A lot of people made resolutions to change their behavior in the New Year.
According to a New York Times poll, the top four New Year’s resolutions during the last ten years have averaged out to be to quit smoking, lose weight, quit drinking and spend more time with family. But every year, quitting smoking wins the number one spot hands down.
Personally, I think it’s time we concentrated on something even more basic than our health and weight, because without it we can’t buy the food that’s making us fat or get the medical care to make us (or keep us) well.
That something is jobs, and I don’t mean Steve Jobs, I mean the way we make the living that provides our daily bread.
The turn of every century has brought huge changes to the earth and its inhabitants.
When the 1700s turned to the 1800s, the first Continental Congress had just met, forming the Thirteen Colonies that in 1776, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, made the United States a separate nation.
Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1794. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1875.
Big changes lay ahead as the 1700s moved into the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Although it is said that revolution began in the late 1700s, major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and transportation came about in the period between the 18th and 19th centuries.
The 20th century saw the telephone, television, and the beginnings of the electronic revolution that has carried over into the new Millennium of the 21st century.
Progress has certainly changed the way we live our lives.
Unfortunately, it has changed the way we do business to the point where world-wide unemployment has reached record highs and the current economy can no longer sustain our way of life.
The large factories and manufacturing companies that supplied paychecks that bought houses and cars and kept families fed have been left behind as things like “telecommuting” and “robotics” have made it possible for machines to do the work of men and women.
Greed has played a major role, too, as factories were sent overseas from the United States so their owners could hire cheaper labor and less taxation.
As of October 2012, the national unemployment figures showed a 7.4 percent average unemployment rate (with some states as high as 9 percent and two listed as between zero and 3 percent). This, of course, did not count those unemployed whose benefits have run out.
The “under-employed,” however, make up the scariest figure. These are the part-time workers and people whose pay is too low to live on. In a population reported at 315 million, there were 155 million more listed as “under-employed.”
Okay, so what are we supposed to do? Raising a granddaughter who is currently 16, I see kids graduate with no chance of finding a job in the field they hope to enter; and on the opposite end of that stick, A-plus college grads are flipping burgers for minimum wage.
Things are changing fast, and we have to think ahead to survive.
But there is something we can each do individually, and something we can do as a society that can bring us back up where we belong. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be fast, but it certainly isn’t all gloom and doom.
In our grandparents’ — or possibly great-grandparents’ — day, there were individual entrepreneurs who made (or did) everything others needed.
Before the factories and manufacturing, there were butchers and bakers and candlestick makers… remember that old rhyme?
There were blacksmiths who shoed the horses people used for transportation; small whistlestop restaurants that specialized in taking care of people passing through; and people with spare rooms rented them out, they didn’t look to acquire more things to put in them.
This past year I’ve done many stories on people who have completely reinvented themselves by taking something they enjoyed doing — a hobby, maybe — and turning it into a self-employed business.
There’s the woman who likes horses who now runs a stable. And another who made a small tearoom out of her home. And speaking of tea, there was a three-session demonstration at the SouthShore Library just recently where a women who had learned “everything there is to know about tea” gave classes on the benefits of various kinds of teas from all over the world, which she also imports and sells.
Then there’s the man who was laid off from work who made ice cream in his home and gradually invented so many flavors he had to open a shop.
I know it can be done because I’ve done it myself and continue to do it everyday.
The important word is “reinvent.”
For many years I worked for a big company. In fact, it was that company that sent me to a seminar where we studied the book, Who Moved My Cheese?
If you haven’t read it yet, I’d suggest you do. It’s about how four mice reacted when their source of food (income) was removed.
Do you sit and hope for it to return?
Do you wait until you’re half starved to look for more cheese?
Two mice, Sniff and Scurry, didn’t sit around long enough to find out. Sniff could smell a change coming and found new cheese before he lost his old cheese. Scurry waited until change was in the air but he rushed around and found new cheese in time.
It was at that very seminar I made up my mind to become a Sniff and started an editing business on the side.
I love writing for The Observer News and The Current — but I’m not an “employee.” I’m a freelancer, which means they’re one of my (best!) clients and I’m one of their “self-employed contractors.”
You see, this wasn’t meant to be a gloom-and-doom column. It was meant to give you ideas of how we can solve some of the problems of the unemployed.
It’s going to take inventiveness, and in many cases, monetary help from those who can afford it. But somehow, we have to take the “new economy” and make it a good one for ourselves.
The other thing we can do is work as a community to change education. More students will be needed in certain fields, like health care, as baby boomers age. Here, also, there are all kinds of opportunities, like doing the heavy work elders can no longer do.
Thirty-five years ago somebody came into my newsroom and took my typewriter away. I wasn’t happy.
Since then, I’ve been through about ten system changes and none of them have been easy.
But none of the people who I’ve written about and know who have reinvented themselves have had it any easier.
The good thing is, they’ve all been able to do it.