The Liberal Arts During Bondage; Part Three: The Fourth Turning: The Opportunity Of The Century

Fourth Turning ImageTo wrap up this series, let’s rely on history to show us a way out of Bondage. As was mentioned in part two, we not only rely on the 250-year society oriented Tytler Cycle to show us the way, but the more personal 80-100-year Century Cycle or Saeculum.

This last post is dedicated to the fourth and first turnings/seasons of the Century Cycle as described in chapter seven of our book, A Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens. What follows is that chapter in its entirety.

History runs in cycles, and there is a pattern of four seasons repeated over and over, each about 20-25 years long.  Like the seasons of the year, they come naturally and each feels different.  These four seasons are called “turnings,” like turnings on a cycle, by authors Strauss and Howe in their book The Fourth Turning.  The four seasons are:

images1st: Founding. New institutions are built up to progress after the last crisis, like the United Nations, Social Security, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), NATO, and other organizations being created right after the Great Depression and World War II.  Lots of businesses flourished in this period also.

2nd: Awakening. Youth grow up and challenge the old establishments, like the 1960s counter-culture movement at Woodstock, the Civil Rights movement led by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, and strong pushes for Feminism and Environmentalism, etc.

3rd: Unraveling. Two big viewpoints and political parties fight for power, and everything seems like it will come apart.  Economies boom.  The last unraveling happened between 1984 and 2001, and the one before that in the “Roaring 1920s.”

4th: Crisis.  Big problems come.  Actually, crisis seasons usually consist of three crises in a row, sometimes overlapped.  First is the wake-up crisis that shocks everyone, like the Boston Tea Party, the election of Abraham Lincoln, the 1929 stock market crash, which started the Great Depression.  In recent times, it appears that 9/11 was such an event.

Second comes a major economic crises, and then, third, usually a major war, pandemic or a mixture of these all at the same time.  The last several crisis seasons include The Revolutionary War and Depression, The Civil War and Depression, and the Great Depression and World War II.  Sounds bad, huh?

We live today in a crisis era, and you will grow up and start your life, family and career in a Crisis or Founding season. The good news is that a Crisis Season is always followed by another Founding, just like winter always ends with spring!

images (1)The bad news, which is also the biggest challenge in all of this, is that when the Crisis comes almost everyone over thirty years of age is totally immersed in the rules of the last phase.

This means that even though the economic boom times and long periods of peace are over, most people keep making choices that reflect what worked before.

They make a lot of bad choices, because they don’t realize that the rules have changed.

For example, parents educated in 2nd or 3rd seasons often think that their kids should see education as job training.  For 4th and 1st seasons, however, that is a big mistake.

Teens need to be prepared for entrepreneurship and initiative much more than specific job skills.  There are many other differences between seasons.

Here are the leading rules of success in each turning.  In each season, success is found in:

2ndand 3rd: Big Institutions, Professional Careers, Investment, Credentials and Resume, Leisure and Entertainment.

4th and 1st: Family and Community Relationships,  Entrepreneurial Ability, Initiative and Leadership Skills.

images (2)The way to fail in 4th and 1st seasons is to try to live in the rules of the previous seasons.  The way to succeed is to engage the new reality.

As teens, you may need to help your parents and grandparents with this!

Those who will thrive in times of recession, depression, slow growth economies, even war and other major crises, are the ones who focus on home, community and entrepreneurship.

Again, the problem is that older generations define success the old way: a good major in college, good career, fun entertainment almost every evening, a really nice house, several new cars, and good retirement.  They also want the same for their kids.  This is a 3rd Season view.  It will be available again, if the cycles hold true (as they have for over 3,000 years) somewhere around the years 2070-2080.

The generation before them saw success as: public schools as central to the community, a stable job at one company for life, husbands supporting families with wife staying home, savings in the bank and home ownership as the best investments.  This is a 2nd Season view, and it will come back again somewhere around the years 2045-2055.

As for real life from now through the 2020s, 2030s, 2040s and maybe into the 2050s, it is time to get real!  Success now and for most of your life will be determined according to the rules of 4th and 1st Seasons.  The new economy is here, and the new realities with it.  These new realities need all your idealism and enthusiasm, but they can’t and won’t be like the past, which too many adults are just pining for.  Those days are gone.

Another key of leadership is to focus on what’s next, not on the past or even the challenges of now.  Overcoming current challenges is important, but the focus should be on what’s ahead.  Those who thrive from now to 2029 will be the ones who focus on and embrace the rules of the coming 1st Season ahead!

