Ukrainian Elevators, Washington DC Schools, and the War Against Bureaucracy

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In 1994, my friend Fred moved to Kiev Ukraine. He taught English for 9 months.

Every couple of months or so I’d receive a big fat photocopied letter in the mail from Fred. He told strangest stories I’ve ever heard.

One of the first things the communists did when they moved in was remove all the street signs. How are you going to go anywhere outside your familiar neighborhood if there’s no street signs? Most of those signs were still missing when Fred got there.

Fred described how the Soviets built apartment buildings, floor plans and elevators in such a devilishly clever way that you never met your next-door neighbors. Not coming, not going.

Everything in communist society was engineered for loneliness, isolation and dependence on government.

The number of people the average Ukrainian citizen actually trusted could be counted on one hand. Everyone else was likely a spy, a thief or government agent.

Fred said where he lived, the average Ukrainian man died at age 45 from alcoholism and despair.

Davis Guggenheim shot a documentary about the US Public School System called “Waiting For Superman.” In this film he features inner city kids waiting for lottery-style tickets out of the mediocre schools and into charter schools.

In Washington DC, where Congressmen and Lobbyists dine on caviar, 8th graders have the lowest reading scores in the country. The movie features Michelle Rhee who closed more than 20 under-performing schools and fired hundreds of teachers.

She tried to persuade the local teachers’ union to give up tenure in exchange for merit-based salaries of up to $130,000 per year.

The teachers’ union shot it down.

They preferred a system that worked for school bureaucracies and teachers. Not a system that favored children.

In a bureaucracy, nameless, faceless people tweak knobs in their systems and make decisions that affect you personally. You have no means of recourse.

"What should I do next to grow my business this year?" Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the most bang for your buck.

This is how people get DE-Humanized. This is how you KILL hope.

How do you humanize people? How do you build hope?

  • You put up street signs everywhere you can. You give people every imaginable road map to wherever they want to go.
  • You connect individuals with each other. You encourage conversation and interaction. You build communities.
  • You make it possible for great teachers to gain respect and earn a tremendous income.
  • You reward mediocrity with a big fat zero
  • Every teacher, every professor, every instructor infuses their lectures with insight and PERSONALITY
  • You don’t merely teach procedures, knowledge or facts. You empower people to learn from an alter-ego. The student doesn’t just know what the teacher knows; he or she knows how the professor THINKS.

My friend, welcome to the entrepreneurial world of the 21st century. We do all these things and more. Welcome to a world where….

  • No matter what you want to do, there’s someone who can teach you
  • A first-class business prof can earn a million dollars a year… and boring, ineffective teachers get zero
  • There’s no unions, there’s no bureaucracy, only a dizzying supermarket of choices splayed in front of you

In college at my engineering job I worked next to a guy named Boris who was from Russia. He said some people defected from the USSR, came to the USA, and were so overwhelmed by the choices in the supermarket that they freaked out and caught the first flight home.

For them, prison was more comfortable than freedom.

You live in the most un-communist world imaginable. One where successful personalities are eager to show you the way.

What are YOU doing about it?

Perry Marshall

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

64 Comments on “Ukrainian Elevators, Washington DC Schools, and the War Against Bureaucracy”

  1. I was recently contacted by a salesman that offered me help I of course thought he was automatically out for my money. However, it turns out after research he was a supervisor that actually reached out his hand to help. After reading that last post it made me inspired to take advantage of one of the many processes available in our country.

  2. I find it amusing that a US based internet marketing guru still writes as though noone outside of the US will be reading the article. Surely one of the first principles of internet marketing is to realise that the internet is big…the world is big…there are many of us who live outside of the USA, and very happily.

  3. Very good post and great comments. I think most of the thinking springs from two different views of the world. Those who think everything is limited and already counted want to shut things down and try to distribute what is counted. This produces negative dark forecasts and oppressive depressing rulers. Those who believe in the unlimited nature of things believe answers and solutions will come so there will be enough for all so let the natural order or process work. The believers in unlimited resources are optimistic and upbeat because the next rock they turn over may reveal the answer to the last challenge. The catch to all this is how we are hardwired. We naturally attract experiences in agreement with our beliefs so both sides are convinced they are right without realizing the real lesson is to change yourself then you outcomes will change.

  4. I am a Japanese living in Yokohama, Japan but had lots of back and forth between various cities in US during 60 and 90es. I found a suitable city for me to live and working hard to be there for my final few years. ‘Cause I am 68 old now.

    Your comment on the case in Washington DC is disappointing. I have been thinking that America could be the last resort to kill the bureaucracy because of your spirit on disclosure of information. I take the bureaucracy is the tactics for bureaucrats to protect themselves. To do that, for the case of Japan, they issue so many regulation just to show the value of themselves. I mean that the value is not for the public, as you point out, but to put value of their own existence.

    As the consequences, regulation has started to say how the public had to act and behave. Then there are so many regulation that can be called simply hilarious anecdote. And worse is that public has started to ask more to regulate something and anything. This tendency has become apparent as the things become clear with current nuclear plant occurrence.

    So, it may be wrong to live peacefully such a long period of time. It may be better we stir the world every 50 to 60 years so that the whole thing will start all over again. In that, the bureaucrats may be killed in war and every citizens will argue how to build the new world for themselves.

