BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Daniel H. Pink, what
is your book "Free Agent Nation" about?
Mr. DANIEL H. PINK, AUTHOR, "FREE AGENT NATION": My book is about the
rise of independent workers,
free-lancers, e-lancers, self-employed
professionals, proprietors of very small
businesses. And the book tells the story
of--of how this new worker arose, what
this new worker's role is in the economy and in our lives, and
how it's really affecting the way we work and the way we
LAMB: You open up the book by telling us that you vomited on
the vice president of the United States.
Mr. PINK: It wasn't actually on him; it was in his office.
LAMB: It was close.
Mr. PINK: It was close. Yeah, I was--before I chose the more
honorable work of journalism, I worked in politics for many
years, and most recently as a speechwriter for--chief
speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore. And one day after
working way too hard, I left a meeting in his West Wing office,
fainted and began throwing up into a bowl that was a gift, I
think, from the queen of Denmark. And that was sort of a
signal that it was time for me to go and choose a different
way to navigate my work and my life.
LAMB: What years did you work for Vice President Gore?
Mr. PINK: I worked for him, '95, '96 and '97.
Mr. PINK: Why did I work for him?
Mr. PINK: Oh, I--I think Al Gore is a terrific leader. I think he's
a very principled man, and he was actually a pretty good
boss. He's--for--especially for a writer. He's someone who's
written a book before. He's someone who was a journalist, so
he has respect for the written word, and he's smart and
challenging and really a good person to work for.
LAMB: Actually didn't want to know so much about him as
why be a speechwriter. What--what got you into that, 'cause
you also wrote for Robert Reich?
Mr. PINK: Yes. What got me into speech writing really was my
lack of aptitude for almost anything else. I had worked in
politics for a long time on a series of losing campaigns and
eventually migrated into the policy and communications side
of campaigns and more and more found myself writing
speeches, because I was--if nothing else, I was a fast typist.
And ended up falling into that world, and--and liking it quite a
bit. I really--I really enjoyed it. It's an interesting juncture of
the communication side of politics and the policy side of
LAMB: What's your hometown?
Mr. PINK: My hometown is central Ohio; Columbus, Ohio.
LAMB: So where did you get the idea for "Free Agent Nation"?
What--where did that all come together? Those three words?
Mr. PINK: Well, what happened was that I actually ended up
becoming a free agent myself. After I left Al Gore's office, I
decided that I would go out on my own and try to work for
myself, because after, you know, a decade or so of holding a
job I said, you know, this job thing gets a little bit old after a
while. Maybe I can be--make the same amount of money but
have a slightly better life if I work for myself. So I moved from
the White House to the third floor of our house in Washington,
DC, the Pink house, and ended up writing speeches and
articles for a series of--of clients.
Now I was fortunate in that my wife had a job and, therefore,
health insurance. So it wasn't necessarily a plunge into free
agency, but kind of a gentle--gentle jump. And so what
happened as I started doing this is I looked around and I said,
man, there are a lot of people who seem to be doing this.
And, yet, I realized our understanding of this world was
remarkably, remarkably small. I wrote a magazine story for a
magazine called Fast Company which got an incredible
response from readers, just hundreds of e-mails instantly.
And--but what I said is--you have all these people who are
working for themselves; we don't really know that much about
them. And so I said, well, how does any nation endeavor to
understand itself? Well, it goes out and takes a census. So
that's what I decided to do. For over a year, my wife and I
and our--our young daughter and then another daughter
traveled around the United States, and I interviewed hundreds
and hundreds of independent workers about their lives and
their dreams and their troubles to try to get a census of what
this new world of work is about.
LAMB: When did you do that traveling?
Mr. PINK: I did it in the fall of '98, all through '99 and a little
bit of early 2000.
LAMB: How'd you pay for it?
Mr. PINK: The--the fine people at Warner Publishing, who
gave me a--a nice book advance and allowed me to conduct
LAMB: Is this your first book?
Mr. PINK: Yes.
LAMB: Why would they hire you to do a book and give you the
kind of money you needed to travel all over the United
States? How did you convince them that this was a book?
Mr. PINK: Well, I--you know, I--I explained to them how large
this population of people was, how there really is not a
comprehensive coverage of this phenomenon. And to my mind,
and as--as many reviewers have said, this is really one of the
most important, if not the most significant phenomenon in the
world of work today, especially after the dot-com collapse.
There was all this hype about dot-com this and dot-com that.
But I really think the most fundamental economic change is in
the form of how people work and there hasn't been a
comprehensive account of what it looks like, how it happened
and where it's going.
LAMB: How old are you?
Mr. PINK: Thirty-seven.
LAMB: Where did you meet your wife?
Mr. PINK: I met my wife in law school, one of the--probably
the only valuable thing I got out of law school.
LAMB: And what's her name?
Mr. PINK: Well, her name is Jessica Lerner.
LAMB: And--and where'd you go to law school?
Mr. PINK: Yale Law School. So I met--I met my wife at Yale
Law School and...
LAMB: Is she a lawyer?
Mr. PINK: She was. She's now--she now is a free agent.
Takes--also takes care of our kids. But I met my wife at law
school, which was, as I said, about the only valuable thing I
got out of law school.
LAMB: Now you--how'd you move around the United States?
Mr. PINK: What we would do is we would usually fly to a
particular region and then from that region kind of be camped
there for a few weeks and then drive out. So we would go to
Northern Cal--we'd go to Northern California, fly, say, to San
Francisco, fan out from San Francisco for a few weeks. Some
of the--some portion of it I did by myself. Los Angeles, I did
by myself. Seattle, I did by myself.
LAMB: How old was your daughter--your first daughter
Mr. PINK: She was--she started the road show when
we--when she was two.
LAMB: How old--what's her name?
Mr. PINK: Sophie.
LAMB: You now have another one?
Mr. PINK: Eliza.
LAMB: And she was on this trip at some point?
Mr. PINK: She--she came--well, she came into the picture in
1999. So she missed some of the early stages of the trip and
ended up taking some of the later stages in '99 and early
LAMB: How many people did you talk to?
Mr. PINK: Oh, boy. Face-to-face interviews was well over
300. I also did a number of phone interviews. I have a Web
site, FreeAgentNation.com, where I did a--an online census,
also of free agents. So I had about 12--over 1,100 people
who filled out a kind of mock census about what--how they
operated their lives.
LAMB: Name one person that you talked to that you thought
was interesting and tell us why.
Mr. PINK: Betty Fox. Betty Fox...
LAMB: Grandma Betty?
Mr. PINK: Grandma Betty, also known as GrandmaBetty.com.
Grandma Betty is a--now a 70-year-old woman. When I met
her, she was 68 years old. And at the age of 67, she found
herself in a really serious predicament. Betty Fox was widowed
at a very young age, in her early 30s. And this is at the time
that Betty Friedan, another Betty from New York, was urging
women to seize the work force. But Betty Fox found herself
getting seized by the work force. She was widowed, she had
two sons to raise and so she took a series of jobs. The jobs
were not high-level, high-paying jobs. And she would end up
losing a job here and there, all--not because of her
performance, but because the company would go under.