Be one of those who thrives, and help others do the same!

Because of the cycles and seasons, some of the most important classics to study as a teen are those written during 4th and 1st Seasons, or by authors who lived through them. One of the best of these, with a focus on family and entrepreneurship, is Our Home by C.E. Sargent.

Sargent lived through the 4th season of the Civil War period, and built his career and family in the 1st season which followed.  His book is one of the Great 100 Teen Classics listed in chapter two.

Following are fourteen “rules” for financial success, family leadership and overall happiness in 4th and 1st seasons, as taught by C.E. Sargent.  We have added a lot of commentary to these, geared specifically for our time.  Still, all fourteen of these guidelines apply to any 4th and 1st season period in history.  These are so much more helpful than many of the things suggested today for success by 2nd and 3rd season experts.

Fourteen Rules for Success Over the Next 50 Years

First, embrace the new.  And the now.  Forget 3rd season goals.  They are gone, over, done, and it is time to move on.  As a teen, you may not have gotten caught up in a lot of 3rd season planning, but if you did it is time to embrace something else.

Those who pine away for the old will not succeed, nor will those who wait around for the old days to come back.  Forget the old measures and methods of success, and get excited about the new opportunities!

images (3)Second, spend evenings and Sundays with family.  This principle is so simple, and yet so powerful.

People bond naturally in the evening, and in our modern world the best entertainment is family time.

So much in financial and career success in 4th and 1st seasons depends on family support and relationships, and close bonding is vital.

Such bonds also build a closer community around the family, and this is also needed for financial and social success in this season.

Where Shanon lives, (it is kind of a time warp) they still live this way for the most part.  It has just begun breaking down over the past 5 years, (they are about 20 years behind the times) but for the most part, families there are very tight. You can always see them taking walks as family groups almost every night.

The community does a ton of things together: baseball, community festivals and parades, local fund-raisers and neighborhood parties etc. This community will do much better than others in the future as they already know each other very well and are comfortable with focusing heavily on the family and community.  Tough times are easier for them because they already know how to work together.

Shanon remembers when he first moved there, it snowed about 3 feet in 2 days.  Before city employees could begin the process of removing snow, family members had already dug out the widows and elderly of their families.  It was inspiring to see how everyone just pitched in and helped.

Third, strengthen your self-culture.  In 2nd and 3rd seasons, much of life is built around popular culture, fitting in, looking “right” to others.  In contrast, in our time happiness is much more important than impressing anyone.  Figure out what makes you happy, and live it!

 

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Fourth, clearly articulate and write out your individual rules for life.  Plan them.  Live them.  Leaders are needed, not conformists.

Your family, community and those around you need you to know who you are, what you stand for, and for you to truly stand for something.

Of course, true leadership and excellent rules include conformity to core morals and goodness.  Decide what is most important to you, who you really are, and be it!

Fifth, instead of raising children, the focus of families will be on raising adults!  This means that the teen years won’t be seen as times of all fun and games, but rather teens will be considered young adults who are needed to help the family succeed.

In addition to their education, they will help the family flourish by doing a lot more work than the last three generations of teens.

Also, the educational focus will be less on training accountants, attorneys or engineers and more on preparing youth to become good parents and wise citizens.

Indeed, in 4th and 1st seasons we need 18-year-olds who can go to war, lead communities, start businesses, etc.

Some might see this as a loss of youth, but that is just old seasons thinking.  In truth, teens flourish in 4th and 1st seasons because they are given opportunities for leadership and responsibility.

Sixth, make Meaning a central focus of your learning, conversations and thinking.  In 2nd and 3rd seasons the emphasis is often on prosperity and getting ahead.  In current times the national emphasis shifts to things that really matter.

Tests, trials and struggles bring important lessons, and the opportunity to consider what is truly important and what isn’t.  Look for meaning in everything, and you’ll often find it.  Learn to be grateful, to see the “silver lining” in challenges, to learn from mistakes, and to get up whenever you fall down and just keep trying.

The 4th and 1st seasons are great times to turn to great classics and learn the best lessons of the past.

Seventh, spend a lot of time serving widows, orphans, grandparents, the elderly, the sick, and any who are down or struggling.  These should be the focus of much family time.

In 2nd and 3rd seasons these are simply service projects, but in 4th and 1st seasons they become true community—much more than an after-work project once in a while.  Make this one thing a priority in the 4th and 1st seasons, and you will find happiness and thrive in other ways too.