    1. Well yuichi…Among the several problems that I see with Your analysis is that…in times of war…”the bureaucrats” are generally The LAST to die & The FIRST to be “resurrected” once the war is over.

      Like IT or NOT…Modern Existence DEPENDS ON The Efficient Operation of Bureaucracies–BOTH–Public (Taxpayer Supported) Bureaucracies AND ALL THE PRIVATE BUREAUCRACIES THAT OPERATE IN PARALLEL WITH THEIR PUBLICLY FUNDED SISTER INSTITUTIONS.

      Private Schools & Universities
      The Insurance Industries
      Most Major Corporations of All Types & Stripes…

      Are but a few examples of Private Bureaucracies that inspired & gave rise to Public Bureaucracies–So That NOW–Public & Private Sectors Co-Exist In Ever-CHANGING!…AND Mutual…Dependence & Support & Competition.

      The computing capability that allows us to hold This Conversation in REAL TIME wouldn’t have ARRIVED SO SOON…if “Powers That Be” had waited on Private Efforts ONLY to develop it. The US Military & Space & Weather Programs Funded & Developed MUCH of The Early Days of This Technology…and NO DOUBT…There Are STILL A LOT of Guyz Who Are NOT HAPPY That “Their Ball” Got Taken Away And Handed Over To…the general public & private ownership.

      Without All The Work of All The “Computer Nerds” Employed By Govt/Military and Now–Mass Media Bureaucracies…The World Would NOT Have Been Informed of The Devastating News From Yokohama, Japan In As Timely or Graphic A Manner–Either. I am so terribly sorry for all the suffering that Your Home IS Enduring…With Such Grace & Dignity…And Trust That–All Things Considered–You Are OK.


  5. Heres the cynic. I have yet to find a successful person who is willing to show the REAL way, just a bunch of crooks selling yesterdays second hand news.
    Your info Perry is rock solid, but I have yet to find a vehicle to apply it to.
    I have repeatedly asked for help and been ignored…Pity.

    1. If you want help you can join Mastermind Club and ask for help on the forum. You can buy a course and apply it. The only free help I supply is the 1000+ free articles, audios and videos on my website. If you want to build a business, invest in it. I run a business, not a charity.

  6. I was in Kiev in 1992 on a missions/sports/support trip just after the fall. Your telling of the stories from that era ring very true to me Perry.

    The depression on the faces and the “greyness” of the entire place was THICK. Crammed buses of sad faces. Heads down, feet shuffling. I can give you pictures if you’d like. It was startling to witness.

    I remember many sign-less streets and recall next to nothing with new paint or “pride” showing through. It was as if no one owned anything and no one cared to. No one had big plans except possibly “escape”.

    We passed out 10,000 bibles in a matter of minutes to crowds CLAMORING for them because up until recently they had been illegal propaganda. We had to “hide” on our bus and pass them out through the window for fear of being crushed by the crowds. For many weeks after that we’d see our free bibles being sold on the streets as many were hungrier physically than spiritually.

    I’ll take freedom, free-markets, liberty, and “rule of law” (as opposed to rule of a dictator or committee) ANY DAY over what I’ve seen in my travels. I hope we can preserve these things in the U.S.

    “Where there is Liberty, there is my country.” Ben Franklin

  7. Perry,

    There’s another thing you don’t know enough to write about – merit-based salaries. Who decides which teachers get the salary boost? Although such a system sounds great, in the end it becomes just as politically motivated as the bureaucratic system it replaced, and quite possibly worse because there are no checks and balances on jealous/resentful/trying-to-get-ahead-no-matter-who- they-destroy-in-the-process teachers and administrators making the salary decisions. Don’t kid yourself that the kids have anything to do with it, or that it would be for the kid’s benefit. That’s a complete delusion.

    As a former teacher, I’ve seen other teachers and administrators work their hardest to ruin careers of excellent teachers they didn’t like/didn’t understand/were jealous of/had different colored skin/were smart and capable enough to take over their position in the future. I started to really appreciate the tenure system because it maintains the greatest degree of fairness and objectivity and protected good teachers from being fired for political reasons. That fairness would quickly go out the window without a firm system in place.

    And maybe you don’t realize that teachers are held under strict control of their administration, their school district and most of all, their state government. Teachers are not free to teach as they see fit, not at all. The state provides a list of approved texts and methods and that’s all the choices the district gets. The district then makes the final selections and that’s what the teachers get. Even though a teacher may know exactly what to do to best help her students, if it is a method not prescribed by the state, the teacher CANNOT use it! I nearly got fired for using a reading method that the school had “outlawed.”

    Don’t you know that when the state and district changes books, the teacher is accountable for every single copy of the old books? You can’t leave a single copy of an old book in the classroom if the district has changed over (even if it was the best text in the world).

    Don’t get on the teachers case. If you want to improve education, do it at the state level – if you can possibly get the legislators to do anything right!


    PS I’ve also been to several former communist countries and never saw a single apartment building as you described. As a matter of fact, people there know their neighbors far more than we do here. Most of the people there feel they are in the same boat and help each other much more than here. There is more community spirit. Don’t you remember seeing citizens singing together on street corners all night during solidarity?

    The most notable feature about their apartment buildings is that the plumbing is outside the wall (for easy access). Looks awful. And often, several families have to share one bathroom. And that puts them in contact with each other more.

