Thursday, July 14, 2011

Outcasts: Tonight Tens Of Thousands Of Formerly Middle Class Americans Will Be Sleeping In Their Cars, In Tent Cities Or On The Streets

Economic despair is beginning to spread rapidly in America.  As you read this, there are millions of American families that are just barely hanging on by their fingernails.  For a growing number of Americans, it has become an all-out battle just to be able to afford to sleep under a roof and put a little bit of food on the table.  Sadly, there are more people than ever that are losing that battle.  Tonight, tens of thousands of formerly middle class Americans will be sleeping in their cars, even though that is illegal in many U.S. cities.  Tens of thousands of others will be sleeping in tent cities or on the streets.  Meanwhile, communities all over America are passing measures that are meant to push tent cities and homeless people out of their areas.  It turns out that once you lose your job and your home in this country you become something of an outcast.  Sadly, the number of "outcasts" is going to continue to grow as the U.S. economy continues to collapse.

Most Americans that end up living in their cars on in tent cities never thought that it would happen to them.

An article in Der Spiegel profiled one American couple that is absolutely shocked at what has happened to them….

Chanelle Sabedra is already on that road. She and her husband have been sleeping in their car for almost three weeks now. "We never saw this coming, never ever," says Sabedra. She starts to cry. "I'm an adult, I can take care of myself one way or another, and same with my husband, but (my kids are) too little to go through these things." She has three children; they are nine, five and three years old.

"We had a house further south, in San Bernardino," says Sabedra. Her husband lost his job building prefab houses in July 2009. The utility company turned off the gas. "We were boiling water on the barbeque to bathe our kids," she says. No longer able to pay the rent, the Sabedras were evicted from their house in August.

How would you feel if you had a 3 year old kid and a 5 year old kid and you were sleeping in a car?

Sadly, if child protective services finds out about that family those kids will probably be stolen away and never returned.

America is becoming a very cruel place.

Unfortunately, what has happened to that family is not an isolated incident.  As rampant unemployment has spread across America, the number of people that have lost their homes has soared.

Today, it is estimated that approximately a third of the homeless population in Seattle live in their cars.

It is even happening to my readers.  A reader named JD left the following comment on one of my articles a while back….

I was laid off from my construction job almost 2 yrs ago was on unenjoyment for over a yr they cut me off last september so i lost my apartment. Since then ive been couch surfing and hotel hopping. Now i occaisonally sleep in my car. I was lucky enough to have a friend with a lawn care business so i can at least put ever increasing gas in my car\house. I hate to say it but i think we will see hoovervilles in the major cities soon. When the welfare & food stamps & all the other govt. programs end the anarchy begins.

Desperation is rising all over America.  Most people had hoped to see an economic recovery by now but it just hasn't happened.

The phenomenon of Americans living in their cars has become so prominent that even Time Magazine has done a story about it….

For people who cannot afford rent, a car is the last rung of dignity and sanity above the despair of the streets. A home on wheels is a classic American affair, from the wagon train to the RV. Now, for some formerly upwardly mobile Americans, the economic storm has turned the backseat or the rear of the van into the bedroom. "We found six people sleeping in their cars on an overnight police ride-along in December," says John Edmund, chief of staff to Long Beach councilman Dee Andrews. "One was a widow living in a four-door sedan. She and her husband had been Air Force veterans. She did not know about the agencies that could help her. I had tears in my eyes afterwards."

Unfortunately, it turns out that sleeping in cars has been made illegal in many areas of the United States.

In many cities, police are putting boots on the cars and when the homeless owners can't pay the fines the vehicles are being taken away from them.

Venice, California is one place where people have been arrested for living in vehicles.  Venice had been a popular spot for people living in their RVs to go, but police started arresting people that were living in RVs and they began towing away their vehicles. The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared on the Daily Kos website….

They took Eric while he was changing his battery in his car. Claimed he lived in his car. A few days later they went to 3th Street and took his RV because he was in jail and no one moved it for 72 hours. Saturday they did a sweep of 7th and took Bear and his RV. They also took Elizabeth's RV but do not know if they took Elizabeth but can not find her. The police went to 6th and took the white RV that always parks by Broadway on 6th. Everyday they take 1 to 4 RVs. Very soon there will be no one left.

Once you are down on your luck in America you will quickly find that authorities will try to take everything else you still have away from you.

The United States can be a very brutal place to be if you are poor.

All over America, communities are making tent cities illegal or they are simply just chasing them away.

