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Posts Tagged “Bill Clinton”

Belgian painter Erik Pevernagie says, “In a lifeworld, where we can be what we are, and not what people expect us to be, we can escape a blank and void existence, which is linked to wrecking ennui.”

I don’t think I’ve been bored a single day since I embraced entrepreneurship in 1996. Not a day. Not an hour.

What is boredom? Bertrand Russell defines boredom as “…essentially a thwarted desire for events, not necessarily pleasant ones, but just occurrences such as will enable the victim of ennui to know one day from another.”

One of the great non-monetary rewards of entrepreneurship is the frisson it brings to each day. There is an elan vital that suffuses every breath of the entrepreneur’s day, a personalization and weight that comes with being radically responsible for your own life and for the life of the corporate entity you animate. What you do, what you decide, really counts.

I was reminded of this reading an article in Business Week five years ago. The article was entitled, “28: Grateful to be Employed, Bored Half to Death” (Mike Dorning, 6/20-6/26, 2011). It talked about the great sense of “stuckness” endemic in the millenial corporate workforce.

“From the factory floor to the boardroom, few Americans these days are willing to tell the boss shove it. Many of those who have weathered the recession with their jobs intact are now sheltering in place, either fearful of risking a change or simply lacking the opportunity. Since January 2009, an average 1 million fewer Americans per month have quit their jobs than in previous years. … That adds up to 28 million Americans stuck in jobs they would have left in ordinary times.”

I think the stagnancy and tightness of the job market since 2008 could have long-term consequences for the vocational health, esprit de corps, and creativity of traditional corporate employees, where the primary goal becomes to survive at all costs and hold tight onto what is at least a stable status quo rather than step into uncertainty, even if that uncertainty offers a potential improvement in pay or career advancement or spiritual existence. It creates timidity and boredom.

Stan Greenberg, a former pollster for Bill Clinton, notes people’s hesitancy to make any moves in the current economy, whether into a new life in a new place, or even to escape from a tyrannical boss. He says, “You’ve got 28 million people whose aspirations are being contained.”

A great, if unquantifiable, benefit of entrepreneurship is the gift of freedom. Freedom to be yourself, freedom to tell the truth, freedom to grow, freedom to laugh, freedom not to be cowed or compromised, freedom to march to the beat of your own drummer. And freedom to not be bored. The price of admission to this entrepreneurial adventure is courage and risk. Even if the entrepreneur fails, the growth of innate stature, earned gravitas, personal dignity, and moral centeredness remains. It is well worth it, whether a business succeeds or fails. And one is guaranteed never, ever to be bored.

The late Susan Sontag says, “The life of the creative man is led, directed, and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.”

Thank you, Susan.

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The Webster Dictionary defines charisma as compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others or a divinely conferred power or talent.  It’s derivation is the Greek word charis, meaning favor, grace, beauty, kindness.

Charisma is a quality that is frequently possessed very publicly by entrepreneurs, but also not.  My feeling is that charisma is innate in every human being and is a quality that can be cultivated.

Historian James MacGregor Burns in his book Leadership (Harper Collins-1978-p. 243-4) talks about the nature of charisma:

“The term [charisma]  has taken on a number of different but overlapping meanings:  leaders’ magical qualities; an emotional bond between leader and led; dependence on a father figure by the masses; popular assumptions that a leader is powerful, omniscient, and virtuous; imputation of enormous supernatural power to leaders (or secular power, or both); and simply popular support for a leader that verges on love.”

A universal energy is evident in what we call charisma.  People who truly know who they are and what they believe release a compelling power that is almost religious in its nature.  We immediately think of many famous people from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton to Barack Obama.  Or actors like Clint Eastwood, Johnny Depp, Clark Gable, etc.  Or tyrants like Hitler, Stalin, Mao.  These, and many other folks in many fields, seem to have a secret, recondite knowledge attached to a public presence.

Certainly qualities like pulchritude, eloquence, and style are a help in enhancing charisma, but not at all its essence.  It’s essence is passion and commitment to a vision.

