No one is going to give you the definition of a truly meaningful life. We are simply invited, driven or compelled to create our own.
What does this mean when it comes to our jobs? Presumably, our jobs are there to provide the means of satisfying the first rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter and protection.
What about those higher rungs, the ones that show the mind we can step outside of simply the need to survive?
What about those moments of inspiration and connection with others that speak directly to our core as human beings? Is it even possible to integrate these things into our work life?
To live a meaningful life is to live free from mindless compliance.?51% of American workers do not feel engaged at work. How do we find a job, or convert an existing job, into one that suits our life purpose and brings us joy rather than the bare minimum? How do we stay inspired even while working a job that isn?t our true calling?
Part of the journey to a more prosperous life (and wallet) means reframing the many actions we take on a daily basis. This includes the hours we spend at work. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. When time is allocated carefully, we can calibrate our lives into a joyful balance of work, play and fulfillment.
The way we feel affects our performance at work. One of the first things we can do to ensure a more pleasant workplace experience is to keep the components of internal wellness in check.
It doesn?t have to be complicated. Implement a moment of gratitude first thing in the AM. Take a small pause to listen to the birds sing. Fresh food, enough sleep and moderate exercise are incubators of happiness. When your body budget is in balance, your mind can become expansive.
An expansive mind cultivates resilience, optimism, achievement and pride in one’s work. We have more control over these states than we realize. Trick your brain into a state of optimism by smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. Because of emotion contagion, these ‘good vibes’ will spill onto everyone around you, elevating the work environment. It’s a win win.
Going to work should feel like an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to your job and world alike. When we feel engaged with our job, we feel as though we are being useful, encouraged to challenge ourselves, and able to help others.
When an employee loves the work they do, the whole office feels it too. Autonomy, learning opportunities, performance feedback and use of strengths are all important parts to the happiness equation at work. Even if you are stuck in a cubicle all day bored out of your mind, figure out ways to engage authentically with your work by looking at each task with curiosity. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Pro-tip: Even if you feel ?stuck? in a job you dislike, take small actions steps daily to get you closer to your dream job. It could be something as simple as updating your resume or something more substanscial, like?taking night classes in a subject that fascinates your mind.
Your work culture plays a pivotal role in overall job performance and happiness levels. Social elements such as trust and support from supervisors, the competency of fellow co-workers, cultural values and teamwork are all predictors of feeling purposeful at work. Having a trusted circle of friends at work is an incredible source of energy and community.
Pro-tip: Always go with your gut and ask yourself ?how do I feel?? after each day of work. Are you around people that lift you up or tear you down with gossip, or distrust? Considering the lengthy hours we spend in a workplace, the people we surround ourselves with effect the very cells of our bodies. Be wary of bad company and stick close to those who promote a kinder environment.
Having a stable job and healthy working conditions is paramount to finding your purpose. This include the nitty-gritty like salary and benefits, job stability, ergonomics, respect, fairness, and work-life-harmony. Simply put, choose a job that you would enjoy. While the journey to a more desired place of work often requires stepping stones that are not your dream job, know that these building blocks are helping you reach your long-term goals.
Pro-tip: While you are on the road to realizing your dream job, consider taking on side jobs (aka side hustles) to make some extra money and explore other outlets that could help you hone in on our long term purpose. This could entail selling items on Ebay or even renting your spare room on Airbnb. Who knows what could happen!
Companies such as Costco Wholesale Corporation are focused on employee care. ?In fact, this warehouse retailer has become well-known for its above average pay ($13.50 per hour.) Better yet, their CEO James Senegal believes that ?paying your employees well is not only the right thing to do, but it makes for good business.? He’s not the only CEO who thinks investing in people is a smart money move.
Nike created a new approach to move past old supply chain transgressions with their ?responsible competitiveness? model. They now aim to focus on the root causes of labor exploitation. They also desire to bring about systemic change to further prevent such abuses. With Nike?s new philosophy, they have become an advocate for improving labor conditions and have also moved to healthier, long-term supplier relationships as well.