And so finally at age 67, she--this woman, 67-year-old
woman in Bayside, Queens, her company moves too far away
for her to commute. And so here she is, out of work, no
pension and a long time to live on this Earth. And so what she
did is she--her--her son Marty had--was a bank technology
officer. He hooked her up with something called WebTV, which
allows people to surf the Internet using their television set.
And before long, Betty started looking around, and she said,
`Wow, there's some really interesting material out here,
particularly for older Americans like me. But it's a mess, it's
poorly organized, it's hard to find things.'
So she started organizing it herself. Her son got her a
domain--that is, GrandmaBetty.com--she started organizing
her sites, and before long, people started coming. She started
getting e-mails about where to make--how to make peanut
brittle, where to get--solve certain health problems, where to
buy certain kinds of clothing. And she would dutifully, in her
Queens living room, answer all these e-mails. And before long,
almost unbeknownst to herself, she had created what the
Internet gurus call a portal. And before long, she started
getting advertising and affiliate relationships.
And so here's this woman who went from having no job and
having a somewhat bleak set of circumstances to using the
Internet and using her own gumption to establish a presence
on the Web. And at the end of the book, I talk about Grandma
Betty was eventually acquired. She had these venture-backed
Internet companies come to her apartment in Bayside,
Queens, and sit across from her, just as you and I are sitting
right now, and say, `Grandma Betty, we want to buy you
out.' And she drove a very hard bargain and remained--she
ended up taking a nice deal with a company called
iGrandparents but remained a free agent. Still alive, still
working out of her living room in Bayside, Queens.
LAMB: So many of these dot-coms have failed. Does this
group make it?
Mr. PINK: The free agents?
Mr. PINK: Oh, sure, because the free agents were not--free
agents had--had less exposure. Free--Betty Fox is making
it--is making it great. These free--the--the dot-coms that
failed ended up burning through, as everybody knows, tens of
millions of dollars of venture capital. Free agents--if you work
for yourself, you can't--you have to make a profit almost from
day one. And if you don't make a profit from day one, you're
LAMB: Name another person and tell us a story.
Mr. PINK: Another person who I--I really enjoyed was a
woman named Deborah Risi, who is in Northern California. She
worked at a number of high-tech firms--Apple Computer,
probably the most prominent--and eventually tired of it. Now
what was interesting, one of the things that--that had her
make the break--and I heard this repeatedly in a--in a--in a
lot of interviews, and--and it really surprised me, the--the
frequency it was mentioned--was she ended up leaving
because of ethical disagreements with the company. And that
really surprised me in a lot of these interviews. People said,
`Well, you know, the reason I left was I didn't really--I was
asked to do something I didn't think was quite right.' And so
there's a sense of people want a greater freedom of
conscience in their work than they are able to get.
But anyway, Deb Risi left her job and ended up working as a
marketing consultant for herself. She subsequently adopted
two children from Cambodia, so she's a single mom, free
agent, and she has this one interesting element, one
interesting part of her story where she decided to buy a
house. And the bank said to her, `We're not going to give you
a mortgage. You don't have a job.' And she said, `Wait a
second. I'm here in Silicon Valley, where companies come and
go, you know, like the sun, and you're going to tell--you're
telling me that you're not going to give me a loan because I
don't have a job? Listen, I've got six clients.' And so she
shows her clients. `I've got six clients. If one of these clients
goes away, I'm going to still make my payments. But if I'm
working at WebVan, say, and WebVan disappears, you're not
going to get your payments.'
And so she tried to convince these--this bank loan officer
that she was actually a safer risk working for herself than she
would have been holding a job. And I think that right there
says a lot about how work and risk have changed in America.
LAMB: How would you contact somebody in your survey?
Mr. PINK: That's an interesting question. It's a--it's a very
aggressive reporting job. I would use contacts, and contacts
of contacts. I--I don't know how I could have reported this
book without e-mail. So what I would do is I would send out
an e-mail to contacts in a particular region, saying, `I'm going
to do this reporting. Anybody who I should talk to?' And get a
few more e-mails back; I would ask them questions as well.
LAMB: What were you looking for?
Mr. PINK: I was looking for a wide variety of experience and
backgrounds; people who had just started, people who had
always been doing it.
LAMB: But they had to be free agents?
Mr. PINK: Yes. Yeah.
LAMB: So you only interviewed free agents?
Mr. PINK: Yes. Absolutely. 'Cause I was taking a census of
free agent nation. I didn't interview--well, I interviewed a
couple of people who were contemplating going into free
agency, but I wanted to get a picture for the universe of
people who were working for themselves.
LAMB: Tell me everything that a free agent has to be. What
Mr. PINK: In terms of their attributes?
LAMB: Yeah. I mean, what ma--what would make me a free
agent? What would you have to be?
Mr. PINK: Well, you would have to be working for yourself.
You would have to be largely untethered from a large
organization and not dependent on an institution or an
employer. So, again, one of the interesting things here is the
term `free agent' is--is an imperfect term. I mean, in some
sense, it's modeled after the term `the organization man,'
which came out in William White's book in the 1950s. And
what he said is, when he described the organization man in his
book, he said, `I use this term--I can think of no other better
way to describe the people I'm talking about.' And that's what
I feel with free agents. I can think of no other term to
describe the people I'm talking about.
So there isn't, say, a pure, scientific definition of who's a free
agent and who's not. But people--and even people in the
traditional world of work often think of themselves as free
agents. But what I focused on in my interviews and in my
census was people who worked for themselves.
LAMB: Who was William White?
Mr. PINK: William White was a--a fabulous journalist
at--mostly at Fortune magazine in the 1940s, '50s and '60s
who ended up using journalism as a forum of just incredibly
insightful sociology. And so he--he wrote the book "The
Organization Man." He also did some really fascinating studies
where he would--he studied how--where corporations located
and--and made the incredible finding that the main decision
about where a company's headquarters was, was proximity to
the CEO's home. He also spent some time literally standing on
the streets of New York watching how people interacted. So
he was kind of an anthropologist/sociologist/journalist. Just a
remarkable--he died about two years ago--a remarkable figure
in American journalism.
LAMB: Did you meet him?
Mr. PINK: No, I didn't. I didn't. He passed away, as I said,
about--about two years ago. And I...
LAMB: How successful was the book "The Organization Man"?
Mr. PINK: The book did very well. The book was kind of a
surprise best-seller because it was a little bit on the academic
side even though it was written by a journalist. And it's really
endured over the years. I mean, you and I could have a
conversation about "The Organization Man" and we can--you
can say the phrase and people can nod and know what you're
talking about, because that term has become such a part of
LAMB: You say in your book that `managers are toast.'