    1. With total respect to and for teachers, I would love to see teachers display this much passion when it comes to weeding out the underperforming teachers and processes that are wasting tax payer dollars and not preparing kids for the 21st century. We have seen the falling rankings, seen the studies, seen the reports and we see lots of lessons learned so pointing a finger and blaming the state is not going to solve the issues. Most issues come down to situational awareness and accountability at the individual level and we have enough history to show that changes are necessary at the teacher level, union level, school level and state level…I guess building hope and humanizing people makes sense.

    2. Hi Rufina,

      You are probably right that merit based salaries in a government-run educational system will possibly make things worse.

      I think that educational systems should not be run by government at all. The eductional system should be run by private organizations and individuals. The government may give vouchers to poorer parents which they can use to pay for the school of their children, so that all children get education.

      This way, the government won’t run the school system but will only finance it.

      I heard rumors that Belgium has a system like that, but I don’t know any details. Probably they still have government run schools but due to the vouchers, there is fairer competition with private schools.

      Anyways, a private school system will increase competition and will als increase variety in the school system. Therefore, skill sets of people will be more different which should lead to higher salaries for everybody because there is less commoditization of skill as produced by government-run schools. Government schools tend to generate all-the-same-knowledge-and-skills for everybody.

      All-the-same-knowledge-and-skills for everybody will generate a mass of low-payed, exchangable people and unemployment while generating a shortage of many of the skills which are not taught in the goverment system. Therefore generating very-high payed jobs or business opportunities for the few who manage to escape the government system.

      This generates the paradoxon that uniformity in the eductional system generates very large variation in salaries. Most politicians don’t get that. ( or they are actually on the payroll of those big corporations who profit from this system. )

  8. Hey Perry…I appreciate your message as I think it was more about humanizing people and building hope, or at least I hope it was because I am more of a visionary than a historian.

    Your comments about giving people every imaginable road map to where ever they want to go, connecting individuals, rewarding mediocrity and not just merely teaching procedures or knowledge are right on.

    I have been researching hundreds and hundreds of lessons learned, incidents, headlines and studies over the past several years and a ‘gapidemic’ is spreading and affecting more and more organizations around the world — people are an organization’s most valuable assets and people are an organization’s weakest links. This growing gap seems weird, but it is true and the costs are staggering.

    Love your e-mails.


  9. The stories are always thought provoking; and, sometimes, they hit home… really hard.
    Information has become an addiction for me, and overload has already landed like a truckload of bricks. Suggestions?

    1. Unsubscribe from everyone who’s not giving you solid content. Cut your email box noise factor by 3/4 and you’ll feel better.

  10. I moved to Chicago in 2000 from Ukraine. The only true thing that you (Fred?) telling here about Ukraine is about Ukrainian citizens dependence on government. Everything else is a big lie. After living for 11 years here in the US, I can tell a lot of strangest stories about the US. However, that would be just for friends and not for business mailing list subscribers (to build credibility?). Now, I feel offended by your “story”. Would you please send something to the same list with your excuses?

    1. @Mark, @Mike, @Viktor:

      I apologize for any offense. It could be possible my facts are wrong. I’m going from memory of what Fred told me 15 years ago. Fred was a pretty level headed guy and I’m inclined to think what he was reporting was accurate with regard to some event somewhere. Did the Soviets take down street signs? Did they design some buildings to isolate people? Maybe a few, maybe in some places.

      No doubt Ukraine is a much more advanced place now than it used to be. And yes, Viktor, the US is a very strange place sometimes too.


    2. Yeah Viktor… My family moved to Chicago (well…3 blocks west of the boarder with Chicago–Austin Blvd at approx Jackson Blvd) in 1959 from Tampa FL…So I Know What You Mean. Could A Metro-Area That Raised Up A Son Like–John Belushi–BE ANYTHING BUT…A Strange Story ?? If You haven’t seen “The Blues Brothers” movie–Rent IT…It’s A Quintessential “CHICAGO” Story…As Is “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

      Chicago IS STILL…A Very “Ethnic” City…Home To Many Fairly Recent Arrivals–Such As Yourself–As Well As Many Others Who…Tho’ They Migrated To America Several Generations Ago…They’ve Retained MOST of The Traditions & FOODS & Close Connections To FOOD & Family & Culture & FOOD…Did I Mention–FOOD?–That Were “Brought Over On The Boat.”

      The MOST COMMON Expression To Describe These “Close Encounters of An Ethnic Kind” IS…”The American Melting Pot”…However–I think that “The American Cocktail” BETTER Captures The “Flavor Flav” & Potency of…Jes’ What We Got “Goin’ ON”…Over HERE.

  11. Communism was not the worst thing to happen but it was demonised the worst, it is surprising that so called place choice people are taxed to death as we speak the credit crunch has prompted some to start wars as form of reviving their economise. I understand that in capitalist states they are more in beggars than hawkers (street traders) one Jewish friend of mine who visited his son in America from South Africa in 1994 told me so. Then how come still capitalism still preferred to be fair while it benefits the few? Only the only Pop John Paul confessed that it was not all bad with communism it eradicated unemployment in then Russia is that not good thing to have? Communist China as used to be called by the advocates of capitalism today it the world’s Factory is that good thing which come out communism?

    Check this “9 Great Lies of Sales & Marketing”

    1. Capitalism benefits the few? Try capitalism benefits everyone who doesn’t live with their hand out.

      The only reason China is the “world’s factory” is that sheer demographics demand it. With their population they have no choice but to evolve and grow so they can feed the country. This is no positive offshoot of communism, it’s just survival.

