Self-made

Do you think “outside the box”?  In other words, when you were a child were you chided for coloring outside the lines in a coloring book or for using “wrong” color crayons for subjects?  Did you ask a lot of questions? Were you someone who could ace your tests in school but were bored with rules, homework, and projects that “wasted” your time?   At work, do you get easily frustrated with the forms, chain of approvals, and eventual denial of your ideas for improving productivity?

Why is it that some of the best marketers and entrepreneurs came from humble beginnings, school dropouts and the like?  Perhaps these individuals are an anomaly.  Scholarly articles on the subject of entrepreneurship indicate that past success, “coloring outside the lines”, and stellar educational credentials predispose a person to be a successful entrepreneur,  it is not necessarily required to make a successful venture.    Some of the people I  am familiar with personally have built businesses though focused effort and personal ambition.  Yet many of today’s workers never achieve a level of comfort that is not mortgaged (homes,  cars, recreational vehicles).  We all become chained to our standard of living because of company health plans, steady paycheck and known, if not satisfying expectations.   Whatever happened to the people who threw everything they owned into a covered wagon and headed West into the undeveloped land in the 1800s?

What happened to the “American Dream”?

As one of the last Baby Boomers,  I have spent more than forty years. half in the military and half in the private sector, employed by someone else’s vision.  A year before I turn sixty,  I am wondering whether playing by “rules”, following the “Baby Boomer” model of (1) get a good education, (2a) join the military,  (2b) get a good job ,  and (3) through hard work and long working hours/effort  buy into the “American Dream”.  Is getting married, raising kids to have the same dreams, sending them to college; and retiring comfortably at some age around sixty or sixty-five still possible?  Somehow in the  past forty years, everything got more expensive,  taxes, fees,  and legal restrictions got ever-more difficult to compensate in order to obtain that retirement.  And so, for many, a second-income became necessary just to stay “even”.

Entrepreneurs are self-made

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was not born into wealth.  He was the son of a teenage mom, and adopted by his mother’s second husband (who had arrived from Cuba a few years earlier knowing only a few words in English).  He held a variety of jobs growing up.  Brilliant and obsessed to make a better life, he was a garage-inventor.  Perhaps the early struggles in his family, helped him focus on academic achievement, which in turn lead him to Princeton. When he decided later to follow his passion, it was then he founded what would become Amazon.   And we know how successful Amazon has become.

Richard Branson, son of an attorney in England, has childhood dyslexia.  He dropped out of school and at sixteen founded a music magazine.  The billionaire founder of the Virgin group began with money from that venture to found a music studio.   Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Corp, was a brilliant college dropout who created the company in his parent’s garage.  While Mark Zuckerberg attended Harvard after very impressive scholastic achievement, he certainly built Facebook from a combination of intellect and ambition.  Logan Green and John Zimmer , former college students, created the ride-sharing service from improvements they learned from a service Zimmer built to help college students get around via Craigslist and Facebook linking.

At the end of the Nineteenth Century,  my maternal great-great-uncle, Philip Ward, an impoverished immigrant from Belfast (then Ulster) Ireland, established a mail-order business ( Bullock and Ward), in Chicago and the Mid-West, a rival to Sears, Roebuck and J.C. Penneys.  It did well until the beginning of the First World War.   Other maternal Irish family forebears had built businesses in the linen trade and chocolates (confections) in Ireland that prospered up until the Second World War.   My paternal ancestors came to New York from Poland and became tradesmen and entrepreneurs, engineers and shopkeepers.

Members of my family and extended family have been motivated by necessity  as well as intellect to have successful careers.   A Registered Nurse and single mother who went to school, worked, and raised her children, excelling at each to create a balanced life.  Mothers who achieved position and higher income with the largest corporations to support their families.  Entrepreneurs and marketing trainers who helped a national network improve their businesses.   And  some have followed a path a little more  “outside the lines” to create opportunity for themselves and for others through a nationally recognized  network marketing firm.

Find your why

What sort of vacation have you taken this year?   What trade-off have you made to have that new(er) car so you can get to work?    How often have you used that 5th wheel in your driveway since you signed the payment plan?    What size apartment have you been limited to because of income?  Are you working harder and longer to pay for the child-care for your kids?  Do you spend more time ill or seeing a specialist than enjoying mid-life?

For me,  I have driven eighty (80) miles or more every work-day for eleven years to my employer.    And that employer pays me enough now, to pay for my home – small that it is – and my new used car, but also means that my wife also has to work very long hours to  pay our bills and hope for retirement someday.    We do not have a pile of money.  And the years spent in search of “retirement” is perhaps the motive for wanting something better.

 Finding “time and money”

The old saying about being able to have time OR money, but not both has certainly had some application in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century.   But the additional reality is that your Government will take its cut of whatever you do extra.    However, the way to continue to earn is through residual income. That is income that continues  and increases beyond your own effort and time to earn it.

