Today was the last day of school here in Finland. Again thousands of young people graduated from their schools. Most notable of these graduations is the high school (lukio) graduation.
Graduating high school means a big party.
I was invited to one of these parties held by my wife’s relative. More interesting than the party itself was the atmosphere of success. The 19-year old girl who graduated was a straight-A student. She was obviously up for a scholarship for her success. Here’s basically what happened:
- She worked her ass off for 13 years in school to get to this point.
- She still doesn’t know why she’s doing it.
- But luckily the school does, they awarded her with a scholarship worth 85 € for a job well done.
Apart from Harry Potter, who has ever been sorry that the school term ends?
In Finland we have the compulsory education (oppivelvollisuus) sometimes called “koulupakko” as in “forced school”. Learning new things, basically the most fascinating thing out there, is turned it to a compulsory duty.
On top of that the school system has crappy incentives. It’s not like 85 € was in any balance with the amount of work and dedication a person puts into their studying in order to get there. The only real incentive for doing well in school is that you on average get a better job.
I will argue that such a distant incentive is not motivating for almost anyone. In order for people to do well in school they must adopt a personal incentive on the meta-level. You have to learn to like what you’ve been told – not to learn more about whatever you like.
In the recent months I’ve detected a growing interest for downshifting in the Finnish media. Simply put, an increasing number of people are being fed up with what they do and want an easy way out.
People think shifting down is a solution.
I will argue that downshifting is actually a symptom, not a solution. Here are five reasons commonly heard against downshifting:
- Having to give up on the small pleasures of life.
- Ending up bankrupt.
- Losing one’s market value as an employee.
- Being a bad role model.
- Becoming an outcast of society.
All of these are possible scenarios but utter rubbish if you ask me. These objections are relevant only if you analyze your life top-down. Instead, you should start looking at things from the very fundamentals with a bottom-up method.
Assume for a second that you’d own absolutely nothing.
Pretty difficult to start downshifting from there. If you start from the bottom, you can only start upshifting.
- Instead of giving up something, you can enjoy anything.
- Instead of risks, all you see is possibilities.
- Suddenly the small things in life make a difference.
Instead of downshifting, start from zero and upshift a bit to the level you’re comfortable with.
In a recent research conducted by Taloustutkimus for TWBA North it was found that 53 % of Finns are unaware of the purpose of the work they are doing. This means that 1.6 million people in our country wake up every day and do their daily chores without even knowing why. How many people would keep doing what they do even if they were explicitly told their work has no purpose whatsoever?
What on earth is wrong with people?
No one can be truly happy without a clear purpose in what they do. It is no wonder that 400,000 Finns are taking antidepressants to fill the lack of purpose they’re suffering from. But the lack of purpose does not end there. Most people are teaching their children that they should study hard so they can get a job. Shouldn’t someone tell the kids that there is a 50 % chance that they will end up in some corporate job doing stuff without even knowing why.
In the end it all comes down to money.
People are willing to suffer for money. Money is then used to supposedly alleviate the pain created by a crappy job. Everyone should ask themselves whether this really works for them? Can someone really say the money is enough to fill the void caused by a purposeless job? If you are that person, I’d really like to meet you. I’d love to share your ideas with these 1.6 million Finns that are struggling with the same issues.
What could we do better?
It’s up to every individual to make a personal choice. Personally, I try to limit my effort to doing things that have a purpose. And more importantly, I want people who I’m working with to feel the same way.
Have you ever been puzzled by how a company works?
Let me tell you how.
A company is a jigsaw puzzle where people are the unique pieces of a larger entity. Each individual has a certain way they fit to the team. A person in a wrong role might feel like a close fit but in the end is found more or less useless.
The manager is the person who plays the puzzle. A good manager sees the similarities between two or more people and finds the way to fit them into the organization. Not every piece out there will ever fit the puzzle.
A complete puzzle forms a bigger picture.
The company is truly successful when all the pieces fit. When that happens it is irrelevant what the bigger picture actually is. A team with a perfect fit can be successful in anything.
What can we learn from all this?
If you’re a piece of the puzzle, make sure you fit perfectly at least with all the pieces next to you.
If you’re playing the puzzle make sure you have the right set of pieces to start with. Otherwise you’ll end up frustrated with an unfinished puzzle.
I have been the CEO of a company called Selki Fabrik for over a year now. I still consider this position to be my day job although I’ve never gotten paid for doing it.
The contrast between this project and my day job is enormous. In my project, things seem to proceed like magic and in my day job I have a list of miscellaneous tasks that feel unapproachable. Ihmeparantaja Iiro saw my concern for this and offered to help.
Our biggest concern in the company has been getting the products sold. Iiro suggested that he could go and sell everything we had in stock. This sounded like a good idea, so we went along. However, the stuff needed to be finished. While finishing the products, we ended up discussing the true meaning of our actions. Why does the company do what it does?
Within minutes Ihmeparantaja Iiro had identified the strategic flaws we weren’t brave enough to say out loud ourselves.
Although Iiro does not use the professional terminology, he was able to point out that:
- We are lacking strategic vision
- We are fiddling with details that are not important to our business
- We are too emotional about sunk costs
- We are product-oriented not people-oriented
Selling the few products to make some money is definitely not the strategy we should pursue even though someone would do it for us for free. So we decided not to. What we did decide is that we will have an answer to all the painful questions by the end of the week.
Suddenly I’m confident that Selki Fabrik has a bright future in front of it.
Let me tell you a true story on how a person should start a business.
My youngest brother Iiro is 20 years old. He doesn’t intend to have a job for the rest of his life. He has zero respect for making money which means integrity. But his respect for other people is enormous.
His coaching has contributed to my success.
When I make my million it is much to his credit. His coaching is by far the best I’ve ever received, from anyone. I told him his service is immensely valuable so we set the price at 10,000 € + tax.
Within hours, my brother had become from an unemployed person to the highest priced life coach in the country.
That is how you start a business. Check out his advertisement (in Finnish) on his new website ihmeparantaja.com.