Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Meritocracy

As I wander down the long hallway of life, I grow wiser, although it happens very slowly.

Long ago, I figured out that many of the folks who win and folks who lose don't do these things based strictly on merit. There is also animal cunning, basic smarts, and the ever-sharp claw of fate.

But maybe I've worked in the movie industry too long, and seen too much. Because I was reminded (again) of Tinsel Town realities as I perused an investment book this past weekend. It was a tome called The Five Rules of Stock Investing -- Morningstar's Guide for Building Wealth and Winning the Market, and pages 104 and 105 read as follows:

Analyzing a Company -- Management

Compensation is the easiest of the three areas to assess because the bulk of the information is contained in a ...proxy statement.

First and most important, how much does management pay itself? ... [S]ome executives think they have a license to print money just because they manage a huge company, no matter how poor a job they're doing.

Pay for Performance

...At many companies, so-called "performance targets" are set by a subcommittee of the board of directors, which can often rewrite the rules of the game if the CEO appears to be losing.

...In 2001, for example, Coca-Cola's board reduced CEO Douglas Paft's goal of 15 percent earnings growth over five years to 11 percent ...

At least Coke's shareholders knew what the target was, though. According to the 2001 proxy, Walt Disney's compensation gurus decided that bonuses:

"... may be based on one or more of the following business criteria, or on any combination thereof, on a consolidated basis: net income (or adjusted net income), return on equity (or adjusted return on equity), returns on assets (or adjusted return on assets), earnings per share (diluted) (or adjusted earnings per share [diluted].)

In other words, Disney's CEO was going to get paid no matter what. To add insult to injury, the gang at Disney wrote that "[we believe] that the specific target constitutes confidential business information the disclosure of which could adversely affect the Company."

More likely, it would have adversely affected Disney management because the board wouldn't have been able to move the goalposts in the middle of the game ..."

-- Pat Dorsey -- Director of Stock Analysis -- Morningstar.

2001, of course, was during the storied reign of Diz Co. Chief Michael Eisner, (around the time a disgruntled Disney lawyer grumbled to me: The Company took a beating last year. The stock lost money. But Michael still got the board to give him and Bob Iger eight million dollar bonuses ...")

Meritocracy is a wonderful thing. But please don't delude yourself that it is the only (or principle?) force that's in play. The game, sadly, is often rigged.

42 comments:

Floyd Norman said...

Not only is the game rigged, you're often not even allowed to play.

Enjoy your career, but know that only a few will be allowed to get rich.

Anonymous said...

"but know that only a few will be allowed to get rich."

Sorry...I have to disagree. If you or I (or anyone) is smart enough and ambitious enough to run a multi-billion dollar company...then we should get paid.

Instead of complaining about the executives getting rich and how unfair it is, you should work your butt off and try to become one. No one is stopping any of us from doing that.

The world is set up this way, and most rewards those who run companies (good or bad). So, either learn how to run the thing...or sit down and be content with the check they cut you every few weeks.

Those are your options.

But we are all "allowed" to get rich...it is just whether you want it bad enough or not.

yahweh said...

Ahh, how cute...a virgin.

Mark Mayerson said...

All hail Yahweh!

nosferatu said...

yeah, there's no such thing as a rigged game....

and CEO's are untouchable and should be considered godlike with compensation to reflect their godlike status.

let us not fall prey to concepts, such as, a decent lifestyle, get in the way of corporate profits and lavish perks for the execs.

n

Anonymous said...

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

Anonymous said...

Ew. Religion.

Anonymous said...

religion is for losers.

Anonymous said...

Sorry...I have to disagree. If you or I (or anyone) is smart enough and ambitious enough to run a multi-billion dollar company...then we should get paid.

Bob Igers compensation package last year was 29 million.

He is not 300 times smarter or more ambitious than the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

PS) Thats the first time Ive ever read something from the bible that makes any sense whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I posted the bible quote above. I had to look it up from the fragment I remember. I don't know much more about the bible than what I've seen in movies, but I heard that years ago and it stuck in my head.

Every time I think "Life isn't fair" that quote reminds me it's universal. It's not just me.

Anonymous said...

I posted the bible quote. I've never actually read the bible, but I heard that years ago and it stuck with me. Whenever I think "Life isn't fair" it reminds me that it is universally so. It's not just me.

