A few events have come together in the past weeks that have me thinking about society in general, and my place in it and with my employer in particular. The first is I have decided to re-read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. I am only halfway through it – It has been 25 years since I last read it – and I have to say the impact it is having on me is more than I could have imagined. When I read it in the 80s, I was young, and naive, and optimistic about government, economics, …the whole world. The book seemed like a fantasy novel. Now, I read the same words and passages I read then and get goosebumps because I SEE those people in her novel around me. Those who think that they are entitled to all the successes and luxuries life has to offer simply because ‘it’s not fair’ if they don’t have them. And government stepping in to make sure they get them – when it means taking from those who have worked hard to earn what they have.
When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed. (Kindle location 9898)
There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of lawbreakers— (Kindle location 10449)
I was hesitant to include how I feel about the book’s topic because I knew it would draw backlash from those who felt this viewpoint was selfish and not community-minded. And when I realized I felt shame about being like THOSE characters in the book, I knew I had to start somewhere to keep from becoming one of them without even realizing it. It is not evil or bad to prosper. It is not AGAINST society that an entrepreneur or corporation strives to succeed but FOR it. My suggestion – Read the book.
The second thing that has me thinking on this topic is being employed in a community that has very little opportunity for my skill set, in a business that is declining in the area, for an employer whose focus is shifting geographically to an area I am not ready to move to. What value am I providing my employer that makes my continued employment important to them? As a business, they do not exist simply to give me a paycheck because I exist. They are here to provide value and yes that dirty word – PROFIT – to their shareholders. I am a shareholder as well. What am I doing here that helps my employer be successful in order to make a profit so that it may in turn continue to operate, with me as an employee, to continue to be paid for that value I add? It’s not a trivial question. Too often we become ‘used’ to our situations and think our jobs will always be there for us. Having that job and paycheck is not a right guaranteed to me, it’s something which I must earn. And earning it doesn’t stop at the point that I am offered a position and the checks start coming in regularly. Every day I must prove, earn, my position. I don’t mean that in a harsh way, and it has nothing to do with the demands placed on me by the company or my supervisor, but rather is a moral statement that I feel at the very core of my being. I don’t want charity, I want to be properly compensated for the work I do. And I want to feel pride and satisfaction knowing I have contributed to the success of my employer. That I have rightfully, and fully, earned every penny of that paycheck when it comes.
And the third thing that really brought home my thoughts and got me thinking about how these things impact the future: we found out we are to be grandparents. I used to think that this type of news wasn’t going to be a big deal – after all, I had my children, raised them, knew the love and pain and pride that comes with it. How different can that be to a grandchild? I expected I’d feel the same joy and excitement that I had when each of my girls pending arrival was announced. I couldn’t be more wrong. I feel the excitement and pride, but also a sense of dread and fear. If this is the type of world we (“I”!!) have been part of creating that I am leaving to MY children… what kind of place will it be for my grandchild? Can I do anything more today to help my child and grandchild not be complacent and fall into the ‘entitlement’ trap?
I am not entitled to my job, my position, my salary, nor to any of the other myriad things that I often take for granted. I must earn them each and every day. Regardless of how brightly I have shone in the past, of my successes, achievements… what am I doing TODAY to earn my position with my employer, or my status in the community, or the respect of my family? What am I doing to help others out of the rut of self-pity and entitlement and onto the path of honest hard word and self-pride?
If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, it means you have done nothing today. [Tweet this]