As many of you know by now, my new novel has just been published. Called A Multitude of Hope, it recounts the experiences of three out-of-work Baby Boomers and a secret online group of workplace activists who are practicing “economic disobedience” against the vulture capitalists who have stolen the American Dream from the rest of us.
One of the key questions the book explores is what, if anything, each of us can do about this situation. I don’t want to give away the book’s plot, but the short answer is to not give up. Here’s what I mean.
We each face three distinct challenges during the one-third of our adult life we will spend at work. I call them the Give-Up Points because sadly that’s what a lot of us are doing. We’re giving up on ourselves. And, when we do, we make it easy for the vulture capitalists to shut down our hope for the future.
Happily, however, we also have the innate ability to overcome those obstacles. How? The first step, of course, is to recognize the challenges. Here’s how one of the characters in the novel puts it in an email exchange with the book’s narrator:
“Give Up Point number 1,” he began, “is the search for your talent. Hardly anyone intuitively knows what their talent is. The few who do typically use the very same word to describe it. They say they have a ‘calling.’ The rest of us, unfortunately, can’t hear that voice. We have to discover what our talent is. We have to rummage around inside ourselves until we find our endowed capacity for excellence. And, that’s obviously not easy to do. It takes more self-analysis and more self-honesty than most of us are comfortable with. So, we give up. We take a job doing whatever some employer will pay us to do. We turn our backs on one of the most awesome gifts we’ll ever receive. We abdicate who we were meant to be.”
The message ended there, but was quickly followed by another, giving our conversation a kinetoscopic feel.
“Give Up Point number 2 occurs after a person’s self-discovery. The key to genuine happiness is not just knowing your talent, but working at it too. So, we have to find an occupation that is suitable for our talent, and then we have to educate it with the skills and knowledge required to work in that field. Our talent may be the capacity for excellence, but that excellence is only expressed and experienced if it can be effectively applied to the tasks involved in doing a certain kind of work. That search for a meaningful role in the workplace takes initiative and determination and, unfortunately, a lot of us would rather just coast along even if it’s in a boring job. So, we give up there, as well.”
His next message arrived several minutes later.
“And finally, Give Up Point number 3 is the culmination of self-discovery and self-preparation. It encompasses the long arc of our entire career. We are individually responsible for the health of our career – for centering it on our talent – and we have to work at keeping it fit and well every single day. That means we must become as adept at managing our career as we are at doing our work. We have to be an expert engineer or salesperson or whatever AND an expert career captain. In other words, in today‘s world, we have to hold down not one, but two full-time jobs and, for many of us, that takes more effort than we’re willing to exert. So, once again, we give up.”
This time, the message didn’t end. A final paragraph served as its epilogue.
“Those three passages aren’t imaginary. They’re as real as it gets. They’re the choices each of us have to make for the one-third of our lives we’ll spend at work. So, what Wally [the nickname the online rabble rousers have given their group] is all about – it’s single and defining vision – is to model the behaviors of career activism. It is to act in the defense of our members by showing them how to act in their own defense. Because when they do that – when they set their career on a path which serves their best interests – they take power away from the foul cats and give it to themselves. Their economic disobedience becomes the pursuit of Happiness.”
So, in today’s world of work, career success is a function of some old fashioned, All American grit. It is our individual determination NOT to give up. It’s the one step nobody can deny us.
Editor’s Note: A Multitude of Hope is available at Amazon.com, many bookstores around the country and at Weddles.com. Get your copy today.