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Being Phenomenal in a Global Environment

Competing in a 7 Billion WorldToday, I read an article “5 Tips to Becoming Phenomenally Successful” in Careerealism. Sigh…I shouldn’t read these things because they can be rather discouraging.

The first tip is to achieve excellence by being the top 1 to 3%. I’m assuming he means in the world, so I did some math estimation to see what that might mean.

I used the Bureau of Labor Statistics for US statistics and Wikipedia for world population. In 2014, the world population is estimated to be at 7 billion. Out of that 7 billion, only a certain amount will be considered working age (although some countries consider children working age), and out of that working age group, some will participate and some not participate. This will necessarily be very inexact as the science of measuring working population and participation is dependent on how one collects the information and maybe even define the terms.

For lack of information, I used US statistics to extrapolate to the world the working population and participating population. Granted, the world is vastly different than the US but I don’t have any other information and I’m just going for the rough numbers to see what it means to be 1 to 3% in a 7 billion world.

The US population is 317 million. Out of that, 247 million are considered working age or 78.1%. Only 62.8% of the 247 million are participating in the labor force or 155 million. In April, unemployment rate was deemed to be 6.3%, so 93.7% are employed or 146 million.

After researching in the CES (Current Employment Statistics), I find that there are roughly 6,658,090 working in finance/business industry. This figure equates roughly to 4.6% which is somewhat in the ballpark of 5% that I was reading a couple of years ago as the percentage of US workers in the finance industry. Okay, somewhat close enough.

On the world stage, there are 7 billion folks of which maybe 5.5 billion are working age (assuming the same 78.1% – dubious but all I have at the moment). At 62.8% participation, I have 3.4 billion participating in the labor force, of which 3.2 billion are currently employed. Using 4.6% as the percentage in the finance/business industry, I have a worldwide pool of 147 million finance/business professionals. One percent of that is 1.5 million and 3 % is 4.4 million, both less than the 6.6 million currently in the US. The numbers are already small. If you consider that US population is only 4.5% of the world population (317 mil/7 bil), extrapolating that math onto the 1.5 to 4.4 million range gives 66 thousand to 132 thousand finance professionals in the US considered in the 1 to 3 %. Vanishingly small.

Now I don’t know if the writer means that 1 to 3 % gets a lot of money and the rest a reasonable amount or the 1 to 3% gets the bulk of the money and the rest have to scramble for crumbs. Right now, it feels like the world is moving towards all or none: the top 1 to 3 % reaps all the money and the rest of us fights for the crumbs. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic but this all or none syndrome seems prevalent.


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