What’s Going on in the World
In the event that you haven’t been following the news headlines, I will simply use the one word that is being thrown around like an old rag doll – shutdown. Every governmental agency is experiencing furloughs and government employees are trembling on when they will return to work, or if still working, if they too are facing being sent home. One article breaks it down by department, and nearly every department is experiencing at least 50% of it’s employees on leave, while most are experiencing 80-90%.
As a result of the shutdown, the constraints permeate beyond the walls in Washington. While approximately 800,000 employees are without work, that number is doubled and tripled when the families of these individuals is taken into consideration. Mortgage payments will be put on hold, brown bag lunches will become more common and watching a movie on the couch will become family practice.
Imagine watching football games today, and your favorite team is missing half of it’s players. When you switch the channel to another game, you notice there is only a quarterback and a center on offense. How can any ‘team’ expect to win given these circumstances? And mind you, the government is a team – divided at best.
So what happens to the thousands of people and families whose daily lives have drastically changed? Are the unemployed seeking out new positions to support the family? Will there even be a job for each of them when the shutdown ends? How do you make ends meet while the uncertain is inevitable?
Human Capital Explained
I wasn’t a business major in college, nor do I fully understand the complexities of profit-loss statements. Capital, on the other hand, I do know that it’s a good thing to invest in. It’s also something that you hope will put you in a better situation in the future should your life take a serious turn.
This blog isn’t about a business course, but rather about life – and how to live better and create opportunities for yourself and those around you. So, I’m going to take this word ‘capital’, that traditionally has dollar signs and assets associated with it, and place before it the word ‘human’. And we have human capital.
I’m no Einstein, nor did I think up, coin and trademark this term. The first time I read this phrase, I was reading The Defining Decade when I was in the midst of ‘figuring out life’ as I was unemployed and searching, fighting and seeking out answers. Through this book, I realized that my various life experiences had allowed me to build enough human capital to position and leverage myself in helping me figure out my next step.
It is nearly impossible to place a monetary value on your worth (discounting bank statements because I would always be broke!). Instead, think about your worth in terms of the knowledge you have gained and the experiences you have lived. Your knowledge and experiences are your human capital – who/what do you know and what have you done?
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘keep your options open’. I couldn’t think of a more pertinent example than the one thousands of people are facing right now as the government is shutdown. The question I keep asking myself is, “Where do all of these people go to provide for their families, especially if this is going to be for an extended time?”
Given there might be people who have had careers in other fields, or an education that will allow them to find a quick, temporary fix. What about the people who have been working in the same position, never learning and never experiencing for 20+ years? Without any growth, enough human capital may not have been established to provide an alternative route.
For future situations, it is imperative that we do not allow a ‘shutdown’ of any sort, knock us to the ground or keep us from moving forward. In reflecting back on the time when I was unemployed, at the time I was fortunate that I had built up enough human capital that I didn’t sit there for long. While I understand what helped me is probably different than what might help you, I want to share these ideas as food for thought.
How to Build Human Capital
- Become multi-dimensional – I don’t give a damn what it is, pick up a second hobby. Learn a skill or trade that is completely different than what you do on a daily basis. Earn certifications to teach various classes. Take a continuing education course. Get yourself off of the straight and narrow and learn to deviate from time to time. Make it a point to become a well-rounded person, capable of performing several tasks.
- Network the hell out of yourself – Point blank, build relationships. Initiate contact with people on a daily basis and force yourself to listen first then be heard. Take genuine interest in the people with whom you build relationships. As you begin to build on one relationship, network with similar and like-minded people. You would be surprised sometimes who you might cross paths with that will help you get to the next step.
- Be an Entrepreneur – Fail and fail often. Learn to deal with adversity. Build skills that are transferable in to all occupations. Sharpen your communication skills. Hone in your sales pitch. Make yourself marketable so that the next person in line is envious of your capabilities. Learn to build shit, and build it well – I don’t mean material objects. I’m talking about programs, businesses and anything with substance and depth.
- Have a plan B… and C… maybe even a D – When all else fails, you need to have something going on the back burner. This is when Items 1-3 on this list become crucial. If you have done those three, then it makes having Plan B a helluva lot easier. You might even find that more people will be willing to help map out alternate routes to ensure your success.
- Never stop doing – Just keep moving forward. Whatever you do, don’t quit, go the extra mile and celebrate every bit of progress you make. People and circumstances will try to shut you down, or keep you from doing what you know best, but I say to hell with them. This is your life, and it’s not going to make a damn bit a difference what is going on in this world, because you will not let someone or something dictate your next step.
Process without End
Building human capital isn’t something that is done for a given period of time. Reverting back to business terms, think of it like interest, the more knowledge you have and experiences you gain, the more your capital grows. As long as you have something in the bank and work a little bit to increase what’s inside, your capital will continue to go up.
In doing so, you will become a valuable asset. Your skill sets will allow you to push through any struggles you may face and you shouldn’t have to ever experience being ‘shut out’. No longer do you have to imagine watching your favorite football with just a quarterback out there throwing to himself – instead, imagine yourself riding a wave atop a surf board. As everything else comes crashing down, you are perfectly content with where you are because you put yourself exactly where you want to be.
As you finish reading this, ask yourself if you have enough human capital to make it if your ship gets re-directed. What new skills are you acquiring today that will help you tomorrow? Who have you met lately that genuinely cares and wants to help you succeed? If you haven’t thought about these questions, then be an entrepreneur – think outside the box and make shit happen!