self reliance

“Rich people exploit, poor people are exploited”


Honestly, I hate this graphic. Not based on its artistic merit, but because of what the repercussions mean for those that buy into the message.

If one agrees with the graphic, one must necessarily agree with the following, more than likely, unconsciously:

  1. Being wealthy is either immoral, or purely the product of luck.
  2. Since wealth is obtained by either of these means, we’re completely justified in expropriating said wealth, and distributing in a way we prefer – either as punishment for immoral wrongdoing, or to adjust for fate.
  3. I wasn’t born to wealthy parents, therefore the only avenue available for me to enrich myself is by immoral means, which I’m not going to do.
  4. My actions are immaterial since I’ll never be wealthy anyway. I am exploited and acted upon by outside forces which deny me my fair share.
  5. People who have achieved, earned, received more, were fortunate, and anyone could be fortunate. Those with more don’t deserve what they have.

These ideas are poisonous. 

In a free market, the forces of supply and demand are well understood, though seldom reflected upon when talking about the labor of people. Perhaps, because we can easily get emotional about a public school teacher making $35k a year, while raising two kids on her own, but it’s harder to feel that way about the price point of a blender.

Nearly half of the millionaires in this country are business owners, and they have risked mightily to start and sustain their businesses, while employing the majority of people in the US. Eighty percent of Americans with a net worth of north of one million dollars are first generation affluent. From The Millionaire Next Door:

“As a group, we are fairly well educated. Only about one in five are not college graduates. Many of us hold advanced degrees. Eighteen percent have master’s degrees, 8 percent law degrees, 6 percent medical degrees, and 6 percent Ph.D.s”

Hard work, doesn’t count for much, because hard work is in abundant supply. You don’t get a cookie for breaking your butt stocking the shelves at CostCo. Working at CostCo is what you get for playing it safe. For failing to procure an education for yourself that has value. For failing to see the world in such a light that you can provide a greater value than the next person. And CostCo pays little, because there are millions of people capable of doing that job with no training.

It’s also the same reason Lebron James NBA salary this year tops $30 million. There’s only one of him, and there’s more than 4 million people in retail, earning an average of $25k per year.

That sucks. I’m sorry. I know. I worked a ton of odd jobs in early adulthood, and a ton of manual labor. I get it. But believing the lie in the graphic above isn’t going to help you. It’s not going to add a dollar to your pocket, but it will keep more dollars from finding you.

Every moment you tell yourself one of the things listed above, is a moment you’re not telling yourself that you can have whatever you want, as long as you want it bad enough. Losers play the wall. They shy from engaging in actions that can meaningfully improve their financial situation. Playing it safe, and making $40k a year is fine, as long as that’s what you want. But if you want more?

Scarcity value, is where the real money’s at. If you have, and develop, a set of skills that will make your work more valuable, because your work is more rare, congrats – you’re going to be wealthy.  If you think a college degree alone is the ticket, you’re in for a real jolt.

Becoming a: welding apprentice, plumber, window setter, or contractor, are all easy (ha!) ways to become a millionaire in a few decades. But as the Wizard of Menlo Park said:


Eric Thomas does a great job of communicating a better mindset in this video from 2012. He makes the point in the first minute of this video, so don’t be scared away by the running time. You’re going to love it.

“Some of you want sleep more than you want success.” And that’s the truth. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t be hypocritical about it.

I could stand to lose 25-30 pounds. Having a shorter, endomorphic body type, of hearty German and Irish ancestry, with a deep rooted love of potatoes and pizza, keeping weight off for me is a real chore. Meanwhile, my friend can eat  whatever he likes and can’t gain a pound.

That monster. I should shove his thin-privilege in his face like so much delicious hickory smoked bacon… mmmmm, bacon….but I digress.

I could bitch and moan about how it’s not fair that he doesn’t have to work hard to be thin. I could dwell on how I wish the government would take away choices from me, so there was a greater chance I wouldn’t purchase sugary drinks. I can put my place in the world on everyone and everything else, but that doesn’t drop a single pound off this frame. That doesn’t change my situation in any way.

Likewise, people preaching “Rich people are lucky or immoral” are the leper’s bell. They’re not focused on success, they’re making excuses for their failure, before they’ve even failed. All the while, it takes the typical millionaire 32 years to get there.

If you don’t want to be a millionaire, fine. But stop lying to yourself about why you are where you are, and why the guy who’s taking four cruises a year is where he is. You could get there, in your own fashion, but it’s easier to upvote the distraction – the gewgaw that tells you you’re a good person, and those with more are bad or merely just lucky.

Try instead, to tell yourself these five things:

  1. I can likely have whatever I want, as long as I’m willing to be proactive in my pursuit of it.
  2. I understand success, of the uncommon variety, requires substantial risk, sacrifice, and deferred gratification.
  3. My future success means more to me than my immediate comfort and hobbies.
  4. I can set myself apart, and increase my earning power by learning new skills, and marketing myself.
  5. My path is my path, and focusing on those more or less successful has no impact on my path, it only distracts.

Or, agree with the graphic at the top. Let the siren song of abandoned responsibility wash over you and take you lovingly into the rocks of being poor and bitter.

Ultimately, it doesn’t alter my path. I offer this merely as a warning to those that I care about that could be lulled into the rocks of a terrible outlook on life – one that sacrifices their initiative at an altar of blame.

Screw it! Or, Service is the Small Things.

If you know me, then you know I’m constantly fixated on the little things that should give businesses an edge. Wherever I am I want to think deeply about the nature of the organization and find the areas we can attack to get a leg up on our competition. Not every area of a market is one in which you want to compete head-to-head, so you pick your spots. The fronts you always fight on are the same everywhere: cleanliness, marketing, operations, etc…


And, of course, “Customer Service” always seems to be one of those areas that companies want to improve. I cringe when I hear “we really want to focus on customer service this year” as this is often the hallmark of the bureaucrat. The type that only cares about metrics of things like hold times and ever more manuals and binders. Piling rules on top of rules, salting the earth so nothing can ever grow again. 

It’s not that customer service is an ignoble pursuit, or a futile one. It’s that it is often completely misunderstood. The same mistakes occur again and again and precious few realize it and go a different path. The most common mistakes?

  1. Rigid adherence to scripture- The people actually charged with providing service are rarely taught how to think. They are taught what to repeat: company dogma. Dogma never explains the philosophical underpinnings for policies, or at least the realities that created them, it just says “we can’t do that.” 
  2. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it – Sure, you’re sorry that you can’t waive this fee, or return their money, or honor this deal, but are you empathizing? Often times people know the answer before they ask, but they want you to soothe their feelings. Saying “sorry” and meaning “sorry” are two very different things.
  3. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” – Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance” is a great example of what we should be teaching in a service industry. Not ALL situations are the same. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do for someone, focus on what you can do for them. Don’t be a bureaucrat. Be a person with a brain and a desire to solve problems.

The other day I was asked by a team member if we’d put a few screws in a wall for a Resident that wanted to hang some pictures but lacked a drill to do so himself. Now, we’ve been building-the-Hoover-Dam-busy of late, but this would only take a few moments. I’m glad we didn’t reflexively tell the Resident “no” as that would have been just an awful waste of an opportunity. I’m glad for moments like this because they clarify what we’re about and what we’re not. It’s a reminder to teach what we believe.


If you take away anything from this post I hope it’s this:

Hire smart, motivated people. Then teach them HOW to think about your business the same way YOU think about it. Let them do what needs doing.

Rinse & repeat as needed.

That’s it. Free thinking, capable individuals who know the mission will always outperform robotic “representatives” droning out “I’m sorry” for a misapplied policy.