While it’s not really easy to be successful anywhere, it is much easier in America. It’s not our free enterprise system that makes it easier—that system exists in many parts of the world. It’s much simpler than that. In America we don’t sweat the small stuff, and for the most part, government stays out of our way except to make sure we don’t kill or steal too much from one another. That’s what government should do.
Here’s what makes America exceptional: we don’t clutter up our lives with a million petty rules that make daily life impossible. Let me give you a simple but silly example: Years ago, when I worked in England, I needed to buy postage for our stamp machine. Over there they called it a “franking machine,” but it simply puts postage on an envelope. I stamped all our envelopes and brought them home with me to drop off at the Royal Mail … but I made the mistake of taking a different route home, so I went to a different Royal Mail office.
Royal Mail: We can’t accept these.
Me: Why not?
Royal Mail: You bought the postage at a different office. You need to bring your mail there.
Now I don’t really know if they were having fun with me (“taking the piss,” as the English would say), but they wouldn’t accept my mail. It’s a silly thing, really, but it illustrates the difference between England and America. Here I can give my mail to any post office, and they’ll take it and then throw it away.
I can give you another example from Austria. I was working as a consultant for a large bank, and they sent me to fix this resort in the Alps. It wasn’t long before I identified several people who just weren’t able to do their jobs and needed to be fired. This was in May. I went to discuss their firing with the General Manager, who told me I couldn’t fire them unless I found them another job first that paid them the same or more. What?
In Austria you can only fire an employee at the end of a quarter, and you have to give them three months’ notice so they can find another job. Since this was May, I had to give notice by the end of June, and couldn’t fire them until the end of September. Just what you want—an employee who still works for you knowing that you’re going to fire him in five months. But that’s the way it was, and nothing I could do would change it.
In America, it’s simple. You call the employee in, tell them things aren’t working out, and right now you’re going to free up their future. If they don’t get that, you tell them you’ve decided to part company. If they still don’t get it you tell them their ass is fired and to pack their s$%t and get the hell out—and if that doesn’t work, you call the cops to arrest them for trespassing. God bless America! See how much easier it is here?
Let me explain how to be successful in America:
The first thing you need to succeed in America is a lawyer. Now, everyone in America hates lawyers. (Except for their own lawyers, of course. Your own lawyer is a good guy; it’s the rest of them we can all do without.) But there are so many laws, rules and regulations that you simply can’t navigate them all without some decent legal help. Just the government forms alone will bury you. Plus everyone in America likes to sue everyone else. You don’t even need a good reason.
A few years ago I hired an African-American employee on a thirty-day trial period to see if he could do the job I’d hired him for. He couldn’t, so after three weeks I let him go. A week after that he sued me for discrimination. I had to hire a lawyer and drive to Boston for the hearing. I told them that I obviously hadn’t fired him for being African-American because I knew he was African-American when I hired him. He didn’t even show up for the hearing; he just wanted to cost me trouble and money. Case dismissed, but it still cost me.
The next thing you need is a good accountant. They tell me that accounting is not a very creative profession, but I’m here to tell you that it can be if it’s done right. I’m not saying you should cheat or not keep good books. I’m just saying there are good books and then there are good books. You need a guy who can help you keep the second kind, because the government is going to try to take as much as they can from you, and it’s your God-given right as an American not to let them.
Finally, you need a good banker, because you’re going to need money—and lots of it. When you need money, all you have to do is prove to the banker that you don’t need any money and they’ll loan you all you want. Of course if you really need money, forget it—they won’t give you anything because you’re not a good risk. Got it?
So come to America, gather up your own Unholy Trinity of experts, and pretty soon you too can be living the good life.