The Problem with America
This post is different than most, but I wanted to share something I’ve been struggling with. Maybe hearing about my struggle will help you through this same struggle.
My struggle really began two years ago with the death of my Grandpa. We were close. He taught me a lot about life, work, finishing a job, and about success.
He was an entrepreneur at heart – a passionate pursuer of the “American Dream.”
After retiring from the IRS at 51 years old (he missed his goal by one year), he decided to build a 175,000 sq. ft. shopping center and open a grocery store.
He didn’t have to do this – he was retired. Had a nice retirement income. Had a brand new 3,000 sq. ft. house – with no mortgage. Had a second home on the lake. Had a motor-home for traveling. But…
He knew if he didn’t do something he would settle for the status quo.
When I was young, he used to hire me for the day to help him cut the grass at his lake house. I’m not sure how big the lawn was, but to a 12 year old it seemed like a 100 acres… or more.
While the dew was still on the grass we would load the push mower, weed eater, and any other tools we may need for the day and begin our journey.
I don’t remember much about these trips in particular – but three things stand out in my mind. 1) I would man the push mower. 2) We would eat baked beans (straight out of the can) and crackers for lunch. 3) He would often say, “Don’t settle, don’t be afraid to take chances.”
After my Grandpa’s health took a turn for the worse, I often reflected on these memories and particularly on his words, “Don’t settle, don’t be afraid to take chances.” And this is when my struggle began.
Life is slowly slipping by. Yes, mine. (Yes, yours)
Last time I checked, I wasn’t getting any younger, and this leads me to these tough questions:
Am I settling? Am I taking chances?
Being born in America by default means you’re guaranteed success (if you don’t believe me, take a trip to any third-world country). America makes it easy to settle. It’s easy to live a comfortable life. Any of us can walk into a grocery store and select from thousands of food options.
This graph shows why it’s so easy for people to settle:
Just by being born in America we’re successful. Keep our lives on track, stay out of trouble, follow the traditional road, and we’ll achieve a decent level of success (particularly when compared with the rest of the world).
It’s this faux sense of success that scares me! Over the past 10 years, I’ve invested countless hours (and lots of money) studying the lives of the “super successful.” People like: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Truett Cathy, Jerry Jones, King Gillette, Madam CJ Walker.
All have been/are extremely successful (yes, I’m referring to monetary success, but what I discovered can easily be applied to any area of life). What – if anything – do all of these people have in common? Can their process be repeated?
After carefully examining their lives, here is what I noticed:
Their lives were progressing with the normal trend toward success, and then either by choice – or some uncontrollable force – they took a detour off the normal path toward success. It’s this period of uncomfortableness that is the scary part. During this period success is uncertain, and it often appears as if you are moving further away from success than closer to success.
Take a look at the life of any successful person and you’ll notice that it’s during this time of uncertainty that a catalyst enters their life. For Walt Disney the catalyst was meeting Ubbe Iwerks (Iwerks was the cartoonist who created Mickey). For Mark Cuban it was Martin Woodall (Woodall helped Mark make MicroSolutions a success, and the second catalyst was the late 90’s tech bubble). For Madam CJ Walker the catalyst was the loss of her hair.
What’s obvious is that we can’t keep doing what everyone else is doing if we expect to get results that are different from everyone else. We have to jump off the normal road heading toward success. We have to be willing to experience uncertainty, discomfort, and some stress. It’s during this time outside our comfort zone that the catalyst arrives.
This time outside your comfort zone is called The Dip by Seth Godin. It’s this Dip that prevents most from experiencing the success they long for. Most are unwilling to live with the uncertainty of The Dip.
I’m in The Dip!
I’ve been in The Dip for the past 2 1/2 years. It’s been stressful, it’s been confusing, it’s been full of uncertainty. I question myself, my decisions, and my logic, way more than I should. But that’s part of being in The Dip.
It’s easy to go into The Dip, but it’s hard to stay in The Dip. A lot of people take a chance, jump into The Dip in pursuit of their dreams, and then when things get tough they quickly return to the road of certainty – in stead of the road less traveled.
I’m staying in The Dip, staying focused, keeping my eyes wide watching for a catalyst, trying to take calculated chances, and trying not to settle…how about you?
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