On Failure

For most of us, failure results from the inability to follow simple rules.

Life is not that hard. It is about process and limits, and energy, and skill, and skill applied to a task, opportunity or problem, and resourcefulness, and ability to get along with others, and the ability to lead, and the ability to follow. And. And. And.

At the root it is about goal seeking and trying and growing.

Let’s suppose a 12-year-old dreams of being a plastic surgeon. They want to help burned children. Maybe they know someone who had that misfortune. What simple rules do they need to apply to achieve that goal.

  1. Go to school today and learn what is being presented even if it doesn’t seem to fit
  2. Be curious and ask questions
  3. Explore everything. Sports, music, travel, public speaking, community service, writing, physical fitness, yoga, karate.
  4. Have a friend and be a friend
  5. Build a personal network
  6. Don’t take things personally
  7. Avoid alcohol, drugs and other cheap solutions
  8. Stay out of trouble with the police
  9. Repeat as necessary

There are probably more.

The simplest success is to avoid poverty. Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institute recently testified before the US senate on poverty. There are reasons people are poor. Some are avoidable. His recommendations include:

  • Finish high school
  • Wait until after marriage to have children
  • Stay married
  • Get a job and keep it.

The probability of being poor given these conditions is less than 2% compared to almost 20% if you don’t.

Some people see the “get a job and keep it” as an issue. Why just any job?

Work both requires and teaches valuable skills. You cannot start your career at the top. (People digging holes are the exception.) No matter what job you hold now, having had a job, and having been successful at it, makes it easier to get the job you want later.

There is no reason to avoid minimum wage jobs. They teach the same valuable skills. Some Minimum Wage Facts:

  • Minimum wage earners are young. 51% are less than 25. 73% less than 35
  • More than 2/3 of minimum wage earners are in food services. (Tips are not recorded)
  • As opposed to a high school graduate, if you do not finish high school you are almost 4 times more likely to earn minimum wage.
  • Outside the food industry people earn minimum wage for less than a year.

Get any job and treat the difference between what you earn and what you are worth as the price of getting ahead later.

You might want to rethink the “what you are worth” question. Look again at simple rule #6. What you are worth is not relevant. No job pays you what you are worth. Employers pay you what the job is worth. It is not about you. Don’t take it personally. Simple Rule #6. Look again. It applies often.

How many simple rules are you avoiding? Will avoiding help you?

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. don.s@protectorsgroup.com

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