Friday, October 02, 2009

What does it take to achieve the American Dream?

There's a reason I listen to right-wing talk radio, even though I'm supposedly a liberal. It tends to be MUCH more entertaining that the boring left-wing drivel.

And sometimes, it can be enlightening.

Like yesterday, when I heard conservative host Andrew Wilkow complain that us liberals 'didn't get it.'

According to him, conservatives railed against tax increases and government takeovers because they redistributed the wealth - their wealth - and liberals didn't mind, because liberals tended not to be the generators of wealth in the first place.

"They're redistributing your money."

Conservatives, according to Wilkow, were the entrepreneurs in America. The small business owners and the driving force behind generating profit. Liberals, according to him, only ever succeeded in the fields of academics and the government - areas in which they used abstract philosophy to solve problems, or other people's hard earned money.

It's all bullshit, of course. If you want to look for the people who generate wealth in America, look no further than Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world in 2008.

This is Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett is awesome.

Entrepreneur, businessman and financial genius, Buffett remains an unrepentant liberal who enraged the right-wing when he argued that people such as himself should pay MORE in tax, not less.
"If you're in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent."
Andrew Wilkow is completely shy of the mark when he claims that conservatives are the only successful or entrepreneurial Americans.

Nevertheless, what he said struck me like an epiphany. For all Wilkow's rubbish, he did highlight an important point. Whether liberal or conservative, the successful people in America got that way from generating wealth.

It reminded me of something I read in the wonderful book Career Warfare by David D'Alessandro. He was quite unequivocal about it - the most important members of any tribe are the ones who bring home the bacon.

It might seem enormously obvious to the rest of you, but it actually came as quite a surprise to me - simply because I'm not necessarily a 'money generating' kind of guy.

I did have a long, moderately successful career in sales, but materialism has never been the overriding motivation in my life. At one crossroads in my career, I even turned down a job paying double what I was earning at the time to finally become a writer full time - and never regretted it.

But I do aspire to greater things, and yesterday I wrote about how America was a land of opportunity - and those opportunities were just out there, waiting for me. I realize now that it takes a certain aggressiveness to seize them.

And, as Sun Tzu advised in The Art of War: "Opportunities multiply as you seize them."

My freelance writing career is a perfect example. I was explaining the process of getting published to a family member the other day - explaining the concept of contacting editors, pitching articles, building relationships and 'delivering the goods' and she remarked that it all sounded a lot more businesslike than she'd imagined.

And she was right. I'd never realized it before, but I'd actually built my fledgling writing career not on my ability with words, but by using all the skills and knowledge I'd gathered working in sales. I wasn't selling advertising - I was selling myself.

And it worked.

As a writer, I think the only thing more satisfying than seeing your work in print is actually receiving a cheque for it. It means your writing has value - and while ALL writing has value, a cheque actually means somebody else thinks it has value, not just you.

That got me thinking further. I feel like I'm on the cusp of working out how to 'bring home the bacon' using the skills that I've developed. I just don't know how to right at this moment.

Not yet.

But I'm working on it.


1 comment:

Occasional Professor Tom said...

The book you need to read is:

Free to Choose, by Milton and Rose Friedman.

But you do seem to be coming around to the idea that the distribution of money is not and should not be random. The next thing is to learn about is what happens when the government decides to move money to places the market doesn't want to put it.