Thursday, September 7, 2023

Lost, Confused or Confounded

Next week we leave for Scotland.  Our first overseas trip since 2019.  Both Kayla and I have Scottish ancestry.  Kayla on her father’s side and me on my mother’s.  But mostly it’s just because we like it there.  We spent only a few days in Scotland when we went to England in 2018 and said then that we wished we’d had more time there.  So, this trip will be a full 12 days, all in Scotland. 

But I must admit that I am no longer a good traveler.  For years I traveled a lot on business and fared well enough.  Yet I never liked crowds and now I absolutely hate them.  So, airports are not a great experience for me.  Long flights are even worse.  Thankfully we are traveling business class.  But I’ll not sleep much and will start calculating how long before we land about half-way through the trip. Then there is just the hassle of traveling.  Especially burdensome for long trips overseas.  We always take too much yet leave something behind.  

Then there is being a senior citizen.  I don’t like being treated like an old person, but one must get used to it when one gets old.  Nevertheless, I am self-conscious about it.  When younger people look lost, confused or confounded everyone just thinks they are busy or  distracted by all of the important things they must be doing.   When an old person looks lost, confused or confounded; people feel sorry for them.  Or some may offer to help, usually in a condescending sort of way.  And occasionally a bad one will try to pick their pocket.  Therefore, I make the extra effort to appear confident and capable, a man on a mission.  But it's very tiring and only adds to the embarrassment when I actually become lost, confused or confounded.

We will celebrate our birthdays in Scotland, mine on the 15th in Edinburgh and Kayla’s on the 20th in Portree on the Isle of Skye.  We’ll see all the tourist attractions, take a lot of photos, eat too much, drink too much and sleep poorly.  We’ll be ready to come home before it’s time to come home.  We will miss our own bed, our dogs and the ease and convenience of just being home.  However, before the year is over, we’ll begin planning our next big adventure.  For we know that we have only so many years left to travel before one or both of us becomes permanently lost, confused or confounded. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

A New World Song


“Lord it’s a damn shame,

What the world’s gotten to

For people like me and people like you.

Wish I could just wake up and it not be true

But it is, oh, it is…


Livin’ in the new world

With an old soul.

These rich men north of Richmond,

Lord knows they all just wanna have total control.”

These lyrics are from the hottest new song in the English-speaking world, “Rich Men North of Richmond”, by Oliver Anthony.  Mr. Anthony was virtually unknown until the second weekend in August of 2023.  He lives just outside of Farmville VA, 70 miles southwest of Richmond VA and a million miles from those “Rich Men” to the north.  He’s a young man trying to make ends meet on a small farm, playing music and working as much as he can.  I expect in the coming weeks we’ll find out more about Mr. Anthony.  His life will get picked apart and I feel sorry for him in that regard.  But not too sorry for him, as I do believe he has struck musical gold.


Yet the real story here is not about Oliver Anthony nor is it just about those Rich Men North of Richmond or anywhere else where the rich get richer.  The real story is about all the people who used to work to get ahead and now just work to survive.  It’s about the working middle class.  Wages have not kept pace with the cost of living, jobs that used support a family have disappeared for a variety of reasons and our education system has failed to prepare people for the “blue collar” careers that do pay well.  


In addition, we have created an image of success and the “good life” that is unrealistic and bears little resemblance to the lives of the working middle class back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  Most of us lived in small houses, drove used cars, had one television, one phone, a radio or two and a subscription to the local newspaper. We had the clothes and shoes we needed and no more.  We ate home-cooked meals and no one waited in line to buy coffee drinks that cost almost half as much as a pound of coffee you could brew at home.  This list of differences between then and now could go on.  But the point is that today we have a lot more stuff to spend our money on.  The sort of stuff that 50 years ago the working middle class would have viewed as luxury items they could not afford.  And they were OK with that because that’s how most of their neighbors lived.  


But today a lot of people can afford, or least pretend to afford, the expensive add-ons.  Back in the day there weren’t that many “haves” with whom we middle-class "have-nots" could compare ourselves.  We had a handful of very wealthy people, a whole lot of folks in the middle and then some really poor folks at the bottom.  Now the middle-class has been hollowed out.  And we have more people below the middle as well as more people living above the middle.  And at the very top we have some ridiculously wealthy individuals. 


