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The surest way to success is – hard work

I want it all – I want it now!

This catch phrase from a current television ad appears to have become the mantra of the millennials, the newly-defined generation of youthful, impatient and, in some cases, ill-equipped individuals who will one day inherit the earth.

As a septuagenarian who nurtured a career for the better part of my life, I’m amazed at these young adults who feel American society owes them both a free education and immediate, high-income employment following graduation. According to my limited understanding of our Constitution, we possess three inalienable rights: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The key word in this list of rights is pursuit, which according to my definition, requires activity toward a desired result. In other words, happiness is not guaranteed – only our right to try achieving it.

If you equate happiness with success, then the spotlight should shine on those who are indeed successful. Apart from the whiz-kid-techno-freaks like (Mark) Zuckerberg, most truly successful people earned their success through years of training, experiencing, observing and just plain hard work. The lists of successful people appearing in business publications typically feature men and women in their 50s or older – people who were willing to “pay their dues” to achieve their successes. They can teach us a lot.

At this time in our history, when good jobs are going unfilled, there really is no excuse not to be able to find a suitable entry position. According to the law of supply and demand, as labor becomes scarce, wages will increase. Thus, an enterprising young adult can rise to new heights through better than adequate job performance. In those instances where a conflict exists between a millennial and management, there are obvious choices: find another career, move to a new, booming job market or start your own business – some successful entrepreneurs have created commercial miracles within their own garages.

But what if the high price of a college education is a barrier to a suitable entry job? Some of us “oldsters” worked our way through college and never incurred student debt. Some of us never earned a degree but were willing to learn a trade or occupation from the ground up, literally. There are also other choices. During my 30-year career helping people buy and sell small businesses, the most successful group I had the pleasure to encounter were the tradesfolk: men and women who painted houses, fixed plumbing leaks, installed electrical circuits or landscaped yards — all important and lucrative occupations not threatened by robotics or computers. Case in point, when your toilet leaks on a Sunday, and you call a plumber, you don’t ask how much, you ask, when? Best of all, trade schools are affordable and graduation apprenticeships are plentiful.

The best advice my dad gave me concerning a career was: find a path that people either have difficulty (with) or an aversion to following. My best example is a client who owned a “honey wagon,” a gentle term for a cesspool pumping truck. He earned a great income doing what others found repulsive. Odor? You bet – the sweet smell of success.

My advice? Take the time to learn/earn your success – it’s a dish best savored over time.

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