Employee Retention

“A job’s come up and I thought about you, Clarice.  Not a job, really.  More of an interesting errand.   Sit down.” – Silence of the Lambs

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The Boy and friend enjoy cocoa in the break room before heading back to conduct a PowerPoint® presentation on marketing to five year olds.  Sadly, The Boy would soon be let go due to age discrimination.

After you’ve been at a job for a while, you begin to count people in the room.  Not just on who you could push out of the way to get to the door for a quick escape if you needed to, or who to blame when you took the last cup of coffee in the breakroom without making more.  No, after a while, you begin to feel like a survivor, mainly because the faces around you keep changing.

How many people in the room were there five years ago?  How many were there 10 years ago?  I mean, not that they’ve been in the room the whole time, but that worked for the same company?  (I’m assuming your company is like mine, and they have kinda strict rules about not wanting you to living in the conference rooms – it’s horrible when you find that out the hard way.)

I looked at my emails from February 19 five years ago and counted the number of people who emailed me.  Then I counted those that were still with the company.  There were 10 out of 25 still with the company.  I did the math, and that calculated to a greater than 20% attrition, each year.  A better survival rate than a doughnut in Oprah’s dining room?  Sure.  But still pretty grim.

So, five years go by?  The company’s changed out most of the employees in my random-ish sample.  But what did the attrition look like for mid-level managers?  When I did the math, it was greater than 45%.  I was surprised – it was a huge number.  These were the people who were responsible for company results – and, generally, the employees had been pretty good, and the company had been really profitable during that time period.  Almost half of them would leave yearly.

But that 45% attrition wasn’t the highest number I have run into – I looked at another company that I used to work at.  Over a five year period, they’d had an 80% attrition rate.  80%!  There was only one guy out of sixteen left.  It probably won’t surprise you when I tell you that company closed down two years after I visited.

And some positions are even worse.  One particularly key leadership position that I’ve observed (since I have worked closely with this position on and off) has seen seven people in ten years.  If I add in interim leaders?  That number goes up to NINE people in TEN years.  For one job.  One key job.

I did some research online – what’s a decent attrition rate?  Some HR personnel said that less than 15% was a good, healthy number.  But the smarter HR people said . . . hey, 15% is high.  We want zero attrition in our high performers.

But can you keep the good ones, like the key leeader revolving door listed above?

No.

The world is changing at a pretty rapid pace:

Professor Richard Foster (which sounds like a made-up name) from some so-called college called “Yale” was reported by BBC to have done a study that looked at company lifespans.  Turns out the average life of a company on the S&P 500 in the 1920’s was 67 years.  In 2011-ish when he did his study?  15 years.

Companies don’t last as long now – your career may last longer than the life span of many S&P 500 companies.  High performers?  Those that want to make a large contribution will be quitting and going to those companies that are growing – that’s where the opportunity is.  You can’t stop them from doing this, unless you have incriminating photos, or are paying them more than you really should.  The second isn’t something that a company that’s not growing can (generally) do, so, they leave.

For good or bad, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that workers under forty today will hold 12 to 15 jobs in their lifetime.  In a forty five year career?  That’s a new job every three years.

So, low retention rates, short lifespan companies, and a job market that is driven by high employee turnover – it doesn’t really sound fun.

Good news!  There is a way to stay longer at a company you love:  I hear one way to stay at a company longer is to hide in the air ducts and only come out after the security guard makes the 10pm walk through.  Might even be some leftover doughnuts in the breakroom.

Nope.  Oprah was here.  Sigh.  Guess it’s ketchup and mustard packets for dinner again . . . .

Malthus, S-Curves, Rabbits, Construction, and Software Design

“One of the most widely used chemical compounds is zinc oxide. This policeman, this farmer, and this housewife don’t realize it, but they all depend on zinc oxide in their daily lives.” – Kentucky Fried Movie

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The Alaska range at dawn.  Not pictured:  sexy farmers.

Thomas Malthus was a very, very gloomy guy – so much so that the term after his name, “Malthusian” has come to describe dismal, teeming masses of poor hungry people.  He did the math and saw that food production produced arithmetically, and there were limits of how much food a single acre could produce, and a limit to how much food could be produced overall.  People reproduced geometrically, and could reproduce much faster than the food supply.  Probably because farming was and is much less fun than sex.

