in entrepreneurship

Occupy Opportunity

“In their quest to fight for the American Dream, protesters are declaring their right to jobs.”

There’s something inherently wrong about this statement, but it’s exactly the premise of the still-ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests nation-wide.

Thousands nation-wide are spending their time and energy communicating that it’s up to our governments and big businesses to put us pack to work. It’s a message to wait. To hope that someone, somewhere will do something to make things better.

It’s a complete contradiction of the message that should be shared. One of opportunity and hope, that now’s a better time than ever to create a path of your own, rather than wait for one to be paved for you. That making things better starts from within.

If there’s a point to be had today to anyone and everyone who’s reading this and is out of work or looking to change career paths, it’s “don’t wait”. Now is the time to start making things happen. Today is the day to start working for tomorrow.

I’m living proof that it doesn’t take an extraordinary individual to do great things. The only difference between someone who wants to do something and someone who is? Action. Doing, instead of thinking about doing.

So take action. To those camping out on Wall Street (or to the few who may still be bumming around downtown Nashville), to those who have been sitting behind a desk hoping to find something better, don’t continue to wait for someone to create opportunities and open doors for you. Start creating them yourself. Set your own path. Pave your own road. Tell the bigwigs out there you don’t need them and that you’re better off on your own. Because you are.

What’s your take on the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests?

(Photo Credit)

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  1. Here’s a story about the effect #OWS is having on local businesses- I wonder what the protesters would say to this:

    • It’s a damn shame to see these protests having a negative effect on surrounding businesses. If what they’re doing is hurting the economy, it’s definitely time for these folks to look within and think about what they’re doing…

  2. I thought Occupy Nashville was a little weird, until i saw on the news that some of my friends were the very people getting arrested in Legislative Plaza. These are people that I trust very much and i know work hard every single day to make this world better. In fact, I can’t think of anyone that has had a greater impact on the homeless community in Nashville since the flood, than these very people.

    They are certainly not waiting on the government. They are occupying while working very hard, too. They understand that both pieces are hugely influential in our society. One of them recently posted this quote on Facebook,

    we focus only on what seems politically realistic at any given time, we
    are failing to give the church its prophetic role and voice. A major
    purpose of the church is to stand for, and give witness to, a different
    and better future which is bound to seem unrealistic in present-day
    terms.” – Donal Dorr

    Granted, the reason they are doing what they are, is because of their religious beliefs. But that aside, Matt – This seems to almost align completely with what you say we should be doing. Maybe we’re not so different from the occupants after all. Ever since I realized that the Occupy movement isn’t just a bunch of crazies without jobs lounging in the plaza, once I had a face to put to the ‘movement’, once I knew the real reason why they were there, my opinion changed. I won’t be camping out there, but I will support my friends if they do. 

    As a marketer, we both understand the need to get people talking. And they certainly have done that.

    • Hey Ben. Thanks for stopping by and sharing some much-appreciated personal perspective.

      I believe the message being shared and the conversations being sparked are pure, at their core. And there are clearly issues with our economy and government from the top to the bottom. Raising awareness like this is often the only way to see change, and I commend those people who are “occupying” for the right reasons.

      I’m on the outside looking in. I haven’t been down to the plaza to camp out, nor do I know anyone personally who has – so my perspective on what’s happening with “Occupy” (as portrayed by mass media outlets) around the country is not the resounding message you share here (as it should be), but instead, is one of people hoping and flat-out expecting businesses/legislation to take notice and start offering up jobs.

      My message here is directed at both groups. Of course not intended to label anyone as lazy, but to inspire the message that their is opportunity, great opportunity out there, even when it seems bleak, even when it seems like the only thing that can be done in this day and age is to sit on the steps of congress in protest. We’re fortunate enough to live in a country that offers, if nothing else, opportunity. It’s important that you and I, your friends camping out here in Nashville, and everyone around the country remember this, and through it all, maintain optimism. 