      Then again, maybe you’d be happy with the $50 per week wages that a factory worker makes there. A true “win” for the masses.

  12. I think America needs to beware of corporatism, more than communism.

    Sure, government bureaucracy can be stifling here as well, but the real danger of corporatism is its insidiousness: Any attempt to bring these corporate oligarchs under control is met with complaints that “capitalism” is under threat – when what they mean is that their own feathered corporate nest is under attack.

    On the other hand, small businesses and entrepreneurs are increasingly floundering in the face of these corporations – and it is destroying the entrepreneurial spirit that birthed this country.

    For example, how many people do you think long to have their own business, and yet the thought of walking away from their company-provided healthcare package scares the life out of them?

    The current healthcare set up provides huge incentives for people to suffocate in the corporate bureaucracy rather than risking the health and financial ruin of their family by stepping away from it.

    Do you see how insidious this is?

  13. Perry,

    Having spent considerable time in Kiev during the late Soviet era I know that some of the details you relate (particularly the absurd bit about the architecture and people never meeting their neighbors) are inaccurate. Having teachers in my family — people who have dedicated their lives not to getting rich through Internet marketing but to spending long hours (have you ever corrected papers?) guiding the development of children in exchange for a modest lifestyle — I know that what you write is absolute crap.

    Even in the best public school systems, teachers today are treated with enormous disrespect. They are continually confronted with parents who complain to the administration if their little emperor or empress gets a “B” that might someday block them from getting into the best college. In the old days, when a child received a poor grade the parents took the matter up with the child, not the principal. Now there is a widespread disrespect for teachers, and your column is a just the latest example.

    In underperforming school systems, teachers are expected to personally make up for all the social ills (drug-addicted single parents, gang influence) that have befallen our cities — befallen them not because of “socialist” policies but because free-market forces have encouraged a collapse in American manufacturing and a middle-class exodus to suburbia. Many sections of our cities have long-since (it goes back decades now) been reduced to dysfunctional wastelands, and yet it’s the teachers’ fault that many of these neglected, traumatized kids can’t read?

    I’m a free-market capitalist. I hated the Soviet Union. But do me a favor: Stop scape-goating teachers.

    1. Mike- As a teacher–one of The Best Things that EVER happened to Me was getting downsized out of Public Schools and into Privates.

      Don’t get me wrong…No Human System IS or WILL EVER BE…Perfect–And That Includes All Schools & School Systems. There IS & WILL ALWAYS BE Room For Improvement AND Room For Criticism…

      However–THAT Said–The Teachers Unions That I HAD TO JOIN (or my wages would’ve been garnished for 90% of the Union Dues ANYWAY) back in the 1970’s & 1980’s Had ALREADY Been Playing “Their Students” As Pawns–In The YEARS of Endless Rounds of Contract Negotiations. Back THEN–I thought…THIS Is So Awful–IT Just Can’t Get Much Worse! How WRONG Can One Be? It’s Taken ANOTHER Generation To START To Effect Some REAL CHANGE!

      AND…Merit Pay/Promotion/Retention For Teachers?–

      OF COURSE THERE NEEDS TO BE A SYSTEM of MERIT PAY & PROMOTION & RETENTION FOR OUR NATION’S TEACHERS–With The Sorts of Checks & Balances That Our Nation Has DEMO’ed The Longest & Most Effective Track Record IN CONSTRUCTING.

  14. This is such a great article. Very inspiring. Just what I needed. I’m already experiencing breakthrough in my life. And I realize all the wrongs of the world, but I don’t focus on them. All I can do is communicate, connect, and inspire.

    It’s a great time to be alive. I’ve taken advantage of what’s been offered me by several marketers. I used to be an info-junkie. Now I’m an action taker. I’ve taken all my info and put it into action and I’m on the phone with sellers, buyers, and financing guys and gals all day long. I’m only a few weeks from my first closing and I’m expecting it to be six figures or very close. Not bad for my first deal.

    I appreciate you greatly Perry. After I finish up a few of my RE goals, I’m going back into internet marketing and I plan to dominate. But only because I’ll be following you and a bunch of guys like you.

    Carpe Diem

    1. Allen- THIS IS Such Good News!…However…I have been trying to find a way to Advise–CAUTION–concerning The Closing of Your First Deal…That Doesn’t Sound TOO Discouraging.

      The Fact IS–That whether You’re…”only a few weeks from [Your] first closing”…or only a few hours/minutes from Your first closing…A LOT Can CHANGE! In The End-Zone To Halt A Deal From Going Onto A Successful Closing…So…

      1. Don’t Take Your Eyes “Off The proverbial Ball”…

      2. Continue To Scout All Angles of The Deal To Make Sure That IT SERVES THE BEST INTERESTS of All Involved Parties…In An Even-Handed Manner…

      3. Keep Detailed & Well-Organized Records of ALL COMMUNICATIONS Related To The Deal:

      Dates & Times
      Phone Numbers & Email Addresses
      Company Names/Titles & Corporate Addresses
      Detailed Notes of The Conversation(s)–

      4. Follow Up All Verbal Communications With Clear & Coherent WRITTEN Summary Statements of The Info Exchanged & Confirm With All Involved Parties That They Understand & Are In Agreement…or…Learn What Issues/Questions Need Further Resolution…And Do Your “Homework”–To The BEST of Your Ability–Right On Up To The Closing Date–So That Everyone Arrives At The–Hoped For–Closing…Just As Informed & Knowledgeable & CONFIDENT That What You Are Asking Them To Sign Onto IS A–GOOD & SOLID & TRUSTWORTHY DEAL…As Are You.