And with health problems for the last twenty years, a focus on healthy living and exercise – so I can afford to “retire” and ENJOY it – are reasons I chose to get involved with Beach Body.   I’ve seen what a niece has built through diligent effort -hard work- over eight years, in that she overcame health issues, and can work from home – a home her business afforded herself and her husband, while being mom to her two kids.  And she has been actively involved helping about 1600 people through her business build income and better lives in the process.

Like everything else in life,  the amount of effort put into an education, a career, a business venture, or a personal life is directly responsible for the achievement.   In the military, just about everyone who maintains an “average” performance can retire after twenty years with an average stipend. But additional effort and preparation can result in someone being selected as a Chief Petty Officer.  And of those,  even more effort, preparation, and focus, someone may retire as a Senior Chief ( or Master Chief).   With effort, and single-minded focus, someone may achieve an Amazon,  an Apple, a Facebook.  or a Beach Body enterprise.    Or even the 6 AM commute, ten-hour day, and 5 PM commute home.

Entrepreneurs.   Work Ethic plus an American ( or Latino, Canadian or British) Dream.

I have to go.  I need to go workout.

If you want to know more about an opportunity to get healthier, or help your child who loves the gym but is working double-shifts all the time,  check out  BeachBody

 

Flying anvils

I have been both a Navy consumer, a Navy technician, and civilian test engineer supporting Information Security – securing networks and securing data storage.  Currently I am working on the manufacturer’s development side.

In a profit-driven company I’ve noticed some truths: resources are finite;   managers focus on meeting the contract requirements with least impact to manufacturer’s bottom line; a complex design takes longer and with more manpower than allowed to perfect; customer requirements change during the test and production phases; performance or production challenges occur when starting production;   faced with budget constraints themselves,  some (new) customers deploy the product in ways not specifically considered in the design.

As one of the warfighters, I wondered why some equipment I routinely used was poorly designed (in my estimation).  Overheating, power supplies that needed frequent replacing, maintenance or rework that was labor-intensive, required shipment to a depot, or some “special handling” when called for.   Banging, tweaking, and massaging were often employed to get recalcitrant gear to operate.  One particular situation occurred when my communications system was overheating- the room (called a “space” or compartment aboard ship) was co-located within an office used by several officers.  Since they were too cold – the air conditioning system had to be kept low to maintain the equipment side at optimum performance- they demanded the temperature to be comfortable.  This resulted in equipment overheating and breaking down.

After my military career,  I vowed to be a better designer and tester of gear for the warfighter, but as an employee of a public company, economic reality tempers my best intentions.  Brilliant engineers working to specific constraints are split between several products, test and development has greater latitude in acquiring test equipment and components than in production.  The manufacturer’s vendors are relied upon to provide parts and subassemblies that perform to the specifications!   But the most challenging aspect I have experienced is the customer using a product in ways that I have not tested directly but am asked to debug when they fail.   More often than not,  we find that the parts of our system we did not design and build but purchased  as COTS (consumer off the shelf) are not subject to the same quality as the supplier advertised.

In the former world of huge Government development budgets, a new system can be fielded, bugs worked out, mistakes corrected, and used for decades.  The Space Shuttle program, a computer-reliant, spacecraft and terrestrial glider,  a “flying anvil” of sorts, most likely had the same development challenges, and the public is aware of the two critical failures that occurred during their working lifecycle.  Overall, these systems were very reliable.   In a public company,  products have to enter the market before the competition and be embraced by consumers whether government ( military) or public, generating profit and demonstrating reliability in a very short time.

And my focus is remaining the Subject Matter Expert for my product line, and the test engineer who successfully brings the prototype through acceptance testing: Job security.

 

My Ant Can Kick Your Weathercenter Uncle’s Butt any Day!

Ants are a heck of a lot more accurate than weathermen on TV.   Monitoring these ants diligently preparing their nest and moving material and food to and fro, I have received confirmation that they know environmental changes before we do.
In April 1900, an article in the New York Times appeared to confirm the practice – in the age of science / dawn of a new century – noting the behavior of insects including bees and ants, to predict weather fairly reliably.  A hundred ten years later, and we might still find our superior technology at a disadvantage.  This past week, in a particularly cloudless day, these Arizona ants were busy preparing for a downpour, (corroborated by similar observation over a number of years) which by the following day proved to be accurate.   And despite the weatherman on TV stating that there was a minimal chance of precipitation in the following 24 hours,  the ants proved to be the ones prepared.
If technology and wizardry can be outdone by an insect, it doesn’t say much about our Global Warming paranoid- environmentalism, now does it?     I may listen to the TV News, but in a cloudless sky, my money is on the ants predicting whether or not to bring my GoreTex with me tomorrow.