January 10, 2008

The Secret to Success

It's simple.

When you get out of college and start looking for a job, do what you do best (and maybe this means don't get a 9-5).

Do what you're talented at or passionate about and focus on it with laser-like intensity. If you play the cello, become the next Yo Yo Ma because you like to perform and the applause of the audience gets your adrenaline running; not because your mommy keeps reminding you that you always used to beat the other kids at orchestra competitions when you were in the 5th grade.

If you follow my advice, then once you start raking in the Benjamins, you'll be faced with the Income Effect (where you prefer leisure to working) and then you'll be able to devote your new-found time to the things you suck at (oh...too harsh? Then how about the things at which you do not have a competitive advantage in)?

Let's face the truth. LeBron James plays ball because he's good at it. Should he waste his talent to go and make lattes for us at Starbucks?

No! LeBron James is doing what he should be doing and as a former Starbucks employee myself, I worked hard to become the best barista I could become. Why? Because this is what you're supposed to do...I can't play ball at the NBA level so I might as well learn how to make a fine drink.

Now, I didn't work at the Starbucks Harford goes to but I did work at the one 4 blocks away from the White House @ 1919 Penn Ave and one of our stores' regular customers was Wolf Blizter who always specifically requested that I be the one who makes his drinks. Why? It's because because people could see that I always tried to make the highest quality product not just one time but everytime! (By the way, if you're curious, Wolf drinks a Triple Venti Skim Latte and drives a black Lexus hard-top convertible).

So, to transition from basketball and our favorite coffee company (or the Evil Empire depending on your point of view), we can see why it's so important to find your own competitive advantage and then develop it. I left Starbucks (even though I was better than my co-workers at making drinks) and moved to Colorado because I was even better at working with numbers (I now work for a financial company in town). And although I miss the free Starbucks "partner beverages" I used to get, my increase in pay from an hourly worker to a salaried one allows me to BUY all the drinks I want without feeling a squeeze on my wallet.

Anyways, with regard to globalization I want to simply say that our world would be much better-off if there were no tariffs to restrict trade (don't penalize LeBron for buying a latte because he can't make one himself and don't laugh at me because I'm too short to dunk...you'll make me cry).

If we had a GLOBAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENT then OF COURSE there would be cyclical employment and a complete shift of the labor force to industries within a country's borders where a competitive advantage could be realized (natural resources would also be key). But, and here's the important part, this would only be temporary until the shift is complete!

The problem here is CHANGE. People don't want to change if they don't have to so they will elect politicians who will keep the status quo. After all, why would I want to vote for a congressman or senator whose platform is to take away my office job so that I can become a ski-lift operator at Vail (if Colorado becomes a 100% tourism industry state). Heck, I've never even been skiing once in my life so this would indeed be a direct threat to my livelihood!

This is why we need to take the long view. And as Harford says, "If you want to be a rich country, then be friends with other rich countries." Sure...I might be taking a rather drastic pay cut initially but over time when everybody is focused on their competitive advantage, then I could expect my wage to rise.

Food for thought: India just rolled out the first $2500 car today. Just think about it! If everyone in the world drives the TaTa, then that means you'll have so much more disposable income to spend elsewhere on other parts of the economy.

PS - You can never overtip your barista or ski-lift operator!

1 comment:

brendon newton said...

But I'm afraid... I don't know that Americans are good at anything. We can't make cars, we don't know computers, so what can we do? We just happen to have a lot of "hard earned money" to pay everyone else for our lack of competitive advantage. Oh, and I've never heard of tipping my ski lift operator. The opportunity cost of not having a lot of money is more than made up for in the lifestyle they live in. Just my opinion.