      I know that You HAVE To keep The Deal’s Numbers IN Your Head…BUT DON’T Allow Them To GO TO Your Head. Remind Yourself That:

      1. Your percentage of The Deal is a much smaller figure that The Gross…AND…

      2. You Have NOT YET Earned IT !!

  15. I am a “newbe” and that is the first from you that I have read. very interesting. First let me comment about schools. I spent my ninth to fourteenth years in air raid shelters. started work as an artist at 14. was no good at it did not learn to spell until the British army called me up for two years. Came to Canada, read all the books and listened to Earl Nightingale and all the Guru’s of that day (1959) went to night school and have retired after a successful life in sales. Have decided at the age of 80 to learn this internet marketing thing and it is a pleasure to read what you and Kevin Thompson are saying. it is never too late to learn. like your inspirational writings.
    Bram Ogden.

  16. Yup that is very accurate Perry.
    Micheal Payne has a great comment above.
    I doubt Perry is painting all school systems with one
    broad brush because there are as I found out this year
    some good schools here in Toronto which is” San Francisco lite” but we are slowly making folks realize socialism/marxism is not wanted by the masses here in Canada.
    And yes the government run socialist indoctrination centers have huge power here.
    Like Micheal above my wife and I are very involved with all our kids learn and do.
    Now unlike Micheal above I ACCEPT ALMOST NONE OF WHAT IS FORCED ON OUR KIDS by the socialist indoctrination centers.
    I question all to the point of being banned by my kids school to even go on the property…for as long as my kids are there.2013 my daughter is done there.
    My son is starting high school and is in the top 5% of his class all through school and he was accepted to a higher end school since he had to qualify.
    Still run by the government but run differently which did surprise me.
    So I can’t paint the whole system with one brush either.
    But I will fight these socialists until I die.
    I don’t hate much but I do hate the elitists in charge trying to control anything we do.
    Too many unions everywhere.

  17. Hi Perry,
    Loved your post. I went to Eastern Europe and it changed my DNA. I saw some beautiful villages, castles and the Carpathian Mountains – and I saw terrible poverty, crumbling cement apartments covered with lead paint and thousands of feral pets running in the streets. The “Policia” stood outside white vans with M-16 machine guns and watched life go by.

    I ran into some great people, but I had to bribe EVERYONE to get anything done. The average salary is less than 200 Euros a month. The homes were warm… but the people walking the streets kept their heads down and talked in whispers.

    Wake up call – most East Euro kids stayed in high school until they were 20 and had to pass brutal tests to graduate. Their level of education is scary good.

    I hired a few teens over there to set up a computer network.

    These kids were focused, whip-smart and did the job RIGHT in flash. They acted like total pros. But they didn’t crack a smile, grabbed my Euros and were out the door.

    I know and have worked with Russians. They described the big cities as a “no-man’s land” dominated by the Russian Mafia. They were thrilled to be America and Canada.

    Bottom-line, “emerging nations” have fragile, post-Commie economies, but the people are motivated, highly educated… and hungry for prosperity.

    Buna Ziua, Nuruc!

    Mark L instructor

  18. I love hearing this commentary. I was just talking to a tech support rep today about a cell phone issue. As she was suggesting I spend MY time to go through my contacts to correct a software error that arose on their system; I explained the following:

    Very much like the people who had to return to Russia for fear and frenzy of too many choices, we are taught to be drones. We have lots of choices, but we become mediocre by default. We are taught to accept customer service scripts from reps who don’t even know what the scripts mean, we accept that we should use our precious time to correct an error caused by a company whom we pay and who is our servant. (How many times have you been asked to call back at a later time because someone is not available rather than the rep saying s/he would be glad to take your information and have the someone call you? And you do call back, using your limited time on this earth to so it. And you pay the company you are calling to boot.)

    So, what’s the answer. Use thy brain. Take a moment to reason. Does it make sense to have robot don’t cares with low salaries and guaranteed jobs, or fewer artists who are creatively special and make good salaries.

    Don’t be a drone. Or recall Robert Ludlum’s Mac Hawkins statement that each person is her (he said his) own inventory. That means you make your choices. You don’t follow the leader, unless you want to.

    Also, if you want to support Teach Kids To Calm Themselves, text 106422 to 73774. Review here: Thanks.

    1. LOL…I “Get” Your Drift–D–But I MUST Say That…I have found “Creatively ‘Special’ Artists” To OFTEN Show LESS Concern For “Others’ Needs” Than Those…”robot don’t cares with low salaries and guaranteed jobs…”

  19. I am often thankful and considerate of the abundance of our nation, its freedoms and the opportunities we ALL have to develop and succeed. I enjoyed this posting very much. It touched some of the issues in our nation that weaken the US and make us lazy as a people.

  20. Hi Perry,

    An insightful post as usual, but you’re painting with an extremely broad brush. It’s the “no unions” part that got my hackles up. Are there abuses within labor unions? Yes — no question. But please be mindful of the corporate abuses that spawned labor unions in the first place. (Many of which would continue today if not for some form of organized labor.)

