Vail Daily column: A flaw in the system | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: A flaw in the system

Benjamin A. Gochberg
Valley Voices

The first thing that you must realize is that the system was not designed for your benefit. A few centuries ago or whenever the hell it was someone realized that the promise of security, safety and a bunch of other fringe benefits was enough to attract a certain portion of the population to trade a predictable amount of time (hours) in exchange for a bit of money.

Thank goodness, I suppose, that someone was at least willing to move in this direction. Prior to that, the great business people of the human race were enslaving each other for profit and growth. What should truly horrify you is how recently developed civilizations have relied on slavery to drive business. In some context, similar behavior is still happening all around the world. Even in developed countries like our own, it took war, protests and significant legislation to get worker rights to where they are today.

Here’s my question for every employee that reads this though: Have we gone far enough in ensuring that your life as a human being isn’t being undermined by your work? Do you have sufficient power to choose? Are barriers to entry low enough for you to pursue your passions?

Yes, most of us are living in a time in human history in which our education, social mobility and freedom to choose meaningful and rewarding work is the highest it has ever been. I can’t argue that many of the greatest blessings of my life were the result of a college education, steady employment with a large corporation that was willing to train a kid, and the connections I made from those experiences.

The system is not bad. It really isn’t. It clearly has flaws though. We were trained in how to play within the system from a very early age. You realize that right? We went to school for six to eight hours a day. We worked on various projects at school. After school, we were even trained that it would be necessary to do more work. We called it homework back then.

It accomplishes the purpose for which it was created, namely, training the vast majority of the population to feel perfectly satisfied with being highly educated hamsters on a never-ending wheel of revenue, promotions, acquisition and validation through accumulation of various titles and commas after your name. I made an excellent hamster for a while.

Beyond those obvious flaws, there are a few scary habits we develop as a result of our integration into the system too.

For instance, we all probably remember that back in school we were taught that making mistakes on a test or a quiz resulted in a lower score. You get the answer wrong on a test, it gets marked down. Now instead of an “A” it’s a “B” for the end result. If you give the wrong answer publicly by raising your hand, oh my God, that might be even worse. The class might laugh. What a tragedy that we allowed ourselves to be trained this way.

After all, the exact opposite habit is what we should be forming within ourselves. Mistakes, as adults, lead to greater success. If we aren’t willing to take shots, then we end up living a life of perceived safety and mediocrity. If we become willing to fail and do so enough times, then life starts to get pretty exciting. As Mark Cuban says, “You only have to be right once.”

Another example of a hard habit to shake: In school we were taught that sharing the answers was cheating. Here’s the truth: The quickest way to anything you want is collaboration. Information sharing is vital to individual growth, as is the ability to seek out and solicit information. Putting together great ideas and sharing them with others isn’t cheating, it’s not plagiarism —it’s just the way the world works.

As further proof of this point, all of these lessons are not my creations. I heard them personally from the mouth of Robert Kiyosaki, one of the most celebrated minds in personal finance. My guess is that the lessons weren’t really his either. The information has been out there for a long time — it’s just that we get used to feeling comfortable in the masses. We like the security provided by a peer group that might make us feel like a big deal with our job titles and scope of influence.

Here’s your call to action from someone that isn’t afraid to walk the talk: In 30 years, will you be able to look back on how you are spending your time and effort right now and say you are happy with the results? Do you know where the path you walk will take you 10 years from now? It’ll have its twists and turns — just make doubly sure you actually want to get to the destination at the end of whatever it is that you are doing.

Benjamin A. Gochberg can be reached at 801-725-7344 or ben@benjaminagochberg.com.