“Rich people exploit, poor people are exploited”

Howpeoplegetrich

Honestly, I hate this graphic. Not based on its artistic merit, but because of what the repercussions mean for those that buy into the message.

If one agrees with the graphic, one must necessarily agree with the following, more than likely, unconsciously:

  1. Being wealthy is either immoral, or purely the product of luck.
  2. Since wealth is obtained by either of these means, we’re completely justified in expropriating said wealth, and distributing in a way we prefer – either as punishment for immoral wrongdoing, or to adjust for fate.
  3. I wasn’t born to wealthy parents, therefore the only avenue available for me to enrich myself is by immoral means, which I’m not going to do.
  4. My actions are immaterial since I’ll never be wealthy anyway. I am exploited and acted upon by outside forces which deny me my fair share.
  5. People who have achieved, earned, received more, were fortunate, and anyone could be fortunate. Those with more don’t deserve what they have.

These ideas are poisonous. 

In a free market, the forces of supply and demand are well understood, though seldom reflected upon when talking about the labor of people. Perhaps, because we can easily get emotional about a public school teacher making $35k a year, while raising two kids on her own, but it’s harder to feel that way about the price point of a blender.

Nearly half of the millionaires in this country are business owners, and they have risked mightily to start and sustain their businesses, while employing the majority of people in the US. Eighty percent of Americans with a net worth of north of one million dollars are first generation affluent. From The Millionaire Next Door:

“As a group, we are fairly well educated. Only about one in five are not college graduates. Many of us hold advanced degrees. Eighteen percent have master’s degrees, 8 percent law degrees, 6 percent medical degrees, and 6 percent Ph.D.s”

Hard work, doesn’t count for much, because hard work is in abundant supply. You don’t get a cookie for breaking your butt stocking the shelves at CostCo. Working at CostCo is what you get for playing it safe. For failing to procure an education for yourself that has value. For failing to see the world in such a light that you can provide a greater value than the next person. And CostCo pays little, because there are millions of people capable of doing that job with no training.

It’s also the same reason Lebron James NBA salary this year tops $30 million. There’s only one of him, and there’s more than 4 million people in retail, earning an average of $25k per year.

That sucks. I’m sorry. I know. I worked a ton of odd jobs in early adulthood, and a ton of manual labor. I get it. But believing the lie in the graphic above isn’t going to help you. It’s not going to add a dollar to your pocket, but it will keep more dollars from finding you.

Every moment you tell yourself one of the things listed above, is a moment you’re not telling yourself that you can have whatever you want, as long as you want it bad enough. Losers play the wall. They shy from engaging in actions that can meaningfully improve their financial situation. Playing it safe, and making $40k a year is fine, as long as that’s what you want. But if you want more?

Scarcity value, is where the real money’s at. If you have, and develop, a set of skills that will make your work more valuable, because your work is more rare, congrats – you’re going to be wealthy.  If you think a college degree alone is the ticket, you’re in for a real jolt.

Becoming a: welding apprentice, plumber, window setter, or contractor, are all easy (ha!) ways to become a millionaire in a few decades. But as the Wizard of Menlo Park said:

Opportunity.jpg

Eric Thomas does a great job of communicating a better mindset in this video from 2012. He makes the point in the first minute of this video, so don’t be scared away by the running time. You’re going to love it.

“Some of you want sleep more than you want success.” And that’s the truth. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t be hypocritical about it.

I could stand to lose 25-30 pounds. Having a shorter, endomorphic body type, of hearty German and Irish ancestry, with a deep rooted love of potatoes and pizza, keeping weight off for me is a real chore. Meanwhile, my friend can eat  whatever he likes and can’t gain a pound.

That monster. I should shove his thin-privilege in his face like so much delicious hickory smoked bacon… mmmmm, bacon….but I digress.

I could bitch and moan about how it’s not fair that he doesn’t have to work hard to be thin. I could dwell on how I wish the government would take away choices from me, so there was a greater chance I wouldn’t purchase sugary drinks. I can put my place in the world on everyone and everything else, but that doesn’t drop a single pound off this frame. That doesn’t change my situation in any way.

