Several members of the Web Solutions staff recently attended a lecture given by Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Foreign Affairs" columnist for The New York Times. At a private reception preceding the event, the team also had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Friedman and speak with him one-on-one.
Friedman appeared at Quinnipiac University on September 14th to discuss his latest book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World We Invented and How We Can Come Back. The book, coauthored with foreign policy specialist Michael Mandelbaum, analyzes the major challenges the nation faces and offers strategies for overcoming them.
Friedman’s speech also touched upon his optimism for the U.S., even in a time of economic crisis and decline among global competition. For American workers struggling to overcome today’s challenges, Friedman offers three pieces of advice: "Think like an immigrant. Think like an artisan. Think like a waitress."
Thinking like an immigrant, Friedman explains, "means approaching the world with the view that nothing is owed you, nothing is given, that you have to…earn or create your place in the world."
Distinguishing artisans as pre-Industrial workers "who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch and flare in which they took personal pride," Friedman notes that many often carved their initials into the final product. He suggests the American worker use the mindset of the artisan in whatever job they do, urging us to ask ourselves, "would you want to put your initials on it when it's done?"
Friedman's final piece of advice, to "think like a waitress," is drawn from a personal experience at a pancake house in his hometown. He recounts leaving a larger-than-ordinary tip for a waitress who brought his friend extra fruit with his order, and remarks, "she didn't control much, but she controlled the fruit ladle; that was her 'extra.'"
"So whether you are the waitress or the artisan or the new immigrant," Friedman continues, "all of us have got to think, 'What is the ‘extra’ we can bring to what we do?'"