9:50 am. A beautiful 85-degree May morning, a fresh breeze met you as you stepped outside. Six of us sat around a large oval desk in the title company’s office; I had just signed my name a dozen times and watched my wife signed the dotted line on this last piece of legal paper. We were now officially homeowners.
At that moment, I felt a sense of pride. Yes, just a little over 10 years after moving to the US as a young, naive, shy, disoriented 18 years old who barely understood English, I (we) had just accomplished what some may consider a good start to the American dream. Just a little over six months prior to that, I had published my first book and sales were doing better than I ever expected. All the hard work, the dedication, the consistency and the toughness was starting to pay off. An imaginary hand was tapping me on the shoulder congratulating me and praising me for the accomplishment. However, as if on the other side of my shoulders another voice was present, I felt convicted of pride and ungratefulness. Here I was very proud of this accomplishment and internally boasting about being a homeowner but truly, it couldn’t have happened without the various people who along the way landed me a hand, educated me and mentored me, sometimes even without knowing.
We live in America and in America, we rave about the stories of the ‘self-made men or women’. But are they technically ‘self-made’? Has anyone ever done anything of significance all by themselves from start to end? Let me explain. In my case, as I look back, I realize that I didn’t do it all on my own. Somewhere, somehow, someone had their prints on my path. It may have been or seemed little but in the grand scheme of things, it was significant. But wait, I just said above that it took hard work, dedication, courage, consistency and sleepless nights. Absolutely! It took all those things and more. In fact, I would never apologize for hard work and I do not owe anyone anything. If you have attained any level of success that was not just handed to you, you should be proud of yourself within healthy measures. You should be proud because success happens only when opportunity and preparedness meet. Opportunity comes at one moment. On the other hand, preparedness may take a lifetime and only you can prepare you. When the opportunity showed up for a home, Heather and I were prepared financially and emotionally. We had set a goal with a deadline and we worked toward it. However, unless you asked me directly, you would not know that a year prior, we had a discussion with our mentors to map out a game plan. That single 30-minute conversation led to us savings an extra $20,000. Over the past year, many have congratulated me on the publication of my book. What the public doesn’t know is that back in March of 2016, my friend Patrick Withrow spend 1+ hour on Skype, guiding me through the process of publishing through Amazon as he had done a few months earlier. Did my mentor give a dime toward the purchase of our home? Did Patrick contribute a single word to my book? The answer is no. When I moved to the US in 2006 as young 18-year-old from the little country of Benin in West Africa, I surely didn’t sleep on the street and I am so thankful for that. I am fully responsible for where I am today. Nonetheless, not giving them due credit will simply be wrong in my opinion, regardless of the size of their contribution.
If my experiences do not convince you, let me share with you some examples that I hope will open your eyes. These passages are excerpt from Simon Sinek’s, Start With Why.
‘[…] Walt was busy thinking about what the future looked like and often forgot he was living in the present. “Walt Disney dreamed, drew and imagined, Roy stayed in the shadow, forming an empire” wrote Bob Thomas, a Disney biographer. “A brilliant financier and businessman, Roy helped turn Walt Disney’s dreams into reality, building the company that bears his brother’s name”
‘Bill Gates, […], may have been the visionary who imagined a world with a PC on every desk, but Paul Allen built the company. […]. Steve Jobs was the rebel’s evangelist, but Steve Wozniak is the engineer who made the Apple work. Jobs had the vision, Woz had the goods.’
How does it all relate to you and your future as a financially stable person (millennial)? If you are not thriving toward a dream, a goal, you might as well stop reading here. But for the ones who wake up every day with a fire in their belly and a desire to be better, this is for you.
I mentioned above that success happens when opportunity and preparedness come together. The work that you do when nobody’s looking will prepare you for the reward. In fact, your consistent preparedness may be the one ingredient that draws opportunity to you. Success in anything will never happened unless you are prepared. What motivates you? What would you do to change the world? What do you enjoy doing so much that you lose track of time and hunger? Practice that one thing so much that the universe cannot hold but give you the opportunity to achieve it and lead you toward the people who will guide you.
The concern with the millennial generation is that so much has been handed to many of us. Flash news, life does not work that way, especially in America. I am not a fan of Wikipedia for the credibility of its sources, however this definition of the American dream is the best one that I’ve found: ‘The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.’ In 1931, James Truslow Adams said ‘life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’ despite circumstances associated with social class, education or environment. See, nowhere does it say that the American dream is a guarantee. As the Founding Fathers crafted the Declaration of Independence, they understood that happiness was not a given, that one had only the right to pursue it. You must work and even fight for your dreams. When you do not give up, when you do not complain, do not get weary of the grind because in due season, you will reap.
The ball is now in your court, it has always been. You MAKE the opportunities happen in your life then enjoy your SUCCESS. I only ask one thing of you: remember those who helped and acknowledge them when the time comes. No one is a self-made person.