Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Getting Into the Game


When I was growing up I was, I think, overly idealistic, as perhaps many of us are when we're young. I played a lot of sports, and in my mind to some extent I saw the workplace as a lot like the playing field. I thought that if I just practiced hard enough and demonstrated enough teamwork, I would succeed in the workplace in the same way those qualities helped me on the playing field.

I probably should have tempered my idealistic theories with the many exceptions that I noticed on the playing field and elsewhere. I, frankly, have not had a stellar career, although I have had some minor successes. I can attribute my lack of outstanding success to a number of factors, some of them within my control (lack of direction, lack of understanding of the work world, lack of assertiveness, etc.) and some of them a function of the work environment (see any Dilbert cartoon). Some was due just to plain bad luck.

However, one thing that took me by surprise in my working career was how often it was difficult to simply gain admittance into a field or endeavor I wanted to pursue. To extend the sports analogy, I did not realize how hard it would be to get into the game.

One thing I noticed early on was that people who owned their own businesses often did get a chance to play. It was only fitting -- it was their money at risk. I noticed that those who owned their own businesses also managed to make a lot of money in many instances, but it was tricky. A lot of businesses failed. And this introduced another irony to me: A lot of businesses that I thought should succeed failed, and a lot of business that I thought should fail succeeded.

I started dreaming of owning my own business, but some problems remained. For example, I was somewhat risk averse, and as you can see from my assessment above, starting one's own business seemed very risky to me. Further, I was often only a few paychecks away from incurring debt to get by, and I noticed that a lot of businesses pay little to the owner in the start-up years.

Then the idea of owning a small part of a business started making more sense. I could have less risk, but still some of the benefits of ownership. How could I own part of a business? Buy stock.

I still would like to own my own business someday. Okay, so I am not a major player right now. I haven't had the stellar career of say, a Bill Gates. But that's okay. I own part of the business he works for, so he works for me now.

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