I want to preface this post with the fact that I fully and wholly support free market capitalism. It has done amazing things for communities and countries around the world. I think the healthy mix of independently employed individuals and small businesses all the way up to giant corporations are important for maintaining healthy competition, advancement of technology, and improvement of living conditions.
Now, some readers will point out to the bad things in American capitalism. I argue that here in the United States we do not, in fact, have free market capitalism. There are limits, from the hundreds of thousands of dollars that must be paid in New York in order to license taxis so that only the biggest of taxi companies can afford to run cars, to the latest fee that any manufacturer of guns or gun parts – even that self-employed guy with an old lathe making a few gun parts here and there – must pay in order to not be raided by the FBI. (Thanks Obama.) I’m not talking about regulations about quality (don’t want human parts in our hotdogs), I’m talking about cost of entry. Our current and previous administrations, conservative and liberal, have made our economy semi-planned.
Though I support free-market capitalism, I also want to support local businesses. In the Ward of the city I live in, there are at minimum three independently owned restaurants. One is Turkish food, and my wife and I raid it like the Varangian Guard on Holiday. I would much rather support these businesses than, say, McDonald’s. (I actually cannot remember the last time I ate McDonald’s.) Even where there are chain stores (Baker’s/Kroger’s here) I would rather shop at the one here in our Ward, that I know hires people from our Ward of the city, as opposed to another grocery store. (That said, Aldi is very difficult to beat, and is just one Ward over.)
This goes back to thoughts on tribe and community – which I’ll cover in another post.
Why I Try To Buy As Local As Possible
Most of the businesses in the Ward of the city I live in hire locals. Sure, there are some that hire people from afar (Omaha, Elkhorn, etc.), but for the most part you talk to workers here and they live in and around Ward 3 (that’s the Ward I live in).
Buying local puts money in the pockets of those workers, whereas going to Wal-Mart up the road, or Hy-Vee, puts money in the pockets of others.
It also puts money in the pockets of those small business owners in our area. They are working to make a living doing what (theoretically) they love. Restaurant, bar, or martial arts dojo, they are living and working in our Ward.
Money in their pockets means keeping generally good people in our community, some of which can actually apply money to improve it.
Supporting these businesses also signals to other small businesses that the area is ripe for investment. Maybe Bob next door wants to open a machining shop, and since he sees other businesses doing well in our area, he sets up shop here. Which means more jobs, and more money in our small community.
I also want to show that I support our community. That said, the Turkish food restaurant doesn’t have to try very hard to woo me. I will fork over cash for their food in a heartbeat. But showing my face and buying from them shows I support them and their endeavor. I don’t need small business Saturday to drive my local small business purchases. I do so weekly.
An Imperfect Recipe
Anyone with an iota of brain power will quickly identify the flaws in this plan. What if you require X Service or Y Material and Ward 3 doesn’t have it? Do I just not buy it?
The answer: I go to the city I live in.
And if the city I live in doesn’t have it?
I go to the nearest communities surrounding.
I’m not a purest when it comes to my attempts to buy as local as possible. It’s not 100% realistic. What about those from my community that, unable to open up shop here, open up shop down the road in another ward or town?
And what about my Tribe? I have an uncle that has businesses in Omaha and in another part of Nebraska. Do I not buy his architectural services or wines (respectively)?
The pure version of my principle is a lot like spandex: great idea, until real people started using it, then things got ugly.
Going A Little Further
Of course I am going to buy my uncle’s wines (they’re delicious and at a great price; look up Superior Estates Winery) and I would use his architectural services should I ever need a building for a small business (someday…).
The idea to buy as local as possible stems from two things.
First is the idea that one can only physically and psychologically actually care about only 150 people – which were what tribes were about back thousands, if not tens of thousands of years ago. While some of this is taken up by my family, closest friends, and fell National Guardsmen/women, it is also taken up by those that live in my community. Those who I live next to, go to church with, see at the bar, see at the gym, etc.
I want to build and develop my immediate community as much as I want to develop the relationships I have with family/friends/etc.
The second part of this is somewhat irrational – somewhat.
What if the world we know turns upside down, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and the U.S. starts looking a lot more like, say, Greece or Bosnia-Herzegovina?
This has nothing to do with who is about to become president, and everything to do with the way America is going. Police are less able to do their jobs in the wakes of riots due to killing criminals (insane, I know), and criminals move in to fill the vacuum. We feel this less in Nebraska, in my opinion, but the forces are still here that attempt to push us in that direction (I’m looking at you, Ernie Chambers).