      • Agreed. The bottom line of my thoughts is: We all have different places where we can make an impact. This may not be the place for you and I to voice our opinions, but for others, it’s how they best demonstrate. The key is that it serves a purpose. There’s a time for work, and a time for play, a time for laughter and a time for tears. There’s even a time to be optimistic and realistic and even pessimistic. Without the diversity of emotions, views, actions, and people, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish the great things that we have, and that we will. 

  3. I don’t disagree with some of their positions – though they are tough to sort out. Injustices have happened and still do exist, and they should be addressed.

    I don’t understand the “how” that’s been chosen. If you think a particular company is acting unethically, don’t do business with them. Choose another bank, etc. It seems to me that voting with your feet or your pocketbook is much more effective.

    But my biggest frustration is with all the hopelessness. The exact sign you picture above gets my blood pressure boiling. I saw it here in Corpus Christi as well. For anyone to say that a budget cut or government action somehow negates their chance at a successful life in America is a joke and a shame.

    I spent last night (and every Tuesday evening) teaching math to about 25 adults working towards their GED’s at our church. These folks have come from the toughest circumstances imaginable. I’ve never heard a single one express that the government or some business is holding them back. They simply work to improve themselves every single day.

    Imagine what could happen if all of us had that attitude.

    • I agree. Many of the commenters here are bringing up the idea that this isn’t people simply protesting the fact that they can’t find work – but for many – that’s exactly what it is. Maybe it’s a “last-ditch-I-don’t-know-what-else-to-do” act, maybe it’s lazy, maybe it’s something else. 

      For those raising awareness and preaching equality, I commend them and wish them luck in continuing to spread that message. I will do the same with the platforms I have at my disposal, but as you said, I feel energy spent elsewhere, in the point I make here, energy spent toward creating your OWN opportunities and setting your OWN path, seems like time much better spent, no? 

  4. I think one of the bigger problems with any of these protests is that the original idea might be a good one, and some people might have the right motivations. Unfortunately, the majority jumps in, and suddenly you have people with iPhones sitting on the street complaining about not having any money.

    My wife and I are buried under six figures of debt without a house – the vast majority of it is student loans – and neither one of us can fathom taking time that we could be earning money to sit around and complain about life. I struggled with all my office jobs until I decided to go out and build a business of my own. There are too many opportunities right now to ignore – they’re just not in places that we’re used to looking.

    • Yes to this, Tom. That’s exactly my point. I’m not intending to be argumentative or to say that this is a total waste of time, or that everyone protesting are the ones sitting their with their iPhones refusing to, you know, actually do some work. Instead, I feel that energy and time is much better spent not focusing on problems, but instead, finding solutions. Finding your own solutions. I’ll be damned if I sit back and hope someone’s going to take care of my problems for me. It’s up to you and me to handle those ourselves, as inconvenient and as challenging as it may be…

  5. Matt- been a while; I’ll share a few of my thoughts about this.

    First of all, I think people are taking too narrow of a stance on “what” OWS actually means or what it is. I think it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It isn’t necessarily about being oppressed or held back or injustice… or maybe it is. The protests aren’t really designed to see a single action. Instead, I think they are a way of raising awareness and amplifying a voice that seems to be drowned out by (right-wing) politicians. 

    More of a less a way of saying, “Hey… we aren’t stupid – we SEE what’s going on here.”

    Ok, so what’s “going on here” … ? Well, it is the realization that neither political party in the past four years has been able to turn around the economic crisis, even though both have advertised that they will be the ones. 

    It is the realization that the label “job creators” is a bunch of bullshit. 

    It is the realization that these so called “job creators,” that seem to be receiving protection from politicians and corporations, are some of the ones that caused this extended recession (and thusly job loss). 

    It is the realization that those who don’t *choose* to take their own path, or are involved in careers that don’t allow that freedom, are coming under attack by leaders in government, politicians, and corporations.

