Fortunately, for all of us, a new frontier is upon us. Because our nation, and world, has entered the information age, the old patterns for living are gone.
An article by business writer John Huey appeared in the June 27, 1994edition of Fortune. In it, Huey observed, “Let’s say you’re going to a party, so you pull out some pocket change and buy a little greeting card that plays ‘Happy Birthday’ when it’s opened. After the party, someone casually tosses the card into the trash, throwing away more computer power than existed in the entire world before 1950.”
In the old paradigm, forged in the Industrial Age, we human beings became less and less useful and adventurous. We found life long employment in guaranteed jobs and did our jobs the same way until retirement. Then, once we reached retirement age, we became thoroughly useless to society and lived lives dependent on the government, our relatives, or our own savings that we accumulated in our “useful” years.
Now, with the technological explosion and entry into the InformationAge, employers are no longer as interested in our job histories as they used to be. They are now more interested in our current capabilities.One of the romantic appeals of the early Daniel Boone and DavyCrockett frontier days in our nation was the usefulness of individuals. If you were living out on the frontier, farming, cooking, and hunting, and you turned 65, it would never occur to anyone to ask you to "retire."We have finally come back to those days of honoring usefulness overage and status. For example, if my company is trying to enter theChinese market to sell its software and you, at age 70, can speak fluentChinese, know all about software, and have energy and a zest for success, how can I afford to ignore you?
Bill Gates of Microsoft has said, “Our company has only one asset—human imagination.” If you took all of Microsoft’s buildings, real estate, office hardware, physical assets—anything you can touch—away from the company, where would it be? Almost exactly where it is now. Because in today’s world a company’s value is in it’s thinking, not in its possessions.
This is great news for the individual—because usefulness is back in style. If you can cultivate your skills, keep learning new things, study computers, learn a foreign language, or become expert in a foreign culture and market—you can make yourself useful.
The great basketball coach John Wooden recommended that we live by this credo—especially apt for the new technological frontier: “Learn as if you were to live forever. Live as if you were to die tomorrow.”
Gone are the days when your employability depended primarily on your job history, your school ties, your connections, your family, or your seniority. Today your employability depends on one thing—your current skills. And those skills are completely under your control.This is the new frontier. And where we once entered retirement age nervous about the “wolves at our door,” today, with a commitment to life long growth through learning, we can be as useful to the world community as we are motivated to be.
The more we learn about the future, the more motivated we become to be a valuable part of it.