Taking Risks

A friend of mine who lives in Japan once wrote in her blog about her friend who had been stuck in a dead-end job. My friend described how her friend had been “made” to do mundane, non-exciting work for many years, such as making coffee for her bosses, making copies of the documents, filing etc. and not given more challenging tasks at her job. Her friend thinks about leaving that job from time to time, but finds herself trapped because she doesn’t have any transferable skills. risk2The blog post continued with, “Of course, the reason why she doesn’t have many transferable skills is because her company does not give her tasks through which she can learn those skills”. I had a very strong reaction to that sentence. I didn’t comment to that post – I did not agree with her at all, but I didn’t know how to offer a different point of view without sounding like I am attacking her or belittling her friends’ trouble. I kept thinking about that statement and wondered if the majority of people who consider themselves stuck at a dead-end job feel the same – in that they can’t get more skills because their employers do not give them more interesting, challenging tasks. Her friend had another reason for not trying to find a different job besides lack of skills – it was the comfort of the secure paycheck. She didn’t feel she could find a job that pays her better than she was getting paid, considering how few skills she had (that was her perception of herself). I thought, it would be very hard to convince anyone that she deserves better, if she herself does not think so.

I don’t know this person my friend was writing about personally, so I have no idea what she is doing now; it has been at least 2 years since I had read that post. I wonder to this day if she is still doing the same tasks that she doesn’t find joy nor value in doing. I sincerely hope not. I hope she has found some way to enjoy her job more, or has acquired more transferable skills by either speaking up at her job and asking for it or taking classes after work, or better, has found her passion and moved on. In her mind, she was playing it safe by not trying to get out of that dead-end job, probably by thinking “At least I have a job”. But for how long? If she just continues  her current employment and  never learns any new skills “because her company does not offer the challenge”, it would be detrimental later when the company decides to replace her with younger person with the same skill level who would work for less money. People think that trying to be on your own, starting a new business, or pursuing your dreams and not working for a company is risky, but I believe it is not necessarily riskier than the alternative, i.e. trying to convince themselves that they don’t deserve more, maintaining status quo of “playing it safe” – those could be, in my opinion, a bigger risk in a long run. We have all seen that even the companies that appeared rock solid as if they are made of diamond just vanish in a matter of days. It does not matter if you have MBA, Ph.D., or graduated from the most expensive or most prestigious university. I’m a Tokyo University graduate, but that fact alone does not make me feel like I am “secure for life” if I don’t keep taking actions to move me forward. Clearly, what matters more is what skills you have, not which school you graduated from. I do hope that our kids would want to go to college, but if they don’t because they have other passions and want to pursue their dreams, I wonder how seriously I would be disappointed. I do plan to teach our kids about exploring their possibilities as entrepreneurs in addition to the academic stuff, if only to see if they have any entrepreneurial bones in their bodies. If we(our kids and I) determine that they don’t, it will give them more incentives to focus on making themselves employable – whatever that means in their time.  Earlier this year I had read this book “Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire” by Troy Dunn. The book received some mixed reviews, but I enjoyed reading it (probably because I never had that experience or education on it as a child), and the book has lots of practical ideas about how to start planting seeds in your kids’ minds about becoming self-sufficient.  In the end, it does not matter if our kids end up having their own businesses or working for great companies, as long as that is what they really want, but I plan to show them different ways to make a life – not just a living.

6 comments on “Taking Risks

  1. I enjoy reading your sugoi (great) posts Etsuko. 🙂

    What’s special about what you said is that anyone else could’ve veered off into the external factors, like how long-standing employee/employer duties are culturally structured in Japan, or how it’s harder there for women to get promoted up the corporate ladder compared with men, and so on, but instead, you went ‘inside’ as the source of the solution. (Of course one cannot discount those external influences, especially if you have friends and family telling you not to risk being the ‘nail sticking out’.)

    Hopefully she’s met up with someone similar to yourself, who understands the importance of self-assurance, and self-directed destiny, to provide guidance for her; and then took on the ‘If it’s to be it’s up to me’ mindset.

    I’ll certainly empathize that it can be challenging in some circumstances and in some environments.