    Not all unions are bad and not all bureaucracies are bad — some do serve a legitimate purpose. The goal as you alluded to is education and empowerment to operate for the greatest good.

  21. Khe, khe
    I live in one of the Post-Soviet states and it is interesting to read such a comments ‘from aside’.

    I just wanted to add that these flats are also VERY small – 25 – 50 Square meters (270 ft² – 500 ft²).

    thanks for the post

  22. Hey Perry’

    Great message.These bureaucracies and Communism School Unions, oppress, oppress any of independent thought and inspiration.

  23. To bring up another point maybe it’s not just the school itself that is the problem but the hiring practices. Most jobs say “bachelor degree required” and throw out resumes of people with high skill levels and more field experience because they didn’t get beat in the head over time for 4-8 years. I think it’s part of the great lie that schools tell us because they need us to believe it to teach us to keep paying them. Imagine if that dissolved, where would the income come from? They’d have to be better at teaching to get the money, what a concept?! Now that I look at the system when a total overview, I realize how corrupt it is. I freakin hate schools and bachelor degrees.

  24. Scary. I’m about to send my daughter into her first year this fall. I keep wondering about what it’s going to do to her. The system failed me badly. I wonder who else it’s going to fail. Hopefully not my daughter. It weighs heavily on my mind as it looms.

  25. Perry,

    I love our emails – they always encourage me to think. I enjoy how you utilize “story telling” with vignettes and anecdotes to keep readers engaged.

    Thank you!

    Your topic today has encouraged to respond…to clarify.

    In your email, you (appear) to suggest ALL public schools are bad…that “Waiting For Superman” accurately depicts K-12 public education or that WFS is even a “documentary.”

    All public schools are NOT bad.

    “Waiting For Superman” is NOT a documentary, nor does it accurately portray (ALL) K-12 public schools.

    “Bad” (that is, ineffective) teachers are not protected by unions – effective principals have the tools to remove bad teachers.

    Guggenheim’s “movie” is a “take-out” piece, not a documentary. The charter model (KIPP) portrayed in the movie (and adopted by many charter schools) accepts only high-performing students with strong parental support.

    Two issues here:

    1. KIPP relies on incessant standardized testing to gauge performance. KIPP dwells on rote & regurgitation. Do you want your kids enjoying learning – engaged in WHOLE brain/body education or simply filled with FACTS and forced to REGURGITATE? With all respect, how many of you reading this even know exactly what your kids are studying and how the information is presented?
    2. Some involved parents (such as my wife and me) do NOT want our kids thinking school/education 24/7/365. TESTING is not the sole indicator of academic growth, contrary to what some of these political puppets supporting corporate take-over of education believe. My wife and I want our kids to learn how to think; to be exposed to learning opportunities beyond FACTS; to learn HOW to create their own opportunities (entrepreneur vs employee).
    3. Follow the money! If you follow the money, you will see why corporate America suddenly is taking a huge interest in K-12 education. Corporate puppets (aka “politicians”) sitting on both sides of the aisle want to create drones out of kids in order to create MORE profit for corporations creating, administering & grading all these TESTS – not at all nurturing kids to become entrepreneurs.

    If you want to see a different kind of movie depicting K-12 education, see “Race To Nowhere” – it’s not in movie theaters; it’s not (yet) on DVD. It’s available in public screenings throughout the US.

    This is the K-12 education environment I experienced as a high school “honors” teacher for 16 years. You see, I have the unique position of having been a high school teacher/coach and now a self-employed 1099er (real estate & marketing).

    When the TESTING craze hit about 9 years ago, I very reluctantly gave up teaching – I relented, finally accepting I could not change the system. When I left, I refused the “Dilbert’s Cube.” :)

    You see, I might be one of a hand full on your list who’s been on both sides of the fence. Perhaps only I really can speak out (with experience) against some of these(inaccurate) suggestions comparing American K-12 education to the “old” Soviet Union.

    You see, I practice what I taught & what I personally believe – I TEACH people HOW to think for themselves and HOW to stand up when they feel comments inaccurately portray something.


    *Some K-12 schools need to be cleansed!
    *Some K-12 principals are WEAK and refuse to hire/fire BAD teachers!
    *Some parents have ZERO interest/involvement in their kids’ lives, throwing their kids to schools and welfare for salvation.
    *Some movie-makers (Guggenheim) create movies for the ignorant who are unable or unwilling to discern fact from misnomer.
    *Some politicians will sell out (and have sold out) the American people for financial/political gain. Big surprise here. Keep in mind, your kids and my kids NEVER will attend the schools these “bigshots'” kids attend. By the way, I am friends with some teachers who teach at these uber-private & privileged schools. You might be surprised to know what these schools really are like “behind closed doors.” In fact, you might be shocked to hear about the curriculum – as in NOT what is being force-fed to K-12 public schools.
    *Corporations including The Gates Foundation care about PROFITS, not your or my kids.
    *Standardized testing (as a means to an end) is NOT a panacea – only “portfolio” assessment truly assesses learning.
    *Charters as a whole are not the answer – I have taught at a private school as well as public. What’s the big difference b/t private & public? Private schools attract (mostly) PARENTS who are involved in their kids’ lives/education. (note: some parents are whack-jobs – and you know what I mean). Show me a parent who truly is involved in his/her kid’s life, and I’ll show you a kid who performs/grows up healthy (physically/emotionally/psychologically), confident, skilled & hungry (to take on life).

