I remember the winter of 1985–too well. My crew and I were working on a frigid remodeling job, five layers deep in turtleneck, flannel, vest, sweatshirt, and parka, every breath freezing in my beard. And the only song on the boombox seemed to be Dire Strait's "Money For Nothing." You know, the one that goes, "That ain't workin', that's the way you do it, money for nothin' and your chicks for free." That song was as far from our reality as you could get, but we made it our anthem that winter and challenged ourselves to tough it out. To quote another song, "we worked hard for our money," and took great pride in what we did, even if we froze our backsides doing it.
I guess there's nothing new about looking for a shortcut, the path to easy money. But I wouldn't know, and I suspect neither would a lot of you, mostly because it never occurs to us to look. We've been too busy working to spend precious time searching for Easy Street. Not that anybody would turn down some easy money, but how many of you would stake your family's life on it? To me, easy money is having a job go smoothly from start to finish, and ending up with a happy customer and the final payment.
When I see some ad on TV or promo on the Internet promising people that they can get rich and retire practically without getting out of bed, I feel bad for anyone desperate or gullible enough to try. You've probably seen these ads. They usually disguise themselves with some official-looking logo or emblem that includes the word "Institute" or "University." Get real. And they glamorize the dream they promise to help you attain. For example, one of these "institutes" dangles the wish list that everyone pictures when dreaming of operating their own business: "Be your own boss. Work your own hours. Spend more time with your family." OK, I ran my own construction company for more than 20 years–how'd I miss out on these things?
Be your own boss? How about be at the beck and call of your customers, and work your tail off to make sure your employees have jobs? Work your own hours? How about be on call 24-7, pull all-nighters to meet bidding deadlines, and solve personal problems for your crew at 11 p.m.?
Spend more time with your family? This doesn't come automatically. In fact, everything about "being your own boss" is in direct conflict with spending more time with your family. You've got to want to spend more time with your family to make that happen, no matter who you are or where you are on your wish list.
So call me old fashioned, but I don't believe in shortcuts. I believe the true path to success is paved with a hunger for knowledge and a commitment to grow, the energy to work hard, the character to be honest, the wisdom that combines good judgement and intuition, and–yes–a fair share of luck. What I don't believe is that somebody is ever going to come along and give you money for nothin'.