Mr. PINK: I agree with that, and I'm glad I do, 'cause I wrote
it. The--why are managers toast? Well, I tend to think of
most managers at most companies sort of subscribed to the
vice principal school of management. That is, they act almost
as vice principals of the workplace. Their job is to get people
in trouble, to watch what people are doing, to give people
detention, to give people hall passes. And I think that that
way of working, that way of managing is fundamentally flawed
and outdated. Most workers are self-motivated. Most workers,
talented workers especially, need organizations much less
than organizations need talented workers.
So I think the manager of the future is a very different kind of
figure, someone who is in--a very astute judge of talent;
someone who is able to marshal talent for the particular task;
someone who operates--sort of my model for this is--is a
combination of Phil Jackson, the great LA Lakers basketball
coach, Penny Marshall, who is an actress and a writer and a
director in Hollywood, and Steve Rubell, the guy who founded
Studio 54, who became a great party-giver. So it's someone
who can attract talent, assemble them for a particular task,
really understand the idiosyncrasies of individual talent and
get the most out of them.
LAMB: Will you be a free agent in 20 years?
Mr. PINK: I think so. I think so. We can have a--we can do
this show again in 20 years and we can find out. But
I--I--I--I think so. It's hard--no--again, there--there are
certain, you know--there's a--you--you write a book like
"Free Agent Nation" and use the terminology of free agency
and describe this world as a nation and people declaring their
independence, and it's somewhat--somewhat misleading,
because it's not as if you become a free agent--that is, if you
leave corporate America to go to free agent nation, it's the
same as leaving Cuba and swimming to Florida and you have
to turn around and denounce Castro. It's less stark than that.
I think more and more people in the work force--and this
might even be the most profound change--are essentially
going to hold dual passports, one in free agent nation, one in
corporate America, and migrate back and forth between the
Now in the days of "The Organization Man," that was
impossible. If you left an organization and said to your boss,
`You know what? I'm going to try to make it on my own for a
few years,' and then came back five years later and said,
`I--I'm ready to come back,' there's no way they would have
taken you. But today, corporate employers are recognizing
that a stint in s--in self-employment makes a worker
LAMB: Columbus, Ohio, your hometown.
Mr. PINK: Yes.
LAMB: You--you met your wife at Yale. Where were you
Mr. PINK: I was a--I graduated from Northwestern University.
LAMB: In what subject?
Mr. PINK: In linguistics, of course.
Mr. PINK: Yes.
LAMB: Why were you studying it?
Mr. PINK: It's--linguistics is a fascinating topic and in--in a
way, its language that's at the juncture of both science and
the humanities. So I ended up taking both a lot--courses in
poetry but also courses in the psychol--you know,
the--the--the circuitry of the brain. So it--so it's--to me,
linguistics was a quintessential liberal arts discipline.
LAMB: What were your parents doing? Are--are they still
active? Are they still busy? What do they do?
Mr. PINK: Yes. My father's a free agent. He was actually an
organization man for many years. He's a chemist. He worked
for--for over a quarter of a century for a large research
organization connected to Ohio State University. My mother
was a schoolteacher; now she works doing social service
programs for older people.
LAMB: What year did you graduate from Northwestern?
Mr. PINK: '86.
LAMB: And from Yale Law School?
Mr. PINK: '91.
LAMB: So what happened then?
Mr. PINK: Well, the--I graduated from college; I ended up
working here in Washington for one of Ralph Nader's groups.
Pretty interesting group that organized buyers of heating oil
to exercise greater leverage in the marketplace. I actually
started law school and left because I didn't like it and ended
up going to India for a while to...
LAMB: What'd you do in India?
Mr. PINK: I worked--I traveled around; I also worked for a
legal aid organization. You can live--in the mid-1980s, you
could live pretty cheaply in India if you were a single man in
his early 20s.
LAMB: How--how did you get involved with Ralph Nader?
Mr. PINK: Through contacts of contacts. I didn't work directly
with Nader. I worked from one of his constellation of--of
LAMB: D--doing what?
Mr. PINK: I did media and outreach, trying to get people to
join this cluster of consumers who exercised their power in the
LAMB: First politician you worked for?
Mr. PINK: First politician I worked for was a guy name Sherrod
Brown, who is now a congressman from Ohio. He was--used
to be Ohio's secretary of State. He actually was elected Ohio
secretary of State when he was probably eight years younger
than I am right now. And worked writing speeches for him.
LAMB: And then other campaigns you worked on?
Mr. PINK: Well, the two most prominent figures would be
President Bob Kerrey and Senator Geraldine Ferraro. I worked
on Bob Kerrey's presidential campaign in 1992. I also worked in
Geraldine Ferraro's Senate race. Those are the two most
prominent people--politicians for whom I've worked.
LAMB: In the middle of your book, you find yourself in Terre
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: ...and you find yourself in the Eugene V. Debs Home
and at the Larry Bird Motel.
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: But out of that--I mean, what I'm getting at is--here is
this whole business of where you are politically and the union
part of this. And you--you--you've discovered something
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: What was it?
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Well, what I discovered is--I think the
traditional labor unions, particularly industrial labor unions,
have become passe. They've become ineffective. I don't think
they're necessarily that great for workers. But I don't think
that unions are dead. In fact, I think free agents--free
agency could trigger a rather robust union movement. But the
unions I'm talking about are more of the crafts unions, the
building trades unions, the entertainment industry unions.
What I think is going to happen is that smart unions are going
to recognize that, hey, you know what, we're becoming more
and more a free agent economy. The idea that you can
negotiate 10-year collective bargaining agreements, five-year
collective bargaining agreements with large employers, it just
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Mr. PINK: What unions need to do and what many workers in
this economy are crying out for are a place to learn new skills,
a place to get health insurance and other types of benefits, a
place to meet other people in your profession. And so that's
what the building trades unions do. That's what the
entertainment unions do. To a large extent, that's what
the--the sports unions do. And so what I sort of had this
moment in--in Terre Haute, Indiana, of all places, having
visited the Eugene V. Debs Home, this great labor leader who
ran for president, and also staying at the Larry Bird
Motel--Larry Bird is from--Larry Bird went to college in Terre
Haute, Indiana--in professional basketball labor negotiations,
there's something called a Larry Bird exception, where
c--where teams in--in--in--in the NBA there's a salary cap.
Teams can only pay a certain amount of money for all their
players. If they want to hire a free agent, they can't bust
that salary cap. But they can keep one of their own players
and bust the salary cap. That's known as the Larry Bird
And what I realized is that more and more work is actually
becoming this kind of AFL-CIO/NBA type arrangement so that
I think the unions of the future, the worker groups of the
future are gonna be very much like the sports unions; that is,
they're going to have a union that sets a--a minimum, maybe
a salary minimum, basic working conditions. And then beyond
that, people are going to be represented by agents. More and
more--something like 5 percent of workers who earn more
than $75,000 a year are represented by talent agents.
LAMB: What did you learn at the Eugene V. Debs Home?
