Status and Success; Mess; Ends Against the Middle; Amazed and Amused; Econ Recon: Buy Backs and Cat’s Feet

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
The secret of getting started
is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks
into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”

 Mark Twain

Status Monkeys and Success Robots

Like most of us, WSJ Columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan was shocked but not surprised regarding the evolving scandal of wealthy parents securing admission of their progeny to elite schools through bribery and fraud, which she describes as  “status monkeys creating success robots.” 

In a recent column she asks us to challenge our assumptions about the value of “elite schools” and shares some telling personal encounters with students who are only striving for success; and others who are striving to be educated. Maybe it’s time to focus on not what is “best “ for the young people in our lives, but what is good”  for them. I hope you will read and forward Ms. Noonan’s compelling article, “Kids, Don’t Become Success Robots.”

If you’re still concerned that your child will be at a disadvantage without a degree from the right school, check out this Forbes article that summarizes research on the value of an expensive sheepskin, concluding that “celebrities and business leaders trying to bribe their kids’ way into elite colleges aren’t just dishonest, they are profoundly misguided. Dirty tricks will not help their kids earn more. For that, they need to teach their kids hard work and ambition.”

Genesis of a Mess

When you’re trying to understand a problem you’re trying to solve, it sometimes helps to ask why it’s your problem. When it comes to providing healthcare benefits to employees, more than a few CEOs have wondered how they ended up with this mess on their desks.

Harvard Business Review recently published a short and excellent article tracing the evolution of healthcare benefits from the 1880s to today. It may be cold comfort but this article answers the question: “why do employers provide healthcare in the first place?

Disruption –  Both Ends Against the Middle

Amazon rocked the grocery world two years ago when it bought premium grocer Whole Foods. The distribution giant is now looking to secure the other end of the grocery market with a new format that is sure to disrupt mainstream grocers like Kroger and Wal-Mart.

Amazon offers interesting lessons in strategy for all us since going to the grocery store is nearly a universal experience. For a deeper dive on Amazon’s latest move, check out this Wharton Business School blog posting (offered in both text and audio) featuring retail guru Barbara Kahn who explores the question “Can Amazon Reinvent the Traditional Supermarket?”

Little Fun: Amazed and Amused

Entertainment is at its best when we’re amazed and amused.  If you’re open to 3 minutes and 15 seconds of both, check out four women who offer a stunning musical combination of  talent, comedy and teamwork.

If you never played a musical instrument you’ll be amused; if you have, you’ll be amazed.  Spend a few magical minutes with this Competitive Foursome.

Econ Recon

A Buyback Primer: Companies buying back their own stock have come under criticism as an improper use of the company’s resources not aligned with the public interest. It will come as no surprise that many of those critiques are well intentioned but uninformed. Dr. Brian Wesbury looks at the mechanics and effects of stock buybacks in a one page blog posting that will leave you more informed than most on the topic.

The Economy’s “Little Cat Feet:” The poet Carl Sandberg wrote that “the fog comes on little cat feet.”  Recessions can arrive that way as well, but not without warning for those who know where, and how, to look to look for the signs.

Brian Beaulieu, CEO of ITR Economics, knows how and offers a quick lesson. In a short blog posting he shares some basic, but often overlooked, methodology and Three Subtle (and Worrisome) Signs You Should Know for the economy in the short term.



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