advice

“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.

“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.

 

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.”

Be A Super Ethical Leader in 3 Easy Steps

 

Immanuel Kant is a boss. Like, the boss of bosses.

As far as philosophers go, he’s like the RZA of this here ethics game. He’s the one that really summed it up nicely, and gave everyone the central cornerstone of modern ethics: The Categorical Imperative!

categorical

Put simply: Act so that the maxim of your actions should be made universal and necessary. 

Ok, put even simpler: In whatever you do, act in such a way that you’re advocating that all people, everywhere, should always act in the same way, in that same situation.

So, if you shoplift, you’re saying by your actions that it’s in the best interest of all people everywhere to do the same. If you disagree, and think all people shouldn’t shoplift, neither should you – so don’t do it. Duh.

If you hold the door for people walking 10 steps behind you and let them in first, you’re saying everyone else should do the same. Also a good idea.

Boom. Lawyered.

Or, philosophized? Whatever. 

literallykant

Kant’s other central points were:

  1. People are an ends in and of themselves, not a means to an end – so treat them that way. Don’t intentionally harm them.
  2. A good act is a good thing in and of itself, regardless of the outcome. Even if you failed, a good act is its own reward.

Taken altogether, if practiced, you have the lion’s share of what it takes to be a good leader – or at least not a giant-garbage-person.

My take away?

  • Love people. At the very least, respect their humanity. Every one of them. Treat them decently, even if you don’t like them.
  • Do a good thing because it’s a good thing to do. That means being honest, keeping promises, give your best effort, learn from mistakes. Even if you fail, you did the right thing and that’s all it needs to be. Success received for doing the wrong thing isn’t any success at all.
  • Be a model for what you think is right – make sure you agree with what your actions say you believe in.

I wish I had another Kant pun to throw in here to close this thing out with, but I Kant think of one.

Waitaminute… I see what I did there.  I just Kant get enough of these puns.

Trash Talk Leaves You Dirty

Donttalkshiz

The salesperson who says you’ll get feline aids and an a year of bad hair days if you live at community X is only thinking about the short term gain – which is actually illusory. Maybe you believe them, but that doesn’t mean you like their community any better. If anything, you’re naturally put off as we generally dislike people who crap all over others. What’s to say they’re not going to do the same to us the second we leave?

Build a good reputation for honesty. Tell them the reasons why you do what you do, and what you believe in as an organization. State where you’re better than X and where you’re not and trust them to see the value you’ve worked so hard to build. That’s all the difference you need to stand out.