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Taking the Plunge After Cutting the Cord

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This holiday weekend has me thinking about the vastly different world we are passing on to our children and grandchildren.

The question that was asked of young men in my generation was…”what branch of the military did you serve in?”.  Since the draft was abolished forty years ago, the question has no real meaning today.  We’ve outsourced military service to a very small segment of our society, and are no longer connected to the concept of universal service or suffrage.  Let’s hope that turns out o.k.

Time will tell.

And then there is the vastly changed employment landscape, where we find that we are all now part of the new contingent workforce.  This is the new worker’s army that we’ve all been drafted into, and there are absolutely no deferments or conscientious objectors this time around.

You can argue about when this sea change occurred…I’d place it at the beginning of the eighties, when we emerged from the freakish stagflation of the Carter presidency.  This was when financial engineering become such a dominant sector of the economy, and the wizards of Wall Street learned the strange alchemy of minting money out of whole cloth, through the issuance of junk bonds and later derivatives.

Almost overnight, every corporation was suddenly “in play”, and subject to hostile takeovers from those who were emboldened to take on leverage to fund acquisitions.  From that point on, every employee in every business was being looked at in a different light.  The new capitalists in charge wanted to know just one thing.

Simply put, each employee was being viewed as either a profit center, or a cost center.  If the scale tipped in the direction of cost, then the decision was to downsize and outsource that job function and drive the company to its ideal fighting weight.

This was such a radical change in direction and philosophy that its implications are still being debated and analyzed, and…amazingly…many young people today are still totally without a clue as to what has…and still continues to happen.

Think of the thousands of colleges still cranking out graduates whose ultimate aim is to find meaningful, lifetime employment.  While you’re at it, think of the whole idea of a residential college, a relic of an era when instruction had to take place in real time in a concentrated venue, with aging professors armored with lifetime tenure.  Now compare that vision with an online world where the very best instructors in the world are available 24/7 to anyone with a high speed Internet connection and an enrollment fee in low three figures vs. the low six figure tag on a legacy degree.

The new world belongs to the entreprenuer and to those who can thrive on their own initiative and motivation.  For those who remain “other driven” rather than “inner driven”, the future is a dismal form of Dilbert like cubicle serfdom…always one step away from being downgraded to part time status.

Still thinking about plunking down $150,000 for that prestige MBA from a “name” university?

You’d be better off using that as seed money to launch your new start up.

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