Patagonia?is an outdoor clothing company, a?BCorp and a trailblazer when it comes to using business as a force for good in the world. They donated their entire $10 million Black Friday revenue towards saving the planet and have one the highest employee satisfaction ratings around.
Whole Foods is an excellent example of a company that maintains meaningful relationships with the community in which it operates. They hold ?5% days? where the store will donate 5% of net sales to a local charity, offer loans to local suppliers, and promote high environmental standards across its many stores.
Feedwas founded by Lauren Bush 9 years ago after her travels across the word. She found a huge connection between nutrition levels and academic and economic performance in communities. For every product sold from Feed, there is a number stamp on it that represents the amount of meals or micronutrient packets provided to children in need around the world.
TerraCyle takes recycling to the next level. They create national “upcycling” programs that help companies re-purpose materials that would normally not be recycled. Their goal:?prevent waste from ending up in landfills, incinerators, and our oceans.
Purpose follows passion, passion follows purpose
Achieving fulfillment in your career is no overnight endeavor. As with any worthwhile feat, a meaningful job experience requires research, discipline and dedication.
Just as eating well, sleeping well, and exercising are important, so is the duty to investigate a work experience that is a living reflection of your long-term goals.
It?s not an easy road, but don?t be discouraged?there are thousands of other people who have blazed trails for us to follow. The most important part is to just begin.
Automation, gig work and the new economy. Here are the highlights from the Future of Work panel at the Cambridge Associates Impact Investing Conference 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
Automation is already here… and growing
Automation is gearing up to have a massive impact on our economy. According to McKinsey, ?49% of paid activities have the potential to be automated. An estimated?80-100% of all truck driving jobs will be replaced by automation.
The automation momentum is just getting started. According to Andrew Stevenson from JUST Capital:
70% of service sector jobs are at risk
30% of oil and gas jobs will be reduced in 2025
In financial services: UBS plans to reduce its workforce from 95K to 65k employees
Just Capital estimates that 66 million U.S. jobs are at risk for automation. Even if only one fourth of that estimate becomes a reality, it means stagnant wage growth. Why? Because of competition for fewer positions.
Keep in mind that wages have already been stagnant for the last 13 years, while housing, education and healthcare costs have grown by double digits. Just one of the effects of this trend: the opioid crisis facing the U.S. is correlated to under-employment and stagnant wages.
Meanwhile, the gig economy might not be all that
Companies are increasingly outsourcing non-core operations. Lower level jobs like janitorial services have been outsourced for some time. What?s different today: higher skilled jobs are now also being converted to gig work at an alarming pace. That includes lawyers, accountants, and financial analysts.
This shift away from corporate employment and toward independent contractors has massive implications for our economy. Here?s why:
There is no minimum wage
Many independent contract jobs (aka gig work) do not pay as well as corporate jobs do
There are no corporate benefits (e.g. healthcare, equity, bonuses)
There is no social security
It is more difficult to get credit (due to an inconsistent paycheck)
The New Economy: some good news after all
While these macro trends sound bleak, the good news is that we are at the same time experiencing the emergence of the new economy. With it, new types of jobs will be created.
Manufacturing: following market demand
As bad as automation can be for some jobs, it can also be good for others. ?For example, according to Nancy Pfund from DBL Partners, when GM closed their manufacturing plant in northern California in 2010, five thousand jobs evaporated. This had a massive trickle down impact on the local economy.
At the same time this was happening, Tesla was looking for a location for their first manufacturing plant. Many investors urged them to go to China. Investors warned against opening a plant in over-regulated California. But Tesla had a different vision. They wanted their manufacturing to be close to their headquarters in Silicon Valley.And they wanted to keep the jobs in the U.S. So they worked with sustainable investors and the local government to retro-fit the old GM plant. The result: 10,000 jobs were created.
Think about that impact. 5,000 jobs were lost but 10,000 new jobs were created. This happened because Tesla filled a need in the marketplace and consumers made their voice heard. Those 10,000 jobs could have gone to China. Instead, you now have Silicon Valley employees working hand-in-hand with employees from Freemont, CA and Sparks, NV.
