Taking Things for Granted

Just how in the world did we ever get things done before e-mail?

Having experienced some “turbulence” with my e-mail system over the last few days, with many of my messages getting inadvertently flagged as spam by certain sites, like Hotmail, I’ve had to come to grips with how much we all tend to take certain things for granted — such as the ability to send a message to anyone on the planet instantaneously, for free.  It wasn’t all that long ago, after all, when inviting a group of folks to an event, or sending out a newsletter to one’s clients, involved dozens of hours of printing/folding/stuffing/stamping, in addition to some pretty significant postage charges.  Trust me, as a former admin assistant, I know what I’m talking about!  Now, however, we expect such things to be possible at the touch of the button — and (based on my experience in the last 48 hours) it can be incredibly disconcerting when these capabilities suddenly disappear.

And while I’m hoping my tech team now has these problems on the run, and my e-mail woes will be in the rear-view mirror shortly, the whole affair got me thinking about some of the things we all likely take for granted on a daily basis.  For example, I was teaching a workshop the other day and one of the attendees hadn’t shown up by the time the class was scheduled to start, so I posted a sign on the lobby door (the meeting was in another part of the building) asking him to call my cell phone number, when he arrived, so I could come down to let him in.  It never crossed my mind until later that this person might not actually OWN a cell phone or have it with them!  I just assumed that everyone carries some kind of phone with them these days, despite how crazy this might have sounded 30 years ago, watching the original Star Trek series, if one were to remark “you know, one day soon, I predict we’ll all have these little flip-out communicator devices like Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock…”

Having gone through a bout of quasi-laryngitis all of last week, too, I even came to realize how much I take my VOICE for granted and how challenging it would be to perform my responsibilities without being able to speak clearly for 8-10 hours per day.  So as random as I know it may seem, this thought pattern is one that has been occupying my mind recently, which got me thinking about some specific things many of us might take for granted in terms of our career plans and the employment world.  Could it be that the growing shakiness of some of these assumptions accounts for much of the anxiety, angst, and stress many professionals are facing today?

For example, here’s a quick list of some career-related “truths” I think many of us have automatically accepted as gospel for many years, at least those of us in the Generation X set and older:

•  That we will have a decent job if we graduate from college
•  That our incomes will rise steadily and predictably throughout the course of our working careers
•  That we will one day be able to comfortably retire on a middle-class salary around age 65 or so
•  That if we work hard and are loyal to an employer, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever be laid off
•  That if we send in a resume to a company, or give them a call, we’ll at least get some kind of response
•  That wisdom/experience is inherently more valuable than technical skills, potential, or raw enthusiasm
•  That we can buy big houses, and ring up big bills on credit cards, we’ll eventually be able to pay them off, somehow
•  That America will always be able to “invent” or “spend” our way out of a recession

Would you agree that these are all common assumptions most working Americans have held up until now?  How many of them do you think still hold 100% true?  Which ones are on shaky ground?  Just thought it made for some interesting contemplation.  And if some of these things we take for granted start to erode, what new assumptions will arise to take their place?  For example, based on the events of the past weekend, I’m wondering whether there might be a day in the not-too-distant future when all Americans take access to affordable, portable health care for granted.  Love the new health care bill or hate it, it unquestionably represents a sharp departure from days past when the assumption was that most Americans (hopefully with help from the companies that employed them) would be completely responsible for their own medical coverage — and that this system would consistently meet the needs of the majority of citizens.

Not a lot of answers in today’s posting, I’m afraid, but lots of questions I couldn’t help but blurt out there, based on recent events!

3 Responses to “Taking Things for Granted”

  1. Matt,
    I loved this post today! So true how we’ve taken so much for granted. I’m not sure if you were the one that suggested keeping a “Gratitude Journal” during the job search process and beyond, but I sure do appreciate whomever said this. It has been one of the best “great ideas” that I’ve implemented! I’ve really relied on this journal to keep me from going crazy in the new age of job searching. I’m just past the 10 month mark, over 125 applications, 6 runner-up titles for a job with two paid travel trips from the runner up company for sales jobs. The hardest part of my journey has been keeping positive when jobs that looked so perfect a match to my skills were given to someone else, despite saying they loved me nonetheless.

    Never in my full time working career since 1976 have I had this much time off, EVER. My big “ah-ha” moment a few weeks back was with my weekly personal counselor. During the session I was thrust on top of the sword that changing my own mind has been the biggest challenge. My counselor asked me, “What time in your life could or would be the best time to take time off if you planned it?” After stunning silence for what felt like an eternity and reflecting I said, “hmmmm”…and well glaring at him with disdain I called out loud, “that was pure evil…uh perspective changing question, I’d have to say NOW.” That moment changed everything in my mind. Changing my mind…sheesh! I thought I was good at spontaneity and change. ZAP! The truths I held true HAVE CHANGED right under my feet.

    Circling back to my gratitude journal….well I wrote tons about my mind changing that day and I’m so much more relaxed now with the realization that now IS the perfect time in my life and I’m thankful for this employment gap that has helped me develop myself so much.

    I’ve never met you in person, YET… but sure feel gratitude that you have been such a great help to me every week in my process. THANKS. See seconds later, feedback from around the world…back to you by email! I do so love technology and rely on it.

    Best regards,

    Samuel McDonald
    Quality Sales Specialist and Trainer

  2. Price: Much thanks for these valuable additional insights you shared. Glad my post sparked some thought and contemplation on these issues! 🙂

  3. Matt, I’m afraid your bulleted list will hit home for most (99%?) of us, employed or not.

    Here’s my “2010 new paradigm” for each of your bullet points:

    – College or training doesn’t guarantee employment
    – Our incomes will rise and fall, depending on whether we are working
    – The age of retirement keeps getting pushed further and further out. Since we are living longer, it’s mandatory to find something you love to help pay your way.
    – Working hard and smart is mandatory, nothing is guaranteed
    – Companies owe job applicants nothing, applicants must be the cream of the crop in order to get recognized and better yet, get a personal introduction to a hiring manager from a current or former employee
    – The marketplace demands niche knowledge. Broad skills are fine but must be supplemented with first-class skill, enthusiasm and potential.
    – We should collectively rethink our materialistic need to spend and consume
    – If you abhor what is happening in our government, it is time to become active as a citizen of your community, state and country

    Matt, thanks for the contemplative message, sure made me think and I’m sure my face or ears got a little red reading your blog post.

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