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Sometimes, you’ve got to grow your own luck

lightening(photo courtesy of thefost)
When my father was alive, he considered himself to be the luckiest guy and said so many times. Through what he considered a real stroke of luck, he ended up going to medical school in Scotland. Looking at what was going on at the time, the chances of that happening were pretty slim: It was 1938. My grandfather had gone into bankruptcy and lost his business. My father was not a very good student. He had a lead on going to the University of Minnesota and trying to get into the medical school there, but it was only a shot – he could get out there and be refused and would have to go home, a waste of a train ticket. He was working for the summer in the Catskills in a terrible hotel and had basically resigned himself to going back to New York, enrolling at City College to get a high school biology teaching certification and giving up. At the end of the summer, his father called him to tell him that they’d just gotten a telegram from a medical college (a prep school really, one of those places where regular medical students who were not doing well could go for extra tutoring to get through the boards) in Glasgow, saying that if my father could get there by the first week in September, he’d have a place. My grandfather, who goodness only knows was coarse, illiterate in about 5 different languages, and generally a nasty SOB, asked him if he really wanted to do it. My father said yes but there was no way to get everything done – a passport, clothes, a ship fare, especially with my grandfather’s situation. “F**k you – if you want it, go do it – we’ll find a way.”

And my father gave his notice, jumped on the first train back to New York and he and his father spent the next two weeks running around Manhatten, with my grandfather pawning my grandmother’s diamond earrings, calling in every ‘marker’ he had to get paperwork done, a passport, a cheap ticket on what proved to be an old troop steamer, and basically threw my father on the boat to go off into the world. My father arrived in Glasgow the day before the Germans invaded Poland and he did not get back to the US for 6 years; in the meantime, he finished his degree, got his license to practice in Scotland, met and married my mother(and keeping it secret) and having what he described as the happiest time of his life.

Luck? No. Timing and being willing to take the risk.

Our IT work at my employment is done by a guy who started out at his company as a technician. It was a pretty small company then, just the owner and three techs. After a couple of years, our tech got married and he and his wife decided to have a baby. Soon after the happy event was announced, things started to go really sour at his company. The owner lacked, shall we say, communication skills. They were losing customers left and right. It’s not that the techs were not doing their jobs; as a matter of fact, some of the customers were coming to them and telling them to basically lock up the boss so that they would not have to deal with him. It was either that, or they would pull the contracts. The techs were desperate – by this time, all of them were married; one of them had bought a house. Our guy was going to become a father in a couple of months and because their boss was frankly a jerk, they were going to lose their jobs. They did the only thing they could think of – they ran around asking their in-laws and a friendly banker if they’d loan the guys money to buy out the owner. How they managed to convince this guy to take the money is beyond me, but he did. The company now has 50 employees.

Luck? No. Timing and being willing to take the risk. Yes, they already had customers and they knew that unlike the boss, they had the sort of communication skills to keep customers. But it was still a risk for three young guys.

Right now is very scary. Very. Very. Scary. But even in the very worst of times, there are opportunities around for people who can keep their heads straight. Those young guys could have taken the position that they had jobs….and allowed the company to fall apart around them and lose their jobs. But they did not. They decided the way to deal with the uncertainty was to get some control over their situations. They pooled their resources.

In terms of my father’s situation, he got a hand up from his father, but he also understood that this was his one chance and he allowed his passion and love carry him through.

Do you have something you have always wanted to do? Have you always wanted to have a business? Believe it or not, now is just as good a time as any to put in the work to do it. Find a need and fill it – fill your days with the best that you know how to do for your customers and yourself. And then you can do the one thing that will help the US economy – better than anything else.

When you grow enough to the point where it’s driving you crazy – make a job and hire someone else.

And THAT will help the US economy grow.

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  1. krissyderic says:

    Aunt Toby,
    I LOVE reading your blog.
    You are very intelligent, have so much wisdom and always spot on!
    Char aka/’krissyderic’

  2. htwollin says:

    thank you, Char — Just trying to do my ‘bit’.

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