When I moved to the farmhouse, I first replaced myself with a new CEO for my company, and then started reading enough about interior design to get a degree in the subject, if I believed in graduate degrees. I became enthralled with Steampunk as a way to blend the rustic nature of my surroundings with my fascination with putting objects with an old purpose into homes for a new purpose.
Steampunk is the updated yet still-dated look of the Industrial Age. A recent Harvard Business Reivew has a timeline of business. I was surprised to remember that the Industrial Age was actually during the aftermath of the Civil War. The timeline also shows the Space Age, which, by the way, Restoration Hardware has interpreted in a genius way so as to be able to sell to interior design mavens with a fetish for mid-century modern.
Looking through the timeline, you start to notice that so often in history there is little awareness of the prevailing movement of the time. At the time of the Space Age, people were not aware that it was actually the Woodstock Age, when Baby Boomers began ramming their narcissistic view of self-actualization down American throats, as their Greatest Generation parents slipped in one last good deed, the Civil Rights Movement. (Here’s a great article about how Baby Boomers are selling out Generation Y. Read it before you defend baby boomers in the comments.)
Most recently in the timeline is the Information Age. You know the story: the rise of computer, then the Internet, and now the rise of mobile everything. But I don’t think that’s the story, really. I think the story of our time is the personal responsibility. Here’s why:
1. You are responsible for your own health.
We used to put our health in the hands of our doctors because the doctor knew best. Today, there is too much information and too many decisions required in dealing with a medical problem for any single doctor to manage.
When my newborn son was diagnosed with hemifacial microsomia, there was a team of fifteen doctors assessing him. The person who ultimately handled the coordination of this data was me, his mom, with no medical training whatsoever.
But even for the healthy, a useful relationship with your doctor is quickly becoming an anachronism. Newsweek reports that the average amount of time a patient has to explain symptoms before being interrupted by a doctor is 23 seconds. Doctors are so overworked that they are seeing about 30% more patients than is recommended to ensure quality medical care. You are better off using the Internet to figure things out for yourself, which most of us do anyway, and then going to a doctor to double check.
2. You are responsible for your own retirement.
There is not going to be Social Security for you. I love the article about how the Baby Boomers have sold out the whole country so much that I’m going to link to it for the second time in this post. Right here. Because here’s a great quote about today’s politicians: “This isn’t conservatism. It’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby boom generation.”
There is also not going to be a company that gives you a gold watch and some sort of security blanket to go home with after 40 years of service. More likely is a pink slip after three-to-five years of service, over and over again, until you can’t work anymore. And there will be no children who will take you into their home when you get old. I know, there has not been this for a long time. There had been this practice, before Social Security and before pensions. But it’s unheard of now.
3. You are responsible for educating your children.
Public school began as a safe place for kids to go while their parents worked in factories. Today school has evolved into the best babysitting service in the world. But the truth is that your kids do not need to be in school to learn. Your kids were born knowing how to learn. Math? Yes, even math.
So we can no longer ship our kids off to school with impunity. It’s completely clear that individualized learning plans are best for kids, and there is no way that public education can afford that, yet it’s very easy for parents to provide it merely by providing food and shelter and love. Which means the education of your children is in your own hands. And, actually, it’s been there forever when you realize that the only part of education that matters is teaching grit and perseverance, and those are values that children learn from parents who model that behavior. Kids never learn that from memorizing facts to pass standardized tests.
4. You are responsible for your career.
I think the theme of this blog is personal responsibility for your career. Make sure you take care of your own career development. You have to keep your learning curve high. If people don’t like you, it’s probably your fault. If you have a bad boss, it’s probably your fault.
What I have found in my own career, and in the careers of people I coach, is that the more responsibility you take, the more you can affect change. If you blame outside forces for your problems, you have to wait for outside forces to fix things for you. Which means you have given up control over your own life.
The Age of Personal Responsibility is exciting. Because the more responsibility we take, the more control we have over our own happiness. And we are lucky to be living right now.