Self-Improvement: Our Changing World
Machines obsolesce because they are unable to change. Times change; they must and will, with ever accelerating momentum. As they do, the machines of today will be outdated. But human beings are not machines, however fond they are of acting like them; they can change.
Never before in the history of man has it been so necessary as it is today for us to develop a new awareness of ourselves with respect to our changing world. We need to face the fact that in the world of tomorrow, jobs will be radically different, many will be eliminated entirely. What can we do about it? We can take the advice of the former president of the University of Chicago, Robert M. Hutchins: “We can learn! If we refuse to learn, if we insist on acting like machines, we may ﬁnd ourselves idle tomorrow.”
Every job is a part of a much larger organization. Organizations and industries don’t die; they just change. The industry that once manufactured covered wagons is still here. But today it is making engines, tractors, and automobiles.
Let us say that through a set of circumstances a young man ﬁnds himself working as an attend- ant in a service station. He might wish he had done things differently, but it does no good to brood over the past. These are the facts: He is working in a service station. He wants to get married and have a home and children. And to do this, he decides that he must earn more money. His ﬁrst inclination is to look around for a job that pays more. But before he moves to a different job, he should be aware that the move entails not only earning more but also learning a good deal more than he now knows. Otherwise, the chances are he will be no better off than he is pumping gas.
I think that instead of just looking at his job, he should look at the whole industry of which it is a part. In our example this is the petroleum industry, one of the world’s largest and most proﬁtable. Without leaving his job for the present, he could spend his free time studying the industry he is already in. Now, instead of being a service station attendant. he is a trainee in a major industry. He no longer has just a job, he has his foot on the ﬁrst rung of what can be a ﬁne and extremely rewarding career. By sticking with his studies and doing an outstanding job when he is working, he will soon be able to marry and have that home and, in time, anything else he wants. Learning is the answer.
The same thing applies to the boy working in the supermarket, the local factory, or as a salesman. Naturally, it is best to stay in school, for school is the best place to-learn. But for those who have dropped out, the answer is the same. Learn! Learn all you can, and keep learning whether you are sixteen or sixty. And you will ﬁnd your way—a way infinitely more interesting and substantially more rewarding—in this changing world of ours.
The minute a man stops learning, our world will begin to pass him by. He will be left a lonely and disconsolate ﬁgure in its wake. To learn or not to learn is a decision each of us must make.
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Also published on Medium.