    I agree with your general premise that we have control of our destiny; but take my last point. How are police, fire fighters, nurses and teachers supposed to overcome elected officials essentially blaming them for receiving “outrageous” compensation via taxpayers when those same politicians are the ones that ushered in the recession (and thusly state budget shortfalls)? How are these people to start ‘working for tomorrow’ or ‘make things better from within’ when their means of doing so are coming under attack by government (and thusly those who, ironically, want government to get ‘out of our lives’)?

    OWS is recognition of the fact that our foundations of community – public workers, a strong middle class – are coming under attack from politicians and the corporations that support those politicians. It certainly isn’t a movement counter to what you’re saying – rather, I think it is a movement striving to protect the very freedom you suggest we all use.

    • Good stuff, Andy. I blame the outside media for putting the blinders on to a more narrow focus of those who are out there expecting someone to pave their way for them. Those people are certainly out there, but the more important message, as you’ve put so well here, is a message of equality – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making yourself heard, whether it be through writing a blog post, sitting on a curb, or writing a letter to local legislation. Thanks for the thoughtful, and honestly, enlightening response here, Andy.

  6. I’m a small business owner and I support the OWS movement, though protesting will only get them so far. I am not sure if you read Fred Wilson’s blog, A VC, but he is a venture capitalist who supports OWS, too, and blogged about it a week and half ago. The comments are a great read as to why this movement is important:

    It’s not really about unemployment. The  issue is that our institutions, those where you have no choice in whether you use them- banks, health care, and education- are failing us and yet are still allowed to take our money at increasing rates and have no accountability. 

    As a business that brings in revenues in low six figures, I would love to expand, but banks aren’t giving loans. My health insurance fees are ridiculous for coverage I never use (thank god I don’t have kids yet). I would love to hire a recent grad full-time, but I can’t afford to pay him/her a competitive wage that would allow them to pay their loans.

    I am sure there are people associated with the movement that want a handout. But I think the big takeaway is that after the last few years, the odds are also stacked against those of us who bust our *sses, too, and it can’t stay that way if we want a prosperous society. 

    Totally respect your opinion, but I find that the issues at play are much greater than demanding jobs. 

    • Hi Tracy. Thanks for the great addition to the conversation. I agree – something has to change, and I whole-heartedly agree with that message being shared via Occupy Wall Street. If nothing else, this is a step in the right direction, and as you said, there could be, and maybe should be, more room for opportunity, but due to the current economic/legal structure, it’s virtually impossible for companies, such as your own, to expand and grow in the current state of things. A lot of food for thought today – thanks for providing some perspective!

  7. The occupy movement is effective in that it is changing th dialogue of our country. Our focus went from national debt and essentially buying our way out of an economic slump to what is the real root of the problem, corrupt policy allowing corporations to take advantage of the people. It has created a dialog focused on, just as your post explains, taking action.

  8. Couldn’t agree more, Matt. While there is something very American about voicing our displeasure, it’s also very American to take it upon ourselves to improve our lives.

    I don’t want to take anything away from the hundreds who are camping out for change, but part of me wonders if they would even take a job, were it given to them.

    • Exactly. It extends beyond the streets of protestors in Wall Street, too. Anyone out there sitting, waiting, hoping, and expecting things will come to them is up the creek without a paddle.

  9. For me, there’s two stances and I only see one as correct: the people who are there looking for a handout or a job (although I understand their frustration) are there asking for the wrong things. Those who are there seeking a just political system (mostly stemming from congressional errs in just politics). Those who are screaming to have corporations not be favored by politicians or political parties. Those who are there asking Washington (not Wall Street) to change there ways are there for the right reasons. As a result of policy and practice in DC changing, so will change the way that corporations act.

    This is only my *personal* opinion, but I think it’s pretty spot on.

  10. Hey Matt, it’s possible someone has already said something along this line – but I haven’t read every comment 
    (I try to avoid these conversations since they seem to get a bit heated at times, but you have such a large reach I thought it was important to say something). 

