This is not intended as a political statement but a personal appeal regarding how I think you and I make a difference to America, and our ability to compete better on the global stage. I have the luxury of travelling to other parts of the world and am watching global competition unfold daily. The US is in an economic “dog fight.” You and I are in it whether we like it or not. It’s personal and it is not going away. There is no back to the future relative to global competition and the personal impact on our daily lives.
I really respect Thomas Friedman, the New York Times Pulitzer prize winning author, as great thinker and journalist. Some of you may reject Friedman and the NYT because your views differ with its political stance. But I ask you to have an open mind regarding quotes from Friedman’s article in the Sunday New York Times, October 25. 2010.
“We compensated for years of stagnating middle-class wages the easy way. Just as baseball players in the ’90s injected themselves with steroids to artificially build muscle to hit more home runs — instead of doing real bodybuilding — our two parties injected steroids, cheap credit, into Wall Street so it could go gambling and into Main Street so it could go home-buying. They both started hitting home runs, artificially — until the steroids ran dry. Now we have to rebuild America’s muscles the old-fashioned way.
…good jobs at scale come only when we create more products and services that make people’s lives more healthy, more productive, more secure, more comfortable or more entertained — and then sell them to more people around the world. And in a global economy, we have to create those products and services with a work force that is so well trained and productive that it can leverage modern technology so that one American can do the work of 20 Chinese and, therefore, get paid the same as 20 Chinese. There is no other way…
Lawrence Katz, the Harvard University labor economist, has it right. Everyone today, he says, needs to think of himself as an “artisan” — the term used before mass manufacturing to apply to people who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch in which they took personal pride. Everyone today has to be an artisan and bring something extra to their jobs.
For instance, says Katz, the baby boomers are aging, which will spawn many health care jobs. Those jobs can be done in a low-skilled way by cheap foreign workers and less-educated Americans or they can be done by skilled labor that is trained to give the elderly a better physical and psychological quality of life. The first will earn McWages. The second will be in high demand. The same is true for the salesperson that combines passion with a deep knowledge of fashion trends, the photo-store clerk who can teach you new tricks with your digital camera while the machine prints your film, and the pharmacist who doesn’t just sell pills but learns to relate to customer health needs in more compassionate and informative ways. They will all do fine.
But just doing your job in an average way — in this integrated and automated global economy — will lead to below-average wages. Sadly, average is over. We’re in the age of “extra,” and everyone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work to justify being paid more than a computer, a Chinese worker or a day laborer. “People will always need haircuts and health care,” says Katz, “and you can do that with low-wage labor or with people who acquire a lot of skills and pride and bring their imagination to do creative and customized things.” Their work will be more meaningful and their customers more satisfied……..”
I completely and wholeheartedly agree… WE ARE IN THE AGE OF EXTRA AND ARTISANS. WE HAVE TO COMPETE IN A WINNING WAY. LOCALLY AND GLOBALLY!
This idea may seem somewhat exhausting to you. But I encourage each of us to use it to our advantage. The Character Triangle gives us a framework and system that will help us become artisans and to put definition behind what “extra” means. It does not necessarily require us working Saturday and Sundays, but it does mean thinking about every day as a day we can sharpen our skills and add more value.
This is back to the good old fashioned commitment to being personally excellent every day. The CT will help! It is exhilarating to compete by being better everyday personally. If we commit to being great individually the collective force will take on a momentum of its own. Let’s win.
Live the Triangle,