My Speech to a Local FBLA Chapter

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stands for Future Business Leaders of America. The FBLA is a national
organization of high school clubs whose members are planning careers
in business. I never belonged to the FBLA in high school, although
there was a chapter. I knew of it only by its initials. Back then,
I did not intend to go into business. Thinking back, I’m not sure
what I planned to do. I think I planned to go into education. I
guess I did. I’m in the education business. But I’m not on anyone
else’s payroll.

FBLA was founded in 1940. The first high school chapter was begun
in 1942 in Johnson City, Tennessee. Today, it has 215,000 members.
The related college organization, Phi Beta Lambda, has only 10,000

there is very little carry-over between the high school and college
organizations. It is basically a high school organization.

215,000 members, this is an average club size of almost exactly
ten students per American public high school. There are 21,200 public
high schools.

you think about it, ten students per high school isn’t a large figure.
Given the crucial importance of business in creating the wealth
of this or any nation, a figure this low testifies to the bureaucratic
nature of modern education. Students are not encouraged by the system
to go into business.

the fact of either tax funding or the non-profit status of most
education — rarely paid for by full-cost tuition — this bureaucratic
mind set is not surprising. Educators assume that education must
go begging. The old saying, “He never met a payroll,” applies to
teachers and most school administrators. The idea that education
must meet consumer demand — mainly, parental demand — is regarded
as preposterous by professional educators. Their operating presupposition
is this: “The education of children is too important to be left
in the hands of parents.”

mind set of a classroom teacher is very different from the mind
set of a businessman. I say this as someone who has taught at the
college level — briefly. The script writer of “Ghostbusters
had it right. The key scene in this regard was when the three self-appointed
experts in paranormal science have just been fired by the university.
Dan Ackroyd’s character bewails their expulsion from academia. “This
means we have to go into the real world. I’ve been out there. It’s
a jungle. You have to compete.”

must compete in all areas of life, of course, but the nature of
the competition is different. In business, consumers set the standards.
In academia, the screening system is run by the recipients of the
public’s money. The system is self-credentialed. Legislatures do
not hold the system or its criteria economically accountable. Every
failure of the system is dealt with by pouring more money into it
— the standard response of all governments.

saves the West is that business as an occupation still attracts
highly creative individuals who have a knack for meeting consumer
demand at prices that buyers are willing and able to pay. These
entrepreneurs were rarely the top SAT score high school graduates
or straight-A students. But without the productivity of these people,
today’s teachers and administrators would still be in the corn fields
somewhere, walking behind a mule. (Actually, they would never have
been born, or would have died in infancy. The infancy death rate
is high in non-capitalist societies.)

operates on this principle: “Formal education is so unimportant
that you can leave it in the hands of professional educators.” The
most eloquent testimony in favor of this view comes from John Taylor
Gatto, who was “Teacher of the Year” in New York State and three
times in New York City. His web site provides the first eight chapters
of his book, The Underground History of American Education,
plus his essays and other choice materials. Gatto says that he wasted
his career as a public school educator, and his site, as well as
his books (Dumbing
Us Down
, which I read this month, and A
Different Kind of Teacher
, which I read last year) serve
as a kind of academic penance.

recognizes that the public school system cannot be successfully
reformed, and that education is best left to parents. But he also
recognizes that this country will not collapse just because public
schools fail to produce consistently well-educated children. American
society’s productivity is not limited to what its tax-funded schools
produce. There is more to America than the graduates’ formal academic

came to his senses mainly because he had senses to come to. He had
not started out as a teacher.

After college,
Mr. Gatto worked as a scriptwriter in the film business, was an
advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewelry designer, an ASCAP
songwriter, and a hotdog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher.
During his schoolteaching years he also entered the caviar trade,
conducted an antique business, operated a rare book search service,
and founded Lava Mt. Records, a documentary record producer. .
. .

and I are both committed to education. The institutional legacies
that I plan on leaving behind are all connected to education. But
both of us have our sincere doubts about anyone’s ability to reform
tax-funded classroom education.

I occasionally give speeches to high school students. I am sure
that these students are moved by my speeches, because after every
speech, the students stand up and walk out.


most recent speech was given in a private K-12 school run by a large
Baptist church. This lunchtime meeting was catered. For lunch, they
had fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, huge rolls, and cookies
with M&M’s. The entire school had this for lunch. (I don’t recall
a single cafeteria lunch this good in my entire high school experience.)

20 students showed up. That’s pretty good for a high school of fewer
than 250.

spoke on three issues: the future, business, and leadership. That’s
three-quarters of what the FBLA acronym stands for. I didn’t have
enough time to deal with point four: America. Had I had more time,
I would have contrasted America’s future with mainland China’s,
which American businessmen had better start thinking about if they
want to survive.

2001, mainland China produced 465,000 college graduates in science
and engineering — as many as the United States has in total.

year, they will do this again. And the year after that.

doesn’t count thousands of mainland Chinese students enrolled in
U.S. graduate school programs and other foreign universities. It
is a well-known secret that the best science and technology students
in American graduate schools are foreigners, and the largest single
source of these students is mainland China.

United States, on the other hand, is producing millions of people
with B.A.’s in sociology, history, political science, and psychology
— degrees that have hardly any market value without a Ph.D., and
not much value even then. All this for only $135,000 after taxes
(Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford).