Should such a thing happen I want to be able to defend hearth and home, as well as the community I live in. I want the neighborhoods, schools, and businesses here to remain in the event that the U.S. falls like so many other empires in history. A strong economy and strong local community can help that.
This post is just one in a string of thoughts I’ve been having, and I admit is disjointed and incomplete. I buy as local as possible to keep the local economy and community as strong as possible, and by supporting those individuals in our community that have small businesses here. It’s grossly imperfect. The businesses of my family and closest friends would override buying from the Ward of the city I live in. But should things go pear-shaped in our country I would hope that the building of this community would help weather the storm.
This doesn’t mean I won’t buy outside my community, of course. There are areas of Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska that I love visiting and staying at. Besides that I love to travel, and Boston, Dallas, Denver, and Sacramento are just a few cities which I will continue to visit and spend my money in. And there are products I have to go outside of where I live to buy, such as the Qalo rings my wife and I wear so we don’t damage our actual wedding rings, or the Apple laptop I write most of my blog posts and stories on.
That said, if my family and closest friends all moved to where I lived, it would be a lot easier… 😉
Superior Estates Winery
A shameless plug for my uncle’s winery. His wines are delicious, and most run about $16.99. They have even beaten many wines from Napa Valley in national contests. Go check them out: http://www.superiorestateswinery.com/
So it’s been almost two weeks since my last blog post. Life is busy as usual. Kids are crazy. My waifu needs love. I have work and the National Guard. Blogging seems to take a back seat.
And that’s okay.
But now, with my son napping, and my wife and daughter running errands, it’s just me and the doges outside.
My phone says it’s 48 degrees out. I think it’s lying. It feels so much warmer.
I took the day off for St. Patrick’s Day. While I’m part Irish, and a good Catholic, I did not start drinking until 11:30AM Central (in ‘Merica). I know, I’m way behind. But at least I’m not committing the mortal sin of not drinking on St. Patty’s Day.
Though we don’t get Yuengling in Nebraska, we do have Lucky Bucket and it’s just as good, in my opinion. And I’ll be drinking plenty today.
So happy St. Patrick’s Day from me and mine to you and yours. 🙂
Until next time!…
Growing up my parents, and especially my father, taught me the value of work ethic. Every chance they got they would give me chores and tasks to complete, and to help them in different areas – cleaning rooms (even though they weren’t my room), carrying groceries, laying irrigation pipe on my Grandpa’s farm, learning to drive the tractor, etc.
As I got older this also translated into diligently working on my homework to get good grades in school. It helped me when I left for Basic Training and AIT in 2004 where the Army reinforced such values (amongst others) religiously. Coming back home (I was a Reservist) and going to college I tended to be head and shoulders above many of my peers who were only partying and piddling away their parents’ money. Now, I don’t believe all college kids are this way, there are many not in the military that still work hard. But going to UNL, and then UNO, it seemed there were many who pissed away college.
Fast forward to 2011 and I left the Active Army, and launched myself into the civilian work world. Again, while there are many hard working folk in corporate America, what some consider “hard work” and what I consider hard work seem to be two very different things. Sure, Union contracts at the company I work at do determine some of the things that can and cannot be done, but some people take this to the extreme. No, can’t do that small task because it’s not mine. This computer work is hard. Do you know how much work I put into loading files?
Coming out of the Army these complaints seemed like a joke. Really? Inputting data into a work management system is really that hard? I got it’s mundane, and having worked there for four and a half years now, some of it is VERY mundane.
But often I find people who refuse work that is even in the purview of their position. We are paid to be there and work anyway, why not work and make the work day go faster?
What do I do?
I do not say no to tasks given to me.
Sure some of them are dumb. But it’s work, it needs to be done. So I just volunteer and do it, or if my boss or someone else presents a problem which I can fix I propose a solution. And if I don’t know? I research and find out, or try and, if I fail, try again.
I just do it (this blog has no connection to Nike in the ’90s).
And that is where I feel the work ethic of many others is lacking today. Maybe this has always been an issue. Maybe even the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt or Roman Centurions complained about how some of their workers or soldiers refused to do what was asked of them.
Instead a lot of people complain. Why do I have to do it? Why can’t we just not do it?