It turns out that many Americans really don't like large numbers of homeless people camping out in their neighborhoods.

But many of those now living in tent cities used to be just like you and me.

What is being done to tent cities in some areas of the country is absolutely disgusting.

For example, who could ever forget this video of police in St. Petersburg, Florida using box cutters to slash up the tents of the homeless….

What goes through your mind when you watch something like that?

If you don't feel at least a little bit of compassion for those people then something is wrong.

You never know – you might be the next one forced to take refuge in a tent city.

In many U.S. cities, it is even illegal to sleep on the street.  If you are homeless I am not sure what you are supposed to do.  In some areas of the U.S. you can't sleep in your car, you can't sleep in a tent city and you can't sleep on the street.

So what should we do with all of the Americans that are being forced out of their homes by this economy?

Should we just round them all up and put them into fenced camps?

Don't laugh – we are getting closer to that kind of thing every day.

We live in very frightening times.

Poverty is absolutely exploding in America.  The number of Americans that are going to food pantries and soup kitchens has increased by 46% since 2006.  There are 44 million Americans on food stamps.  If it was not for measures like these, the streets of America would be filled with destitute people.

Things are tough out there and they are about to get tougher.

At the beginning of next year, the extended unemployment benefits that have been helping the unemployed during this economic downturn will expire.  Up to now, many unemployed Americans have been able to enjoy up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.  Now that is coming to an end.

According to the New York Times, this is going to drain 37 billion dollars out of the wallets of unemployed Americans that are just barely hanging on.

What in the world is that going to do to the economy?

This all comes at a time when it looks like unemployment is going to start rising once again.

Cisco has just announced that they are going to be laying off 10,000 workers.  Other large firms are expected to announce more layoffs shortly.  The number of good jobs continues to shrink.

There are other signs that the economy is slowing once again.  Pre-orders for Christmas toys are way down.  Vacancies at U.S. shopping malls are rising again.  Nearly every major poll shows that Americans are extremely pessimistic about the economy right now.

So why in the world is all of this happening?

Where in the world did all of our jobs go?

Well, it turns out that millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas where the labor is far, far cheaper and it is really starting to catch up with us.

On The American Dream website, I just finished an article entitled "How Globalism Has Destroyed Our Jobs, Businesses And National Wealth In 10 Easy Steps".  It is a 2500 word essay that explains how globalization has absolutely gutted our economy.  The article will hopefully help you understand why so many good jobs have left the United States and why they aren't coming back.

Many of our great cities that used to be the envy of the entire globe are now a bad joke to the rest of the world.

The following is what one reporter from the UK found when he visited one of the worst areas of Detroit….

Occasionally a half-ruined or half-burned house still stands to remind you that this used to be a cityscape. Pathetic, besieged knots of surviving homes remind you of what was once here. Sometimes amazing efforts have been made to keep them smart. More often, they haven't.

Many bear menacing notices warning visitors to stay away. On the door of one, easy to imagine as a neat home with an iron-pillared porch where the head of the family must once have sat on summer evenings, are the words 'Enter at ya own risk' accompanied by a crude drawing of an angry face.

I ventured into a nearby ruin, smashed, charred and half-filled with garbage. You have no idea who or what might be lurking in these houses.

But don't laugh at Detroit.  What is happening in Detroit is coming to your area soon enough.

America is in an advanced state of decay.  The number of "outcasts" is going to multiply as more Americans lose their jobs and their homes.  Millions more Americans will be sleeping in their cars, in tent cities or on the streets before this is all over.

The U.S. economy is never going to get back to "normal".  What we are living through now is the "new normal" and it is rip-roaring prosperity compared to what is coming.

Please show compassion to the people around you that are hurting right now.

You never know, as the economy continues to unravel it may be you that needs some compassion soon.

Thanks to The Trading Report / Yolo Publishing

Other Sites Related to This Blog

Cultivate Leaders Throughout An Organization, Not Just At The Top

The old saw goes, "People truly are your only real competitive advantage in business."  So if that's true, then why are so many of our children and our future leaders raised in the cages of constrained habit and "best practices?"

Acclaimed essayist William Deresiewicz, in a thought-provoking lecture given to a class at the US Military Academy at West Point, contended that America's elite schools are no longer churning out a nation of leaders, they are churning out flocks of sheep.  Deresiewicz, who recently sat on the Yale College admissions committee, saw great kids who had been trained to be what he called, "world-class hoop jumpers."  "Any goal you set them," he said, "they could achieve. Any test you gave them, they could pass with flying colors. They were, as another committee member put it, 'excellent sheep.'"

