. It’s easy to forget how much better the standard of living is today than any other point in history because most people born after the 1990’s don’t know any different. The struggle to survive raise a family with food and shelter has been replaced with more modern struggles. Namely, these are struggles of the marketplace. While the marketplace has raised up even the poorest nations through mass dissemination of products, technology and information, a host of stressors has pervaded our culture as we find a way to make a living and try to dent the universe with our existence.
In a crowded global marketplace where incredibly large businesses dominate and make it difficult to thrive let alone succeed for employees and entrepreneurs, a stress of doing well can lead to tremendous uncertainty and anxiety. The purpose of life used to not be that complicated- you are born, you have to work to survive doing a certain craft or skill, (usually whatever trade your parents did like farming, masonry, etc.), you marry, have children, start a household of your own, and hopefully leave some wealth and real estate to pass on to your heirs when you die. Questions like, “Who am I becoming in this job?”, “Why am I on this planet?”, “Does this job have medical benefits?”, “How do I expand my market share?”, “What companies should I invest in to give me income later in life?”, “What major should I pursue in college?”, “What should I study to make more money and have a happy life?”- these questions were not usually applicable. Today, however, they pervade our very existence. We think about these questions so much because we are so unsure about what our purpose is.
While the marketplace has done so much for humanity, not the least of which allowing seemingly endless opportunities for people to amass wealth, we see examples of wealth and power and wonder whether we are on the right track ourselves. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor show that most Americans stay at job for an average of 4.6 years. This is actually slightly longer than it was in 1983, but much less than it has been in previous generations. The days of staying in a career for 20-30 years and then retiring with a pension are largely over. I believe this uncertainty in the job market has led to a high level of anxiety and uncertainty. Although the marketplace has led to vast choices for consumers and producers, the need for certainty can outweigh the benefit of having multiple choices.
We are, at the same time, presented with unlimited choices and overwhelming uncertainty about where our talents are best suited. The fear that we may be wasting our talents has led to job hopping as well as record numbers of workers consuming opioids and antidepressants. While this type of anxiety is not rooted in actual survival, (most of us know where our next meal is coming from and that we will have a roof over our head), it is still very real. It is, in fact, difficult to know how to succeed and be fulfilled in the modern world. Some things are just plain hard, regardless of how well humanity has it today. It’s hard to know how to choose a job or college major. It’s hard to know exactly why we are here and what our purpose is. It’s hard to know how to invest for the future. It’s hard to hire the right person. It’s hard to choose a career only to find out you are not fulfilled. It’s hard to pay bills every month and then look at your bank balance afterwards and worry about having too much month left for the money that’s left. It’s hard to make a living doing something that you’re passionate about, but it doesn’t pay well. It’s hard to wade through the endless information thrown at us everyday and decipher exactly what it means and what to do. It’s hard to anticipate how consumers will react and how markets will behave. It’s hard to competition-proof your company so your bottom line isn’t affect by others. It’s hard to deal with customer complaints. It’s hard to wait in line at a restaurant when you’re hungry or the DMV when you need a license. It’s hard to know what information and technology you all your children to consume. It’s hard to teach your kids how to survive in a marketplace that is always changing. IT’S HARD. It is. However, at the end of the day, I’d rather deal with all these hard things than go back where humanity used to be. I much prefer the benefits and anxieties of modern society than 200 years ago. I love my internet, refrigerator, car, air conditioning and the supermarket too much. I’m willing to adapt to an ever-changing business climate and deal with all the hard things associated with it. How about you?