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Guest Post: Why I still love Americans

This post is written by my man Neil Patrick, whose website is here. He’s the career guru you need — even if you don’t know you need him yet. I’ll post something on his site in the next 7-10 days, i.e. once I get my act together. That’s my language on him. His official language would be:

Neil Patrick is a veteran of start-ups, having been a founding director of three start-ups to date including the largest venture capital backed start-up ever in the UK. He’s also a visiting lecturer on the MBA courses at Cardiff University Business School specialising in Entrepreneurship, Corporate Strategy and Marketing. He is a mentor for business start-ups at the Innovation Centre for Enterprise (ICE) in South Wales. He is also the Editor of a popular careers blog, 40pluscareerguru. You can follow him on Twitter @NewCareerGuru and on Google+ and LinkedIn.

It’s troubling times for the UK and the USA today. The UK population has been divided by Brexit. The USA has been divided by Trump’s election.

Yet admidst all the volatility and uncertainty, I still love American people. We are like siblings. We share similar cultural DNA but have very different characters.

And today, when we have more questions than answers about our futures in the world, the one thing we can and should depend upon is each other.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I Skyped with the creator of this blog, Ted Bauer. We discussed our plans for 2017 and agreed it would be cool to write some posts for each other’s blogs.

We thought it would be interesting if he wrote about his feelings and ideas about Brits and I wrote mine about Americans. As Robert Burns famously said, ‘Oh would the gift he gi(v)e us to see ourselves as others see us’.

Ted blogs about similar things to myself – jobs, the future of work and marketing. Ted and I both got to know each other a little before we spoke through reading each other’s blogs. And because Ted is in Dallas, I was reminded of my visit there 20 years ago which made a lasting impression on me.

One August day in 1997, I stepped off an American Airlines Boeing 747 at Dallas Fort Worth. I had just crossed the Atlantic first class with my CEO and was wobbling a bit from all the champagne I’d been given.

At the terminal, a limo driver was waiting to whisk us away to the hotel. I was making my first visit to our new US paymasters. I felt like a superstar. But I’d not done anything yet apart from write the business plan for the UK offshoot we were about to set up. That’s the reason we were in Dallas – to present the plan we’d pulled together over the past few weeks.

Over the next few days, we went from meeting to meeting and were toured like VIPs around the numerous parts of the business, meeting execs and managers.

I was stunned by the experience. Everyone was brimming with enthusiasm for what they were doing. These were the most friendly and positive people I had met in business EVER.

I was used to a different style of business meeting, based on the people I’d worked with in the UK. Friendliness only ever happened here when someone was trying to sell me something. The rest of the time, everything I ever said or did was usually greeted with a random mixture of apathy, cynicism, fault-finding or even hostility. Enthusiasm had been strictly rationed in the UK since 1939.

After the first day’s meetings, the driver took me back to the hotel. He was as cheerful as ever. I was dog tired and just wanted to sleep. He said, he’d be on call for me all night. If I wanted to go somewhere later he’d be ready to take me. I’d never experienced such devotion before.  I said he should just go home and sleep too.

A few days later I hopped on a plane across to San Diego CA for more meetings with new colleagues. The same thing. More super happy positive people, who it seemed couldn’t do enough to make me feel welcome and valued.

After 5 or 6 days which seemed like a trip (in the LSD sense), I returned to the UK. Back to our grey skies and greyer people. But the trip had changed me forever. I felt I had the trust and support of everyone back in the US. I would talk to my new colleagues stateside regularly, and everything I asked for was given without question or reluctance. It was a pleasure for them to help me it seemed. This trust and friendliness was like an elixir to me. I felt energized, confident, capable. But I was the same person underneath. It was the experience of these wonderful people which had changed my outlook.

This is a business style in the US that I fear is becoming extinct. Today US business has lost its mojo. Outside of Silicon Valley, I suspect few businesses operate like this anymore. Every week today I am in touch with people in the US. And they are as delightful as the people I met 20 years ago. But the mood has changed.

Today, there is deep worry. My US friends tell me that large swathes of society have lost hope. And negative selfish greed is the MO of the majority of US business people who are doing okay financially.

Chatting with Ted reminded me of the things that had made me love working with Americans 20 years ago. He was relaxed without being sloppy. Smart without being condescending. Funny without being cruel. Ambitious without being fearful.

In short Ted reminded of the qualities that I think helped make the US great. And the US can be great again if its people can rediscover their authentic selves.

I truly believe that most Americans are not cut out to be suspicious, cynical, negative, or defeatist. They like to win. They like to play. They are rarely arrogant in victory.

These qualities are so scarce here in the UK that I have almost as many friends in the USA as I do here. And that has nothing to do with me; it has everything to do with them.

The trouble is that the economic and social woes which have befallen America in the last 10 years or so have started to make people less American and more like the worst characteristics of the Brits. We have an excuse. Two world wars cost us our empire. And class wars still divide our society. The economic consequences trying to save other nations resulted in increased state control and derision towards entrepreneurship. Britain has endured an economic hangover which lasted for about 50 years. Only in occasionally does Britain remember it’s Great. The London Olympics. The Queens 90th birthday. The occasional scientific breakthrough or creative masterpiece.

The rest of the time, Britain spends grumbling not just about the weather, but the appalling transport infrastructure. The long hours at work. The crazy house prices. The taxes on everything.  The crumbling public services we receive yet pay ever more for.

Brits and Americans alike need to rediscover our mojos. And at times like these, nothing feels better than a big hug from someone who loves us for who we are.

And right now, neither of us has any greater friend in the world than each other.

Ted Bauer

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