13 Sep Break the System
It’s time we called bullshit on the system.
When I was a kid I had a dream – most of us did. In my case I wanted to be a footballer, and I had an opportunity but fate intervened. In my fourth game my knee went, and three operations and two years later, I was ensconced in a new world on the Sunshine Coast. Sure, I had opportunities to make a comeback, but it is funny how comfort and other people’s opinions have an effect on our decision making – even if at the time we don’t realise it. There was one other thing I wanted to do more than football but I will come to that later.
Through all this I had my fall-back position. I had joined a Bank straight out of school. Back then it was government owned and possibly the safest job in Australia. Why did I join the bank when at school I hated accounting and only had a passing interest in mathematics? My teachers would be surprised that I chose an occupation revolving around numbers, yet those close to me would undoubtedly say it was natural, with my love for patterns, algorithms and geometry. As an aside History was my favourite subject – probably still is – and my Grade 11 and 12 history teacher was my favourite throughout all my schooling. She doesn’t know it but I owe a lot to her.
There was one primary motivating factor for me joining the bank – I wanted to avoid going to University. This is another paradox – I was sick of studying and wanted to avoid it at all costs, yet these days I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I read and study every single day.
But back to the Bank. You see I was only joining the bank for one year until I decided what I really wanted to do – how many times have I heard that in my life? How different would this world be if we all did what we truly wanted to do, what we truly loved?
What did you want to be? Before you were told you had to be sensible, get a good job and start planning for the future? This, I can state with certainty, is where the system starts to break down. Our dreams have been crushed by societal, and yes in many cases governmental, pressure.
This is how the system tells you to operate:
- Go to school, study hard and go to college and study some more.
- Get a job (and possibly a haircut) and work at that same job all your life.
- Get married, have a family.
- Work hard until retirement and when you are old you can start enjoying your life
Retirement now is being put off by many, simply because they can’t afford it. As humanity has increased expected lifespans, pensions and such have increasingly come under pressure. Some are retiring with mortgages on their house – the government kindly allowing the introduction of reverse mortgages, so you can enjoy the spoils of your hard work in return for a slice of the equity (a bet that the price of your house will continue to rise). Governments all over the world over are trying to correct this part of the system – they cannot afford to support a population that is rapidly heading towards living for a century. If the system keeps operating as it is it will become impossible for governments to support their citizens.
We have been tricked into thinking that our income is reliant on the hours we work and the prestige of the job we do. But that limits us in our earning capacity, we get bogged down in details and mostly we wonder if it is all worth it. But can the system be fixed? Can we rely on others, namely the government and financial instruments which govern our economy to fix it for us?
Big business is increasingly looked upon with scepticism. I am not sure if banks have regained the trust of the masses after the events of 2007/08 and I am quite positive governments are no longer trusted by the very people that elected them. Too many broken promises, too much self interest and too little foresight. We will have another GFC, there is nothing surer – we didn’t learn our lessons.
As Einstein once said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
It is not up to the new generation to fix the problems this generation have caused, although one would hope Millennials are learning the lessons of the past. Each one of us can and should make a difference. I often ask myself a tough question – what is the cost of fixing a system that is broken?
Never before has the quote “Be the Change’’ been more relevant.
So what was the one thing I wanted to do more than football? I wanted to make a difference – as Steve Jobs would say ‘Put a dent in the Universe’. Whilst my 18 year old self made questionable choices, my almost 50 year old self is doing everything he can to make a difference. Those who have the ability to make a difference, I believe, have the responsibility to act.