Author upends traditional career model with new vision


The days of hiring on with a company, enjoying the occasional promotion and leaving 35 years later with a gold watch and tidy pension are a thing of the past. As Americans struggle to adjust and thrive in a shifting professional and economic environment, author Michael Forbes offers a new model for success in his book, “The Knife & the Wasp: Changing American Thought About Global Competition.”

Based on a thesis he developed while completing his MBA at Point Loma Nazarene University, Forbes’ concept explores the influence of globalization on economics, politics, society and technology and its application to individuals and companies.

“Globalization is the mixing, and perhaps even melding, of cultures into one body,” Forbes said. “Globalization happens whenever two cultures meet. Sometimes it’s intentional; sometimes it’s not.”

An English major and journalist, Forbes said it was irritation over the misapplication of the term “globalization” that initially motivated him to address the issue. Used interchangeably by some to refer to capitalism, Americanism or environmental destruction, he felt the idea was bigger and broader than these “sort of” applications.

As Forbes researched the concept of globalization, he realized that what was happening globally had a direct impact not only on countries and governments but on individuals, as well.

As a result of globalization--for example, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to cheaper labor markets such as Asia or Africa--traditional American WaSP employees (wage workers, salespeople and professionals) are in jeopardy because of their reliance upon others for career and financial security. Success lies in making the transition to KnIFE: knowledge worker (artist, doctor, teacher, lawyer), investor, financier or entrepreneur. KnIFE employees have income security, said Forbes, because they use their brains.

In his book, available from, Forbes also explores the life cycle of a company--growth, maturity and decline--and how this can impact the various types of workers.

The key to making one self-competitive, said Forbes, is continuous education, constant upgrading of one’s skill set and development of investments instead of relying on savings.

Forbes, 35, has experienced firsthand the effects of globalization, traveling a winding path that took him around the world and through an eclectic array of jobs.

The eldest of five, Forbes grew up in La Jolla Shores. Part of the La Jolla High class of 1992, he wrote for the La Jolla Light and other local publications before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area.

He has lived and worked in Alaska, Thailand, Lake Tahoe and Brooklyn, and journeyed through Europe, Asia and South America.

His resume makes for an entertaining read, listing stints as a pot washer, telemarketer, prep cook, security guard, law clerk, cab driver, tennis teacher, freelance writer, car salesman and ventilation installer.

Now living in North Park, Forbes is managing partner of Forbes Realty Union LLC, owns a clothing label and media publishing company, and is developing a nonprofit organization.

While he always knew he wanted to write, Forbes said he was somewhat surprised that his first book was business-related.

“When I was growing up, my goal was to be as big as Hemingway,” Forbes said, adding that he traveled around the world to find a story worth telling. “I didn’t really have any stories myself to tell. I felt like I hadn’t lived enough. It wasn’t until I went to business school in 2005 until I found a topic I felt comfortable enough to talk about.”