Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Despite my last post about the Occupy Wall Street folks, I have to admit that the movement is impressive. I didn’t think this generation could walk away from The Real Housewives and organize a movement.

But what confuses me is the message. I saw an interview yesterday with a young lady who said that life isn’t fair. She wants money to be abolished! She wants us to all be equal and just “live.”

(I also saw many interviews where people just beat their drums in circles. I’m not sure what drums have to do with anything; I guess it was some sort of new-age auditory protest intended to spread peace. I don’t think it worked, though, because I almost had a violent seizure.)

Let me focus on what the lady said about everyone being equal. Man, that would be fun, wouldn’t it? For a day, at least, right? It would, also, be fun if unicorns existed and if all the candy in the Willy Wonka movie existed.

Alas, that is not the way the world works.

Almost 20 years ago, when my son began his illustrious but brief soccer career, everyone got a trophy or a ribbon—every single kid out there. If you played, you got a prize. All you had to do was participate. Soccer awards were the great equalizer. No matter who did what on the field, you could feel good holding a shiny trophy signifying that everyone was equal. Participating was enough.

But in the world of business, it’s not this way at all. Everyone does not get a trophy for participating. Business people are held to high standards, and only the top performers get awarded with clients, money, and the complete DVD set of the TV show Wired.
This doesn’t mean that everyone is a loser, with just a few winners. It means that everyone must work hard to find his or her unique talents, and then constantly push harder to refine them. It means that some people have greater capacity, intellect, or luck. These folks often get more that the others, but not because they cheat. They are awarded because they do things better, faster, cheaper, and easier—and because they make our lives better.

But the good news for those of us who have only mediocre talent: These people make our lives better. If everyone participated at an equal level, we might not even have the Motorola 400 circa 1984, much less the iPhone 4S. We probably wouldn’t have the Backstreet Boys, much less the Beatles.

You see, you can’t legislate equality because people are not innately equal. Sure, you can force equal benefits and equal pay, but you cannot maximize energy of the more capable by giving the fruits of that capability to others. The talented folks would just stop working.

The problem with trying to legislate equality is that the multiplier effect that comes alongside genius will stop. Jobs will not be created or lost. And the people who create breakthroughs will never get their opportunity. If this sort of cycle continues, guess what you get?


I have two suggestions for all the protesters. First, don’t be too proud to work. Sweep streets. Clean the bathroom. Earn minimum wage. Some money is better than no money, especially when your unemployment runs out. Remember, someone who was not too proud to drive a cab could someday become the owner of a cab company.

Second, don’t be stopped by the “no’s.” In the words of the great Rolling Stones song, “you can’t always get what you want.”

But if you keep going, even though you haven’t gotten what you want, you are bound to eventually hear a “yes.” Research successful people. Almost all of them heard more than their fair share of “no’s.” Rags to riches stories are common. Seldom do people major in being corporate president in college. (I went to school to be president of the universe, but that’s just me. Also, that didn’t work out to well.)

By the way, I’ll bet that if the vast majority of the Wall Street protesters were offered a six-figure, Wall Street income starting immediately, they would miss the next march … and the next drum circle.

Today’s Challenge: Think about the NOs you have heard in your life. Did they kill you or did they make you stronger? If they killed you then you must not be reading this. Otherwise, I rest my case!

Related Posts:
Occupy Wall Street Protestors= The Yes Men
The Secret to Life
What is an Entrepreneur?

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