Category Archives: Business

I’m Retiring

The time has come for me to face facts. Retirement, as we’ve come to know it, has changed. Many of us sought out careers that would assure present security and future potential.

We may have accepted the agreement that our employers promised–hard work now with a pension or retirement benefit at the end of our career. But it was a lie. I haven’t decided yet whether the lie was intentional or simply a result of mis-planning. Either way, there wasn’t enough good faith investment in our future to insure that it will exist (the way our younger selves envisioned it).

The Promise

The promise was that if you accepted a career in public service, you’d have stability, decent fringe benefits, and a pension after at least ten years of service. Retirement age was contingent on your years of service and a vested pension. But these promises are dissipating before our own eyes. As worker bees, we’ve come to work daily, progressed towards our objective, and endured policy changes and threats of diminished contracts when we renegotiate.

For employees in the private sector, the promise of promotion in exchange for hard work and allegiance to the corporate goal motivates us towards a promising future. Retirement age depended on how soon your 401k (or other investment package) would mature, your level of risk, and your retirement goal. Will you be able to afford to live comfortably after you retire? Who knows?

We are hoping for stability in a still-unstable economy. So we begin to conclude that the promises made to us were built on infertile foundations. Our hopes sink on sinking sand. Our dreams fail to grown where our seeds were planted.

The managers who work within the confines of our annual budgets see the writing on the wall. They are reluctant to speak on it, for they have a much clearer view of the inevitable. I’ve stopped asking my managers questions because I can not trust them with my livelihood. Their objective is not aligned with ours. Managers do not enjoy the due process and semi-stability that the worker bees posses. Instead they have knowledge of the impending doom; and they adjust accordingly.

Instead of hope to gleaning a glimpse of the internal workings of our employers’ mechanism, WATCH the managers. If they are behaving as if their job is secure, know that they are acting with the knowledge that things are going well and will continue to do so. However, if they are using their vacation time (and not actually going on vacation), if they are bitter in their delegation of responsibilities or unwilling to engage in team problem-solving; it may be a sign that they are planning an exit.

When the captain of the ship is the first on the emergency escape boats, ask yourself why?

They aren’t worried about pensions and fringe-benefits. A managers salary often exceeds their responsibility. We know this as worker bees. How many times have you said, “I can easily do my bosses job,” because you know you can. You’re already doing it!!

Managers worry about their exit plan because they lack loyalty. They’ve “put in their time” and feel even MORE entitled than the worker bees.

How much longer will you allow your manager to delegate their responsibilities to you and your colleagues while they take larger salaries with minimal commitment? For that matter, why don’t we start running our own lives?!?

For those of us who allow our professional lives to infiltrate our personal lives; and our spiritual lives to infiltrate our professional lives (you know that you do this when you choose the high road instead of cursing your boss out like a heathen), it may be time to consider an alternative. It may be time to retire.

After all, what is retirement?? Nowadays, who do you know that REALLY retires? Retirement really means career shift. I can’t think of many retirees who simple stay at home and avoid any work or civic responsibility. Let’s keep it real! I’d happily volunteer my time if I could find a way to pay my living expenses. So there really is no retirement like we were promised there’d be.

Who retires the old-fashioned way? Politicians who collect multiple pensions, lawyers who negotiate huge settlements even when they loose the big case, and doctors who received commissions on peddling treatment instead of cures–they can retire. Hmmmm. Are you one of these? Me neither.

I spent enough time as politician to know that public policy rarely serves the public. My time as an educator has proven to me that managers are more concerned with the appearance of “collective success” rather than individual growth. And sadly my time as a social worker has left me feeling that (1) the work is never done, and (2) the policies favor the organization over the human being needing the support.

I share my perspective with you because I believe that once you look inside yourselves and develop a better sense of worth, you may agree with some of my points. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! The illusion of working to 55 or 60 with 3/4 of your salary to live the rest of your life is a LIE. The bankers have already collected the commissions on your investments. The politicians have already spent their mandatory contributions to your pensions! The lawyers get paid to fight this fight for us, even when they loose. And they will loose–because the money is all gone.

Who is going to replace those investments? The younger generations?!? Never that! They are too busy re-imagining a world without trust, a world without hope, and a world where they KNOW they can only count on themselves.

We need a new plan. We need innovation. We must do it now and for the humanity that is fading away. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.

The innovators are not planning for the far-off future. They are creating in the NOW. The hope for what is to come is bleaker than ever. But don’t be discouraged. Be inspired! It is because of the lack of innovation that anyone with an idea can become a hero to mankind.

And so I am retiring. Or I should say instead that I am re-inventing this world that I know. My pension is not promised. It’s barely there. My retirement investments evaporate the moment I deposit them (and my investments were LOW RISK). My mandatory retirement age has been arbitrarily prolonged another FIVE (to TEN) years–pronounced like a prison sentence. I’m not waiting to be eligible for “parole”. My retirement will be pronounced E S C A P E.

So who is coming with me? I’m seeking collaborators and innovators with no promises and no hope of a destination. We are planning a new route instead. The journey begins here…and never ends.

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Prioritizing, Baby

She said, “you’re not paying attention, honey!”

He didn’t respond. 

“Hun, can you hear me?!?” she exclaimed. 

He didn’t mumble a response.  He straight up ignored.  He was not tired.  He was not distracted.  He was energized. He was FOCUSED!  And he was prioritizing.  He was re-prioritizing.  He was analyzing. He was reflecting, planning, and doing.  

What he wasn’t doing was explaining his moves. He no longer extended the courtesy of sharing his thoughts.  He was no longer afraid. Therefore their were no more “concerns” to mull over. 

He was taking back his life.  He was unapologetic.  He was assertive and no longer cared about the negativity, nay-saying, or the bull!  He recognized that there’d be fallout from his new approach. He was unmoved.  It was a consequence that he was willing to take.  There were no more “risks” because everything now was safe.  

He’s grown.  Few people understand his new walk.  He’s tightened his circle.  It’s so small now that it merely a dot.  And he’s good!

Her voice faded to the background as his own conscience echoed in the foreground.  He was consumed in his thoughts.  His actions were a slalom on a high-speed race course.  Analogies and alliteration drove his pen. His sketches resembled Dream clouds and flow charts.  

His life was his own.  His business was not his life.  Instead, his life became his business.  And for the first time in 43 years, he felt alive.  

(To be continued)

Decent Living Wage

imageAfter plenty of debate and threats that law-makers will raise the minimum wage, employers have decided on their own to take responsibility for the well-being of their staff. Fortune 500 companies, national franchises, and domestic industries are leading local businesses in this endeavor. Ensuring that their employees will be able to live within their means has become a priority.  Could this be the beginning of a new competitive streak to determine which employers take the best care of their staff?  Or is this a ploy to show a good-faith effort before the fed makes unrealistic mandates?  Who will be the last to succumb to the pressures?

But there is still heavy debate.  Opposition to raising wages comes from a certain class of individuals.  They warn that offering a higher quality of life for everyone threatens their own livelihood.  This is a bold statement, but it’s not too far from the truth.  Very few people who have worked hard to earn a decent wage (through training schools, colleges, or job experience) want to see someone less qualified offered a comparable wage.  As for the elite, there’s a kind of wealth that causes a sub-class division. Even the rich compete with each other to establish a hierarchy. We are a society of “haters”.  We hate it when someone either has more than us OR if they get theirs easier.  

In a capitalist society, there’s a premise that hard work (and innovative ideas) are rewarded with profits.  These profits, if managed properly will distinguish competitors and drive the economy.  Those who don’t work hard, won’t succeed in business. That’s the belief.  But good businesses fail all the time, mostly because of their inability to adapt in an ever-changing economy. Quick example:  General Motors lost major profits to Toyota because of its reluctance to pursue energy efficient innovations.  Now all auto industrialists are taking notes from Elon Musk’s Tesla!   Adaption is the true requirement for success.

Our legislatures offer a great deal of faith and favor to industries that can generate profits in a variety of ways. The profitability is recognized but not taxed. Instead we hope that  successful companies will be decent enough to offer jobs, pay decent wages, and provide stability for the regions they occupy.  

These same companies tend to capitalize from international labor exploitation.  Those companies that remain loyal to the United States still find ways to exploit the laborers, business professionals, and even stockholders for the sake of profits.  There’s no class warfare in that–everyone is invalidated.  Another bold interpretation.

With raising the minimum wage, there is a fear that prices will increase substantially. This is not a prerequisite to inflation.  Some argue that increasing any expense for the employer causes a domino effect which is eventually offset by the consumer.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, it shouldn’t!

In can be quite the opposite.  This creates an opportunity to equalize business expenses instead of passing this “additional cost” off to the consumer.  These same companies report huge gains, for which their tax burdens are reduced because they are in the viable position. They can create positive change in our economy, right?

Here’s the rub though. Creating jobs is not the only way to stimulate the economy, nor is it the only expectation of industry.  Providing sustainable goods and valuable services through a productive (and eager) work force yields the highest profits–both financially and intrinsically. There’s value in giving back.

CEO’s and shareholders who refuse to see the inherent good in stabilizing their businesses by distributing the resources between profits, capital, and employee benefits are unwilling to adapt. Society accepts the fact that change is a constant force, but our culture is unwilling to adapt.  Nature, however, is a stronger force than our own free will.  We will adapt–by nature or by choice!

And even giving back to the community is a tax-deductible asset!

We’ve gotten into this terrible habit of praising anyone who can positively impact on our society.  So much so that we’ve mistakenly offered incentives and rewards to entities that don’t deserve it. When Wall Street tycoons warned of a collapsing economy in 2008, the government tightened budgets so that they could give low interest loans and grants. These were later translated into bonuses (and golden parachutes) for CEO’s who later kept that money or invested it over seas.  Those tightened budgets robbed the tax payer coffers of money for education, social programs, and much needed infrastructure repairs. Nearly ten years later, we are worse for the wear and tear.  THIS was done to keep corporations happy.  Where’s the return?

image

More importantly, what’s the real incentive?

There’s an agenda to diminish the value of labor  while giving the appearance that the product (or service) is worth more.  Worth more to whom?  We need to make a distinction between who the customer is.  Just as important, we must identify who is marketing the idea or product.  Does raising the wage send a message to the consumers or to the employees?  Here a hint:  “Don’t strike!”

Employers recognize the awesome power of organized labor.  Non-Union employees hope to capture a taste of the enumerable perks of negotiating contracts and ensuring safety conditions. The labor landscape is evolving.  Business owners as well as industries MUST adapt.  But this may simply be a short cut.

An increased minimum wage is a short term win.  Wage adjustments do not prevent reduced shifts or deminished working conditions.  Cut hours and layoffs are on the other side of added employer expenses. Employees are still exposed to what would otherwise be considered unfair labor practices.

Here’s a question:

Do foreign consumers of American goods value our products for their quality, their durability, or for their support of an American-made consumable?  None of the above!  American exports are at an all-time low!   Even novelties like American flags have no value beyond our boarders.  Retailers mark down items to blow out inventory, but what comes of those products that can’t be sold?  Trash!  When even our citizens will not consume the only affordable, only available goods, we are left with a diminished value and a voided return.

Wages have increased.  Products and services are being marketed. But who is buying?

 

We Are The Revolutionaries!

“Stand up and fight back!”  No matter what side of the political isle you call home, you are going to experience a significant change in the socio-economic climate in the WORLD.  What we are witnessing now is not merely an American condition.

As Canada prepares for American refugees, and Mexico shakes it’s head in disgust, there’s a burning sensation to revolt against the true neo-fascist.  The political infrastructure for decades to come will be built on the decisions we are making in 2016.

Every conservative AND every liberal has a position on all of these issues:

Decent living-wage.  Some defend the status quo because they’ve “earned” their place in life building a skill set based on hard work and opportunity.  Others are demanding a better working condition as they watch their managers and handlers profit from their hard work.  They call it oppression.

Disenfranchisement. The good ol’ boy network has evolved to include a new demographic, but it maintains the same elitist restrictions.  The club is now comprised of both “old money” and new wealth, but a general disgust for anyone looking to evenly distribute the opportunity.  If there’s a way to hamper the positive change on the other end of a registered voter, it will be exploited.  Selma exists in every region of our nation via gerrymandering, pole taxes, residency requirements, and basic literacy expectations. What would result if every ex-con, homeless citizen, naturalized immigrant, college freshman, or disenfranchised senior actually were guaranteed their human right to choose their destiny?

