Herman Cain vs. Steve Jobs vs. Occupy Wall Street

Last week, while walking home in Brooklyn after meeting some friends, the heel of my boot got stuck in a hole in the sidewalk, breaking my shoe and sending me flying into the air. I eventually landed on both my knees on cobblestone and then fell on my right side in pain. I couldn’t get up for 20 minutes and somehow picked the one street in New York City to fall on that no one else uses. I could have at least used someone to take a picture in case I could have sued!

Until I got up, shook it off, and limped home shaken, I sat on the street wondering what would happen if I couldn’t get up on my own. I should have worried about physical pain, but I was more worried in that instance about what would happen if I had really injured myself with a crappy health insurance situation as a single woman who owns a solopreneur business. The Opportunities Project has made it through its first year, but just barely, and if I had broken something, what would I do to pay for that care… and how would it impact my ability to serve clients… and what would happen to everything I’d taken a risk to try to build for myself and others over 80+ hour weeks since I first had my idea for my business in late 2009. Just because of a damn dark hole in the sidewalk.

It turned out that I had banged myself up pretty bad, but self-treatable- I spent almost 4 days flat on my back with a heating pad on my bruised side and lots of Alieve. So yeah, I’ve been dealing with increased anxiety the last week or so exacerbated by staring at the ceiling (I also made some poor book choices. Sorry, Tina Fey). While I’m not 100% ready to formally announce things yet, I am on the verge of some business and personal changes. Decisions have been made, plans sketched out, but been difficult to physically put into action just now, even though I’m psychologically ready. But no matter how much clarity I have, I’m also worried about the uncertainty my choices will bring and the stability of the market… and how I went from being someone with an MPA in economics and finance to someone who is passionate about and really good at career coaching, social media, teaching and recruiting… things that just go with recessions like peanut butter and jelly? Breathe. But then there were also these things I heard or read the last week:

– “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”- Herman Cain

– “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”- Steve Jobs

– “I don’t want anyone listening today to think that once you’re done with high school, you’re done learning, or that college isn’t for you… You have to start expecting big things for yourself, right now… Take some risks once in a while..” -President Obama

– Someone who seems to have taken both President Obama’s advice (get your college degree, become a teacher) and counsel from Steve Jobs (follow your heart and intuition) from We Are the 99%.

The number of BFAs under 30 on the We Are the 99% blog with $85K+ in student loan debt has made my heart feel like it’s going to jump out of my chest. All around, the housing and medical debt are making my shoulders hunch permanently.

The problem is everything Cain, Jobs, Obama and Occupy Wall Street say are true, at last in part. Over the last year, I’ve met some amazing job seekers… and a lot who like to play the victim and/or don’t understand that creating success requires a disciplined plan and patience, among other things. But the majority of unemployed young professionals I’ve met are good people who did everything they were told to do by their parents, civic leaders and institutions to launch a career… study hard, go to a good school, pick something you like to do and are good at, get internships… and are stuck in place with few opportunities. Even for those of us who are taking risks, it is almost impossible without family wealth or the institutions previous generations could count on, like your local bank, to be there in your corner.

The rules have changed and the institutions we’re forced to work with- education, banks, and health care- won’t admit it and don’t have to change, and our political leaders are playing naive. I read some posts in my Facebook feed that the Occupy Wall Street protestors should watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford speech and understand personal responsibility instead of blaming companies, but Jobs believed our institutions should be focused on serving customers and users more than anything else. Harvard Business Review agrees. So everyone is right and everyone is wrong. And we all continue to suffer and wonder when and if anything will change other than bring more and different anxiety.

I spent yesterday upright, told my fear to go f’off for the day, and then followed up with as many clients as possible who are dealing with their own transitions, sent the final version of The Opportunities Project’s Quarter 4 plan to my team, and prepared for a group coaching session I led last night. To cure my anxiety, I can take responsibility for my future as much as I can and use my passions and talents to to serve others, and hope that no more hidden sidewalk holes creep up until the health care system can better serve someone like me. To make change, I can talk about the issues and challenge people to get real about what problems we’re actually facing. But is that enough?