As the economic recession grinds to what we hope is a conclusion, many of us find ourselves materially poorer than we were in 2008. But do we fail to count our less-tangible inner reserves? Let’s remember some other kinds of wealth that no scheming banker can ever take away.
Perhaps the hardest life lesson to learn is that doing the “right” thing often yields no results, at least at first. How easy it is to forget that superstars in every endeavor went through decades of failure (with no guarantee of success) before “making it big.” Developing the habit of continuing to do what’s best in the face of discouragement may be the biggest difference between those who achieve their dreams and those who give them up.
It is a peculiarly Western perspective that views advanced age as a handicap. As I approach the midpoint of my life, I experience gratitude for what I’ve been through. So many times I find myself saying “I’ve done this before and I can do it again,” or “I’ve survived far worse.” In moments of depression, it seems automatic to discount where we’ve gone and what we’ve done. This impulse must be resisted! Being able to draw strength and resolve from your personal history is an essential skill in tough times.
A good resume is the balance sheet of a person. It lists all their internal assets, including their marketable skills. I like to break skills into two types, and both are important. The ones you’ll see on a resume are usually specific skills. Knowing how to do certain kinds of tasks or having an ability to use specific machines or software can, at certain times and places, almost guarantee you a job. The trick is that these in-demand skills change from year to year, and perhaps even from quarter to quarter as the pace of technology increases. The great thing about specific skills is that there are countless niches ready to be exploited for those who seek them out.
In resume-ese, the second kind of skills I am thinking about are “transferable skills” which are timeless. Your ability to manage time and deal smoothly with other people are just two examples of skills that will always be in demand, and they’ll be needed by almost everyone. They’re harder to sell on paper, but the people you meet will quickly pick up if you’re deficient in any of the basics. While specific skills can open doors, “hire for attitude, train for skill,” has become a catchphrase among Human Resources gurus.
Skills help you know how to do things. Wisdom tells you (among many things) what’s worth doing. It’s not hard to spot people who are devastatingly brilliant in specific areas, but clueless when it comes to larger issues. Having a spiritual center or personal philosophy that grounds your everyday experiences and actions not only protects you from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, but also signals those around you that you’ve got your head screwed on straight.
The Social Network isn’t just a movie about Facebook. In fact, Facebook has probably been more corrosive than constructive to true human connection. I’d like to amend the old saw “it’s not what you know, but who you know” to read “it’s not what you know, but who cares about you.” According to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends. Yet how many of those “friends” would lift a finger if you needed them? Real social networking is measured not in the number of Facebook “friends” but in the depth of the values exchanged. While true friendship needs to be a two-way street, there’s no dishonor in having a network of people you can call on when the chips are down.
Health and Vitality
In my practice, I see a number of clients who work with tools. They’re proud of how well they keep up their shops. If only they would realize their most important tool is their own health and vitality! When we’re young our bodies can trick us into believing we can eat what we want and sit around all day with no ill effects. Only later are we confronted with the consequences — whether they be obesity, heart disease, diabetes, or more commonly low energy and a foul mood. I hope you’ll ask yourself if you’re putting more money into keeping your car running than you are into your own physical well-being.
What do you have in common with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates? You are all gifted with exactly 24 hours each day. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you can’t keep them, you can only spend them. Fortunately, you can convert time into most of the other kinds of wealth discussed here, as well as hard cash. What dividends your wealth of time can generate, mostly on the next type of inner wealth.
Human beings have become a species of specialists. And for the most part, this is a great thing. There have always been huge rewards for people who are the best at what they do, but what’s new is that there are so may new things to become “best” at! Some of the more obscure fields have almost no competition, and if you can find one you love, so much the better. Focus is the ability to put most of your “eggs” (your time) in one “basket” (area of experience and excellence) and carry that basket to both spiritual and material rewards.