I hate to break this to some, but your boss generally isn’t creating stupid tasks out of thin air. A spreadsheet needs to be made to track something. There is most likely a requirement from upper management or auditing or finance demanding it be done. Your boss is there to manage work and put out fires. If you’re like me (I’m a buyer in my organization), you do the work-work.
Some may think their boss is just being an arrogant jerk.
But what if, instead, your boss is simply confident in giving you work because they know you will get it done and produce a high quality product?
Some may think they are given all the dirt tasks.
But what if no one else, or very few people, in your department will do those tasks?
I have also found that doing side tasks is an excellent way to improve one’s own image and exposure. Don’t like the level of job you are at? Take on extra tasks; it gets your name out into your organization, or, if you want to move on, it pads your resume.
For example, I didn’t have to take on the task of managing a SharePoint site for my department, or build a spreadsheet to track original spend on services and materials, and what we are saving now. I took on those tasks because they needed to be done. The result has been overwhelming exposure in my company – people talking about how hard I’ve worked and how I didn’t say no.
I’d say I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I am. I worked hard – some because working hard is what I do, some because I’m a team player, and some because what we do in my line of work (supply chain) is interesting to me. And it’s paid off.
And if you truly work hard and are a team player, you can toot your own horn, too. Sometimes our society puts down those who are confident in what they’ve done – don’t let them get you down. Keep going, you’ll get ahead of them while they’re still whining.
“But,” you say, “my boss really is trying to make my life miserable.”
You have a choice. Quit and find a new job is a viable option. But what if you took on the worthless tasks your jerk of a boss gives you, intent on making your life miserable, and instead you work hard, consistently accomplishing everything ahead of schedule and/or ahead of expectations? You could stick it to your boss, and could make waves in your organization in the process.
“I can’t do that.” “It’ll never happen.” “I’ll always hate my job.” “I just always have to put up with this BS.”
Unfortunately I hear that more often than not. Sure there’s BS in every organization, regardless of where you are. But, like Dale Carnegie said in How to Make Friends and Influence People, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”
Now, if your boss really is abusive – truly, poisonously abusive – then it’s time to speak up and do something about it (sit-down and talk, HR complaint, legal action, etc.). Don’t think I’m saying not to. There is a line, and unfortunately some people cross it. Address that issue with a vengeance.
While some may be gun-shy sharing their failures, I generally am not. They are learning experiences in my life which I can draw from. Sure they were hard then, but I’ve grown and changed a lot since then and can look back on my failures and say, “That’s who I was then, look at me now.”
As a brand new officer in the Army I struggled in my first true leadership position (for those non-military types, it’s called a Platoon Leader in the Army). Challenges were placed before me, and instead of trying to be a team player (yes, you still have to be a team player as a leader and/or manager) or finding alternate solutions I complained. I shut down. I gave up.
Now I could scape goat others in my organization for my failures. My boss didn’t like me on a personal level. The XO of the unit I was in undermined me at every turn. Even our Squadron Commander didn’t like me. Months later people would say, “They screwed you, sir!” And yeah, they did.
But had I done what I needed to do, if I had been a true hard worker, adapting and overcoming, and by extension a true leader, their actions against me wouldn’t have mattered. I could have been successful in spite of the challenges they placed before me. Instead I gave up and slunk away with my tail between my legs.
There were other factors, too, that led to my failure (an unrealistic view of how the Army should be; poor networking or people skills; complete loss of confidence in myself), but my piss-poor work ethic was definitely a major driver. I most likely could have overcome my other shortcomings had I just worked harder.
Since then I have grown much as an individual and a professional. I had good friends and mentors that helped me lift myself back up, while also teaching me to step back and look at myself, overcome my pride (we all have some – I had a lot), and identify my shortfalls. Wherever I go in the civilian world and the military (I’m in the National Guard now) I seek out mentors while continuing to improve myself. And no matter where I go, I always focus on working hard.
It seems to me these days that too many people whine and try to get out of work, instead of just working hard. Whether it’s a misunderstanding of their boss’ intentions, or even if their boss is a jerk, people seem to be more inclined to complain rather than fight to overcome the challenges placed before them.
Having a strong work ethic, fighting to overcome the challenges at work or in our everyday lives, and persevering in the face of adversity is what defines us, makes us stronger, and could lead to raises and promotions we didn’t think we could achieve otherwise.
So the next time you’re at work and think, “This sucks,” instead put your nose to the grindstone, as the saying goes, and focus on doing the best at the task given to you. It makes the day go quicker, and can enhance your image and exposure in your organization.
Until next time…