    Just because I left the classroom doesn’t mean I’ve given up on public education. I certainly do NOT cast general dispersions about the K-12 education (as a whole).

    As slimy as some big-name marketers are – only after your and my money with pretentious pitching, I would NOT condemn all marketers for the despicable, unethical behavior of a few.

    Thanks, Perry, for encouraging us to think for ourselves. I’ve bought from you in the past, and I still read (and benefit from) your emails today….

    Mike Payne

  26. Wow! You just reminded me of how blessed I really am and how important it is for people to reach out of their own little worlds and connect with and help others! Thanks!

  27. Splendid example of your tell-a-story emails, Perry. Great message, great composition, and very subtle nudge in the direction of your many excellent programs. This is copy writing at its best.

    This is one I’m going to pass along to my list (with attribution, of course).

    Great fan of your writing.

    – Phil

  28. Really liked the article. The entrepreneurial spirit is why we are what we are and is a safeguard against us becoming like the Ukrain. I feel we do need to be cautious though,controlling people would just assume that we were mindless zombies.

  29. Dear Perry,
    as ever you come up with interesting ideas. I saw the Eastern part of Europe before the Berlin wall came down and it was quite a different world, certainly grey and unmotivated.

    There were however a few things that made life easier for folk – affordable public transport that ran just about all day long and came every five minutes: who needed a car if they could travel so easily? I will not deny that their rights to travel overseas were severely curtailed. Actually I did ask our local marxist activist at Oxford why the railways in the (now former) East had first and second class coaches … she denied it outright, which did not impress me!

    Another interesting point is that those trying to get over the Berlin wall were predominantly from the areas of the former DDR that did not receive West German television those who did knew not only the plus points but the minusses too. Many of those who became homeless were former escapees who now could no longer return, and finding life hard turned to drink instead.

    For some there simply is no choice but to work under such conditions and it is here that unions become important. Remember that Germany’s industry is extremely unionized but the management is good enough to be able to work with the union leaders to work together and get the job done – not as in the UK where they actively work against each other. It is not the union’s fault, because it is the job of the management to manage their men, which means dealing with troublesome union representatives!

    Is there no sensible middle way? If there is such a thing, it probably is here in Holland with masses of social housing and public transport but loads of opportunities to break free.

    I was discussing this with Jasper (my current beau) and his cousin over the weekend, for said cousin has just closed a factory here in the Netherlands. It is a pity that he did not meet me earlier, I might have been able to help. However the products are still made in the UK, and it is for me another opportunity to … market … in a niche that has almost zero activity. Probably for good reasons, but there is no reason not to give it a go? If there is not much activity there is little chance that it will cost much to tune up my ideas in the ways you suggest!

  30. Great article… though the warning signs of infringing communist style regulations are growing rapidly across America.

    Most urban sprawls might as well be a Soviet apartment complex.

    We just specialize in stealth communism — we may have more choices/options than the Ukraine but a lot of the most meaningful choices are completely hidden away.

    The medical system is a great example — anybody who offers remedies for cancer outside of radiation and chemo (with it’s pitiful success rate) ends being locked away in prison (this is no exaggeration).

    Or how about if you have diabetes? You can choose between artificial insulin, pancreas transplant or drugs. Not much option there (when many more options exist).

    The school system specializes in making kids think they have very few options in life (minimum wage job or college debt).

    We have very few choices about what we buy thanks to lobbying corporations have conglomerated everything.

    We are taxes excessively and the money used to for things the government has no business in (e.g. loans to business, students, subsidizing junk food, bailing out CEOs, fighting wars that have not been sanctioned by Congress — Iraq, Pakistan, Libya). A good chunk of our money is taken from us and used in ways we’d rather it not be used.

    Options? Right now we can choose between a PC or Mac. And in some cities your choice of “restaurants” is “McDonalds” or “Burger King” (instead of just family-run local bizes). Big Box stores are sntaching away community marketplaces into drab stretches of parking lots and buildings with all the appeal of a self-storage warehouse.

    So, yes, we do have more freedom. But we are losing it. And if we don’t exercise our freedom to the max — supporting and starting real businesses (not chains and corporate slave systems) — we will lose what we have.

  31. As a person who has traveled to more than 50 countries
    all I can say is what we say here in Mexico.

    Gracias a Dios Or in English Thanks to god.

  32. Hope is what keeps our future alive. I have placed myself in the position of encouraging hundreds of window covering professionals. I send emails of encouragement, I set up a FaceBook group of over 600 to offer hope and give my industry a community platform. It’s working! My FB group keeps growing organically and at a resent international window covering convention I was stunned by the number of people whom I had never met knew who I was and thanked me for setting up the FaceBook group. Several times I was standing in a booth talking to a supplier and was approached by FB friends. How cool is that!

  33. In one of the former lives of my husband he was working for Digital Equipment and he helped building the head quarters in Lvov (Kiev) in the Ukrinian. It was a few years after the berlin wall fell and there was a democrative movement coming from the former german austrian speaking area around Lemberg. Yes the bulding of the headquarters of the communist party was impressive. You felt little and alone. But the appartments for russian party leaders were only 60 -100 square meters – ok with elevator and water toilet and view to the park! Yes we don´t want a communist system but I think you need unions. Not unions which are corrupt and unflexible – The european history tells us that unions are vital to guarantie a minimum protection otherwise we will get back to manchester libaralism ….!

