I am amazed sometimes at the extent to which fear plays a part in the lives of the average human. I don't mean fear of the madman who just engineered a coup of your country, or the predator who might be stalking your kids, or even your ex-wife's lawyer. Those might actually be rational fears, especially where the lawyer is concerned. I'm thinking more of the fear to make a decision, make a move, take a new direction, or take a chance.
I have been told on occasion how lucky I am to have what I have. I am lucky, I admit. I also worked an average of over 100 hours per week during the early years of my business, took many chances, borrowed money at usurious interest rates and starved when paying my suppliers and employees was more important than buying groceries. I never went out for dinner or a drink. I sacrificed the present (then) to secure the future (now.) That, and some real luck (I managed to avoid accidents and poor health) was what gave me what I have.
It is extremely unlikely that someone who never takes any risk, who is unwilling to make any sacrifice or to delay gratification of any desire, is ever going to get anywhere. No pain, no gain. For every twenty-three year old who makes a gazillion dollars in stock options for a crazy idea and two years of long days and nights at a computer, there are tens of thousands of business owners who slogged it out, one day at a time, one customer at a time, one dollar at a time, until they became successful. Luck is what you make it.
There are so many opportunities to make money that it is almost overwhelming. Just about any service can be performed better than the norm. Just about any product can be made better than the norm. Figure out what it is you want to do and then do it. But, be prepared to work very, very hard, convincing people that they absolutely must have your product or service. They aren't going to come to you and simply start handing you their hard-earned money.
Too much competition where you are? Go where there is less, or none. Move. Save up a few bucks to get yourself started and then make some sacrifices. Take a sandwich and a thermos to work, instead of buying lunch. Stop smoking. Forget about bars and restaurants. Focus on paying your bills and preserving capital. Next to your family, make your business the most important thing in your life.
Gradually, you will become one of the lucky ones. And you will understand that you made your own luck, and smirk to yourself when someone approaches you at the bar of the fancy restaurant that you can now afford, and tells you how lucky you are.
The reason I am thinking about these things is that, even with all the stories I tell my son about how tough things were when I was his age, he is pretty blasé about things. Knowing about how things were, and really 'grokking' the reality, are quite different things. I want my son to go out there and work his tail off, not simply ride on his dad's coat tails.
I believe that the years ahead are going to be tough. House prices will fall. Interest rates will revert to historical norms and even above. Many thousands of people will default on mortgages and lose everything they have saved. Many people, even those about to retire, don't have any savings to lose in the first place. They haven't accumulated any real assets. They think the government is going to take care of them. Sure. What will really happen? Many retirees won't be able to live on their social security cheques, and will end up competing for the same McJobs that now provide many teenagers with pocket money.
I am concerned about the future. Not my future or yours so much, but the future of my son and your children. There will be hard times ahead, and the extent to which our kids understand hard work, application, tenacity, responsibility and other values that we as parents have tried to instil in them, will determine how well they are able to cope.
Let's hope that we will have done a good job.