Mr. PINK: Oh, I--I learned that, you know, the--the--the idea
that--this notion that the economy is changing and someone
needs to represent workers is not a--is--is obviously an
enduring American tradition. And it's expressed--it expresses
itself in fundamentally different ways.
LAMB: Have you paid much attention to him, by the way, in
history before you got there?
Mr. PINK: Not significantly. You know, there's not much to do
in Terre Haute, so--you know, there are only really two real
big sites to see. And I just sort of inadvertently made this
LAMB: He ran for president--What?--s--five or six times.
Mr. PINK: Yeah, a few times. He was in prison for a while.
LAMB: Released by Warren G. Harding, I believe.
Mr. PINK: I think so, yeah.
LAMB: Pardoned and all that.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: But--but was involved in--can the--in the railroads.
Could--is there--could that duplicate itself, the kind of world
we had back when he was involved in the labor movement?
Mr. PINK: I don't think so. I--I think that that--but--but,
again, that sort of labor activism arose because of the
circumstances of the underlying economy. And I think
that--that a new sort of labor movement could emerge based
on the circumstances of this economy. So what workers really
need to--no workers expect lifetime employment at a single
company. But what I--what I think workers do demand and
what they want are valuable places to work, interesting
places to work, benefits--it's a big issues; health-care
benefits, retirement benefits--and a way to learn new skills,
because today you--you learn some skills for a job, it's not
like you can do it for 30 years. You have to constantly,
constantly sharpen your skills. And workers are looking for a
venue to do that.
LAMB: OK. Go back here, in '98 and part of '99. You're
traveling around. What's--what's your wife thinking about all
this? Does she like this traveling around and...
Mr. PINK: I think so. I think she likes it.
LAMB: Did she help you in any way?
Mr. PINK: She helped me by taking our daughter to the zoos
so I could do my--my interviews. And--and my wife was
a--just an incredible sounding board for a lot of these ideas.
My wife is a much more rigorous thinker than I am. You know,
in law school I was in the portion of the class that made the
top 90 percent possible. And she was someone who was
getting straight As through college, straight As through law
school and has a very keen left-brain sense of what's a strong
argument and what's not. And so I cannot make an
argument--I cannot run an argument past her and--without it
getting significantly sharpened in the course of our
LAMB: Has it dawned on you that Bill Clinton's 55 years old
and he and his wife went to Yale and met at Yale and--there
you are, 37. You met your wife at Yale.
Mr. PINK: Yeah, I--I think it's dawned on me. I mean, his book
deal was much more lucrative than mine.
LAMB: Did--but--but what was the circumstances you--when
you met her?
Mr. PINK: I was in the class ahead of her and...
LAMB: Isn't that about the same situation?
Mr. PINK: You know, I'm not sure. I never really--I never
really looked at the Clintons as a--as a model for my romantic
LAMB: Well, the reason I mention this...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...is because you're obviously interested in politics...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...but you then talking about Bill Clinton as being...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the `just in time politician' of this age.
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
LAMB: What does that mean, `just in time' politician?
Mr. PINK: Well--`just in time.' In order to understand it, we
have to take a step backward. American manufacturing
h--rehabilitated itself in the early 1990s through a practice
called just in time manufacturing. It used to be that
companies would make a whole bunch of a product, stick it in
a warehouse and have these huge inventory of products and
wait for customers to order them. And we would go into
recessions when you had a big industry--big inventory
overhang. Now, in part, that's what's happening right now in
the economy. We have excess inventory. So just in time
manufacturing has not been the perfect panacea for American
But a company like Dell Computer is a good example. Dell's
inventory l--is only about a day. So someone takes an order
from Dell, Dell goes out and gets the parts, assembles the
particular computer that the consumer wants, ships it to
them. I think that our politics are moving in that
direction--have moved in that direction. We used to--the task
of political leaders used to be to maintain a coalition.
Democrats had racial minorities, environmentalists and labor
unions. Republicans had big business, social conservatives.
And the goal of the leaders of these parties was to keep this
big coalition intact, to make sure nobody fell off of the wagon.
And, in a sense, it's basically making sure you have a giant
inventory of voters and constituents.
But I--but because of disenchantment with politics, because
of the rise of independent voters, because of some changes in
the economy, it's no longer possible for--for most parties to
maintain these giant inventories of supporters. So s--effective
leaders, smart leaders practice what I call `just in time'
politics. They assemble the right coalition for the right task.
And we see that in--and I think Bill Clinton was a master at
this. Bill Clinton, I think, understood this. He didn't call it that,
of course. I think he understood that, and I think he was
masterfully skilled at doing it.
So you take something like the '93 budget agreement. Passed
with one vote in the House; one vote in the Senate. We had
this--and it was a strange coalition of people who voted for
that. Although that one was mostly Democrats, but--but it
was--it was a particular coalition. Then he passes NAFTA.
Well, who--organized labor leaves him, environmentalists leave
him, but he does a coalition of free market thinkers, of
Republicans and fashions another coalition; wins by one vote.
And the coverage of him had this kind of "Perils of Pauline"
quality. `Can Bill Clinton do it?' `Is it going to get the votes?'
`Can he summon the--the will of all these people and pass
And there was a--a lot of the commentary was, oh, he's not
an effective leader. Look, he has these "Perils of Pauline"
travails in order to pass legislation. But to my mind, that was
very much like in these days of waning party loyalty, of an
even split in the parties, of very strong special interest
groups, that would have been like some securities analyst
saying, `Can Dell fix Brian--get Brian Lamb his computer? It
only has one day of parts. Can it get the CPU? Can it get the
screen? Oh, my gosh, it shipped the product.' And so I think
our politics now, especially right now where the Senate and
the House are basically split, where the last election was
essentially a tie, that our politics are really `just in time'
politics, and Bill Clinton is a true master of that.
LAMB: Does Al Gore practice `just in time' politics?
Mr. PINK: I mean, I think if Al Gore were elected president, he
would have had to. I think any smart leader has to do that in
order to get their--their legislation--to get anything through. I
mean, we have essentially a dead split in this country
politically. And so--and I also think that a lot of the alignment
of voters and of special interests and--and of interest groups
is--is no longer permanent. I mean, Virginia Postrel, her book
"The Future and Its Enemies" talks about dynamism/stasis as
a dividing line in how political thinkers and political groups are
LAMB: But the--I'm glad you brought up Virginia Postrel,
because she endorses your book.
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: She's Reason magazine. She's a libertarian.
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: But you also have Tom Peters, who gives you a
strong--`the best book on work life since William H. White.'
What'd that cost you?
Mr. PINK: Cost me sending him a manuscript.
LAMB: Steve Case says, `"Free Agent Nation" is the shape of
things to come in the Internet century.' What'd that cost
Mr. PINK: You know what? These blurbs are--these blurbs are
LAMB: Did you--do you know these folks?
Mr. PINK: Well, I know Virginia Postrel. I mean, I've met
Virginia Postrel in the course of doing my reporting. I'd
actually written a couple of speeches for Steve Case. Tom
Peters, I had--I had met maybe once in my life.
LAMB: Naomi Wolfe...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the woman that--the alpha-beta woman that
advised Al Gore. She says, `A groundbreaking book, a
readable and persuasive benchmark.'
Mr. PINK: And that--that's partly because women are su--are
playing such a prominent role in the free agent economy.
LAMB: How so?
Mr. PINK: Well, first of all, women are becoming self-employed
at 12 times the rate of men. Women--there are a lot of
women out there in the work force who are hitting a glass
ceiling and not being able to make it to the upper ranks of
corporations. And they figure they'll be better off on their
own. But there are also a lot of women who don't even hit the
glass ceiling, who look up there and say, `Man, I don't want
to be there anyway.' So they're finding that the best way to
navigate their work lives is to go out on their own, and
women, for a whole set of reasons, tend to be extremely
effective free agents.
LAMB: You consider yourself a Democrat?
Mr. PINK: I'm a registered Democrat in the Dis--I'm--well, I
live in the District of Columbia. I'm a registered Democrat.
LAMB: The reason I asked was because, you know, Virginia
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and Naomi Wolfe and all these different names in
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...where is this heading in politics, though, because
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...your online survey...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and all, tilted more--the--the people that answered
are more Democratic than Republican, you say?
Mr. PINK: Yeah, in the survey, right.
LAMB: Is this a Republican-Democratic split? Are free agents
Mr. PINK: I don't think that either party really understands
this. I mean, I think the Democrats tend to look at free
agents as people who are being cast out into this
e--this--this perilous world of work by evil corporations, and
Republicans tend to think of self-employed people as
modern-day Babbitts who don't believe in any role in
government, who don't believe in any kind of form of social
justice. And I think both are fundamentally, fundamentally
misguided. I'll give you an example. You know, today in
America, fewer than one out of 10 workers--belongs in the
private sector belongs to a labor union. Fewer than one out of
10 workers works for a Fortune 500 company. Yet our politics,
national politics especially, are this pitched battle between big
business and big labor, when most Americans have a rather
scant connection to either group.
LAMB: I almost took you up on your offer in this book. I think
you may know what I'm talking about because I read a book a
week. You--you--you're going to make it easy for people like
me. I didn't. But--and that is that you--you have a technique
in here, and I've basically earmarked all of them, where you've
got one page on each chapter that can kind of tell you
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: Why'd you do that?
Mr. PINK: I respect people's time. What I'm asking people, as
an author, is to make a very significant commitment to me.
They don't know me. They have to be--to--her--hear about
the book, and they have to make a significant commitment.
They have to pay $17, $18 for the book, and they have to
spend perhaps six or seven hours reading it. That's a
significant commitment for people to make. So I want to make
it as easy for them as possible. So what I did at--done at the
end of every chapter was fashion something that I call The
Box. The Box has four elements to it. One element is what I
call The Crux, which explains the point of the chapter in about
150 words or--or fewer. There's also a--an entry called The
Factoid, which is one startling factoid from the chapter. There
is a section called The Quote, which offers one representative
quote from the chapter, and there's an--an entry called The
Word. And every chapter, because of--the work is changing
so fast and our vocabulary is racing to catch up with it, there
are many new words, some of which I've coined myself--tried
to coin myself, that this new world of work has spawned. So I
like to offer a little vocabulary word in every chapter. So the
point is, someone who wants to read this book might not want
to read every single chapter. They can look at The Box, get
the gist of it and--and move on. Other people who want to
come back to it--a lot of readers who've e-mailed me have
told me that they--they like The Box, so they can--if they
forget something, they can come back to it and be reminded
LAMB: Can people get to you on e-mail now if they--they're
watching this show?
Mr. PINK: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I'm--I--even on the book
jacket, I invite readers to e-mail me. My e-mail address is
email@example.com. I answer every e-mail from every
reader. Again, if you're a writer, people are making--I'm so
grateful anytime anybody reads anything that I write, anytime
anybody picks up anything that I write because they are
investing their time and their brain power in hearing what I
have to say. And I am firmly committed to hearing what they
have to say, too, and responding to them.
Mr. PINK: (In unison) ...freeagentnation.com.
LAMB: All right. I'm going to go through and pick out some
factoids and see what you say about them.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: Here's the factoid in the first chapter. `The largest
private employer in the United States is not Detroit's General
Motors, Ford or even Seattle's Microsoft or Amazon.com, but
Milwaukee Manpower--Milwaukee's Manpower Incorporated, a
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: How big is it?
Mr. PINK: It has 1,100 offices. It employs more workers than
any other corporation in America today. That is a remarkable,
Mr. PINK: Why is it a remarkable change...
Mr. PINK: ...or why do they do it?
LAMB: No. Why is it a remarkable change?
Mr. PINK: Well, because it used to be that someone could go
to General Motors and work there for 30 years. General Motors
would have this incredible roster of fixed talent and employees
and would just be this behemoth. And now essentially what
people are--many people are doing is working for Manpower.
That is, they get a W-2, the--the paycheck and--and tax
form, from Manpower and are the employer of Manpower, but
actually do assignments at other places.
LAMB: Eleven thousand offices?
Mr. PINK: Eleven hundred.
LAMB: I'm sorry.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: Eleven hundred offices, and that's the largest employer
in the United States?
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: How many?
Mr. PINK: I think it's up--upwards of one million?
LAMB: Factoid from chapter two. `Two out of three workers
in California do not hold traditional jobs, the permanent
year-round, full-time outside-the-home employment
arrangement that is the basis of nearly all American labor laws
and social assumptions.' Why only in California?
Mr. PINK: Well, because that's where the study came out of.
The study was from the University of San Francisco, and it
looked at how many people in California have the kind of job
where you leave the house in the morning, go to work
somewhere else, work for someone else, do it full-time,
year-around. Essentially, the kind of job on which our social
assumptions are based, our health insurance system is based.
And in California, only one out of three workers works that
way, which is remarkable when you think about how our--our
tax system is--is girded to this way of working, our health
insurance system is working to this--is girded to this way of
working. Even our transportation systems are based on the
idea that this is the norm of how people work. And California
has been on the edge of basically every trend in the last 40
years. So if two out of three workers in California have
so-called non-traditional jobs, to me, that's a warning sign for
the rest of the country.
LAMB: Factoid in the third chapter: `85 percent of Americans
today were not alive during the Great Depression, which
means most of the country lacks any conscious recollection of
widespread economic privation.'
Mr. PINK: Privation, yeah.
Mr. PINK: The significance of that, I think, is--is quite
interesting. The--the default assumption of work in this
country, I think, has changed. It used to be that the default
assumption, say in my grandfather's day, was the fear of
privation. Because the Great Depression was widespread
economic privation, privation that reached deep into the
middle class. But now seven out of eight people in this
country weren't alive during the Great Depression, and they
have no conscious recollection of widespread economic
privation. And I underscore that word privation because
recessions, even though they're painful, are not privation. Or
long gas lines are not privation. And so I think that more and
more people today, because of the incredible prosperity in this
country, a country where two out of three people own the
homes they live in, is making people seek from their work not
only money, but meaning.
