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Humans Are Expensive

There’s a video going around right now called Humans Need Not Apply.  It’s by CGP Grey, and it’s about the rise in automation and how that’s going to continue to impact the availability of human jobs.

When I was a kid, my Dad asked me to guess what the most expensive part of running his print shop was.  I looked around the warehouse, thought for a few seconds, and decided that the heating bill was probably the worst of it.  Dad laughed, and told me that staffing costs were actually the most expensive part of running almost any company.

Humans are amazingly expensive.  Salary is just the start.  It costs money to train them, keep them comfortable, keep them motivated, keep them from moving across the street to your competitors office, etc.

‘Cheaper and with less staff’ is just a way of saying ‘cheaper and much cheaper’ in a way that resonates with business owners.  Of course businesses are going to trend towards using more automation.

There’s always going to be a business that’s willing to reduce staff costs and pay a (lower) equipment cost, and that business is going to be the cheapest one on the market.  In the same way that Walmart drives local businesses to lower prices, automation is going to make it impossible to compete unless you’re willing to go along with it.

Four Phrases

A friend once told me that running a business is like volunteering to be bipolar.  You alternate between incredible highs and lows.  The highs are worth the lows, for me at least.

You develop coping strategies to help get through the rough times.  I like to keep a file that reminds me of why I do this in the first place.

Here’s an excerpt from that file.  These are four phrases that I use to help ride out the rapids.


Here’s to the Crazy Ones

This is from the famous “Think Different” campaign that Apple ran.  If we aren’t trying to make a dent in the world, then we need to change what we’re doing.  It may be an ad, but it’s a good reminder too.

A Ship in Harbour is Safe, but that’s Not What Ships are for.

This one is a quote from William G.T. Shedd.  Every time I find myself thinking that a 9-to-5 job might be the way to go, this helps remind me that I’m here for a reason.  I might limp back to harbour after this is all said and done, but I’ll limp back proud.

He Taketh with him two angels, inspiration and perspiration, and worketh to beat hell.

The copy of the poem I have claims it was written by James X Cahill, but Googling says it’s anonymous.  My Dad sent me a copy of this when I asked him how to learn more about sales.  I’ve read an awful lot of books and gotten a lot of advice, but nothing makes success actually happen except getting out the door and working hard.

You could have been a fire truck all along.  (There’s still time)

Another poem that reminds me to dream.  Before you start a company, you spend a lot of time dreaming and picturing the future.  Somehow you get bogged down in the day-to-day details and don’t spend near as much time refreshing that ambition as you should.


Of course there are other things in the file too, but if I had to throw everything else away, these are the four phrases I’d keep.  Reading through these is usually enough to get me over whatever bump I’m stuck on.