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I’m optimistic the U.S. Government machine can be fixed. Term limits. No earmarks. Flat tax. Privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and return General Motors, Chrysler and AIG to the private sector. Less bureaucratic regulation and mandating. Proper federalism, giving more responsibility to the states. There’s much, much more of course, also applying to state and local governments and mostly having to do with simplifying or eliminating cumbersome government subsystems.
Do you buy into the party line that the ship of state needs to be replaced, or do you stand outside of it, believing the system we have just needs a good tweaking?
I own majority share in a company (Centratel) with 30 employees and my wants and needs are typical of the other 23,000,000 small business owners in this country. The media is correct in saying we business owners are hoarding cash because we’re fearful. Yup. We’re hunkered down and we’ll sit here motionless until there is stability, predictability and customers.
It’s our hope that election results on November 2nd offer solid evidence there will be “the change we’ve been waiting for.” (Sarcasm intended.)
From the systems mindset perspective, I’m going to tell you what bothers me about the U.S. economic/government system. Those of you who have jobs, take heed as I explain exactly why we business owners are holding back. And if you work for a government agency – I suppose you deserve some kind of dispensation for living in a nether world – you should also pay attention here. You may be in the private sector soon; that is if people of my ilk have our way and the size of government is dramatically reduced.
Our government systems are dysfunctional to the point of crippling our individual lives. But hidden beneath the swirl of bloated inefficiency is a wonderfully simple and efficient guiding system that has provided freedom and wealth to generation after generation. Now we need to again heed that documented guidance system and get to the work of simplifying the government systems that surround and engulf us. This can be fixed!
But for now, here’s why we’re not hiring or investing in infrastructure:
• Taxes. How much will the government want next year? Is more than half of what I earn not enough? Why take risk if most of the profit is to be confiscated?
• Nearly 50% of our population pays no income tax. It was 30% in the mid 80′s and 40% by the year 2000. Not a healthy trend.
• Regulations. Too many, with more on the way. Check this out. (Reading this is worth the effort to trial-subscribe to the on-line Wall Street Journal.)
• Cap and trade: Will it happen? If so, more taxes.
• Card-check and the elimination of state right-to-work laws in 22 states. This is what I fear the most. Centratel will be unionized. If that happens, I’m getting out.
• Health care. Good God, what’s up with that? More cost, more regulation.
• Class warfare. The federal government’s executive branch habitually points fingers, and “business” is the latest and greatest demon, even as it generates tax revenue to fuel the very government that demonizes it. Insane!
Increased arrogance at all levels of government.
Considering the current incredible waste and inefficiency of government, just how much more abuse can our economic system withstand? No individual, family or business could operate in this way and survive.
Indisputable: Government is more interested in enhancing its revenue than in cutting its spending.
Could societal breakdown be on the horizon? Yes, in your heart you know it could. Consider France and Greece.
From a systems mindset standpoint, it’s clear that government systems are too intrusive; too big, taking the driver’s seat with the economic engine shoved into the rear seat. This is backwards.
The economy is the primary system – the producer of jobs, goods and services – not the various government entities which are better kept small, responsible only for certain regulatory and minimal service/protection roles. Back in the early years, I experienced this kind of hijacking in my business: Although Centratel’s purpose is to take and deliver messages and make a profit at it, a new bookkeeper was, over the course of a year, able to make the company about bookkeeping. The force of her personality thrust the reason for the business to the background in favor of her specialty! I had the same experience with two successive IT technicians as they built small, esoteric empires of their own. Centratel became about IT issues! In a business, department subsystems should never rule the primary system. So it is with business and government: Government must only play a supporting role.
When a subsystem takes charge, it’s always bad news for the primary system.
Those of you buying into the party line that corporations, medical organizations, insurance companies, etc. are the root of the problem might consider that all of the above are entities made up of people, people both good and bad. Just like in your neighborhood. The overall problem is not in the people. The problem is in the system in which they operate.
Over the years we’ve allowed system dysfunction to grow and now we’re paying the price. What to do? Vote for simplicity every election, remembering that our personal lives and the economy constitute the primary system and that government is only a subsystem. As I said at the beginning, there’s room for optimism. I hope you made yourself heard on November 2nd. Now let’s start turning this great ship of state around!