  2. One thought I had after reading your post was to look locally in my neighborhood for examples of people who fall into this category. Everyday I drive by this major intersection of Roscrans and Midway and I see beggars looking for hand outs from people waiting for the light to turn green. How should that make me feel? How does that make anyone feel? Sympathy or compassion as they could be you out in the middle of the street, down on your luck? One part of me wants to round them all up, clean them up, train them in some useful job and make a self sustaining business. Another part of me wants to figure out all the homeless shelters and food banks, get into a business card or flyer and hand it out to these people. I suppose if I really cared for my fellow human being, I would approach them and ask them about their story and how I could help. I personally don’t think money will help their situation. I’m not as religious anymore as I used to be, but I think of the parable that goes something like, give a man some fish and he’ll feel full for a day. Give a man a rod and some training and he’ll feel full for life.

  3. EnglishPatterns,

    I also have to agree that I hope she met or seeks out someone who could help/inspire her to give her the courange to become something more than she is or what her perception of her environment is restrcting her to be. There is something to be said for having a coach. The professional atheletes all have coaches that know them and push them to become better than they already are. It is true that they must have some talent and some internal motivation and for some that is all it takes for them to get out of a rut. However, for others find that spark of inpiration to give them that little extra to break out of their shell is all it takes.

    I can recall two stories which I think pertains. One is the story of how I found and discovered swing dancing. It was way back in my days when I was stationed in Hawaii. I was driving down H1 towards Ala Moana mall, when I heard on the radio of this swing dance exibition going on. For some reason, that peaked my interest and decided to chekc it out. I arrived half way through the performance, but was awe struck and inspired by the dancing that I saw. Enough so that as they were handing out flyers for dance classes, I saw there was a class starting that same evening, which I decided to also check out. To make a long story short, that was probably the day that changed my life in terms of turning me down the path of swing dancing and may I dare say to my eventual love of my life. I guess the point being is that I had an internal curiosity, sparked by some amazing inspiration (arial steps)… Of course I had a secure job in the military, I wasn’t destitute or out of work. I had the time to just attend an evening dance class as I was single at the time and had no other real responsibilites after work. So perhaps not that fair a comparison when I come to think about it.

    Anyways, another more recent example which comes to mind is a discussion I just had on facebook with a fellow swing dancer friend about passion of sports. I recently rediscovered a passion I had with tennis back during my high school days on the Varsity tennis team. After highschool, like, probably most I did not continue a tennis career into college. After about 5 years in the Military, 2 sons later, I decided I needed to do something physical. Tapping a local tennis center resource I discovered an evening tennis adult clinic. Again to try and make another long story short, I’ve been playing at least once a week for the past 8 months, which I can honestly say, has improved my health and postivie mental attitude towards life. How does this relate? Well, in my discussion with my friend she mentioned that she never really liked tennis. Out of curiosity I asked her why. I also (as arguably bad habit of mine), suggested some answers. Was it because she gave the sport a honest try and put in time practicing and playing over a long course of time and realized she couldn’t find the joy in the sport, or is it perhaps she just tried it once or twice, wasn’t that good at it and never really found any joy in it. She admitted it was the later. I then followed through with the comment that I think for me personally, I probably could easily enjoy any sport that I had the time and energy to put the effort into. I believe that in any sport, or probably any activity for that matter, there is probably some joy one could extract out of if one can put in the time and energy into figure out. I humbly submit that people tend to be easily discouraged and not follow through and give themselves the time to immerse themselves in the activities that they try and hence lose out on what could have been a very enjoyable passionate path.

  4. I read the same book you mentioned, “Young Bucks- How To Raise A Future Millionaire” by Troy Dunn, after reading a glowing review for it in the USA Today. It changed my family’s life. Our 13 year old daughter now has her own little business and makes $30 an hour using one of the ideas in the book. My husband actually used one of the ideas in the book to start his own weekend second-job and we now have an extra $300 every saturday! Your recomendation is EXCELLENT! I think every parent/family should read Young Bucks immediately!!

  5. Thank you for your comments!

    @EnglishPatterns What you said is true, that there are external factors that might be difficult to change. The reason why I like to focus on the “inside” is that it is where the possibility for changes begin. You can always make a list of reasons why you can’t do something. But when you focus on why you can, that list can be just as long and just as powerful, if not more so. It is up to you which one you want to put energy on.

    Thank you for your long comments 🙂 I loved your acknowledgment about having a coach. I strive to be a source of inspiration to my clients.

    Thank you for providing us with a success story! Out of curiosity, what is your daughter’s business? I think you are doing great things for her future. I can’t wait for my kids to be a bit older so we can start with the experiments!

  6. @Tara,

    I also enjoyed your post and I’m curious about your daughter’s business as well as your husbands weekend second job. I’ve always toyed with the idea of moonlighting and taking a second job with Jamba Juice to follow my passion with smoothies, but alas I have yet to act on that prompting.