Contrary to what some organizations preach, people who are trained to do as they are told without question will not be the ones to grow and evolve a company into a world-changing force.

What then are some alternative qualities of leadership?  Deresiewicz believes leaders are people who think for themselves, people who can formulate a new direction for a company – people with their own visions, developed independent of existing paradigms and patterns.

In my limited experience as the leader of a fast-growing organization, it's been my observation that creating an environment that offers people the freedom to think independently encourages them to formulate ideas that will have dramatic effects.  Investing in our employees' happiness and sense of personal responsibility creates agents of change – future stewards of innovation.  

Here are three approaches to creating environments that foster leadership:

Free Thinkers

Who among us doesn't know a student who has a tighter schedule than most visiting dignitaries? Between volunteering at fundraisers and private tutoring in Mandarin, kids today have little time to think independently and play creatively.  Many aren't given the time, the freedom, or the room to develop their own voice.  In turn, many organizations just continue this cycle by treating their employees like school children.

In our company, we decided to experiment with letting people decide when and how they would accomplish their objectives.  We have no established office hours.  We let people build out their own teams and manage them as they see fit.  Three years later, we are amazed at what people will accomplish when they want to and furthermore, when they are expected to.  These are the people that will become agents of change, which is exactly what we need in a technology start-up when creative iteration is of the utmost importance. 

Agents for Change

Leaders are paradigm shifters. In an earlier Forbes MarketShare post, I discussed Steve Jobs' ability to disrupt the status quo with his visionary ideas. Apple has created innovations over the last decade that materially changed the way we live our lives.  At the recent D8 conference, Steve Jobs announced the iCloud, which could ultimately lead to the demise of the desktop PC – a product Jobs himself brought to market many years ago.

At meetings, we've found it best to encourage the asking of questions.  We give people permission to ask why something has to be done a certain way or even if it should be done at all.  Disrespect for convention and the status quo is the key to innovation, and while we can't all be the Wizard of Cupertino, we can channel some of that playful dialectic.

The Happiness Quotient

We believe good leaders are first and foremost happy employees. Stanford professor and author of "The Dragonfly Effect" Jennifer Aaker, in her research into why certain ideas take flight, points to a growing body of research that shows a person's happiness plays a key role in motivation and ideation. Aaker says that her research points to three key factors that contribute to an environment of happiness:

1. Enable people to find meaning in their work.

2. Enable people to make connections.

3. Help them feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

We consider the happiness of our team to be as important as generating revenue. We think the emotional impact of a job, reporting line, desk placement, and compensation decisions are as important as what we return to shareholders. It means that we first consider whether someone is happy, and value that happiness as highly as we do their performance. Ultimately, the circle is a loop and happy employees create success for the company.

As the nature of work itself has changed, as the age of the information worker has evolved, the requirements of leadership have shifted, as well.  We no longer need one exceptional leader at the top, we need leaders all throughout an organization. We need more than one of a kind.

Thanks to Zephrin Lasker / Blogs Forbes

Other Sites Related to This Blog

When Smart People Are Bad Employees

[Ed. Note: This post was written by Ben Horowitz, cofounder and general partner (along with Marc Andreessen) of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in Menlo Park, Calif. The two just raised $650 million and what they have to say is  worth your attention.]

"And I always find, yeah, I always find somethin' wrong
You been puttin' up with my sh*! just way too long
I'm so gifted at findin' what I don't like the most
So I think it's time for us to have a toast

Let's have a toast for the douchebags,
Let's have a toast for the a**holes,
Let's have a toast for the scumbags,
Every one of them that I know
Let's have a toast for the jerkoffs
That'll never take work off
Baby, I got a plan
Run away fast as you can"
–Kanye West

In high tech, intelligence is always a critical element in any employee, because what we do is difficult and complex and the competitors are filled with extremely smart people. However, intelligence is not the only important quality. Being effective in a company also means working hard, being reliable, and being an excellent member of the team.

When I was a CEO, this was one of the most difficult lessons for me to learn. I felt that it was my job to create an environment where brilliant people of all backgrounds, personality types, and work styles would thrive. And I was right. That was my job. Companies where people with diverse backgrounds and work-styles can succeed have significant advantages in recruiting and retaining top talent over those that don't. Still, you can take it too far. And I did.

