Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why Making Money Shouldn't Inform Our Career Choices

NOTE: This post has been cross-posted on CCM, titled The danger of making money the top priority in life.

The Green Card

A little over a fortnight ago, I had an informal chat with Liz. She is as old as, and a former classmate of one of my younger sisters.

Well, Liz told me about the American 'Green Card' lottery. She wanted to apply quite early in the one month window to avoid the last day rush that can at times cripple the computer systems.  She also proceeded to tell me why she was so keen on leaving Kenya for the United States.

Interestingly, the top reason is her belief that in America, you stand better chances of getting rich. Filthy rich. To validate her assertion, she cited examples of people in our village who have won the 'green card' and within months of leaving their home country, their family members start receiving dollars from diaspora with which they can build better and bigger houses, start businesses, buy land, trade in the stock market.. in essence, they start living large.

Listening to Liz, I couldn't agree or disagree with her. I clearly saw in her the collective sentiment that prompts many to seek greener pastures in distant lands. Which is for all intents and purposes, a good thing.

The problem, however, is the underlying conviction that all it takes for one's life to totally rock is money.  And worse, the unwavering belief, shared by many across the world, that one stands better chances of making big, quick money in a foreign land.

Lucrative Careers

Early this year, a very informal conversation with a friend made me think about 'making it' and why we spend just about twenty years of our young lives in school. Her contention was that I am writing and designing, instead of using my Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering to get a very well paying job. To her, and I believe to many others, a career or a job is not what engages a worker's time to solve solutions and meet societal needs, offers him or her comfortable living, stimulates one's creativity and offers a great sense of personal fulfillment.
It is whatever one does and gets paid lots of money every end-month.

Forget the hooey about discovering talents, gaining social skills, wholesome enlightenment and the appreciation of other cultures that is constantly peddled in education fora and seminars.

For many a parent, kids are taken to school so that upon completion of tertiary or post-graduate education, they can get well-paying jobs and hopefully make great careers of the same.

In short, education in Kenya, and I believe in many other countries is no longer about learning and self improvement. It is about getting a job that pays the maximum possible amount of money.

And is there any problem with that?

Actually, no. Every person should be adequately compensated for his or her skills and time. After all, the majority work in corporations which solely exist to make money.

What I find most unsettling with this model is that people will do everything possible to land jobs where their only driving force is making money.
In the recent past on CCM, we have asked if you work because you are passionate and love your job or simply for the money.

Years ago, I was a fan of Boston Public which aired on NTV Kenya. It is a television drama series that highlights the plight of both faculty and students in American public schools.
A recurring theme in the series was that the educators were in it for much more than monetary reward.

More recently, I watched the hilarious movie Jarhead starring and Jamie Foxx. It is the story of American marines in the Iraq desert during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Towards the end of the marines' stay, Marine Staff Sergeant Sykes (Jamie Foxx) tells Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) that he had other more rewarding choices in life back in the US, but still opted to be a marine in the Middle East because he loves the job.

Following is the scene:

Pre-emptive Salary Raises

We have seen in this country, time and again, how elected officials always begin their terms with hefty salary raises. Parliament did that in 2002, 2008 and in 2013, this malaise of greed spread to members of county assembly in all counties and legislators in both houses.

Not to be left behind, doctors, nurses and other civil servants sought pay rises and as we speak, teachers and threatening the government with strike action should their unreasonable and unsustainable hefty pay rises not be granted.

Teachers have gone on strike in Kenya so many times I can no longer count. Whereas I sympathize with their demand for appropriate remuneration, what do they time their strikes in such a way to adversely affect students at a time when these kids need them most?

We have seen this all the time, I remember teachers were on strike when I was preparing for KCSE in 1998. Again in 2004, a lecturers strike extended my stay in campus from the envisaged completion date of December 2004 to April 2005. Thankfully, this did not adversely affect my grades and I do hope for the many others who were affected in these years.

The Root of All Evil

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
1 Timothy, 6:10 (KJV)

Without a doubt, the good book is right.

The above sentiments, including personal anecdotes, all illustrate what ails our country and our mind sets. The fact that we all go to school so that we can eventually get jobs that pay really well will ensure that people never get into careers for the right reasons.

What happened to a career being a calling?

I have long believed that society can change, but the horrific punishments to the seven deadly sins in SE7EN make me somewhat understand how the rot in society can drive some beyond the cliff. The trends being set by elected leaders and civil servants, will set the pace for a greedy generation in coming years that only sees a job as a way to make money. Not to solve any problems. Not to meet any individual or corporate needs. Not to serve society. Not to make one better at what he or she does. Not to make the world a better place.

Making money, it seems, is the only reason we wake up every morning.
How unfortunate!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

One Reason to Leave, Many Reasons to Stay

Human Relationships

Recently, I took time to think about human relationships - how fickle and frail they can be, and how encompassing and enduring they can also be.
It is interesting that all it takes for many relationships to end is just one mistake, one error in judgment. One reason is often too many, and usually enough for either or both parties to walk. At times, to go ahead and add their voice to WhyILeft.

Just about the same time, I watched a movie that reminded me of a discussion on last week's Weekend on BBC World Service that dwelt on theWhyIStayed hashtag on Twitter.

To Leave or to Stay?

That said, when does it become untenable to stay? And when is there reason enough to simply leave?
And more important, what would make one stay, when leaving is the most obvious option?

In all fairness, we have on several occasions written about leaving on this blog: Here, here and here. And most recently, here.

The Many Reasons to Stay

Coincidentally, I watched The Vow only last week.
Inspired by a true event, it is the story of a young couple - Leo and Paige, whose lives were ruined in a single moment of passion that was cut short by a traffic accident.

A truck hits Leo's car as he kisses his wife (who has since unbuckled her seat belt) and both of them are hospitalized, with Paige being in a medically induced comma due to her head injury.

When she awakens, Paige has lost most of her memories, especially everything about Leo who now is an imposing stranger in her life.
The rest of the movie is largely Leo's travail as he tries to win Paige back.

Anyways, the part that I found quite profound, and that is at the core of this post, is where Paige's mother tells her daughter why she still stayed even after discovering that Paige's father was cheating on her. And not just with any other woman, but with Paige's friend.

To Leave or to Stay

Many times, we hold people to very high standards, thus unwittingly setting ourselves up for great disappointments when these people do not live up to our expectations.
The resulting ire is often enough to make us forget all the good before it.

Should this be the case?

Depending on the situation, I submit that particular circumstances call for specific considerations. It also depends to a great extent, on the person(s) involved.
Do you often find it easier to leave or to stay?


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