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A Good Job:
What Lessons Are We Teaching Our Kids?
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“50/50 is a partnership. 90/10 is employment.” This is a quote attributed to the late artist Prince Rogers Nelson. I can’t find any proof that he actually said this, but the intent of the words are nonetheless true.

So what are we teaching ourselves, our children and our grandchildren about ownership, partnership and employment? And by teaching, I wonder how we are teaching? Are they learning from our words or our examples?


I know my parents believed in my potential but also told me from as early as I can remember that I should study hard, get good grades, go to college, so that I could get a good job. That was the extent of their ambition for me. 


A good job. 


First, I know that they wanted me to have a good life, with security and prosperity, but their vision didn’t include ownership of my own business nor independent wealth. It was a very practical life they envisioned for their artistic second son…as an insurance man.


Second, I know the options of their generation and subsequently mine were limited in the pathways open to the average, middle-class blacks. Armed with that knowledge, you set your expectations at a reasonable level which as I imagine is for all parents, that your children have a better life than you have.


Third, my parents had dreams that were placed on the shelf where all unfilled dreams go because reality dictated that they sacrifice their dreams for the security of the family they are raising. If you dreamt of being a world traveling ballet dancer, you left that behind when you had kids to feed.


Fourth, they and we can only teach what we know. For most of my life, I believed that if you wanted to start a business, you had to be wealthy or get money from a bank for thousands of dollars in investments. That’s not true. Usually there is a small fee involved to legally start a business – running that business is an entirely different matter, when it comes to the money needed. 


No one in my life was a successful entrepreneur. No one had their own business to mentor me. All I saw was people who worked for the government or for a company and they had bosses above them.


This country’s promise that you can be anything you want to be through your vision and determination seems to not be realized in the lives of everyone, perhaps just a select few. That leaves the rest of us to scratch through an existence of “good enough” or settling for less, in service of others who pocket all the benefits of our labor.


Now I am not claiming that everyone needs to be an owner of a Fortune 500 company that trades on the stock exchanges, nor am I claiming that we can’t achieve our dreams. I allow that success for some people is finding a profession and making a 30+ year career of it. That’s their choice and that’s great if it’s an actual choice and not a situation. 


How many are in a situation where we work for others, hating what we do but gritting our teeth and grinding the years away because we need a job? A “survival job” that keeps us in shelter, clothes, transportation and food, while wishing we had a better life…


I have a friend who was in-between jobs at one point. We spoke about the nature of work and employment. I asked that friend what lessons were her children receiving by her example versus what did she want them to learn? A difficult question because of her situation. She needed to provide for them and she was willing to work hard to do that. That type of responsibility is a lesson they should get but she also wanted them to not have to rely on others for their security and income; to not be in her situation. To not be just someone else’s employee.


That means they need to know what the possibilities are and how to make them a reality instead of a dream. Thankfully, in today’s world that type of thing is easier to achieve than in years past. Technology can turn any of us into our own brand, influencer and empire builder.  But we need to also know how to legally protect that brand and all other aspects for a business where the individual is the product, as well as, our intellectual property. 


We need more ownership, leadership and education for the people in our communities if we want to have a future where we can be more than employees and workers.

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