I was standing in line at the Hannaford in Old Town recently and had an experience that I think is a parable of what’s going on in American society today.
The guy in line ahead of me was uncombed, unwashed, and judging by his sweatpants and the bottle of liquor in his hand, I’m thinking maybe he didn’t have his life put together as well as it could be. He was chatting it up in his raspy cigarette smoker voice with a lady in line, who was also there to buy alcohol. During the course of their conversation he accidentally knocked the “lane closed” sign over and it clanged loudly onto the floor. He turned around, looked at the fallen sign, and then returned to his conversation. So I shook my head, picked it up, and put it back.
Then when it was his turn at the check-out he started making small talk with the cashier, who was a young man probably in his late teens.
“How are you doing today sir?” the cashier asked, bright eyed and friendly.
“I’m just living the American Nightmare,” the guy shot back. “And so are you by the looks of it.”
The young cashier visibly deflated and mumbled something about just trying to pay his bills. When the guy picked up his bottle of liquor to leave he accidentally pulled a stack of plastic bags off the rack and dropped them all over the floor. He glanced down at the bags, decided not to clean them up and walked towards the exit.
“Excuse me sir,” I shouted after him. “How about you clean up your mess this time?”
The guy turned around, scowled at me, shrugged his shoulders and left. So yet again, I bent over, and cleaned up the guy’s mess. I told the young cashier that the last thing he should do is take advice from somebody who wasn’t just losing, but quit playing long ago.
As I was driving home I kept re-running the experience through my head. The more I thought about it the more it bothered me. It wasn’t just that this able-bodied guy was undoubtedly sitting at home pissing away all his money on liquor and cigarettes and collecting every form of government support that he could qualify for—courtesy of productive taxpayers like myself. It wasn’t just that I had to clean up his mess, not once but twice.
What bothered me the most was that his poisonous attitude had affected the outlook of a young man who was fresh into the workforce. Be a drunk, be lazy, be a selfish parasite that feeds off the economic prosperity of the wealthiest nation on Earth—I think it’s a hellish life that leads nowhere fast, but I’m a free will guy so knock yourself out. But don’t infect the next generation with your loser attitude about a society that you stopped contributing to a long time ago.
Some people will try to excuse his conduct, saying that he was an unfortunate displaced mill worker, or that he was just disenfranchised because he couldn’t earn a “living wage”, etc. But these are bullshit excuses. The truth of the matter is the guy’s attitude and work ethic suck therefore his outcome sucks. That’s the bottom line.
My grandfather was a first-generation immigrant and when his parents died, he became homeless in New York City around the age of 10. He worked his butt off, saved money, got certified in accounting, and eventually went on to own 7 hotels in Maine. After he died, his business empire fell apart and nearly all of the wealth he spent a lifetime creating was destroyed. I never met him, but there is a photo of him on the wall of my office, sitting and chatting on a porch with President Eisenhower. From homeless immigrant kid to hotel owner and hosting the President of the United States. The photo is a constant reminder for me that in America all things are possible if you are brave enough to have a dream and put in the effort.
That was a long build up, so are you ready to hear what the secret to economic success in Capitalism is?
Work hard, consume less than you earn, save money, pay-off your debts, be optimistic, think big, and invest in your future by acquiring cash-flowing assets like stocks, bonds, real estate, and businesses. If life punches you in the gut, grunt, shrug it off and get back to work. If you fail, try again. If that fails, change course, and try again until you find something that works. Anyone who has hustle, grit, and is willing to invest in their financial education can make it into the top 10% of wealth in America. Anyone.
So if you aren’t happy with your economic position in society then do something positive to change it. Dig deep and find out how far your potential goes—I bet you’re capable of more than you think. Personally, I’m having the time of my life working 3+ jobs and constantly acquiring new assets, starting new passive income businesses, and providing valuable services to customers and to the community. When you’re hustling that hard it’s almost a certainty that you’re going to make economic progress in life.
Capitalism isn’t broken. A lot of people have just given up and they need to get their heads right and jump back into the game. Capitalism is the most effective system for allowing capable people from the bottom of society (like my grandfather) to move up to the upper rungs. It’s also a system that frequently takes the often decadent and spoiled 3rd and 4th generations of wealth and casts them back down into poverty again when they inevitably consume everything they were given. There has never been another system in the history of mankind with so much economic mobility.
So my advice to the young folks today is: Don’t be a trendy Capitalism hater. Dare to hope, stay positive, learn how to get your money right, and then take massive action to improve your situation. With enough knowledge, time, and effort, you will move up the economic ladder. For sure.
The American Dream is alive and well, in spite of what you may hear in the classroom or in the grocery line at Hannaford. Now go out and start improving your financial situation. I believe in you!