The Conundrum of Modern Work

Just a few quick thoughts on the American way of schooling and career: Attend school from age 5 (or 3 or 4 in some cases) all day until reaching college. The entire day is spent learning a litany of random facts that your teacher hope you remember on test day. Play and creative work? Hopefully some gets squeezed in, but that's not a priority and too much homework at the end of the day leaves kids too tired to do much of anything else.

After much encouragement to attend college, you do so. College is expensive, but the counselors assure you that student loans are a good form of debt and you'll be able to pay them off with the great job you'll get after. If you're like many of your peers, you'll desire the "after" so much that your spending and lifestyle will already start to resemble that of someone with an actual job. It's ok though, you'll pay it all off with that stellar job.

You finish school, get that first job and paycheck and wonder where it all went. Now you understand the term "paycheck to paycheck." Oops. Students loans come due and suddenly (and hopefully) reality sets in. For many, the student loan is just one more monthly installment payment in a series of others.

All of your other peers are buying cars, houses, and lots of cool gadgets so you must too. Throw in kids and all their gear, and the stuff keeps piling on. At some point that first house seems too small, so you upgrade when your pay increases. Once again, your standard of living perfectly equals your income.

Rinse, repeat for years.

Depressing, yes? Although that is not entirely Kirk and I, that is the general story of many of our friends. It's what we are all told is the American Dream. And sadly, it is so totally broken. I wish I would have known then what I know now. I might have done things differently.

The reality is that we all have the equation wrong.

Our lifestyles demand us to work too much and too hard in an endless cycle. What if instead we worked just enough? Just enough to meet needs and a few wants. Just enough to have great experiences rather than great debt. Live small so that big things can happen. That is my dream for a new American Dream.

What's yours?