Think Different TV: Marty Nemko and Me

Episode #4 of Think Different TV features Marty Nemko, #1 career counselor, author, and U.S. News and World Report journalist and me in conversation for 35 minutes. I recommend watching it on the Vimeo site and letting it load all the way. Then you can use the chapter markings on that page. Here's an MP3 audio file of the episode. Here are the topics we discuss:

  • Where should you look for a job in these times?
  • Is China the next big entrepreneurial power? Will capitalism crush communism?
  • How does a liberal media, liberal president, and liberal congress affect things?
  • How can advocating an unpopular view make an impact?
  • Should productivity and achievement be a more important goal in life than happiness?
  • Do romantic adventures and misadventures contribute to more misery than happiness, on the whole?

It's a fun conversation with some disagreement along the way, which always keeps it interesting.


0:55 Marty's clients are now freaking out about finding a new job, not just how to move up in the ranks.

1:22 There are two groups of people: the entrepreneurial and non-entrepreneurial people. Non-entrepreneurial people should work for the government or government contractors.

3:17 What should entrepreneurial people do?

3:28 Obama has become religion, followed by environmentalism.

4:20 There'll be opportunities in mass transit, thanks to Obama.

6:00 The developing world will also be rich in opportunity.

6:30 Marty says: CHINA!

7:13 U.S. has been reluctant to consider nuclear power whereas China is doing it.

8:00 Liberal media, liberal presidency, liberal congress: Marty says this may strangle options for growth

8:24 Ben says China doesn't have a "billion entrepreneurs" as Marty suggests. Unless capitalism crushes communism, is it sustainable in the long run?

10:00 Marty disagrees and says there's an obsession with entrepreneurship.

11:00 Don't get complacent about China and entrepreneurship.

11:30 Ben says bringing in a few profs on entrepreneurship doesn't change an underlying culture.

14:25 What unpopular causes does Marty champion?

15:53 To make a difference, focus on issues where others aren't focusing.

16:15 Boys and men are treated terribly in the school system, higher education is America's most overrated product.

18:45 The censorship of the left suffocates the exploration of unpopular ideas.

19:20 Ben says the grip of CNN and NYT is loosening and the media landscape is nicheifying.

21:43 Are people under the age of 30 going to the liberal MSM for news? Ben says they won't be as influential going forward.

25:00 Is being ambitious un-cool?

26:00 The most self-efficacious people Marty knows want to die at the workplace, at their computer. Marty tries to spend as many moments of his life as possible trying to make the world better.

27:45 Marty says he doesn't like his work. It's work. Spiritually, the life well led is making a difference and working. Not to have fun.

28:38 Marty says he's not happy, sometimes content.

30:00 So much of career and life advice centers around the happiness goal. If that's not your goal, the advice is not very applicable.

30:55 Most people are made less happy by their romantic misadventures, says Marty.

31:45 "We assume love is the answer when it often is not," says Marty.

(thanks Charlie Hoehn for editing this.)

7 comments on “Think Different TV: Marty Nemko and Me
  • Hey Ben, can you do a TDTV with Brad Feld? I’m interested in hearing you two chat about entrepreneurship.

    Also, I’d be interested in a blog post about how you follow blogs in a limited amount of time. I read many of the same blogs as you (Cal Newport, Seth Roberts, Gretchen Rubin, Marty Nemko, Chris Yeh, you), but there are many I don’t get the time for (EconLog, Marginal Revolutions, Becker-Posner). How do you balance this? Also, what online “list” (like delicious) works best for you in keeping up with feeds?

    If you’re ambitious, you could even expand this into a post about how you balance internet/offline time 🙂


  • Good stuff.

    As for China though, I’d say that the Chinese, based on my last year here in Shanghai, are the most entrepreneurial people I’ve ever encountered. Everyone here is either an entrepreneur or a wannabe entrepreneur; stacking bills is the national pastime. From homeless migrants selling cheap toys and lamb kebabs or hustling fake rolex to factory workers putting their nest egg into a little shop to officials setting up OEM factories, everyone here is “on the way up”.

    They’re entrepreneurial alright; amazingly so. They’re just not innovative. The Chinese are, perhaps, the least innovative people on the face of the earth. For a city of 22 million, the creative energy of Shanghai is… weaker than that of a typical American city 1% it’s size. Everything here is a copy of a copy, from the business models and goods to the art and design. “Original” and “Chinese” don’t seem to go together.

    On the other hand, government censorship probably has fairly little to do with it. The first thing I learned after I arrived was how to defeat the “great firewall” with proxy servers; pretty much any English-fluent young Chinese trader or engineer knows how to do the same. People are pretty free to talk about any idea that isn’t a threat to the party’s rule. Entering a Chinese bookstore can be a shock to the system- authors whose ideas are anathema to the CCP are often on prominent display (in a recent swing through the philosophy section of a Chinese language bookstore, I noticed stacks of Hannah Arendt and Ayn Rand. Not exactly pro-communist fare.)

    No, the real hampers to China’s development are threefold:
    1. Weak rule-of-law
    2. Environmental pollution
    3. Demographic collapse

    Building a stronger, leaner, and better paid civil service and a more impartial and independent justice system, probably all along the Singaporean model, would to a tremendous amount of good for the country. This would help with number 2. It’s hard to say if anything can really be done about number 3; repealing the birth control policy (I don’t call it the one-child policy, because it’s only a “one child” policy for urban residents- it’s a “two child” policy for farmers and only children and a “four child” policy for minorities) could help in the long run, but it won’t stop the impending collapse that will occur when the children of the Revolution retire in fifteen years.

    Anyway, I love your blog and your videos. Keep it up!

  • I find it especially interesting; among my friends back in the US, it seems that none of them really aspired to be business owners (at least beyond, perhaps, freelance consultants, writers, or designers); most aspired to find high-paying work either with a corporation or the government, or find a way out of the “rat race” through some sort of freelance information work.

    On the other hand, practically everybody I know in China wants to own their own store, restaurant, or factory. Everyone here wants ownership.

    The main reason for this, however, is that wage-work simply doesn’t pay in China; the only way to make “real money” (the sort that would buy someone a middle-upper middle class American lifestyle) is through real estate, factory ownership, CCP graft, or organized crime. Even the highest salaries look like a pittance by American standards.

    It’s said that Americans want to be their own boss. Chinese want to be THE boss.

  • I’d also add that this is probably the way the future looks in America as well, as bleak as it may seem. The days of six-figure infoworker and middle management salaries being the ticket to a comfy life with a McMansion, Lexus and regular vacations is probably coming to a fast end. Government contracts, landlordism, gangsterism and high-end durable goods manufacturing are the wave of the future.

Leave a Reply to Nicholas MacDonald Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *