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Friday, December 19, 2008

Purpose



My sister Jessie (left) and I, age: quite young

Personally, I'm yet to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown. I've not been made redundant, my salary has not been cut, overtime is still allowed.

But I can feel it's just around the corner. Local redundancies are being announced on a daily basis, and the thinking is that it's just going to get worse. One of my private students was telling me how her company, once reluctant to fire anyone (something that is admittedly pretty difficult to do in Japan - the common method seems to be to bully and pressure people into quitting) has just announced 2000 cuts, with more to come in due course. Whilst the nature of the client base that the English & Chinese education company I work for means that we are not suffering so much from this initial phase of the slowdown, this past week there have been some hints that next year is going to be a tough one.

I'm very much a subscriber to Robert Kiyosaki's idea of there being four main types of people when it comes to income, who together make up the 'Cashflow Quadrant'. They are: E - employees, S - self-employed, B - business owners and I - investors.

(For more on the Cashflow Quadrant get hold of a copy of Kiyosaki's incredibly easy to read bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad)

I've long had a gut feeling that I don't belong in the 'employee' quadrant, and in such economic conditions as these I find this gut feeling being exceptionally noisy. Seeing people in 'secure' jobs being left high and dry makes me question the sense of placing my future in the hands of an organisation that could let go of its staff at any time, for any number of reasons.

If I was working for the satisfaction that the day-to-day work brings, then it would be no big deal. Whilst I do feel real satisfaction in my day job (and before I go any further, I'd just like to state that as well as enjoying my day job a great deal, I see it as performing a very important and necessary role in my development, and I have no intention of leaving), I have a strong feeling that I'm heading towards a very different role in this world, of which I have only a vague picture at present) (this is aside from any purpose I have to become a better person in a spiritual sense, a journey that continues no matter what I do).

Whilst I am happy that I am able to make a positive impact upon the lives of my students and (to a certain extent) my colleagues, I can't get away from the idea that ultimately, the main purpose of most companies is to provide a good return to the shareholders. These are shareholders of which I know nothing. Who knows what they might choose to invest the profits of my labour in.

Some people might think this is taking things a bit too far, but I don't feel it is. I have a limited time on Earth this time around, and I want to make the most of it. I am happy to invest a few years in doing such things as working for my present company as I'm learning a lot, and teaching is a worthy cause, but I believe that I would feel that I had somehow wasted the precious gift of life were I to remain working for someone else for the rest of my life.

So then there's the S quadrant - self-employed. One thing I've been fortunate to learn second-hand over the past few years is that being self-employed isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. For one thing, there's the fact that (for most one-man-show enterprises) if you stop working, your income stops. Then there's the hours. I forget what the stats are, but self-employed people usually work a lot more hours than those in the E quadrant. Having said that, the chances are that the self-employed business owner will get a great deal more satisfaction out of their work than an E. Every hour of work they put in is an hour invested in their own enterprise - an idea which appeals to me a great deal. They are also more likely to be doing what they love (or they probably wouldn't have started that business in the first place!). However, ultimately, the lack of time freedom in the S quadrant does not appeal to me.

Then we move across to the B quadrant - the business owners. These are people whose businesses continue to operate even when they are physically absent. This is where I want to be. This is where I feel I should be putting my energy ...but find the ease with which I can invest in the E quadrant too seductive. Striking out is tough. It's easier to just be told what to do.

The final quadrant - our ultimate financial goal, is the Investment quadrant, whereby the wealth we have created will continue to generate an income in perpetuity, for the causes that we choose. Being socially conditioned, I used to think that people in this quadrant had only got where they were by trampling on others. However, the more wealthy people I meet (here in Japan), the more this stereotype is revealed as being a load of crap. They are by far the most generous, caring and 'normal' people you could hope to meet, and don't give a poop about keeping up appearances. They are generous with both their time and money, and in my book are worthy role models.




These past few weeks I've been making my way through The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, an updated version of the classic self-development book. It's very good. Informative, and inspirational. Whilst there's not much in it that you haven't heard somewhere else, the scientific angle is refreshing and convincing.

...and it really gets you thinking - "If I could be the person I really wanted to be, would I be the person I am today?" If the answer is no (as it is with me), then there's clearly a need for action.