LAMB: Factoid in chapter four: `A 1999 Lou Harris survey of
1,000 self-employed Americans and small entrepreneurs found
that money was not their top motivator. Nine out of 10
re--respondents said that, quote, "setting their own priorities
and independence influenced their decision most to go out on
their own."' Is that your situation?
Mr. PINK: Oh, sure. And--and actually, that--to me, that was
one of the biggest surprises in doing these interviews--in--in
doing these interviews around the country, and that--that
survey simply confirms a lot of what I found. I thought when I
started writing--when I started researching this and
interviewing people that this was a big kind of hard-headed
economics story, that people were being cast to the periphery
by the inexorable forces of information age capitalism, and
that wasn't really what I found. I mean, people were making
very private decisions based on much touchy--touchier,
feelier values of authenticity, of freedom. And almost nobody
mentioned money. Not that free agents don't want to make
money, but working this way is hard enough that people
don't--people don't necessarily do it to get rich.
LAMB: Who was the most--and I've got to be careful how
I--what modifier I use. Who was the most unusual person you
interviewed? Or unusual situation?
Mr. PINK: One of them was a--was a--a guy who is--by the
name Bob Milbourn who's in San Francisco, who came of age
in the days of the organization man, and was so miserable in
his company and was so fearful in his company, which was
going through downsizings, that he asked to be fired. He went
to his boss and said, `Please, just--please, fire me.'
LAMB: What'd he want? The severance?
Mr. PINK: He just wanted--he wanted--no, he actually
wanted the relief from the anxiety of being scared of
being--being fired. He wanted to--he wanted simply the
punctuation mark at the end of this part of his career.
LAMB: What'd he do then?
Mr. PINK: He ended up going out on his own as a free agent,
not necessarily--you know, struggling a little bit, but
recognized that this world of work, working at a big bank, was
not for him. But he lacked somehow the gumption to leap and
so he a--asked to be pushed.
LAMB: How many states did you go to, do you think?
Mr. PINK: Ooh, I think it--it was 24? So about half.
LAMB: Well, is there any part of the country you didn't go to?
Mr. PINK: Well, I--I didn't go to Alaska and Hawaii. I didn't go
to some of the big states in the--in the Great
Plains--Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and the Dakotas. But most
of the East Coast, most of the West Coast, a big portion of
the Southwest, a big portion of the Midwest.
LAMB: Did you get a sense that some parts of the country are
happier than others?
Mr. PINK: I don't know about happier. I think that in the
center of the country, this form of work is slightly, slightly
more exotic than on the coasts. Seattle and LA and San
Francisco, you know, you go into any Starbucks coffee shop
and there are a zillion people sitting around punching on their
laptops. Same is true in New York and even here in
Washington, DC. In the Midwest, I think that there are
pockets where the--the free agent work force is more robust.
Minneapolis is a good example. Chicago is a good example. But
in some of the other pl--in some other places, it's slightly
LAMB: Factoid in chapter five: `More than half of American
households now own stocks up from only one in five
households in 1983. In 2000, shareholders outnumbered
voters. More citizens owned stock than cast a ballot for the
president of the United States.'
Mr. PINK: Right. I think--and we were talking about the
politics before. I think that is a remarkable fact right there,
that we have more shareholders than voters in this country.
And what that does is--the--the point of that in--in--is to--is
to show that people are--have learned an enormous amount
about the stock market, particularly about the values of
diversification. So free agents are saying, `Why should I
invest--if I wouldn't invest all of my financial capital in a single
company, why should I invest all of my human capital in a
single company by working for only one employer? I'm better
off, like--as Deb Risi was--I'm better off with a portfolio of
clients and assignments and projects than I am with a single
employer. I'm diversified.'
LAMB: Chapter six factoid: `Americans work 350 hours more
per year than Europeans and 70 hours more per year than
even the Japanese, whose language contains a word
"karoshi," that means death from overwork.'
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm. Well, that--that chapter, chapter six, I
tried to figure out how free agents used their time, and what I
did was I asked about 50 people to keep time diaries for a
whole week to tell me everything they did during every
half-hour increment of the day, to try to get a sense of how
people navigated the time element of their life. And what I
found is that free agents work about the same number of
aggregate hours as your traditional worker, roughly 41 hours.
But they apportion their time in wildly different ways, very
idiosyncratic, personalized ways. And, you know, I ho--I think
that the--the issue of time and working hours is something
that this country is trying to figure out right now because we
do work many more hours than Japanese work and certainly
more than the Europeans work.
LAMB: Why do we?
Mr. PINK: I think it's a mix of reasons. I think for some people,
it's simply necessary to get ahead. If you have a low hourly
wage, you have to work more hours in order to make a living
for your family. But I also think that at the dif--at the other
side of the labor market, there's something more intriguing
going on, which is that people--many people like to work.
They work not only to earn a living--they don't necessarily go
to--it's not--it's no longer the days of everybody goes to the
factory, tries to get over with their job, watches the clock all
day, tries to get done with their task as quickly as possible so
they can go home, but I think people get a lot of satisfaction
out of work. And so if you enjoy something, as I enjoy my
work, as many free agents enjoy their work, you actually
want to work a little bit more. So I think it's a kind of a
curious mix of factors.
LAMB: Have you thought of politics yourself?
Mr. PINK: Well, I worked in politics, and that experience was
enough for--for me to swear off of it for a while.
For--per--probably forever, yeah.
LAMB: You don't think you could ever run for office?
Mr. PINK: Oh, no.
LAMB: Why not?
Mr. PINK: Oh, no.
LAMB: What'd you see up close that the average person
Mr. PINK: It's a very, very tough life. Your private life is
incredibly exposed, and I think that--that politics pressures
people to say things that they don't necessarily deeply
believe, and that troubled me a lot. Whereas if you write--if
you write for yourself, you can say what you think and
take--and take the consequences. I also think that the
poli--that--that politics is not necess--that government is not
necessarily the most effective way to get things done. If you
work in the executive branch of the government, you come in
thinking, `OK, we can do all kinds of great things, we can
change everything.' And after a few years, you think, `Oh, my
gosh, it's a wonder that anything is accomplished.'
LAMB: You worked for Robert Reich...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the former Labor secretary and Bill--Al--Al Gore, but
you saw the Bill Clinton operation up close.
Mr. PINK: Sure.
LAMB: What's the deal between Robert Reich and Bill Clinton?
Why did they not--I mean, wha--what--what--you hear a lot
of criticism now about Robert Reich. What's that all about? I
mean, what did you see up close? Wha--why was Robert
Mr. PINK: Well, I worked for--I worked for Bob Reich in the--in
early 19--early to mid 1990s, and their relationship seemed
fine. I have no idea what's going on between them. They
haven't--neither one has let me in on that secret.