    Respectfully, I think you’ve got it wrong – I don’t think the people who are occupying [wherever] (including most Canadian cities as well) are asking for job creation (or if some are, that’s a very narrow view of the movement). It’s more about the corruption on wall street and the inequalities between the lowest and the highest in society – and about how the government is constantly giving handouts and doing favours for the top while leaving the bottom to fend for themselves. This article outlines some really great examples of these inequalities.
    “These inequities are what drive the OWS protests. People don’t want handouts. It’s not a class uprising and they don’t want civil war — they want just the opposite. They want everyone to live in the same country, and live by the same rules. It’s amazing that some people think that that’s asking a lot.”

    • Is this the overarching message? I hope so. It should be. Sadly, though, I think many are focused purely on the fact that they don’t have a job and they “should”. This isn’t, nor will it ever be the case. You don’t have the RIGHT to have a job, no one’s going to hand it to you. You have the RIGHT and POWER to make things happen, starting from within, whether that be starting your own business, or being much more proactive in your career search – being willing to take something less than ideal in the short term for your long term goals. There ARE jobs to be had out there, it’s just trickier than ever to find them.

      All that to say – I agree – the disparity between the top and the bottom is immense. The economy is broken. The government is broken. This is a step in the right direction toward generating awareness, but I’m afraid may never truly bring about or inspire real change.

      Great discussion overall, Vanessa. I appreciate you coming by and lending to the conversation.

  11. I saw a picture on Facebook of a soldier in fatigues holding a piece of paper with the following message: “I have a steady job with a regular paycheck, great benefits, and lost of room for promotion. Next year, I will be paid to go to college and graduate with a guaranteed position making a decent salary. I am the 1% of the 99% that decided hard work and sacrifice were more prudent than complaining about how life is too hard and I’m not getting any free handouts.” Amen. 

    • Exactly. I admit, It’s a rash generalization to say the 99% all fall into that category, but I tend to agree. A better use of time is to do whatever it takes to create opportunities for yourself. Raising awareness is one thing, acting upon that awareness is another…

  12. I couldn’t agree more, Matt. Everyday spent out Occupying Wherever is a day they could be bettering themselves, for the greater goal of bettering everyone around them.

    I don’t know about you, but I already know our government has plenty of flaws… so as far as raising awareness, I think it’s just a waste of time.

  13. Matt – I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago. I’m a big fan all around, but I’m especially enamored with this post.

    I’ve been conflicted for awhile over the OWS craziness. On one hand, there are the movement’s critics who throw out words like “lazy, entitled, whiners.” These types of critiques have felt politically charged, inflammatory, and ultimately counter-productive. I suspect that many of these flippant and aggressive critics perhaps haven’t even bothered to understand what the OWS movement is about.

    And yet at the same time, I can’t shake the feeling that some of the protestors are overlooking the important element of personal responsibility. I’m not saying that the OWS protestors don’t have valid arguments worth listening to, but…at what point is it up to us as individuals to change our own lot in life?  And if your current lot “sucks” because of elements out of your control (whether it be because of government policies, some corrupt buffoon, etc), it seems to me, that there’s all the more reason to find a new lot. The most effective way to show something is broken is to fix it yourself. If that’s impossible (as it sometimes is), leave the broken element behind — build something yourself that actually works. 

    There are always choices and opportunities for personal change, even if they’re overwhelming, new, or darn difficult to see.

    Anyway, from where I’m sitting, you hit the nail on your head — I read this post and thought, “YES!” It’s exactly what I’ve been dancing around in my head but was never able to quite articulate. 

    So, thank you — well said.

  14. “In their quest to fight for the American Dream, protesters are declaring their right to jobs.”

    There’s something inherently wrong about this statement, but it’s exactly the premise of the still-ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests nation-wide.

    No…that is not the premise of the OWS protests at all.