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Friday, February 12, 2010

OLD SCHOOL

I am often accused of being "old school" which, I guess, means I'm out of step with the times. If it's a matter of saying "please" and "thank you," some basic manners such as holding a door open for someone, showing some consideration and respect for others, a sense of duty, or just trying to lead an honorable and meaningful life, then I guess I'm guilty as charged. I also think being "old school" means valuing a dollar earned and having the ability to do so. I get the uneasy feeling though that "new school" believes they are entitled to everything; be it a cell phone, an education, a job, health care, prosperity, or some other material possession. True, each generation tries to make life easier for the next, but I'm afraid there is no guarantee for success in life and entitlement is a myth embraced by the "new school."

If the recession of 2008-2009 taught us anything, it's that we are entitled to nothing; everything must be earned, regardless if it is money, a material object, a promotion, love, or respect, and as such should be valued dearly. If you did not earn it, you will not value it. Consider this: who appreciates an expensive wristwatch more; the person who worked hard and saved his money to buy it, or the person given it as one of a number of gifts showered upon him? Most likely, the former and not the latter.

Entitlement means we believe we have some God-given right to something. The reality though is that we live in a capitalistic society where we are given the rare opportunity to work for ourselves which isn't always easy, but you are at least given a chance to prove yourself, hence the expression, "The land of opportunity." It encourages you to innovate, invent, explore, design, build, think, compete, and sweat, and it allows visionaries and entrepreneurs to flourish. However, it comes at a price; that you are responsible for your own actions and you may very well succeed as well as fail (it is called "risk"). The only thing you are entitled to under capitalism is the right to try. There are no guarantees for success or failure, and I believe we have done the "new school" a disservice in not teaching this properly.

"Old school" also implies you are not in step with the latest fashions or trends in technology. This may be true, but I tend to believe "old school" is not easily impressed by glitz and facade and is more concerned with finding pragmatic solutions instead. After already witnessing many social trends in their lifetime, "old school" is more concerned with simplicity and practicality as opposed to complexity.

I had a friend from the UK recently tell me about the differences between the generations in his family. He was born in pre-World War II London and vividly remembers his family essentially had nothing, yet he and his sister found ways of entertaining themselves and generally recalls a rather happy childhood. As he got older and had a family of his own, his children benefited from the prosperity following the War and enjoyed such creature comforts as television, refrigerators, microwave ovens, washing machines, etc. He now has grandchildren who have just about every toy imaginable, cell phones, computers, etc. Despite all of their materialism though, he believes he had a better childhood. Why? Because it was a simpler time and he focused more on playing with his friends as opposed to being preoccupied with electronic devices. His story makes a compelling argument that added complexity doesn't necessarily ensure happiness.

I guess the fundamental difference between "old school" and "new school" is that we have different values as a result of changing times. As for me, if I'm accused of being "old school," I'll take it as a compliment. I hope my children will do likewise when their turn comes.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.