Tag Archives: starting a business

How to Insure Your Greatest Achievements Are Yet to Come

On Memorial Day I finished listening to Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour. The activities of Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant during World War II were brought to life and contextualized within the greater war effort. As is the case with many such biographical histories, the end of the book briefly summarizes the rest of the lives of each person.


How to Insure Your Greatest Achievements Are Yet to ComeWhile the first two men were household names for at least half a century, Gilbert Winant is virtually unknown. Yet it was his story that struck me most profoundly. Deeply loved by Britishers of all walks of life and universally acknowledged as having played a crucial part in the Allied victory, nonetheless, in 1947 he committed suicide.

As I was listening to this I entered Naval Base Point Loma and saw the American flag waving in the breeze. For a moment I was struck by the idea that I will never do anything as great as being a part of the United States Navy’s effort to defend our country. Did Gilbert Winant, who clearly was not a part of President Truman’s inner circle the way he was FDR’s, despair of ever achieving anything as important as his instrumentality in the victory over Nazi tyranny?

I quickly disavowed myself of the idea that my best days are behind me. But the thought that some of my fellow service members may draw such a conclusion impelled to write this post.

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Your military service is and was noble. You made sacrifices that more than 90% of Americans cannot understand but appreciate. Most significantly you took a risk to serve your country, especially if you saw combat. Sadly, some of your comrades did not survive. But thank G-d you did. Hopefully, the risk paid off in several ways including achieving your mission and gaining greater self-knowledge.

Here is the rub: If you want to do even greater things you will have to take risks again. They probably will not be life threatening, but they could temporarily crush your mind and spirit.

Yet this is the greatest training the military gives you: the ability to assess risk, mitigate it as much as possible, act in spite of the remainder, and recover no matter how it turns out. Consider the value this gives you as a spouse, parent, and provider. If the enemy could not deter you, how can friends?

While military service gave you an opportunity to be involved with greatness, the world still abounds with opportunities to surpass such eminent achievements. Will you dare to be greater than ever before? Will you take the risk?

Question – What great accomplishments do you want to pursue?

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How to Find a Job You Can Never Lose

Job security in the military, though not what it was a few of years ago, is one of the biggest benefits in this demanding profession. The path to advancement is well defined. Even today, if you are reasonably focused you have a good chance of staying in long enough to earn a pension. Government work seems secure.  But with annual budget battles and sequestrations, you won't find stability there either. In the private sector, it's virtually unknown. But there is another option.

How to Find a Job You Can Never Lose

For twenty years before joining the navy, I never worried about being fired. Why would I terminate myself? I knew my strengths and weaknesses and made sure I worked with others who complimented my abilities. Being self-employed gave me job security that I never had working for someone else.

Entrepreneurship is the ultimate employment guarantee. While occasionally you'll lose a client, necessitating a temporary reduction of your compensation, once you find a new client you can raise it. Over time you can make sure you always have a job and direct your work into areas you find stimulating while hiring others to do the tasks you aren't interested in any longer. You control your pay and benefits as well as your work environment.

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The learning curve can be steep. But once you have internalized the fundamentals of starting and running a business you will wonder why you ever thought about running the risk of working for someone else who could lay you off or fire you.

Question – Which do you think is more secure: working for someone or working for yourself?

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How Fortune Might Come to You

Amidst the debate over whether cursive writing should be taught in schools, Luca Barcellona has spent three years per classic script to become a master at the age-old art of calligraphy. Having begun college in the pre-digital age, by the time he graduated computers had taken over. Repulsed by them he essentially rebelled. Yet having become an artist, he is embracing technology by giving it a distinctly analog, human touch.

How Fortune Might Come to You

Reading Signor Barcellona’s story, I was struck by the idea that despite the boom in social media, touch screens, and synthesized voices, technology still has a cold touch. The study of history has probably never been more popular. Nostalgia products, most notably soda pop, candy, and snacks, are in great demand. There is opportunity in blending technology with the tactile and crafted. The Internet gave us Web 1.0, social media Web 2.0. Will this be the idea behind Web 3.0?

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Question: How can technology be humanized?

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Are You Prepared to Profit from Defunct Businesses?

Destruction. Commonly thought of as negative, your success as an entrepreneur rests on embracing destruction.

Capitalism embodies the dichotomy of creative destruction: the necessity that outmoded businesses and inefficient practices will be replaced.

Undoubtedly today everyone agrees there is no reason for companies to make buggy whips since automobiles are the standard mode of personal transportation. But at the time, manufacturers and their employees doubtlessly bemoaned the declining demand and eventual demise of whips.

We are in the midst of what may turn out to be a similar situation. Ever more people get their news online or in digital format. Many newspapers and magazines have seen their print circulation drop substantially or ceased publishing them. In another 20 years will even the most popular periodicals: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New York Times, all with daily circulations exceeding 1.5 million, still issue print editions? Reporters may not be impacted, but what about newsprint and ink suppliers, manufacturers of presses, and the people employed in the process?

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As much as I deplore the collapse of printed media, I will discourage my daughter from pursuing a living in this industry or any other that is declining. Rather, I will urge her to examine the opportunities created by the destruction of businesses. Indeed, her greatest chance for success will come specifically because she can replace that which has been demolished.

Herein lies your challenge. Betting on the destruction of a product or industry is by no means a sure thing. Compounding this issue can be your reluctance to accept such demise. Yet the increase in nostalgia products is not necessarily a function of a lack of creativity on the part of product designers. It appears that the more things change the more people yearn for the familiarity of the past. Where then does true opportunity lie?

How you answer this question may determine your entrepreneurial success.

Question – In what waning product or industry do you see opportunity?

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How to Stop Earning a Paycheck and Start Building Wealth

Aside from the navy, the last time I had a job was in 1984-1985. I was a 25-year-old college graduate working for a real estate syndicator. It was a small firm with three full-time employees and one part-timer. I routinely worked 60 to 80 hours a week for which I was paid $1800 per month. In the year my boss made $500,000 he paid me a bonus of $1500. Two weeks later I walked into his office and quit. He cried as he told me he had big plans for me, would make me a vice president (over whom, the only other full-timer? His wife was the part-timer).

How to Stop Earning a Paycheck and Start Building Wealth

Lest you think I bear a grudge against my former employer I assure you I do not. He taught me several valuable lessons:

  1. When you work for someone you have one client who controls your financial future, especially in the short term.
  2. It is unrealistic to expect an employer to look after your own interest better than you do.
  3. Often, titles are meaningless.
  4. Working long hours is no guarantee of success.
  5. Just because someone is generous in one area of his life does not mean he will be so in others.

I spent four months getting my real estate broker's license while I started my first business designing and selling t-shirts. One month later, on April 1, 1986, I started my own real estate company and never looked back. Though I began on April Fools Day, I learned, had failures and successes, lived through a bad recession, and ultimately prospered.

After twenty years drawing a salary, and having my company pay for medical benefits, a nice car, and fund a retirement plan, when I decided to join the navy I had a valuable asset to sell: my company. Had I stayed working for someone else, while I would have gotten the salary and some or all of the benefits, it is very unlikely I would have built any wealth.

While there are many challenges to being an entrepreneur, in these times of job uncertainty which is less risky: placing your financial future in the hands of one person and not building wealth or having many sources of income so that even if you lose one or two you can replace them and continue earning while building wealth?

Question – What is preventing you from starting your own business?

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