May 1, 2009
"If I had your hand, I''d throw mine in."
Those are the words of encouragement I gave one of my best pals a few days ago during what turned out to be a pretty somber visit. His job is going away. I had to remind him that he is super intelligent and has a laundry list of accomplishments he couldn''t fit on a four-page resumé.
We are the same age -- late 50s. No longer middle age, unless we are going to live to be 100, which is doubtful considering the stress I know first-hand both of us have put on our bodies over the years.
Exchanges like this between good friends are taking place all too often these days.
It doesn''t take a Harvard MBA to figure out any organization can increase its bottom line by sending the older, high-salaried folks to the canning plant and replace them with young upstarts who are eager and ready to work on the cheap for the chance to get in the big game.
As my good buddy from down around Egremont used to say, "the killing thing is," the young upstarts don''t understand that the day will soon come when they too will find an overpaid 50-something-year-old staring back at them in the bathroom mirror. What goes around comes around.
Risk-takers and dreamers
No. 1 son stopped by for a visit this week. He''s my hero and warrior, on track to graduate from Mississippi State University in December. He''s forever coming up with outlandish ideas, schemes or inventions.
During our visit, I got the all too familiar, "Dad, what do you think about ... ?" (He never reads "Strummin''," therefore, I''ll confess I thought his latest gadget was a pretty lame idea.)
"Sounds good to me. Go for it.," I offered as encouragement. I meant it. After all, there are a billion more folks out there who might think his latest idea is just what the doctor ordered. Who am I to judge?
Looking back over my working life, I''ve noticed that the risk-takers and dreamers are those who have made this country great and themselves rich.
The richest folks I know personally would have never been hired by the corporation where I spent so many years. Had they been, they would have found themselves back on the street in the first six weeks because they couldn''t or wouldn''t conform to the corporate mold.
The moral of the story
I watch the country music channel every now and then. They have a reality segment on a new band, "King Billie." On one episode, the band members'' parents come for a visit. One of the fathers remarks to the host that he hopes his son never has a "real job."
There''s a "rest of the story" in that wish.
More often than not, former Mississippi University for Women President Clyda Rent would begin a speech by quoting some famous person -- most of them I''d never heard of. Once, she provided me with a quote of her own and sage advice for job seekers that I have used many times, especially in conversations with my brood: "Never take a job that you don''t really want, because you might find yourself there for the rest of your life." (Or something to that effect; after all, this is "Strummin''.")
Back to the "King Billie" parent: If one enjoys what they do -- it''s not a job. If a guy can make a good living and provide for a family picking a guitar, go for it.
I know my friend has given a great deal of himself to the dream job that he sought out and got, only to find the rug jerked out from under him. I hold no ill will toward those jerking the rug. There are no guarantees, not to mention the fact that it''s their rug.
But lately there are lots of folks scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do. Now may be the time to step back and say, "I always wanted to ... " That''s what I tried to tell my pal: Try something else you''ve always wanted to do.
These days, I''m having a ball with my little (and I do mean little) company, Bayou Management. There are bad days, as with any thing. Sometimes the cash flows out faster than it flows in. No matter -- it''s all mine. I get to drive the boat and give myself a day off anytime I want one.
Should that boat sink, one day you might find yourself driving south on Highway 61 down around Rolling Fork and see an old guy with a guitar resting against a hand-painted sign and offering moderately-priced tours of Muddy Waters'' birthplace, treks through the Delta National Forest to observe the annual butterfly migration, or guided expeditions to the wilds of Issaquena County to search for the elusive "Lord God" woodpecker. They''re there.
See, I''m sticking with Clyda on that part about "never take a job."
Roger owns Bayou Management, Inc. and is also a semi-pro guitar player.