Social Justice. The same injustices that the “privileged” dismiss as delusions of grandeur are the badges of courage for every man, woman, or child who dare wear a hooded sweatsuit while grasping a bag of skittles.    Martyrs are created from the innocent and under-privileged. Civil disparities prompt prejudice and bigotry based on skin color, gender, and creed (with a twist of poverty).  The ultimate sacrifice is minimized and summarized into sound bites and hashtags.  And a cry to go back to a “better time” is embraced by anyone with good credit, a stable job, and…outstanding student loan balances.  The advocates for change are the same folks who have been denied access to the very freedoms for which they’ve paid!  The protectors of those freedoms are the very ones who’ve enjoyed them for generations.

Criminal Justice.  A system that has incarcerated more minorities per capita than any nation in the world is founded on the premise that anti-social is pro-criminal.  But systematically, who is enforcing these norms? There are inmates serving prison sentences for crimes that have been repealed; for peddling drugs that are now legal; while while celebrities glamorize these same norms  and exploit the very same legal system.



Economics.
Profits would be generated on all of this except for the fact that the top one percent has their banks off-shore (and they’re not spending any of that fleeced wealth). Our government can no longer generate revenue from (foreclosed) property, (unearned) income, or (unsold) merchandise.  The money that was spent on industrialized prison complexes, charter schools, and weapons of war…has long-since been directed away from law enforcement, public education, and social services.

“We can do much better!”  This is the new freedom cry, but it’s almost too late.

We are the new revolutionaries!  

But the freedoms for which we are fighting have already been given away.

Intellectual Grunt

Educators are slowly making the transition from education professional to civil service grunt. Society learned long ago of self-fulfilling prophecies. Treating someone a certain way for a long enough period of time, will cause them to behave that way. Intellectuals don’t function within that same realm, however there are exceptions to every rule. 

Treating someone badly for a prolonged period of time and then expecting them to yield positive results is just ludicrous. It’s just that simple.  Value someone as a person, and they will offer a human response. 

Educators are no longer valued as the noble professionals they once were. In history, similar trends have occurred and society has evolved or even recovered. But the pendellum is not swinging back quickly enough.  

Working to the contract, signing in/out for lunches, documenting all interpersonal interactions…these are things that clerical and and “nine to five employees” do daily to justify their jobs. It’s menial yet measurable.  

 
But educators are held to a higher standard. All the while the measuring stick becomes more and more antiquated.  How can any professional gain a semblance of distinction when the standards are constantly changing?  

There isn’t a single educator who chose their profession because of a secret desire to crunch numbers, process paperwork, or punch a clock.  

Educators have been the focus of political blame because they are an easy target.  The cost of education is a constant.  As long as there are students, there will be teachable content and an opportunity to build on previous knowledge.  

And the cost of THIS is immeasurable.  

School districts, municipal boards, county and state budget committees struggle annually to project for these increasing costs.  So where do they cut?  Anywhere and everywhere!  

No matter where the cuts occur, human lives are impacted.  The teacher-to-student bond will be dimished to a point that it can no longer exist.  Cyber schools are no longer science fiction and lore.  The movement to eliminate teachers has begun.  Students will “develop” without instruction.  And those teachers WILL become the statisticians and programmers of online content accessible only through a internet server.  

The biggest expense in education is the cost of the teacher.  The second biggest expense is the student.  Third is the cost of replenishing, upgrading, and maintaining the educational infrustructure.  But the infrustructure has value beyond the classroom. When the classrooms are no longer sufficient, they will be used for something else.  Public school buildings built today are designed to serve multiple purposes (as they always have been). Today it’s a public school; tomorrow it’s a charter school;  five years from now a church; eventually a bomb shelter.  

But aren’t educators like other civil servants? 

No!  They are less effective in negotiating their own work environment.  The controls over their work environment are in the hands of school boards and the public by proxy.  

Educators can’t apply the effective labor tactics that other unions employ.  They can’t strike. They can’t really speak to the media without recourse, and their online activity is monitored closely. No matter how badly they’re bullied, educators remain resilient.  