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Looks like Pastor Malthus would be more of a party guy, and less of a “we’re all doomed” guy.  Via Wikimedia

Pierre François Verhulst was modelling populations based on his reading of that gloomy Thomas Malthus, and (after a bit of tinkering in the math world by some other folks) they ended up with:

N(t)=K/1(+CKe^-rt)

Math sometimes solves multiple problems with the same solution.  And one of those solutions is the S-Curve (or “Logistics Function”).  Originally, Verhulst found it.  What irritates me about Verhulst is that his middle name has that French curly-cue thingy hanging off the bottom of a perfectly useful “c”.  So, we’ll just call him Pierre for the next sentence until we’re entirely done talking about him.

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Here is Pierre – and he approved this picture, which kinda makes him look like offspring of a parrot and a serial killer.  – Via Wikimedia

If you think back to an earlier (relatively popular) post (LINK) r is the rate of population growth, and K is the carrying capacity.  If you maximum mating as your evolutionary strategy, you’re an r critter, like a rabbit.  If you have a few offspring, and guard them like the crown jewels, you’re a K critter.  If you go back to the post linked above, you’ll see how this equation determines the fate of nations . . . but this post is about more than that.

The equation above is (kinda sorta) what I graphed to make the following curve:

S-Curve

It’s called an S-curve (or sigmoid curve) because it looks like an “s” that’s been stretched out.

So, you can imagine that as a population of bunnies gets dropped on an unsuspecting continent with no natural bunny predators, the population will skyrocket, as happened when rabbits were introduced to Australia.  In 1859, a dozen or so escaped from a hunting compound, and instead of forming the rabbit version of the A-Team they started reproducing, because rabbits like sex more than farming, too.  That’s the beginning of the curve.  Small growth, numbers wise, at first.  A dozen rabbits, two dozen, a hundred, two hundred . . . .

As the numbers of rabbits increase, they reach a peak of maximum growth – they’re moving outward and taking over more and more territory. At the end?  Growth slows as numbers peak.

In 1920, there were estimated to be 10,000,000,000 rabbits in Australia.  Ten billion.  In sixty years.  Right now, it’s estimated that “only” 200,000,000 rabbits survive in Australia.  The rabbit population growth followed the S-Curve until people figured out ways to, well, kill billions of rabbits.  If they stopped killing rabbits, you’d see 10,000,000,000 in just a few years – the rabbits would shoot back up the curve.

Austrailian Rabbits

Rabbit – it’s Australian for girlfriend, and these rabbits are drinking from the beer ponds of South Australia.

But it’s not just the population of Foster’s® drinking rabbits that this equation is used to predict.

Innovation

In many ways, the curve itself is a mathematical model of innovation or novelty.  If you look at the adoption of a technology, for instance, it’s very well described by the curve.  The adoption of the automobile, the Internet, (by population) television, radio, and even language elements are all explained by the S-curve.

My parents were, in many ways, really late stage adopters of stuff.  Ma Wilder never had a microwave during when I lived at home – even though every one of my friends did.  Video tape players?  They got one when I was in college.  They may have been the last “new” VCR purchasers.

Why?  Don’t know.  Pop Wilder had (generally) a really awesome income.  It’s not like he was out of money – and he bought all the fancy stuff like VCRs and televisions with remote controls after he retired.

But this measure also applies to adoption of any new technology.  And it shows that companies must continually innovate or their income streams will stagnate.  Apple™ has made tons of money on the iPod© and the iPhone® and the iPad™ . . . but innovation has slowed, greatly.  And nearly every phone is now an iPhone© or an Android™.  When Jobs was a live, it really was the Steve-curve, rather than the S-curve.  Now it’s the $-curve.  Wonder how long that will last them?  If they get in league with the forces of darkness and evil, maybe they can put together the NecrinomoPhone©, kinda like an iPhone™ but used to put you in league with Demons.  Or Facebook®.  But I repeat myself.

Construction

S-curves are tools used by construction companies to measure progress on construction jobs.  When you think about it, construction starts slow.  There isn’t a lot of work that can be done on a house until the foundation is in.  And then framing can start, and then, once framing is complete and the building is sheathed?  Lots of people can come and do their work at the same time – plumbers and electricians can do work with the drywall crew following closely behind.  There is a great amount of work that takes place in a short time, provided there’s enough Copenhagen® and Bud Light™.

But finishing is hard – the last 5% often takes 20% of the project’s schedule.  That’s because the available places for work drop off.  And the last bits of work have to be done sequentially – you can’t put the carpet in until you’ve textured the ceiling, unless you like crunchy carpet.  The S-curve is awesome at predicting the average construction time of a project.

Software Projects

Software projects are similar to building a house, except half of the houses completed would immediately burst in to explosive flame as soon as you tried to lock the front door.  Oh, and you’d be locked inside.  Inexplicably, every month your bedroom would mysteriously appear on the outside of the house, but in a different place each time.  Sometimes you would flush the toilet and the light would turn off.  Unless the switch for the fan was on, and then it would flush, but be refilled with goat’s blood.

We should be glad that contractors don’t hire software engineers.  But the S-curve still defines the progress to the exploding houses that software engineers create.

Crop Response

If you don’t water a plant, it won’t grow.  If a plant doesn’t have a vital nutrient, it won’t grow.  If the farmer is having sex for reproductive purposes, well, the plant might grow if he remembered to water it and fertilize it.

But the responses to water and these vital nutrients is . . . an S-curve.  Too little of that stuff?  Low growth rates.  Just right?  High growth rates – but maybe you want to avoid maximum growth rates if the incremental fertilizer is expensive.  Sometimes maximum isn’t optimum.  Just ask Gary Busey.

But crops respond with that same S-curve response to the addition of a vital nutrient, or, if you gradually add in an inhibiting factor like salt, it forms an inverse S-curve – a little salt won’t hurt the wheat, but eventually it kills it and no production is possible.

There are other physical things that S-curves apply to – such as learning a foreign language (interesting), machine learning (complex) and tumor growth rates (ugh).

S-Curves also show up in seemingly unrelated things . . . like names and Chicken Pox.  Source – XKCD.com

But Malthus has (at least for the last 225 years) been wrong.  Food production increases have been amazing – we’ve gone from famines caused by crop failures to the only famines that currently exist are entirely political in nature.  Food production has been increased through farming mechanization, nitrogen fertilizer production, food genetics, pesticide application, and better irrigation.

The continued S-curve of food innovation has saved billions of lives.  And birthrates in most of the world are falling – leading to a real possibility that Malthus will be forever wrong, except about the “farmers like sex” thing.

12 Rules For Life:  Return of the Jordan (Final Part of the Review Trilogy), Charles Atlas, The Simpsons . . . and Being a Man, The Definitive Review

“No. Not yet. One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi

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The Boy in full Vader get up.  He looked at me and said, “You are my Father, John Wilder.  Can I have more cake?” and then force-choked me when I said no, three pieces was enough.  So I cut off his hand.  That’s good parenting where I come from . . .

As promised, this is the final part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK) and the second part here (LINK).  Quotes, if not otherwise noted, are Peterson from the book.  Sorry for the delay – the flu was busy attempting to eat my lungs.  I’m better now.

 

I strongly recommend this book – and get no money if you buy it at this time – in the future, who knows?

Rule 9:  Assume That The Person You’re Listening To Knows Something You Don’t

If you listen, most people are really not boring.  Okay, some are.  But they are mainly parents of children who haven’t graduated from high school and anyone from Iowa.  Everybody else is interesting.  Dr. Peterson talks about how he sat down with a woman, and within minutes she was telling him she was a witch.  And not only that, a witch whose coven regularly got together and prayed for global peace – a world peace witch.  By day?  She was a minor bureaucrat; I imagined a driver’s license lady.  Not who you’d size up to be a witch.  Oh, wait.  EXACTLY who you’d size up to be a witch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve interviewed lots and lots of people for my job.  I was never bored once.  But I had people blurt out amazing things in the interview.  “I got fired for stealing.”  I was hiring for a position that had lots of financial responsibility, and maybe kinda lax oversight.  No job there.  “I hated my co-workers.”  Yup.  Big points for working well with others.  Again, people will tell you amazing things if you just shut up and listen.  Dates were interesting, too.  Had one date where the girl’s plan was to go off and find herself in the Peace Corps after she’d just gotten out of a relationship with her husband who had buried a bus so he could grow illegal weed.  Yeah, that night was an early exit.

But few enough actually listen (I’ve been guilty of that myself, lots of times) without responding – i.e., defining the problem for the speaker.  Even worse is defining the situation for the speaker – Peterson discussed a woman who was unsure if she had been raped after continually getting drunk and going home with guys.  He could have defined it as “yes” or “no” for her but that would have prevented her from sorting it out herself, which was crucial to helping her.  He used this example to point out that being too intrusive in a conversation often warps it in a manner that changes the framework for the other person . . . and prevents them from getting better.

Peterson listens, because his theory is that people talk to simulate their reality.  Humans are the only critters that do that – simulate entire worlds with our words and model the results of present actions into the future.  When we run these simulations, we often simulate the words and behavior of others – I know I have a pretty accurate simulation of The Mrs. running.  It’s over 98% accurate.  The Mrs. likewise has one of me, too.  We have tons of conversations with each other without even speaking to each other, because the other just our simulation.

Honest listening – turning off the simulator – is required for real conversation.  Our filters and feedback contaminate the discussion.  Once we get to that honest listening stage, we can have Real Conversations – Conversations where we truly hear each other and can create new knowledge, and sometimes solve our own problem.

Rule 10:  Be Precise In Your Speech

Dr. Peterson begins with a discussion of the coming obsolescence of laptops.  Most of our laptop experience is located outside of the laptop – it’s only a “single leaf, on a tree, in a forest . . .”  Our laptops feed from all of the other computers out there – from the Facebook© servers to the wonderful servers that bring you Wilder, Wealthy and Wise and that Japanese cooking site you don’t want your wife to see that you’ve been to visit after she goes to bed so you can dream about sushi.  Those exist outside of your laptop – and your laptop only pulls information from them.

But we don’t inhabit that forest.  We inhabit a simplification of that world.  In our world where we give objects purpose and meaning – we don’t let them simply exist – we give a car purpose – it must take us from one place to another.  A light switch ceases to just exist – it gives us light, and in a blackout part of us is shocked (pun intended) when the switch doesn’t bring us light.  Peterson feels that precision is required so we down drown in the vast amount of detail that surrounds us.

Our model gums up when violated.  I used a light switch – Peterson uses a cheating spouse – inviting Chaos in.  Peterson then pops some Yeats in the CD player for good measure:

The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Speech is required to sort this chaos out, to make sense of it, to dispel it.  A night light might also be nice to scare the rough beast away?

“Say what you mean so you can find out what you mean.  Act out what you say so you can find out what happens.”

Rule 11:  Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

Skateboarders are pretty talented, and Peterson spends some time discussing their skill, and the methods by which they optimize risks, which is crucial, Peterson felt, to growing as a man.  Unfortunately (in Peterson’s opinion) there are adults who what to spoil all the fun by putting in features that make skateboarding impossible while also looking ugly at the same time.

Those adults are then (at least by proximity in the chapter) compared to a friend that Peterson had.  Peterson’s friend (also discussed in earlier chapters) had a problem:  he hated mankind.  He came to no good, making himself a victim at every turn, and learning to hate beautiful, successful people.  They seemed to make him even madder.  Dr. Peterson then followed up with a description of a TEDx talk by a professor . . . who also hated the human race.  These self-appointed judges spoil the fun . . . and the risk.

And the result?  Boys are being pushed out.  25% of college degrees granted are in the fields of healthcare, psychology, education, and public administration.  80% of these degrees go to women.  Peterson feels that this is Not Good.  If projections hold, there will be very few men in non-STEM fields in the next few years.  And this is bad for women.

Huh?

How many college-educated women consider, say, a plumber a great catch?  Some, to be sure, but not many.  When it comes to marriage, women tend to marry someone either at the same social/economic status or of a higher status.  As those guys disappear?

Marriage becomes something for the rich.  The rest of the girls get hookups in their twenties, and a basket of cats when they hit 33.  If they have kids, the results are similarly grim – because single parent families are statistically inferior in every way to dual parent families.  So those rich kids?  Yeah, life will be better for them.  Because they have two parents.

Maybe patriarchy isn’t so bad?  Feminism is a creation of Marxism (per Jordan), and between that and post-modernist thought – we’re trying to fundamentally remake civilization in ways that may not be as stable as civilization created over the last 11,000 years or so.  And Marxism led to Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.  And that idea became the most deadly idea of the entire 20th century – killing more people, primarily their own citizens than any other idea.

Peterson REALLY doesn’t like Post Modernism, either, since it’s a philosophy that says there’s no truth and makes the claim “that logic itself is a merely a part of the oppressive patriarchal system.”

Boys are boys, but society is trying to force them to be girls, per Peterson.  Which is really, really wrong.  Biology is a huge part of what makes a boy act like a boy, and a girl act like a girl.  Then, a large amount of (enjoyable) discussion about ancient gods and Disney© animated movies.

Then we get back to Peterson, talking about when he worked on a railway crew.  Peterson uses these (amusing) stories about men and how they want particular behavior from other men:  Do your job.  Don’t whine.  Don’t be a suck up.  What to men want and value from other men?  “Be tough, entertaining, competent and reliable.”

atlas

The above ad is from comic books, literally all comics books, of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I sent away for as similar set of books.  You, too can learn Karate for only $19.95.  If you can learn karate by yourself from a book.  With a poor work ethic.

Peterson (really) feels that the Charles Atlas ad captures a lot of human sexuality in seven panels.  Women want tough men.  It’s here that he combines The Simpsons and Fifty Shades of Grey in the same hilarious paragraph.  Lisa Simpson doesn’t want Milhouse, dude, she wants a kinky billionaire.  Or that bad kid from Springfield Elementary.  Or a dude that will keep you safe on the beach.

Because women want men.  Tough men.  And you get men through risk.  Through . . . skateboarding.

Rule 12:  Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street

Peterson baits and switches here – starting with a discussion on dogs.  But he brings back to cats, and also to the theme of the chapter – human suffering.  It will literally suck to be a human.  People die.  People suffer, sometimes horribly and inexplicably.  But, somehow, Superman™ needs Kryptonite© – this suffering makes life, well, not interesting, but certainly not fake.

It’s a worthy chapter, and my summary is short because I’m not one to use Peterson’s tough times, and I rarely write about my own.  I’ll give you my bullet point summary:

  • Dogs are Happy
  • Cats have Terms and Conditions for Love
  • Enjoy Both Dogs and Cats – They Have Purity of Being
  • Because Life Sucks

CODA:  Not The Led Zeppelin Album

Peterson caps it off – again, buy the book.  I’ll just ask you – what do you want for yourself tomorrow?  What about next year?  Who could you be if you really tried?

So, that’s it.  It’s a pretty long review, and I’m glad you stuck it out this far.

Pluses of the book?  Amazing philosophical content.  Easy read.  Original thoughts.

Downside?  Chapters could be more evenly edited to tie the content together, and follow the old rule – tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em.  There are several chapters that I read a second time after about a week to write this review, and being prepped with the previous read and knowing what to look for, I enjoyed the chapters much more.  Maybe this review will act as a guide you can use when you go through it to look for more content that sparks your interest.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Peterson also dictated this book – many of the passages sound like speech turned into text, though I might be wrong since I’ve heard a LOT of Peterson speaking but very little of his written stuff.

Overall verdict:  totally recommend it.  Best way ever to confront Vader.  And then the Ewoks burned my copy – because they stopped making Star Wars® in 1983.  Wonder what would have happened if they had made a sequel or two?  I’m glad they never did.

The Economics of Love, Lee Iacocca, Hamburgers, and Statistics

Horace Tabor:  “Wait a minute, you can’t buy a woman for money!”
Mad Jack Duncan:  “You just try and get one without it.”

Paint Your Wagon

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Flowers for Mother’s Day.  2006 or so.  See, I’m a romantic.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s Wealthy Wednesday here at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise, so let’s look at Money.  And Love.

Are money and love connected?  Intimately connected, though they don’t text each other as much as FBI agents do.  (Seriously – 50,000 texts to a mistress using the company phone?  They’d burn you or I alive as a lesson to the surviving employees before they fired us.)

But money is related to love – married couples are four times (4!) wealthier than their unmarried compatriots.  Actually, each of the married partners has twice what they would have had if they were single, but there are two of them, so, four times.  Why?

  • Stable – If you’re married, you have an emotional backstop and cheerleader. If you’re single, you have a starter cat on your way to becoming a cat lady.
  • Multiple Income Streams – Although both of you might not be working – both of you can work if necessary. That makes working through a family economic crisis easier.
  • Economy of Scale – Two can’t live as cheaply as one. But it doesn’t cost twice as much for a married couple.
  • Accountability – You’ve got someone to help you make better choices – like not going to the bar on Tuesday night. And Wednesday night.  And Thursday night . . . .
  • Healthier, and Happier (but Fatter) – Married couples are consistently healthier and happier than their unmarried counterparts. This translates into better wages and greater productivity at work – and more money.
  • Responsibility – You’re working not only for yourself, but others depend on you. You’d better do your best.

So, yes, being married matters.  But you have to choose wisely:  divorced folks are actually worse off than never-married folks from a financial perspective.  Wilder Love Advice #1:  If you get married, stay married.

How did I learn that wonderful advice?  I broke it.  I got a divorce, way long into the distant past.  Why?  I assure you the reasons were pretty good.

As Henny Youngman asked:  “Why are divorces so expensive?”

“They’re worth it.”

But divorces are expensive:

  1. Lawyers are expensive. They have to buy BMWs and pay for their mistresses and their own divorces.
  2. Alimony, which is a medical procedure where the wallet is extracted through the nose.
  3. Cost of splitting stuff – like household goods. Now you need two irons.  And two coffee makers.  And two Holy Grails.
  4. Child care goes up. You’re both working now, so someone has to watch the children.
  5. Child support costs bunches. And, ironically, is often not even spent on the child . . . .

If my calculations are right, (they were done some time ago) my divorce cost me over $250,000 in 2017 dollars.  Not all of that money went to my ex-wife – a lot of it was interest on money I had to borrow to pay her off.  If I had put that money into the stock market instead?  It would be worth about $650,000 right now.  So, yeah, divorce is pricey.

