An organization has only 100 percent of its resources and energies to spend. I have no idea what is meant when a manager says, “Let’s give it 110 percent!” There is a finite amount of energy, and the question is simple: is it directed toward internal, political issues, or toward external, client issues?
In the best companies I’ve worked with (or observed), the ratio is about 10/90. That is, 10 percent of the energy is abraded away internally, but 90 percent of it is directed toward sales, service, retention, market share, and so forth.
Alan Weiss, Million Dollar Coaching
There are times I have to leave the house and socialize with other people. As an introvert, that isn’t my natural state. Occasionally, it happens that I have to engage a group of people that I don’t really know (aka “strangers”), adding a level of emotional awkwardness. If I’m physically uncomfortable on top of that (i.e. my chair is at a weird angle, or personal space is limited, or I have a headache, etc.) where do you think the vast majority of my personal energy is focused?
Obviously, in those circumstances, most of my energy is going to go into coping with the situation. Very little will be reserved for making new acquaintances, smiling, or being friendly. I’ll want to use my wife and kids as a shelter, rather than be aware of how they’re feeling, and I’d be filling my time by checking the clock and eyeing the door.
And that’s just one event in a lifetime filled with thousands upon thousands of various such twists and turns. In each of those moments, I’ll only have a limited amount of resources to fall back on. Each day – each hour – each second only has so much energy to expend. That time I spend at work, or at church, or at home, or volunteering – how will I use it? Where will it be focused?
It’s important to understand that. It really does matter.
See, organizational energy is a byproduct of individual energy. We each contribute a portion of the greater whole when it comes to directing the energy of our places of business, or service, or worship. Whether you’re in a family of five, a church of fifty, or a company of twelve thousand, your focus makes a difference on the internal to external ratio of that organization.
Do an audit of the energy being spent by that sleepy church in the Midwest with a slowly shrinking membership. Are they busy trying to keep the people within the walls happy, or are they zealously focused on serving their neighbors and beyond? How have their members affected their ratio? It might be helpful to do an audit of each of them.
And when we’re criticizing the organizations we’re a part of, maybe we need to do an audit on ourselves.
Just a thought.
Happy Income Tax day! I hope everyone reading this has filled out all of their forms, double-checked all of their numbers, and completed the filing process. You don’t want to be late. The IRS is not to be trifled with. I know I’d rather face a TSA pat-down.
If you’re all done, how did you make out? Most of you are probably receiving a refund. That’s pretty normal in this country. Still, there are always a bunch of us who owe, too. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you can pay.
This year, we owed less than $25. That was cool for us. It means we got to keep and use our money to spend, save, and meet our financial goals, all while withholding almost enough to satisfy the feds. We’d been tweaking our numbers for the last few years, but that was the first time that’d happened.
How about you? How many of you knew which side of that bright refund line you would be on? And if you did, did you know by how much? Down to the dollar?
Probably not. And, to be honest, I didn’t either. While we’ve been trying to shift our withholding based on each year’s paperwork, the truth is this year’s result was a happy accident. I don’t anticipate that we’ll be lucky enough to repeat that next year.
It’s rare for your average American family to be able to calculate their annual income tax burden. You can’t just lump every family making 55,000 a year into a pile and know exactly how much Uncle Sam is going to expect from them. There are so many other factors involved. Each one can adjust and tweak that number for each individual household, and they’re all buried within the convoluted, impenetrable, 73,954 page and growing Federal Income Tax code.
Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.
Complicated sets of rules always lead to problems. There are an assured few who will take the time to master the details, so they can game the system to the extreme benefit of themselves and others that they serve. People who enforce the rules will have varying interpretations of the finer (and greater) points, leading to uneven enforcement and a slow process of judgment. Certain groups will try to influence those who either write or interpret the rules to favor their members. (For example, larger firms might seek to remove smaller scale competition.) And all of this usually leads to more (and more complex) regulations to try to stop the misbehavior. It’s a maddening cycle.
Every system needs to be reset every so often. The income tax system isn’t any different. I think it’s time to clear out the clutter, sweep away the broken pieces, and get it back down to something manageable. And there are already hundreds of ideas for how to do this floating around out there.
Now, for individuals and families, I’m fond of the simplicity of a flat income tax. You make 55,000 a year. The income tax is 15%. Send the IRS a check for $8,250. Quick and easy, right?
But then the arguments start. Faults are found with any newly proposed system. Perfectionism becomes the enemy of innovation. No progress is made.
And if I were king for a day, or could wave a magic wand and change everything, I wouldn’t necessarily implement a flat tax, either. I might try something a little different. Call it the Stupid Simple Bodey Income Tax Idea. (Some of you will just want to use that first word, but whatever. At least I’m putting something out there.)
- The first $30,000 of income would be taxed at a rate as close to zero as possible. I picked $30K as a rough representative of about 125% of the poverty line in America. I know that isn’t exact, but it’s the general idea that matters. I’m tempted to make the taxation rate zero at this level, but I’m affected by the argument that everyone who works should have some skin in the system. At most, I’m thinking 0.1% (i.e. $5,000 would pay $5). Anyway, moving on…
- The next $120,000 of income would be taxed at 19%. Let me clarify what that means. As an individual, under 2013 federal income tax regulations in the US, given no other exceptions, if you make $36,250 in income you will pay $5,437.50 in income tax. If you earn $1 more, you’ll pay $9062.75. Over thirty-five-hundred-dollars for one stinking dollar. That’s a doozy of a tax hit, and it’s something that I’d want to avoid – especially at that income level. To change that, we should only tax each dollar earned over a certain level, not the entire wad. So, if you make $30,000, you’ll pay, at most, $30. If you earn $1 more, you’ll pay $30.19. However, if you earn $55,000, you’ll pay $4,780, and $100,000 income equals $13,330, and so on. Why 19%? I don’t know, I just picked a number that sounded like it might be a remarkably stable amount of revenue.