Here are three examples of the smartest people in the company being the worst employees.

Example 1: The Heretic

Any sizable company produces some number of strategies, projects, processes, promotions, and other activities that don't make sense. No large organization achieves perfection. As a result, a company needs lots of smart, super engaged employees who can identify its particular weaknesses and help it improve them.

However, sometimes really smart employees develop agendas other than improving the company. Rather than identifying weaknesses, so that he can fix them, he looks for faults to build his case. Specifically, he builds his case that the company is hopeless and run by a bunch of morons. The smarter the employee, the more destructive this type of behavior can be. Simply put, it takes a really smart person to be maximally destructive, because otherwise nobody else will listen to him.

Why would a smart person try to destroy the company that he works for? There are actually many reasons. Here are few:

1. He is disempowered—She feels that she cannot access the people in charge and, as a result, complaining is her only vehicle to get the truth out.

2. He is fundamentally a rebel—She will not be happy unless she is rebelling; this can be a deep personality trait. Sometimes these people actually make better CEOs than employees.

3. He is immature and naïve—She cannot comprehend that the people running the company do not know every minute detail of the operation and therefore they are complicit in everything that's broken.

Often, it's very difficult to turn these kinds of cases around. Once an employee takes a public stance, the social pressure for him to be consistent is enormous. If he tells 50 of his closest friends that the CEO is the stupidest person on the planet, then reversing that position will cost him a great amount of credibility the next time he complains. Most people are not willing to take the credibility hit.

Example 2: The Flake

Some brilliant people can be totally unreliable. At Opsware, we once hired an unequivocal genius—I'll call him Roger (not his real name). Roger was an engineer in an area of the product where a typical new hire would take 3 months to become fully productive. Roger came fully up to speed in two days. On his third day, we gave him a project that was scheduled to take one month. Roger completed the project in 3 days with nearly flawless quality. More specifically, he completed the project in 72 hours. 72 non-stop hours: No stops, no sleep, no nothing but coding. In his first quarter on the job, he was the best employee that we had and we immediately promoted him.

Then Roger changed. He would miss days of work without calling in. Then he would miss weeks of work. When he finally showed up, he apologized profusely, but the behavior didn't stop. His work product also degraded. He became sloppy and unfocused. I could not understand how such a stellar employee could go so haywire. His manager wanted to fire him, because the team could no longer count on Roger for anything. I resisted. I knew that the genius was still in him and I wanted us to find it. We never did. It turns out that Roger was bi-polar and had two significant drug problems: 1. He did not like taking his bi-polar medication and 2. He was addicted to cocaine. Ultimately, we had to fire Roger, but even now, it pains me to think about what might have been.

One need not be bi-polar to be a flake, but flakey behavior often has a seriously problematic root cause. Causes range from self-destructive streaks to drug habits to moonlighting for other employers. A company is a team effort and, no matter how high an employee's potential, you cannot get value from him unless he does his work in a manner in which he can be relied upon.

Example 3: The Jerk

This particular smart-bad-employee type can occur anywhere in the organization, but is most destructive at the executive level. Most executives can be pricks, dicks, a-holes or a variety of other profane adjectives at times. Being dramatically impolite can be used to improve clarity or emphasize an important lesson. That's not the behavior that I am talking about.

When used consistently, asinine behavior can be crippling. As a company grows, its biggest challenge always becomes communication. Keeping a huge number of people on the same page executing the same goals is never easy. If a member of your staff is a raging jerk, it may be impossible. Some people are so belligerent in their communication style that people just stop talking when they are in the room. If every time anyone brings up an issue with the marketing organization, the VP of marketing jumps down their throat, then guess what topic will never come up? This behavior can become so bad that nobody brings up any topic when the jerk is in the room. As a result, communication across the executive staff breaks down and the entire company slowly degenerates. Note that this only happens if the jerk in question is unquestionably brilliant. Otherwise, nobody will care when she attacks them. The bite only has impact if it comes from a big dog. If one of your big dogs destroys communication on your staff, you need to send her to the pound.

When do you hold the bus?

The great football coach John Madden was once asked whether or not he would tolerate a player like Terrell Owens on his team. Owens was both one of the most talented players in the game and one of the biggest jerks. Madden answered: "If you hold the bus for everyone on the team, then you'll be so late that you'll miss the game, so you can't do that. The bus must leave on time. However, sometimes you'll have a player that's so good that you hold the bus for him, but only him."

Phil Jackson, the basketball coach who has won the most NBA championships, was once asked about his famously flakey superstar Dennis Rodman: "Since Dennis Rodman is allowed to miss practice, does this mean other star players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen can miss practice too?" Jackson replied: "Of course not. There is only room for one Dennis Rodman on this team. In fact, you really can only have a very few Dennis Rodmans in society as a whole; otherwise, we would degenerate into anarchy."

You may find yourself with an employee who fits one of the above descriptions, but nonetheless makes a massive positive contribution to the company. You may decide that you will personally mitigate the employee's negative attributes and keep them from polluting the overall company culture. That's fine, but remember: you can only hold the bus for her.

Thanks to Bruce Upbin / Blogs Forbes

Other Sites Related to This Blog

Why Does Criticism Seem More Effective than Praise?

When you coach someone or conduct a performance appraisal, where do you tend to focus? Probably on "opportunities for improvement," right? Sure, you mention some positive things, but we'll bet you spend much more time talking about faults and shortcomings.

If you do, you're only human. Paying more attention to what's wrong isn't wrong-headed or perverse. In fact, you could say you do it because, in your experience, criticism produces better results than praise. Criticism is more often followed by improved performance; and praise is often followed by performance that's not as good. Hence, you think, praise might be nice and you need to do some of it, but when it comes to improving people's performance, criticism is the best tool for the job.

Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where the lessons of experience aren't obvious — and can even be misleading. Your observation that criticism is more often followed by improvement is probably accurate. But what's going on isn't what you think. In fact, it's something called "regression to the mean" and if you don't understand it, you and your people will be its victims.

Human performance is never completely consistent. That's true of a violinist, a gymnast, a university lecturer, and it's true of everyone who works for you — and of you, too. No one performs at their best or worst every day. We all know this and it's why we assess the true greatness of, say, a soccer player not by her performance in a single game but over a full season or even a playing career. In other words, we look at that player's average performance over time — or, to use the statistician's term, her mean performance.

If you track someone's performance task by task, you'll discover that a great performance, one that's far above the person's average or mean, is usually followed by a less-inspiring performance that's closer to the mean. It works the same the other way. A terrible performance is usually followed by something better. No one's making or causing this to happen. It's part of the variability built into human activity, especially when doing something even moderately complex.

The problems and misperceptions arise when we forget this. Why would we forget something so obvious? Because even when we know performance can vary widely around a mean, we tend to give greater weight to someone's most recent performance. Unconsciously, we consider it a better indicator of overall capability than what happened two days ago or last week. Our minds tend to overrate the importance or accuracy of the latest, most easily available, or most prominent information.

When you put these two together, you can see why criticism seems to work better than praise.

Consider some important and moderately difficult task performed regularly by someone who works for you. Let's say you can rate his performance on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best, and that his average performance over the past months has been only five. So you begin monitoring his work and giving him either positive or negative feedback, criticism or praise, after every performance.

Consequently, when he performs worse than average, since performance naturally varies around a mean, he most likely will perform better the next time even if you say or do nothing — because his performance will naturally regress or move toward his mean or average level. However, since you criticized his performance, you will (mistakenly) conclude that he improved because of your criticism, and you'll be convinced of this because his latest performance (the latest information you have) will receive great weight in your mind.

In the same way, when your person performs above his mean level, he most likely will perform worse the next time even if you say or do nothing — because, again, his performance is regressing to the mean. Yet, because the poorer performance followed your praise, you'll conclude it was caused by praise.

Even if you don't notice these apparent connections consciously, you're aware of them intuitively. And the most likely consequence will be that you criticize far more than you praise.

Unfortunately, that's a poor recipe for reaching your goal — improving someone's average performance. A lot of evidence suggests that positive reinforcement — identifying and building on strengths — will produce better results than a relentless focus on faults. This is important. To improve, people need positive feedback. It's just as important to recognize and reinforce their strengths as it is to point out where they're falling short. And you need to understand why praise can seem dysfunctional, so you don't withhold it.

Don't be misled by experience. Its real lessons aren't always obvious, and finding them often requires thought, reflection, and analysis. Only when you're fully aware of what's happening, and why, can you make the best choice. In this case, that means giving praise as quickly as you criticize.


Linda Hill & Kent Lineback:- Linda A. Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Kent Lineback spent many years as a manager and an executive in business and government. They are the coauthors of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader (HBR Press, 2011).

Thanks to Linda Hill & Kent Lineback

Other Sites Related to This Blog