But worth it.

Besides not getting married, how do you avoid divorce?  I think the best answer involves retired automotive executive Lee Iacocca.  Iacocca was famous for being the brains behind the original Mustang® from Ford™.  When Chrysler Motor Company© was nearly bankrupt, they hired Iacocca to come run the place as CEO.

Lee_Iacocca_at_the_White_House_in_1993

This is Lee Iacocca – who never had tapioca in Topeka (at least as far as I know).  But the man sure knew his burgers . . . and his love of burgers can teach you about . . . love.  (photo Public Domain)

Back then, being the CEO of a major company came with perks – Chrysler had a chef hired just to cook for the CEO.  Like lunch.  A guy whose job it was to cook for one person.  So on his first day, Iacocca’s assistant asked him what he wanted for lunch – Iacocca replied, whatever, get me a hamburger.

Iacocca was at his desk, looking over some numbers when the burger came back.  He absently took a bite of the burger and then stopped.  The burger was amazing.

The burger was the best burger he had ever had.  Ever.

He dropped everything.  “I need to talk to the chef.”

They introduced Lee to the chef – “Chef, this is the best burger I’ve ever had.  What did you do?”

The chef got a thick, marbled ribeye out of the refrigerator, and ground it up.

Chef:  “First you start with the right meat.”  And that’s the secret with marriage – marry a ribeye.  Start with the right meat.

After my first marriage I knew what I didn’t want.  And if you don’t know exactly what you want, at least knowing what you don’t want gives a direction.  The night I met The Mrs. (at that time she was The Miss), I actually interviewed her (LINK) to verify that none of the things that had plagued my previous relationship would surface in her particular bag of insanity.  She passed.  And yes, I really did use evil interviewing techniques the night we met.

Let’s say you suck at interviewing.  How do you avoid a divorce?

  • Start with a ribeye of a partner.
  • If you’re looking for a girl – she shouldn’t have had many sexual partners. More than a few and divorce is in the air on day one.  There is, however, no correlation with large numbers of sexual partners and guys being a divorce risk.  Who says it’s bad to be a guy?  We even get to die first!
  • If they’ve lived with a bunch of people, or even one or two?
  • If their parents are divorced?
  • If their values are significantly different?
  • Ideal age for a bride?
  • Used to be: Piercings, tattoos, and strangely colored hair?    Now in 2018?  Still risky.
  • Liberals get divorces much more frequently than conservatives.
  • If you smoke and they don’t?
  • If they smoke and you don’t?
  • The smoking thing? Replace it with drinking.  If you drink, she should drink.
  • Be Catholic. Very low divorce rate, also wine on Sunday.
  • Be a college graduate. Marry a college graduate.  Low divorce rates and better insults during arguments.
  • Make more than $50,000. Money problems tear up a relationship.  Actually “Lack of money problems” is a better description.
  • Don’t be knocked up. Easier if you’re a dude.
  • Don’t have a daughter as child number one. Dunno why – higher divorce rate.

On this St. Valentine’s Day you can even follow my routine:  I’ll get home, ask what’s for dinner, complain that it has onions in it, and then grab The Mrs. and look deeply into her eyes.  I’d give her chocolates, flowers and a card.  Except I’m not 12.  I’ll lean my lips in, brushing her ear with them as I tell her, barely above a husky whisper,

“You have produced an adequate wealth effect in my life.”

I’m all romantic like that.

Kipling, Gods of The Copybook Headings, and It’s Different This Time

“I prefer Kipling. ‘The female of the species is more deadly than the male.’” – Clue

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So, yeah, I drove by this one time.  Didn’t stop. 

Ahhhh, Kipling.

Kipling won the Nobel™ Prize© in literature back when it meant something, i.e., before the Nobel® committee discovered the internet, started spending time on Facebook®, stopped reading entirely and, remembering on a Thursday they were still supposed to give some award away related to something called “literature”, awarded one to Bob Dylan thinking he might bring some primo weed to Stockholm if he won.  Instead?  Bobby didn’t show up at all, and sent them a crappy recording describing a book report that a teacher would flunk a freshman for (really) instead of a lecture.

And no weed for the committee.

Can a Nobel® Physics™ Prize© be too far out for the guy who did the special effects for Star Wars™?  At least that guy ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm, no more, either.

Seriously.  Bob Dylan?  For literature?

Anyhow, back to Kipling.  He wrote poems that were amazing in the rhythm, word choice, and thoughts behind the poem.  I’ve previously mentioned “If” – which has for decades been one of my favorites – that post is here (LINK).

