Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Seduction of Feel-Good Messages

I just saw a Canadian friend M posting a feel-good message on her Facebook wall. 2 of her friends "Liked" the post.

What if Money didn't matter

I know this friend from my previous part-time job. M is a second-generation Canadian. Her parents migrated from India years ago and work in low-wage jobs (having climbed the corporate hierarchy to get above the minimum wage) to support the family. M and her sister P have finished their high-school in recent years and are looking at their career options. Her sister P is still waiting to start her nursing course, having been too late to beat the other eligible applicants earlier this year.

From what I understand, M has some education in Marketing. She keeps dreaming about starting her own business and shared with me her dreams while we were colleagues. When I asked her further questions, it became clear to me that M lacked the clarity to realize what "starting a business" really takes. For one, it took some probing questions before she decided to narrow her business to the food and beverages industry. For another, it was clear to me that M has no kitchen management experience nor even an appreciation of what it takes to run a kitchen effectively and efficiently for a food business to survive. [See videos below for an idea.] Upon further probing, M decided that she would run a party-catering business instead. When I suggested that she try her hand at writing a business proposal, her reply was that she will do it when she meets a (potential) source of funding. Obviously, she does not realize that the process of writing a business proposal may be a method to force oneself to think through the details of one's business model.

Red Rock - a behind the counter look at a food business

[Ok, this is a cartoon, but surely one can notice from the kitchen scenes that organization and management of a kitchen are crucial in a food outlet.]

Personally, I like M. She is an assertive and straight-forward person. However, she will need a really good mentor to guide her if she were to ever get anywhere in her business dream. Unfortunately I am not qualified to be such a mentor. Oh no, I am nowhere near it.

In the meantime, IMHO, M needs to learn the harsh realities of life. A video like "What if Money didn't matter" may make an aspiring youth feel good, but the honest truth is: for success to come, 'feeling good' alone isn't going to count for much, especially when one comes from a working-class family with the odds of success stacked against one. Don't take my word for it, read what multi-millionaires like LIFT and Dotseng have to say about the harsh reality of life. Thus I did what I do not typically do. I dished out my 2 cents of unsolicited advice to a young friend.


[My comment dated 12-Dec-2012, on M's Facebook wall in response to her "What if Money didn't matter" post.]

Please take the video's advice with a pinch of salt. Unless you're born-privileged such that "money really didn't matter", then it is not wise to rush blindly in pursuit of happiness/dreams.

IMHO, there has to be a balance somewhere between chasing one's dream and making a living. Earn your own keep and that of your family's if you should decide to start one. You gain personal dignity and learn valuable life lessons from the "boring life"; it is not as "meaningless" as it is made out to be in the video.

Once you make enough to feed yourself and your family, you can establish a S.M.A.R.T. plan to achieve what you desire. If your means of making a living happens to be what you desire, then congratulations. If not, then it's still ok, you can lift your head high that you have it in you to create a dignified life; you're not what some people call a "welfare king/queen".

I am saying this because I know from life experience what it is like to be born in a "working class" family, growing up "have-not". I came from a country without welfare, and extreme capitalism drives the rich-poor gap bigger with each passing year. I have observed what a growing rich-poor gap does to individuals and the society, you don't want to be at the wrong end of the totem in such a society. While Canada is more egalitarian and socialist, it also follows the global trends of a growing rich-poor gap. As I've said before, you don't want to be at the wrong end of the totem when the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer.

If you really want to "make it", read research-based books about how successful people really make it. [Not those glossy self-promoting bullshit autobiography books by specific successful persons about how he/she personally made it.]

Some suggested reading list (the 1st 2 are research-based books):
1. "Outlier" by Malcolm Gladwell
2. "The Millionaire Next Door" by by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
3. "Letters of a Businessman" to his son by G. Kingsley Ward
4. "The Richest Man in Babylon" by George Samuel Clason


Click here for a Yahoo! Finance (Bloomberg) story about "McDonald's $8.25 Man and $8.75 Million CEO Shows Pay Gap".

See also the TED talk by Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20, "get some identity capital."

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