August 2, 2010

This Is Why The American Dream Is Out Of Reach

american dream.PNGThat's 90% of the answer right there



Scott, a 24 year old dean's list college grad, is smart but unemployed. According to the New York Times, in five months, only one job has given him an offer: $40k as an insurance claims adjuster. 

Scott said no, because

Rather than waste early years in dead-end work, he reasoned, he would hold out for a corporate position that would draw on his college training and put him, as he sees it, on the bottom rungs of a career ladder.
Now, the easy way to go here would be to call Scott an idiot for giving up a $40k/yr job in the midst of a recession.  However, a) the recession ended last year; b) 1487 NYT commenters did the heavy lifting.  No, I'm going this way:

"The conversation I'm going to have with my parents now that I've turned down this job is more of a concern to me than turning down the job," he said.

He was braced for the conversation with his father in particular. While Scott Nicholson viewed the Hanover job as likely to stunt his career, David Nicholson, 57, accustomed to better times and easier mobility, viewed it as an opportunity.

A long time ago, before psychiatry and rum, I seriously considered a job in intelligence.  Among other things I had some Russian, and I knew another guy who was fluent in Russian and was actively being recruited by the CIA.    He decided not to do it because... his Dad wouldn't let him.  At that time it struck me as curious that you'd be more worried about your dad than the Russians, but I have since understood: we were living in a time where there was no right and wrong, no objective truths, all things were relative except the inviolable Law of Growing Up American:  go to college, then get a job.  Your dad's sole purpose was to make sure you followed that rule.   If you raped a murder victim then your Dad would get you a good lawyer, but if you showed any proclivity towards anything other than a future 9 to 5 in a field he understood, it was your ass.

I'll grant you up front that Scott probably suffers from a mixture of ennui and myopia and absolutely no chance of STDs, who apparently feels neither shame in nor fear about sabotaging his job prospects by appearing in these photographs, to the fury of every other American who sees them:

scott in his house.jpg
scott checking his dry cleaning.jpg
scott enjoying a nice iced tea on his day off.jpg

This is a guy whose entire job search is conducted online in the mornings.  Anybody want to hire this go-getter? 

But for me, you have to start at what's known to be a fact: this is the New York Times. 
You almost have to wonder why they would photograph him in this way if they weren't trying to sabotage him, trying to make him look like a privileged (white) out of touch jerk, just to bring out the populist backlinks.  This is the NYT after all, where playing to the lowest common populist denominator is the next best thing to running a Page 3 Girls.  "Do you mind pouring a Gatorade?  We're trying to show how the millennials won't let their unemployment stand in the way of their thirst.  Sigh, iced tea will do."
 
So I'll grant you that Scott is responsible for his own plight in the way that everyone carries the burden of their own choices, but Scott wasn't born in a vacuum, he was born to parents, parents who think this:

"I view what is happening to Scott with dismay," said the grandfather, who has concluded, in part from reading The Economist, that Europe has surpassed America in offering opportunity for an ambitious young man.

Huh?  He read The Economist, or an economist?  There is absolutely no way that anyone who reads The Economist can have concluded that Europe has surpassed America in anything not involving riots, in the way that no one who reads Maxim can conclude that acne is in vogue.  Unless he meant China, but that's not in Europe yet, is it?


II.

"I am beginning to realize that refusal [to take the insurance job] is going to have repercussions," [Scott] said.  "My parents are subtly pointing out that beyond room and board, they are also paying other expenses for me, like my cellphone charges and the premiums on a life insurance policy."

Shoot/fish/barrel that Scott's a retread, but in his defense he doesn't think about life insurance policies because he was never taught to think about life insurance policies.  That was going to be taken care of by the "salary plus bennies" pornography he was raised on since kindergarten.  For him to now learn that a life insurance policy could also be an investment would be like slapping him with some tranny porn and yelling, "this is how it's done in the real world!"

Not unusually, his parents themselves did not follow Scott's path: his grandfather came out of the war and went to work for his father-in-law who had started a brokerage; and his Dad went to work with a friend who had just opened a factory.  These men were right at the start of businesses, they didn't slide into middle management at Sterility Corp.  But after taking those chances that ultimately resulted in prosperity and blah blah blah, they taught their children to do the opposite: look for new parents.  Someone else to pay the life insurance policy.  I submit to you that any guy who doesn't know his life insurance premium is exactly the same guy you complained had a fear of commitment and never grew up. Well, now you know why; his parents told him not to bother.

"Scott has got to find somebody who knows someone," the grandfather said, "someone who can get him to the head of the line."

Is this Russia?  This is diabolically terrible advice, it betrays a paranoid, cynical vision of reality where everything is a network, exclusionary, no one is desirable for their talent and the only thing that prevents supersuccess is not being in the right clubs or friendly with the right people.  I get that those things give you an advantage, of course, but does not having them mean a career in holes?

The parents and grandparents, like so many parents today, are disappointed in the boy  because he's not taking their advice, but in fact he is taking their advice all the way to its conclusion: he's holding out for the perfect corporate job.  What they meant to advise him was to improvise towards a career like hopping a creek; but what they taught him to do was wait for the package.

BTW, for any women still reading this after three porn jokes: that's exactly what he's waiting for in a relationship.  You're welcome.  Paypal is at the bottom.

III.
 
"They are better educated than previous generations and they were raised by baby boomers who lavished a lot of attention on their children," said Andrew Kohut [the director of the Pew Research Center.]

WRONGALONGADINGDONG.  They're not better educated, they just have more degrees.  Were you smarter at 21 post college than your Dad was at 21?  And whatever the difference, was it worth the $50k-$200k he paid to get you it?   No, but every parent of a high school kid  I've talked to about this says the same thing: "I know, I know, but I just want her to get that piece of paper."   So work this out in your head: either this parent is a solitary genius who is the sole possessor of the knowledge that the college degree is merely a brand and not a mark of knowledge; or every employer in the world already knows this.    So if we all agree the degree doesn't mean anything close to what we are pretending it means, then what's the point of piling on?  Isn't this technically a Ponzi scheme?

There is no arguing with such parents, they're not going to sacrifice their kid's future by calling America's bluff, sure, I get it.   I am sympathetic.  But these are parents who never thought it was wrong to force their kid into violin lessons because it would help them get into college.  Did it work?  Of course it worked, but at what cost? 

Two generations of parents
have knowingly fed the Ponzi scheme while simultaneously crushing their kids' spirit.




maslow.png
 



IV.

Where Scott is going wrong is not that he is holding out for a "better" job that isn't there; he's holding out for a job that shouldn't be there.  We don't need more corporate management guys.  The 1980s business schools created a market for those ideas (and graduates) and America quickly became a "management" country, at the expense of everything else.  What we need are more businesses.

Scott and his friends at the Irish Pub are in the best position imaginable: young, smart, living debt free with their parents.  Four of these guys, each borrowing 10k personally (at 4% -- $400 a year to pursue your dreams?) they will have 40k startup capital to do anything they want.  If they're really serious, they could indeed do anything, from putting out a comic book to starting a high end tutoring/home schooling service (pays the bills at the Washington Post!) to integrating Flash with the iPad to inventing something to whatever etc, etc, what, you need me to hand you ideas as well?  If they are serious, they cannot fail, and if they do fail, we have the most liberal bankruptcy laws on the planet. The point of those laws is to encourage you to try.  All the pieces are in place for success at almost no risk.  And he'll be a better man just for trying.

However, what Scott is doing-- and what his grandfather is horrifyingly encouraging him to do-- is pursue these kind of dead end management jobs in another country.  If we don't need that crap here, why would they need it in Europe?

The problem with Scott and his generation-- and this is most decidedly not Scott's fault but is the fault of his dad and grandfather's generations-- is that Scott just can't imagine playing without a net.  "No, I'll just wait here, thank you, got myself an iced tea."  This is what happens when you go through four years of college and don't at least read On The Road, let alone try it.  "Start a business?  From nothing?   I don't know..."   For him, debt should only be for a house, a school, and Polo shirts.

Here's a little factoid about the medical school I work for:  very few graduates go into hang-a-shingle private practice.  They go to work for hospitals, clinics, etc-- established places where they get a salary plus benefits.  Even psychiatry grads-- no overhead, see people out of your house-- run to group practices. 

Here's why: never in med school or residency we were taught how to start a practice or the business side of medicine.  So we defaulted to what we've been taught in the first few decades of life: get a good job working for someone else.  "I don't want to deal with all that billing."  Of course you don't.

No one told them how to open an office, hire three therapists and three NPs, bill insurances.   But you know who owns all the private psych group practices?  Foreign medical graduates, i.e. people who were comfortable "playing without a net," improvising, seizing opportunity.  (Sigh.  Now I sound like my own father.)


V.

"Well, we can't all become entrepreneurs.  What about all those guys in college who are smart, hard working, but are better suited to working for someone else?"  Then go do it! If you need a job and they're offering, take it!   But if they're not offering a job, what are you going to do instead?  XBox?

I'm not here offering a solution for the 45 year old guy with three kids.  I am offering encouragement to a crop of college kids infantilized by terrible advice from parents and TV  who have the freedom and opportunity to try something; while simultaneously describing the only long term solution to America's economic problems: more businesses.  Jobs programs and stimulus packages are debatably good or bad, but assuredly temporary.  Remember "the children are or future?"  How about encouraging them a little?  Maybe someday they'll pay for your social security.


---

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych










Comments

As an older-type, cranky pe... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 12:17 PM | Posted by BHL: | Reply

As an older-type, cranky person who is trying desperately to keep a business afloat without any new employees, because they all expect me to pay them twice what I make and give them benefits that no one here has, allow me to give you a HELL, YEAH! from the choir.

I'll go back to reading resumes which include requests for ponies, unicorns and a top-of-the-line pension plan from a small business, now.

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You forgot the other option... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 12:28 PM | Posted by Parley: | Reply

You forgot the other option: do both.

Why can't Scott work that "dead end job" while starting a business? Then he could finance his business more and still have a net to fall back on. While he's at it, why not start a blog? Or do something? So many hours in the day could be spent on projects but the default becomes xbox.

What happened to imagination?

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Awesome rant. I'm that 45 ... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 12:55 PM | Posted by Jonathan Peterson: | Reply

Awesome rant. I'm that 45 year old, and between healthcare costs and skills (technology middle management) am more stuck than I want to be. Even with a couple bouts of long term unemployment over the last decade, I'm probably ahead of where I'd be financially had I started my own business(es). But I will make sure that my kid does a better job than I did of being entrepreneurial when he's young enough for it to be easy.

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Long-time lurker. If two y... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 1:45 PM | Posted by Butterfly McDoom: | Reply

Long-time lurker. If two years can be considered a long time.

I'm 31 years old, and this post strikes a nerve or two. The causes aren't identical, but the results are.

Suffice it to say two years (and counting) of psychoanalytic psychotherapy has helped me craft my own initiative and take responsibility instead of relying on others (i.e., parents or their stand-ins) to provide direction and guidance. Ugh: parents are the worst. Except when they're not.

Thank you for writing.

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The American Dream. More an... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 1:46 PM | Posted by Brian Driggs: | Reply

The American Dream. More and more, it seems, the dream has gone from realizing the direct results of personal effort, to realizing the results of as little effort as possible, to just being a dream.

Why are brainwashed into college? I'd rather make $6k less every year and be debt free with a small, local business, than having to make that extra $8k a year as a corporate shill just to break even and make my exorbitant student loan payments. I should have them paid off by my 63rd birthday.

Ponzi scheme indeed.

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Having read this article wh... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 1:57 PM | Posted by JMiller: | Reply

Having read this article when it came across my RSS reader, one thing I'm surprised you didn't throw down on was the dad describing the unemployed, passed up a $40k job offer, etc, son as "Having a great work ethic." Put another way, the dear old dad is continuing to push the BS that attitude is more important than accomplishment because it hurts less than admitting that somebody he loves and supports is failing to meet any kind of expectation or fulfill any commitment, and/or trying to establish a consequence without feeling responsible for causing pain. It's not an easy situation to get out of, especially when every day you're hoping that That Person will change, pick up the pace and do better. I can only imagine that having the NYT ask "Care to tell America why nobody will hire your son?" makes it harder to honestly address the inadequacies That Person is manifesting.

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Wow. Cranky and insightful ... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 2:34 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Wow. Cranky and insightful in equal doses. Sadly spot on, today hard work is not looked upon in a positive light by some parents likely because they feel betrayed. The 4 day work week, or work smart not hard is certainly in vogue. The parent wants the easy route and so far they haven't gotten it but worked just hard instead, now they aim to tell their kids to go for something better something they wish they could have and in effect enable them. Wait for some mythical place with fat salaries and razor scooters some employment promised land - kind of looks like Google. That Dad dreams this for his son where he can be the king of the heap. However Google doesn't hire the lazy or not so sharp, the promised lands Dad has heard about are sold without understanding the hard work involved to get there...that would ruin the dream. Despite our inner 3 year old wants many of the *rules* still apply and we often can't have it all despite what Mom and Dad wish for or what the youngster believes is possible because of that. Why not the millennial yells Taste Great AND Less Filling! You promised...if I can't have that I just won't play.

