As I travel people often ask me if I am a student, and I describe (in terrible Spanish) that no, I worked for 4 years as a mechanical engineer- something I still care deeply about and consider to be my profession. While riding, the question of how will I next earn an income often arises, and I’m happy to say that while I’m not sure what it will be yet, I am certain I’m looking forward to it.
At the hotel in Pasto I got into a discussion with a German traveler about the merits of the current “Occupy Wall Street” movement. He and I shared some values, but I realized that I significantly disagree with most of what he had to say, and I think it’s best to be clear on where I stand.
I agree with the German that people need to be aware of how significantly and negatively their lives are controlled by a handful a major multinational corporations. Furthermore I believe these corporations are dinosaurs that undermine the progress of our society. They destroy local communities, directly destroy any chance of social and resource equity for all people around the globe, and facilitate a level of greed and excess that fundamentally precludes a sustainable civilization for anyone. In general, I don’t like multinational companies, is that clear (here’s some great data about why we have a serious problem)? All that said, I don’t think the occupy wall street movement is really actually accomplishing anything. My German friend believes that the occupation is a good thing because it is making people more aware of the issues. I disagree, most people hear about the protest via main stream media (whom have only barely covered it), and have successfully portrayed it as a bunch of hooligan 20somethings out to whine and garner attention. Those who read about it otherwise (alternative websites, etc) are already fairly onboard with the message and this don’t really need the reminder (myself included here). My first objection is that the real message isn’t getting to the people that need to hear it. Want to get the message to the right people? Go door to door in your town with examples of how Wall Street impacts your community. My second objection is that my generation needs to create examples of alternative businesses and commerce mechanisms that offer opportunity for employment and demonstrate how a functional, locally based economy can bring greater prosperity, sustainability, and stability to a larger group of people would make a much larger, and more useful statement. Damn straight that’s hard, but so are the global problems that come with a population of 7 billion.
Be creative, look at your communities, identify what you and the businesses in your community can offer better than the big corporations. Try things, talk to people, network, build and show the alternative and take back the market share for the communities you live in (and make sure your congressperson knows what you are up to, and that you won’t be stopped). Occupy yourself first. I’ll be clear, I am part of the 99% and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I worked hard and have earned the opportunities that I have been fortunate to have. I worked my butt off for a long time and can take some time off to travel (on money that I earned). I’m excited to think about the next best ways for me to apply myself towards creating a more powerful, local, sustainable economy (it’s something I think about every day). A good friend recently posted this on Facebook- and while it may read harshly, the point is not to be missed.
Second thought of late.
Data is awesome, and many of the business thinkers that I respect often talk about to importance of data, it’s quality, quantity, and significance. In the green building work I was doing before I started traveling, data was king. The recent passing of Steve Jobs and the many discussions of his personality and success has instilled an important point. Data isn’t everything. Mr. Jobs often raised eyebrows with statements about not doing market research. He was willing to imagine, to innovate, to take the risk that his ideas represented a market that didn’t yet exist- and therefore a market you couldn’t get accurate data for. So in his passing, I look at my life with the prospective of understanding the value of data, and the inspiration of knowing that data doesn’t really describe what the next best thing is. To the wall street kids- what do you want to change? Imagine it, precisely, then work your tail off to make it happen. Mr. Jobs (one person) had that approach and changed the modern conception of technology, media, and information. I bet that all of us together can change even bigger things- like the economy, community, and government.
“Talent is the ability to hit a target no one else can hit. Genius is the ability to hit a target no one else can see.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)
“All of us are smarter than one of us.”
(Dr. Charles Cole)