Boredom is a 2nd and 3rd seasons’ disease. Bored? Go serve. Make service the default.  If you have nothing else to do, serve.  By the way, doing something that seemingly blesses only you is doing something worthwhile.

But if you are just looking for entertainment all the time, start looking for things to do that help other people.  Sometimes the best service (and most entertaining activity) is spontaneous service.

If there aren’t enough projects already organized by others, organize some yourself or with a group of friends.  Don’t wait on this one—get started right away.

images (4)Eighth, make marriage the central focus of your life.  Even as a teen, preparing to be a great wife or husband is a vital project.  Note that the focus usually changes with the seasons:

2nd: Job over Parenthood

3rd: Parent over Spouse

4th: Spouse

1st: Spouse

In 4th and 1st seasons families grow stronger, and a large part of this is that spouses really need each other and turn to each other for help.  This blesses all levels of family.  Unfortunately, a shift to such times often starts with a lot of marriage struggles—unless people understand and apply these fourteen principles and other guidelines of good relationships.

Teens and other singles often do this focus on marriage better than married people, because they think in terms of romance, dates, etc. rather than children or career as top priority.  In their search for a spouse, they put marriage first.

The key is to maintain this after marriage.  This doesn’t decrease the value of parenting, but in fact increases it.  Truly happy parents do the best parenting.

Ninth, get a true leadership education, what you might call an Impact Education.  Consider the varying focus of education in different seasons:

2nd: Job Training

3rd: Career Training

4th: Impact Education

1st: Leadership Education

Leadership Education includes the skills of initiative plus ingenuity, tenacity, quality, creativity, persuasiveness, etc.  Nothing teaches this as effectively as classics, mentors, simulations and the seven keys covered in earlier chapters.  Indeed, Leadership Education was specifically designed to prepare people for success in challenging times.

Tenth, engage entrepreneurship.  This is a must for almost everyone in 4th and 1st seasons.  Even those with stable jobs, which are much fewer in these seasons, seldom have the opportunity for spouses to have a job too or to get extra money through overtime or extra jobs. Spouses or teens help support the family through entrepreneurship. The majority of people will have to be entrepreneurs to make a living.

Note that different generations have very different views about entrepreneurial ventures.  Here is what being an entrepreneur means to most people in the different seasons:

2nd: “You can’t get a real job!”

3rd: “Build a business and sell it, retire young.”

4th: “Entrepreneur to survive, until the economy is better.”

1st: “Build a business, do it right, take it big!”

The key is to adopt the 1st season view, no matter when you are entrepreneuring.  It is the only one that really works.  In a 4th or 1st season, it is vital to adopt this mindset for your career whatever it is—even if you have a stable job (only employees with this view will keep the company stable).

In 4th and 1st seasons, entrepreneurship is the key to survival and also success.  It requires all the skills and knowledge that naturally come from a good leadership education.  The best place to start as a teen is the great reading list in chapter two of this book!

images (5)Eleventh, produce wealth.  Seriously, there is no time to create and build wealth like 4th and 1st seasons (this is easiest in 3rd seasons, but much of the wealth created then is lost as quickly as it is gained; besides, the next 3rd season will likely come in about the year 2070).

It may seem strange to emphasize producing wealth in times of recession, depression, war and challenge, but that is exactly the best time.

This is not to say that you should put greed first, but rather that in such times a focus on entrepreneurial building is exactly what your family, the community, the society and the nation need most!

In 4th and 1st seasons, building businesses is among the most charitable and patriotic things you can do for the society.

People desperately need jobs and nations desperately need successful businesses.

More than anything, the world needs the leadership education that you can only gain by building something!  The classics are a great start, but once you leave the classroom the best leadership education is found in building organizations and making them work!

This is called being a producer, not just a consumer, or dependant or victim.  Author Dennis R. Deaton calls this having an “Ownership Spirit.”  He writes in his book by that title: “When we think in owner terms, we live independent of circumstances.  The ups and downs of the day don’t define who we are, our mood, demeanor, or commitment.

When something goes awry, owners can be disappointed and frustrated, but they don’t find someone to blame or resent, as Victims often do.  Owners tend to focus their thinking on what to do—what options they have and what courses of action to pursue . . . . When people treat them rudely, owners seldom take offense.

They could, of course, but they see that as a waste of time and energy . . . . Owners understand that life is not easy, and they don’t expect it to be.”

In addition to this vital mindset, society needs rich people more than ever in 4th and 1st seasons, and people who are creating riches.  Society needs you to be a producer, or owner.

