Reflecting on the Chilean Miners

I’m claustrophobic. I get anxious in crowded elevators. I’m not big on being packed into a stadium or concert hall full of cheering fans, and I wouldn’t dare enter a cave on my own free will. It makes my stomach churn just thinking about it. Watching the story of those poor Chilean miners stuck 2300 feet down in a collapsed mine has been downright horrifying for me. I break into a cold sweat every time I see those dark images of them smiling and waving at the camera that was lowered down to capture their misery. If they make it out of there safely, they should be treated like royalty – for the rest of their lives. …Just my personal opinion.

Anyway, their story of being unable to get out of the mine is not unlike the countless number of individuals who are trapped in bad jobs and careers that they can’t leave because they offer regular salaries, benefits, and some level of security. Have we become a society of trapped workers who are just biding our time waiting to get rescued from the depths of something dysfunctional and potentially dangerous?

According to a recent poll on worker satisfaction, only 51 percent find their job interesting. This is down over 20 percent in the last 20 years. Do we just want more excitement in our work now than we did two decades ago? Or, has the bad economy, increases in health insurance, and overall job insecurity created an environment primed for workers to be scared and simply striving to hang onto what they have regardless if it’s good or bad? Unfortunately, I think the latter is true.

The shame is that the current state of affairs is hindering would-be entrepreneurs from rolling the dice with a new business idea. It’s preventing young people from striving for far-reaching goals. And, it’s contributing to millions of workers staying in jobs that they don’t like and perhaps aren’t even good at. In a nutshell, we’re biding our time and selling ourselves short.

From my own personal experience, I know that I’m a far more productive person now as a business owner than when I had a 40 hour a week job. I used to feel claustrophobic knowing that I indefinitely had to be in the same cubical five days a week working with the same people. Now, I feel free, and my capabilities have increased dramatically.

Our future rests in the hands of those who are not trapped in bad jobs. Innovation isn’t going to come from the worker who thinks of his work as drudgery. Inspiration doesn’t derive from those who are putting in their time only to collect benefits and a 401K. We need to have more people rescued from their self-imposed collapsed mines if we are ever going to move forward post-recession.

In the meantime, I’ll keep watching those miners and hope to god that they get out safely. When they do, I bet they will have a new appreciation for life and will make the most of every day.

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