During a discussion about technology evolution in American business, a subscriber on GaryNorth.com made a statement in passing. The subscriber is a professional software developer by trade:
“Corporate America does not love old people. Their loss.”From https://www.garynorth.com/members/forum/openthread.cfm?forum=21&ThreadID=281000#281279 (Website subscription required.)
It would appear that this viewpoint is prevalent within the rank and file of American industry. But is it valid? Or to be more accurate, to what extent is it valid?
In response to the subscriber, I offered the following opinion…
Why Old Men?
Although on the surface, Hemingway’s old man had a fight on his hands, as the main theme of Hemingway’s work, at a more fundamental level, the old man had a job to do. In this he wouldn’t quit despite all adversity. His passion was in his work, and the work was his purpose. He wasn’t “along for the ride.” He didn’t behave as if life was a source of entertainment.
But it was that fact that he was an old man, with the experience of old men, and the moral, ethical, and professional grounding of old men, that caused him to persist at that job when the irresolute would have quit. Or, with today’s irresolute, wouldn’t be caught dead doing a tough job, only ridiculing those few that do. (As an aside, one might review Mike Rowe’s extensive work in the context of passion for, and purpose of work.)
In addition, events required the old man to get creative; to find new ways to accomplish the mission in the face of adversity. And though the sharks took much of the meat of his product (read: value), he brought home the evidence of his work, and brought his work to conclusion.
This was a direct result of habit, based on values, developed on the road to becoming an old man.
Notwithstanding the disdain from the community, he found a way. He didn’t quit.
Some years ago, a fellow named Doug Casey in an interview stated: “I’m gonna’ be on the other side of the boat.” For myself, that statement is one of those “where were you when President Kennedy was shot” moments, as it indicated a rather profound strategy.
The specific context is not important here. What is important is to understand that Casey was indirectly referencing where he places himself in a Pareto Distribution. He recognized that the best place to be was where the crowd wasn’t. (Consider that last sentence in the context of the panicdemic resulting from COVID-19-related controls.)
There are very few contexts wherein Casey’s strategy doesn’t provide the best cost/benefit ratio to an individual. That cost/benefit ratio results directly from one acting as an individual, first, foremost, and always. To do that, one has to think differently; one has to think like…an entrepreneur.
It also applies to that supposed edifice of Corporate America: management.
Notwithstanding the clamor of spectators in the blood sport of denigrating the entity that “fills their rice bowl,” some of the most entrepreneurial people I ever knew were mid-level and senior managers in Corporate America. They were entrepreneurs in the science of management, and practiced that science as an art form. Management being “the accomplishment of pre-determined objectives through others.”
Whether the entity prospered or not depended first and foremost on them, as they were those that “accomplished pre-determined objectives through others.”
It also applied to senior technicians, who positioned themselves not through seniority, but through entrepreneurial competence.
In their own way, these technicians “accomplished pre-determined objectives through others” within technical contexts. But to do so, they had to fully embrace their role in Corporate America, as full and committed advocates of the primary purpose.
Corporate [Whatever’s] Purpose
“Corporate [whatever]” has exactly one primary purpose; a primary purpose that remains fixed regardless of locales or industry or mission; and that primary purpose is to leverage the division of labor most effectively and most efficiently to serve others. All of the benefits of incorporating that one may hear of DO NOT establish a corporate entity’s primary purpose, but serve to protect and encourage this method of engaging the division of labor to serve others.
Perhaps the denizens and spectators of Corporate America have largely forgotten this primary purpose. Then again, I have faith that it has not been forgotten; only obscured by superfluous requirements originating from the ongoing devolvement of the culture—a devolvement indicated by the ever-growing volume of irrational fervor of spectators. Push-come-to-shove, and that primary purpose will rise from obscurity above all the political noise and distractions, and superfluous requirements so rampant in today’s culture.
When the “shove” comes, individual corporations, in order to prosper, will need an effective and efficient division of labor that serves others. That means first and foremost people that know how to get stuff done. To standard. People that decide they “aren’t going to tolerate this anymore,” and then act. People who also know how to, and are committed to, dropping the BS, cutting to the chase, firing the incompetent, and leading from the front in so many contexts.
So take a guess as to who those people might be. What side of the boat might they occupy?
Believe me when I tell you that when blood and mud mix in the corporate world, just like that other context, it’ll be the people who are ready, willing, and able to “step up” that will lead the followers “out of the sh*t” and into prosperity. That will be the people that “aren’t going to tolerate this anymore.” (Well, that just about eliminates youngsters, spectators, and adolescents, of whatever age.)
“Ready, willing, and able.” You’ll not find such in the bleachers; only on the playing field.
Also believe me when I tell you that the party “stepping up” has some serious fear issues to confront, and to overcome, because “the front” is always the most exposed position. A leader ALWAYS is the first to face that scary (and sometimes fatal) known and unknown; that’s why the followers…follow behind. (This is a truth learned anywhere blood and mud mix.)
To borrow a religious phrase, the saving grace for leadership, which by the nature of leadership will be “the first to fall” in a survival situation, will be a solid grounding in moral, ethical, and professional conduct applied in situ.
Kinda’ like that old man…
Don’t “Get Along”
From time immemorial, and in today’s business world in general, implementing a strategy of choosing the other side of the boat means that one does not go along to get along, nor join in the chorus of employees denigrating the firm employing them, nor hunkering down and trying to hide in one’s job; all strategies designed to “just get along.”
The strategy of being an individual demands that one is a solution, in a sea of problems, while being heckled by a vast crowd of spectators from the crowded side of the boat.
Today in Corporate America, the culture of political noise and distractions results in rewarding the problems and the spectators, at the expense of the solution providers.
But that will change with some “next normal;” and when it does, some authority will turn to an individual and say: “Get in there!”
Nothing personal, and no hard feelings…it’s just perspective.