Sustainability, Reeducation, and Reinvention

El Pensador de Rodin – CC BY-SA 3.0 by Emiliorisoli

Sustainability means reinvention to some degree.  It means an ability to improvise in your life, adjust to changes, and allowing yourself and ability to be relevant in relation to times, markets, current events, and so on.

Life moves on, and so should we … Stagnation kills.

When looking at sustainability and reinvention, some questions you might consider are:

  • What are the different ways we can apply our skills to maximize our success in this changing world?
  • What are the different formal educational and re-educational efforts we need to make to promote sustainability in an ever-changing world?
  • How can we acquire informal education in order to stay relevant and sustain our life and living?
  • Work-life balances (not an easy thing to achieve in our world and culture).

I’ve been looking at each of these different questions in regard to reinvention, sustainability, and happy living.  Indeed, many friends in my age group and in the generation ahead of me, has had to re-examine these things rather specifically. With the loss of savings and retirement because the 2007 crash of the market, many of us has found our 401(k)s going south for the winner and staying there (you would think the “south” was doing much better than it is – aka Joke).

There is also the problem of job markets for an older generation. Yes, you might find a position at McDonald’s, but is that going to help sustain you? As older workers are displaced by a younger generation, we have to find our way in the world where retirement is now a part of our mythology.

This is conversely true for younger and mid career workers who are waiting for older workers to retire. What do you do when the old Guard can’t retire, and you are left working numerous jobs in order to survive?

I personally am facing many of these issues, and I have many friends who are facing these issues as well. Many of us are actively seeking to reinvent ourselves, achieving hoped for relevancy in a trying market. There are several options to our reinventions: we can going to business for ourselves, we can gain new skills so that we can be hired full-time, and we can change our living conditions, making it more sustainable to fully live on a smaller income.

Regarding this conundrum and the questions I outlined above, here are a few thoughts I have on each question, and maybe some of this will be relevant to you as well.

What are the different ways we can apply our skills to maximize our success in our world?

If you lived life, you have many skills!  It is time to look at your skills and determine how they might help sustain you and help you make a living.  Your skills do not only come from jobs your have worked, but everyday life. Maybe you excel at organization, managing other, fundraising, cooking, cleaning, growing things, and so many other skills. These everyday life skills can transfer to a job of some type!

The AARP has a good article on skill set recognition you might be interested in: Do you Know Your Skill Set?

How to find a job that fits those skills:

Make a list of what you do well, and use that to find jobs.  Here are some resources for this effort:

O*NET — the Occupational Information Network – which is a government sponsored “tool for career exploration and job analysis!”

National Business Service alliance offers the WorkSearch Assessment System – to help you place your skills with the right market. – Recommended by AARP

Should you see yourself as a commodity?

One piece of advice I came up with, over and over again, as I researched this was: “Develop a strong personal brand – YOU are the product.

This is our world’s “cup of Kool-Aid” presently, at least here in the US. In the 1980s in the 1990s it was all about multitasking; today it’s about PR, and promoting yourself as a product … a thing to be bought and sold, negotiated over and transformed.

Maybe I have read too much Marxism in my life, but this smells a great deal of commodification and fetishization of self. I am not a product to be objectified. I am a human being with human being needs. To be objectified is a problem. We objectify so much in our culture, the last thing we need to do is objectify ourselves by selling our self as a product for a few measly bucks.

You are not a brand. You are a human being with skills that can be marketed. You’re marketing your skills, not yourself as an object to be bought, sold, and manipulated. Yes, networking is important, whom you know is important, and the relationships you create are important, and how you promote your skills … important, but you are not a thing. A great deal of our unhappiness in this world can be traced back to commodification and Fetishization of self. Just say no!

What are the different educational and re-educational efforts we need to make to promote sustainability in an ever-changing world?

First, we have the category of formal education outlets: Find a technical college, a program at a community college, or get a new degree at a four-year institution.

Drawbacks to Gaining a Formal Education: 

The biggest drawback to getting an education from a higher learning institution is expense. The cost for a higher learning education has grown exponentially over the last few years. According to College Data, the price for one year of college education, for a moderate college in an in-state public setting, 2013 to 2014, averaged approximately $23,000. If you were looking at a private college, that price tag is more like $44,750.

If you already have a college degree, and you’re looking at reeducation, you may not be interested in paying close to $150,000 for a new degree. And of course, these figures reflect undergraduate and not graduate education. Graduate education is often one third more in intuition, and these numbers do not reflect the amount of money you will be paying out for books.

Cost of NOT having a formal higher education today:

If you do not already have a formal higher education, you just might want to get one! According to Pew Research, workers who do not have a college degree will earn up to $17,500 a year less than they’re educated counterparts working the same job. 

Further, without a college degree, you may find jobs are not available to you. More and more often, even the most common labor jobs (including McDonalds cashiers) are requiring a college degree, limiting the market to those who are educated and have “drunk from the Kool-Aid.” 

How can we informally acquire reeducation to stay relevant and sustain our life and living?

Self Education:

If you are self-motivated, you can get your own education without paying a dime. The problem is that this education will not necessarily be “formalized,” or have that “official stamp of approval.” It’s amazing how this world respects the buying and purchasing of education, but not the acquiring of solid knowledge through personal effort and practice. So, for those of you who just simply love to acquire knowledge, beware. You might be better off buying yourself a degree.

