There are certain times when only a year’s worth of change happens, and other times when it feels like a decade’s worth of change gets packed into a single year. The past three years are definitively in the latter category. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical earthquakes such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and economic crises such as the cost-of-living crisis, all unfolding simultaneously are reminiscent of the tumultuous years surrounding the 1970s oil shock, which took approximately 20 years to regain stability. This time, can we expedite the authorship of a deeper, fresher narrative of stability, and progress?
What has emerged from this new epoch? It is an inherently distinct paradigm, intertwined with a renaissance of sorts. Simultaneously, we observe a remarkable duality between progress and a resurgence of foundational principles. Culture now draws upon historical roots as a pioneering force for the future, transforming adversity and unrest into innovative creations. These cultural shifts reflect a multitude of present opportunities, while economic trends reveal that traditional work structures have given way to a vast array of novel prospects.
In other words, the shift and new Renaissance has caused a redefined American Dream, indicative of the societal trends, and an indicator of trends to come.
Redefining the way we work and live
People are defining the way they live and work, and the intersection of the two, in a new way.
What has this new era created? A fundamentally different point of view, but at the same time, a revival. Trends towards roots. Concurrently, we’re witnessing a striking dichotomy between advancement, and a return to roots; “culture” using roots from the past to pioneer the future, brought out of trouble and turmoil to make something new. Cultural trends are indicative of a wealth of opportunities presently available, while economic trends demonstrate that while “conventional” work may have changed, it opened the door wide open to novel opportunities.
An unparalleled exodus of American workers quit their jobs during the “Great Resignation” of 2021. In the month of July alone, a staggering four million Americans left their jobs, and a reported 50% of the entire US workforce expressed contemplation of doing the same. What motivated this mass departure? According to a report from McKinsey & Company, 70% of employees discover their life’s purpose through their work, while a separate study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that frontline employees primarily seek “meaning in day-to-day work” as their top priority when selecting an organization to work for.
We are at a unique point in human history, reexamining and revitalizing the way we live and work.
The pandemic designed a different culture, now with a renewed focus on lifestyle and the notion of vocation being asked again, rather than assuming a corporate ladder is the only ladder. We’re witnessing a resurgence in focus on values; the juxtaposition of pioneering new businesses in tandem with returning to roots, while at the same time in the pursuit of a fuller life.
A dichotomy between pioneering, and returning to roots, the “good stuff” that brings richness to life.
The Pandemic Revealed The Hidden Ability/Possibility Of Thriving In Hard Times
A concept that is arguably at the core of the concept of the American Dream.
Few things have been more central to American identity than the American Dream. The concept of the American Dream and manifest destiny have evolved throughout eras, with a striking correlation to geopolitical and economic shifts. In essence, it’s the idea overcoming the odds stacked against you through grit, hard work, and perseverance; a story of finding (or creating) opportunity against all odds. It’s a concept personified by stories of rags to riches, of gumption, grit, and ingenuity.
In this Current Era, however, a quiet shift has occurred. In a culture somewhat defined by a focus on achievement, most notably, the American Dream today examines the potential of the richness that can be created within a life, nearly in tandem with the traditional focus on upward mobility. Arguably, this era, more than what any other current generations have witnessed, there’s also a focus on slow living, and living well. The latter, defined as much by fullness of life alongside financial prosperity. The recognition that opportunities can be unearthed right where you’re at, even in the darkness. And, most notable of all (and the true harkening/proof of the new era): a reversion away from the “heading west mentality”, and a return to the concept of “aspiring to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and to work with your own hands.” Now, it’s not so much the classic concept centered around “heading west” (as demonstrated by the Taylor Sheridan shows 1883 and 1923), but returning to what is truly good.
Now, there’s no nothing to be gained by trying to paint the pandemic through the lens of rose colored glasses. We all saw some people who broke under the strain of the experience, assuredly. Few events prepare a person for the endurance of undergoing a long-running trial and tribulation. But for others, it didn’t just expose inner strength, it shook the dust off; it re-awakened dormant curiosities that had been lost and shoved down in the hustle. With more time (shutdown), there was opportunity for explorative thought. With increased challenges to every aspect of livelihood, some were still able to find joy, and demonstrated a perspective shift. And with an assault on health acting as a reminder to recalibrate focus on what matters, there was a renewed appreciation for amore fati.
Glorifying entrepreneurism is also entirely and utterly void of merit. The takeaway, however: sometimes it takes enduring a battle to discover that hidden path. But sometimes, it takes something “off script” to jolt our perspective, and in that, we find something that would’ve stayed hidden otherwise.
It is possible to thrive in difficult times.