- Everything over $150,000 of income would be taxed at 50%. Same deal. If you earn an annual income of $150,001, you’ll pay $22,830.50. Just 50 cents more than if you’d earned one dollar less. When you reach $200,000, though, you’d be paying $47,830, and $325,000 equals $110,330, and so on. 50% seems a reasonable rate.
- No deductions or exemptions. It is what it is. What you owe is based on your income and nothing more. Taxes are about government revenue, not nudging the populace to behave a certain way, or favoring certain groups.
- No withholding. Any system this simple can be calculated as each paycheck earned by the taxpayer comes in for the year. Write a check and send it in on tax day. Or quarterly. Or the first Monday in November every year. I’m open to ideas.
- All income is taxed the same. Earned income. Interest. Dividends. Capital gains. Cash inheritance or other large monetary gifts. If money went into your pocket from any source, it goes into the “income” above and is calculated as above.
- Everyone files as an individual. If you have a Social Security number, even if you didn’t earn one dollar of income, you need to file an income tax return. Parents can file the forms for their children, of course, and vice-versa.
Now, I know that this isn’t perfect. The numbers I used are undoubtedly off from where they need to be. Some sources of “income” are far more complicated than straight earned income. National tax-preparing firms wouldn’t be as necessary, and we would probably have to reduce the number of people working for the IRS, and all of those people in the unemployment line might cause a problem (maybe not).
Still, my family would actually be paying more income taxes under what’s detailed above, than we do under the current system. I’m not sure I mind that, though, because I could look at my paycheck and know how much I’d need to be setting aside to send in every month. (Hey. Income taxes as a monthly or quarterly coupon book, that’d be neat.) A simpler system might actually result in better revenue results. Who knows?
Once again, Happy Tax Day, and thanks for reading. This long post probably didn’t amount to much, and my thoughts on the subject are likely to change as continue to contemplate it, but those
five of you masochistic enough to read every post probably found some enjoyment out of it. Sick freaks.
I’m not going to ask how you’d change the tax code. Or if you think taxes are high enough. Or anything else like that. I’ll probably just lock the comments down in fear. Writing about taxes, what was I thinking?
Watch this TEDx talk by Logan LaPlante.
First of all, this is a solid eleven minutes by a remarkable young man. At 13 years old, he has a clearer vision of his future, and how to educate himself to be ready for that future, than most of the hundreds of people who sit in cubicles around me every day at work do. His parents deserve huge praise for raising him with such a creative spirit and drive to learn.
I look at a kid like Logan, and I can’t help but see a revolution coming in education over the next decade. Choice has become the word of the day. The status quo is being abandoned for new options, and minds are flourishing. Classrooms look more like Starbucks, and the curriculum is hacked together using the material and opportunities available, and in an age where information can be accessed with just a few keystrokes, there are a lot of materials and opportunities available.
That future probably doesn’t make everyone excited. There are a lot of tough questions that still need to be answered. The status quo is well entrenched. But every problem is an opportunity to improve. So, I’m looking forward to it, and I bet Logan is, too.
It’s all about the mindset.
Unless you are one of the lucky few that live under a rock, you know about the horrible assault on an elementary school in Connecticut last Friday. I’m not going to link to the story here, or talk about much in the way of details. A broken, disturbed young man walked into a school and proceeded to kill several teachers and many of their students. Children died.
I’m not a big fan of it when children are hurt or killed. I don’t like seeing it in television shows or movies. I’ve actually put books down when a story includes it. I sure as hell don’t like it when it happens in real life like it did last Friday.
My emotions go on a wild ride. I get angry at the needlessness of the lives cut short. I empathize with those who are mourning for their children. I feel afraid when I think of being separated from my own children in such a sudden and violent manner.
And I wait for all of that to pass, and for the bluster and speculation to clear, before I do anything. It’s too easy to think stupid and impulsive thoughts while in the middle of all of that emotional turmoil. To act on those thoughts wouldn’t be useful.
Extreme, sensationalized examples like the Connecticut school violence should remind us that we live in a world full of everyday tragedy. If we look beyond the tight focus put on this one instance, we should quickly realize that, around the world, far more than twenty children faced a shocking or disturbing death last Friday. Many more than that had to deal with severe wounds or other suffering. And that happens every single day.
Sometimes they just drop dead for no reason at all.
No matter how much we try to shield them from all risks and injuries, there is no guarantee that any of us will see our children grow to adulthood. (In fact, there is a growing concern that our efforts to protect them is harming them more.) We can’t let our fears cause us to react impulsively. Keep the extreme instances in perspective, and don’t unnecessarily trade their freedom for alleged safety.
Our children are just on loan to us. We’re responsible for raising and guiding them, but life is unpredictable. They can be gone in a flash, and there could be nothing we can do to stop it. All we can do is make the best of the time we are given and be grateful for every second of it.
What will we teach them while they’re under our care? What kind of vision and hope are we passing on to them? Are you pointing them to reach for something higher, or are you huddled with them under the shadow of everyday tragedy?