I've been a little hard on America in some of my recent posts. I was contemplating my life last night while watching six young musicians singing their hearts out with fantastic performances as they each reach for their dreams on a program called "The Voice." It caused me to think.
I've dealt with adversity during my lifetime. Certainly it hasn't been near as bad as that endured by so many others. But, on the other hand, it's probably more than that experienced by many others. So, I guess, while I really dislike the term average - I fit somewhere in the center of the curve - that would make me average, I suppose. Hmmm!
I really have no envy, jealousy or ill-will toward the wealthy, extremely wealthy or the obscenely wealthy. While they may have more money than I can imagine, they have to cope with their own life challenges. Often excessive wealth brings with it the kind of problems those of us in the middle class and poverty levels don't have to face. Additionally, having billions of dollars didn't save Steve Jobs' life from pancreatic cancer. It may have bought him a little more time or he may have just been lucky to have a case that was less aggressive than typical.
I bought into all the hype and glitz of the super successful concept. I've lived in nice, large and spacious homes. I've had many luxury cars and in total owned about 24 vehicles in my lifetime. I've stayed in some of the finest hotels and resorts in the world. I've worn big name suits and shoes. So, I can't complain. My life has afforded me many wonderful opportunities and I be lying if I said I haven't appreciated them. But, ultimately, they were never the things that made me the happiest.
About 32 years ago I was involved in a very well known multi-level marketing business for several years. I was always reminded that I'd be walking the beaches of the world with my up-line distributors. Well, I did a little of that, too. But, one thing that always bothered me was, when attending a seminar or rally, being constantly hammered with the idea that anyone who didn't see and jump on this particular business opportunity was a "loser." I could never wrap my head around that. Interestingly, one of the people who constantly belted out that conviction of those who chose not to become involved in this business, himself had minimal education, came from a blue collar background and, now that he had achieved some success, seemed arrogant and holier than thou. Thirty years later, my understanding is that this individual and several of his cronies are being sued by many of the people who were in his down line organization since many of the things he shouted about never came to pass or fell far short.
I don't accept the premise that anyone is a loser. We are each where we are by choice. Oh, I know there are many who would say that it was their circumstances that put them in a specific situation. But, I know too many people who have come from the bottom and reached great heights. I know others who came from the middle or higher and fell down to the bottom and bounced back. And, there are also those who made it way up the ladder of success and fell to the bottom and stayed there. All of these were choices. I realized that again as I watched those six people performing their hearts out to move up from very humble beginnings, perhaps, the circumstances they were born to. Not one of them is a loser, even if they are eventually voted off the show by the American public.
A loser is someone who chooses to be a loser. Someone who accepts the put downs and uses every excuse he or she can dream of why he or she can't get out of whatever "hole" he or she is in. I am blessed with such a vast array of friends who have become successful in life, not necessarily wealthy, extremely wealthy or obscenely wealthy, but successful. They have worked hard chasing their own dreams. But, even more than that, they have focused on helping others to achieve their dreams, too. No! We can't make anyone else successful. But, we can provide tools, show them the path, cheer them on and provide some moral support.
While I promote my concept of "living free" through this blog, I don't have the answers, recipes, maps or detailed instructions for anyone else's life. I can use mine as one example, the example I'm most familiar with. But, I'm living my dream. Your dream is different. Maybe you don't mind working two jobs and being committed to a large four or five figure monthly nut to crack to live in the McMansion of your dreams, driving the vehicles you want and having all the trappings of financial achievement and success. If you feel free and are happy most of the time then that's the choice for you. More and more people are realizing that the cost for that dream is too great. That was my realization. I lived well. But, I had the constant nut to crack every month. I couldn't just stop or I'd lose everything. Ultimately, I realized that I wasn't really happy, at least not most of the time, for the long term. So, I made my choice.
I've indicated that I believe that as a country and a society we've been losing ground over the years. Here's an article I read this morning in The Economist magazine titled "The Lottery of Life: Where to be Born in 2013." One of the international divisions of The Economist creates a list of the best and worst places to be born. In 1988 the number one country on that list of 80 countries was the United States. Twenty-five years later, the U.S. is tied with Germany at #16. That drop in desirability seems to mirror our drop in educational ranking in math and science, also.
So, while I'm still very glad and proud to be an American and to have served my country in the military and to have been a lifetime entrepreneur and contributed in whatever ways that has manifest itself, I'm still convinced that this country and society has made some very poor choices. While we may still be the wealthiest country in the world, it appears that we may also be the most in debt country in the world. Many of our large cities are crumbling. Our industries have left because it's more desirable to manufacture in other parts of the world. Our educational system is broken. Our college students leave school on the verge of bankruptcy without hope of finding fulfilling work to repay their student debt, let alone enjoy so much of what once was part of this American way of life. Do I see this as pure gloom and doom? Unfortunately, unless "We the people" choose to make some drastic course changing choices, I think we've done the future generations about the worst disservice any society could have done. It just makes me think about the saying, "Nero fiddled, while Rome burned."
We are not dumb. We have been over indulgent as a society. We've played and the country has crumbled. The best place to be born in 2013 for a fulfilling and happy life is the boring country of Switzerland. Australia is #2 and even tiny New Zealand, a country I personally love, is #7. We have millions of bright, ambitious, talented, intelligent young people. I see them everywhere. But, the land of opportunity has turned into the plains of the Dust Bowl . . . unless we all figure out an answer, make some very tough choices and recapture reality. I don't have the answer. I only know what is working for me. I couldn't be happy if I weren't living free and I wouldn't be living free if I weren't happy. It's time for the U.S. to get back to #1.