Saturday, March 2, 2013


So, it's March 2013. This is an important month for me. Later this month I'll have another birthday at which time I'll commence the 69th journey of 365 days. I never gave much thought about attaining the age of 68, but here I am. Wow! My mind keeps thinking it's still back in it's 20's and 30's, but alas, the body reminds the mind that it's not quite the way it all works.

50th Anniversary

This year, my 68th going into my 69th, also is the 50th anniversary of three extremely important events in my life.

Fifty years ago this year I attended my high school commencement as I completed my 12th year of education.

Fifty years ago this year, after working my behind off at a kosher delicatessen for my summer job, often working 80 hours in a week (and leaving me little time to conduct my own small business enterprise), I commenced with my first year of higher education. I learned some of the most profound, practical and valuable knowledge in my first hour in a college classroom, thanks to Mr. Reaske, my first college English professor.

And, 50 years ago this year I met Mr. Ted Sheft and Ms. Emma Fantone, the directors of the Audio-Visual Center at Montclair State College, where they had granted me a work scholarship. It was there under the mentoring of Ted Sheft that I discovered what would end up being my lifetime career, the recording industry, along with numerous tangential opportunities.

It's hard to believe that it's been 50 years since those pivotal moments and the opportunities they opened to me. But, please, don't think that was the end of the uncountable opportunities that have crossed my life journey. I said they were uncountable because there is no way for me to even recall them all. I've even begun to forget many of the opportunities I took advantage of and gained some kind of knowledge and experience from. Some it is was negative, but most was positive and it all became part of the sum total of who I am today. I've become a very different person, in so many ways, since that year 50 years ago.

Most of us graduate (complete some course of study or training) and go through some form of commencement (new beginning or the start of something new) ceremony. Combining that which we have learned in order to graduate and then commencing with this new start or journey brings us to the opportunities.

Never Ending Stream Of Opportunities

I have been blessed with a never-ending stream of opportunities. Many of them changed my life. Many of them took me in directions I had never thought about or contemplated. Many of them ended in a failure of one sort of another. Many have provided me with the interesting and exciting life that I've lived so far. But, the best part is that I still haven't seen any end to the ongoing stream of opportunities.

Actually, many years ago I realized there was no way I could ever take advantage of all the opportunities that were constantly coming my way, so I started passing them to other people who I felt could benefit from them. Some of those people found great success in the opportunities I passed on. Many didn't do all that well, but they, hopefully, learned something from the opportunities and the experience. And, of course, many of them didn't even recognize the opportunities as such and did nothing. This is their loss, in this case, of course.

What's All The Whining About?

Here's what bothers me a lot as I'm turning over this 68th year milestone in my life. There are more opportunities than there ever have been in history, yet, I hear so much whining and excuses from every segment of the human spectrum from the young to the old, from the unskilled to the highly skilled, from the uneducated to the over-educated. It seems like they must be teaching courses in both high school and institutions of higher education on whining and making excuses.

Young people complain they can't find jobs. Okay, so create your own job. When I was a youngster the big challenges were too much competition (just like the excuses we hear today). But, we learned to go out and shovel snow in the winter and mow lawns in the summer. We could mulch gardens for people. We washed cars. It didn't take a lot of ingenuity to find ways to earn some money. Some of those small, simple, part-time "businesses" took root and those youngsters grew them into full-time businesses that provided a lifestyle for them and their families.

Today, you can't find a youngster with a shovel or a lawnmower or a pail and sponge if your life depended on it. They are too busy sitting on their butts, watching crappy TV shows or playing video games or friending people on Facebook. They expect their parents (who also aren't too much further down this road than their kids) to provide everything including a car when they reach the age where they can drive. And while they're doing nothing and missing all the opportunities, they are also getting fatter and fatter. And, unfortunately, this goes for both the male and the female of the species.

Opportunity In Complication, Stress And Time Demands

Today's world is more complicated and stressful and time demanding than at any time in the history of human kind. We're even reaching and destroying some of the peace and less stressful societies in the rapidly disappearing aboriginal parts of the world. But, along with all of this complication and stress and demand on time, comes all kinds of opportunities. Let's face it and be really honest with ourselves, if we've been around for the past 30 or so years in the industrialized world, we know it's nothing like it was growing up in the 40's, 50's and 60's. More and more families are minimally two career families (husband/father and wife/mother) both working and they need to both work to make ends meet. But, just in this one area alone, family services, someone ambitious and creative can make life better for these families while making their own lives better.

Another fact, if you've been downsized during the last five or six years, you can pretty much count on the chances of getting rehired in the same thing you were doing at an equal or better income are far less likely than you want to believe. Once a business or any organization sheds excess baggage, they find ways to get the work done far more cost effectively and efficiently by retraining the remaining labor force and implementing the continually evolving technology that replaces human labor.

If you're 45 or especially 50 or older, you can pretty much kiss those higher paying jobs in your chosen career field goodbye. It's so much more cost effective to hire young people who are anxious to get their lives started and will do it for far less money than you will with your big mortgage and multiple car payments and other costs of your position in life. It's not fair. But, life is not, never has been and never will be fair. Remember the law of he jungle - survival of the fittest? Well, guess what, we live in a modern jungle.

Old Ideas Brought Up To Date

When I was a kid we had a man who had a small business picking up and dropping off dry cleaning. We had milk delivered to our house. We had another small business that brought butter, eggs and all kinds of cheeses and other dairy products to our home. We had a green grocer who brought fresh produce. And then there was the bake goods truck that came by and provided those goods. And even for us kids there was the Good Humor man and usually one or two other independent ice cream trucks who came through the neighborhood each day during the warmer weather. Of all of those, only the "ice cream man" still exists.

