That's his life now. He bought a factory with 50 workers, and he has four em-ployees in Oakland. The bags and leather goods are not a big operation. He rents half his Oakland building to a tenant, and the factory in Costa Rica still has all its customers, only Mike is now the owner. When he quotes poetry, it's hard to imagine he was once a pushy salesman.

None of this would have flowered if he hadn't challenged himself to write down the standards by which he wanted to live, and then let that guide him.

There will always be those who say it's impractical. But to call it impractical is a cliché and ignorant of the economy we live in today.

While writing this book, I was invited by Michael Dell to be on a panel at a gathering of the Business Council, a group of CEOs from some of the biggest companies in the country. Together they pretty much are the economy. Before our panel, the podium was turned over to Dr. Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard and a noted economist. He reviewed some frightening demographics that showed that the economy has grown since 1980 largely because the number of people participating in the economy has grown.

Looking ahead to the next 20 years, we can expect no growth in the number of workers. The percentage that are minorities and immigrants will increase by 50 percent, and there will be no change in the fraction with a college education. Unless these trends are changed - or unless there are unforeseen boosts in productivity per worker - the economy won't grow much, if at all.

Could the most powerful CEOs in America change something about that? That's what this conference was for. The entire next day's schedule was devoted to education reform. The notion was, it would be up to the educational system to transform the unproductive and uneducated into productive consumers.

The question our panel was asked to address is, "What do employees want?" What would it take to get more commitment out of them, more ideas out of them, more value out of them? The panelists chipped in with ideas about ben-efits, flextime, day care ... At this point the conversation was passed to me.

I leaned forward in my seat. "What do people really want?"