Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, April 11, 2016
Six months ago, I decided that I would channel my inner Henry Moore (the sculptor), and I went looking for someone who could build my design (a 6-foot-tall clown). That led me to Hollywood, and a man named Dick Cavdek.
Cavdek is the CEO and founder of CyberFx. His company does many things, not the least of which is full body scanning. If you’re a famous actor, that means
you come into his shop and have a life-size replica of yourself made, and that replica can be used by the film studios for the wardrobe and prop department.
Film studios cannot afford to have Tom Cruise come in for multiple fittings. Cavdek did this successfully for 26 years.
His walls are covered with famous faces, masks and replicas (everyone you can think of). He made the larger than life-size Oscars that usually adorn the stage at the awards. He is one of the millions of Americans who “make” things. You know, stuff! He started as a machinist and morphed into a true entrepreneur teaching himself engineering and starting a company.
In 1992, Cavdek won an Academy Award for Best Technical Achievement for the “opto-mechanical design and development of the Canon/Nemenz Camera zoom lens.” In other words, this guy was a player.
So I go to see my clown, and the place is deserted. Dick is 62 years old, and he says he is closing the shop. In the last several years, his business has declined by 85 percent. My clown is the second-to-last thing he says he will ever make.
Why is he closing? Technology passed him by. Say hello to CGI – computer generated imagery.
Now there are multiple stories here. First, his is one of hundreds of companies where new technology buries the old guys (hello, Kodak etc.), but he is not ready to stop working. He is of the generation that is not ready to retire, but is going to have a very difficult time finding work.
I was thrilled with his work, but deeply saddened to hear his tale.
Over the past year, I have met with many “older men and women” – that is code for over 50 – and they come to me to talk about getting a job and to figure out what they can do next. They are still vital, but relatively unemployable.
Today there are 77 million millennials (18-34) and 75 million boomers. Our gang is dying, and their gang has a long way to go. But it appears that neither group is having any real luck getting jobs.
I am not running for president, so I do not have any answers, other than to say beware of technology. It is a tsunami that can bury you when you least expect it.
I play golf with a very talented medical device executive, 62, and he recently lamented that his daughter, 31, needed to “get out into the real world.” And this led to his opinion that the millennial generation has been deprived of the grit of life.
My charming buddy from North Carolinais well educated and worked hard for a long time for some big corporations before becoming an entrepreneur. He started a couple of his own companies and became very successful. He sees the world through a competitive lens (he does not easily concede the 2 footer), but he wonders about the children – those 77 million who are crowding in for jobs, while the older guys are not ready to leave the stage.
We thought about the “greatest generation” from World War II, and the fact that the most recent “wars” that America has fought have been less visceral for the millennials. It was life and death in 1943; it is a computer game in 2015.
And so we come back to entrepreneurship. We applaud “fail fast,” and we do not fault the young CEOs who take money and run the company into the ground. In fact, we fund them again, thinking how much they have learned.
We forgive failure and view it as a badge of honor. But it is a very privileged badge. Maybe the millennial needs to look again and see that 62-year-old in the mirror.
Rule No. 462
“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige