If you love something, set it free. When it doesn’t come back you can demand 400 million dollars.
What good is it to have everything if you must trade your soul for it? That paraphrase of well-known scripture captures a notion embraced by members of all faiths as well as those with no professed faith. People from all backgrounds, of both extreme left and extreme right ideology, of liberal and conservative theology, as well as avowed secular humanists and all points between can generally agree on the basic tenant of that expression. There seems to be a common thread of yearning for the days when life actually had living as one of it’s major component parts. This topic came front and center for me a few years back with the news of the 400 million dollar retirement payout to the CEO of Exxon Mobile Corporation.
How in the world did I relate that headline grabbing compensation package to a growing crisis of shrinking free time? Well, I considered what that man’s life must have been like as he worked his way up the ranks of corporate America. Having experienced the dynamic of which I speak, I can say with certainty that there exists a point in his past where the line that separates the man from the company became so blurred that it was no longer discernible. At that point his soul was led to a vault in the basement of the headquarters. It was locked inside, and never allowed a breath of freedom again. When his compensation could be measured by dollars per minute in the extreme, you can bet the company owned every minute of every day. Often one soul is not enough and the spouse of the executive even agrees to put their soul in the vault as well.
The rest of the tens of thousands of employees exist in either the knowledge of, denial of, or ignorance of the fact that the reward for dedication and stellar performance will be the opportunity to one day hand their soul over as well. Those who wish to keep their soul face a frustration daily that is compelling. No matter how hard they work and how smart they are they know they must surrender themselves to achieve what they are qualified to achieve. Qualification is not enough. This struggle manifests in office politics, but there is far more at stake than such trivialities.
Consider that employees spend the lion’s share of their time either at their office or working from home. There used to be time for a family to grow together, to learn about prides and prejudices and life lessons together, and to place their own “Smith Family Stamp” on the ways of the world. Now this socialization no longer has adequate time to occur. Employers (there are many exceptions to this, but generally once past a certain size these attributes are unavoidable in western companies) attempt to socialize workers. Workshops like safety and diversity training take the place of common sense natural home-taught worldly wisdom. Once this dumbed down common sense is embraced, many employees will trade a little piece of their soul for a copy of “Who Moved My Cheese”.
Employers see benefit to this system. This system works well in a feminist context. Top down illusory patriarchy is comfortable with this level of influence over employees, and feminism fits well with the mandatory social training that occurs inside companies. Even shareholders are duped. They buy the stock for returns. Yet they sit and watch millions spent on things that have nothing whatsoever to do with profits. This whole scenario is so well hidden in plain sight that when the topic is broached in a random group either eyes glass over as the idea gets no traction, or vehement denial is verbalized. The best scam is the one never discovered.
I don’t know about these super duper CEO’s anyway. When one man develops a cult of personality so great that he can move share prices by going on a diet, there is a true disconnect between running a company and running an image. I never bought the fact that Jack Welch was a genius for example, very smart, yes, but personally responsible for what happened at GE, nah. There are countless examples just like him. Read their post- retirement books, but read them slowly, and see if you find one seriously new insightful tidbit of operational wisdom. Not really.
The Exxon Mobil guy earned a lot of money. The price of oil has gone up by an order of magnitude and gasoline a huge multiple from 1998 to today. Events like 911 and hurricanes aside, being prevented from adding refining and drilling capacity by environmentalists led to supply side restrictions causing price increases. Now, because we are stuck with these accidental limitations, we all have to pay. A truly visionary performance would have been one that both helped to avert the current crisis and sustain solid profitability.
Futures markets define pricing of energy from moment to moment. Less efficient markets lack the transactional frequency to establish a speculative market around them. Some things are only bought and sold every few years, and we are not always aware of the price.
But we did establish a new market value recently.
The value of one man’s soul is 400 million dollars.