a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step ~ Laozi
By Bill Scott, President, StoreReport LLC
When Wilbur and Orville Wright set out to build their flying machine, I doubt seriously they were thinking about walking on the moon. They merely wanted to get a new prospective on their environment.
It might have started when Wilbur peered out of the second story window of his bedroom at 7 Hawthorne Street in Dayton, Ohio. Or, maybe the thought came into being when Orville’s father returned from a trip and presented the boys with a toy helicopter, based on an invention of French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Penaud. Made of paper, bamboo and cork, with a rubber band to twirl its rotor, it was about a foot long. Wilbur and Orville played with it until it broke, and then built their own. In later years, they pointed to their experience with the toy as the spark of their interest in flying, but who truly knows what made them become fascinated with the thought of taking to the skies in the first place? It’s doubtful they ever knew the real truth themselves.
My interest in computers began in 1975. I had no formal education in semiconductor technology, no more than Orville and Wilbur had in aeronautical engineering. Computers had fascinated me since the early seventies when I leased an electronic calculator that could merely add, subtract and divide, and had a retail price of $3,000.
But, for me, I guess it all began when I got my hands on a pocket calculator and saw an opportunity to augment my income by acquiring a box-full of them, tossing them into the trunk of my car, and selling them to retail businesses as I made my rounds promoting advertising.
But what really got my juices to flowing was when I attended a three-day, real estate course and was taught how to analyze income properties for the purpose of investing. The course included going through the weekly ‘Multiple Listing Service’ (MLS) that came out weekly in my community, and running the information through a gauntlet of formulas to determine whether they were worth buying, fixing up and reselling for a profit. Today, real estate investors refer to this as ‘flipping houses’.
Using the method taught in the seminar I attended required me to spend six-hours analyzing each property. By then, the science of calculators had evolved into devices that were programmable. My first calculator purchase was a Texas Instrument Business Analyst, 29-step programmable calculator. By studying the manual, I was able to create a tiny program to cut my analysis time on each property by 50%. With it, I was able to buy a four-unit apartment building, and turn it around in six weeks for a 53% profit.
I was well on my way to making my first million, but as John Lennon so aptly wrote, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” I became consumed with the magic of that little calculator I was holding in my hands.
You can stroll along a road, taking in the beauty of the scenery all around you, and get easily sidetracked and miss your objective entirely. But a ladder has a starting point and a static objective with countless way-points along the way. The unknown numbers of inventors that followed in the footsteps of Wilbur and Orville Wright climbed their own ladders, each having their unique objective, but they all started where Wilbur and Orville left off. Each step required work, and the information they collected along the way steeled their resolve and helped them determine what ladder they would climb next.
This is what most young people don’t understand about life. Very seldom do you come up with an epiphany straight away. Like my story, and like the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the pathway to success is not a road, rather it’s more akin to a series of ladders, each terminating on its own plateau. Along the way, you collect a bit of knowledge. That knowledge helps you to choose the next ladder you must climb. Sometimes the ladder leads to nowhere, often you end up at a place you never considered before you started, and sometimes you slip and fall. Occasionally you may give up and fall prey to great fear as the way-point becomes a prison you may languish in for the rest of your life.
As we scale the ladders of success, we will invariably pick up unplanned baggage–a wife or a husband, children, debt, responsibilities not conducive to our objective. How we deal with this ‘baggage’ has a great deal to do with one’s own fate.
The ladders to success are an infinite series of climbs that only end when you do. You must prepare yourself before you begin, just as a climber would prepare for ascending the Himalayan Mountains. Persistence is the key. Don’t be afraid to change your course, because it just might have a strong bearing on your success. I often think that if I had stayed on my original decision to make real estate my career, I would have most likely been destroyed in the real estate crash of the mid-eighties.
Climb, stop, think. Climb, stop, think. It’s never too late to begin. Persistence trumps stamina every time.