Year: 2021

Two Emails from Famous Authors

I was struck by the coincidence of receiving thematically related email posts from Seth Godin and Ryan Holiday on the same day.  Both (excerpts below) remind that gratification in life, both personal and in business, won’t be about money.

Ryan Holiday – “It is Seneca who writes most eloquently of this desire, this insatiability we all have. Alexander the Great, he notes, was poor, despite his conquests of most of the known world. Because he could only think of the next campaign. He notes that money rarely makes us rich because all it does is give us a craving to earn more.”

Seth Godin – “After a stock market adjustment, billionaires give less to charity. They still have more money than they can count, but they’re not as rich as they used to be, and not-as-rich is easy to interpret as not rich.  Which means that for many people, feeling rich is a choice.”

Good reminder during the holiday season to seek happiness more deeply with family, friends, team members, customers, and community.

So, Why is There a Worker Shortage?

Speaking with over 100 Colorado business leaders in 2021, the most puzzling challenge they deal with is the shortage of workers.  Common refrains: “I don’t get it – where ARE THEY?  Where did they GO?”

I was curious so I read, pondered, listened… and I’ve developed a theory:

Six forces we’ve all been hearing about have in aggregate and in varying markets, caused a shortage across the economy:

  • Older worker exits. Covid-related job stress and complexities combined with either or both of a) getting used to not working and/or b) strong financial portfolio performance.
  • Young investors who don’t need a job. Who was buying crypto before Covid?  Younger workers tossed in a few hundred or a few thousand dollars now worth hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars.  Why work a J-O-B?
  • Working not worth it for lower wage earners. Compounding real challenges including securing affordable daycare, reduced mass transit schedules, less affordable housing options within a reasonable commute all make working less attractive, perhaps particularly for a 2-worker household where only one returns.
  • Government payments. Daniel Henninger of the WSJ writes that “transfer payments suppressed work-response patterns across labor markets.” That’s what I hear from employers too.
  • Shift to self-employment. The Wall Street Journal on Nov 30th reported that self-employment rose 500,000 since the start of the pandemic.  Of course, some of the self-employed still have regular jobs… still, that’s a lot of people trying not to be an employee.
  • Competition in high-demand sectors. Heightened need for nurses during Covid, Amazon and others hiring over one million logistics workers, the tech industry trying to hire tens of thousands in areas like security and cloud technology.

I’m not an economist, and I don’t know to what extent each contributes to the shortage in different sectors, or how long the shortages will last.  So, what are leaders doing?  Right now, their answer starts with paying more and we’re seeing wage inflation broadly reported. As Ray Dalio says in his newest book, Principles for Dealing with The Changing World Order, “…what you are reading is a work in progress.”

Between Courage and Ego

I’m deeply thinking about a complex personal dilemma, the details of which are not important here.  I decided to turn for ideas to Ryan Holiday’s newest book, Courage is Calling.  If you ever wanted to be brave about something and need to be pumped up to act, this book is for you.  I want to be brave BUT asked myself, “Is my desire to be brave being driven by my EGO?”  I decided to revisit the ideas in an earlier book of Holiday’s called Ego is the Enemy.

I encourage reading both books – then perhaps what I’m about to say will make more sense.,..

If ego is my enemy, then can the brave thing my ego is calling me to do be courageous, or even smart?  If courage is a virtue, is courage still a virtue when called on by ego?

So confusing, until…

Holiday’s books seemed in conflict until I concluded this: if courageous behavior is stimulated by ego, then it’s not courage – it’s something else – somewhere on a continuum between vanity and foolhardiness.  I’ve decided that true courage is not ego centric – it’s bravery centered in rational thought and humility.

The Greatest Shift in Power I’ve Ever Seen is Right Now

We’re all seeing it: the tectonic shift in power from employer over employee, to employee over employer.

Workers from laborers to craftsmen to salespeople and software coders are increasingly in control, forcing wages up (I think way more than the federal government is stating) and forcing employers to change how they recruit and retain employees.  Simon Sinek’s, The Infinite Game (see What Dave’s Listening To) talks about the critical interconnectedness between an “infinite mindset” and employee engagement.

Recently the CEO of a small Colorado contractor with 30 employees told me, “I’ve adapted in the last couple of years – now I work for my employees.”  He was OK with that, feeling that he’s become a better leader.  In fact, 95% of the Colorado CEOs I’ve spoken with tell me that they’ve become more employee focused.  This is an amazing time for employees – and a time for employers to authentically lean into culture and creating meaningful work.


Trust Drives Colorado’s Entrepreneurial Progress

I got to thinking about TRUST following my interview with co-founders Jenn Knight and Niji Sabharwal of AgentSync.  Jenn said that because they are spouses, they have an existing level of deep trust, which allows each to more readily accept the other’s judgement, facilitates candid dialogue, and ultimately allows the company to move more quickly.  This is consistent with the theme of the book titled, The Speed of Trust.

Time and again I hear from entrepreneurs and founders that the spirit of collaboration has helped them succeed in Colorado.  Colin McIntosh of Sheets & Giggles (episode), talked about how Chris White,  founder of Shinesty, helped him to initially establish Sheets & Giggles’ shipping from the Shinesty facilities.  That kind of collaboration can’t happen without trust – Colin trusting that Chris wouldn’t try to somehow take Colin’s products or customers, and Chris that teaching Colin the shipping ropes and helping him get started would somehow, oh, I don’t know, build Karma in exchange for their effort.  It seems to me that TRUST is a core value in Colorado’s entrepreneurial community, and it’s one that is universally rewarding.

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