Editorial – We are all so happy

Jeff Burgar

Philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote in his mid-1800s book, Walden, that “97 per cent of businesses will fail.”

He didn’t elaborate on any timeline for this failure statistic. A few months? A few years? Perhaps, like buggy whip manufacturing, any business will be replaced by other technologies. This may take several hundred years.

But there you have it: 97 per cent! A statistic with about as much usefulness is, “In the long run, 100 per cent of us will be dead.”

But, before you chuckle, if you are inclined to entrepreneurship, you might ask yourself, is there opportunity in these numbers? The answer is, of course there is.

For instance, you may say dead people don’t buy things. But most of us really don’t want to be dead. So there are entire industries devoted to trying to extend our lives, or make us happier. From vitamins, to marriage counsellors, to gyms and health food stores. From authors writing books about health, to spas and resorts. Doctors and nurses. An endless list.

In fact, the “death” industry so rich in opportunity, there are even those who promise us wonderful afterlives.

So, 100 per cent of us will be dead. Somebody says 97 per cent of businesses will fail. Obviously, looking around at products that somebody built, sold, grew, cooked, delivered, repaired, created, invented, regulated or managed, there is a whole lot of business going on. Opportunity abounds.

Yet we do not all agree on what is worthwhile opportunity. Schools tend not to teach management or political skills. These are extremely important in today’s world.

Last week, in this column, we decried the lesser opportunities usually offered in science and technology in rural schools compared to their city cousins. Money for hardware can be a reason. Yet there is no real hardware involved in teaching students how to run a business, become a municipal district councillor, or a school trustee. We crank out endless bookkeepers and accountants. But where is the encouragement to take on the challenges of small or big business?

Also, while most of us understand the skill needs in agriculture or plumbing, we don’t consider that flipping hamburgers or hauling trash is important. So called McJobs are often stepping stones to management.

There can only be so many fast food managers, but why does not that same argument apply to education, nursing, or engineering? There will indeed be only so many at the top. There is still no reason why such must be imported from Edmonton or the Territories or Ontario. Or why any skilled people are exported to Edmonton or Silicon Valley.

As we move into 2020, we have here two Pillars of our communities: Quality of Education, and Economic Opportunities. Such things do not change overnight. If nobody cares, or thinks no improvement is needed, [ask a politician or manager so content in his chair he will say that] there is a 100 per cent chance, things won’t change at all.

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