Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lubbock, Texas 79401

Last time I was thru Lubbock, I stayed at the La Quinta near the Buddy Holly memorial.

We ate dinner in the Denny's and listened to some guys in the next booth discuss the ins and outs of irrigation, pipes, fertilizers, pumps, aquifer, and crops... I was fascinated. The kids were bored...

I am always amazed (Yes, Really Amazed ) at how much specialized knowledge goes into our many occupations and industries... The olde saying "To Be Is To Be Specialized" was never more true... The amount of specialized stuff average guys have to know to succeed is a TRUE American Miracle... The nonchalant, "so what? Everybody does it" attitude is also very American.

What is also interesting is the disconnect between those who are working in one industry and their fellow workers in other industries. Everyone has an industry or job that they look at and think "Oh, That's easy. That doesn't take much knowledge." Yet, the more you learn about it, the more details surface and more specialized the work becomes... i.e. Truck driving, farming, package delivery, auto mechanic, etc. It's not merely the efficiencies and short cuts of doing that particular service. It's the skills to turn it into a business that can make a profit and hire others... We are quietly proud of the knowledge it takes to be good at what we do and dismissive of what it takes for others to be good at what they do. We also pay attention so that we can start our own business and avoid the mistakes of others.

Another trait the average working person in America possesses that is seldom written about or acknowledged is how many people have read books on history, art, architecture, design, collecting, woodworking, etc. and can talk to them in detail as an interest, a hobby and or as a business... They don't bring it up quickly in a first conversation. You usually have to admit to being a reader before someone else will... One of my best friends was a delivery guy, who started his own company. He spends a few weeks every year attending conferences on Colonial American History at Williamsburg VA. He is often the only one in the room without an advanced college degree. He enjoys speaking his opinions and being accepted as one of the crowd for the validity of his views. He truly relishes telling, when asked, that he's "just a truck driver"... What is unsung-unreported-mostly ignored is that across America there are many people who do similar feats of intellectual magic purely to satisfy their curiosity and for the joy of learning.

Why is this interesting?

Working overseas, Europe-Asia-Australasia, as an American I am usually quizzed and questioned about America... What makes us so different?... I've had to learn to look for the subtle differences. I have tried to seek the foundation differences that separate us from them... What I found is that education and approach to life are key determinants. With education its not so much what each citizen knows but HOW each citizen learns... Americans teach ourselves and each other,. We read books. We teach on the job. Then we hire someone and teach them. We encourage college and night school as a constant way of life... Most other country's citizens view their certificates of competence as passports to the secure life. As employees they went to schools to be taught what to do. Then at work they wait to be told what to do. They work for the boss, not the customer. They don't respond to requests out of the predetermined instructions... Americans usually seek to understand the whole business cycle so that they can anticipate the next series events and help the customer along to the next junction. By understand how things work, its easier to see why the problems may grow and dissatisfaction will increase as well. These are blatant generalities and are true only as far as a blatant generality can be true... They are also based on my observations and conversations.

The Future of the Future

The world has changed. We are in an age where our economy is more service than manufacturing. Our work is more knowledge related than action related. We are frequently told and daily faced with the need for "constant ongoing education"... We have to keep learning. As Americans we'll take up the challenge and get on with it. We'll listen to customers and figure out a solution. We expect that of ourselves. It is simply unAmerican to whine about training or wait for a solution whenthere is someone with a problem and money seeking a solution.

Our overseas competitors will wait to be told what they need to learn. They'll seek governmental assistance in training or re-training. They'll wait to be certified. Overseas, they'll take their certificate of accomplishment and retire in place. They'll hear a customer ask for something and look only for the approved solution closest to the request. They will not care if the customer ever returns... They work for the boss, not the customer.... They almost never consider establishing their own business. They definitely don't look at the business being turned away and see an opportunity for their own personal success.

In both worlds, some people have jobs and others are working a career. Some serve the customer and others follow procedure. Most of the time things don't look that different, until a disruptive force arrives. The computer and then the Internet increased productivity and change the nature of work, Now we have challenges from the latest low cost competitor. We are outsourcing and in sourcing old jobs and new ones. Jobs move to where the highest quality can be obtained at the lowest price. There are new technologies and new economies of scale seeming to arrive every day..... When faced with a dilemma those having a career and following procedure will wait to be told what to do.... They usually continue to draw a paycheck...They then whine to the politicians when the company goes under.... it never occurs that they could have had more fun, earned more rewards and a bit of adventure by being involved in their customers solutions...

The Past of the Past

Which brings me back to Lubbock...... Why did Buddy Holly , Waylon Jennings and others come from such a quiet town, well off the beaten path to disrupt the entire world of music with two quite different revolutions? Buddy Holly was a big influence on the Beatles and Rock and Roll. Waylon got Willie and Tompall to come to Luckenbach and made some history changing Country and Western.... Both of their music shifts hold up and sound fresh with my morning coffee.. (Yes, Waylon played with Buddy Holly, but the sound and genre are quite different)

Ordinary Americans, Ordinary towns.

What intriguing new things will come forth to challenge and change the established order?.

What happens next? Isn't that the great American Adventure?

What do you see happening? What's the next great revolution?

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