I digress. I talked about their futures. These were all bright,
enthusiastic students. Well, anyway, they were students. And, of
course, they hung on every word of a man who entered high school
during Eisenhower’s first term as President, a pre-historic world,
i.e., pre-“Heartbreak Hotel.”

began with one of my favorite themes: goal-setting. I handed out
the following outline, since I figured that they would not remember
as much as 10% of what I said within 24 hours or less.



that you are 70 years old. Your family has put on your 70th
birthday party. All of your children and grandchildren are there.
They cry, “Speech! Speech!” What will you tell them about your greatest
successes, how you achieved them, and what lessons you have learned
— in five minutes, so that they may actually remember at least half
of what you tell them? Start planning now for that birthday party.
To make plans, you must answer three questions, the most difficult
three questions of your life:

do I want to achieve?
How soon
do I want to achieve this?
How much
am I willing to pay to achieve this?

these principles:

  1. You can
    change a goal.
  2. You can
    change a plan.
  3. A bad plan
    is better than no plan.

Goals Notebook

a three-ring notebook. Buy a pack of lined paper. Buy some tabbed
dividers. Insert the paper into the back of the notebook. Using
as your starting point the date on which you begin your notebook,
write the following numerical dates on the tabs:

  1. Three months
  2. Six months
  3. One year
  4. Age 18
  5. Age 21
  6. Age 30
  7. Age 40
  8. Age 50
  9. Age 65 (normal
    retirement these days)
  10. Age 70
  11. The reading
    of your last will & testament

a sheet of paper, write down your goals. The further away, the bigger
the goals. Aim very high. Use these categories for your goals for
dates 1—10:

  1. Money
  2. Influence
  3. Legacy (if
    you dropped dead that day)

for category #11, never forget this exchange: “How much did he leave
behind?” “All of it!”

day that a tab’s date comes up, go to the notebook and write down
on a new sheet if you’re on schedule, why you’re on schedule, or
why you’re not on schedule. Then write down your specific plans
to meet the next deadline.

are entitled to modify your goals for the next section. Don’t throw
away the sheet of your original goals. Write down on that page why
you have modified your original goals.

year one is over, add new tabs:

  1. Three months
  2. Six months
  3. One year

doing this every year. Always have your short-term goals written
down in three-month segments. Keep referring to your list every
three months.

you start courting seriously, insist that your prospective spouse
participate with you in a joint goal-setting session. Here you will
find out if this relationship has a future. If you don’t have a
filled-in notebook to serve as an example, your insistence that
the other person create one will not carry weight.

that point on, both of you must keep a notebook.


must begin to budget. You have two primary temporal assets: time
and money. All of life is a trade-off between time and money. In
a world of scarce economic resources, you buy what you want either
by paying money (goods/services) or lining up.

must set up a money budget. If you have a computer, use Quicken.
If you don’t, then do it by hand. But get help in setting up your
initial budget from someone who has Quicken. You must budget 10%
for the church (pay God first) and 15% for your savings program
(pay yourself second), which you will not spend except on capital
assets. This is untouchable money for the rest of your life. You
must be able to see where your money went. You need a budget.

must set up a time budget. Buy a cheap pocket imitation of a Day-Timer.
Start using it for your school work. You must be able to see where
your time went. You need a budget.

management is more important than money management. Work on it.


also handed out a bibliography on leadership. I told them that if
they wanted to become business leaders, they would have to be economically
successful. I also told them that they would need two skills: the
ability to write and the ability to speak in public. The only other
way to become a leader in business is to give away piles of money.
It’s a lot cheaper to learn how to write and speak.



Activities, Beginning Soon

  1. On-campus:
    debate team, newspaper, annual.
  2. Off-campus:
    Toastmasters, Junior Achievement
    (high school).


  1. Career.
    Work for a successful small businessman locally for at least 5
    years. Master all aspects of the business.
  2. College.
    Major in journalism. Minor in accounting.

how to write and calculate revenues/costs.

major in English, minor in business.


  1. Subscribe
    to The Economist. This year. Read as much of it as you
    can understand. This is the best single source of news on the
    planet. Subscribe (free) to “Gary North’s Reality Check.”
    Send e-mail to
  2. Books on
    business success: The
    Millionaire Next Door
    and The
    Millionaire Mind
    , by Thomas J. Stanley. Rich
    Dad, Poor Dad
    , by Robert Kiyosaki. The
    , by Michael Gerber. Acres
    of Diamonds
    , by Russell Conwell. This book is free on
    the Web:
  3. Books on
    leadership: Dedication
    and Leadership
    , by Douglas Hyde. Leadership is an Art,
    by Max DuPree. Stronger
    Than Steel
    , by R.C. Sproul. Mr. Anonymous: The Life
    of William Volker, by Herbert Cornuelle. Books
    of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs.
  4. Books on
    advertising: How
    To Write a Good Advertisement
    , by Victor O. Schwab. My
    Life in Advertising
    and Scientific
    , by Claude Hopkins. Free:


1. Spreadsheet
(Microsoft Excel). Master it.
2. Texas
Instruments BA-35 financial calculator. Master it.


reason why I gave the speech is that the son of a friend of mine
needed to fill a lunchtime speaker’s slot. The father, who runs
a successful small business, came along to hear my speech. Afterward,
he said, “I wish I had head that speech when I was in high school.”
I replied: “You
wouldn’t have paid any attention to it. You would have been too

were too young, too. Anyway, most of them were. But if Pareto’s
80-20 rule
holds good — and it usually does — then about four
of them will actually put some of my material to good use.

true of my readers, too. Who knows? Maybe some outfit will post
my two outlines
for their members. I hope they do, if they post the entire text.
But the fact is, no matter how good my material is, even for free,
most people who read it will not put it to productive use. This
is why those 20% who do apply it can maintain their advantage. Most
of their competitors are too busy, too bored, or too ill-informed
to pay any attention.

Rotary Club speaker announces, “This nation is going to the dogs
because of two reasons: ignorance and apathy.” One member turns
to the other and whispers, “Do you think that’s true?” His fellow
club member replies, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

26, 2002

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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