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I have a dirty little secret I need to share. I wasn’t always a Human Asset. I didn’t always think about my hiring bonus, my yearly bonus, my variable pay, my stock options, my daycare center, my personal concierge, my ergonomic workstation, my free soda and coffee, my weekly chair back massage, my flextime, my work-at-home time, my personal web page, my birthday as a holiday, or the days I could bring my daughter, my son or my dog to work.

Truth be told, I was a liability.

God, it feels so much better to finally come out of the old mailroom.

Here’s the story. I worked my way through college, not because I had, to but because my Dad thought it would be one of the more valuable lessons I could learn. I held low-level, entry-level, no highly skilled jobs like mail clerk for a big insurance company, short order cook on the grill at a neighborhood restaurant, waiter, bartender, waiter and even car attendant at a parking lot. I now remember all those jobs fondly. Why? Because of the beach. What I remember most is those first glorious days filled with the warmth of summer, ditching work with the gang, blasting the radio, grabbing my trunks and going to the beach. Dropping everything was easy—what was there to drop, an apron or a funny looking hairnet? Just call in sick and head for the shoreline. It seems that Human Liabilities had more fun. We worked and we were done. When was the last time you were “done”? We could call in sick and play hooky. It was expected. That’s why you were a Human Liability. When was the last time you played hooky? When was the last time you heard another Human Asset even talk about playing hooky?

Today, I’m a highly paid and well-respected Knowledge Worker, a valuable “Human Asset.” I live two blocks from the ocean and haven’t seen it in weeks. I hear it every now and then; that’s how I know it’s still there. I’m just too busy. I work 24/7. Worldwide conference calls. Odd hours in my office. My virtual voice opining my virtual brain. Human Capital on the virtual hoof. I get over 150 emails a day. How many do you get? That’s how we Human Assets know we’re alive: I receive email therefore I am. If and when I go to the beach—or anywhere else for that matter—I take my cell phone, pager, laptop, palmtop and extra batteries. I’m like the little pink Energizer Bunny. I make sure my Knowledge Assets are always within my company’s reach. Never can tell when they’ll be called upon. That’s why I’m a Human Asset. Brain’s always “ON.” A Human Asset’s always working.

Recently I proudly told my Dad I was a Human Asset part of the Knowledge Capital of my company. He thought it was great.

“See,” he said “I told you working your way through school would be good for you, teach you a lesson.”

I asked him how did it compare to the workers he managed when he was a Manufacturer. His answer was sobering.

“Are you kidding those bums were nothing but a liability. They cost too much and always wanted more, they’d take time off for this and that holiday and always wanted more, the government made me pay a fortune in benefits and always wanted more. Just one big pain in the you-know-where and a big liability. And to make matters worse, first sunny day and everyone calls in sick and heads for the beach. And they thought I didn’t know where they were going!”

I recall that period during the 1950s, seeing The Promise of Technology at the first World’s Fair after the war. The stentorian tones of the announcer as the moving sidewalk took you past one technological wonder after another intoning “…and so the promise of technology is to set us free from all the drudgery and hard work of doing things the hard way… technology will make us more effective and efficient, more satisfied with our lives, happier, with more time to do the things we really want to do.” There was even talk of the 30 hour workweek supported by all this technology.

I think I don’t want to be a Human Asset anymore. Looking back on it, I had a better life as a Human Liability. I think I’ll ditch work, play hooky, and go count sea otters.

A. Human “Hume” Asset is a freelance Knowledge Worker working mainly in The Valley and wherever companies need Knowledge Workers. He will do anything for e-money but mostly likes long walks on the beach, romantic dinners by firelight and hi tech toys, gadgets and gizmos.

 

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