Convergence: Organizing the Job and the Career Economy (Part 1)

Socrates: Mike, I am glad that you completed the article on chunking information, on organizing the complexity of Life by breaking down the mass of data and experience into manageable units.

So, chunking is one of the key tools for making sense of the world.

Previously, you wrote about starting with what you know and expanding that understanding into wider and deeper areas. I would call that moving from simple to complex, another key organizing principle.

How do these principles, chunking and simple-to-complex, relate to real world situations, real world problems?

Mike: One of my focus areas is "Finding Your Life Work," an exploration of the job / career / Life Work matrix. For the sake of simplicity, I will concentrate on the world of jobs and careers in this article. The Life Work component adds several dimensions of meaning to this picture, and I will explore that area in more detail later.

So - jobs and careers - The range of job and career choices that we face in the post-industrial, knowledge-based economy of the early 21st century is overwhelming, but life was not always this way.

My father just celebrated his 92nd birthday on 21 June 2015. When he was growing up, he spent a lot of time working on cars. During World War II, he continued this concentration on machines as a part of a bomber crew. After the war, the overwhelming pressure from his parents was to enter the workforce. Then, shortly after his marriage to my mother in the summer of 1947, I was born and the traditional role of a father as the bread winner pushed him even more dramatically into the work world.

My father knew machines. My father knew cars. There was no time to go to college, even junior college. My father was the bread-winner. He had a wife and infant son. He felt the overwhelming family and societal pressure to generate income NOW, NOW, RIGHT NOW.

So my father became an auto mechanic. Over the decades, he moved into supervisory roles in the automotive business and, later, took on management roles in the facilities organization at Stanford University.

Now, 30 years after he retired from Stanford, in the fading twilight, he reflects and tells me that he would have loved to go into landscaping. The great love of his work related life was to garden, to landscape, to express beauty through the wonders of the plant world.

The pressures of his parents, of his own nuclear family responsibilities, and of traditional American (Italian-American) society meant that my father spent his life doing work that bore little relationship to his dreams, to his inner vision.

Today, at 92 years old, my father's great joy is to work in his garden at home. He speaks with great pride and satisfaction about his summer vegetables and shares his bounty with his life-long friends and family.

I can relate to my father's choices and his experience because I witnessed their expression and their consequences for him and for those around him throughout my own 67 years of life.

I wonder if my children and their peers who face the overwhelming complexity of choices in 21st-century America can relate to the simplicity of choices that my father experienced --- "You will not go to college. You will earn money. You will be a mechanic. You will provide for your family. No questions allowed."

Socrates: How did you father survive?

Mike: He is a great man; in Yiddish, he is a mensch. He did what was necessary in his world.

Henry David Thoreau writes of our lives of "quiet desperation." My father lived a life of quiet courage and heroism.

And, perhaps, the time he spent in his garden at home over the decades (and not just now in his 90's) was critical for him. It was his expression of his own inner dream.

Wow! for the first time in my life, I understand why the garden at home was so important to my father. It meant survival and even some joy in his world of limited choices.

Socrates: Yes, your father was a great man. Your father is a great man. Treasure every moment that you have with him now in the twilight.

Mike: Yes. I love you, Dad.

[Copyright (c) 2015 by Michael J. Genevro]