Likewise, people preaching “Rich people are lucky or immoral” are the leper’s bell. They’re not focused on success, they’re making excuses for their failure, before they’ve even failed. All the while, it takes the typical millionaire 32 years to get there.

If you don’t want to be a millionaire, fine. But stop lying to yourself about why you are where you are, and why the guy who’s taking four cruises a year is where he is. You could get there, in your own fashion, but it’s easier to upvote the distraction – the gewgaw that tells you you’re a good person, and those with more are bad or merely just lucky.

Try instead, to tell yourself these five things:

  1. I can likely have whatever I want, as long as I’m willing to be proactive in my pursuit of it.
  2. I understand success, of the uncommon variety, requires substantial risk, sacrifice, and deferred gratification.
  3. My future success means more to me than my immediate comfort and hobbies.
  4. I can set myself apart, and increase my earning power by learning new skills, and marketing myself.
  5. My path is my path, and focusing on those more or less successful has no impact on my path, it only distracts.

Or, agree with the graphic at the top. Let the siren song of abandoned responsibility wash over you and take you lovingly into the rocks of being poor and bitter.

Ultimately, it doesn’t alter my path. I offer this merely as a warning to those that I care about that could be lulled into the rocks of a terrible outlook on life – one that sacrifices their initiative at an altar of blame.

It’s all a Dream?

You know how they say in your final moments your whole life flashes before your eyes? It appears then, that I’m presently dying.

The only question is if it’s the slow, inexorable march towards entropy, or like, my severed head is replaying everything that’s ever happened to me? Where is my mind? If it’s the slow train to dirt-nap city, would that be enough to cause all of this sensory feedback?

Is it all a dream? 

But seriously, I feel unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five; existing everywhere, and when, at once. I can feel the cushioning of my untied Nike Cortez ’72’s from 2001, and the spring of the concrete pads of the stairs in my apartment breezeway, and how they sang as I bounced down them on my walk to the office, where I worked.

vonnegut-1

Kurt Vonnegut wrote a book called “Breakfast of Champions” which is why this is ridiculous and great.

The way my hands looked on my balcony in ’99 when I stared at them trying to see what they looked like, via the memory of my 84-year-old self. The grips on my bike in fifth grade, tooling around the apartment community where I lived in Sarasota.

The feel of running behind my Tonka truck at age 4, and the subsequent rug burn that came with sliding on my knees behind it. The smell of the latrine at camp in ’91 and how I never wanted to be within 100 yards of it. 1995, the newspaper ink on the tread of my right hand, crossword puzzle being blackened like Prince William Sound.

I recently had the overwhelming compulsion to purchase this guy, for some inexplicable reason. It was my most prized possession when I was 7 years old. Thanks to Ebay, and $11.25 via Paypal, it was mine again.

img_2352

People have pointed out the resemblance. Penny for scale.

They were a series of toys called M.U.S.C.L.E. MEN, that came in little opaque trash cans and featured, hard rubber wrestlers, mutants, and stuff. The whole series ran about 140 of them and this guy was the rarest – likely on the account that he was the announcer and who the hell wanted the announcer?  Seven year olds, apparently, were not without a sense of scarcity-value.

But why did I think of it now? A sense of my own mortality in the face of the sea of dead celebrities? It certainly wasn’t to buy back my youth, I can tell you that. Cause they don’t sell that on Ebay – not that I looked.

I don’t know. Am I dreaming? Am I having a Jacob’s Ladder situation where I’ve actually been shivved for my little guy here, and in my last moments I’m imagining all of this? If so, bravo 7-year-old-Rob. You have quite the imagination.

Maybe it’s the holidays? The end of every year finds me with an insatiable hankering for creative expression, it seems. This year, I’m thinking of a retrospective through all of letters from friends from high school. I still have hundreds of them, in date order from everyone I corresponded with. I don’t know of anyone else that still has that stuff, but I think it could make for a cool project. Maybe I’m just a solipsistic pile of shit?

Maybe I need the project to distract me from the fact that I’m already dead? or “already dead”, in the respect that I’m aware that I’m a finite creature that is aware that we only have so much time left in this crazy world?