There have been some attempts, several with some success, in delivering meals to one's home. Of course, the most notable success at that is Domino's Pizza. But, there are others. And I've seen instances where an individual will make arrangements with several restaurants offering different cuisines. The individual then solicits customers for his restaurant delivery service, provides the menus, creates a computerized order form and allows the customers to call in, email the order or order on-line. With the new credit card merchant services offered by Square-up and Intuit, all you need is a smart phone to charge the order.

Dog walking services are another growing business. One woman who was making a pretty handsome living in information technology on Long Island was downsized and couldn't find any new jobs at all and certainly nothing paying what she had been earning. She lived in an upscale/wealthy section of Long Island where she started a business cleaning up dog poop from the yards of those affluent folks who didn't want to do their own "dirty work." She ended up with so much business that she hired several more out of work women and while they made a nice living, she replaced her own salary plus some. I actually knew a woman about ten years ago who had a business in the Hamptons serving all those wealthy New Yorkers who had summer mansions there. She took care of all their "indoor" plants both when the people were there during the summer and during the off-season when they were back in New York City. She lived quite comfortably, I might add. Personal services of all kinds are hot opportunities.

Currently Baby Boomers are turning 60 at the rate of one every 7 seconds and they comprise about 30% of the American population. They are the largest population group in the U.S. As each year progresses, these Baby Boomers, because they will live longer and longer, will require all kinds of special services from home care, shopping, transportation, etc.

I've really only scratched the surface of the unlimited number of opportunities that continue to expand exponentially. There is absolutely no reason for whining or making excuses. Every one of us can choose to think and live as free as we want to if we'll just use some of the God given intelligence and creativity we were born with. Okay, so maybe you're not going to end up doing your first choice dream as a way to put food on the table. But, here's the thing, IF you are a living free, thinking free individual and determine what you REALLY want and need to live a free and happy life, with or without a family, you WILL find an opportunity (actually, many opportunities) that will fill all your living free requirements. Best of all, you can put it together in such a way as to make it a family endeavor, thus, enjoying time together, working as a team and teaching your offspring a positive work ethic and to be creative in their own future endeavors.

So, what are you waiting for? It won't be handed to you on a platter. You already have what you need. 


Shelley said...

Well said!! Especially the part about no kids to be found anymore and all the opportunities out there for jobs serving the boomers.

Ed Helvey said...

Thanks!So much opportunity, so little ambition and creativity. What's happening?

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this post!! I wish I had an answer to the lack of ambition and creativity. So sad!!

Ed Helvey said...

Thank you , SandyGrace --

I see the solution as easy, stop entitling everyone. Unfortunately, it all starts at home. It's a sad statement on our society.

SwankieWheels said...

Hey Ed. Well, we baby-boomers sure know how to live. Last June was to be my 50 h.s. reunion, I decided not to attend due to my camp hosting job in Colorado. I turn 69 two months after you do. Currently I am in training to become a driver-guide on tour buses out of Juneau, AK. I completed kayaking the lower 48 states in 2012. This year I WILL kayak Alaska, my 49th state. Next year, to celebrate the completion of my Kayaking Quest to kayak all 50 states, I will kayak Hawaii, my 50th state, the 50th U.S. state, and plan to do it on my 70th birthday, May 16, 2013. Guess there is nothing remarkable about any of that unless you know that in 2004 I was shopping for a wheelchair as I could barely walk. The rest of the story - .

I love your writing and your spirit.

SwankieWheels said...

That should have been May 16, 2014. sorry

SwankieWheels said...

Ed, another thing to share... I have noticed boondocking out in the AZ desert, that nearly all of the 4x4 ATVs, etc. are driving by baby-boomers and folks even older. I used to think it was a "kid" thing.

Ed Helvey said...

Fantastic, Swankie --

I've been following your adventures about the tour bus driving and kayaking the U.S. with Alaska coming up next and then Hawaii in 2014. What a great adventure and inspiring story. I think you've got this "living free" thing figured out. I've yet to get to Alaska, but it's on my list. I've been to Hawaii twice, but only two of the islands and there is so much more to see and experience there. So, it's on my list, too. I guess I have four states that I need to visit yet to at least say I've spent some time in all 50.

So, what's after Hawaii? Have you considered New Zealand? I have a buddy in the Auckland area and another blogger I know (not in person, yet) further north. I'll bet Brian and/or John would be able to set you up for a humdinger of an adventure there - and you'd even have a place to stay before you shoved off with the kayak.

I was just reading some of your blog - I need to go back and read a lot more of your adventures. I'm going to add you to my blog roll so others can be inspired by you as well.

Ed Helvey said...

Ain't it great? I can't believe how great life is for us "middle agers." Oh, and it is a "kid" thing - who says we're not kids?

Maureen said...

Great article. I walk and sit for dogs but haven't built the business into a comfortable living YET.

Ed Helvey said...

Good for you, Maureen. Inch by inch everything is a cinch.

The most important thing is that you overcame inertia and have it started. Now, it's simply a process of building it, a little bit everyday.

A close friend's daughter is an entertainer in New York City (though she performs anywhere she can land a gig in the country) and for a while she lived with a roommate in NYC who was also in the entertainment business. He built a very successful dog walking business and had my friend's daughter and several other entertainers all working dogs with him. When one or more of them picked up a gig, the others would fill in for each other. It was a mutually beneficial small business that suited their non-conforming lifestyles perfectly.

Best wishes in building a successful business.