Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Lesson from the Dogs: Owners are Friends with Money

In one of the leadership classes I took at Boston University, we studied a case about the lives of several civil rights pioneers.  These individuals, all of whom had made significant contributions toward their cause, had come from impoverished childhoods and meager beginnings.  What they developed first, after a passion for learning, was a network.  Even though they had few resources themselves, they met people who had wealth in the form of contacts and money.  Since these future civil rights leaders had passion, charisma, and conviction, they were able to attract contacts and friends with money who supported them in their efforts.

After discussing the case in class, I came home and opened the door to my two rambunctious, silly, and at times annoying dogs.  It struck me that they were living a good life while of course not making a dime simply because they had contacts with money (my wife and me) who found them compelling and endearing.  They were living on charisma alone, and we took care of the rest.  Michaele and I sometimes joked about them ‘earning their keep’ by protecting the house and how if we needed extra income we could always rent Paco out to herd cattle part-time.  But the truth of it was that they provided companionship, humor, and all the other perks of a loyal canine.  Of course they didn’t need money.

It got me to thinking how many of us curb our aspirations or lower our expectations because of the perceived limitations of money.  It may be that we go to a local state school because the better private school we were admitted to was too expensive.  Maybe we forgo college altogether.  Or we think we can’t ever leave our soul-numbing cubicle job to pursue what we love because we need the paycheck.  Of course there are times when money is a real and important restriction and we need to take it into consideration in our decisions.  But in too many cases it can end up being our go-to excuse, a crutch that we lean on to justify why we do not pursue another path that might make us happier.  No risk, no reward, after all.  

Entrepreneurs are known for their go-for-broke approach to following their passions.  They don’t let lack of money stand in the way of what they want to do.  By following their passion, and finding ways to make it work financially afterwards, they tend to have good rates of success.  Not every attempt will be successful, but out of the ashes of one attempt they will strive for their next one.  The first company may be funded on a credit card, or with money raised by friends and family, but once they are on their second and third companies they may have gotten the attention of other professional investors like venture capitalists.  They may not have money themselves, but their charisma, drive, and passion become clear to others with money who support them, to the success of all.

It’s important to keep this in mind as we pursue our passions.  Money may be an important factor, but it is not the primary or even necessarily the most important factor that contributes to our success.  Natural leaders follow their passions with a passing consideration for money but do not consider lack of money as an excuse to quit or to abandon their dreams for a steady paycheck.

Lesson:  It’s ok to have little money and few resources as long as you have a good motivation and are compelling and have friends or contacts with money.  If they believe in you they will support you one way or another.  I often look at the dogs and think what a sweet deal they have- nothing to do but play and eat and sleep.  Of course you don’t want to depend solely on others, but for those first crucial steps to success use the resources you have.  They don’t make a dime but their enthusiasm, warmth, and drive provides pleasure to us, so we enjoy supporting them.

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