David Brooks examines the state of nation's work culture and ethic in his essay A Nation of Grinders, which ran in today's Times magazine.
"Four-fifths of American college students, according to a Jobtrak.com study, believe it will take them 10 years or less to achieve their career goals. Three-quarters of U.S. college students expect to become millionaires, and 52 percent expect to have achieved this stratospheric status by the time they are 50. "
If that's a current survey, I can only imagine what the numbers would have looked like back in 1997, when I left college. The generation now about to turn 30 has felt this crash more than anyone. We graduated from college at the height of the bubble, when hopes (and expectations, too) were at their highest. Five to ten years, and often several jobs later, many of us are still looking for the success and security that felt somewhat closer before we even began our career paths.
At the same time, I have to say I prefer the sentiment that success should be the actual result of work and execution rather than luck, which so much of late 90's success seemed to revolve around. I figure it's better for me: I'm not the type to ever win the lottery, but if it's about work, at least I have a fair chance.
The real problem our culture has with the idea that success should be based on hard work, integrity, consistency? It doesn't play well to the masses, and it doesn't make for good television. Ever notice in most of our television shows, nobody really seems to have a job? Do the characters in "Friends" ever miss dinner because they have to work late, or fly to three cities in a week so they can make enough to pay for an apartment half the size of the one on the show? Of course not. That's no fun.
I was sitting around having beers this week with a couple of guys who are, by all measures, immensely successful in their careers. They were trying to figure out how real people live in New York in their twenties, work a casual job and still pay their rent without going massively into the red. I have to admit, I'm not sure either how it works. Can anyone explain? Maybe I just need to watch more television.
"...people who live in Manhattan or Los Angeles or San Francisco or even Dallas have to keep reminding themselves that their experience is not typical. In most places in America, there are no massive concentrations of rich people and hence no Madison Avenue boutiques, no fine art galleries, no personal shoppers. There is just the country club, and certain social pressures to be just this affluent, to prove you are a success, and no more so."
The Times has a piece today on trailer parks being swept away by urban development.
Given that our apartment isn't any bigger than a mobile home, today is one of those times when I wish I could disconnect the utilities and drive it somewhere else. Our adjacent neighbor is having a loud and ongoing war with their upstairs neighbor, with one side's stereo matched by the upstairs side apparently dropping what sounds like a bowling ball on the floor to express their grievances. About a half hour ago, they escalated into face to face confrontation -- charmingly, in the hallway outside my front door. Ah, the joys of apartment living. Those trailer park residents just don't know what they're missing out on.