Another favorite of mine is the following one, The Gods of The Copybook Headings.  It was written in the aftermath of World War One, which was particularly devastating for both England, generally, and Kipling, personally.  The title refers to books that school children used to practice penmanship by copying the same sentences again.  And again.  And again.  The phrases that they used were typically based on Bible verses or other generally accepted moral aphorisms.

The Gods of The Copybook Headings

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Kipling was weary.  He’d seen that when people varied from accepted wisdom and morality, the results were . . . horrifying.  The idea was simple:  the experiences and accumulated wisdom of thousands of years of civilized human experience might (just maybe!) have something to say to us, here, now and today.  Well, his today was 1919, which isn’t really our today.  Everything is different now, right?

Peterson refers to Christian morality (and the Bible in general) as an emergent phenomenon.  It is worth far more than the sum of its parts – it has been distilled and the relatively simple parts produce an amazingly complex outcome – here’s a link to my post that included that (LINK).  With Christianity, it’s a measure of its complexity that it eventually produced the conditions required for the birth of science and the freedoms that eventually sprang from the Reformation.  It’s an irony that Christianity gave birth to the very society that could look at Christianity critically – and it could ask the hard questions about itself – because of itself.

Kipling gives an innate understanding of what Glubb would later begin to quantify (LINK).  Kipling also seems prescient in exactly the places our moral failings would begin to falter – from the general populace disarmament that led to the biggest slaughters in all of history to our greed that led to multiple stock market bubbles . . . and the associated collapses.

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Rudyard spoke of the dangers of collectivism, even before the full horrors of the Soviet Union and communism appeared, costing at least seventy million lives.  Yet even now, after the complete and demonstrated failure of collectivism, we’re pretty sure Venezuela will be paradise.  Did I say Venezuela?  I meant California.  What, California now leads the United States in poverty?  Hmmm.  Hang on, I’ll get back to you.  Just must be the wrong people putting it in practice.  It certainly can’t be that greed for the wealth of others produces nothing but pain and sorrow.  Covet not . . . hmmm.

Kipling even nailed that in failed collectivist states that beyond the moral and economic destruction of the country, even money itself would be degraded to the point of uselessness.  To double it up?  Kipling knew that we would delude ourselves to believe that collectivism was worth trying again.  And again.

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

I think that Sin must test pretty poorly in market research – “Seems like it’s pretty judgmental, Alex?”  But I think Sin is there for a reason.  Sinning is bad.  It can be seen that the morality of a dual parent household is unmistakable in its superiority statistically.  It’s really not even close when it comes to outcomes for children.

And marriage is hard.  Very hard.  It’s much easier just . . . having random sex.  And not having marriage.  And not having kids.  And the very end of a civilization, since without the morality that gave birth to it, it can no longer produce the intellectual capital, the wealth, and the free society that allows people to make moral choices.

It doesn’t produce enough strong men.

Thankfully, the chaos that emerges produces strong men that make hard choices.  But it’s a pretty rough ride.  Well it has been.

I’m reliably informed by the Gods of The Market . . . that it’s different this time.

Facebook, Why People Quit, and Why You’re Not Important

BRETT: What’s the matter?

LAMBERT: I can’t see a goddamn thing.

KANE: Quit griping.

LAMBERT: I Iike griping.

Alien

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The Cub Scouts had a lousy record of shooting down incoming enemy plains, even though they designed their jobs.

This month on Google news, I saw a link for an article called, “Why People Really Quit Their Jobs,” at the Harvard® Business Review™ (HBR).  I clicked on it.  I don’t suggest that you do, but if you want to it’s here (LINK).  Since it was before I had enough coffee to engage the higher reasoning centers of my brain, I nodded, zombie-like, as I read it.  I probably drooled a bit, too.  I wrote down on a sticky note that this might be a good topic to blog about.  See, I think about you, dear reader, all of the time-even in my sub-human decaffeinated state.

Now, I’ve visited this topic before (LINK) in a definitive post about one of the most definitive books on the subject ever written – First Break All the Rules.  I heartily recommend this book, and get no money if you buy it at this link (as of this writing).  Read my post first – it’s the Wilder’s® Notes (Cliff’s Notes™ was taken, and neither of us wanted to be sued by Cliff Bars®).

