Stop debating Brexit, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton right now.
It’s compromising your future. Diminishing it.
But not in the way you might think.
Look, I was surprised as anyone over ‘Leave’ prevailing in the June 23rd referendum in the UK.
And if Donald Trump wins the presidency on November 8th the panicked reactions in news and social media from his US detractors will be similar.
But I’m not referring to the danger some believe exists now due to Brexit, or the prospect of electing Trump, or Hillary for that matter.
Our actions are out of all proportion to the effect we as individuals have on events like this.
And that means we waste too much time on endorphin hunts masquerading as social discourse.
Why We Don’t Argue With The Man On The Internet
Here’s what I (and you) can actually do:
- Educate myself about issues and candidates.
- Vote accordingly.
- Resume taking responsibility for myself.
- Spend less time debating/reaffirming politics on social media, talk radio, newspaper comments etc.
Obvious, right? Ever catch yourself ignoring the last item? I’ll admit I have.
It should be clear that I’m talking about more than Trump, Hillary and Brexit—and 2016 for that matter.
Elections and referendum results don’t mean change descends on a country like good weather and gives everyone a better life and a decent job. (In fact, as I write this four days after the Brexit vote, the situation in the UK is downright chaotic).
And even in the best of times you have to fight, or at least try.
But the danger here is in forfeiting some personal responsibility—any amount is too much—to an outcome you don’t control, and which might in fact change nothing for you.
As we get caught up in Facebook and Twitter debates without end it’s easy to forget that we ourselves are the only real ‘agent of improvement’ in our own lives.
‘But Tom, I’m voting Trump because he’s really going to change things.’ Maybe.
But don’t confuse support for a cause or candidate with doing the work of helping yourself.
Ego, Not Info
But shouldn’t we be informed citizens? Isn’t social discourse important in a representative democracy?
Sure. But how much do news channels, talk radio and social media have to do with informing ourselves?
Once you understand the issues and pick a side, do any of these ever change your mind about anything?
And if your mind is made up, why continue to argue for ‘your side’ on Facebook, with others whose minds are as made up as yours is?
These arguments are usually too caustic and ego-infused to be about ‘exchanging knowledge’.
Your Priorities Are Not A Candidate’s Talking Points
I’m not saying good government can’t help.
But today the average person can do more to directly improve her situation than at any time in history. And instead, too often she neglects direct action while arguing or sloganeering about things individuals can’t directly affect.
Do that long enough and you might start to believe that external change is required, before you can change your own situation.
That is not the road to empowerment.
Jobs and collective financial well-being are central to these debates to which we’re so attached.
So what’s a path for ‘personal job creation’ in 2016, a practical alternative to hoping a politician or movement will bestow a better job upon you?
Funny I should ask. It’s what WageFreedom.com is all about.
How’s this for un-sexy:
- Look at larger economic and social trends. Dig to find industries exploding with growth and chronically/disastrously understaffed (to the point of having to hire the immigrants some of us apparently fear). Look here, here, and here. If you’re serious and need help matching yourself to opportunity I will help you.
- Pick a direction ripe with opportunity. An industry, not a defined occupation, certainly not ‘positions’ that might require a degree. Emphasize industries in which you have experience if you can. And absolutely not only ‘high tech’ jobs.
- Get familiar with online resources, networks, mentors and government programs that might help you. Help is out there.
- Retrain yourself to enter these industries. Use local vocational or junior college if it’s available. An entry-level job is OK.
- In two years you and your work experience will trump new candidates who hold degrees which don’t have much to do with new industry requirements (with which you’ll be familiar). That’s the only ‘trump’ you need. This is how rapidly changing industries can include you, rather than seeming to exclude you. Take a pay cut if you have to, because if the industry is growing your skills will fetch a premium as you gain experience.
Growing industries have a way of becoming more complex as they grow, naturally producing places for people who are motivated and competent. Compensation is wide open because of the chaos. I’ve done this more than once and seen hundreds of others do it. I’ll bet you’ve seen it too.
I know it’s hard. It’s humbling, especially if it means a pay cut for a while. I swept floors for money for a vo-tech CAD course.
Retrain To Re-enter
Putting our backs into changing our lives feels less compelling than distractions that divert us from it.
The path of personal responsibility is full of resistance, and we travel it mostly alone.
But it’s the mature approach, and more reliable than seriously expecting Trump, Hillary, Brexit, Obama or anything else to help us.
Educate yourself. Vote. Dispense with the rest of it.
I know: cheering our causes carries the reassurance of tribal allegiance. It’s the feeling of being correct, of our football team winning.
The problem is that the effect of your months of political arguments on social media, and your single vote, is very limited. And then it’s time for you to get back to work. Except you may be unemployed, or dismally underemployed.
And here’s where we see the limits of politics, government, and political argument for that matter. Always, but especially today.
There’s hope. One idea is to use the path I briefly outlined above. Here’s a more entrepreneurial path.
But just as too-few individuals have yet to really embrace the meta-skill of ‘retaining to re-enter’, too few governments are incentivizing this approach on a large enough scale, yet.
It will getting better. More organizations like this are coming.
We collectively—via governments, nonprofits, etc.—need to grow a new muscle that responds to tech change by matching the aptitudes, interests, and experience of motivated people with ripening opportunities in this new landscape.
The Right Fight
But even the best program or non-profit won’t change your life for you.
Individuals must grow their own ‘muscle’, to choose themselves to embrace opportunity and redefine themselves professionally.
The fight is personal, and it’s not against Trump, nor Hillary, nor Leave or Remain.
In the realm of employment, these are some of your real enemies:
• The playing field is not level.
• My former occupation is part of my identity.
• I wasn’t born with the advantages of another person.
• I’m willing to work, and to look hard for a job. I also have to remake and re-educate myself?
• This will not be easy.
You still must overcome those barriers–and more–even if your candidate or side of a referendum wins.
Can we overcome the above impediments and prosper in 2016? We see people who do. Can you? Can I?
I suggest there’s power in choosing to believe that we can, as a pragmatic method not of subsisting but of flourishing in an economy that’s changed.
If you don’t do this you risk empowering objections like the five bullet points above until they become your epitaphs.
Choose to empower yourself instead and you’re alive again.
And far from the disputes of the distracted.