On a recent family vacation, my family visited some Mayan ruins, consisting of a 30-acre walled site containing a series of very impressive structures. Several of these structures were designed as sun calendars to help farmers time the planting of their crops. One of the other tourists asked the guide who lived inside the walled compound and who lived outside the wall. The tour guide explained that people who lived within the walls got to do so because of their engineering and astronomical knowledge. Anybody could farm and be replaced. Their special knowledge, however, provided the engineers and astronomers with a special power the civilization could not live without – how to build calendars that would help people grow food. The tour guide went on to tell us how the Mayan rulers would tie boards around the heads of their infants while their skulls were soft, giving them a distinguished royal or magically shaped head.
You might wonder what I mean by naming this article “Nothing Changes.” Think about it: what took place a thousand years ago mirrors what is happening today.
- The walled site – While few of us live in physically walled or gated communities, we do separate ourselves both financially and socially. We do this in the same way the Mayans did, through knowledge. You can be assured that those with valuable, specialized knowledge will do far better in any economy, even a difficult one like we are presently experiencing, than those with skills that can be easily replaced (or outsourced).
- The shaped heads – I like to think of this as an early form of brand marketing. The uniquely cone-headed children of the rulers were easily identified by their appearance, which separated them from the rest of the people and helped their families maintain power. While we don’t exactly deliberately warp our skulls to do it, we work hard to differentiate ourselves from others competing for the same jobs or deals. Our websites, education, dress, and resumes are all designed to distinguish us from those we compete with to “live inside the wall.” And working on my resume or website sure beats tying boards around my head!
We pulled our kids out of school for a week for this vacation, and I am glad we did it. They got the opportunity to see how people lived a thousand years ago, while also getting a lesson about how having unique skills and knowledge can win you the privilege of living “inside the wall.”