Individual Competitiveness –> National Competitiveness

Most of the talk about American national competitiveness takes place at a policy level: immigration reform, education, tax rates, manufacturing policy, etc. There’s plenty that can be done in Washington D.C. and in state capitols to improve the environment for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth.

But one premise of the Start-Up of You is that as an individual professional you can’t rely on anyone else to train you or elevate you. Whatever programs or policies Washington implements — presuming they’re beneficial — won’t affect you for some time. You have to take control of your own career.

This isn’t to say there aren’t policy ideas that naturally extend from the book. It’s that the book’s primary message is about individual empowerment–about making yourself more competitive, even if your country as a whole may not be.

Of course, when people talk about the national competitiveness of a country, they’re really talking about the national competitiveness of each of its professionals, so the micro does become the macro over time.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recently did a Q&A with Reid and me that’s posted on Here’s one part of the exchange:

Tom: Is China going to eat America’s lunch?

Reid and Ben: National competitiveness is really a reflection of the individual competitiveness of its citizens. The question for each American is, “Is a professional in China going to eat your lunch?” Some will be competitive, and some will not. And the distinction is not set in stone. Just look at Detroit. All of us need to have a plan for investing in ourselves every day.

You can find the whole thing over at Amazon.


Much more soon, but a few odds and ends in the meantime…

  • Prefer audiobooks? You can get the audio CDs or Audible version. Although a voice actor reads the book, at the end of the recording there’s a special conversation between Reid and me discussing the project.
  • UK people can buy the book here. Spanish, Italian, and Japanese coming soon, with other languages after that.
  • Already read the book? Leave a comment on this post or email me if the book made you think differently or take action in your career. I’d love to feature your story.
  • Making plans for South by Southwest in Austin, TX? Be sure to block off 11 AM – 12 PM on Saturday, March 10th, for our featured session at the Interactive festival.
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