Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Being happy and a life of accomplishment

When I list the nice things about living in Southern Illinois, it is calm, quiet, smog free, people are nice, commutes are short, many of the frustrations of big city life are minimized, every commercial good you might want to buy is available easily. I guess if all you want to do is live a happy little life, this is a great place. A question I have been asking myself of late is can you live a life of great accomplishment here? If you can be happy, but not have great accomplishment, is that enough?

I have found living here one of our greatest challenges in trying to do economic development in Southern Illinois is that our most motivated people leave. As a matter of fact, one of the great pleasures of living the West Coast is hiring the Midwestern engineers who have moved to try their hand at the big time. Like an actor going to New York, almost all the people who are going to try to make their mark on this world move to be a little fish in a big pond, then work their way up.

SIU moves professors here to jobs that are pretty high quality based on quality of the work. If you are going to be a high school teacher, this is a fine place to do it. A few people have started companies that are very interesting and fulfilling. I certainly don't want to imply that being a librarian isn't a good life and worth living, but you have to decide if that life is enough for you.

As you know from reading my little blog, I see the world differently then most everyone else. In 1984, I was 21 years old and I left this place to go to Silicon Valley. I wasn't always happy, I was often stressed out and over worked, I got laid off or quit a number of jobs, but I was trying to live a life of great accomplishment and I was surrounded by people trying to do the same. There is joy to sharing the struggle with like minded people that I have missed for the last few years. I have my allies and friends, but we are the counter culture here. Maybe I'm just sick of being called lucky?

The rural economic development experts say that we aren't going to be able to attract big factory or corporate headquarters to places like this, we just don't have the money to pay for the blackmail/tax cuts required. It is cheaper and more possible to support and encourage your local entrepreneurs to create new business then steal them from somewhere else. Maybe Southern Illinois doesn't have a culture of entrepreneurship and might think about developing one at the local government level? What we are doing now isn't working well enough, we don't have enough entrepreneurs.

Your comments are welcome.

5 comments:

Arun said...

Well written and true.

nobody said...

okay let's imagine that it is possible to produce a corpora database that is useful for speech recognition. It seems like that would require a group of people with enough common will to establish it as fact, and to market it to the interested parties, i.e. SRI International, MITRE and the ONR.

Local folks would have to make it their own, or quickly it would become just another API in the MSDN. Do you think Southern Illinois has these people, or have they flown?

Really, there is more interest in gossip than in economy. Folks are just as pleased by humble failure as by rich success. Oftentimes, local culture prefers the former.

So maybe all it takes to be happy is to keep loving. Love what you are doing, love your family... you can even love your country because it is such lovely country!

Saluki87 said...

Very interesting post. Can you live a life of great accomplishment here? It depends upon your definition of that. I think it's generally harder to do that here due to economics and other local factors no matter what your definition is. I think if substantial financial success is part of your definition then it's extremely difficult. I look at financial success as a means to do other important things (create and provide jobs, family, community, etc.). The entrepreneurial successes are obviously very few here. Maybe you can make it with a start up like BoundlessGallery.com but it seems that most of the big financial successes here are the lawyers, doctors, bankers, landlords/real estate, insurance, and other service industry people. Yes, I know a handful of very successful non-service people too but they are the minority. I'll probably move on to take advantage of opportunities that don't exist here (tried the landlord thing-made lots of money but didn't like it) but most people should be able to be happy without great accomplishment. Hey, if your kids grow up to be normal, productive citizens isn't that a great accomplishment?

Peter in Carbondale said...

>> Local folks would have to make it their own, or quickly it would become just another API in the MSDN. Do you think Southern Illinois has these people, or have they flown?

>> Really, there is more interest in gossip than in economy. Folks are just as pleased by humble failure as by rich success. Oftentimes, local culture prefers the former.

I think that the people who start companies are college educated and 30 to 50 years old. Southern Illinois has no one in this demographic beyond college professors and doctors, professors don't start companies and doctors are busying getting rich in their little monopoly deal they are running with other doctors, drug companies and insurance companies. So, yes they have flown.

I quit writing this a few weeks ago and now I'm back. Guess what I'm writing about now?

Peter in Carbondale said...

I like Saluki87's comment, it is smart. Since the USA is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, I think a surprising number of people are rich by any measure. They have a nice place to live, one car per adult, a TV in every room, plenty to eat, clean water to drink, money for vacations and educating their children. If you compare the lower middle class in the USA today, to the rich of 100 years (or even 50) ago, every one of today's middle class is better off then the rich of yesteryear.

I think the separation of being happy from great accomplishment is what I was trying to write about. You can be happy and accomplish great things, you can be happy and accomplish nothing, you can be unhappy and accomplish great things, or you can be unhappy and accomplish nothing.

I was trying to write that in Southern Illinois most people have chosen to be happy and accomplish nothing great. That is fine with me, it is a free country. I think that actors that move to NYC are trying to accomplish great things and are willing to be unhappy while they do it. Same thing for programmers in Silicon Valley.

Clearly, being unhappy and accomplishing nothing is the real losing path. I would like to be happy and accomplish great things, both at the same time. It is a lot to ask, but I still want it.

Just trying to write about the choices available and think about how they effect my life and the people around me. Capitalist Thinking 101 I guess?