Of course, the popularity for creating wealth is different in each of the seasons:

2nd: Savings and security for the family (from a steady job and bank savings accounts)

3rd: Money to retire young and relax (from entrepreneurship and/or investing)

4th: To help the needy, by giving them jobs and where needed charity (by building and growing a successful business)

1st: To build society, including the needed new institutions of strength after the crisis season (by building and growing businesses)

Twelfth, develop your creativity and inventiveness.  This is needed so much in 4th and 1st seasons!  Creativity is needed to find ways to be more frugal, individually and as a society; and also in producing things, money, jobs, wealth, philanthropy, etc.

Creativity and inventiveness are needed in finding ways to give yourself and others needs, wants and luxuries.  They are necessary to fix society’s problems and take advantage of its opportunities.

Times of challenge are always the seasons of greatest opportunity, and success in such opportunities depends on your creativity!  Leadership education in the classics and using the seven keys is the best way to start a truly creative education, and add to this with your own initiative and the guidance of parents and mentors.

images (6)Thirteenth, dig deep and find your inner resiliency.  Whatever happens, success goes to those who keep trying and never give up.

After one great crisis season, Winston Churchill taught that the key to success is never to give up.

He also said that courage is the most important virtue because without it the others aren’t used.

Part of resiliency is to stay optimistic and enthusiastic in the face of whatever happens.

Life is hard, and in 4th and 1st seasons it is harder than in the others, but that just means that we have more opportunity than ever to really help improve the world.  Very little progress or positive change occurs during 2nd or 3rd seasons, but in times like now much can change very quickly.  Of course, the change depends on leadership, which is why leadership education in your youth is so vital.

Fourteenth, and finally, grow your ambition!  You were born to do great things, so don’t settle for anything less. Ambition sometimes gets a bad name, but that is mainly because it means different things in each of the seasons:

2nd: Personal Status

3rd: Personal wealth

4th: Making Sure the Right Side Wins

1st: Making Sure the Right Changes Happen

As you can see, even if great ambition were negative during 2nd or 3rd seasons, it is all-positive during 4th and 1st seasons.  For example, the American founding ambition to make sure the Colonies beat Britain is a great thing.  Likewise the Northern ambition to end slavery in the Civil War and the Allied ambition to stop Hitler in World War II.  Thank goodness for such high ambitions!

But the truly great ambitions came after these conflicts, in 1st seasons where the people set out to improve the world.  Some of the changes were good, while others were bad.  The difference was the quality of the leadership, based on the education of that generation’s leaders while they were in their youth.

In your generation, the world cries out for great change.  So much needs to be fixed.  So many things in this world today need to be improved.

Your generation can do it.  But like past generations, it will depend on the leadership of the next fifty years.  And that will depend in large part on the education you and your generational peers get in the next five to ten years.  Will you follow old thinking of 3rd seasons and focus on career training?  Will you accept mediocrity?  If so, the future of freedom and prosperity will not be an improvement on what you inherited.

If not, you need to learn right now, in your youth, what the new 4th and 1st seasons rules are and become a master at them.  Lead out in the new way of dealing with and solving challenges and crises and improving the world.

What will be your mark on the world—improvement or further decline?  It depends in large part on your teen and college education.  It is up to you, and to others your age.

It is time for a generation to change the world, to drastically improve it.  We believe it will be your generation that does it.  Are we right?

images (7)We started this book by promising to tell it to you straight, to tell you the real deal.  We have done that.

The future depends on you.

It doesn’t get deeper or more real than that.

We also started with the thought that when God or the Universe wants to change the world, he sends a baby—perfectly timed to grow, learn, prepare and then take action at the right time.

But there are times when one baby won’t suffice, when the challenges facing the world are just too great, and so instead of a great reformer or a few key thinkers what is needed is a whole generation of leaders.

This happened in the Sixth Century B.C., and in the first decade of the Common Era, then again in the American Founding generation.  George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and so many more were part of this generation.  In their youth, they worked to learn and get a great leadership education.  Then, when the world needed them, they were ready.

It is happening again today.  You are such a generation.  But will you succeed?  That remains to be seen.  One thing is certain: to do so, you will need a superb, leadership, Thomas Jefferson-like, education.  In five years, you will either have such an education . . . or not.  The ones who do will lead.  Our challenge to you is to be one of them!

It is who you were born to be, it is the real, genuine you.  The world needs you.

Written by:  Shannon Brooks, Monticello College