Capital Expenditures
Gail Pursell Elliott


One morning a student arrived in class moaning, "I'm so sick I feel like I'm gonna puke my brains out."  The teacher replied, "How many times do I have to tell you, it's not what you say but how you say it?  The next time you feel that way, simply say that you feel like you're going to regurgitate your cerebral cortex." 

With this advice in mind, some of the latest trends and buzzwords in working with people indicate that whoever came up with these concepts might have been temporarily suffering from a cranial/rectal impaction.  One of the latest that I have encountered is the term "human capital."  My first reaction to this term was quite similar to that of the student in the preceding paragraph.

Of course, this term is largely used when funds are being allocated for investing in the people of an organization.  But one wonders how long it will take before "human resources" and "human capital" merge.  At that point, annual performance reviews and even wedding anniversaries may begin to be assessed in terms of appreciation or depreciation of value.  After all, if we are making an investment, we do check to see how our investment is performing for us.

Evidence of this is contained in such metaphors as, "He's got a lot of miles on him" or "This relationship could use a new set of tires, Sam."

Many years ago changing the term "personnel" to "human resources" was considered a positive move for many reasons.  

One was that workers felt that companies placed more value on its resources and its bottom line that the people who accomplished the tasks to meet those goals.

Unfortunately, many organizations changed the term without changing the behavior and attitudes that prompted the original concerns.  With the current terminology, however, a question that comes to mind is, "on the ship Amistad, who were the personnel and who were the human resources?"

So now we have simple questions such as, "how many people may I hire for this project," phrased as, "what is the human resource allocation for this project?"  What we name something becomes what it represents to us. 

Over the years we have all watched people treating each other more like objects and opportunities, rather than as unique, precious human beings who are worthy and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.  When I offer this observation, regardless of how diverse the group, virtually every person nods in agreement.

All people want and have the right to be treated with dignity and respect as individuals.  No exceptions.  We do not want to be resources, to have our talent managed or to be viewed as collateral damage.  We wish to feel unique, useful, significant, accepted, appreciated, to experience personal and professional growth, to know we have made an impact that only we can make and to have it recognized.  Acknowledging those desires is perhaps the greatest resource we have when we interact with others.  When it comes to "human capital" appreciation or depreciation is a matter of choice, not chance.  We have that power.

"What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support."

- John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I

Have a great day and be good to yourself!  You deserve it!

Copyright Gail Pursell Elliott.  All rights reserved.  Visit Gail at


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.