It's compelling. Real change doesn't take months of years, it takes a split second - the split second it takes to make the decision to be that person. That person who is fit (or on the road to fitness), that person who owns their own successful business (or is in the process of setting it up), that person who has rich, loving and trusting relationships with all those around them (or is making a concerted effort to build such bonds).

I'm in an incredibly fertile environment that is brimming with opportunity. It's called life, and it's time I took the next step (even if it's only a small step). I'll write about it in due course.

night.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Orchid64 said...

There are a few things about being an employee that you might benefit from knowing. The first one is that you are not working for the benefit of stockholders since you work for a private company, not a public one. There are no stockholders (the company having "Ltd." in the name shows this). You're mainly working to help everyone share disproportionally in the success of the company with the president, who has made the investment, making more, but risking far more as well.

Being an investor tends to be the most common way to sit back and make money without doing as much yourself, but clearly times like these show that it's by no means a stable method of making money. Personally, I have serious problems with people making money for nothing other than having money. I believe that this is exactly what has led to inequities in lifestyles among people and the insecurity we see for a lot of people these days. The people who do the work are treated badly and paid as little as possible so the people who don't do anything but invest their money get the money instead. This is simply wrong on so many levels.

The main problem for your company (and this will eventually effect my freelance work for them as well) is that they sell to large corporations who recruit new employees each year. The fewer new employees, the fewer possible sales. It's a trickle down effect. That being said, you are likely in a stable situation as long as the company remains viable as your are part of the core team of employees and skilled at multiple jobs. Others will likely be let go before you. If they can't keep you and Mr. D. on staff, then they probably have to close up shop, but I don't think that will happen.

Also, keep in mind that we are in Tokyo and the economic woes are likely to hit us more slowly. I still have confidence that the English market is actually pretty secure in hard times. Yes, it is expensive and a choice of spending one can choose to drop. However, in a tough job market, having skills is extremely important and people who are looking at the prospect of unemployment want to beef up their abilities. English is one of the most important ones in a global business environment. I think copious clothes shopping, electronics buying, going to restaurants, etc. are likely to go before more useful expenditures.

However, this doesn't help your current company since they are paid by corporations for wholesale packages rather than private people looking to boost skills. Quite some time ago, they considered courting the private market, but abandoned it. They may have to reconsider this at some point to expand their base, but first they need someone who knows how to market to such people and probably a new course or two for them (should that time come).

I'm hopeful that Obama can turn things around next year. I don't expect him to cure anything quickly, but I do hope that he can change the path we're on.

19/12/08 09:02  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thanks Orchid64. I thought it a bit odd when I was told that the company was public, but didn't double check with others.

I have no interest in investing in a manner that takes advantage of others, and I would actively invest in a manner that did not do so. Obviously, I need to put more thought into this (but time is something I have when it comes to planning investments!). It may be that in the end I actually never do 'invest' in the typical sense and instead 'invest' in my own enterprises that have the common good as a core interest.

Thanks for your thoughts on the company that I work for. It will be interesting to see how things go over the next year.

19/12/08 13:49  
Blogger Orchid64 said...

I should have said that I didn't think you wanted to become an investor, but rather was just making a digression about one of my peeves. The whole stock market situation over the last decade has really troubled me. If you have time (yeah, I know you don't have time), reading about the Costco situation demonstrates this really well. The founder of the company funnels profits to his employees so they can have health insurance, better wages, and pleasant working conditions. His stockholders have consistently grumbled about him not shoveling as much money as possible in their direction and sharing it with the people who do the work. It just disgusts me that things are like this so I sometimes have a rant in inappropriate places. I'm sorry if this made you think I may have thought you had an interest in this. I don't see that sort of thing as being part of your ethical outlook.

Your current company isn't public, but it wanted to be. While I was still there, they were pushing for higher and higher profit margins in order to go public, but that goal was thwarted by weaknesses in one area or another at various times. The Chinese section used to be the shining star, and the English side (esp. the phone stuff) was supposedly dragging down their potential. Now, the English side is shining and the Chinese in decline and another part (which I won't mention, but it's not related to the office you work in) is a disaster.

Given the way the market has been, it's probably for the best that they never did end up going public, much as they wanted to do so. ;-)

20/12/08 18:13  

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