LAMB: Well, I just wondered if--if Robert Reich was--when he
got out, whether or not he was discouraged by what he had
seen happen, when he saw what actually happens up close
Mr. PINK: Maybe. I mean, his book is a very entertaining book
"Locked in the Cabinet." Talks about some of that.
LAMB: All right. Factoid in chapter seven: `One of the earliest
self-organized clusters of free agents, Benjamin Franklin's
Junto, formed in 1727, created a subscription library for its
members which in turn became the first public library in
America.' Why is that in this?
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Well, one of the intriguing things that I found
was you have this notion of people are working for
themselves, they're isolated and lonely, they're stuck in their
home offices working by themselves. And what I found is that
many, many independent workers are fashioning these very
small groups that meet once a month to talk about business,
to talk about life. They're sort of one part board of directors,
one part group therapy. And I found this absolutely
fascinating, these kind of self-organized tiny groups of people
who are meeting regularly.
And then I started doing some more research, and I realized,
as always, there's nothing new under the sun; that Benjamin
Franklin, in 1727, started he--the very same kind of group
that lasted, I think, for 40 years and became as you--as you
said, the basis for the first subscription library. And it was a
group of free agents. It was small merchants who would meet
once a week above an ale house in Philadelphia to talk about
work, and--and Franklin would assign each mem--one
particular member to write an essay about a topic of the day
and they would discuss it. So this idea that Americans--free
agency, I think, is a very, very quintessentially American
phenomenon. Americans have this incredible capacity to form
small groups, whether it's Bible study groups or whether it's
support groups for disease or--or whether it's these new small
groups for work.
LAMB: All right. Factoid, chapter eight: `In sociologist Mark
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...`classic study of how people find jobs, he discovered
that most people found them through contacts.'
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Not through people who they were very close
to. That is...
Mr. PINK: Well, the--the--people found--most people find jobs
not through classified ads or through Internet job sites, but
through contacts. And most of their co--the contacts that
are most valuable, he found, were not the strong ties, not
your wife finds you a job or your son finds you a job, but
weak ties, one or two degrees of separation away. Because
those weak ties allow you entr--entree into worlds that you
don't necessarily know. So in his study, he found that most
men found their--his study of workers in--in Boston, most
found their jobs through contacts, but not through close
contacts, through somewhat distant contacts.
LAMB: What impact does that have on us?
Mr. PINK: Oh, well, free agency--he described in--in, I think,
very beautiful terms, the--the difference between strong
ties--that is, say, your spouse, or weak ties, someone who
you don't know that well. And he found that what he called
the strength of weak ties, that weak ties allowed you
incredible mobility and entrees to new opportunities and I find
that the free agent economy depends very significantly on
weak ties. Someone's social safety net is their--is their
network of contacts, and often, the most valuable contacts
are contacts that are one or two degrees of separation away.
LAMB: Chapter 10 factoid: `More than 5 percent of workers
who earn more than $75,000 per year now have agents to
negotiate their employment contracts.'
Mr. PINK: Right. Well, this goes to the Larry Bird, Eugene V.
Debs point, that more and more workers at the high end of
the talent market want to be able to negotiate the best
possible deal, and they're--they're hiring people to do the
negotiation for them. It used to be only athletes and--and
actors would have agents; authors as well. But now, more
and more workers have them.
LAMB: How many agents do you have in your life?
Mr. PINK: Two.
LAMB: And they are? What do they do?
Mr. PINK: Oh, well, I have a literary agent, Rafe Sagalyn,
terrific literary agent, and I also have an agent who
represents me for speaking gigs, David Lavin, who's based in
LAMB: And out of all this, have you gotten speaking
Mr. PINK: Yeah, a few.
LAMB: What do you think of that?
Mr. PINK: I'm a writer. I'm not a--I'm not a--you know, a--a
dog-and-pony show giver.
LAMB: But as a free agent, where is this all headed for you?
Mr. PINK: Oh, I'm--I'm--I'm just hoping to continue to write
books and have interesting conversations about fascinating
topics and earn enough money to support my family.
LAMB: What's your wife doing now? Is she back to work?
Mr. PINK: No, no. She's still at home with our kids.
LAMB: But you did tell a story--I think I understand you to tell
a story about how you got medical insurance...
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: ...because--you had to--What?--employ her?
Mr. PINK: No, no.
LAMB: Explain that.
Mr. PINK: No, although--although it's possible. It--actually,
there are--there are a number of people who are--who are
free agents who are taking a--a--a twist in the tax code to
employ their spouse and because of their benevolence as an
employer, give their spouse a very full set of health insurance
because today, if you're self-employed, your health
insurance--you can only deduct 60 percent of your health
insurance premiums. But companies that employ people and
pay their health insurance premiums can deduct 100 percent.
So there's a big imbalance there as well.
LAMB: How many people are doing that?
Mr. PINK: I don't know. I--I--you know, it's a--I--I don't know
if there's any way to quantify it.
LAMB: Factoid in chapter 11: `Small to mid-sized family
businesses account for about 60 percent of all employment in
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Surprise you?
Mr. PINK: Well, a little bit. I don't--I--because I think
that--that we're conditioned to take as the norm whatever
set of social circumstances we inherit. And so all of us say
under the age of 70 or--or--you know, basically everybody in
America today essentially inherited this world of large
organizations and industrial economy. And we take that as the
norm. But, in fact, it's--I think it could go down as an
aberration. It used to be--the industrial economy separated
work and family. It used to be that you would work at your
home, you would work with your family, and that was the
norm. And the industrial economy cleaved that, and I think
that free agents, in many ways, are repairing it. I work at
home. There are tens of millions of people who--who work at
home. And that creates a very different neighborhood life. It
creates a very different family life, and I think it's mostly
healthy. But it also, I think, is much more in tune with how
human beings are wired. And that factoid is from a very
interesting guy at the University of London named Nigel
Nicolson, who is using some of the principles of evolutionary
psychology to understand business today.
LAMB: All right. I'm going to switch to a quote in chapter 12.
"If you have a job and get your health insurance through your
employer, be thankful. It was never supposed to be this way."
Mr. PINK: Right. Again, this is ve--very similar--very similar
point. We take it as the norm in this country, the idea that
we get health insurance through our employers. But that is
truly a historical accident. In the 1940s, there was a wage
freeze. To get around the wage freeze, employers said,
`Hmm, what can we do to lure people? We can't raise
salaries. Let's give them something. Let's give them health
insurance.' So they gave them health insurance, and there are
a couple of policy changes that--that hardened that into the
norm. First, the IRS determined that health insurance was not
taxable income, even though it was a value that a--a worker
was getting. And also, health insurance was fully deductible
for employers. So in a very swift am--very swiftly, getting
health insurance through an employer became the norm in this
country. There's no economic logic, there's no moral logic
behind it. So that's why you can have this incredibly
prosperous country, even in this downturn. This is a very
prosperous country. But yet, 41 million people without health
insurance because the way our health insurance system is
structured and the way people actually work and live are
increasingly at odds.
