What is your life worth to you? $20, $40, $100 an hour? Putting a monetary value on something of such value as your life feels obscene. Unfortunately, far too many people come to the end of their life only to realize and regret that they traded their life away for survival. Most people do not get the opportunity to stop and take a break from survival mode long enough to reflect on their life and their own inherent value until they are confronted with their own mortality.
Enter 2020. For the first time in modern history, humanity was compelled to pause collectively due to the pandemic on a global scale. People were forced to take a break from the rat race of survival. As a result, many began to think about their lives, their desires, and their purpose. When the pandemic restrictions were eventually lifted, many saw life beyond the limiting lens of survival and decided they could no longer incrementally trade their life away for money. This has led to what is being coined ‘The Great Resignation.’
For almost five years of my precious life, I voluntarily put myself in a state penitentiary for convicted felons. Why would I put myself in prison, you might ask? The answer is pretty simple and straightforward. I did it for a paycheck.
Like many of us, I was raised in a home emphasizing the all-consuming need to survive. My father immigrated to the United States from an impoverished part of the world, and my mother was raised in a part of the Midwest were hard work to put food on the table represented the highest achievement of human potential. As a child, it didn’t take long for me to pick up on the subliminal message – – life is something worth trading away for survival.
Like my ancestors before me, I followed the well-worn path of finishing high school, starting a family, and subsequently struggling to find work. I became a corrections officer in state prison due to a contact with my father, who helped me apply and secure an interview. After graduating from the training academy and completing a lengthy probationary evaluation, I started my employment.
What ensued was a five-year prison sentence. I was an employee of the state but spent the best hours of my day behind bars. I discovered that the line between prisoner and prison guard is actually pretty thin. The running joke among the staff was that we were all sentenced to life in prison, we just did it in eight-hour installments.
Although I put myself in a literal prison for a paycheck, I’m convinced this is an appropriate metaphor for what we are all conditioned to do without giving it much thought. Prison is anywhere we feel forced to go in exchange for time. When we trade time for money, what we are actually trading away is our life. An hour of our time spent in this way is actually an hour closer to the grave.
We were born to work. However, our work needs to be connected to more than survival. While businesses need employees to produce their products and services, and we all need to earn a living wage to meet life’s needs and expenses, the future workforce is rapidly evolving. Business leaders who simply focus on the bottom line and see their employees as cogs in a corporate wheel will struggle to maintain a competent and sufficiently-staffed workforce. This is exactly what we are currently seeing in industries across the spectrum. Many of these businesses and corporations will be unable to survive this current revolution.
Business leaders who understand that ‘The Great Resignation’ is really ‘The Great Liberation’ will be able to facilitate an evolving workforce that will mutually benefit their own companies and their employees. A new paradigm is emerging in which employees need to feel they are investing their time and talent into a more worthwhile vision than simply profits and bottom lines. Employees also need to feel their current jobs are preparing them to move forward on their own personal journeys. Such companies will not only survive ‘The Great Liberation,’ they will serve as the backbone of a more conscientious approach to business that benefits everyone.
Jamal Jivanjee is an Amazon best-selling author, a podcaster, and a full-time life coach with over twenty years of experience. Learn more about Jamal and his latest book “Living for a Living,” by visiting www.jamaljivanjee.com.
By Jamal Jivanjee