It's that gap between the upper middle class and the lower middle class that stands out.  With the “middle” middle-class gone, we now have this contrast between upper middle-class households and lower middle-class households.  The professional income class, or in some instances the two-income professional class which make up most of the “upper middle” are living in fine houses, in the best neighborhoods, sending their kids to good schools, driving new cars and taking expensive, fun vacations.  Living the dream although they may just be getting by and saving very little.  The lower middle income (working) class households are earning considerably less, living in less desirable neighborhoods and their kids are probably not getting the best education.  This gap between the upper and lower classes is highly visible.  The irony is that most people in that “upper middle class” group have no more regard for the “Rich Men North of Richmond” than do the folks in the lower middle class.  The difference is that the upper middle-class group is complaining while floating around in their swimming pools while the lower middle-class folks are worried about putting food on the table.


One of the most important outcomes of Oliver Anthony’s song is that it’s essentially become the anthem for working class people all over the world regardless of race, gender or religion. It sums up the frustration of hard-working, honest, self-reliant people who resent those rich men, aka the elites, who are pulling the strings and gaming the system in their favor.  Nor do these same working-class people have much regard for the non-working poor who rely on those same rich men to take care of them in exchange for their votes.


It will be interesting to see how long the public keeps listening to Mr. Anthony’s song.  Probably until some Rich Man North of Richmond makes it their theme song for the next election cycle.  

Monday, July 3, 2023

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

 In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

A Tale of Money


Once upon a time there was a King who decided the best way to keep the people happy would be to create more money and just give it to them so everyone could afford to buy what they wanted.  It wasn’t long before there were lots of goods to be moved throughout the Kingdom.  More goods than all the King’s horses and all the King’s men could carry.  So, the King made the people of his kingdom pay more for their goods and rewarded his horses and his men accordingly.  But the people struggled to pay the higher prices.  They begged, bartered, gave up land and even sent their children to work for the King just to pay their bills. 


Ultimately, the people of the kingdom just stopped buying things period.  They decided to make do and go without.  The economy of the kingdom ground to a halt.  This alarmed the King, so he called an emergency meeting of his Privy Council.  The King suggested that perhaps he should again create more money and give it to the people so they could afford to buy things.  The younger members of the Council thought this was a great idea and even went so far as to suggest that the King should consider just paying people not to work.  They advised the King that this would make him very popular with the people.  He would be remembered as a kind and generous king; and even find favor with God.


Fortunately, the more senior members of the Council explained economic reality to the King and how the concept of money works in the real world.  Even the Queen respectfully told the King that creating more money was not the best idea in the first place and just giving it to the people for producing nothing of value would eventually make the money…well, it would make the money worth nothing of value.  So, the King chose to let economic forces work themselves out. 


Sure enough, as demand for goods fell, so did the prices.  By now there were more than enough of the King’s horses and the King’s men to carry the goods.  Thus, the King allowed the people of his kingdom to pay lower prices.  Eventually the Kingdom was once again prosperous, and its people were happy.  So, the King and his Council decided this was the perfect time to raise taxes.  There was much that needed to be done throughout the Kingdom and the people would no doubt understand.


“It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth.  Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.” – P.J. O’Rourke

Monday, May 15, 2023

What Comes Next?


"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:34

A recent survey by the global marketing research firm IPSOS found that people around the world are most worried about Inflation, Poverty/Social Injustice, Unemployment, Crime & Violence and Financial/Political Corruption.  More simply one may well conclude that our world is most worried about those things of Money and Blood.


Inflation, Poverty/Social Injustice, Unemployment, Crime & Violence and Financial/Political Corruption are all tightly woven into the economy.  What is affordable (Inflation)?  Who can afford what and why can’t everyone (Poverty/Social Injustice)?  How does one obtain and retain one’s ability to purchase those things one needs and wants (Unemployment)?  And lastly how does one protect oneself and one’s possessions from evildoers (Crime & Violence and Financial/Political Corruption).   Money and Blood.


The survey did not ask the Big Question, although there may have been an “Other” option at the bottom of the list.  A list which no doubt included specific health and relationship related questions.  And of course, Climate Change was somewhere on that list.  According to climate activists it should absolutely be THE most worrisome of all our concerns. They warn us long and loudly that it will ultimately sweep us away along with all our treasures.  But neither is it the Big Question. 