Anonymous said...

oops. I didn't think the first one worked.

yahweh said...

oops. I didn't think the first one worked


...so I made Eve...

Anonymous said...

which bible? There are many. And they were ALL written by men, often centuries after the supposed events. And they were all influenced by politics of the time.

Bibles are fine, but do not, under any circumstances, take them literally. They were never meant to be taken literally.

Anonymous said...

He is not 300 times smarter or more ambitious than the rest of us.

Do you think you could do his job tomorrow?

Or would it take you a "few weeks" to figure out how to run a multi-billion dollar company?

Now granted, he can't animate like you probably can. But last time I checked the market doesn't quite pay an animator 29mm a year either.

Anonymous said...

but time and chance happeneth to them all

Yes, Solomon was indeed wise. But notice that everyone has a chance.

You want to make 29mm a year...then become an executive and quite complaining and being envious of someone else good fortune.

I believe there is another verse that says something like:

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Anonymous said...

Isn't there one about killing all adulterers? And what about giving your daughters over to sexual abuse rather than your visitors?


It's all phony baloney.

zzz

Anonymous said...

Better, yet, the Catholic League today said it's OK to sexually abuse children over the age of 13 (yes, they did!):

http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/node/36003

Let's hope the pope is arrested. Soon.

Anonymous said...

Mind you, it's not just scum like Bill Donohue, it's also the christian terrorists, the likes of those Hutaree in Michigan, who not only advocated, but PLANNED to kill police officers.

Religion is dumb. And inherently Anti-Constitutional. And therefore, Anti-American.

Anonymous said...

Heh...amazing how just the mention of something religious makes people go stupid and completely lose sight of what this post was even about.

Anyway, if everything is all relative...then what is wrong with killing, raping, stealing, etc? I mean, who says that stuff is wrong anyhow?

It is all relative afterall...who has the right to determine right and wrong?

Anonymous said...

Its easy actually. Morality isnt some rule given to us by god or the great juju of the mountain or flying spaghetti monster.

If an action by an individual benefits society as a whole, its considered moral. If an action by an individual harms society as a whole and inhibits its growth, its immoral.

Which explains why murder is illegal yet the death penalty is legal, even though the same results come from both actions.

It also explains why morality changes over time, because humans are constantly evolving; always determining and re-evaluating what benefits society and what doesnt. (homosexuality comes to mind)

Anonymous said...

(I forgot to include something about "preservation of the species" in there, but here it is nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Do you think you could do his job tomorrow?

Or would it take you a "few weeks" to figure out how to run a multi-billion dollar company?


Of course not. But I also couldnt work at McDonalds tomorrow. It might even take me a few weeks to figure that job out.

Im simply reacting to your statement that if we were "smart" enough we could run Disney too. And MY point is, there is no human being on the planet who is 300 times smarter than any other human being (smartest to dumbest), so you must recognize that LUCK and OPPORTUNITY play a significant role.

Steve Hulett said...

Instead of complaining about the executives getting rich and how unfair it is, you should work your butt off and try to become one. No one is stopping any of us from doing that.

Just to be clear: I wasn't complaining in the post about unfairness.

I don't believe in fair and unfair.

I was simply pointing out the way things are. Mr. Eisner had the leverage to get the money he got.

Animators and animation artists have the leverage to get the money they get. (And so on down the line.)

One last point: Nothing is constant. In the forties and fifties, the multiples between high and median income were in the double digits. Now they're triple digits.

I think this is unhealthy. You, on the other hand, might think it's ducky.

God said...

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 God commanded: If a father has a stubborn, rebellious son, murder the son.

Proverbs 22:15 "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. But the rod of discipline drives it far from him."

Leviticus 25:44-45 “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves"

1 Peter 2-18 “ 18Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh"


wise words indeed!

god

Anonymous said...

Please. monitor. the. comments.

And please don't take offense at the suggestion, Steve. But the tenor and type of comments appearing over and over are going to turn this board into a fan/freak wasteland. I know I'm about to give up reading it or posting. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

It'd be a shame imo as you post important stuff for us but recently EVERY post is suddenly a flame war in the comments-and I know bloody well the chaff isn't coming from my colleagues in the industry. That's obvious.

Short Bus said...

I know bloody well the chaff isn't coming from my colleagues in the industry. That's obvious.

How wrong you are.

