The year was 1987 and they paid me a lot of money to work as a temp.
Nobody uses the word "temp" anymore, but when I was sixteen that was a real thing. In Manhattan. I typed fast because my high school taught me how to do it and I'd studied piano, so there it was, something like 110 WPM (words per minute).
The typewriters were electric by then, and I got called in to substitute when the regular secretary was out.
I understand that administrative work is real. Please don't think I'm putting it down. But let's put our thinking caps on for a second. If you call me at 7:00 a.m. because someone is out sick that day and I park it at your desk and read the paper all day for $160 (that's $20 x 8, the rate I commanded in those days, which was good) - I guess I'd have to ask you why?
Imagine me and a hundred thousand other temps, on any given day, just sitting there. What for?
Sure I understand, it's an image thing, you want the office to look populated and real. But I never sat in the front of the office, that I can recall. It was always somewhere in the middle. Nobody would have noticed if I was there or not.
Companies find so many things to waste money on.
At some point it became cool to hire change consultants. Again I'm not knocking change consultants, you need them, but at the same time everybody knows that most things they say are common sense. The real reason for bringing them in is perceived objectivity - you can point your finger at a third party and say "they told me to do it."
Or maybe you just want a report that sits on a shelf - proof you cared.
I hate to say it but brand consultants have benefited from this tendency too. It's actually frustrating for most consultants I know because they want to do amazing work for the client, but the client hires them for some hidden psychological need that only Freud could unearth with daily sessions.
Today it's coaches that are all the rage. Again, I think they're awesome, I've benefited from a ton of coaching and my attitude is, "Bring it on!" Anything to make the workplace run healthier.
But if you really sit down and do the math - what are you paying a coach to be, if not a professional friend?
At the end of the day the most valuable things in life are those you cannot pay for or sell. Insight. Love. Connection. Fulfillment. Meaning. A connection to the Infinite, to the Tao, to the Divine.
And the most important needs of the people on this planet can be delivered with robust technology.
I wonder to myself when we will start to see that. Like how many people will actually have to be poor before we take action? How many people will we see sleeping on a street bench or in a subway with garbage bags to keep out the rain?
How many kids will just have to live with their parents till they're old?
What will we do when there is only one Google to dream of working for, and everybody else is dreaming of Starbucks because they'll pay tuition for a college degree for a job market that may not exist anymore?
Well I guess we can always waste money. As consumers, too.
We can pretend that there is some connection between how much we earn and what we deserve in life...we can forget that none of it makes any sense.
A million dollars for a basic home.
Fifth thousand a year for college tuition - not including the dorm.
A thousand and a half for a pair of shoes.
Yes, we sure do deserve a lot of nice things, don't we.
The act of spending sure prevents a lot of unpleasant thoughts.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here. Photo via Wikipedia Commons.