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Hits a little bit close to ... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 2:50 PM | Posted by Americo: | Reply

Hits a little bit close to home.

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Spot on.I'm 26, so... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 3:32 PM | Posted by Amy: | Reply

Spot on.

I'm 26, so this guy is, essentially, my peer. I know these people by pattern, if not personally. I grew up with less wealth and absolutely no entrepreneurialism in the family, but my parents definitely pushed me towards Checking The Boxes -- graduate HS, good college, good job. Because that would be "secure," right?

Now, I dropped out of HS to homeschool myself - long story - midway through my freshman year, but even by then, I was absolutely flabbergasted by the inability of my classmates to think of any solution but the same well-worn groove their lives had taken thus far.

Example: We had a substitute teacher on a day we were supposed to take a test; our teacher was really sick. One after another, a fellow student would raise his/her hand and say "But... we have to take a test!" The sub kept saying "YOU CAN'T. I don't have it. Your teacher isn't here. Let's just read quietly." Then another hand would raise. "But... the test!"

But... I have to have a career! I have to advance! I have to have life insurance! A 401K! ZOMG!!!

If you ask me, it's down to fear. You used Maslow's pyramid (teehee), but, as you no doubt know, he was also the basis for classifying people into 3 groups: Sustenance Driven, Outer Directed, Inner Directed. It seems to me that many boomers went through the motions of founding companies, starting at the bottom, and creating wealth... but never lost their Sustenance Driven mindset. They are always afraid they will lose whatever they have, and so they have always pushed their kids to do what is *safe*.

As if safety exists.

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I like the commenter above ... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 3:34 PM | Posted by Ivy: | Reply

I like the commenter above who says 'do both.'

Of course, it's not easy and you'll be busy but you know what? It beats the alternative.

Then again, I'm an anomaly. I'm in my ::coughlatecough:: twenties and I applied for just about any job I could get my hands when I graduated. I wound up with the one I wanted, and that I really enjoy, but barring certain dealbreakers (excessively shady, abusive, or insane bosses; not an unreasonable thing to avoid) I would have taken anything.

So, I like my job. Yay! But that hasn't stopped me from pursing other projects outside of work. (Related: anyone want to buy a knitting pinup calendar? No, seriously. That's one of many.) I'm happy and hoping to figure out how to hack together my ideal life, but I'm constantly amazed at the disbelief. All I hear is stop being busy, relax, you do too much. I guess I'm supposed to just wait for the money/ideal life fairy to come visit? (Or get married, I suppose; that seems to be the default other option offered to women.)

I do disagree a bit about college--but I do think there are far too many people going for the wrong reason. I want to go back to school for a graduate; not because I think it's a magical ticket to a bigger paycheck, but because I love the theory and research that's starting to be done in my field and would love to someday teach. But I'm pretty sure that level of nerdiness is rare.

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the main (and really the on... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 3:45 PM | Posted by vlad: | Reply

the main (and really the only) duties of a Citizen is to vote and procreate. So far nothing seems to indicate that Scott wouldn't be able to perform his duties at the level of or better than a model Citizen. O!... wait! ... it was in another great Empire, 2000 years ago, sorry my mistake.

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Howdy! There are already so... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 3:59 PM | Posted by Sam Jackson: | Reply

Howdy! There are already so many comments that mine will be lost in the shuffle, but I'll contribute anyway because I find this to be a very important discussion. This NYT article definitely flustered me when I saw it. Background; 20 year old current Yale senior. I am very disappointed when I see many of my peers thinking much like the person featured in the article. So many think that because it is a 'bad economy' there suddenly are few opportunities, that they have to 'play it safe,' etc. I counter that, in fact, it means there are just more opportunities and that, no matter what, when one is young is the best time to take big chances and fail.

I fashion myself rather entrepreneurial and, even if I was to work at a large corporate gig initially, know that my long-term happiness and self-actualization would only come from taking ownership of my work and starting something myself, or being in on the ground floor.

People can be entitled, but at the same time, have to have some vision and imagination! Too many people expect to be able to take the path of least resistance, and then end up in situations like this one. Worse is when they find 'success' and just end up as corporate zombies. : (

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$40k won't get a family guy... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 4:24 PM | Posted by Vincent: | Reply

$40k won't get a family guy very far in NY. He was smart to turn it down and avoid pigeonholing himself. For 40k, someone who's not entrepreneurial might as well drive a Taxi or deliver packages. At least he'd see interesting things rather than work in a cube.

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Here's what I wrote to my y... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 4:35 PM | Posted by John Stevens: | Reply

Here's what I wrote to my young friend who CCed this to me and to my former business partner Steve:


> There is absolutely no way that anyone who reads The Economist can have concluded that Europe has surpassed America in anything

I beg to differ:

http://www.asymptosis.com/republicans-create-opportunity-yeah-right.html

But I do really like this:

"What they meant to advise him was to improvise towards a career like hopping a creek; but what they taught him to do was wait for the package."

Four buddies with $10K each start a biz? I say go team!

But reality: hopefully he's lucky enough to know one of those four guys -- like his father and grandfather did.

Steve heard this -- and agreed -- the same time I did, and I think I've spouted it at you as well:

"10% of people lead, 75% follow, and 15% don't do shit."

Doesn't seem to change. I'm thinking it must be an Evolutionarily Stable System (ESS). Way of the world.

And if Scott is one of those four guys/10%, especially if he wasn't born into the lucky-sperm club, according to The Economist he's got a lot better chance of climbing the ladder if he's in Denmark, Norway, or Canada.

Who knows why. Lots of possible explanations. Maybe parents there -- where the safety net is truly safe -- teach their kids to hop the creek, or even jump the shark.

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I remember reading that art... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 4:45 PM | Posted by David Spinks: | Reply

I remember reading that article. It was quite the pot stirrer.

As a recent graduate (2009) I know exactly what you're talking about. My school offered very little along the lines of entrepreneurship. Pretty much ALL the business classes were geared toward this "net" that you describe.

Most of my friends did one of 4 things after they graduated:

1. Sell insurance for a big firm
2. Accounting for a big firm
3. Take time off
4. Grad school

I know not all schools are like this though. Many schools have great entrepreneurial programs.

It really just comes down to the individual in the end. Sure, a person is the subject of their influences, but if they don't have the motivation to take the risks and initiative necessary to work outside that net, then no amount of education would change that.

My school didn't teach anything in terms of web, media, social media, or innovative marketing. Everything we learned was cookie-cut traditional business.

The problem with the net and this "straightforward" career path is that it puts everyone in the same line. Of course it's going to be hard to get a job when you're literally standing in pool of students with the same exact credentials. Of course relying on job boards, and career services, isn't going to get you hired when you graduate.

I'll be honest, I can be lazy as shit...but I had to go out there on my own and network, read, learn, and secure a job for myself. No reason Scott, or any other student, couldn't do that for their own career.

David, Scribnia

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Right: "the college degree... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 5:05 PM | Posted by DCF: | Reply

Right: "the college degree is merely a brand and not a mark of knowledge; or every employer in the world already knows this."

Wrong: "So if we all agree the degree doesn't mean anything close to what we are pretending it means"

Aren't you the one always talking about how a.) we're all narcissists and b.) narcissists love brands?

It's a brand and not much more, but that brand is incredibly powerful. Employers want to be associated with Harvard, even if it means hiring a dummy once in a while.

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Kick the spoiled brat to th... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 5:48 PM | Posted by Tom G: | Reply

Kick the spoiled brat to the curb. Let him get hungry and then he'll appreciate that society respects hard work and sacrifice. Egotistical entitlement attitudes are at best spoiled and selfish and will likely lead to another life wasted.

When life presents lemons, make lemonade.

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Well, not quite true... if ... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 5:50 PM | Posted, in reply to Tom G's comment, by Sam Jackson: | Reply

Well, not quite true... if you are entitled, and consequently have high expectations, it can drive you to succeed. If, for example, he was so disappointed at that bad job that he started his own enterprise in the hopes of pursuing what he felt he 'deserved' then, you know, that's great.

Didn't happen in his case, it would seem.

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Businesses add to this prob... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 5:51 PM | Posted by greenpad: | Reply

Businesses add to this problem. I work for a very large company, and I wanted them to hire my brilliant buddy. They interviewed him, loved him, tried to hire him. HR wouldn't let them. The req was for a recent college graduate, which he wasn't. But he didn't have experience in the field because he'd been teaching at Jr. college for 5 years, so he couldn't get hired on as experienced either.

Unfortunately, when someone chooses to strike out on their own instead of getting a corporate job, they don't really have much of a fall back. Nobody wants a 35 year old who with no experience in his field who hasn't been in college in 14 years, even if he did have a successful ice cream shop for a while.

On top of this, another sad fact is the $40k job may truly keep him from the $100k job. Snobs at the top say he was willing to work for $40k, so he must not be worth $100k. I hope in the current market that is changing, but it certainly used to be true.

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Is there some reason why th... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 6:20 PM | Posted by Joel: | Reply

Is there some reason why this kid can't take the $40k job and still continue looking for other work? You don't even have to include it in your resume which would leave him exactly where he's at now only 40k/year richer. The American Dream will always be out of reach for people like this who wait for opportunity to fall into their laps.

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Too true. Too late.... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 6:38 PM | Posted by Alex-5: | Reply

Too true. Too late.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -4 (8 votes cast)
I just graduated a year ago... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 6:41 PM | Posted by Jeff: | Reply

I just graduated a year ago and got lucky enough to find a job I like and jump on it, but I'm seeing a lot of my friends in the position you're describing. This is pretty spot on. I'm not sure it's entirely limited to my generation, but it's certainly true that people are looking to be handed a dream job just because they graduated college.

On one hand, if you have the cushion, why not be a little picky about a job? But then on the other side, like one other commenter mentioned, why not take the dead-end option to support yourself and start working towards your ideal position?

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At least nitwit Scott is cl... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 7:04 PM | Posted by hermitian operator: | Reply

At least nitwit Scott is clueless. He's sort of like a gecko who gets immobilized by a snake. He doesn't even realize he's being eaten.

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I. You "considered" a job w... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 7:09 PM | Posted by jim c: | Reply

I. You "considered" a job with the CIA, and now you're working for a medical school. Doesn't sound much like an entrepreneurial track. But why play without a net when you can just blog about others who don't?

II. This was conceivably an experiment in determining how many unfounded generalizations might be shoe-horned into a single blog entry.

III. My "American Dream" is not your "American Dream". But then, is there really any such thing?

IV. Discovering the cause of America's decline sure is exciting!! Or, could it be that you've simply found a lazy college grad?

V. Ashley Montagu once said that "The family unit is the institution for the systematic production of mental illness." We shouldn't be surprised when we witness the negative effects of parental influence. Like most of us, it will take Scott a while to break free of it.

VI. I enjoyed the post!

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This whole post is pure ivo... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 7:14 PM | Posted by Basho: | Reply

This whole post is pure ivory tower. What does the author know about the job market for young people?

"Is this Russia? This is diabolically terrible advice, it betrays a paranoid, cynical vision of reality where everything is a network, exclusionary, no one is desirable for their talent and the only thing that prevents supersuccess is not being in the right clubs or friendly with the right people. I get that those things give you an advantage, of course, but does not having them mean a career in holes?"

I'm a recent graduate, and nobody I know got a job with potential for advancement without an inside advantage. They either were in the right club, had the right parents, or did the right internship.

I'll give you a concrete example. One of my friends flunked out of college, dropped out of community college, and accumulated a DUI and various other minor criminal charges/convictions. His father hired him after he returned home. He is getting paid a good wage, has benefits, and is learning marketable skills. Last time we talked I had the pleasure of hearing that one of his co-workers (same position as him) was recently hired away by a major corporation to work in their data-mining department at a 50% pay bump.

Another one of my friends earned two Bachelor's of Science degrees with distinction from a public university that ranks in the top 50 according to U.S. News. Since graduating she has served in AmeriCorps, served coffee, and done grunt work at a research lab. With no good job prospects, she has decided to go to grad school.

"Not unusually, his parents themselves did not follow Scott's path: his grandfather came out of the war and went to work for his father-in-law who had started a brokerage; and his Dad went to work with a friend who had just opened a factory."

I don't know how you missed it, but Scott's grandfather and father had their shot at success because of their connections. In addition to their connections, they had the rising tide of a growing economy.

"Scott and his friends at the Irish Pub are in the best position imaginable: young, smart, living debt free with their parents. Four of these guys, each borrowing 10k personally (at 4% -- $400 a year to pursue your dreams?) they will have 40k startup capital to do anything they want. If they're really serious, they could indeed do anything, from putting out a comic book to starting a high end tutoring/home schooling service to integrating Flash with the iPadiPad to inventing something to whatever etc, etc, what, you need me to hand you ideas as well? If they are serious, they cannot fail, and if they do fail, we have the most liberal bankruptcy laws on the planet. The point of those laws is to encourage you to try. All the pieces are in place for success at almost no risk. And he'll be a better man just for trying."

Young people can borrow large amounts of money? And at 4% no less? Please post which financial institutions are offering these terms. And if you're talking about the bank of mom & dad, very few of us have that option.

Even beyond the implausibility of the financing, what marketable skills do these young men have? It was my impression that most people already have experience, if not clients, before hanging out their own shingle. Could you have started your own psychiatric practice before treating your first patient?

Then there are those like David Spinks who have the same attitude that Orwell encountered 75 years ago.

"That was the attitude towards unemployment in those days: it was a disaster which happened to you as an individual and for which you were to blame."

Clearly David was too busy networking to read his macroeconomics textbook. Of course the truly audacious part about David's post is his cognitive dissonance. He simultaneously believes that people need to network to get jobs (implying that jobs are awarded based on connections) and that people with jobs are superior to those that are unemployed (implying that jobs are awarded based on merit).

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Best diatribe I've read all... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 7:27 PM | Posted by Alecx: | Reply

Best diatribe I've read all year.

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Speaking of connections. B... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 7:43 PM | Posted by hermitian operator: | Reply

Speaking of connections. Being famously wired just got Chelsea Clinton a 3 million dollar wedding along with all the academic and professional accouterments.

That nepotism stuff is older than Thurstan Howell III. Only except for the Reptiles in Washington and on Wall Street, the make-work white collar jobs are going, going, gone.

Good thing the Social Security retirement age will be raised. Because with Scotty's Dad forced to work till he's 70 will allow Scotty to live in his parents' basement till his 40's. (He'll have to occasionally mow the lawn and pay for his own video games though.)

Basho is mostly right...for now...

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Great rant, as usual. A ca... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 7:56 PM | Posted by retriever: | Reply

Great rant, as usual. A cautionary tale for parents (I have three college aged kids). Mostly, I'm with the both/and people above. I got myself thru college and grad school with a combination of unpaid internships in my field, minimum wage jobs and some slightly better paying but mundane work.

The thing is, middle aged people with kids need security (in middle age, I gave up my own profession for a "secure" job with benefits because I had a sick kid and my then 45 year old spouse couldn't find work). But young people should take risks. Even if they're not entrepreneurial, they can live on little, don't need to live in safe neighborhoods with good school districts.

I found myself wondering if the young man was volunteering anywhere, or helping out elderly neighbors, or the like. One thing about being unemployed or underemployed, there are always people and places needing help that can't afford to pay. One needn't moulder at home.

The armed services are hiring. So long as the fellow is physically fit, intelligent, and doesn't have a drug habit, perhaps they could give him a sense of purpose greater than himself?

Part of the trouble is that the kids around me (probably similar to the guy in the story) expect to have cars, and new ones, need cellphones, and still go out for drinks and to eat with their friends every night. This costs. They expect a more comfortable lifestyle than they can afford to pay for for themselves.

I don't understand an unemployed young person turning down a real job. 40,000 K is plenty. He could live with his parents at first (until he was sure he wouldn't get fired right away) and pay them rent and for his food, and save up money for grad school and/or a down payment on a house some day. One thing is, with a job, he'd be able to get a date. I can't imagine anybody going out with somebody unemployed and still living with their parents.

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Re: I can't imagine anyb... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 8:00 PM | Posted, in reply to retriever's comment, by hermitian operator: | Reply

Re: I can't imagine anybody going out with somebody unemployed and still living with their parents.

"My name is George, I'm unemployed and I live with my parents."

The obvious solution is to do the opposite...

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Sorry, 40K. ... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 8:01 PM | Posted by retriever: | Reply

Sorry, 40K.

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I just can't get over the "... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 8:53 PM | Posted by Carol: | Reply

I just can't get over the "He can't get a job." He had an offer! He could have a job and at least have something on his resume. Or does sitting on your ass making no money look better to some mythical company that's going to pay him what he is worth?
Thank god my kids aren't entitled. They know how much everything costs. The youngest one wants to be a cop, and own a business on the side. He's 8 and working on his business plan (and I'm completely serious about the business plan btw.) Of course, my college graduate husband is making what the guy turned down but we do okay.

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Great post, and my feelings... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 9:30 PM | Posted by Fritz: | Reply

Great post, and my feelings exactly. I went to Yale undergrad and Columbia for my MS and graduated with $140k in debt. My last 2 jobs paid $45k with benefits, and I am now unemployed. I feel like the idiot of the century (and sadly my wife concurs). My parents pushed me to go to the best schools and then graduate school. And for what? My brother the doctor may be making $200k a year, but unless you become a doctor or a lawyer, expensive/elite colleges and grad school are a bad, bad idea. I wish someone would have warned me. I really was too young and naive to know better. I was doing what my dad told me would work. The schools were more than happy to let me use loans to pay, realizing that I would have to carry this impossible load of debt the rest of my life. I am all for taking initiative and trying your hand at business. I don't even know if I will send my kids to college. I will try to teach them business instead. But first I need to learn it myself.

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tiny nitpick - you have "th... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 10:13 PM | Posted by jen: | Reply

tiny nitpick - you have "the children are or future?"

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"Huh? He read The Economis... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 10:16 PM | Posted by Innocent Bystander: | Reply

"Huh? He read The Economist, or an economist? There is absolutely no way that anyone who reads The Economist can have concluded that Europe has surpassed America in anything not involving riots, in the way that no one who reads Maxim can conclude that acne is in vogue."

Why is it axiomatic for people in the US to assume it is better in every respect than other countries, even though that clearly is not so (eg more crime, more poverty, lower life expectancy, worse education).

It looks like you don't read even The Economist very carefully yourself. They had an article a couple of years ago which showed that

a) Living standards in the US are falling and have been doing do for 40 years, for all other than the top 1% or so.

b) Social mobility in the US is much lower than in Europe and is declining.

Sorry to rain on your parade with a few facts.

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I'm sorry to have to tell y... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 10:16 PM | Posted by Benjamin Woodruff: | Reply

I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but the military doesn't require intelligence. Plenty of total bricks get commissions and even more enlist. This doesn't mean that our armed forces aren't smart, just that your job won't be satellite communications or intel analyst if you don't score high enough.
This Scott guy would never enlist because he wouldn't make enough money. The only reason he'd become an officer is because of his ego, and I hate officers like that. Besides, considering his current dilemma, he doesn't exactly drip leadership potential.

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Re: ...unless you become... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 10:22 PM | Posted, in reply to Fritz's comment, by hermitian operator: | Reply

Re: ...unless you become a doctor or a lawyer

BTW, here's what being a lawyer gets you in a totally trashed economy.

http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/

Doctors still make money because the costs have been socialized. But just wait until the government starts socializing physician reimbursements...

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Attitude is everythi... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2010 11:48 PM | Posted by George Marian: | Reply

Attitude is everything. Even if you're dumb as a rock, with the right attitude, you can succeed. As demonstrated by some of the comments here, intelligence without the right attitude is not enough. In lean times, the right attitude will get you through. Granted, it is hardship that teaches us this truth.

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I think you may be a little... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 12:37 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think you may be a little over optimistic regarding his ability to do something entrepreneurial. What is he going to sell? He most assuredly can't make anything, and even if he could he cant do it cheaply enough to compete with SE Asia. He just graduated, so he has no skills, so he can't sell a service. He could conceivably sell someone else's product, but as both you and the NYT have covered, this kid is kind of a weiner so he's not going to be much of a salesman.

The better, or at least more likely path is what you alluded to previously: take the shitty job and use it to leapfrog to something else. If you're still risk averse you can at least leverage this into a better corporate position, if you're not you can gain some skills that you can use to eventually strike out on your own. Those physicians that do start a private practice still started as physicians, not 22 year olds with a worthless BA.

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As someone married to a shr... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 2:41 AM | Posted by lark: | Reply

As someone married to a shrink, this is a lot of insufferable nonsense.

Clue: this country used to be tops in the per cent of college grads in the work force. Now, for 24-35 year olds, we're tenth. That's not because we coddle the young. It is because we burden them with student loan debt - far more than any other developed country. The proof is in the stats.

What makes it (even) worse, is that after you pay off that debt, you're old news and you need re-training, just as your kids head off to college. This is the risk based economy, in which workers bear all the risk. Have you heard of it? If not, you are in a protected occupation. You should thank your lucky stars and have the decency to keep your mouth shut.

What planet are you on anyway? I am an engineer. On the engineering planet, in which idle therapeutic couch fantasies don't determine reality, there is a 12% unemployment rate. Why? Try outsourcing, H1-B, offshore labs, etc.

By the by, I am an entrepreneur, and I regard the worshipful attitude towards such endeavors as evidence that the American workforce has been playing a suckers game. More than anything, it's sad.

Americans gave up pensions and unions and all the trappings of security for free lance and /or entrepreneurial independence. The corporations got out of Dodge for what Wall STreet thinks are good reasons: they don't want to pay middle class wages or be burdened with environmental regs. We are left with the wreckage.

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"What is he going to se... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 6:11 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Gurdur: | Reply

"What is he going to sell?"

Try blood. I did it after all, a lot. And lots of manual work, etc.; I'm finding it hard to be sympathetic to the featured guy's plight. Many of us have worked at worse jobs while waiting on an application for a more appropriate job to succeed. I'm just thinking the guy should get over it and get on with it.
______

The Last Psychiatrist tweeted:

"Special thanks to Colin... and the Germans who liked my post. You may think I'm joking, but I am now the David Hasselhoff of psychiatry."

Speaking as one of those readers in Germany, TLP's blog is quite brilliant most of the time, and it's a blog I very often cite myself. Mind you, I personally am not in favour of Hasselhoff.

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Did we read the same articl... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 7:05 AM | Posted by Tim: | Reply

Did we read the same article or is there a doppelganger NYT I'm not familiar with? I've just begun following this blog a few weeks ago and appreciate the many ways it has challenged my assumptions. This post, however, is bizarre in how it wants to blame the parents and grandparents no less, for not astutely predicting how the future would play out for their offspring.


"This is diabolically terrible advice, it betrays a paranoid, cynical vision of reality where everything is a network, exclusionary, no one is desirable for their talent and the only thing that prevents supersuccess is not being in the right clubs or friendly with the right people."

Is this you being sarcastic? You do realize that most careers (which is what he is looking for) in the US are obtained through connections and a person's network? This is still true in particular during an age when hiring managers can be inundated with hundreds of resumes. You're cynicism on this point betrays a certain level of ignorance of how careers are developed.

"...but in fact their son is taking their advice to its inevitable conclusion: he's holding out for the perfect corporate job"
Firstly he is not looking for a 'job' with the 'perfect package. From my reading of this article the guy is looking for a 'career' and that he's willing to start off at the "the bottom rungs of a career ladder." Might have been a mistake but I seriously doubt it will destroy his life.

This guy is not just sitting on his ass all day, not thinking about his future - he tried as a freshman to develop a career in the Marines. He's doing odd jobs to try to make ends meet. He is obviously disillusioned but is that really his parent’s fault for not preparing him for a reality that they themselves were not prepared for? And does it matter whose fault it really is? Is it not enough that he is realizing that reality is far from his expectations and that he is working towards adjusting his approach?

"They're not better educated, they just have more degrees. Were you smarter at 21 post college than your Dad was at 21?"
Come on, you do realize the difference between being 'better educated' and 'smarter.' A college degree may be have lost much of it's perceived value but comparing it to a ponzi scheme is ridiculous. Sure, if you're talking about degree mills, I get it. But someone who spends 4+years in college, obtains honors upon graduation from a decent college, probably wasn't hanging at the frat all day passing the bong and doing keg stands to develop that achievement. Yes, in the US we overemphasize the necessity of a Bachelor’s to realize the ‘American Dream’ and we have a need for people to enter the workforce with more vocational skills; but that itself does not eliminate the value of the education that he received, which by the way is not necessarily valued solely for career development.

"The problem with Scott and his generation…" You can go back about the GenX'ers and read this, then head back to the hippies, baby boomers and keep on going. The only thing this rant is missing is the "When I was 20 we had to [insert how difficult your pubescence was for you here]" He's not waiting, he’s moving into an apartment with his brother, will find a part-time job at the end of August if he can't land a career, then move from there. This is the classic generational blame game that’s been going on for ages.

Most of the comments to this post have missed your point about blaming the parents not Scott for his circumstances, but it amazes me how much of this is grounded in an emotional response to what I can only describe as a version of Freudian “blame-the parents” post and puritanical work ethic knee jerk reaction comments. Simply put this article is not all that new or shocking but this topic appears to always receive highly charged emotional responses: recent grad realizes that the world he has been preparing for is not the same in reality so he has to change. He’s getting over it and adjusting. So should the rest of us.

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The problem Vincent is he's... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 9:59 AM | Posted, in reply to Vincent's comment, by LDM: | Reply

The problem Vincent is he's NOT out driving taxis or delivering packages in his afternoon.

I'm in my Twenties, and by the end of college, I'd:
Shoveled snow off sidewalks
Mowed lawns
Picked & sold strawberries at the roadside (thanks Dad for the "Angel Investment")
Worked at a local fast-food place
Worked boxing & shipping power tools (60+ hrs a week, while still working fast food at night/weekends)
Worked in a Stockroom
Worked freelance landscaping
Worked as a copy clerk
Worked as a coordinator for a local church's college ministry
Worked as a software tester
Worked as a system admin

I now have my Degree in CS, no student loans (I paid cash for almost all of my college expenses- very limited financial aid and NOT paid for by my parents), work for a Fortune 50 as a Software Engineer, married with a house.

My Dad would have kicked me out of the house if I'd tried to do what that kid is doing. To Quote: "As long as you're in school, you'll have a roof and food on the table, but if you quit I'm charging you room and board"

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He can't become a plumber o... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 10:27 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Carol: | Reply

He can't become a plumber or an electrician? Both of those careers need people and it can't be outsourced. He should give the Union a jingle.

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To Quote: "As long as you'r... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 11:31 AM | Posted, in reply to LDM's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

To Quote: "As long as you're in school, you'll have a roof and food on the table, but if you quit I'm charging you room and board"

Which is exactly why so many kids go to university JUST so their parents will support them (not just in the US, it's the same in Canada...these issues are somewhat different in Europe due to a very different housing situation). It was the same back when I went to uni in the 80s, it's hardly new or limited to this particular generation of 20 somethings. I suspect most of these kids would be much better off being sent off to backpack through Europe to learn a bit about life and at least learn to navigate a foreign subway map - unless they're actually interested in what they're going to university to study. And, of course, these are the same kids who feel entitled to success without actually making an effort to succeed (let along the kinds of risks and failures that are part of actually self-creating your work or life instead of following the instructions for the Perfect LifeTM). That's what happens when your parents never let you fail...or truly succeed.

That said, I also know lots of entrepreneurs from rich families and people from no money who've started their own businesses from scratch. (And I know lots of people who have boring jobs so they can pursue their real passions outside of work - it's a trade off.) It's much harder for people who don't have parents with connections or the establishment to back you up and provide you with affluent customers (or ongoing investment or a house, etc), it always has been. The world - including America - have never actually been meritocracies. I've always found it fascinating how rarely affluent kids (or their parents born into eras where it's relatively easy to succeed) actually acknowledge just how much their privilege and the economic context of their times contributed to their success.

Alone seems to be buying into and promoting an American myth or the American Dream that's not really reality based. This idea that America was built and runs on entrepreneurship is bogus and more a part of a narcissistic nationalist image than the reality of America. America was built on plantations and slavery (including wage slavery) not entrepreneurship (there's a reason why rich industrialists kill unions and move production offshore, it's because exploitation is the traditional way to make lots of money, both in the US and elsewhere). The myth of America being a land of rugged individualism, equal opportunity and infinite expansion is a lie - it's the narcissistic facade that prevents some Americans from seeing reality. America is much less socially mobile and friendly to small businesses and entrepreneurship than countries like Canada and Australia (though that's changing rapidly with the NeoCons in power here in Canada). Being nostalgic for a mythical industrial past isn't actually dealing with or recognizing today's post-industrial reality, which does indeed call for creative thinking and self directed action. But don't all times call for this if one is going to create something interesting, new and viable? Rugged individualism is an attractive myth but as even you point out, in your four guys investing and working together example, it's through collective action and working together that people succeed (through networks). What you seem to have missed is that many young (and not so young) people who are doing successful entrepreneurial things are doing so as collectives and not as rugged individualists. It's the people who have the ability to see reality and to anticipate and create potential outcomes that benefit the most from their time, that's why nostalgia for how it used to be is actually missing the boat. I wouldn't get too wrapped up in mistaking a NYT article for reality.

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"This is what happens when ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 12:36 PM | Posted by Meistergedanken: | Reply

"This is what happens when you go through four years of college and don't at least read On The Road, let alone try it. "

I thought you hated "On The Road"! Wasn't there a post about it last year about how stupid it was???

I know a lot of engineers that don't "set up their own shingle" because of the incredibly high cost of liability insurance. I imagine that must be the case also in the medical field. Also, because the design and building codes are so complex these days (needlessly so), you need multiple software packages in order to produce your own designs, and each software license can easilty cost thousands of dollars every year. Add to that the lost productivity due to "continuing education" requirements, and you should easily see why more professionals don't go into business for themselves...

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There are really only three... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 1:02 PM | Posted by Matt: | Reply

There are really only three economically-useful things to do in college.

1. Get the undergrad degree you need to get into law school.
2. Get the undergrad degree you need to get into medical school.
3. Meet the co-founders of your startup.

If you're walking across the stage with a diploma in your hand but no admission to professional schools and no angel/venture-ready business plan, you've just completely wasted six figures of your/your parents'/the taxpayers' money. Congratulations on what we all hope will be the most expensive bad decision of your entire life...now go get a job, so at least your NEXT big mistake will come out of your own pocket instead of mine.

And if you don't already have a network by the time you graduate...well, I'll be practical and avoid asking "WHY THE HELL NOT???" (except oops...) and go directly for "WHERE THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO GET ONE, ANYWAY?" Networks don't just HAPPEN. You have to build them. And you don't build them out of a bunch of your slacker friends. You build them out of the people you'd be likely to meet as, say, an insurance claims adjuster. People who have jobs. People who have bosses, who might listen to what they say about who to hire for the next opening. People who might associate your name with some positive traits, instead of the whiny slacker loser they meet in the NYT.

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When it comes to economics,... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 1:18 PM | Posted by David: | Reply

When it comes to economics, I love the examples Alone comes up with- they're the equivalent of the Cadillac welfare queen with 12 kids- maybe there was such a person ... but the overwhelming majority were living in poverty as single mothers in economically disadvantaged areas. This column is home to some of the most elitist and economically ignorant people I've ever run across. Here is the last time (heh) I will waste my time on reactionaries from white America:


Since 2000, employment has actually grown a bit faster in Europe than in the United States — and since Europe has a lower rate of population growth, this has translated into a substantial rise in the percentage of working-age Europeans with jobs, even as America’s employment-population ratio has declined. In particular, in the prime working years, from 25 to 54, the big gap between European and U.S. employment rates that existed a decade ago has been largely eliminated.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/11/opinion/11krugman.html?ref=paulkrugman

On Tuesday, BMW hung out the help-wanted sign after reporting that its net profit rose more than sixfold in the second quarter.German exports are booming again and so is employment. The country’s unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, almost at the pre-crisis level, and down from 9.1 percent in January. Companies, including the electronics and engineering giant Siemens, the truck maker MAN or the carmaker Daimler, are ramping up worker hours. BMW said it was seeking 1,000 people in Germany to work in research and development as well as purchasing and sales.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/business/global/04dmark.html

Contrast this approach with an American company doing much better:

When Alcoa reported a turnaround this month in profits and a 22 percent jump in revenue, its chief financial officer, Charles D. McLane Jr., assured investors that it was not eager to recall the 37,000 workers let go since late 2008. “We have a tight focus on spending as market activity increases, operating more effectively and minimizing rehires where possible,” he said. “We’re not only holding headcount levels, but are also driving restructuring this quarter that will result in further reductions.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/business/economy/26earnings.html?pagewanted=2&ref=alcoa_inc

"U.S. before-tax corporate profits from current production increased at the fastest pace in more than 25 years over the past year, the Commerce Department estimated Friday."
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-corporate-profits-rise-most-in-25-years-2010-03-26

Worker productivity rose an impressive 2.8% in the first quarter, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday. That's down slightly from the previously-released 3.6% rate for the first quarter, but still constitutes a 4.0% productivity gain on a year-over-year basis. Productivity rose at an annual rate of 7.8% and 6.3% in the third and fourth quarters of 2009, respectively. In 2009, productivity rose 3.7%. What's more, unit labor costs remained contained: they fell 1.3% in the first quarter, less than the previously-released 1.6% first quarter decline, but still good for a massive 4.2% reduction in unit labor costs on a year-over-year basis.
http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2010/06/03/u-s-worker-productivity-continues-to-impress/

That resulted in record increases in corporate profits, so that must mean more jobs, right? Wrong.

They threw out far more workers and hours than they lost output,” said Professor Sum. “Here’s what happened: At the end of the fourth quarter in 2008, you see corporate profits begin to really take off, and they grow by the time you get to the first quarter of 2010 by $572 billion. And over that same time period, wage and salary payments go down by $122 billion.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/31/opinion/31herbert.html?ref=bobherbert

Whole industries are operating at new levels of profitability,” said David J. Kostin, chief United States equity strategist at Goldman Sachs. “In the downturn, companies managed to maintain higher profit margins than ever before.” In fact, while wages and salaries have barely budged from recession lows, profits have staged a vigorous recovery, jumping 40 percent between late 2008 and the first quarter of 2010. To be sure, sales are rising for many companies, albeit at a much slower pace than the increase in profits. Among the 175 companies in the S.& P. 500 that have reported earnings for the second quarter, revenues rose 6.9 percent on average while profits jumped 42.3 percent, according to Thomson Reuters.
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Industries-Find-Surging-nytimes-3446245046.html?x=0
Fully 46 percent of the unemployed have been without work for six months or more -- the highest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began measuring such things in 1947. Two years ago, just 18 percent of the unemployed were jobless for more than six months. America's private-sector job machine -- the marvel of the world since 1940 -- has clanged to a halt, and there's no place for it in corporations' new business model.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2010/07/27/AR2010072704791.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Here's a shout-out for Americans who still have jobs:

American workers stay longer in the office, at the factory or on the farm than their counterparts in Europe and most other rich nations, and they produce more per person over the year.
They also get more done per hour than everyone but the Norwegians, according to a U.N. report released Monday, which said the United States "leads the world in labor productivity."
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/03/business/main3228735.shtml

You write:

Scott and his friends at the Irish Pub are in the best position imaginable: young, smart, living debt free with their parents. Four of these guys, each borrowing 10k personally (at 4% -- $400 a year to pursue your dreams?) they will have 40k startup capital to do anything they want.

Yeah, maybe they are ... and they form an incredibly small number of the unemployed in America. Cherry pick all you want Alone and all you other "entrepreneurs," the jobless recovery is quite different than the hazy & halcyon dreams of your yesteryears. Last fact for the 30 percenters who seem to be allergic to them:

Unemployed Americans started fewer companies in the first six months of the year than at any time in at least the past 24 years, suggesting that would-be entrepreneurs may be discouraged by tight lending conditions and the possibility of a “double dip” in the US, according to a report released on Monday. The FT reported last week that small businesses in the US are having to pay more to borrow relative to the Federal Reserve’s benchmark rate than at any time in at least a quarter of a century. That suggests that the sector responsible for the vast majority of hiring in the US is being held back by not receiving the full benefit from the ultra-low rates that are supporting some larger employers.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7462d9a2-9351-11df-bb9a-00144feab49a.html

I'm not suggesting "some" people cannot become entrepreneurs and reap the benefits of the "American Dream," I'm merely stating facts-an overwhelming preponderance of facts-which point to a radical shift in the American economy which has negatively affected job creation & job security, real wages, and the economic willingness to bankroll small business and startups.

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RIDICULOUS ADVICE.... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 2:27 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

RIDICULOUS ADVICE.

Fact: self starter business fail like crazy. FAIL, LIKE, CRAZY. There is a reason no one in this country wants to start a business and that is because WE HAVE OBSERVED OVER MANY GENERATIONS THAT MOST BUSINESSES FAIL LIKE CRAZY, PARTICULARLY NOW that communities are less splintered and isolated due to technology (whereas, in the past it might have been more feasible to open a local grocery store and be successful, now there is a supergalaxy universe walmart just a 20 minute car ride away). And as for starting that next big microsoft corporation... DREAM ON, I would totally rather play the lottery. That's like BETTING that you have the right skills, at the right time in history, and have all the pieces fall exactly into place. I suspect being a professional scratch off player would be more productive.

People from other countries are more professionally ambitious because they come from circumstances which are unstable and they really don't have as much to lose. In this country, it is a much safer, more wise strategy to work for someone else than it is to start your own business.
Unless you have a touch of the manic depression, or are a similar unhinged fringe ambitious immune to reality and consequences nutter, ALL sane people realize it is a more wise strategy to seek employment with an already established corporation.

Stop romanticizing an american myth. It was never true to begin with, it was only LESS untrue a few decades ago. The idea of starting a business from scratch and being wildly successful is a heaping load of bullshit. A few people may do it but the vast majority who try end up broke and in debt... and back on their lithium probably. It's not impossible but it is very, very unlikely and in a few years or a few weeks or a few months yo' bidness is going under.

It's not that people aren't TRYING to start new businesses, I see people attempt this all the time... then I see those business closing their doors a few weeks or months later. With the exception of a fraction of the time being that the new business actually thrives.


As for Scott in this article I would point out that Scott has nothing to do with a normal american kid looking for employment post college. I would point out the following facts at this junction:

1) Scott is 24, and several years past college age. He is hardly even looking for a job. That sets off my loser radar big time. Sounds to me like Scott really doesn't want to work and grow up, and is posing as a post college grad down on his luck. This happens surprisingly often, kids out of college who were spoiled and indulged by their parents who cannot make the transition to adulthood and so they feign hard times and bad luck and various other excuses to avoid getting a job and taking responsibility for themselves. They develop into 30 yr old losers and 40 yr old losers and so it goes.

2) No NORMAL post college grad is going to deny a 40k/yr job. Any REASONABLE college grad would realize something is better than nothing and it is experience for the resume, and they can keep looking for better jobs even while working for this company. Unless, of course, they really wanted to sit in their parents house like the loser in this article.

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"Shoot/fish/barrel that ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 2:44 PM | Posted by Strunk and White: | Reply

"Shoot/fish/barrel that Scott's a retread..."

You had the balls to write that, and I actually understood that.

Unbelievable. I don't care how many typos you make, you are a writer.

Paypal is small time. You should put out a magazine.

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I love Anon@2:27 and their ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 2:48 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by EH: | Reply

I love Anon@2:27 and their "one true college grad" outlook on life! stay normal, dude (and i bet you are a man).

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As I stated earlier, it's a... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 3:56 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by George Marian: | Reply

As I stated earlier, it's all about attitude.

People from other countries are more professionally ambitious because they come from circumstances which are unstable and they really don't have as much to lose.

It is hardship that brings out or forms true character. Of course people are afraid to take risks when there are safer options. (I can not help but note that you took the "anonymous" option here.) However, how "safe" is safe? After working my butt off, but still being laid-off 3 times in the last 10 years, I can tell you that it is not so safe. I could have remained at my first job, instead of leaving for a change of lifestyle, but I would not be the person that I am today.

I did take a bit of a silly risk, leaving a stable job just as the dot-com bubble was bursting. However, to do it again, the thing I would change is to have put aside more money for the rainy days. Ultimately, the lesson I learned was to truly take responsibility for myself.

I can not reconcile your lambasting of entrepreneurship in the first part of your comments with your insightful comments regarding Scott's situation.

Benjamin Franklin ran away from his apprenticeship to Philadelphia with the clothes on his back, some stuffed into his pockets and a few coins. Now that's taking a risk. Granted, by his own account, his chest and more clothing were on the way. However, I can not overemphasize the risk of running away from an apprenticeship and doing so with little money to get him through until he could secure some type of income. He made use of his training as a printer, and more importantly, his insight and other "soft-skills."

That is the point which Scott does not understand. You have to start somewhere. You have to take some risks. Your early years are the times best suited for taking those risks; while you are only responsible for yourself. This is the perfect time to take the risk of starting a business. If you can not parlay that experience into a corporate gig later, should you choose to do so, it is not because you took a risk and failed. It is likely because you did not learn anything from the experience. You would probably be in the same situation had you taken a corporate job.

Just like not making a decision is a decision in itself, so is waiting for a "safer" option in itself a risk. Yes, starting a business is risky and many new business fail. However, relying on the prospects of someone else's business is also a risk. Beyond the vicissitudes of corporate culture, there's the simple fact that in lean times, companies must cut back. And, when they do, they tend to cut with a hatchet, not with a scalpel.

Ultimately, my point is that we should ask ourselves: do we want to grow up and take responsibility for ourselves or remain as children, dependent on some "parent?"

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Well done. You last point ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 3:57 PM | Posted by Therapeutic Ramblings: | Reply

Well done. You last point about students coming out with no business skills is spot on. I've lectured on countless topics, but the one that gets the most, "they never taught us that!" was on the business of healthcare. It was nothing mind-blowing, just the basics of business applied to healthcare. I trudged through 70+ hr weeks at a bunch of companies to learn it, but programs (med, law, psych, etc) can't be bothered to include it.

I'm not complaining though....because there will always be a professional willing to pay me to teach them what they could have learned taking a few business classes. Until you have people working when you are not, you'll always be held captive by your job and your hours.

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I just graduated with a deg... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 4:32 PM | Posted, in reply to Fritz's comment, by Andrew: | Reply

I just graduated with a degree in biochemistry from a rather prestigous, but ridiculously expensive school. I have since been telling every prospective college student I can find to go to school where's it nice and cheap and people call me ludacrious. Every person I've discussed this with assures me that it was "worth it" to take out 150k in debt for my "education".

I could have gotten a great education at my state school for next to nothing and graduated debt free. Yay for idiots of the century! We should start a gang.

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To all the people who comme... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 6:17 PM | Posted by HedgeMage: | Reply

To all the people who commented that one needs to network with others, and that entrepreneurship isn't practical for new graduates due to lack of experience, there is a simple solution to both: don't raise kids in a vacuum.

People spend more time than ever in classrooms, and thus miss out on important skills that only come from experience.

By the time I was 16, I had more work experience than most college graduates that apply for jobs in the company I now run -- even those several years out of college. I also had a growing network (thanks to volunteering with open source software projects) in my chosen field, despite growing up in a poor rural community where the ability to send email was considered extremely high-tech.

Networking is still important, but thanks to the internet, is no longer limited to those with the right pedigree or hometown. Experience is available *everywhere* to those who seek it out.

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Save for a top (top 14) law... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 6:27 PM | Posted by JoelGlanton: | Reply

Save for a top (top 14) law school or med school, post-grad is senseless.

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I'm afraid if you post a co... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 7:38 PM | Posted by David: | Reply

I'm afraid if you post a comment running contrary to the author's opinion, one filled with references directly refuting baseless statements, it doesn't get published. Or maybe there's just an 8 hour delay.

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Alone, you've been hitting ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 8:40 PM | Posted by demodenise: | Reply

Alone, you've been hitting the *Atlas Shrugged* bottle again, haven't you? :)

Great post. Its interesting how fear of something--and the behavior of avoidance of fears--are transmitted generationally, to the point that the avoidance behavior becomes a value.

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I'm dying to know what you ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 8:45 PM | Posted by What about that 45yr old's kids?: | Reply

I'm dying to know what you think the guy in his 40's (or 30's) with a young family but no degree or capital should do? I've been telling my young kids to study hard so they can go to a good college and not be in a position like their dad, working several low paying part-time jobs to barely support them, because no decent employers will even talk to him since he has no college degree.

What should we tell our kids? Are we perpetuating a Ponzi scheme?

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Are you even speaking engli... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 9:02 PM | Posted, in reply to EH's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Are you even speaking english? Nothing you said makes sense. You're going to have to decode that from emotional fool and translate it into common english.

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Not true -- any med school ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 10:48 PM | Posted, in reply to JoelGlanton's comment, by Premed: | Reply

Not true -- any med school is a good med school. It's a hell of a lot harder to get into any med school than into some top law school. People apply to 30 med schools with excellent CV and get rejected to all or only accepted to one. That's how competitive it is.

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"Being famously wired just ... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 12:22 AM | Posted, in reply to hermitian operator's comment, by Eclipse: | Reply

"Being famously wired just got Chelsea Clinton a 3 million dollar wedding along with all the academic and professional accouterments."

This is the real problem. Is Chelsea smarter or more innovative than any of these college grads? Has she ever started a business? Does she even have a job other than being married to the son of a jailbird? Why should she get a $3 million wedding and everyone else get peanuts--especially when her parents were the ones who put in motion the "free trade agreements" that resulted in Ross Perot's prophetic giant sucking sound of jobs being sucked out of the US and overseas. There are no jobs anymore. They've all been sent to India and the Philippines, thanks the the Clintons and the DLC, who betrayed everything the Democratic Party stood for since FDR.

And there's a new trend among people in their 30s and 40s--deciding not to procreate. Why should we be saddled with the extra expenses of kids and limited freedom that make our lives little more than a prison? More and more people are deciding not to have kids and choose the freedom instead. I know one cat is the limit of responsibility I ever want to have for another being.

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AGREEI'm not a doc... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 1:45 AM | Posted, in reply to Premed's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

AGREE

I'm not a doctor or premed or anything, but it is clearly evident that medical school and medical education is much more rigorous and demanding and selective than law school education... yet people speak of both in the same breath as if they were equal. It's ridiculous. It is much more difficult intellectually and in terms of effort to both graduate medical school, to get INTO medical school, and to complete a residency. On the other hand, law is mostly about who you know.

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That's because they can hav... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 8:31 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by DCF: | Reply

That's because they can have similar earning potential (depending on many factors of course).

The measure of a job in most people's minds is how much money you can make doing it, not how hard it is to get.

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Eclipse - "And there's a ne... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 10:13 AM | Posted, in reply to Eclipse's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Eclipse - "And there's a new trend among people in their 30s and 40s--deciding not to procreate. Why should we be saddled with the extra expenses of kids and limited freedom that make our lives little more than a prison? More and more people are deciding not to have kids and choose the freedom instead. I know one cat is the limit of responsibility I ever want to have for another being."

Interesting, myself and many of my friends now in their 40s decided not to have children. None of decided not to have kids because we see them as a "prison" or because we can't handle more emotional responsibility than looking after a cat. We're all people who can make commitments and care about others (many of us have nursed friends dying of AIDS and cancer, and we're "the village" that helps our friends raise their children - we simply decided that maybe we had other things to contribute to the world and are happy loving children for who they as individuals instead of because they're a mini-me....within our circle, we all discussed these things as teenagers back in the 70s and early 80s...but, hey, that's why we were the freaks and geeks).

Just to say, I don't know how old you are Eclipse and I believe you when you declare you and your friends' motivation for not having kids. And it's commendable that you're not having kids if you have no interest in caring for others (or don't feel up to it). However, your motivation isn't that of most people I know in their 40s who have chosen not to have children (which is not to say there aren't people in their 40s who feel the way you do...just saying there are other primary motivations for some of us). As a wise man has said...without responsibility there can be no freedom.

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Part of the essential probl... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 10:28 AM | Posted, in reply to DCF's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Part of the essential problem is people going into jobs (or school) to get rich instead of because they're passionate about what they're studying. Hence the kids from affluent families that go to the right school and feel entitled to be paid lots of money just because of that.

Every single on of the successful entrepreneurs and business owners I know is successful because they're passionate about what they do - they wouldn't have lasted otherwise. Being an entrepreneur means working long hours and investing a lot up front in the hopes it will pay off down the line (and being responsible to other people - employees, investors, etc). In fact, with the shift from employing people to contract work many people of my generation work for themselves essentially anyway. It's one reason that many people of my generation didn't just have kids or delayed having kids.

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But what about the fundamen... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 11:03 AM | Posted by Shaun Chamberlin: | Reply

But what about the fundamental problems with the whole competitive, grow-or-die economy into which you're suggesting he launches himself? It's certainly time he got his ass in gear and did something with his life, but starting a company definitely wouldn't be my recommendation. This article says it better than I would, and lays out an alternative.

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Well said Shaun. In my expe... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 11:49 AM | Posted, in reply to Shaun Chamberlin's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Well said Shaun. In my experience, the people with true entrepreneurial and DIY spirit are busy grappling with the future and creating new possibilities and not simply trying to recreate the past. And the vast majority of them are involved in socially conscious projects and businesses of some kind - and model business on sharing and cooperation and not exploitation. Why would anyone try to recreate the collapsing old world industrial model of entrepreneurship and business (and constant expansion, more is never enough!) that's so obviously bankrupt (morally, socially and even economically)?

Alone, I'm a bit surprised that you seem to buy into both the American Myth about rugged individualism and "opportunity" from such a nostalgic and socially simplistic perspective while you also write about advertising and tv and the culture of consumption with a keen critical eye. It does seem like a rather Randian perspective - and Rand always seemed like she had a NPD (from both her grandiose fiction to reports about how she behaved)....

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<a href="http://www.reddit.... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 3:08 PM | Posted by Jack: | Reply

Highly relevant reddit discussion.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (3 votes cast)
TLP says "This is the NYT a... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 7:34 PM | Posted by Terence: | Reply

TLP says "This is the NYT after all, where playing to the lowest common populist denominator is the next best thing to running a Page 3 Girls."

This is so stupid that it makes me wonder whether I should read this at all.

In what conceivable (good or bad) sense is the NYT "populist"? It is completely establishment elitist; a bastion of "best&brightest" certitude.

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I took it to mean populism ... (Below threshold)

August 5, 2010 9:36 PM | Posted, in reply to Terence's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I took it to mean populism is the NYT equivalent of the page three girl - a cheap way to drive up readership by appealing to their more plebeian readers.

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Whether Alone is right or w... (Below threshold)

August 6, 2010 4:48 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Whether Alone is right or wrong surely he must get sick of judging people all the time, you would think ?