PS) Stop being so god damned sensitive. What is this blog to you anyway? Its easy enough to not read the comments or just glean the ones you want to read anyway. What a crybaby.

Anonymous said...

Nobody said the entire bible was correct. It was just one quote, that was relevant to the topic. If you're looking for %100 consistency, well, the internet isn't for you either.

Move along.

Anonymous said...

If an action by an individual benefits society as a whole, its considered moral. If an action by an individual harms society as a whole and inhibits its growth, its immoral.


Nice theory....but who decided this again? Is this in a textbook, and how come this isn't common knowledge?

Based on this premise, we should be happy about Goldman Sachs stealing taxpayer money...because they (along with the Federal Reserve) helped benefit our United States society by keeping everything afloat.

Also, we should be excited by corporations that use transfats and processed food...it helps control overpopulation by killing more off every year than would normally be the case. And the less of us there are, the longer a societies resources will last on earth.

That all sounds pretty moral to me.

animationwife said...

Steve, you once sent out a list of funds from our 401K list that were extremely low-fee. Can you do that again or post it in the blog? I don't know where else to ask....

Short Bus said...

Based on this premise, we should be happy about Goldman Sachs stealing taxpayer money...because they (along with the Federal Reserve) helped benefit our United States society by keeping everything afloat.

Wrong. We can all agree what Goldman Sachs did ultimately hurt society, and ultimately put a dent in the survivability of our species (financial instability leads to all kinds of bad things, like disease, for example)

Also, we should be excited by corporations that use transfats and processed food...it helps control overpopulation by killing more off every year than would normally be the case. And the less of us there are, the longer a societies resources will last on earth.

Now I cant tell if you're kidding or not. Clearly trans fats are terrible for society, making us unhealthy and overweight (bad for our species), so clearly its becoming more and more "immoral" for companies to use trans fats in their food prep.

You, good sir, are doing a FANTASTIC job of demonstrating the straw man argument tactic, Ill give you props for that.

Oh, and by the way, if you would, I dunno, maybe fucking EDUCATE yourself, you'd know that evolutionary ethics has been researched and written about in the scientific community for over a century, starting with Darwin's "The Descent of Man" in 1871. Google "evolutionary ethics" and prepare to get you mind blown.

I hereby dub thee, schooled. Now go back to church and pray or whatever it is you do, and shut the fuck up.

Anonymous said...

I hereby dub thee, schooled. Now go back to church and pray or whatever it is you do, and shut the fuck up.

The most obvious way to tell when someone has lost an argument and left with nothing else to say is to resort to profanity and insults.

An intelligent man would not have to lower themselves in such a way.

Perhaps you just haven't evolved that far yet, according to "evolutionary ethics".

I forgive you.

yahweh said...

"The most obvious way to tell when someone has lost an argument and left with nothing else to say is to resort to profanity and insults"

Or the other way to tell when someone loses an argument is when they use this as a way of 'trying' to sound superior.

Short Bus said...

Or the other way to tell when someone loses an argument is when they use this as a way of 'trying' to sound superior.

Exactly.

I mean cmon, if you want to argue, prove me wrong. Or maybe you're just too busy tallying up the times I use the "f-word" to actually respond to what I said.

I've studied for years, both individually and institutionally, evolutionary ethics, sociology, as well as religion, historical Judaism, (and the sub-categories/flavors of Christianity and Islam). If there's one thing I've learned, it's that when confronted with an opposing view, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is willing to either re-write history (so that god is on their side), make exceptions, or resort to violence before admitting their philosophies or practices are wrong.

Thats why to this day the more religious the region, the more prone to violence they are (because the lord our god has blessed us and not the opposition, who stubbornly believe they get a bucket-o-virgins for blowing something up, sound familiar?). As a species we are slowly evolving away from this practice, but here we are.

But one thing always, ALWAYS prevails, and thats the overwhelming biological drive to preserve the species. This might manifest itself as war, or capital punishment, or space exploration (we gotta get off this rock eventually, lest we go extinct), or even capitalism or socialism, but its ALL part of the drive to survive and grow, which ALLLL stems back scientifically to the big bang, where the universe began its growth (and continues to do so).

To sum up, it all equals growth. In the universe, that is the one constant.

You can forgive me and act all pious, and thats fine, but I think you're just being too quick to barf out things like "who has the right to determine right and wrong?" when there's people out there who are actively figuring this stuff out.

