Occupy Yourself

I have a feeling that today’s article will be one of my more controversial articles. Believe it or not I’ve been trying to avoid the controversy. Remember that my goal for this blog is to help people to grow, develop and improve their lives. While opinionated and controversial articles tend to spike the readership they don’t help me reach that goal. Who wants to learn from somebody who’s judging them unmercifully? I know that I don’t, and I imagine that the people I’d like to help don’t want to either.

That’s why this article has been such a struggle to write. I have a problem with the things that I’ve seen in footage from the Occupy Movement on television. At the same time, I don’t think that I disagree with the intent of the Occupy Movement itself. It’s a group of people who are trying to stand up and remind the lawmakers that their laws are supposed to benefit the 99% rather than those privileged few who live their life in the clouds. Do I want our rich business leaders to wake up and start making decisions that are good for everyone rather than decisions that are completely focused on their bottom line? Of course I do. That’s an important and valid message.

There are two problems. First, the message is getting lost. A focused campaign based on getting the attention of the elite and motivating them to change could be successful. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening. As a person on the outside looking in I had to look up what the real message of the Occupy Movement was. Even though I had seen footage from hundreds of protests they hadn’t made things clear. It appears that the reason for this is that the people who are actually at the events have a less specific and dynamic purpose. It has become a public way to blame someone else for personal decisions. You don’t move the establishment by blaming them for your struggles. You move the establishment by generating leverage and presenting a mutually beneficial alternative.

I believe the second problem will cause more trouble in the long term though. The lack of a focused message and a focused purpose will be distilled into a more generalized message. Here’s the message – You have more and we have less, let’s even things out a little bit so that we can all be happy. Sounds good right? Young people growing up in this generation will embrace this message and before you know it they will be our next wave of politicians who will find a way to put this message into practice. Here’s the problem. It’s communism. It’s been done before and it doesn’t work in the real world.

No capitalism = No iPhone genius

I’ve written about communism before so I won’t go into too much detail, but it is one of the things that frighten me personally. One of the reasons that the United States is great is through our ability to innovate. From the assembly line to production automation to the iPhone we are able to live the lives that we do because big businesses made enough money to spend it on innovation and create the ideas and products that make our lives better. Innovation dies in a communist society. Why would I work to create something new if I’m not going to be rewarded financially for it? That’s the thing about the 1%, they drive the world forward. I may not agree with the way they do it any more than anyone else does, but I have to respect it because it’s made my life better and it allows me to dream that maybe somebody I can be part of that 1% and choose to use my influence for positive change.

When the 1% shuts down in a communist society it devastates the country’s earning potential. The jobs disappear. Apple doesn’t need any more kids to work in their iPhone stores if they aren’t going to sell them anymore. Instead, we would have to find new ways of working, simple things like farming and shoemaking. As less money flows, there is less money to share. So instead of a world where there is a lot of money that is split evenly we would end up in a world where there is very little money to share at all. Sounds like paradise doesn’t it? Wait, it gets better. Less money equals less taxes and less government which in turn equals less military. The United States of America is truly the land of milk and honey. It is the breadbasket of the world and one of the most resource rich nations in the world. When our way of life no longer generates the money necessary to defend this great land it will fall under attack and eventually be consumed by whichever country wants the resources the most.

Pretty grim picture isn’t it? It’s avoidable, but we need to change the message. We need to stop blaming the 1% or anybody else for the things that happen as a result of our choices. The United States is built on personal accountability. We’ve lost that belief somewhere. We’re not the same as we were 200 years ago. We’re not even the same as we were 80 years ago. So much has changed. We’ve shifted from a society of people who struggled to survive to a society of people who have more than enough. Tough times in our past meant that we didn’t have enough food to eat. Tough times today are seen as not having enough money to afford the latest new gadget.