Holding their heads high, educators generate lesson plan, grade assessments between classes,  coordinate with cohorts, develop professionally, convention collectively, and some even lobby through their associations to create positive change–all on their own time.  

Bullied? 

By policy makers, school boards, administrators, parents, and sometimes students, educators succum to the demands beyond their control. They’re not easily persuaded though. Educators are dignified and diligent. An unmoving target, the blows are met with great force.  

But isn’t education changing?

Education evolves, but at a steady (and sometimes slower) rate than other aspects of society.  Ed policy is based on data-based studies and proven success.  This takes time.  But in recent years, data is driven by the need to be more efficient regardless of how effective.  Not to mention that the resources, tools, curriculum, and texts used in the classroom are marketed by for-profit entities tied to political policy.  Non-educators making Ed policy?

Educators hold themselves to a higher standard already. Educators persevere. They thrive on the teachable moments in every lesson. Life lessons are built on overcoming adversity. Educators turn negatives into positives daily. So it’s really no surprise that educators are willing to tolerate, flex, and bend to accommodate the circumstances.  A steady target!

The politicians may never know the wrath of this type of public servant. Educators can take abuse and never reach their breaking point. Dealing with parents, negotiating with administrators, encouraging students to reach their potential. It’s not easy work. The most experienced educator perseveres through the most challenging circumstances. And upon retirement, educators continue to nurture!

How many other professions can make that claim. Educators just don’t quit. So putting the entire profession into a vice and squeezing is not going to end in a positive manner. But the students will learning. The students are watching.  What lesson is being taught?

Consider all of these factors (and knowing that more and more obstacles are mounting). To be any less would negate the silent oath of an educator.  To work less, to care less, to plan less, advocate less…would simply ease our transitions becoming civil service grunts.  Educators would be as effective as any other civil servant, but with more power.  More power to secure our community—or all the ability to simply walk away.  

I Don’t Like You, But I Tolerate You!

I don’t like you but I tolerate you. 

In the past 24 hours, I came to a realization that I could be liked and used at the same time. As a matter fact, it’s because I am so likable (and non confrontational) that I’m a likely candidate to be mistreated at the hands of people who seek to exploit my kindness.

Without going into all the details, I will paint a very narrow picture. I was appointed to be the chairperson of the committee for an organization for which I am passionate. That same organization trusted me to be trained, to be efficient, and to be ethical. I did not disappoint.

But when the time came to demonstrate my work product, I was asked specifically by the leadership to be more flexible; to allow them to make changes (in my stead) that would more accurately represent their personal needs. Sadly their needs did not represent the needs (and the diversity) of the organization. I stood my ground. I refused! And for this I was judged. 

Or was I judged? And was it a bad thing to be judged?? Either way, I was angry. 

I was angry because my hard work had been compromised. Our objectives were not aligned. And it would be perceived that I did not do my job because the people who appointed me had an objective that was different than mine.  

But my objectives were the objectives of the organization. My objectives were clearly outlined for me before I accepted the responsibility. There was nothing in those objectives that allowed for the type of flexibility that was being requested. The objectives were changed without my consent.

This did not sit well with me at all. I slowly looked around at the people that I worked with. I asked questions that they thought I should not ask. I carved a wedge of resistance that they did not appreciate. They got nervous because my dissent could cause their embarrassment and expose their biases. 

Because this is a feeling that is not unique to me, I thought that I would share it here so that others may be able to identify. 

What do you do when you’ve been asked to compromise your integrity?  I suppose it bothers me because I’m asked more often than I’d like to be asked. It also bothers me that this does not seem to be a problem for the people who do the asking–people for whom I used to hold in high regard.


Golden Rule

Just as I would prefer not to be held to someone else’s standard. I don’t hold others to my standard. I am simply disappointed in them. I’m angry because I was wrong. I held them to a standard that was higher. I shouldn’t have. 

But I need to say this for my own edification. When I volunteer my own time and my own energy, I expect gratification. It’s not a lofty expectation. And if I cannot earn some type of satisfaction from my hard work, I will not volunteer my time. I already get paid to do a job with ever-changing objectives. I am asked daily to compromise my personal line of decency in exchange for a paycheck. I won’t spend my free time doing the same.