They don’t understand. What’s the master plan? …Yes my man, I’m true to that.

It could be the hallmark of the first introspection I’ve allowed myself to have in a while. I haven’t wanted anything in sometime. Not really, anyway. Not outside the superficial wants I think we perpetuate just to continue to feel human. Perhaps I bought that Kinnikuman figure because I should want it? Right?

I think when we want stuff, like really want it, we’re blinded to everything else around us until we get it. And then, when we get it? What then? You think Leo is made whole at the end of Gangs of NY? I don’t. I think Bill realizes the futility as well, which is why he declines to put another hole in him; which is why he holds his hand as he fades to black. It’s all over with.

Am I all over with? Hardly, unless I really am laying somewhere with my head in a gutter. If your head gets severed, they don’t tend to do open-casket, do they? Even with aid of a turtleneck?

extinction

Maybe time is a flat circle, heh, Rust Cohle? Maybe the detailed rememberings of simple and uneventful things is something everyone experiences from time to time? Maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all.

What I am sure of is that I’m definitely dying, as are you. I just don’t know if I’m doing my best impression of Usain Bolt, or Stephen Hawking as I beg Lachesis for a hefty pull.

An open letter of apology to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

On the eve of your status as a lame duck, I’d like to take this moment to apologize to you, personally.

I haven’t always been a fan, and truth told, I voted against you. Twice. I’ve been a Republican my entire voting life (20 years!) and as a believer in smaller government, the idea of a community organizer and socialist(?) in the White House, didn’t sit well with me. Still doesn’t, if I’m being honest. Though I don’t think of you as only those two things any longer.

I was angry at a number of things you said and did while in office. I didn’t care for the “You didn’t build that” moment. Oh man, and the “bitter clingers” speech! And the idea of getting to a single payer system, particularly, sent me into hysterics. They were all anathema to my views on what a President should believe, and I didn’t hesitate in letting my displeasure be known. In fact, I think I even sent an email to the whitehouse.gov email address stating something about you being a commie – but that was back in ’08. I’m sure you saw it.

Needless to say, my words in regards to your; beliefs, actions, words, and general existence, have been far from glowing. However, now that we stand on the precipice of an election which is surely going to send us all to the bowels of hell, regardless of who wins, I can’t help but reflect on your performance over these past  eight years. I’m sure you’ve been waiting with baited breath.

First, I’d like to apologize for being generally shitty towards you. Yeah, I’m not proud of it. I get these timehop things in my Facebook feed and I’ve seen comments I’ve made over the years and I really wish I could take them back. Not all of them, mind you. But enough of them.

I’m proud to call you my President, and I’m proud of how you’ve handled yourself in office these past eight years. I haven’t agreed (obviously) with the majority of your choices or words, but I do respect how you’ve handled yourself. And for that, I’m grateful.

Far too often I think we’re truly awful to one another in the pursuit of partisan agendas. It’s easy to dismiss those who disagree with us and even easier to demonize them – not just “the other” but those directly opposed to our way of thinking. When we see and hear others demonizing us, it becomes even easier to return the favor – even to those that never did it to us in the first place.

Case in point, it sucks to repeatedly hear that you’re racist just for being a Republican. Please know, none of my negative views towards you stemmed from your being black. I love black people. Not in the “Jerry Maguire” way in which Cuba Gooding Jr. makes Tom Cruise say it, but genuinely, as I love all people. Except Muslims.

Sorry, that was a joke. I couldn’t resist. I have no issue with Muslims, but I wouldn’t mind if everyone on earth decided to become atheist. But I digress…

In the spirit of being fully honest, possibly my biggest gripe with you (and you know this) is that you’re so damn cool. No one has any business being that cool. Especially not a politician. No Republican has ever been that cool. Hell, most rock stars aren’t that cool. Do you know how infuriating that is? It’s like Shaq walking into a middle school gym – it’s just not fair. You are literally the other side of the pillow.

Please know, I haven’t switched sides. I believe there’s no smaller minority than the individual. I loathe collectivism with the fire of a thousand suns. I think free markets and free people are the best solutions to virtually every problem we face. But I don’t think you’re a bad guy.

