I recently let my guard down and let my wife talk me into making one of my rare visits to a nearby shopping mall – one of my least favorite places.
The place was mobbed, as though people were determined to have one last go at the good life, perhaps sensing that shopping malls might soon be turned into homeless shelters. I watched with great interest as people stood in long lines to pay for the on-sale merchandise they clutched tightly in their arms.
Strolling through Foot Locker, I examined a number of tags to see where the goods had been manufactured. No Honduras or Sri Lanka here. No sir. Virtually everything I looked at was made in none other than Cambodia.
My mind became an instant time machine. It hasn’t been that long ago that Richard Nixon was explaining that the reason he secretly bombed Cambodia was to “end the Vietnam War sooner.” Hmm. As I recall, that didn’t work out too well.
It also hasn’t been that long ago that Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge slaughtered 2 million of their own countrymen, leaving their skulls neatly stored on rows of shelves in warehouses. Cambodians have always been fastidious about such matters, you know. Just one of those unfortunate things that seem to happen when communist revolutions are carried out in the name of “the people.”
But all is well, because the Khmer Rouge are long gone and Foot Locker has found a great new labor force to satisfy Americans with big appetites for material things and too little cash to pay for them. Now, however, even cheap Cambodian products have to be put on sale in order to entice cash-strapped shoppers to buy.
What I thought about mostly, though, as the mob threatened to swallow me alive, was the contrast between the salivating materialism at the mall and a show that Dateline did on foreclosures a while back. The show was grim, to say the least.
The Dateline documentary featured a lot of people who were lamenting that they hadn’t read the fine print in their loan agreements when they bought their houses. Many, of course, couldn’t afford their houses even at the original interest rates they paid. But many more found themselves in trouble when the adjustable-rate time bombs built into their mortgages exploded.
Dateline didn’t leave anything to the imagination – sheriffs serving eviction notices on visibly shaken people, movers putting furniture and personal belongings out on front lawns (where their owners had 24 hours to take them away), tears streaming down people’s cheeks as they bemoaned the sobering reality that they had no place to go.
One young man, with his daughter’s arm around his shoulders, sat on his front step and, with tears in his eyes, kept repeating, “I’m a loser.” You’d have to be pretty hardhearted for that not to grip you. Having been homeless myself at one time in my life, I could relate. I know what it feels like to have nowhere to sleep.
So I have a message for that young man: Even though I don’t know you, the odds are that you are not a loser. You’re just a person who’s made some bad decisions. And now, like me and everyone else who has made bad decisions, you’re experiencing the consequences of your actions.
But that shouldn’t stop you from learning from this experience and profiting from it in the future. In the words of Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad (who was once so broke that he and his wife had to sleep in their car), “Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
The day I started paying closer attention to the news was the day I started realizing that I wasn’t uniquely stupid in making many bad decisions.
• How smart were the wealthy people who invested in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme?
• How smart were the top brass at the Big Three automakers?
• How smart were Barney Frank & Friends for pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into making sub-prime loans to people who couldn’t afford any kind of loan?
• How smart were the corporate boards of Citigroup, Wachovia, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, et al. that were not able to continue without handouts from taxpayers?
If you’ve lost your home, your business, and/or your money, don’t be intimidated. The guys running many of the biggest corporations in the world have managed to lose billions, which makes them many times dumber than you.
Sure, the deck is stacked against you, because you don’t have billions to work with and you don’t qualify for a taxpayer bailout. But the way I look at it, the deck is stacked against everyone – because no matter what we do, we aren’t getting out of here alive anyway. In the words of British economist John Maynard Keynes: “In the long run, we’re all dead.”
With the economy in shambles, now is the perfect time to get all this squared away in your mind. Get up off the floor and listen: You’re not dumb, and you’re not a loser. You just haven’t learned to be as clever as the guys who make super-dumb decisions and still walk away with millions.
Regardless of where you are today, I can tell you where you will be next year at this time: exactly where you should be according to how resilient you are over the next 12 months, how determined you are, how hard you work, and how good your decisions are.
Just be sure to keep in mind Robert Kiyosaki’s warning that people who avoid failure also avoid success. Above all, remember that there’s a lot more to success than bean counting. If you have love and good health, you’re already successful.
A loser is someone who quits. If you never quit, you never lose.[Ed. Note: For a treasure chest of proven ideas, strategies, and techniques for increasing your income many times over, check out Robert Ringer’s bestselling dealmaking audio series.
And be sure to sign up for his Voice of Sanity e-letter.]