  34. Perry, Love it! Went to Moscow and St. Pete’s in ’92 and had the same observations. And I just saw Waiting For Superman two weeks ago. Very creative writing in connecting Communism, School Unions, and Internet Marketing – two extremes.

    Regarding the Russian who could not handle all the choices, it is so true, we get stuck in our routines and habits. Our brains keep firing on the same nods. We want our comfort zone. Yet parts of the world are changing rapidly. What are we doing about having so many choices?

    My guess is the Internet gives more people opportunities to get ahead financially than ever before in history.

    After two + years of doing Internet marketing seemingly 24/7, I still sometimes get adrenaline rushes when I stand in front of the Sales & Marketing section at Borders Bookstore scanning all the Internet marketing books I want to read and master. Gotta keep learning, staying motivated, and fresh.

    Bill Crawford

  35. Wow Perry!
    After reading this blog post today in my email it makes total sense why social media is so popular. Everyone is craving a personal touch from another person, even if they never really meet that person.
    I get so tired of hearing about the teacher’s union because they are one of the most powerful ones there is. They don’t care about the end product (the child) only their wallets. There has been a few amazing teachers in my son’s life (he has autism)that he would not be going to school today to learn to fix computers if they had not been there. There are few and few teachers who really care because they are so overwhelm, and they aren’t the ones getting the big paychecks. (union leaders are getting it) I am not saying unions are bad overall, all unions have their place some have just got way too big for their pants and need to be shot down a few places.
    Talking about schools, my son who is now going to MIT Tech and he told me that the biggest signups for class is when the person showing off the school is really pretty. Doesn’t make sense but it seems to work for his school.
    Thanks for your amazing blog post today!
    Kim Snyder

  36. You do not realize how good we have it until you visit a place that does not have it so good. I road tripped through Mexico for a couple months right out of College. When we finally crossed the border back into the US, I was overwhelmed with a sense of security, and everything looked so clean. I had a great time and had no problems with anybody on my trip, but I can see how lucky I am to be American. And to think Mexico is far better off than many countries around the world.

    Good Post Perry

  37. Perry,

    usually I like your emails. But PLEASE don’t start writing about things of which you obviously have no clue at all. Or just from hearsay from some obviously crazy and paranoid anticommunist “friend called Fred”.

    I lived in Kiev. And all you write about the Ukraine is just dead WRONG! First of all the people are open, very civilized, well educated and not at all paranoid. I have never seen a house like you describe it, and I saw lots of houses. And I never saw an elevator that did not work ;-)

    You were never there, right? Kiev is booming, the Ukraine and Russia are booming. Communism is over. They have a kind of capitalism there of which you guys in the US can only dream. I am not saying it’s a good thing but that’s what’s happening right now.

    OK, I know, that was not your point. But honestly, I prefer your emails, where you don’t get too philosophical. It’s a tricky business. And you are not a philosopher. You’re a marketeer, right.

    Please stick to it.


    1. @ Mark–

      Perry getting “philosophical” as you say is precisely why many of his love his blog.

      Anyway… he is writing of a first hand account from 1994. By my math that’s approximately 17 years ago. I’d venture that some things have changed in Kiev since his friend was there in 1994.

    2. I totally agree – the things about Ukraine are not true. I lived there until 2002 and watched through all the changes… 1994 was 3 years after USSR fell apart. By this time there was if any very slight shade of communism – unnatural things fade away really fast…

      1. “unnatural things fade away really fast…”

        Well Put–Andriy!
        An expression I heard that captures this same idea is…

        “Off–Like a Prom Dress !!”

    3. Normally I don’t bother with issues like these but it always strikes me rather odd and particularly at this point in time at least (2011) how Americans are still referring to someone elses back yard when it comes to personal rights and liberties.This was quite popular in the 50’s and even later when Communism was considered to be a global threat. But the threat is not Communist anymore at least not the hard core find of Kruschev and Stalin. The greater war monger/ welfare state is the USA. One would have to be blind to the current erosion of personal rights and liberties being exhibited by the USA on a regular basis. Airport security. Phony Drug Wars etc. I think it’s up to all of us in America to take a closer look in our own back yard and make some improvements here at home first. Of course if Perry hadn’t written this article in the first place we’d have nothing to debate to begin with would we?

  38. Hey Perry, this article is funny, but not so funny for the victims of government stupidity. It’s not only in the former Soviet Union, it’s everywhere…South Africa(the land of my birth) during the apartheid era, Australia (where I now reside) where they can’t provide basic housing for the less fortunate, but can spend millions on upgrading Parliament House for the Queen’s visit in October and countless other nations. Your article was extremely well written and the words stood up like there was Viagra in the ink. Keep it up. I really enjoy reading good journalism. Cheers

  39. Hello Perry –

    GREAT post. Waiting for Superman is highly recommended to watch. I saw that several months ago and was overwhelmed with how clearly these bureaucracies completely destroy any hope of achievment.

    We need a market driven solution to our education woes in this country and I could not agree with you any more.


  40. Wise words as always Perry. I just love your stories and how you manage to tie them back to business and marketing… ;-)
    Thanks for your great insights and vision.

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