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Sam Carpenter is a resident of Bend, Oregon as well as an author and speaker who has been featured by hundreds of media, including NPR, ESPN radio, US News Radio, and Small Business Television. President and CEO of Centratel (http://www.centratel.com/), the premier telephone answering service in the United States, he has a background in engineering, publishing, telecommunications and journalism. His latest book, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, was published earlier this year. In addition, Carpenter founded and oversees Kashmir Family Aid (http://www.kashmirfamily.org/), a 501c3 non-profit that aids surviving school children of the Northern Pakistan and Azad Kashmir earthquake of October 2005. Originally from upstate New York, and an Oregonian since 1975, Sam’s outside interests include mountaineering, skiing, cycling, reading, traveling, photography and writing. He is married to Linda Carpenter who works with him as CFO at Centratel.
I urge you to click here so that you can check out the wealth of resources provided at his website.
Q. Your systems mindset message seems to repeat itself. Are you a one-trick pony?
A. I take that as a compliment if you are suggesting that I have a single, simple lesson to teach. Here’s the thing: The beauty of the systems mindset is that it is a root-concept and therefore has an infinity of real-world effects. The simple mental posture has many positive ramifications.
Q. If I “get” the systems mindset and then find peace and freedom, will I finally be happy?
A. You’ll have more control of your life and so you’ll be happier but it still won’t be all roses and cupcakes, especially at first. Obtaining extra time and money, good health and better relationships in a short period of time is a challenge in itself and it takes some time to learn to manage this new condition without going a bit gaga. I personally dealt with this challenge and in time learned to better manage the new prosperous condition. In any case, having enough money to do what you want and being healthy and gregarious is way better than the opposite. Do I still have my ups and downs? Yes, but I’m up 98% of the time, and the 2% down-times are almost always due to a temporary personal system problem (e.g. a nap or a good night’s sleep usually snaps me out of it).
Q. Is there work to do to “get” the mindset and then make the changes?
A. If you’re in business there is some documentation. But it’s documentation you would have to create anyway if you are to be successful. There are no large, successful businesses that don’t have things down on paper! If you’re not in business, paperwork is minimal.
Q. Is the systems mindset really that simple?
A. I describe its underlying concept as dirt simple. We humans have a powerful tendency to complicate things so the elementary reality of the systems mindset is overlooked by almost everyone.
Q. What is the advantage of the systems mindset over the common hyper high-energy, web-surfing, multi-tasking mindset?
A. I call the frame of mind you describe, the “Red Bull Mindset.” A lot gets done but much of it is to no avail. It’s inefficient. But in contrast, those who calmly focus on working the systems of their lives are highly efficient. And, newsflash! Whether you like it or not, and whether you know it or not, your life is made up of individual systems that produce individual real-time results that you must deal with every day. Get this: The systems mindset continuously “works” individual systems so they produce desired results, while the non-systems mindset ignores underlying systems that, as a result of not being managed, continuously produce random and recurring bad results. Dealing with bad results is called fire-killing. (That’s a mouthful, but read it again. It’s the heart of the methodology.)
Q. It’s hard for me to even think about my systems, much less document them. How do I relax enough to do this?
A. Due primarily (but not exclusively) to the Internet, too many of us are becoming superficial, inefficient thinkers…and superficial thinking is the antithesis of quiet, relaxed systems mindset thinking. With too much screen-time, our day-to-day thought process has become nervously flighty; almost spastic. Here’s an excerpt from The Shallows, a new book by Nicholas Carr: “What we seem to be sacrificing in all our (Internet) surfing and searching is our capacity to engage in the quieter, attentive modes of thought that underpin contemplation, reflection and introspection. The web never encourages us to slow down. It keeps us in a state of perpetual mental locomotion.” The cure? Reading! In our society, thoughtful page-turning has become a rarity and it’s too bad because it’s the antidote to the Internet’s scrambled-brain conditioning. Carr says, “Whereas the Internet scatters attention, a book focuses it. Unlike the screen, the page promotes contemplation.” This doesn’t suggest one should give up the web! The Internet is an incredible tool that most of us can’t live without. Carr’s point is that a regular routine of reading will do much to counter the bad effects of web surfing…while promoting the kind of relaxed contemplation that is required to get one’s systems in order. A contemplative mindset is necessary in order to be able to slow down enough to see, analyze and then adjust one’s underlying systems. I wrote more about Carr’s book in a previous post.
[Here’s a link: http://www.workthesystem.com/2010/05/31/rewire-your-brain/.]
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