I think you’ve been a phenomenal President and have honored the office far better than most people. God knows I would have been impeached within weeks if I had the gig, so my hats off to you. How you kept from mooning the press corps from the Truman balcony, I have no idea – or maybe you’re saving that for your last day in office? Well played, sir.

Finally, thanks for your sacrifice – because the Presidency is a massive sacrifice. I think we forget that. You don’t belong to you or your family, you belong to the American People for four or eight years. Every decision you make is going to piss off half of them, on any given day. For that, you deserve all of our thanks and appreciation.

If there’s anything I can do for you, maybe a letter of recommendation for your next job (I’m really good at those), please don’t hesitate to let me know.

With all of my sincere love and thanks,

Rob Myers

U.S. Citizen

P.S. I’m still pissed about ObamaCare, but what’s done is done – we don’t have to talk about it.

 

“I Intend To”

Bureaucracy is a bitch.

What few people realize is that as an upper level exec, in a lot of too many organizations, there’s virtually no natural incentive to approve… well, anything. If you don’t approve requests or initiatives, what can go wrong? You don’t get some (rare) praise for accomplishing something – big deal. But if you approve something and it goes wrong??

As a young Community Manager, if I had a broken hot tub that needed a $1.6k repair and it was over my $500 spending limit, I’d need express written approval.  No biggie, right? I’ll just email my boss and get an answer.

After multiple follow ups, weeks later, there’s no answer beyond the yawning chasm of silence. Why wouldn’t they just tell me ‘no’ if that’s what they wanted? Because not answering the question meant they were the safest they could be.

See, there’s risk in saying yes to things. What if someone comes along later and says you screwed up by approving that thing which could have been done cheaper, better, differently, etc…? What if I get yelled at? What if… something something bad feeling?

I wasn’t alone. A LOT of my cohorts’ bosses did the same thing. Ignore, brush off, delay, deflect, slow roll, forget – anything to not have to take a stand on something that should be easy because the fear was always at their neck that they’d get ripped for it. They wanted express permission from the owner before they’d be ok saying yes. What point was there for their existence then? We could just get the permission from the owner if that’s all it was.

When the issue finally reached crisis level, the owner had the foresight to implement the system that Simon mentions at the 33 minute mark in this video: “I Intend To.”

The way it worked was, if we needed to do something and couldn’t get an answer, we’d fire off an email with “IIT:” in the subject line. If we weren’t told NO within 48 hours, we were free to do it. It changed the onus from getting approval to bosses having to say NO if they felt something shouldn’t be done.

As you can imagine, things improved immediately. Bosses who didn’t have good reasons to say no, besides their personal fear, could tacitly approve something without lifting a finger. Oh happy day!

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say there shouldn’t be checks and balances and proper vetting of capital requests. By all means, I’d include how many bids I’d received, what the nature of the issue was, what the repair proposed was, why that was a rational way to proceed and what the timeline would be. I’d proactively try to answer every question I could get to make sure it was in line with our company’s values and goals.

Bottom line or TL;DR: There’s all kinds of benefit in empowering your people as opposed to teaching them to subsist on compliance. Your people aren’t the problem, your environment, your culture are the problem.

Eliminate bureaucracy, breed commitment by increasing your team’s involvement.

 

First, care for the team. Then, the process. Then, the customer.

I’m sure I’ve had to have mentioned Gary Vaynerchuk in this blog before, but if I haven’t, you’re welcome.

BTW, “you’re welcome” is my sister’s personal catchphrase – Hi, Michelle.

Anyway, watch a couple minutes of the highest energy dude doing it today. His point is obvious, but so desperately worth stating as it’s not being done as much as it should.

I’m an avid believer in the fact that I work for my people, before anything else. My existence is predicated on serving their needs and creating an environment where they can succeed and thrive. By doing so, and by caring for the team first, they’re able and willing to kill themselves in the pursuit of achieving the mission, and satisfying our customers.

Time and time again, with team after team, the built up loyalty has been what’s provided for our success when things got tough. And they’re never tougher than during “turn,” when you’re really asking everyone to dig deep. Cajoling, yelling, and ordering, won’t get it done.

