So I was interviewing for a job. And one would think logically, that if you could document through writing, research or what have you that you were one of the handful of people out there that saw the housing crash coming and could have saved this potential employer millions of dollars, they would want to hire you.
Spoke with a recruiter who was one of the few that took a look at my resume and had the cajones to be forthright with me and say, "Captain, you scare people. You have too many things going on in your life and the fact you put in your resume that you predicted the housing crash scares people even more because you're not a team player."
Which threw me off a bit, because I was thinking that ESPECIALLY in this market, banks and other financial service firms would LOVE to hire somebody who could have predicted this. You know, that if you spent all of $100,000 on me say, 4 years ago at Citigroup I could have saved them $14,000,000,000 (not to mention the egregious severance package their former CEO got). That's a pretty good ROI. But ahhh, that is where you go thinking again.
For there are times that I sit here in the US and often wonder how is it that our economy is any more efficient than North Korea's. How, with the Pointy Haired Bosses of the World the US manages to eek out an additional 3.2% RGDP per year every year, when it has practically been every US employee's universal experience to see a train wreck like the housing crash coming, they futilely sound the whistles and alarms only to have the Point Haired Boss Conductor of the train SPEED UP.
And the only way I can rationalize this is that American society has become so obsessed with not insulting people, not making anybody feel the slightest bit on edge, than we put being NICE ahead of being RIGHT.
I'm sure there are anecdotes and stories abound (which I'd love you to post about and e-mail in) where being nice is put above being right. The housing debacle is just one such example. Approve everybody, borrowers or builders, regardless of their ability to pay and regardless of their ability to sell the properties. Or where I see wait staff tolerate people's crap who whine a gripe about their food not cooked to their anal retentive demands.
Regardless, I've always kind of had this theory in the back of my head, but I hadn't recently thought about it until I saw this book consistently on the top of the NYT's best seller list; The Secret. (and yes, I know it is under the Advice Column, but I couldn't find the Economist chart with it that showed it #2 for the overall list).
The whole idea of this book is, very simply, if you wish it to happen and think nice little fluffy bunny rabbit thoughts of ice cream and flowers, it will come true. And not only that, they contest that it's a "secret" that has given all the power to all the power brokers in the world and made millionaires and billionaires who they are. No, Bill Gates didn't think or answer the demand of an economy, he just thought happy thoughts and poof Microsoft was formed. The only reason I know of this stupid book is because my buddy Chico is hooked on it. And sadly he has yet to make his millions (but don't worry, he keeps wishing it will happen...AND IT WILL, BECAUSE HE KNOWS THE SECRET!)
Regardless, the fact this book is on the top of the NYT's best seller list only confirms what I fear; The US population would rather be lied to and believe in a fairy tale instead of face the harsh realities of life and make real progress. And that kind of thinking is dangerous because putting what's NICE ahead of what's RIGHT is that it ignores reality.
Yes, it would be nice to think there isn't a housing bubble (you'd be amazed how many bankers think the recovery is "just around the corner.")
Yes it would be nice to think Beanie Babies and Tulip Bulbs and Dotcoms can perpetually go up in value forever.
Yes it would be nice to think that the Minnesota Vikings would win a Super Bowl.
And it would be very nice to think that Social Security and Medicare are not going to crush this nation's economy in about 10 years.
Yes that would be nice.
But try to point out those "nasty realities" at a party and you are summarily shunned or asked to leave.
Try to point out the Vikings do indeed suck, and you will be kicked out of any Minneapolis bar.
And try to point out that a person can't afford a loan, and you'll be lectured about not being a team player.
Of course this puts the American worker in a paradox. Do you do what's right, or what's nice? And unfortunately for most Americans, they don't have the option. They're not independently wealthy and can't tell the Pointy Haired Boss to shove it. They don't have rich parents and can therefore afford the freedom of speech at work or just not work at all. They have to put food on the table and make ends meet, so rather than point out the emperor has no clothes, they realize if they want clothes themselves, they better say they see a fully dressed emperor. Naturally there is a price to pay for such ignorance and idealism about being nice vs. right. And that is the recession we're about to go into.
But don't worry, if we all think really hard and wish it doesn't happen and master "The Secret" then I'm sure it will go away.