Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fear and the Future

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.


  1. Hi

    I think you may be wrong about retires taking Mcjobs since they are more likely to vote themselves greater pensions from the government - this is because they form the biggest voting block

    The millionaire next door is a very good book for those people who would like to be rich, much better the Rich dad, Poor dad.

  2. The retirees and those baby boomers approaching retirement indeed make up a huge voting block. However, the government can't give away what it doesn't have. The future has been mortgaged so much already that there is absolutely no hope of ever restoring a fiscal balance.

    Withing 10 years or so, retirees will be much worse off. And so will the rest of us, because we foolishly allowed (and even encouraged) our governments to spend, spend, spend, thinking that somehow its coffers were a bottomless bonanza of bounty.

    Ultimately, this foolishness will come back and bite us all in the butt. Wish it weren't so.

  3. "Luck is what you make it" is my favorite line of your post. It is so easy for an outsider to look in, see the efforts of one's hard work, and imagine it all came from the sky. It's easier for them that way, then they don't have to say, "Wow, I didn't put in the hours, the energy, the motivation that you did."

    We have instructional assistants who make something like $8.oo an hour saying, "Well, I'd do X if I was paid what you are." Well, did you go to college for four years? Did you get a Masters? Did you work at one job steadily for 23 years, every day, without flitting from one career choice to another?"

    Suffice it to say, I hear what you're saying. And, as usual, I agree.

  4. "Luck is what you make it." - Atavist.
    I get so tired of listening to lawyers, bureaucrats and the leftist "news"people who felate them talk about "the underpriveleged" or "the less fortunate". Luck and fortune are something a diligent individual makes, because privileges and opportunity are there all the time for them that are prepared to accept them.
    Going to be taking on the so-called "right" to healthcare today on my blog...again!

  5. I'll look forward to reading your post on healthcare. As a Canadian and a supposed beneficiary of our version of healthcare, I can tell you that the system, and the very notion of a 'free' service, both have serious faults.

  6. I remember reading somewhere in a psych text of mine that training children to delay gratification seemed to correlate with them entering university and having happier lives.

    I can't recall the study, exactly.. and, I supppose parents that were willing to teach their children such benefits would have been teaching them a wide range of life-skills that would have aided in these outcomes.

    But, I think it is apparent, all over society, that instant-grat personalities (I tease TDOW about being one of these) are more inclined toward misery, disappointment, unfullfilled desires and addictions.

    If you are the mouse banging on the lever, how can you enjoy the maze. LOL! Terrible analogy, but in between the lines, I make myself laugh.

  7. The only problem with delaying gratification for too long is that, like anything else, it becomes habit-forming if practiced too long. Then there is the danger of not being able to break out of the self-imposed sacrifice. I know I had to train myself to break the pattern and start loosening up a bit. Like anything else, it comes down to recognizing something as a problem and then taking action to correct it.