Unavoidable Fact of Life # 2: Neither is anything else (safe, that is).

Posted on | March 19, 2009 | Comments Off on Unavoidable Fact of Life # 2: Neither is anything else (safe, that is).

In last week’s blog we explored Unavoidable Fact #1: Your job is not safe. There are three more, and here is #2. . .

Not only is your job not safe, but, in case you haven’t looked lately, neither is anything else!  In spite of huge breakthroughs in medicine and technology, we still get cancer and have heart attacks. Cars run off the road, airplanes occasionally go down-and do NOT land safely in the Hudson River. The Ebola virus gets released and thousands die, or people eat some bad hamburger and E-Coli gets the little ones. Heatstroke, freezing weather, hurricanes and tidal waves. Drought, floods. Street crime. Terrorism of all sorts. If none of these are present in your world, you can still slip in the bathtub and do some real damage to yourself. Hey, you can go to Macdonald’s and get hot coffee in your lap!
Bottom line: life itself is not ‘safe’. Never has been. Our Neanderthal ancestors lived a lot closer to the elements and, as a result, understood this better than we do. They knew that every time Krag walked out of the cave to hunt, he might not come back. Childbirth was a dicey affair; many mothers and infants simply didn’t make it. If Krag and the other hunters got lucky, the clan lived for another season; if they came home empty-handed, everyone died. There was no, “Well, darn, no meat? Somebody go to the store and put it on the credit card.”  
Right about here is where several friends told me, ‘Geez, John, lighten up! This could get depressing.’ But it’s just a simple truth I’m pointing to: Most of us don’t like to dwell on the risks associated with being alive. This is because every ‘bad’ thing that happens to us, any major change, actually (such as being laid off or even getting a new boss), unconsciously reminds us of the one inevitable great loss in life: the loss of life.  We hide from death-and from all the ‘little deaths’-by trying to put it all out of sight. Acknowledging, even honoring, the reality of death and the risks that come with being alive can change the way we live. Standing quietly beside my mother’s bed at 4:00 AM as she died in our home still moves me six years later. That experience of the ultimate breaking in puts things in perspective.  
We started this conversation looking at what is happening these days to many people and their job in the workplace. The point of Unavoidable Fact #2: your workplace is not something uniquely risky. The workplace is simply a reflection of the rest of life.  For a while, over the years, we had been able to distance ourselves from uncertainty at work by finding a good company, working hard and remaining loyal. Now the risks that are so clearly a built-in to the rest of life have begun to show up at work, too.  

Great. . . What can we do?

Ahhh. . . Next time we look at Unavoidable Fact of Life #3: Your (old) way of coping won’t work anymore. Relax. We’re getting there. Stay tuned. . .


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