I love what I do.  But then, I’ve always made it a point to love what I do because I learned a lesson early in life and I’ll share it with you.  Not knowing better and having been told by my parents that there was no money for college and I wasn’t college material anyway, I signed up for my high-schools “Vocational Automotive” program which ran for 3 years, 3 hours each morning, and at completion we took our ASE tests and became very young but qualified mechanics.  I figured this would be a great job because at 16 I loved working on my own cars.  What better way to make a living right?

 

I didn’t know it then, but what I really loved was working with people.  From age 11 I worked full time in a seafood restaurant on the Santa Monica pier.  The restaurant was owned by my best friends parents and I had a blast working for my best friend at one of the more fun places in town.  But at slightly above minimum wage I knew it wasn’t going to be my career.  Now I knew being a mechanic was going to be my career!

 

After graduating from the vocational program and earning my ASE certification in all seven areas (there are eight now) I went to work for the local Datsun dealership and because of my racing background and good work ethic I was soon the lead mechanic for their 240z and 260z performance department.  I was the guy installing performance engine, suspension, and other parts to make your Z go fast.  I did this for almost a year and was making 5 times minimum wage per flat rate hour.  I averaged 2.5 flat rate hours per real hour, so I was making roughly 12-13x what I made at the restaurant.  And I hated it.

 

I hated it with a passion and it took me going back to my previous job to learn why.  I learned that cooking for and interacting  with my customers while providing a service is what was really making me happy.  I enjoyed  working there as my primary job until entering the military.  My position in the military and subsequent careers have all been positions working with people either in a service, leadership or teaching role.  I’ve been happy since.  Because I learned what I really enjoyed, I’ve been able to progress far beyond being a cook or mechanic.

 

That was a long run-up to what I really wanted to talk about, but sometimes that’s necessary.  Or maybe I just enjoy hearing myself talk.. J   Today I was discussing ‘loving your job’ with a Thai friend and I mentioned to her that I’ve rarely seen a Thai who appeared to love their job.  Subsequently this means that most Thai’s I know are just going through the minimum necessary motions to earn a paycheck.  However, without love for the job/career, there is very little competence or a high level of service to the customer.

 

If you don’t love your job, and you live in a country where mediocrity is the norm, what motivation do you have to be better at your job than anyone else?  Not much.  You’re not going to spend much time with continuing education, reading trade magazines, research projects, trade shows, or any of the standard things we do in the west to give ourselves a competitive edge.

 

My Thai friend agreed with me.  Most Thai’s don’t love their jobs and in fact weren’t very good at their jobs.  I surmised they didn’t love their jobs because they weren’t being motivated by their employers to learn more, serve the customer well, and the financial rewards just weren’t there.  She disagreed.  It was far more.

 

She went on to tell me about the Thai educational system.  Basically it boils down to this:  The students who do the best on tests qualify for the highest paid positions like doctors and engineers.  Students who don’t do as well on the tests have zero chance to be a doctor or engineer.  And if you do well enough to be a doctor or engineer, then your parents who are footing the bills for your school won’t let you do anything else.  Thai culture dictates higher paid positions earn more money, hence more respect, which essentially equates to being in a higher “class”, so you don’t turn down such opportunity.  Even if you hate it.  Even if because you hate it you’ll probably won’t bother to be any good at it.  You’ll do just enough to qualify and just enough to earn a paycheck.

 

In the west, if you’re starting college and you don’t yet know what you want to major in, then fine.  Your first two years or so can be filled with general education requirements essentially giving you two more years to make this important decision.  And, if you’re a year into your major and you decide to transfer to another major, you get to take your general education classes and perhaps some of your other classes with you into the new program.  You won’t need to start from the beginning.

 

The Thai system doesn’t allow this.  You not only have to declare a major to enter a program, but you need to have the test scores to enter the program.  And your scores determine to a very large degree which degree major you’ll be studying, whether you want to or not.  And.. if you find you really hate the program and decide to quit and start another program, you cannot take any of your class credits with  you.  You start over again from the beginning.  This probably won’t be a popular choice with the person paying the bills.

 

It didn’t take much asking around to learn its much the same throughout most of Asia.  Really, this wasn’t new information to me.  I’ve lived in Asia long enough to have observed all of this many times.  What was new to me was that I’d never thought about how this affects someone loving their work, and as a result how well they do their work.

 

Would you want a doctor who only because a doctor because he/she scored high on their college entrance exams and was basically told they were going to be a doctor?  Do you think they’d love their job enough to strive to do better at it, maybe become the best?  To spend a lot of their personal time furthering their knowledge?  To join professional organizations?   Or do you think they’d do just the bare minimum to get by at work, draw their paycheck, and not get in trouble?  Which of course means doing their best to avoid responsibility and anything which may be regarded as risky?   Or substitute “doctor” for “engineer who builds tall office buildings.”

 

Is there a solution?  I think so.  I think it’s the same solution that would fix most of Thailand’s social and economic issues. 

 

a.    Stamp out corruption at every level of government and society.

b.    Become a genuine democracy.

c.    Open the markets.

 

The first two would be necessary to achieve the last.  Opening the markets, or in other words letting in foreign businesses, products, imports, without undue or unfair taxation or duty, basically adopt free trade agreements with the major western nations and whoever else will agree, and prosperity will come to Thailand in a huge way. 

 

Consumers can suddenly afford much more, more jobs will be created to serve the consumers, and competition will drive education and motivate instead of test scores and class structure.  The more jobs, the higher the pay, the better the pay the more spending takes place, more spending means even more jobs.  We call it economic growth.  Real economic growth.  Growth for everybody and not just the rich and elite who currently control the government and subsequently every market to benefit themselves.  7-8% economic growth sounds great on the surface.  Until you realize that 7-8% growth is only happening to the 1-2% of the population and it’s this 1-2% of the population who controls the government and economy.

 

With real and fair income and property taxation Thailand could afford vast infrastructure improvements, much better schools with better trained and higher paid teachers, and they could afford to let their young students attempt their dreams no matter what they may be.  Which means we’ll herald in a generation who finally loves their jobs.

 

Of course not everybody will reap benefits.  But more will.  At the present only 1-2% of the countries rich and elite are reaping the benefits.  Stamp out corruption and open the economy and within a decade well over 50-60% of Thailand’s citizens will be reaping the benefits.  You want proof?  Look at Singapore, keep an eye on Vietnam, study S. Korea, visit Taiwan.  Study the countries which have really changed.  They all started by stamping out corruption and opening the markets. 

 

Other countries have passed Thailand by, and Thailand just watches as it remains the third world country it always has been.  It’s definitely a chicken/egg thing.  But it wouldn’t take as much as most think to start a chain reaction of Thai citizens finding interest in improvement from many different directions.  Dealing with corruption would be the proper start.

 

Until next time..