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A resource for our times…

According to the November 26, 2007 edition of Time magazine, 90% of Americans said that they were moderately or very satisfied with their job, in spite of the fact that Americans receive (and take) less vacation than any other Western nation, and in spite of the fact that the average income of 99% of American has been almost flat (8% increase) since 1980.

See my blog entry linked above for the more spectacular income increases of the top 1%. :-) Surprised?

Many of those happy Americans (in the lower 99%) are now without those mediocre, yet somehow satisfying, jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published that in September of 2008, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.1% and the number of unemployed people was 9.5 million. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 2.2 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those without jobs for 27 weeks or more) rose by 167,000 to 2.0 million, an increase of 728,000 over the past 12 months.

Since some of the unemployed folks who read this could potentially follow the very tragic path of Kartik Rajaram, a bright and desperate man in Porter Ranch, CA, I wanted to offer a resource that might help.

A friend once gave me a book (I was employed and overworked at the time, with a bad boss) called “The Joy of Not Working” by Ernie J. Zelinski (Amazon $11.53 when I just looked). If you don’t bother to read the “About the Author” page in the back, you might think that Ernie is a slacker. Not so…. Ernie has a Bachelors of Science in Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Alberta, Canada.

More importantly, Ernie has a balanced set of values.

The subtitle of the book is “A book for the retired, unemployed, and overworked.” Most of us fall into those categories; unfortunately, too many now fall into the second one. An important metaphor in The Joy of Not Working is “the trap with no cheese.” Rats in a collection of tunnels eventually figure out which tunnel has the cheese. If there is no cheese in the tunnel, rats stop going to that tunnel. Sadly, a lot of humans stay in a tunnel that does not have any cheese, and perhaps never did! Also sadly, my fellow well-educated and loyal Baby Boomers and I contributed a lot to the problem (rather than the solution) in the workplace by our willingness to work long hard hours. Corporations came to expect such behavior and, when they downsized, expected the remaining employees to work even longer and harder. The children of Baby Boomers, having watched the lives of their workaholic parents, have opted for a different work/life balance. More power to them!

Ernie includes great quotes in the margins, cartoons throughout, and exercises to help folks find what they really want to do. Some of his chapter subheadings will give you a clue to the content: “Ignorance Runs Rampant in Today’s Corporate World,” “Being Unemployed Means Being a Winner,” “If You Do Boring, Stupid, Monotonous Work, Chances Are You’ll End Up Boring, Stupid, and Monotonous,” “Don’t Just Walk Away from Negative People: Run!” and “If You Believe Happiness Can Be Bought, Why Don’t You Try Selling Some of Yours?” As you can see, there is humor throughout, and laughter is good medicine, particularly for the newly unemployed.

One of Ernie’s exercises is focused on telling the truth about your last job. In the exercise, he includes a list of 25 things to dislike about the typical workplace. See how many of them fit your previous (or current) job. Also, think how much it is/would be worth to you to not have to do that long commute or work for an idiot.

Importantly, if you find yourself unemployed, remember your own worth. Also remember that many (most?) corporations, with their distorted value systems, do not really have a clue about what they are doing. If they did, we would not be experiencing the current global financial meltdown in which taxpayers are being asked to bail corporations out, since nobody else CAN.

Read Ernie’s book. If you look forward, rather than backward, you may be able to view your temporary unemployment as an opportunity to salvage a meaningful life.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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