If you don’t read the HBR article (again, I don’t recommend it, it rambles and is as poorly edited for flow as a copier fixed by a Chihuahua – and that comes from a one-man-show blogger who does these posts start to finish in three to six hours, admittedly in a flash/flourish of brilliance) the TL;DR version is:

  • OMG, I totally cannot believe that people quit Facebook®!!!
  • OMG, why???
  • Stock options are awesome!!
  • OMG here’s why:
    • “They left when their job wasn’t enjoyable,”
    • “their strengths weren’t being used,”
    • “and they weren’t growing in their careers.”
  • OMG, fix that by:
    • Designing meaningful jobs (for stars) that people enjoy. Let them design their own!
    • Use their strengths, silly!
    • Allow people flexibility when they don’t like travel or want to make babies.
    • Babies? So 1990.  So toxic!

Yeah.  It’s that shallow.  Here’s an example sentence embedded in the squalid mess of pretentiousness if you don’t believe me:

At Facebook, our head of diversity is a former lawyer, journalist, and talk show host; one of our communications leaders used to sing in a rock band; and one of our product managers is a former teacher.

Yeah.  I’m pretty sure that they have no idea how stupid that sounds.  And I’m also pretty sure that the head of diversity . . . does absolutely nothing of value for Facebook®.  Nothing.  A communications leader?  Not sure what that is, but I’d bet they’re just another leach on the profits the company produces.  And a product manager sounds good.  At least it involves capitalism in some fashion, maybe?

Whenever you think of a position and its value – ask yourself this:  does the NFL® have that position?

No.  There is no VP of Football Diversity at New England.  Belichick would give birth to living kittens if they hired one, and I would pay $1,000,000 for the rights to broadcast that on YouTube®, and an extra $1500 per Belichick-cat hybrid.   Football teams have a mission – winning (except you, Cleveland).  And a business should have a mission – creating mutual value for customers, but also creating profit for shareholders.  You know, because they own the place.

What they’re missing is that it’s not just these jobs that don’t produce value, it’s that most of the things they do at Facebook® produce little to no value.  Price’s Law (discussed in my Jordan Peterson post here (LINK)) shows that of the 20,000 employees at Facebook™, 141 (the square root of 20,000) produce half of the value.  It is a certainty that the “head of diversity” is not one of those 141.  Nor anyone in HR.  Or probably anyone who wrote this article.

I assure you, those 141 people are enjoying work, using their strengths, and get whatever they want from the boss if there’s an issue.  They’re probably getting paid a king’s ransom, too, if the culture allows it.  And they deserve it.  Those 141 people account for $20 billion in revenue.

I had a chance to manage an amazing performer – Willie.  I’ve mentioned him before (LINK).  Although the company wouldn’t allow me to pay him more even though he’d routinely save them a million a year, in a bad year, and would have saved them from a billion dollar investment based on bad physics (really) if they would have listened to him.  But what’s physics when you’re trying to do a business deal, right?  Oh, yeah.

A billion dollars (and I’m not making this number up).

Me?  I have Willie the maximum amount of flexibility that I could.  I couldn’t give him a raise, but I could let him buy almost unlimited computer goodies.  It seemed like he had a new laptop every month.  Plus the cutting edge in peripherals.  As his boss, I generally got the best of his cast-off equipment.

Another employee (not a high revenue employee, but still nice and pleasant) decided to order a new computer.

John Wilder:  “Send it back.”

Other Employee:  “But you let Willie have one.”

John Wilder:  “You’re not Willie.”  And they knew that, too.  I didn’t treat everyone in the group the same, but I did try to treat them fairly.  I think they knew that, too.  At least they all nodded when I asked them that during employee review time.

The 141 are the most important people at Facebook™.  Honestly, most of the remaining 19,850 or so people at Facebook® are interchangeable and simply lucky to be working at Facebook© rather than being a barista or hauling garbage or working at a cement kiln.  And that’s not bad.  You need people who just go to work, put in their time, get their job done, enjoy it, and go home.  Not every part in the engine is a spark plug.  I’ve been a spark plug, and I’ve been a broken wiper switch, sometimes at the same company (though rarely in the same year).  The company needs both.

And that’s not to say that you don’t have the ability to make everyone feel awesome, too.  I’m willing to bet that Facebook® probably has baristas and jesters and blacksmiths working for them.  You can allow and encourage everyone to have fun – there’s no reason not to.  And I firmly believe that managers should support their employees – and not be dictators.

I’ve always viewed the position of manager as having a moral dimension – it was important that every employee that ever reported to me was touched positively by the experience – they may not have liked me, but they were a better employee, more productive, more moral person because of the experience.  I figured if I could do that, the company had to win, too, even if the employee wasn’t a spark plug.

Remember, those 19850 remaining employees still produce half the revenue – though the formula is recursive – 140 of those 19850 make $10 billion for the company.  Oops.  But, really, if everyone designed their own job, nobody would do the dishes and the toilet would never be clean.  And that would describe my basement . . . sigh.