[Editor’s note: Today’s Economic Prism is an excerpt of remarks made by Direct Expressions’ President and Founder MN Gordon at the annual company holiday party at Steak ‘n Stein.]
Has There Ever Been an Occupation More Fun?
“If you want to be happy,” once remarked Andrew Carnegie, “set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” Good advice, for sure…
Somehow, by persistence or foolishness, transforming the Economic Prism from an avocation to a vocation has become the sort of goal for us that Carnegie refers to. This especially inspires hope when we rise long before the crack of dawn each morning to make our clients look good…whether they appreciate it or not.
Leaving our profession behind for our own newsletter publishing business continues to be a goal. But first we must build it up to where it replaces our current income. Until then, the happiness and hope we derive from working towards this goal is worth more than the effort we expend on it.
Each day we open our eyes, look around, and see amazing, extraordinary things. We are captivated by the stable instability of the economy and markets. We are mesmerized by the obsession of governments to influence things to their liking. And we are aghast at the harebrained schemes employed by bureaucrats as prudent policy.
We take it all in and then we get after it with our little letters and the hope that we’re helping others make sense of things – and make money too. Perhaps there are better, more lucrative, and more respectable lines of work. But has there ever been an occupation that was more fun?
For a time, however, one business came close…
Something Good Was Lost
When we broke into the engineering consulting business, about 15-years ago, the fun was quickly fading from the profession like light from a winter’s dusk. There were still some old timers left from the industry’s salad days of the 1970s and 80s…before creativity was replaced with technical standards. They were one part eccentric, one part shrewd, one part cowboy, and one part professional. They were the last of a dying breed.
They were from the days when a novel design could be penciled out at lunch on the back of a cocktail napkin. That was back when after you’d done something once you were the industry expert. There was still an innovative pioneering spirit to delivering solutions to client’s problems. This was before every design was “off the shelf.”
Back then a handshake was a contract; attorneys had yet to spew page after page of insurance requirements and indemnifications into the mix. Of course, these are all needed for a reason. But, somehow, people got by without them before…back when consulting was still fun.
Unfortunately, by the mid-1990s MBAs had taken over all the top positions in corporate management. Suddenly, the focus switched from big thinking to “standards and processes.” Multiple signatures, forms, and workflow steps, were now needed for everything.
So, too, an inordinate amount of energy and attention became focused on something business school graduates called “margin metrics.” Doing good work and making a profit was no longer good enough if you didn’t hit certain benchmarks. With each old timer that retired over the first decade of the new millennium something good was lost. The work became superfluously thoughtless. The people became commoditized. The fun was gone.
Confessions of a Dream Chaser
Yet maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe work isn’t supposed to be fun. After all, it’s called work for a reason…isn’t it?
Nonetheless, we find contentment in our discontent. The very idea that work must be a daily grind, to be endured through self-sacrifice, we find to be intolerably unacceptable. We are misfits, dreamers, and poets. We will never give into this notion. We will always strive to overcome it.
What we’re trying to say was already best said by Robert Frost, in the ninth stanza of his 1934 poem, Two Tramps in Mud Time…
“But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.”
Thank you for joining us in this endeavor.
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