Treat all people well, but first, treat your team like family. Give them the same care and consideration you’d give your blessed grandmother, and watch it come back tenfold.

My recipe for success:

  1. Get a great team, treat them well and earn their trust – always.
  2. With them, create amazing processes that prevent errors and allow for success.
  3. Care for your customers in so far as you don’t violate 1 & 2 in a negative way.

Show Up. Or, Why Omelets Don’t Matter.

Note: this is a classic post from July 2012, hope you enjoy.

We’re all presented with a thousand decisions in a day – even the ones we don’t make are technically decisions – and I observed a few today and I thought I would share as I feel they are:

1. Completely random – so a good example of our lives.

2. Indicative of a theme I’d like to touch on – but let’s not spoil the fun just yet.

First, we have a Bistro at work which serves between 4 and 12 thousand meals a week. No biggie there, we’re getting quite good at it. One of our front line people is the best – totally awesome. She makes remarkable omelets with the deft precision of a Samurai, that happens to hold a personal grudge against unborn chickens.

Mmmmmm Omelet

 

 

 

 

On this particular morning we’re hosting a large sports camp which features 120 kids and assorted coaches. Towards the end of breakfast this omelet samurai asks me if she can make one of her famous omelets for the Head Coach (it’s his camp) as she wasn’t sure if he paid or not. This concern was voiced directly in front of said Coach whose business we’re eager to retain – omelets are never extra with breakfast.

Second: I’m told that we reportedly rebuffed a new Resident who relayed that their AC was not in working order on Saturday. As it didn’t constitute an “extreme emergency” we told them to wait for Monday. For those not familiar with Florida in late July, allow me to put down rumors about the unending cold front we experience during this time of year. In fact, we have Emergency Maintenance defined as “No AC when the temp outside is over 85 degrees.” I believe it was 99 on this particular day, though it could have been 93.

Third: A Senior Associate informs me that a parent is on the phone and wishes to renew their kid’s lease under an old offer letter we sent out weeks ago. The current offer is a much better deal for the Resident/Parent and we always offer unsigned leases the current deal.

It's that easy

So, what do all these have in common? This question haunted my entire day.

 

 

At my old place of work, we had these portraits of all the employees on the wall and each had a quote that supposedly the person lived by. The majority said some fluff like “Seize the day” though one stood out to me for its simplicity and eloquence. It read simply “SHOW UP.”

I thought “Is this good?” and let it marinate. Then, after a half hour, I grilled it up with some delicious business acumen and served it with a glass of “OH YEAH.” The words were from a new friend named Dan O’Connor and I couldn’t help but roll around in their brilliance. SHOW UP! How deep did those words go?

The decisions I cited all shared a lack of “showing up” – not in the physical sense, but in the other, deeper sense. Of being mentally “there” where things really happen. I’ve come to appreciate that the big difference between getting it done and saying we gave it our best, is the belief that by simply standing our post, that we’ve managed to “show up.”

Not by a long shot.

It’s not stupidity or ignorance of lack of experience – these three individuals are all some of our best. Seriously, I tout their drive and desire constantly. This was a case of not being there mentally, in a moment, and that’s all there is.

Make the omelet! Paid or not, who cares!? I’ve never beaten or punished someone for giving away three eggs and some veggies! Take a chance! On the guy you KNOW is the “The GUY” we’re trying to impress. Don’t call him a cheapskate in front of his face!

What, exactly is “an extreme emergency” pray tell? As opposed to a regular emergency? Which we don’t care about? If Weather.com tells you it’s 83.5 degrees outside and they’re not happy, call it in!

They want to renew and you want to pick a fight? Over someone giving you their hard-earned money? TAKE IT! By any means! Make it EASY for them! Fall all over yourself to accommodate them and make them happy! That’s what we do!

I felt failure today. Failure in transmitting the message. I often state that “It’s the spirit of the law that matters, not the letter” though I recognize not everyone hears this message. That is my fault and it’s my charge to make sure it’s known, and known well. Not with bigger bull horns, but with a better plan – not more regulation, but with more discussion. Conversations build empires and right now? I have a fiefdom.

“The single biggest misconception about communication is the belief that it has occurred.”