Correcting Course

Every time I vow to reinvent myself, or I set up something like this 100 Day Gong, I overestimate the value of the plan.  If life ran according to our plan, we would only have to be concerned with the starting point - our own New Year’s Day.

 Robert Burns:

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Our lives are exposed to constant turbulence.  We fight fires at home and in the workplace.  We deal with unforeseen storms.  We underestimate the need for correction and depend on unreliable planning.

As I get older, it seems I’m taking more hits to the chin.

There is no master plan to life, because we don’t know what threats will come our way.

If you grew up in a small village in Bangladesh in a poor farming family, your threats are real.  Disease.  Bad weather.  Failed crops.  No money for anything beyond survival.

Planning to leave your village and go to Harvard Medical School is not in the cards.

Even at this level, planning is suspect.  You plant corn and plan to harvest your crop in a couple of months.  You fertilize with night soil, but the rain is late.  And the bugs are hungry.  You water the crop by hand and kill the insects.

But the final yield is not up to you so much.  You control the beginning - how much seed you plant and when - but much less until harvest.

Your best life plan is only achieved via constant readjustment.

Why do we resist correcting our plan?  Why are we reluctant to constantly reinvent ourselves?

Simple.  Every piece of repair in a flaw in the system.  Our plan is a failure, so we must be failures too.  Plans are a dime a dozen.  Planning, and correcting course, is everything.

It’s all about giving up a plan set in stone for repeated replanning.  This is why gyms get rich on January 1st and why patrons stay fat and out of shape.  Even the Constitution needed Amendments almost immediately.

Why do we do this?  Because our school systems set us up for failure.

We go to school.  Memorize facts.  Pass tests.  Get good grades.  Awarded diplomas and degrees.

Maybe at a time when before the Internet, having facts stuffed in your brain was a good base for gaining a good job.  Instead of being a shepherd or farmer or factory worker, you could now be a doctor, lawyer, or businessman.

Jobs are being automated faster and faster.  The connection between a college degree and gainful employment is disappearing.

When I was in college over 40 years ago, accounting was one difficult profession.  Even low level accounting like H & R Block stuff.

The first HP scientific calculator cost over $400, which would be like $4,000 today.  Engineering students learned COBOL and fought for 30-minute slots on the mainframe computers at 3:00 in the morning.

Current students are in a system that trains them for jobs that don’t exist.  I imagine the perfect jobs for millenials have not been invented yet, because no one has tweaked the system sufficiently to make these jobs happen.

The best paid plans are an illusion.  Say you plan to become a truck driver.  Pays well.  Especially for long-haul drivers of 18 wheelers.  

We have about 1.8 million truckers in the U.S.  At this time, engineers are testing self-driving trucks in Nevada.  Before long, truckers will only drive to and from the Interstate to the delivery destination.

Humans still do a better job on that detail work.  Skilled manual labor is hard to automate.

But don’t expect the majority of these long-haul jobs to stay in place.  You need a plan B.

Think about customer service.  If the task is easy, like finding a specific person at a company switchboard or directory, you are likely talking to an IVR.

And hating it.

On corporate websites, you often have to search hard to even find a customer service number.  Many companies want you to email or use a popup help box.

Every task a machine can do saves the company money.  Computers don’t get sick, take vacation days, or plain fail to show up for work.

So plan your life.  Plan your career.  But plan to make constant changes including your entire career path.

~ Chaz