So where do I go from here? Do I quit volunteering? Do I stand up for my “rights”? Do I stand up for the rights of others?? Or do I give ’em hell?!?

I haven’t yet decided how I will proceed. One thing is for certain–I will not go quietly. I will not allow so-called leaders to diminish my worth OR my work product. I will not allow them to think that I will fold to unrealistic demands. I will stand up for myself. And I will represent the people of the organization. This is called “integrity.”

Despitefully Use Me

   
 

I’ve been working in an education mill for 10 years, and I didn’t even realize it. Yes, I said “mill!” I began my career, ironically enough in a place called Millville. A place where all kinds of crafts were milled by Millers. Families sent their children not just to learn a skill or vocation, but to also provide safe, affordable childcare while dad (and mom) were at work.  

I was hired for some of the wrong reasons, but some of the right reasons. Which is which, I can not discern. I was older than the youngest candidates. I was younger than the retirees. I was skilled in social work but had minimal education experience. I was hired because of my potential, but I was let go (several times) because my inability to conform. When I was re-hired in a neighboring school district, it was because of a discrete relationship between my new employer and my former employer. Sadly it wasn’t because of talent, expertise, or dedication. 

I wonder how many other educators like me were hired the same way. I’d like to think that I’m the exception to the rule. Is conformity a necessary evil. Or is it a DISqualifier? 

In the end, I have provided years of service to a community that needed it more than it knows. Was I teaching? Not as much as I mentoring, modeling, and molding young citizens to be the generation of thinkers that they MUST be to survive decades of distrust and misallocation. 

  

A new day is upon us.  As fate would have it, it’s just in time for a major shift in the way educators are perceived at the hand of a failing system. No longer considered noble and wise, dedicated and devoted, educators are given the left overs.  And yet we spend time with our civilizations most precious commodity:  the future. 

The sun is rising on an evolution of testing. The night before, corporations met with politicians to craft an elaborate an effective plan to undermine the education system that the government has already been underfunding.  

  
Summers ago I completed a 100 hour professional development sponsored by a regional chamber of commerce and its numerous corporate members. This organization took a noble position by inviting educators to see the problem and develop some conclusive solutions. The purpose was to identify a very specific problem with the high school and college graduates. 

These institutional “graduates” are not employable! If they could submit an actual application, they bombed the interview because of their inability to appropriately socialize in a work environment. They couldn’t make eye contact. They wouldn’t dress appropriately. Their first question in the interview was “how much will I make (instead of how can I help your company)?”  The private sector demands better, and our youth can’t deliver.  At best, their parents may be the last generation of job holders.   

Our schools have been milling entitlement for years! How am I just realizing this NOW??  As I pen this, the theory is dissolving into a solid, tangible fact. If not a plan, an alarming accident that serves corporations far better than the public school students. 

Where is all that public school funding going? It’s being funneled into private interests! Where did the current funding come from? Your tax dollars fuel 100 percent of education funding. 

That’s right!!

  

Taxation without representation is awful. Instead of focusing on how the elected officials have let down the public, let’s focus on another perspective. We’ve allowed the government to tax us without representing ourselves. Those of us who vote are exerting our power over the electorate. But those who do not exercise their rights by voting (or lobbying for themselves) are surrendering their tax dollars without representation. That’s like allowing your bank to withdraw fees from your account without consulting you! Who does that??
  
It’s uncertain if it’s too late to reverse this trend. It’s been going on for a long time. We’re just waking up. It’s the dawn of a new era. This will be an era of Occupy Movements–and laws against them. This will be an era of homelessness–and laws against it. This will be an era of exploitations of public actions (police brutality, water crises, and board of education meetings) and the officials who try to cover it up with more laws.  

  
Our rights don’t need to be taken away. We’ve already surrendered them. It’s what we call in contract negotiations “past practices”. The education system is not neglected. It’s doing exactly what the elite want it to do. It’s the mill for generating a generation of children who lack the critical thinking skills to fight back.
We’ve been fooled. 

We’ve been misused. 

We’ve been bambozzled. 

We’ve been despitefully used.