NOTE: I am NOT sanctioning this method. I am a college teacher and would never tell you to buy a degree, it is meant tongue-in-cheek, as sarcasm for a screwed up prioritized system.

Here are some resources in this area:

Exploring continuing education courses in your backyard – where you work:

Many employers offer the ability to acquire continuing education. Many companies will actually pay part of the cost for going back to school and gaining new skills. There are workshops offered, conferences, and other such resources. Find out what resources are available to you, and use them. You would be amazed how often these resources are left to the wayside, unused and unexplored, along with our vacation hours! These resources are part of your “benefits” package. Don’t let them go to waste.

Seeking a mentor, acquiring a “folk” education, or taking on an apprenticeship:

Many people are taking their expertise and bringing it to the World Wide Web. There are many classes out there that will help you achieve your goals, and in this way you can find a mentor, a folk education, or an apprenticeship.

Mentors:

You’re never too young or old for a mentor. Mentors are people who happen to know the skills needed to succeed in a certain area in life, skills that you may wish to acquire. He or she can help you achieve your goals and dreams, and you can find a deep and satisfying life long friendship with your mentor. Sometimes mentors come into our lives and exit as quickly as they seem to have come on the scene. Other mentors stay with you for a very long time. Sometimes you switch roles with your mentors, and you become the leader for a short period of time. These are fulfilling partnerships. Seek them!

I really enjoyed this article by Zenalda Lorenzo, on Huffington Post, about why mentoring is important.

Indeed, today I sought out two friends, who have skills that I greatly admire, and ask them to be my mentors. The best way to learn is to reach out to those who know the skills that you wish to acquire.

Get a Folk Education: 

I define a folk education as a type of mentorship that offers formal instruction, and you’re paying for the knowledge, but you’re not going to get a certificate that’s accepted widely. There are benefits and drawbacks to this approach. The benefit is that often this type of education is a little less expensive. The person offering the education is normally well known in his or her field, and s/he can give you the real life tools you need to succeed. The drawback is that many in your community will not likely formally recognize the certificate and/or the value of the instruction. Credentials being what they are in our world.

I am taking this route myself right now as I learn herbalism. I am going to Sage school, and I’m getting a wonderful education in herbalism and holistic health. But because I will not have any kind of “official” certificate or degree at the end of the program, my skills and how I can market those skills will be limited – simply because of the world we live in and how we value the acquisition of knowledge. But still, for myself, it has been a rewarding experience.

If you take this direction in your education, research your instructors! Anybody can be an “expert” on the Internet. You never know if you’ve come up with somebody who’s just very clever with how they sell themselves, or if you’re dealing with someone who really has the knowledge that is claimed. This approach means that you have to be proactive, do the research to find out if you’re putting your money in a good place.

Apprenticeships:

Before the world of formal education, we had apprenticeships! Depending upon the culture you were born into, you may have been fostered out to a family, and taught a skill that would support you for life. In more modern times, people might’ve been apprenticed out to different businesses in order to acquire a life long working skill. Not too long ago, in the grand scheme of things, my father went through an apprenticeship to become an electrician. Indeed, the electrician union still provides apprenticeship opportunities.

Find yourself an apprenticeship. Of course, apprenticeships don’t normally pay, as you work for the person or the business, while you learn a trade. It is a trade-off, but a fair one in the end. If you can afford this trade off, I highly suggest it. Learning from an expert, and gaining hands-on, real life training is very important for many trades.

Work-life balance

The final thing I want to talk about is work – life balance. We live in a world where we forgo our vacations, forgo raises, and work multiple jobs just to make a living or keep a job. What are we trying to sustain? Well, often we’re trying to sustain a way of life that is not sustainable: a large house, several cars, a social life that means going out all the time, expensive gadgets, brand-new clothes, and so on and so forth. Indeed, we are even told that we need these things in order to be happy. But is this t?

I have had both in life, the expensive dwelling, cable, Internet, expensive gadgets, brand-new clothes, and an active nightlife. I have also had the opposite, a small dwelling, entertainment out in nature that cost little to engage in, card games with friends, and reading a great book in the corner of my trailer. Although the trailer at the time gave me nothing but great pain, as it was a piece of crap, the lifestyle brought me great joy.

Ask yourself these important questions:

  • One, are you living a sustainable lifestyle?
  • Two, are you living the lifestyle you wish to live?
  • Three, do you find that you’re working every day, all the time, just to sustain what you have? Or rather, four, does it take little to sustain what you have and need to live on, and in the end, affords you the good life: Time to enjoy life and those around you, and pursue other interests outside of work?

Take a moment and really determine what it is you want out of life, and then determine what you need to do to get that dream. If you want the large house, multiple cars, and the occasional vacation to France, you may have to work a job that will afford you these pleasures, which means giving up everyday freedom. If on the other hand, you are satisfied with small spaces, and more experiences over things, it may be time to consider sizing down and moving forward.

Right now I am taking a great class on how to achieve Mortgage Freedom from folks who have been there and changed that! Create Pathway to Mortgage Freedom. You might wish to find similar mentors for the life vision you are seeking.

A long article this week, but I hope you find some of the advice offered helpful!

Mahalo,

Rebecca

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