An Occupy Wall Street Rant

Jeff  Carter
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Posted: Dec 03, 2011 12:01 AM

Adam Carolla is pretty direct in this rant below on the Occupy Wall Street crowd. There is quite a bit of foul language in it, so if you are offended by that you won’t appreciate it. However, his points are spot on.

I always was involved in athletics as a kid. One of the great things about sports is you learn how to fail. When I played baseball, I could catch anything tossed at me, but I struck out a lot. My all time little league average is well below the Mendoza Line. The great thing about sports is the immediate feedback you get when you screw up. A guy scores a basket on you, a guy gets by you. Even in team sports, there are relatively few places you can hide. The best athletes learn from that feedback and change.

Of course, in sports, we all aren’t equal. Some people are just blessed with genetic traits that allow them to be better. I played basketball at a relatively high level. No matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t going to be as quick as a lot of players. No matter how many drills I did, how long I jumped rope, I wasn’t going to be able to jump as high as a lot of people-although I could dunk it until I was 35. But, I learned to get better in different ways. I adapted.

The hours I spent by myself in a gym working on skills were necessary. But unless I went out on a playground and tested those skills, I wouldn’t know if they worked or not. That juke move might work great by yourself in the gym, but if the guy is still stuck to you like glue after you give him the fake, all those hours in the gym don’t matter. The same goes for start up businesses.

There was a point where the mental health pros got involved and we began worrying about how everyone felt rather than rewarding success and teaching them to deal with failure. Overcoming failure is an important skill to have.

One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is the market validates you. You launch your business and if there aren’t any customers, you either change or go out of business. Great start up businesses launch and then start responding to customers right away. Some people call it “iterating”. I call it listening to your customer.

My gut tells me that the Occupy Wall Street crowd has a romantic notion that we all should be a bunch of small fragmented entrepreneurs. But the real world doesn’t work that way. Yesterday’s small scalable entrepreneur becomes today’s huge publicly listed company. In each case, if either doesn’t listen to their customer they go out of business. Unless of course you practice “crony capitalism” like General Motors and you get the government to support you.

The idea of being an entrepreneur is great. The notion is romantic. It’s so American, so John Wayne. One person rides into a business sector and conquers it. Intoxicating. But, the reality is entrepreneurship is really, really hard. Entrepreneurs don’t build businesses beating drums and hanging out in the park. Once they are successful, they don’t share their sales with a less profitable company that they just beat the pants off of. They keep going.

Jefferson was right that we are all created equal and given inalienable rights. It’s been said before but needs to be said again; once we pass that Jeffersonian standard, the rest of life isn’t fair. It never will be, and it never was. That’s why when I hear people talk about “fairness”, I immediately tune them out because they have no idea what they are are rambling about. Fairness is subjective.

I would agree that we need to set up a very basic rules of the game tableau to play on. That’s my biggest beef with the trading industry right now. The distribution system is stacked both on a regulatory front and an execution front against most of the investors. Level the playing field and then let’s let the chips fall where they may.

However, whenever rules are written, people start to meddle. This morning on CBNC, Joe Kernan was talking with Austan Goolsbee about the telecom space and they had an interesting repartee that sums up fairness and Occupy Wall Street. Kernan maintained that the government ought to let ATT buy T-Mobile. Goolsbee was reticent to allow that, and said we should look at some economic factors with regard to spectrum and think about where prices might go. It showed the two divergent views of an economy.

Kernan was ready to let the market tell everyone what it wanted. If ATT buys T-Mobile, customers could switch and walk if rates went too high. Then ATT would have to iterate, and change or lose a lot of market share. Goolsbee wanted to direct the market and say who could buy who to try and control rates. Do you see the difference? One way of thinking is listening to the broad market and responding. Many to one. The other is centrally directed and one sets the rules for the many. One to many. It’s a very very subtle difference, but has a huge impact on outcomes.

Occupy Wall Street wants to dictate. They aren’t interested in competing and listening. Adam Carolla hit the nail on the head in a very different way when he brought up how we are raising our kids and teaching them life lessons through athletics. In life, not everyone gets a trophy. Sometimes you lose. Most of the time, you fail. We should be teaching people the correct way to respond to failure, and how to listen and learn from it. Instead, OWS response is to act like a bunch of crying three year olds that were told they couldn’t have more ice cream today.