The Big Question, the Eternal Question is What Comes Next?  What awaits us on the other side of this life?  When the line goes flat are our worries over?  For is it then no longer our burden to worry about Inflation, Poverty/Social Injustice, Unemployment, Crime & Violence or Financial/Political Corruption?  Hot or cold, wet or dry; will it matter?  For us the clock has stopped.  No more sleepless nights, our journey complete. Or is it?  What Comes Next?  If you don't that would be something worth worrying about. 

"But first seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33

Sunday, May 7, 2023

The Truth About Hiring Decisions


Brace yourself for the truth about hiring decisions.  After years of experience in industry and headhunting, I have found that most hiring decisions are based on some combination of 8 key factors: Experience, Appearance, Likeability Communication Style, Work Ethic, Skills/Ability, Personality and Integrity. Each one is important.  But that doesn’t mean the impact each one should have on the hiring decision is equally important.   


Unfortunately, too many hiring decisions are not the best hiring decisions. The problem is this: Experience, Appearance, Likeability and Communication are the most visible factors (MVF’s), and therefore end up being the primary reasons someone gets hired.  Work Ethic, Skills/Ability, Personality and Integrity are much less visible (LVF’s) and more difficult to evaluate.  Too often we equate Likeability with Personality.  Likeability is part of Personality, but it doesn’t really tell you much about an individual’s Real Personality.  Experience can certainly tell us something about a person’s skills/ability and work ethic, but it’s not everything.  And if you’re just taking it from a resume or the candidate's personal testimony, it may mean even less.


Considering that many companies fail to look closely at the LVF’s and base their hiring decisions primarily on MVF’s, we end up with a lot of bad hiring decisions (BHD’s).  Now, BHD’s create opportunities for headhunters.  So perhaps I am working against my own economic interests to point this out.  But the world would be a better place for employers, candidates and headhunters if we made better hiring decisions.


I am not suggesting that employers ignore experience, appearance, likeability or communication.  We must start somewhere.   So, we look at resumes.  We probably check them out on LinkedIn.  We might even look at their social media posts; or google them and see what bubbles up.  At this point we are essentially looking at candidate advertising.  Let’s admit it, resumes are people presenting themselves in the best possible way.  They only highlight the good stuff; often they are misleading and, at worst they are fraudulent. LinkedIn can be much the same.  Social media posts and google can raise some interesting questions.  But there is something creepy about digging around in all of that.  Do I really need to see a candidate in a sombrero and speedo?


But if employers wanted to focus on a candidate’s job performance potential, they would put more emphasis on those LVF’s when making hiring decisions.  Work ethic, skills/ability, personality and integrity are more likely to determine job performance outcomes than experience, appearance, likeability or communication style.  Certainly these are important.  But they should be considered more as minimum requirements for candidates, not the primary determinants for who gets hired.  I say that fully recognizing that experience, appearance, likeability and communication styles are very important in certain roles.  But how many times have we seen people who look great, are likeable, excellent communicators and have impressive work histories turn out to be bad hires.  Some people who look good, sound good and check all of the boxes just “fail upward” for years before being found out. Washington DC is full of such characters.


To be clear, I am not suggesting that “perfect candidates” are out there waiting to be found.  Far from it.  Perfect candidates do not exist and those who come close to it are expensive, have a lot of options and more than likely what you are offering isn’t one of them.  What I am saying is be careful not to fall in love with a candidate’s resume or how they look or how they talk or just how much you like them.  Never assume that “great” candidates make great hires. The MVF’s should be filters in selecting candidates who go to the next round.  In the next round targeted interviews, meaningful reference checks and personality/cognitive assessments should be used to determine which candidate is most likely to be successful in this position in your company.  Think about your top performers.  They are usually a well-balanced combination of work ethic, skills/ability, personality and integrity that fits the position and your company.  

“People are not your most important asset.  The right people are.” – Jim Collins

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Crouching At The Door


Sometimes it grabs you 

And you know it will win.

Sometimes it whispers

Old friend, may I come in.


It's the lie that changes colors,

But is never in the light.

It taunts you in the morning

And haunts you in the night.


It says that you deserve it.

You've earned the right to choose.

This life you didn't ask for, 

It's yours now, win or lose.


You also know your time is short,

But The Word says there is more.

Just remember what lies waiting…

Sin is crouching at the door.