Friday, January 2, 2009

Teach yourself to fish -- acquiring survival skills for a modern world

There is an old quote, supposedly a Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." I suggest that, figuratively, you may want to teach yourself to fish, that is, learn the skills you need to take care of yourself in this modern world. Here are some challenges for areas where learning will enhance your chances of survival in threatening financial times:

1. Learn how the system works. This challenge involves learning how the systems around work in the real world. For example, learning how the banking system works so you can get errors in your bank account corrected and find all the hidden charges you are paying. Another example, learning how the insurance system works so you can get lower insurance rates and actually have the coverage you need. Ignorance in this area results in people always thinking the system is out to get them. They live in a siege mentality all the time because the never understand how to manipulate the system to their advantage. They are the people who show up in court ready to defend themselves without knowing what is going on. They are also the people who end up paying more for everything, especially for repairs, because they don't understand how their car works, or their computer, or their dishwasher. Ask yourself, can I fix a leaking faucet? If the answer is no, then you are someone who needs to learn how the system works.

2. Use the right tool. One day a friend and I were trying to fix the front steering arm ball joints on my car. We worked most of the day trying to separate the ball joint to remove the steering arm. (If you don't understand what I am talking about, go back to No. 1) We finally gave up. The next day we talked to another friend about our problem. He said, we needed a ball joint fork. We got one and the job actually took two minutes. The point here is that there is usually a specific tool to do a specific job, whether it be taking pictures, camping, snow boarding, flying a kite, whatever. If you always get the right tool, you will be able to do the job without hiring expensive outside help every time. Buying the right tool is usually cheaper than hiring someone to fix the problem. Sometimes you may just need to rent the tool, however.

3. Anticipate trouble. This is a variation on the motto of the Boy Scouts, be prepared. But more than being prepared it is a frame of mind that says that things will go wrong and what can we do about it. For example, when traveling in a car long distances with children, you can assume that someone will throw up. So you plan for the inevitable or you clean up throw up. There is a simple solution, always carry a throw up can or bowel. If someone even thinks about getting sick, make sure they have the No. 10 can well available for use. If you are always thinking about what you are going to do if you lose your job, you probably will come up with a strategy to make some income rather than going to work at MacDonald's.

4. Learn how to dodge the ball. This challenge can be conquered by staying awake and watching what is going on around you. You should always be acquiring new skills, getting additional education, learning everything you need to take advantage of opportunities as well as avoid the anticipated trouble. Now is the time to go to school to acquire that degree or learn how to do upholstery or bake bread or sew. When is there ever going to be any more time? It is always heartwarming to hear about a wife who goes back to school to support her newly disabled husband, but why wait until the guy is disabled? Go to school now. Take an online course, attend continuing education classes. Don't just take some fluffy feel good stuff, but learn real skills like welding or tire repair. Learn how to make flint arrowheads. Learn how to fly or whatever, but always be learning a skill. That is how you dodge the ball.

5. Get off the couch. If you are going to play computer games then become the best and compete nationally. There is always a challenge. We used to have state and county fairs and people could show off their handiwork. Today we have the same thing, only it is all on the Internet. Learn how to do something really well. Become the best whatever and then get in the Guinness Book of Records, or at least try. Life is too short not to try. Try looking at the oldest performing ballerina for inspiration.

Get to work. Tempus fugit.

No comments: