On Starting Something

On the matter of how to spend the weekend: You could spend it reading Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest eggs of American Workers, by Ellen Schultz, who, over a number of years of digging through SEC and IRS fillings, laboriously  catalogued the scurrilous manipulation of pension fund assets by America’s largest corporations in order to enhance reported earnings with the resulting diminishing of employees pensions while, at the same time, vastly increasing the retirement compensation of senior executives.

You could do that, but why waste your time. The egregious behavior of greedy CEOs appropriating the corporate weal for themselves at the expense of shareholders and employees is so last century. You knew the generalities of it when it was happening. It was part of the Grand Supercycle market top, when optimism and credulousness ran high enough in investment circles to allow CEOs unfettered access to the corporate coffers. You knew it would ruin the companies and consequently the market. You got out of stocks. Now, the crowd holds the investment bag while you hold cash.

Socionomics has instructed you on social mood. You understand that, in the drive to survive and thrive, societies always overrreach, and the final chapter in wealth creation is illusory as it is created with a mountain of debt, with most of the real value siphoned off by the sociopaths in power. You know that what follows is collapse. The people that got screwed get majorly pissed.

Now they’re pissed. Now they’re looking for someone to blame. Anyone other than themselves. You’ll leave it to them to Occupy Wall Street and occupy themselves bitching and moaning because that’s part of the down cycle, the period for redress of grievance, putting corporate executives in jail and passing laws to prevent bad stuff from happening after it’s already happened. You’ll stand aside from the crowd again now, and focus on what you must do, which is to work and make sure that you have work to do.

It’s stands to be tough. Tougher by far than anything you’ve ever experienced. It’s a good thing Grand Supercycle deflationary depressions only come along every two hundred years. When you get through this one, you sure won’t want to go through another one any time soon.

I have the same need, of course. I need to work as efficiently as I can in the period ahead. That’s why I’m spending a lot of time with Great by Choice, Jim Collins’ new book. It’s an excellent primer for succeeding in tough environments. Poke the Box, by Seth Godin is particularly good for anyone that works at a job, or teaches, or works in a public institution. Godin’s premise is that, while there are no certainties, you stand a lot better chance at having a job tomorrow if you are willing to proactively start something today.


The idea of starting something reminds me of an investor meeting I sat in on back in the eighties. Jim Nordstrom, of Nordstrom’s, was giving us an update on the company. He was asked about the San Diego store which, despite being located in a part of the downtown area that had been going to seed for years, was the top sales-per-square-foot store in the system.

“It started with the gal in the hosiery department,” he said. “She was bored one weekday afternoon, so she called up a friend who worked in a nearby office building and asked her if she needed any hose. The friend did, so she offered to take some over to her. A couple of weeks later, her friend called her and asked if she would bring more hose over, not only for her, but for some of the other women. Pretty soon, she was doing this on a regular basis and, since Nordstrom’s sales associates keep file cards on their regular customers, she started calling her other clients. Several months later, she talked the store manager into buying a moped for her to get around on making deliveries. Then the rest of the associates caught on, and the idea went storewide. Last I heard,” said Jim with a chuckle, “They have thirteen mopeds running all over town. They’re having a lot of fun with it.”

Good ideas come up all the time. It can be something simple that does some good for somebody.  You just have to start. The first idea may not work, but you’ll never know until you start.



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