The Common Good

The Engine of Change Is on Full Throttle

My first career: print journalism. Current status of that field: on life support.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

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My second career: pastoring neighborhood churches. Current status of that field: on life support.

My third career: writing and publishing books. Current status of that field: on life support.

My fourth career: implementing client-server data management systems. Current status of that field: on life support.

Do you see a trend here? I did. So now I try to stay nimble and to keep moving. My publishing business is entirely electronic. I have cycled through three websites and three subscription systems in 10 months. I do more of my church consulting online.

In even the humble act of writing, I am on my third word processing app since January. Output will appear in e-books and e-magazines.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. Maybe you have found a niche and are clinging to it. Statistically, most people will have five distinct careers before they retire — partly because they get bored, or burn out, but mostly because their industry of choice fizzles.

Cheer up. You might never retire, at least until your health goes seriously south.

Whatever you learned in college is out of date — and that includes tech-savvy “millennials,” who graduated two years ago. Tech is moving fast.

Some of these are ephemeral trends, like Greek-style yogurt and cronuts. But as the federal government discovered when it tried to use a 10-year-old development and deployment system for a 2013 health insurance portal, the basics are changing faster than our ability to manage them.

Wal-Mart, for example, tried a time-tested marketing ploy when it hyped “doorbuster” sales on Thanksgiving evening. What it didn’t see was the depth of financial desperation among gift-buyers, or a national epidemic of narcissism that would see a fellow shopper as an enemy to be trampled. Hello mayhem.

The airline industry and its regulators are courting similar mayhem as they mull allowing passengers to jabber on cellphones. Don’t they know that live-and-let-live died years ago? No wonder flight attendants are pushing back.

As I watch automakers’ pre-Christmas ads, I see what a strange backward-facing time warp they inhabit. Do they not know that showing cheerful people driving along empty lanes in prosperous suburbs is so yesterday on every count?

Like the U.S. Steel workers I once observed sitting in lawn chairs outside a McKeesport, Pa., tube mill waiting for its gates to reopen after being closed for years, we sell impossible dreams to each other.

One by one, the dreams change shape or lose oxygen, but we keep selling them. Even now, aspiring tech stars are descending on Silicon Valley, hoping to snag their Ferrari before the tech bubble bursts.

They should learn from the MBA stars who descended on Wall Street two years ago and still can’t find six-figure work.

Why so much rapid change?

Well, why not? Barriers to entry are down in almost every field. Technology won’t stand still. People are desperate to make their mark in a shrinking economy. Not even our dysfunctional government is immune to change.

Establishments tried to keep media and religion within familiar bounds. But with everything else changing, their stop-time efforts were doomed.

When a new pope decides the time is right to reinvent a 2,000-year-old church, the engine of change is clearly on full throttle.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

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