Revolution is not the uprising against preexisting order, but the setting up of a new order contradictory to the traditional one.
Jose Ortega y Gasset
If you are completely content in your life and work and play, then there is absolutely no reason for you to read this. But if are not content and are not even sure what contentment looks like for you, then read on. If you feel like you trudge through each day in order to be able to acquire a lot of stuff, then read on. If you feel like you are in a sprint that has no finish line, then read on. If you find yourself asking What the hell am I actually doing? then read on. You are certainly not alone.
There is a revolution building in America. This is not a revolution of geography or of race and was not born of injustices imposed on a suppressed minority. This revolution is about changing the definition of the American Dream – from one of Quantity of Life back to Quality of Life. There’s a reason that hundreds of angry Americans Occupy Wall Street. The Givers are mad as hell at the Takers. There is a bubbling malaise just under the surface in America that has festered for too long and is beginning to ooze out. It doesn’t matter that protests lack cohesion. What matters is that – like all revolutions – the promise of a better life in exchange for hard work becomes exposed as the lie it is for the working class and poor. And that’s where we are today.
We did this to ourselves. We bear much of the responsibility for the oppression we feel because we opted into a belief – consciously or unconsciously – that required us to work more, in order to earn more, in order to spend more, in order to have more. In exchange for this Faustian formula to create a bigger and therefore better life, we gave up a lot. We give up time mostly. Time with our partners. Time with our families. Time with our friends. Time by ourselves. Time off. Time doing things we love to do. Time reading. Time volunteering. Time creating. Time dreaming.
It has become very common to hear the phrase “Well I just don’t have the time for that.” The thing is this: we all have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. We have simply chosen to prioritize that time in a way that fulfills us less and the Quantitative American Dream more.
But what about the Qualitative American Dream? What does it look like? How do we even define it? If you achieved it, what would it look like?
There is a very rare opportunity now for us to begin to heal America not from the TOP DOWN but the BOTTOM UP by embracing quality of life over quantity of life. Our closets are full. Our attics are full. Are basements are full. Our self-serve storage units are full. But our lives are empty.
We are waiting for our politicians to solve America’s economic problems and they are simply incapable of doing so from two perspectives: (1) they only believe the economy can be saved if it grows; and (2) they believe that the strategy that will drive recovery is a TOP DOWN strategy – one that will come from them. They are wrong on both counts.
No one from Washington ever said “Hey Dr. King. How about you organize some marches to protest social injustice in America.” He and his colleagues did not wait for anybody, anything. They simply took the initiative and did it. Dr. King did not WAIT. He took action – and America was changed forever – from the BOTTOM UP.
The strategies that drive revolutions always start at the BOTTOM, and, if successful, work their way up the pyramid – it may take 100 years but if enough people opt in, it will happen. The Qualitative Revolution starts with you. It costs nothing, it’s easy to start, and if enough people simply START, it can reset America’s expectations and goals in creating a New American Dream – a dream that is accessible to all and helps redefine what we mean by a better life today.
So how do you start a revolution? Most start with a manifesto. Here’s ours:
The Qualitative Manifesto
1. Take less
This applies to all things material and refocuses the individual on exactly what she needs. How much food is needed, how much transportation is needed, how much housing is needed, how much clothing is needed. Consume what you need and no more. Eat less. Drink less. Own less. Recycle. Waste not. Be selfless.
2. Give more
Whatever you don’t need and are not using, give it away to family, friends, and others who are in greater need and are suffering. No storage of any kind. Ever. Give your gifts. Your talents, your time and your treasures. There will always be someone with less who is suffering more.
3. Take ownership
If you are out of work, it is your responsibility to find or create new work. Not the government’s. Not your former employer’s. Yours. If a Wall Street bank puts itself in jeopardy, that’s too bad. It should not be bailed out. If a business fails twice, it should not be able to file for bankruptcy again. While you might be angry at the system, it is terribly stressed. Don’t make it worse by becoming a TAKER.
4. Take initiative
Make your own breaks. Get off the couch. Turn off the TV. Get moving. Ideas all by themselves are worthless. The rewards go to people who do something with an idea. Do something with yours. Go to the library. Go to a free concert. Look at the most successful entrepreneurs. Many of them started out in a garage with nothing and turned an idea into something that other people wanted. Remember: Steve Jobs started with nothing.
5. Judge less
We are all imperfect beings. We spend too much time assessing the actions of others and make judgments based on our own expectations. We spend too much time complaining, pointing out problems, yet offering little in the way of solutions. We don’t need a clearer articulation of the problem. We need a clearer articulation of the solution.
6. Compliment more
We need to spend more time connecting with people who are able to provide solutions. We need to engage them in the discussion and encourage them every step of the way. Compliments that are genuine radiate back to us. Build up. Do not tear down.
7. Talk less
We spend too much time listening to ourselves talk. We have way more to learn than we have to say – ALL of us. We have the capacity of solving all our problems if we spend more time formulating the solutions before we open our mouths. Pay attention. Be respectful. Don’t be quick to respond. Be patient.
8. Listen more
Lifelong learning is a beautiful thing. Open your mind. Let it all in. Formulate. Then decide. Try this exercise: Do not offer an opinion until and unless you are asked for it. Shakespeare said, “Listen to many, speak to a few.” Be humble.
9. Work less
This doesn’t have to mean earn less, though it might. Work is a good thing. It can serve as a resource that enables us to fund the things that truly fulfill us. But there’s a reason it’s called work. Leave it at the office and leave the office at a reasonable time. You can do quality work in exchange for a salary that can help fund what you really want to do outside of work. Or you can create your own work. That’s the best of all worlds.
10. Play more
Spend more time doing the things you love – things that inspire you, that make you feel good about yourself – that make you tap your foot or sing in the shower. Pursue your passion. There’s plenty of time for work. Insist on plenty of time for play. Dream your own American Dream.
It’s up to us as individuals to be creative, to be proactive and to take charge of our own lives. It starts with a trickle – the brave few that break free from the old, quantitative way of thinking, measuring, living – only to start on a new path that is designed by them. As the number of people who adopt this new way of thinking increases, the flow of this new energy, this new freedom increases – people employ themselves, they create new businesses that draw on their talents and passions. Those that are successful will employ others with similar courage, talents and passions.
Qualitative growth will be difficult to measure. We will not likely be able to use the same scorecard to measure the success of this new economy because this is about your own personal measure of contentment. The new qualitative economy will be driven by YOU. Not the President, not Congress, not the lobbyists, not big corporations. YOU. Hopefully as the this new way of thinking emerges, the economists and government will be able to create new measurements that accurately reflect how to measure what it takes to achieve and live the new Qualitative American Dream.
Stand up for the creation of your new life where you and only you are the architect. It doesn’t take much to opt-in. You can do it one step at a time. Your assignment for tomorrow is to consciously initiate just one of the steps above in order to activate your own Qualitative Revolution. When you do, pay attention to how it makes you feel. Write it down. Send me an email. Call your best friend. Then do it again.