The Mystery Package

Most of the stuff we buy today comes ready wrapped in a convenient package. Cars, holidays, media packages, insurance. Careers.

When they first came out they were an innovation, cutting complexity for things we did not understand, and reducing price in the process. They came in a variety, from two weeks in the Costs del Wherever for a week’s wages, or an adventure holiday up the Amazon for a couple of months wages. Careers were the same, with the price being the level of qualifications your effort, investment, privilege, and the willingness to meet the requirements of others. The prize was security, a regular income and a pension at the end of it.

The package today seems to have got lost in the post. We no longer buy cars, we effectively rent them, converting finite debt to perpetually renewing rent. Package holidays are fragile with what we find in the package at best variable and marketed as commodities using the cheapest ingedients available. Media packages are more like fast food, stuffed full of things we don’t need and rarely use with little nutritional value. Insurance, that has accomplished the astonishing trick of getting consumers to understand they will be overcharged as standard if they autorenew. “Caveat Emptor” on steroids. Remarkable.

And the career package has gone from one that was understood to last a lifetime to one of convenience for the employer. We are all, with the exception of the few academics and senior civil servants who are tenured, on differing levels of gig package in the service of “agility”. We lease jobs on short term contracts, and the terms are getting shorter.

This of course works both ways, as long as we understand what we are doing. It requires us to regard loyalty to brands or employers as a liability on our personal balance sheet rather than an asset, and our own development as a personal responsibility rather than an “in job benefit.”I don’t know of many employers who train for the benefit of the individual (though there are some, they are the exception)

Whilst in many ways, it’s easy to be nostalgic about the old packages, they were a well marketed myth. At the least the current understanding has the smell of reality about it.

So to whom and what do we pledge allegiance in this time? That’s down to each of us, but here’s my package:

  1. To look after myself properly so that I can look after who and what are important to me.
  2. To help those and what are important by doing what I can to move what’s holding them back out of the way. They don’t need my advice, they just need me to keep down the weeds that might choke them.
  3. To keep my values in front of me all the time. My beliefs are continually evolving, but I find my values constant. I just need to make sure I don’t lose sight of them in the confusion.

What are yours?

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