I'd prefer it if he stuck to debunking big pharma. Heres one idea, he's alluded that ADHD doesn't exist as we know it, but on sites like wikipedia it's claimed that there are bonefide brain scans that prove it's existence.

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Wow... I'm a person that hi... (Below threshold)

August 6, 2010 11:30 AM | Posted by irony: | Reply

Wow... I'm a person that hit the motherlode 'american dream'. Corp job with fat salary and benefits.

And it's killing my soul. hate it hate it hate it. I'm so afraid of leaving it, though, because what if I end up (financially) worse off?

I once attempted a start up with some people and it was the happiest time of my life. It didn't work out, but still.

This gives me a lot to think about. Thanks.

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That was the point...stop w... (Below threshold)

August 6, 2010 8:06 PM | Posted, in reply to What about that 45yr old's kids?'s comment, by HedgeMage: | Reply

That was the point...stop worrying about who will hire you and START a business.

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>That was the point...stop ... (Below threshold)

August 6, 2010 8:53 PM | Posted, in reply to HedgeMage's comment, by What about that 45yr old's kids?'s comment: | Reply

>That was the point...stop worrying about who will hire you and START a business.

Uh, no...it wasn't. From the final paragraph:

>I'm not here offering a solution for the 45 year old guy with three kids. I am offering encouragement to a crop of college kids infantilized by terrible advice from parents and TV who have the freedom and opportunity to try something

It's not that I think starting a business or encouraging entrepreneuralism isn't a good idea, it's that it is NOT for *everyone* -- even by the author's own creeping admission at the end of the post.

Again, I pose the question: Is it really perpetuating a Ponzi scheme to encourage your kids to seek a professional career by or through going to college?

That is the overwhelming take away I am get from this article and many of the comments. I am asking, what is the responsible alternative? Just throwing out, "hey, just start a business!" as a one-size fits all isn't practical, realistic, or even good advice.

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Lark has won this thread. E... (Below threshold)

August 6, 2010 9:03 PM | Posted, in reply to lark's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Lark has won this thread. Everyone can stop commenting now.

This post has seriously made me question the merits of even reading this blog, TLP has proven himself to be extremely out of touch, drunk on cultural myths that upper class professionals never bothered to question since their lives were set comfy from birth due.

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If you raped a murder victi... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2010 7:21 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

If you raped a murder victim? is that supposed to be a joke

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The logical recursion from ... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2010 10:25 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by hermitian operator: | Reply

The logical recursion from America's impending implosion is that the kid should had taken the $40K with the insurance company. Because something is always better than nothing when more nothing is being created every day by our ever widening economic black hole.

The kid's a clueless idiot and his relatives aren't too far behind for not realizing that.

P.S. About that black hole. The über-inane, idiot savant Klugscheißer Kennedy School of Government types in DC are feeding the beast big time.

The kid will probably end up in a tent under an overpass. The Klugscheißers will no doubt walk away from the conflagration rich.

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TLP wrote something that do... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2010 10:53 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

TLP wrote something that doesn't agree with your economic-religious beliefs so you don't want to read the blog?

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To those who comment - plea... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2010 1:14 PM | Posted by SpotOn!!!!!: | Reply

To those who comment - please, please stop typing the words "spot on." If I have to read that one more time, I think I will have to throw myself off the nearest parking garage. I will buy you chocolate. I will buy you Skittles. I will buy a pony. But, please stop writing "spot on" in response to every post.

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American Dream ! It is liv... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2010 3:48 PM | Posted by ThirdWorldCharlie: | Reply

American Dream ! It is living off on entire worlds resources, pay hardly any taxes, and live on perpetual debt, supplied by foreigners. Being the reserve currency does not hurt as the banker can live off world's savings & deposits. This gig really came on its own after the World War II, when US disposed the worlds previous banker, England. Since then "we are the greatest" have lived quite well. Majority of worlds economy was yours, so every one had to kao tao simply to have access to the market. Even now you capriciously place restriction on not so friendly traders.

America got ahead through wars and aggression. Rap Brown was absolutely right when he said violence is as American as Apple Pie. But it is the war which bringing end to "American Century". First in Viet Nam, then 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan. America is bleeding. Bizarre reaction to 9/11 cost America financially. First you reduced interest rate and money (deposited by foreigners) became cheaper than dirt cheap. This fuelled housing boom and the crash. Added to it two wars you initiated.

It is the end of American Dream, as it was financed by and at the expense of foreigners. Go China Go! Go India Go! Go Brazil Go!

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Re: "But, please stop wr... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2010 6:56 PM | Posted, in reply to SpotOn!!!!!'s comment, by hermitian operator: | Reply

Re: "But, please stop writing "spot on" in response to every post."

OK, How about a unique alternative framed as a negative?

"Not an amorphous blob off..."

E.g. "Now that observation is definitely not an amorphous blob off!"

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"WRONGALONGADINGDONG"... (Below threshold)

August 7, 2010 8:06 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"WRONGALONGADINGDONG"


Hahahaha, that was a good laugh.

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TLP, I don't know how shrin... (Below threshold)

August 8, 2010 1:46 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by hermitian operator: | Reply

TLP, I don't know how shrinks chase business. But you should track this guy down...

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Alone, I get where... (Below threshold)

August 8, 2010 8:21 PM | Posted by Dave: | Reply

Alone,

I get where your point about taking initiative, but Scott Shane made a compelling argument that America already does too much to encourage entrepreneurship. Shane wrote that most start-up businesses in America were economically unproductive, created relatively few jobs, and what jobs they did create tended to be lower paying and have fewer benefits than those at larger companies. The reason for this, according to Shane, was that there simply are fewer talented entrepreneurs with high levels of human capital than there are Americans who start small businesses, and that many small businesses are started by unemployed or underemployed individuals who are motivated to do so partly by government incentives (e.g., government small business loans, grants, training and other encouragement) and by the relatively low opportunity costs for them of starting a small business, due to their current employment status.

These unskilled entrepreneurs tend to have high failure rates partly because they have low levels of human capital and partly because they tend to enter over-crowded niches.

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Alone, I enjoy reading your... (Below threshold)

August 8, 2010 9:49 PM | Posted by Wino: | Reply

Alone, I enjoy reading your blog and generally agree with your conclusion in this article, but it seems to me that you oversimplify the entrepreneurial process to a point that makes the career vs. entrepreneurship comparison for a kid in this situation totally meaningless.

For what it's worth, I'm an entrepreneur: started my own business as a violin maker and dealer at 15, and by 17 was making over $10,000 a month with a significant global clientele. I am now 22 and quite well situated for someone of that age. It was not easy, not at all, and involved sacrificing most aspects of a normal life to pull off. I've met plenty of people - interestingly, almost all of them physicians - who seem to think that entrepreneurship is some kind of be-all, end-all of career choices, but as much as I'd like to congratulate myself, this is bullshit. You and your colleagues with MDs or even DOs have uniquely amazing opportunities for entrepreneurial work in this country because YOU ARE OPERATING IN A LICENSE LEVERAGING SCHEME, one that is, coincidentally, the highest-paying license leveraging scheme in the Western world today, and this distorts your perspective wildly. In a similar vein (at least conceptually), I have an allegedly eidetic memory and am able to remember every tiny detail of every violin I've ever seen, which has given me a huge advantage in my business (being able to identify/appraise instruments on the fly that others would need several days and many photos/books to identify.)

This kid has no real skills, licenses, or qualifications to bank on; it'll be exceedingly difficult for him to get financing for ANYTHING, as it would be for most people his age. And, as everyone's already covered, he's a pansy. I'd go even further to say that there's a 99% chance, or thereabouts, that his friends (and most Americans his age today) are identical to him in this regard: in other words, not the right people to take the entrepreneurship jump.

So I ask you this: do we need more failed businesses (note that ultimately the losses from bankruptcy are socialized) or do we just need American kids to readjust their employment expectations?

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Excellent article. In addi... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 3:50 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Excellent article. In addition to Scott being taught to seek a safe job rather than striking it out on his own, he's also been taught that jobs like the 40k one are beneath him. So the pressure of shame is added to his decision.

However there is an even stronger reason for Scott passing over the 40k job: because he can.

Had Scott been facing living on the street, he would have taken the 40k job regardless of what he'd been taught growing up.

Scott is going through the embryonic stages of a social epidemic that is much further along in Japan, as can be seen in the proliferance of NEET and hikikomori people in that long suffering country.

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George Carlin humorously sa... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 9:05 PM | Posted by RC: | Reply

George Carlin humorously said that they call it the American DREAM because you'd have to be asleep to believe it.

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"If they are serious, they ... (Below threshold)

August 10, 2010 12:23 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"If they are serious, they cannot fail..."

...what planet are you living on? Serious people fail all the time.

Anyway, in this particular case, it seems likely that "they can't follow their dreams", as you put it, because they don't have dreams. The real crime of the system is demanding conformity and punishing individuality. It's not because he's arrogant--it's because he's a sheep.

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That depends on your perspe... (Below threshold)

August 10, 2010 12:50 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by George Marian: | Reply

That depends on your perspective. Yes, the business may fail, but that doesn't necessarily mean the endeavor was a total failure. I concede that I didn't necessarily interpret that statement as such. However, this perspective shouldn't be dismissed simply because of that. In Alone's defense, he did point out that bankruptcy laws make this type of risk taking attractive.

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Is this Russia?... (Below threshold)

August 10, 2010 9:19 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

Is this Russia?

No, but in Chi town, the way to get a job is to have the correct answer to the question, "Who sent you?"

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I originally declared this ... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 12:55 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I originally declared this thread a KO by lark, but WINO came along and delivered the winning blow.

Nailed it so eloquently you did.

It is a MYTH that morals and effort are the thing standing between us and success, it is a MYTH that all people are capable of, or even should attempt to be independent entrepreneurs. I am an artist, my brain is capable of creating visual works that other brains cannot. A very small percentage of hte population is capable of doing this, regardless of how much they practice and try their brain is INCAPABLE of creating art like my brain can. Does this mean other people are lesser, don't have their own abilities and talents and place in society? When we use art as an example (a behavior that has no relationship to success and social status) it becomes easy to see how fucking PREPOSTEROUS it is to blame shame and guilt people for failing to "do it". But we freely do this for those young adults who fail to be successful independent business owners, as if the only thing standing in our way was effort and discipline.

The vast majority of human brains are WIRED toward finding an established niche in society.

The vast majority of human brains have little interest in, or little ability to be social pioneers, business men, and so on.


YOU HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED BY GREEDY SOCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE BILLIONAIRE MAFIA BASTARDS INTO BELIEVING THAT YOUR NEIGHBORS DESERVE NOTHING IN TERMS OF A QUALITY OF LIFE IF THEY AREN'T WILLING TO BE INDEPENDENT ENTREPRENEURS.

You have been BRAINWASHED INTO BELIEVING that people who work in offices deserve no security, deserve no respect, deserve no wealth, that they are fodder to be disposed of as the corporation wishes, that the only people who deserve anything are those at the very top running the show.

You have been brainwashed into believing that you are one of them at the top, or with the potential to be at the top, when in reality YOU ARE A SCUM SUCKING PLEB AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID and you are being paid less than you are worth and your job is being fucked over if it exists at all.

Just saying.

You're idiots. You're at the bottom of the food fucking chain. You will NEVER be a successful entrepreneur.

And even outside of the billionaire bullshit parade, the overwhelming majority of professionals like TLP come from cushy families with paid educations with connections in the industry, so spare me the bullshit.

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Tl;dr: I AM AN ARTIST!!!!!1... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 1:40 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Tl;dr: I AM AN ARTIST!!!!!1!!!1! ONLY THE CHOSEN FEW CAN EVER ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING OF VALUE!!! THE ELITE!!!

Quit your bitching. Just because you're allegedly creative doesn't mean you create anything of value. The rest of what you say is largely untrue (at least here in objective reality) and reads like a rant from some hysteric desperate to convince the world that their own failures are somehow not their own fault.

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Are you familiar with the 1... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 2:16 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by George Marian: | Reply

Are you familiar with the 10k hour rule? Basically, it states that there is no such thing as talent, only predisposition and passion.

One study followed violin students at the Berlin Academy of Music and found the key to success was lots and lots of hard work. (I thought it was at The Julliard School, but a cursory search brought up this link, which says otherwise: http://anovelspot.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/gladwell-and-the-influence-of-personal-passion/)

From that blog post:

'“The curious thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals” – musicians who could float effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time that their peers did. Nor could they find “grinds”, people who worked harder than everyone else and yet just didn’t have what it takes to break into the top ranks. Their research suggested that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. What’s more, the people at the very top don’t just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”'

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brainchild, do you know whi... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 2:29 AM | Posted, in reply to brainchild's comment, by andy: | Reply

brainchild, do you know which wise man said "without responsibility there can be no freedom"? curious, but can't find a source for the quote on the web.

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Hey re re, I don't consider... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 5:29 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Hey re re, I don't consider myself a failure at all. I am rather happy with my lot, I like my work and I am comfortable.

But it burns my bacon when people start in on this fucking issue. EVERYONE CAN BE RICH WITH A LITTLE EFFORT THIS IS AMERICA THE LAND OF POSSIBILITIES AND PEOPLE WHO REFUSE TO GO INTO BUSINESS FOR THEMSELVES DESERVE WHATEVER THEY GET HAR HAR HAR I'M HOBNOBBIN' WITH THE ELITE NOW.

What crap.
This is the sort of thing that really makes human beings, like organized religion, it just makes you hate the fuck out of stupid mother fucking people.

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Who said anything about bei... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 11:04 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by George Marian: | Reply

Who said anything about being rich? Being successful does not necessarily mean being rich. You can be rich and still a failure.

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It is a paraphrase of somet... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 1:00 PM | Posted, in reply to andy's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

It is a paraphrase of something that Viktor Frankl said and one of his core themes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl

"If freedom is to endure, liberty must be joined with responsibility." This is as true on a personal level as it is a collective one.

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1. He didn't say anyone can... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 1:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

1. He didn't say anyone can be rich with a little effort. He said it's possible to make a living as an entrepreneur with a lot of effort (which is actually true). I'd agree TLP may overestimate the odds this kid will succeed - but it's probably better than waiting for a major company to show up at his parent's house looking for a new CEO.

2. People's brains are malleable; with effort and persistence you can massively change who you are. People who are blind can train their brains to see (obviously depending on the cause of blindness, a neuron isn't going to sprout a new pair of eyeballs).

3. You accuse TLP of quasi-religious beliefs, but your posts read like you are much more fanatical. You're angry at TLP because he believes something in opposition to your own strongly held beliefs. If you were just interested in rational argument you wouldn't be angry. He's attacking beliefs that you have tied in with your own identity.

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1) He says its a lot of eff... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 11:19 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

1) He says its a lot of effort, but he MEANS its a little effort. If he thought it was a ton of effort, he wouldn't expect people to be able to do this as a group, a population of young adults. What he says and waht he means are not the same, people do this often. The reason we know TLP thinks its a little effort is becuase he realistically expects young people to en masse go into independent business ventures. So that means the following must be true;
A) he is underestimating the skill and effort and resources required of entrepeneurship to the point where he REALISTICALLY thinks this is a GOOD OPTION for most or many young people today
B) he is just spouting off like a financially comfortable socially successful man in his 40s and 50s often does and he doesn't really care if what he is asking of youth is reasonable or not.


2) No, people can NOT massively change who they are with effort. Why are you spouting such lies and nonsense? There is a world of fucking difference between someone restoring the normal already once existent connections in their brain that was damaged by trauma (which, by the way, is extremely fucking rare even when it does happen)... and someone magically GROWING the brain structures and connections for skills and personality traits which are largely determined by genetics and/or early life training.

Show me an example of a person void of talent who magically developed remarkable talent or personality skills. It doesn't happen. It can't happen. It never happens. You can improve upon your skills but if you don't have the raw ability you will never be great, whether it is art or business, it requires a set of traits and skills that not everyone has.

3) I'm angry because it is such typical elitist bullshit from a comfortable man who's well off who probably came from a well off family who never had to work too hard in his life. I would LOVE to see where this guy would be if he had a humble blue collar upbringing. Probably not making people morbidly obese and diabetic on zyprexa, that's for sure. I would add that the bottom tier of MDs usually go into psychiatry (either that, or they are insane and are thus attracted to the field)... that right there leads me to believe he isn't spectacularly talented.

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The best advice for anyone ... (Below threshold)

August 12, 2010 1:06 PM | Posted by John H.: | Reply

The best advice for anyone just starting out in the workforce would be to take whatever entry-level position they're willing to offer you, do that job well, then start moving up the corporate hierarchy. Business is business and it's also a lot like a box of chocolates. He's sitting on his butt because he doesn't have to work. In a way, he's very lucky, but in another sense he's terribly, terribly deprived.

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For what you said about the... (Below threshold)

August 12, 2010 2:45 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

For what you said about the impossibility of developing skills unless you're already good to begin with, see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, or if that's too pop-sci for you, maybe check out the welter of fMRI studies showing cortical thickening following intensive practice, or the numerous anecdotal reports of someone who was "bad at math/music/art/whatever" becoming proficient thanks to dedication and practice.

For what you said in 1) and 3)... I have no answer, because it seems less like you're responding to what's written than just frothing wildly about what you imagine is there, as well as the straw-man conception you have of this post's author. What's so wrong with trying?

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Main families; Rothschilds,... (Below threshold)

August 12, 2010 6:39 PM | Posted by Awake: | Reply

Main families; Rothschilds, Rockefellers, J.P morgans and the Warbugs, (other families continue to join but they're minuscule compared to these...), = FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM!!!

Many of you, if not all, still need to take your "red" pill to awaken within this Matrix we're in to even attempt the "Change" you so seek. This is WHO they are; http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6507136891691870450# ...and this is WHAT THEY'VE DONE and are continuing to do to our America courtesy of Woodrow Wilson since 1913; http://videosift.com/video/America-From-Freedom-to-Fascism-full ...

"Not relevant.", you say, well then keep enjoying your comfy "blue" pills my android friends. Otherwise, to those willing to "connect the dots" sort to speak; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGAaPjqdbgQ ...will unplug you!

Easy it would be to cast me aside as crazy and/or a conspiracy theorist but ANAL it IS not to even try to prove me wrong. At least before commenting against me, I think.

"Silence is golden, but when it threatens your freedom, it is yellow." Sir Edmund Burke

...lol, No, I'm Samoan (Polynesian) American fyi but even I've strayed away from the usual coconuts I was being fed.

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'"Their research suggest... (Below threshold)

August 12, 2010 9:49 PM | Posted by Wino: | Reply

'"Their research suggested that once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. What’s more, the people at the very top don’t just work much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”'

Time to play "find the obvious confounding variable"!

Allow me: '"once you have enough ability to get into a top music school"'

The study is meaningless - it has ALREADY selected for talent.

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You completely miss the poi... (Below threshold)

August 14, 2010 5:34 PM | Posted, in reply to Wino's comment, by George Marian: | Reply

You completely miss the point.

The popular notion of talent is that it is effortless, something inborn. Yes, one must have some skill. Hence my summary, which you conveniently ignored.

"Basically, it states that there is no such thing as talent, only predisposition and passion."

I was recently chatting about this idea online with a colleague. They brought up an anecdote of their own:

'There is a famous quote from a golfer. A fan told him he was lucky to have such skill. He said "yeah, I've only been lucky 8 hours a day for the last 10 years."'

Ask most successful people and they'll say that the biggest factor in their success is hard work. Many will also mention luck/serendipity/good-fortune along with something like "chance favors the prepared mind."

Truth be told, I recently determined that I am dyslexic and terrible at math. Yet, when I was going to school, I excelled in math and science. Why? Because there was an expectation that I do so. Therefore, I worked my tail off to meet said expectation. I did this without having an inkling of the learning difficulties I faced.

All of this through sheer force of will and hard work. That, sir, is the point.

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This is highly simplistic a... (Below threshold)

August 16, 2010 10:34 PM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

This is highly simplistic analysis. We had tons of startup activity happening in the late 90s and there would be a lot more now but for VC markets drying up. And who was starting these companies? Not 45 year olds - young college kids.

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It is not the "American Dre... (Below threshold)

August 18, 2010 1:51 AM | Posted by Claudia: | Reply

It is not the "American Dream", it is the entrepreneurial dream and it is in REALITY, open to everyone - you have to find your own niche and not trend chase unless you can get in on the ground floor.

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George, of course everyone ... (Below threshold)

August 18, 2010 9:39 AM | Posted, in reply to George Marian's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

George, of course everyone who succeeds likes to think it's all because of their own hard work and not biology, privilege or opportunity. That doesn't mean it's actually true.

I'm not disputing that it takes practice to get good at any craft but there are people who are more suited to certain crafts. Sure anyone can become a mediocre or competent musician, not everyone can become an exceptional one (though one can go very far being technically mediocre or competent). Of course, having talent but not practicing means one will never be a master. But, generally speaking, having no talent but practicing a lot will never make on a master either. Then there's a little matter of opportunity, something most people born into abundance, privilege and opportunity take for granted...you know, feel entitled to so don't actually appreciate and just assume is due to their own "hard work", "talent" or whatever and not circumstance. One can, of course, understand why people want to pretend that any success they have is all of their own making (and any failure someone else's fault) - not only does it pump up the ego to think this way but it also means you can deny the suffering and/or struggles of those that are exploited along the way to create the position of privilege, ease and entitlement because, 'hey, poor people deserve to be poor otherwise they'd be rich like me..."

So, yes, sure hard work counts for something but it's not the only factor that comes into play in the real world. The old adage "money makes money" is very true. And, of course, if you're not from privilege you've simply got to work with the way the world is anyway. If you want narcissism to abate in our culture, part of the "cure" is people recognizing that their privilege is a privilege and not merely an entitlement to some facsimile of success that, ultimately, ends up leaving them feeling hollow and empty no matter how much they feel entitled to their "success". Which, of course, leads to abusing anyone who doesn't play act and support their feelings of entitlement for "respect" (meaning submission) and "love" (meaning total submission again). And, like any narcissist, they'll set out to punish anyone who doesn't prop up their delusions regarding being "self made" men (though this applies increasingly to women and women of privilege and wealth have often had more "rights" than poor men). Class, wealth and power, it exists and to deny it is to deny reality in favor of a narcissistic self image (whether it be personal or nationalist).

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The ultimate point is that ... (Below threshold)

August 18, 2010 3:35 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by George Marian: | Reply

The ultimate point is that it is biology and one's response to it. I can attest to this from my own personal experience and that of other dyslexics I know. It is interesting to note the divergence of responses to dyslexia. Some rise to the challenge (knowingly or otherwise) and are better for it, others allow themselves to become victims and suffer for it.

Regarding talent, my point is that we too often focus on the biology and ignore the personal effort. I know I did this with my interest in music. Sure, I may never become a professional musician, but that doesn't mean that I can not be a usefully proficient amateur. (A point which I realize you concede.)

Truth be told, I may have some innate musical aptitude which was ignored due to my upbringing. However, I also have an innate problem in that I have difficulty maintaining rhythm for very long. Just because I have this issue does not mean that it can not be overcome with hard work and a good drum or bass beat.

Yes, some inborn skill is necessary, but it is nothing by itself. And, merely crying about one's problems does not solve anything. (There is a reason that my web browser's search box always points to www.merriam-webster.com.) There was nothing in my post or the quote which suggested that it was only about hard work. The point of that post and the 10k hour rule, is to highlight the necessity of effort. Whatever my natural musical aptitude, it is for naught as I did not put much effort into it.


If we want to reduce narcissism in our society, we need to educate our society about what it actually is. Namely, a boundary issue. That is, what is good for the goose, is not necessarily good for the gander. There is nothing wrong with making suggestions from one own's personal experience. Afterall, that is the only experience which we actually have. However, thinking that our experience is appropriate for everyone else is a problem. That is the core of narcissism. An inability to understand that the reflection in the water is not us, but merely a reflection of us.

Now, if one is from money (which I am not), one still has to work with the world the way it is. One brutish example would be that if your car breaks down in the wrong neighborhood, all of your money may be of no use to you. You may still get beat-up & robbed and find that the best lawyer a money can buy is worthless if the authorities cannot apprehend any suspects or if the evidence just does not exist. A more pertinent example is the need to realize that a rich man's perspective is different from a poor man's and that both have their validity.

So, along the lines of it being biology and one's response to it, it is about one's background and their response to it. My father risked life and limb to improve his family's prospects. While he was very hard on us as a result, I have to credit that -- and my response -- for my becoming the person that I am. Note that I am pretty much broke and in-debt, but that is (mostly) my own fault. While it will be hard work, I know that only I can improve my situation.

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Hey TLP, I thought you migh... (Below threshold)

August 24, 2010 11:07 AM | Posted by Sean: | Reply

Hey TLP, I thought you might get a kick out of this article...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.html?scp=1&sq=what%20is%20it%20about%2020-somethings&st=cse

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Ahh another "artiste" who t... (Below threshold)

September 5, 2010 10:37 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Ahh another "artiste" who throws paint around.

At any rate, I see all kinds of things related to this hosehead all the time. And really it comes down to the parents. I hate working with teens because so many of them are just like him, even on the job. They just don't have the connection between doing the job and getting paid. They think showing up is enough. It's a status to them, not a job.

That's this guy's problem too -- I have the "status" so where's the success? People have lost the idea that a job isn't a status it's a job. And either you work your ass off or you'll be unemployed.

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Okay, great post but devil'... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2010 7:22 PM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

Okay, great post but devil's advocate here: why is college about getting a job?

I thought it was about getting an education in the best that mankind has produced up to you, and then either using that knowledge to live a sane, happy life or perhaps that plus adding some value to the world in the form of invention, art, political service, etc. I did not primarily go to college to be job-qualified.

That said, I understand why parents got panicked into forcing kids into college--it seemed like the safe route. The lesson of a liberal education, one of them, is that nothing is safe. Better to try for fulfillment than safety--we'd be better off as a nation if we 'got' that.

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> Okay, great post but devi... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 12:29 PM | Posted, in reply to anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

> Okay, great post but devil's advocate here: why is college
> about getting a job?

I suppose it doesn't have to be, but unless one is independently wealthy, who would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on it if it weren't?

> I thought it was about getting an education in the best that
> mankind has produced up to you, and then either using that
> knowledge to live a sane, happy life or perhaps that plus
> adding some value to the world in the form of invention, art,
> political service, etc. I did not primarily go to college to be
> job-qualified.

*You* may not have, but most people do. As far as education and culture goes, there are far more efficient ways of getting it. Read. Travel. Get involved in whatever intellectual pursuit most interests you, rather than listening to someone talk about other people doing it.

There are some university programs out there that will poise one to become an expert in one's field, or craft a thinking mind -- but they are not in the majority, and I'm hard pressed to figure out what the typical university education is for.

> That said, I understand why parents got panicked into forcing
> kids into college--it seemed like the safe route. The lesson of a
> liberal education, one of them, is that nothing is safe. Better to
> try for fulfillment than safety--we'd be better off as a nation if
> we 'got' that.

No one can teach anyone else about fulfillment, at least not on an institutional scale. Sure, safety is overrated, but in itself that isn't sufficient excuse, let alone reason, for the system as it exists today.

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First of all, I didn't ques... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2010 12:46 PM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

First of all, I didn't question why people spend money on college--they believe future earnings will outweigh the cost. Many students in my generation went to college to learn from the generation before them and to find out what the greatest minds for millenia had thought and done. You don't necessarily learn that from travel or reading on one's own. I know plenty of people who traveled the world but don't know that Aristotle framed the dramas we watch variations of today--everything is 'new' to them because they don't know its antecedents. People who self-educate don't often challenge their own assumptions--you'll find they have read what agreed with their prior assumptions.

You don't understand the concept of a 'university' (universe, all there is?) education, obviously, since you seem to think it is a glorified tech school.

Yes, you can be taught to understand fulfillment as it has been defined by many different philosophies, religions and systems of ethics throughout history. You can learn from older people who have lived longer and you can live from the greats whose minds were more searching or eloquent than your own.

It is clear from the way you argue that you think asserting your opinion is the same as logical argumentation. You would have learned better in a rhetoric class.

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> First of all, I didn't qu... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 11:28 PM | Posted, in reply to anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

> First of all, I didn't question why people spend money on
> college--they believe future earnings will outweigh the cost.

You asked "why is college about getting a job?" and I answered.

> Many students in my generation went to college to learn from
> the generation before them and to find out what the greatest
> minds for millenia had thought and done.

We must be from very different generations. In my generation, most people entering college do it because they have a vague understanding that it is expected of them. A few have a future career in mind.

> You don't necessarily learn that from travel or reading on one's
> own.

You do if you do it right. I expect that, for the most part, the people who wouldn't do it right wouldn't learn much from university lectures, either.

> I know plenty of people who traveled the world but don't know
> that Aristotle framed the dramas we watch variations of
> today--everything is 'new' to them because they don't know its
> antecedents.

The problem is that I know people with masters degrees who don't know it, either! It's something I learned in a public library long before going to university (or high school), along with all manner of other things.

> People who self-educate don't often challenge their own
> assumptions--you'll find they have read what agreed with their
> prior assumptions.

Formal education today shuts minds more often than it opens them. The people I went to university with, excepting one or two, just parroted whatever their instructors said, and I know many who still do it long after having graduated. Is real life experience combined with reading the classics more likely to open minds? I'm not sure, but I doubt it could do much worse.

> You don't understand the concept of a 'university' (universe, all
> there is?) education, obviously, since you seem to think it is a
> glorified tech school.

I understand what you THINK university is. Unfortunately, reality doesn't live up to your ideal in most cases. "Glorified tech school" is generous, in my opinion.

Since the advent of federally subsidized student aid, and the marketing that followed to convince the nation that everyone can and should go to university, it's become a different thing entirely. After all, if you want to sell degrees for everyone, you can no longer have curricula that challenge bright people. If you did, the normal and sub-normal minds would be completely lost.

Welcome to McUniversity, would you like a minor in philosophy with that?

> Yes, you can be taught to understand fulfillment as it has been
> defined by many different philosophies, religions and systems
> of ethics throughout history. You can learn from older people
> who have lived longer and you can live from the greats whose
> minds were more searching or eloquent than your own.

Certainly one can read and listen to others' understanding of the subject, but doing so does not make one fulfilled. You say "Better to try for fulfillment than safety", then argue that the way to achieve it is to be spoon fed at university. What contradictory sentiments!

Sure, some universities are still bastions of culture, where minds are cultivated and challenged. Most aren't. Sure, some people might learn to think for themselves and achieve fulfillment getting lectured at, most won't.

I'm simply willing to bet that at least as many, if not more, people could achieve those goals through less expensive means. A university education today generally costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and 4-5 years of one's life (assuming one doesn't do any postgrad work). That is a huge amount of resources, and I can think of a dozen more efficient ways to spend them.

> It is clear from the way you argue that you think asserting
> your opinion is the same as logical argumentation. You would
> have learned better in a rhetoric class.

Wow. For a moment there I was speechless. An ad hominem attack, really? In the same breath that you claim I don't understand logic? Great time to imply that you are more educated than I. Did they not cover logical fallacies at your university? How about irony? I learned about both in elementary school.

(Yes, I responded in kind, but it was an opportunity for well-deserved sarcasm I just couldn't resist.)

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Jealous, aren't you? Sorry ... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2010 2:00 AM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

Jealous, aren't you? Sorry you didn't get to go to college, but spewing vast amounts of verbiage at me won't make me accept your very narrow view.

An education sincerely pursued would have broadened your mind and scraped off that enormous chip.

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Here comes anonymous with t... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2010 1:18 PM | Posted by Eclipse: | Reply

Here comes anonymous with the old broken record accusation chastising the have nots for being "jealous" of the haves. The spewing needs to be done not at anonymous but at our broken system that is taking us directly on the path to becoming a Third World country. We are literally waging war on the middle class, and without a middle class, we might as well be a country in South America with a tiny group of very wealthy people and huge numbers of poor people. The problem isn't the unemployed, it's the corporations that have either downsized or outsourced all their jobs to places like India and the Philippines, where they pay workers one-tenth of what the workers are paid here. If you want to blame someone, blame the policymakers, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Congress for enacting policies that sent us into this downward spiral.

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The American Dream is over.... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2011 7:31 AM | Posted by Kalinda: | Reply

The American Dream is over. I can't but agree with the author of an article I've recently read found by files search saying that in 5 years the American Dream will be having a roof over your head, enough food to eat, and at least some type of employment at any wage. Sadly that will start to be out of reach too. I'm lucky. I'm 25, I have a home.. zero debt. I live a modest, simple lifestyle...but my friends.. my generation.. man.. from what im hearing and feeling.. their gonna make egypt look like a "hippie sit in". The largest, most educated and united generation in american history since the GI generation is gonna force the people in power out, and it could get really ugly( Anyway, reading the comments here, it's nice to know that everyone is struggling with myriad challenges in life. Sometimes it can feel like you're the only one facing uncertainties, fears, etc. It's important to connect with people on these deeper levels and issues.

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Scott certainly looks uncom... (Below threshold)

May 21, 2012 4:39 PM | Posted by DERP: | Reply

Scott certainly looks uncomfortable in such a tight situation.
I see he adopted principles introduced in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Or as Paul Rudd's character stated
"When life gives you lemons, I just say fuck the lemons and bail."

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The American Dream is curre... (Below threshold)

June 19, 2012 4:41 AM | Posted by Nell Minow: | Reply

The American Dream is currently a nightmare as we slip deeper and deeper into insolvency !
investingforbeginners.eu

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Agree with almost everythin... (Below threshold)

August 17, 2012 12:45 AM | Posted by isomorphismes: | Reply

Agree with almost everything you said. Insightful and entertaining. You lose me at economics though.

The Economist lamented this same lamentation about Phrench and (gasp, now English!) youths. They want a job for life as a civil servant.


I often wonder if those saying "Where's the imagination?" or "Why don't these kids take risks?" have failed themselves. I tried & failed, and it sucks. I've never had dental insurance for example. Lost a tooth due to that. (Now I look gross and supposedly this can cause heart problems later in life.) Friends with salaries all can afford kids and nice places to live. They go on vacations and photograph expensive food with their iPhones. I don't know what "being a better person" means except perhaps I put up living with no bed, eating principally peanut butter, bananas, pork & beans, etc. As I see it now, HR gatekeepers are interested in a resume with proper adornments and keywords, compensation at last job (meaningless in small business), rather than "a go-get-'em attitude" or whatever is supposed to be demonstrated by entrepreneurship.

Funny how a stable job with benefits, a guaranteed floor on your income, is something very sought after. Almost like that desire is rational.

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it betrays a paran... (Below threshold)

August 17, 2012 2:53 PM | Posted by isomorphismes: | Reply

it betrays a paranoid, cynical vision of reality where everything is a network, exclusionary, no one is desirable for their talent and the only thing that prevents supersuccess is not being in the right clubs or friendly with the right people.

Count the number of Mouseketeers with professional singing careers, or people who are the daughter of Will Smith.

Read an issue of Tiger Beat and ask yourself if it's the inner talent and worth of the artists that's making them successful, or producers and branders behind the scenes who know what people want to see, picking a suitable canvas and creating the old-media equivalent of a viral video.

Observe which companies spend ≥$O(10^6) on advertising, branding, and marketing and ask yourself why they would give up that much money on something that didn't work.

Ditto for political ads on TV.

I'm sure it's all due to "the Matrix" (your use of the phrase) and in the micro scale, various psychological foibles you would be better able to identify than I, but apparently branding & marketing work, in the sense that [a] they cause us to buy things we wouldn't otherwise buy, and [b] they cause promoted figures who wouldn't otherwise be successful, to be successful. Therefore, those who have access to the branding channels, can get to the head of the line. At least in this example industry.

This is not a $10^8 example but you can see the same thing happen in blogs and on the internet. Look up a Kickstarter by @mathpunk, you'll notice he raised ~$5e5 because his Kickstarter appeared on Boingboing, which has lots of readers. Ira Glass says on his radio show that he pesonally loves, loves, loves this book...you get the idea.

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Old post, but...Th... (Below threshold)

July 25, 2013 4:43 AM | Posted by J: | Reply

Old post, but...

This is a great message. Might as well say "American Dream was bullshit to begin with, but it's really bullshit if you're born poor." It's actually really freeing. What's so bad about poverty? There's always books you can read...

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It's not really fair to bla... (Below threshold)

July 25, 2013 4:30 PM | Posted, in reply to isomorphismes's comment, by Dovahkiin: | Reply

It's not really fair to blame the kids for not taking risk. We've been making kids scared of any sort of risk (even academic risk) for at least a generation. We don't give them enough free, unsupervised exploration time for them to get into dangerous (but hopefully manageable) situations. They don't learn to organize their own games. They play organized sports -- but not pick-up games. They play with sets of legos, but they are playsets, not simply a collection of bricks.

At school, they're probably even worse. Even at the high school level, you aren't expected to reason, you are expected to regurgitate exactly what the teacher said. Heck, it's all of college too, you don't ever have to produce anything original, let alone "risky".

Which all adds up to a society teaching kids that they cannot possibly succeed by taking risks, who have never taken a risk, and don't know how to be a smart risk taker. Then we wonder why they always take the safe path. What did you expect to happen when you didn't let him take risks as a kid? That he'd suddenly hit 25 with enough confidence in his ability to recover from a failure that he'd be willing to make a mistake? Or that he'd think he could win if he'd never remotely taken a risk in his life, if he's never improvised or even organized a bunch of kids to play soccer. So kids are scared to do what they've never been allowed to do, and we somehow want to blame the kids.

I think the best thing we could do is give kids enough unsupervised time that risk taking becomes a natural, normal thing for kids to do.

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> I'm not here offering a s... (Below threshold)

November 25, 2014 10:57 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

> I'm not here offering a solution for the 45 year old guy with three kids.

aw dang!

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Slate just wrote a piece on... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2015 12:05 PM | Posted by TheMonster: | Reply

Slate just wrote a piece on how it's good to Infantilze college students. They should be kept in puberty forever.

You can read my response here.

http://monstrousreprobate.blogspot.com/2015/02/why-slate-is-wrong-how-to-cure.html

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A very well though article,... (Below threshold)

March 5, 2015 1:43 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

A very well though article, and no, i don't think american dream is a dead dream, why? because no doubt people are leaving college to enter the corporate world, but the truth is that they are making use of Buy a Degree Online option to get the required qualification in a much more flexible way.

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