A change this dramatic isn’t without consequence. My grandparent’s generation grew up in the great depression. They were imbued with a work ethic necessary to contribute to the family finances so that everyone had enough to eat (and sometimes it wasn’t enough). So when they raised my parent’s generation they were focused on saving. Even though they had much more available to them than their parents did they still remembered the lessons of their youth. My parents were becoming adults in the 60’s and 70’s. They remember the way that they were raised and were determined to do better for their children. As the country got richer my parent’s generation was willing to spend money on things like big screen TV’s and Nintendo’s.

My generation, generation X, grew up relatively spoiled. While our parents had the example their Great Depression parents set for them, we were raised differently. Our parents kept the world of work removed from us. Even though we were latchkey kids, we still never really understood the effort that our parents were putting in to give us all of these great things.  Now we’re the ones raising kids, in fact there are children of generation X that are already adults. We’re done these poor guys a disservice. Just like our parents failed to pass down the work ethic that is the key to real success, we’ve passed down the belief that we all deserve good things and that everything should be fair. We’re the generation that decided that there should be no winners and losers and that everybody is a champ just for participating.

But we’re wrong. In the real world there are definitely winners and losers. In fact, it’s the people who were raised with the work ethic that our grandparents considered normal that are most likely to be “winners”.

But wait… that’s not fair.

This is where my real concern lies. It is fair. The people that work the hardest will ascend the fastest. The people that spend their time learning how to succeed and trying to improve themselves instead of spending their life in front of a TV or at the club are going to be the ones who make it into the 1%, and that is eminently fair. It’s fair because we all have the chance. Sure, there are some people who are born rich and have big advantages, but that’s not the 1%, that is the .000000001%. We’re not talking about exceptions here, we’re talking about reality.

You guys know I have nothing against television and nothing against video games, books or any of the other things that we do to entertain ourselves. The problem is when we spend all of our time on entertainment to the exclusion of personal improvement. I’ve seen it in my own life. I spent three semesters at Mississippi State University right out of high school. I was there on a scholarship but lost it after the first year. I was not putting any effort into improving myself or spending my time wisely. I spent my time having fun with friends and constantly playing video games. As a result I made zero progress towards a positive future during that time period. From the age of 18 to 23 I was a complete waste, doing nothing to help myself or anyone else. Things changed for me when I discovered my own work ethic and made a decision to spend my time more wisely.

I don’t have anything in me that can help a person who won’t take personal accountability for their actions.

The same goes for how we spend our money. If we’re always spending our money to have the great new things that are available to us and do not save or live conservatively then we will not have the wherewithal to withstand a situation like a lost job. This is where I look at the confusion in the Occupy Movement and am saddened by it. Instead of putting legitimate pressure on the establishment we have people protesting that they want their house back. The same person is using their iPhone and driving an expensive car. Is it the governments fault or the bankers fault that this person couldn’t make their bank payments? I don’t know. I haven’t seen their financial statements. But the context clues tell me that this person probably made some unwise decisions that led them to that place.

These things are correlated with each other. The person who spends their time wisely and productively will make more money. The person who makes more money will have a greater chance to save money while still enjoying the fruit of that money.  When the tough times hit they are less likely to lose their job because of their hard work and their value to the company. But even if they are let go, even if they are jobless, the way that they’ve saved their money will protect them from disaster and give them a chance to find a new job and get back on track. Conversely, the person who doesn’t spend their time wisely will not have excess money to save. At the same time they are more likely to lose their job and then lose their house because they never worked smart enough to earn the money they needed to protect themselves.

Which group do you want to be a part of?

I knew I couldn’t escape this article without being accusatory. I apologize for that. It is very frustrating. The answer isn’t communism. That answer isn’t taking from the rich to give to the poor. The answer is personal accountability. I support the idea of reforming our government and the way we do business. I support programs that help people in disadvantaged situations have a better chance to make their way out of their circumstance. I am passionate about helping people achieve real and lasting success. But I don’t have anything in me that can help a person who won’t take personal accountability for their actions. Don’t use the Occupy Movement to blame someone for your own decisions. Occupy Yourself, change the way you handle your business first. That is the way to make the greatest impact in your world. Occupy Yourself.

Be Blessed.


Posted on February 11, 2012, in Personal Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great read Jonathan. I think you hit the nail on the head in many respects.

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