But you're right, my frustration and use of the "f-word" automatically means I'm not intelligent. You got me.

Steve Hulett said...

Please. monitor. the. comments.

And please don't take offense at the suggestion, Steve. But the tenor and type of comments appearing over and over are going to turn this board into a fan/freak wasteland. I know I'm about to give up reading it or posting. I'm sure I'm not the only one.


Won't be happening in a major way.

I do SOME monitoring, but I have studios to visit, calls to make, and all the other pesky business I get elected to do.

This blog is an add-on. I enjoy it, but understand there are only X number of hours in the day, and I don't do any labor intensive policing of comments.

Happy to delete spam, off-topic and truly offensive (to me) commentary, but it generally takes awhile for Uncle Steve to get around to those tasks.

So if that doesn't cut it for you, and you're totally bummed with the comment threads, well, don't let the cyber door hit you on the way out.

Anonymous said...

"when there's people out there who are actively figuring this stuff out."

So, one of my best friend's is a heart a surgeon. He went through medical school through the 70's. He and I had a discussion once where he told me that he has all his old science books from university and medical school. He admitted that all the information we have now regarding medical science has changed and, in fact those medical books are now outdated and wrong.

My point is that it doesn't much matter what the current theory of the day is (last 100 years or last 10 years)...as we are constantly discovering new things about the world, science, medicine, and the universe. The textbooks are constantly changing, updating, and contradicting themselves.

You choose to put your faith and belief in the knowledge and wisdom of men. I choose to put my faith in what I believe to be a higher wisdom than what any one man or group of men have.

As for the violence, you know as well as I do that every religion (or non believing group) have sects of radical people. A large portion of murderers in US prisons don't believe in God...do they represent all atheists? No it doesn't. Society in general has violent radicals...regardless of what they believe.

But really what it comes down to for me. The fact of the matter is that you don't know for sure, and neither do I. For either one of us to say we have no doubt about our "beliefs"...makes us both intellectually disingenuous.

Acting superior and acting like you have "all knowledge" kind of works both ways don't you think?

Common wisdom of the day at one point was the world was flat, and blood-letting got rid of disease.

You believe it dangerous to trust religion or belief in God because you think they are violent. I believe it dangerous to trust the popular wisdom of the day. And perhaps we are both wrong.

Anonymous said...


So if that doesn't cut it for you, and you're totally bummed with the comment threads, well, don't let the cyber door hit you on the way out.


"Don't let the cyber-door hit you on the way out"?
That seems a disrespectful and dismissive way to address the concerns of a union member about our union's website. As a union official you need to take the opinions, objections and the the observations of your membership more seriously.

Anonymous said...

Common wisdom of the day at one point was the world was flat, and blood-letting got rid of disease.

The Christian Church used to burn people at the stake for advocating Capernicus's scientific theories. They put Galileo under house arrest.

Now we have the Catholic hierarchy comparing itself to persecuted Jews as it defends itself against news reports that it enabled pedophile priests.

Sweet.

So yeah. There very well could be a higher truth. It just isn't owned by organized religion.

Steve Hulett said...

"Don't let the cyber door hit you on the way out" That seems a disrespectful and dismissive way to address the concerns of a union member about our union's website. As a union official you need to take the opinions, objections and the the observations of your membership more seriously.

And I know you're an actual union member how?

This pup was started by union officers without any TAG funds being involved. That was true in 2006 when it started, and is true now. And as the mission statemnt says in the upper right-hand corner:

"The thoughts and observations of the leaders of The Animation Guild (TAG), Local 839 IATSE. Steve Hulett is the Business Representative, and Kevin Koch is the President.

"This weblog reflects their individual personal opinions and does not necessarily represent the official position of the Animation Guild."

Nevertheless, I will work tirelessly to remove all material on the comments section that offends you. For I am but a servant.

nosferatu said...

Freedom of opinion is a wonderful thing.

Some people seem to have a hard time accepting diferent opinions.

Steve, you don't need to babysit this blog for the pleasure of a few cry babies who can't deal with differing positions.

You just need to post the number of a psychiatrist who can help them deal with their control issues.

nos

Short Bus said...

The fact of the matter is that you don't know for sure, and neither do I.

Which is the basis for Agnosticism.

Conrats, you're on the right track.

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