Ugly people have charisma.  Fat people have charisma.   Handicapped people have charisma.  The best example of unlikely charisma I can think of is Abraham Lincoln, who was possessed of a stoic stone face his enemies called simian, who dressed only in black, dull ill-fitting clothes, had an unkempt beard, and, to judge from his photographs, seemed to never comb his hair.

Entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to grow into charisma because they operate in an vocational milieu of freedom.  They take huge risks and many fail.  (Certainly most of us don’t wake up any day without feeling a whiff of danger and fear in the ether.)  But entrepreneurs also have the opportunity of connecting their unique inner truth and vision to truly new creations. In this sense, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to be closer to the sacred, in this secular age, than many ministers or priests.  Like the religious man or the artist, their path is one of passion and verity.

I see the entrepreneurial salesman’s chief task to be to connect in the sales process to the simple truth of the product or service he sells.  The great entrepreneurial salesman creates an aura of certainty and faith.  When he leaves a room he leaves a sense of inchoate longing behind.  This longing is not for a service or product, but for meaning itself.  That is what an ur-entrepreneurial salesman like Steve Jobs possessed in spades.

Or, as historian Daniel Boorstin says, “I call [charisma] the need to be authentic–or, as our dictionaries tell us, conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief….[A person with charisma] is strong because he is what he seems to be.”

Thank You, Daniel.

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At a symposium of Inc.’s Business Owners Council last year,  Deepak Chopra related an incidental conversation he had with Bill Clinton over dinner. Clinton startled Chopra with the fact that there are millions of unfilled, high-paying jobs in the U.S. Enough to put a real dent in our unemployment rolls.  However, there is simply a dearth of Americans to fill these positions. Furthermore, this paucity of skilled workers is not getting better.

We are a country and a culture that glorifies youth, but the HR assumptions about the low value of older workers is simply out of date.  The increasing utilization of an aging workforce may well become a necessity.

In a Wall Street Journal article of December 28 (Section B, page one), James R. Hagerty describes this conundrum.  “Given high unemployment, companies could hire young workers to replace older ones, but many jobs require years of on-the-job training.”  So true.  And it is not just physically skilled jobs.  Much of the value in a service industry job–from salesman to consultant to trainer–comes from the unteachable gravitas and judgement that simply can’t be taught quickly.  Additionally, as I mentioned last week, many veteran workers are highly flexible and adjustable about hours, a plus for any business.  McDonald’s has a program for recruiting seniors for just this reason.

Joseph Coughlin, the director of MITs AgeLab, feels many more employers should be preparing to use and recruit an older workforce.  He points out that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 24% of the U.S. labor force (an estimated 40 million) will be 55 or older in 2018.  It’s already 18% of the workforce.  He says, “Frankly many companies don’t get it yet…They can’t imagine a time when there isn’t going to be this endless supply of young people coming through.”  Ergo, demography will necessitate workforce adjustments.

Duke Energy, Harley-Davidson, Unimin, and Vulcan Materials, among others, have instituted successful programs aimed at maximizing the life of their skilled veteran workers and hiring more when they can find them to recruit.  They are putting in place automation systems specifically created to vastly reduce physical demand on older workers.  They also incentivize their older employees to exercise and stay limber as a regular part of their workday.  Surely this increasingly healthy and long-lived generation should be a growing resource for the small businessman, as well as the large.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The years teach much which the days never know”.

Thank you, Ralph Waldo.

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I attended a speech by Deepak Chopra a couple of months ago hosted by the Inc. Business Council.  The talk was pleasant enough, but I came wide awake when Mr. Chopra cited Bill Clinton telling him over lunch there are well over two million jobs now in the US that are going unfilled.  I thought, “How in God’s name can we have an official unemployment rate of 9.2% and a real unemployment rate of over 16% and have two million jobs unfilled?”

My initial reaction to Mr. Chopra’s annecdotal citation of this fact was beyond dubious.  However, it bloody well is true!  Not only is it true, but these jobs-gone-begging are generally high-paying jobs.  Yup.  I’ve seen it confirmed in multiple places, most recently in the just released report of President Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council chaired by Jeff Immelt of G.E.

Mr. Immelt and Ken Chenault (CEO of American Express) co-wrote an editorial that prominently notes this employment conundrum.  They write in the Wall Street Journal (6/13/11), “There are more than two million open jobs in the U.S., in part because employers can’t find workers with the advanced manufacturing skills they need.  The private sector must quickly form partnerships with community colleges, vocational schools and others to match career training with real world hiring needs.”  (I find it amusing, if a bit hypocritical, that the politically connected CEO of G.E, which contributed millions to the election of the current President and coincidentally paid zero taxes last year, suggests that the “private sector,” meaning mostly small businessmen like you and me, should “quickly” solve the problem.)

Last Friday, July 15, Alan Greenspan also spoke to this.  He told The Globalist, “In the United States, we are in the process of seeing the baby boomers–the most productive, highly skilled educated part of our labor force–retire.  They are being replaced by groups of young workers who have regrettably scored rather poorly in educational match-ups over the last two decades.”  Indeed.

One solution I see is clearly to keep these skilled baby boomers working years longer.  (I previously posted  about this on June 29, 2010 if you want to read more.)  Employers and HR people need to get this message.  The recent Associated PressLifeGoesStrong.com poll finds that most boomers consider old age to now begin at 70, and over a quarter of boomers aver you’re not old till you’re 80.  In what I see as a coming age of austerity and probable entitlement cut-backs, there will also be need for older, skilled workers to work much longer before going quietly into that good night.

As the late Andre Maurois says in The Aging American (1961),  “Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.”  Thanks, Andre.

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I don’t think I’ve been bored a single day since I started my firm in 1996.  Not a day.  Not an hour.

One of the great non-monetary rewards of entrepreneurship is the frisson it brings to each day.  There is an elan vital that suffuses every breath of the entrepreneur’s day, a personalization and weight that comes with being radically responsible for your own life and for the life of the corporate entity you animate.  What you do, what you decide, really counts.

I was reminded of this reading an article in Business Week last month.  The article was entitled, “28:  Grateful to be Employed, Bored Half to Death” (Mike Dorning, 6/20-6/26, 2011).  It talks about the great sense of “stuckness” endemic in the young corporate workforce.

“From the factory floor to the boardroom, few Americans these days are willing to tell the boss shove it.  Many of those who have weathered the recession with their jobs intact are now sheltering in place, either fearful of risking a change or simply lacking the opportunity.  Since January 2009, an average 1 million fewer Americans per month have quit their jobs than in previous years. Through April, the most recent data available, that adds up to 28 million Americans stuck in jobs they would have left in ordinary times.”

I think the stagnancy and tightness of the job market since 2008 could have long-term consequences for the vocational health, esprit de corps, and creativity of traditional corporate employees, where the primary goal becomes to survive at all costs and hold tight onto what is at least a stable status quo rather than step into uncertainty, even if that uncertainty offers a potential improvement in pay or career advancement.  It creates timidity and boredom.

Stan Greenberg, a former pollster for Bill Clinton, notes people’s hesitancy to make any moves in the current economy, whether into a new life in a new place, or even to escape from a tyrannical boss.  He says, “You’ve got 28 million people whose aspirations are being contained.”

A great, if unquantifiable, benefit of entrepreneurship is the gift of freedom. Freedom to be yourself, freedom to tell the truth, freedom to grow, freedom to laugh, freedom not to be cowed or compromised, freedom to march to the beat of your own drummer.  And freedom from boredom. The price of admission to this entrepreneurial reality is courage and risk.  Even if the entrepreneur fails, the growth of innate stature, earned gravitas, personal dignity, and moral centeredness remains.  It is well worth it, whether a business succeeds or fails.  And one is guaranteed never, ever to be bored.

The late Susan Sontag says, “The life of the creative man is lead, directed, and controlled by boredom.  Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.”

Thank you, Susan.

 

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