This does not need to be a red state / blue state issue. This is about working together to address a new market need and create new jobs in the U.S.
Impact investors will have an important role to play in the new economy. The smartest impact investors will address social cycles that have unmet needs. The GM plant was going away. There was no demand for that product. The new demand was for Tesla. As investors, we can help these companies succeed.
Farming: disrupting the old guard
The global food system, including agriculture, fertilizer manufacturing, and food storage and packaging, accounts for over 25% of green-house gas emissions. Some of the largest companies, like John Deer, Monstano and ConAgra, were formed in the late 19th?and early 20th centuries. (19th century!).?This is a sector that is ripe for disruption.
There are innovative companies that are paving a new future by addressing uneven access to automation.
There is a company called Farmers Business Network, for example, that is bringing transparency and insight to the true value creators: the farmers. Years ago, transponders and sensors were placed on tractors and seed equipment so that seed growers and other suppliers could monitor demand. Not only was this data kept from the farmers, it was used against them. The result: some farmers were paying 30% more for seeds than were the farmers down the road.
Farmers Business Network aggregates and anonymizes data, then gives this data back to farmers so that they can better manage their costs.
This is a great example of using automation to develop a platform company that disrupts the data holders and brings more transparency to the market.? By removing the middlemen, they have democratized the data and made the entire process more efficient.
Coding: the next big blue collar job
There are 530,000 unfilled coding jobs in the U.S. This number is expected to grow to 1.4 million by 2020. That?s right. Not even outsourcing can keep pace. What?s more, offshore outsourcing is now becoming more expensive.
Innovative companies are addressing the need head-on and giving back to the community at the same time.?Techtonic Group, a full stack development consultancy in Boulder, Colorado, was once a committed offshore outsourcer. A few years ago, they made the decision to develop local talent instead. They are transforming lives in the process.
Techtonic was given the first ever the government-recognized technology apprenticeship program in Colorado. They provide underprivileged youth, minorities and veterans technical training and mentorship to become entry-level software engineers.? These candidates get paid to learn to code as part of the apprenticeship program. They are then placed on real client projects and land jobs earning $65,000 – $85,000 per year. Conscious capitalism is part of their DNA. They are addressing a need while at the same time doing good things for our community. CEO Heather Terenzio believes it?s time to invest in local resources. Time for code to replace coal.
Why the future of work matters
Here are a few big world questions to think about:
If we automate away millions of jobs, who will buy all the stuff that companies produce?
If we don?t train our population for the skills of the future, what will happen to these communities?
If we allow the heroin epidemic to go unchecked, what impact will it have on us all?
These problems will come to everyone?s front door one way or another. Think about the increased need for public services alone (police, healthcare, food stamps, housing assistance). ?Solving these problems before they snowball isn?t just the right thing to do, it?s the smart money thing to do.
What you can do to protect your financial future
There are things you and your family can do to prepare for the new economy. In fact, each one of us can help address the big world challenges in a way that will also make us more financially and physically secure. Here are a few strategies:
Invest in yourself. The new economy is coming. Don?t be left behind. Invest in learning a new skill like software coding. If you don?t have the money to pay for a coding bootcamp, there are other options. Check out how this unique company is using an old-world apprenticeship model to train works for the new economy. That?s right, you can get paid to learn to code.
Invest in your financial future while solving big world problems at the same time. You can now become an active impact investor without shelling out big institutional money. It used to be that you had to have $2,500, $5,000 or even $100,000 to get into impact investing. Not anymore. There are consumer platforms and low-cost investment vehicles that let you make an impact for as little as $50. These are investments, not charity. That?s beneficial for you as an individual and the world.
Don?t live beyond your means. Yes, we realize this obvious. But the reality is that many of us forget. And that?s ok. We just need to keep reminding ourselves that there are only two levers: money coming in and money going out. If you increase the former and decrease the latter, you will set yourself up for a brighter financial future. Check out more good money ideas for earning, spending and saving.