Thursday, June 9, 2011

The cultivation of success

To burlap, or not to burlap. That is the question.

Many of my neighbours construct little burlap forts to shield their shrubs over the winter.

I don't. My theory is that shrubs need to develop their own defences against the snow and wind in order to have a long and healthy life. I don't want my shrubs to be wusses. The elimination of work and expense is a fringe benefit of this approach.

Very occasionally, I have a casualty, but most of the time my shrubs do very well, and this spring is no exception.

This is my philosophy about most things.

In one of my adventures, I was asked to assist with a government-funded "incubator" for entrepreneurs. The idea was to identify people who seemed to have worthwhile business concepts, and to improve their chances of great success by surrounding them with lots of services, handholding, office facilities, money, and so on.

I was sceptical, suspecting that this would probably produce a crop of hothouse violets that would wither and die when transplanted into the real world. Few things have the motivational effect of being unable to meet a payroll, or receiving a call from the bank's loans manager inquiring about a late payment.

As far as I know, the incubator produced little, if anything, of consequence. In fact, I consider it a great misfortune for anyone to fall into the clutches of this sort of thing.

In the real world, I have seen many people achieve success by scrambling, finding cheap solutions, working long hours for little pay, inventing better ways of doing things, making short term sacrifices in pursuit of the prize. People often point to these people when they are successful, and say that it came easy to them. Wrong.

Nothing worthwhile comes easy. The notion that students are helped by receiving undeserved passing grades renders them a great disservice. It teaches them that success is possible without work and competition, which it isn't.

Speaking of his 16 years in hockey's minor leagues, Don Cherry said, “It really toughens you. Nothing can hurt you after that.” That's it, isn't it. In any field of endeavour, when you've taken the hits and survived, you gain the confidence to go all the way.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

This persistence in the face of adversity is at the heart of the concept of risk and reward, which underpins the capitalist system that built the society we all enjoy today. It's the reason great family enterprises are built by the first two generations, and often frittered away by the third.

Of course, this does not preclude reaching out to help those who need a hand up to get restarted when circumstances have defeated them. There is no shame in failing if you've fought the good fight. The shame is in failing to try.

No burlap, thank-you.

1 comment:

  1. What a great blog. You are a capitalist with a heart, Doug!