LAMB: Factoid from chapter 13: `African-Americans make up
11 percent of the total work force, but 22 percent of the
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: What's that say to you?
Mr. PINK: It says to me that at one part of the labor market,
particularly temps, workers are getting a very, very bad deal.
There were benefits to an organization man style of work.
There was easy access to decent jobs that paid decent
wages. And today in this economy, if you don't have skills, if
you don't have connections, you're in big trouble, whether
you're a free agent or whether you're not. And often, the
burden of this falls most heavily on low-income workers who
are increas--who are--who are heavily racial minorities.
LAMB: Now as you see me go through all these factoids in this
chapter, are you saying to yourself things like, `This little plan
of mine worked. The media is so lazy, they just go to the
factoids?' I mean, is that what you've found has happened in
Mr. PINK: I--no, I find that people have--I find that people
have--ve--very few people who have contacted me have at
least admitted to having read only The Box. But I find it
useful. It's a useful way to have a conversation. There are
many people, as I said, who read the book and say, `Oh,
geez, what did he say in chapter 10?' And they have an easy
way to go to that Box and find out what's going on.
LAMB: All right. I...
Mr. PINK: I mean, I'm so grateful, Brian. If you read only the
factoids, I'd be grateful to you.
LAMB: Chapter 14 factoid: `When Franklin Roosevelt
established 65 as the standard US retirement age...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the average American life expectancy was 63.
Today, life expectancy is 76 and rising.'
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: What impact's that going to have to free agentry, in
Mr. PINK: Well, I--I think that our notions of retirement are
going to change. There are going to be more people like
Grandma Betty, who instead of fully retiring, are going to work
as part-time free agents. My father, who is 70, is an example
of that. Other people in his generation are doing that.
They're--they've left big organizations and now are working as
part-time free agents. And I think there are a whole host of
reasons for that. One is that today, if you're 70 years old,
you're really not that old. You've got a lot of good years left
in you. And most people, I think, don't want to spend 20, 30
years playing canasta and shuffle board. They want to do
something that is more meaningful. They want to do
something that is more engaging. And so that--I think that's
one force in this. The other thing is that the--the
demographic cohorts behind the baby boom are very small,
and in a couple of decades, we're going to run out of
so-called working age people, and so there's going to be an
incredible demand for retired baby boomers.
LAMB: Running out of time. Can't get all these factoids in.
Here's another one, chapter 15: `40 percent of college
students are now older than 25.' Forty percent of college
students are now older than 25.
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: Did that surprise you?
Mr. PINK: Sure. But it also--it also shows that people are
using college in fundamentally different ways. Workers are
always looking for ways to sharpen their skills. They can do it
through employers, but they can also do it through community
colleges. And that's what a lot of people are doing today.
LAMB: This is chapter 16's factoid: `At any given moment
during the work day, 70 percent of desks, offices or work
stations aren't occupied.'
Mr. PINK: Sure. I mean, your desk is unoccupied right now
because you're talking to me. My desk is unoccupied right now
because I'm talking to you. I think that free agency is going
to reshape commercial real estate and the way that offices
LAMB: What about this one? This is the next chapter. `A 1998
Arthur Andersen study found that 47 percent of entrepreneurs
had financed their businesses with credit cards'?
Mr. PINK: Yep. Because they are--there are very
straight--there are very efficient capital markets for large
companies. The capital markets for small entrepreneurs are
much less efficient, but people are using their credit cards as
a way to boot strap their businesses.
LAMB: So what is your reaction to the reaction you've gotten
to your book?
Mr. PINK: I'm mostly--I'm mostly pleased. The reviews have
been, for the most part, quite good, and, again, the--to me,
what's most gratifying as an author is all the e-mail and phone
calls and comments I get from people who read the book and
said that they liked it, that it--it really explained their own
lives, that it gave them a window on to--a window on to the
LAMB: Back to your time with Al Gore. Why did you leave?
Mr. PINK: I was tired. I was burnt out. I felt that I didn't have
any control over my life.
LAMB: What burned you out in a job like that?
Mr. PINK: Working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mr. PINK: Well, I mean...
LAMB: I mean, the--the...
Mr. PINK: Working basically every day of the week. As a
writer, you're on deadline all the time. And also being tethered
to your beeper. Again, not being fully in control. 'Cause at any
moment, your beeper could go off and your Saturday
afternoon is going to be spent typing a speech rather than
doing something with your family.
LAMB: What do you know about him that we don't?
Mr. PINK: He's an incredibly funny guy. He has an incredibly
sharp and sophisticated sense of humor.
LAMB: Why doesn't he let us see it?
Mr. PINK: You--you'll have to ask him that. I think part of it is
that most politicians are not very funny. And so--because in
order to be funny, I think you have to say things that people
are thinking but aren't allowed to say. And politics is almost
the opposite of that. You tell--you--you tend to give these
banal blandishments that aren't particularly interesting, but
are utterly inoffensive.
LAMB: Did you ever tell him that he ought to lighten up and be
funny in front of the public?
Mr. PINK: Well, you know, we--no, we--we actually did a
number of kind of comic routines there and he's incredibly
funny, has a very excellent sense of--of comic timing.
LAMB: What's your sense? Will the man ever be president?
Mr. PINK: Hard to say. I think he could be. I think he'd be a
very good president.
LAMB: Do you think he'll run again?
Mr. PINK: I have no idea.
LAMB: Would you work for him again?
Mr. PINK: Probably not.
LAMB: Would you go back into that field?
Mr. PINK: Probably not. No, I don't think so. I think--partly, as
you were talking about earlier, my politics have changed a
little bit or they've--they've matured. You know, I'm--I'm still
a registered Democrat, but by a very thin thread. But I would
never become a registered Republican. I like to think of myself
now as kind of a bleeding heart Libertarian.
LAMB: And what's the difference between being a bleeding
heart Libertarian and being a Democrat?
Mr. PINK: Democrats put too much faith in large institutions
and large organizations rather than in the integrity and
freedom of individuals.
LAMB: When did this trip for you? When did this change?
Mr. PINK: You know, it had been changing over a certain--you
know, in--in a way--you know, there used to be this old joke
that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. But today,
I think, you know, a Libertarian is a liberal who's--who's
worked in the executive branch of the government. It's very
poorly run. It's--it's not necessarily the most effective way to
accomplish things and a lot of it is done for self-preservation
rather than for effectively getting things done. But I still
believe that people who are being left out need--need a
helping hand to come up. But I think the helping hand is
allowing them to move under their own steam.
LAMB: Here's the cover of the book. "Free Agent Nation: How
America's New Independent Workers are Transforming the
Way We Live." Our author has been Daniel H. Pink, and we
thank you very much.
Mr. PINK: Thank you.