August 28. “Security comes from your ability to produce. In short, it is an inside job.” (General Douglas MacArthur)
Everyone wants security in life, and they want it in a variety of forms. They want to feel safe in their environment and know that their physical security needs are met. They want job security, and know that their income stream will be steady enough to support themselves and their family. They want long-term financial security so that they can retire one day and not end up destitute.
I don’t know the context of General MacArhtur’s quote. I don’t know if he was talking about National Security, personal security or financial security. But as I reflect on the quote, it covers most of the bases of where I want security in my life.
Some years back, the company I work for went through some very difficult times. Despite a long history, we found ourselves on the brink. There were announcement about drastic cuts coming, and people would be shown the door. It was probably the most stressful time of my professional career. Many people ended up losing their jobs, some of them left voluntarily, others were sent away. Most of the people were talented and productive workers. The cuts were painful for all involved.
When the cuts were first announced, all of us took stock in our careers. Resumes were polished, feelers were sent out to recruiters, personal contacts were made. I remember spending considerable hours researching jobs in my field, and wondering if, at my age, I would be able to land another job if the need arose. I had decided not to take the voluntary package, and so I was on pins and needles for a good period of time.
One thing that sustained me, and many others throughout, was the idea that if we were hard working, talented people who had a track record of producing results, we would have jobs. The job might not be at the company where we had been working, but we knew that we’d find work somewhere. The economy was only at the beginning of the long sputtering recession that was to come, so there was hope in the air.
As it turned out, all of my friends at work, and even those I knew only casually, found jobs somewhere. Some of us survived the massive cuts and stayed at the company, while others branched out into new companies, in different economic sectors. Some took the opportunity to make career changes, and set their lives on a completely new course. While it was painful at the time, in retrospect the vast majority of people ended up with good jobs, and many ended up far happier than they were before the cuts came along.
MacArthur is right, if you want security in your job the key is to be productive. When you have a steady, long term record of getting the job done, there will always be someone who wants to tap into your capabilities. As a parent of adult children living in the current economic conditions, I have an ongoing concern about job security for them. They are still very much at the beginnings of their careers, and there can be so much change in their future. My wife and I have always tried to instill in them this idea of productivity. We have told them to work hard to make themselves the go-to person of their organization, and to have high levels of productivity. We are proud of them, and so far having this attitude has been one key for their success.
Even with all this hard work and productivity, security in any form can be an illusion. Circumstances can change in an instant to take someone from feeling safe, to being very vulnerable. What isn’t an illusion is a persons’ track record. Even if times get down, even if the chips fall against me, if my track record is one of productivity and hard work, I will find a way to regain and maintain that security for myself and my family.
Today my reflection is on the value of hard work, and on continuing to build upon my track record.