I am a 36 year old man. I have a wife and four kids. And I just quit my job and dove face first into this thing called entrepreneurship.
Why, you ask? Why would you do such a stupid and ill-advised thing? Why would you quit a perfectly good job to walk off into the dark by yourself. Don’t you know that there are zombies out there? They will eat your f-ing face, man.
Well, dear reader, I acknowledge all of those things. I am completely aware of the zombies wondering in the dark, waiting to eat my face. Yet I persist. Why? Because I am me. And I have control issues. And maybe a chemical imbalance. Whatever.
But if you really want to know the driving force behind my desire to create a business from scratch, if you really want to know why I never want to be an employee again, then let me tell you a story about a boy and a boat.
Imagine a lake. It’s a river actually but for some reason the people here have always called it a lake. It is Lake Austin: the swollen banks of the Colorado River. Now imagine a speed boat (a big one), center console, twin external engines, cruising like a boss on top of the water. On the boat, hiding from the Texas summer sun under the shade of the awning, are two cops. They wear the reflective blue-black polos of an APD special units patrol officer. The wind blows in their hair. They wear Oakley sunglasses. They are tacti-cool. Think Miami Vice meets Bay Watch. This is the difficult life of the Austin Police Lake Patrol.
I was never permanently assigned to Lake Patrol. That would have been a great gig, but I never made it there. I did, however, work Lakes as an overtime, reserve officer. Guys and gals, lake patrol is awesome for several reasons. The main reason is bikinis. Play your cards right, act stoic and pissed off, and some drunk girl would flash you some boob. God I loved working the lake. But I digress. We are not here to discuss the debauchery that is inebriated rich people on boats with girls. That is a topic for another blog. A dirty one.
No, students, we are gathered today, to discuss capitalism. Beer and chips. Guns and butter. Infinite want in the face of limited resources. That shitty-great, totally brutal but completely awesome economic theory upon which the whole of western civilization is built. And the greatest lesson on practical economics known to man is a boat ride down Lake Austin. Behold! Along the banks of the mighty Colorado the great castles and mansions of the filthy fucking rich. Private docks, zero gravity pools (who has a pool on a lake? The rich, that’s who), speed boats hanging from their hoists, all poised for fun in the sun.
As a police officer in Austin, Texas, I earned a decent wage. Work hard enough, work enough overtime, and you clear six figures easy. I had it better than a lot of people, and I know it. I’ve seen the other side. I’ve been to a lot of shitty places in the world. Places where people live in shacks and huts covered in tarps. Some of those places aren’t too far removed from where man was a few thousand years ago. (Except for the cell phones. You might have a dirt floor but you still have a cell phone.) I am not blind to the fact that in a grand, worldly sense, I am already extremely wealthy myself.
But that is not how the mind works. The mind looks at what you have and compares it to those who have more. And the folks who own houses on the banks of Lake Austin have a lot more.
My dirty little capitalist brain looked at those houses and thought, I can’t even fathom having the amount of money that it would take to buy that house. Ten Million dollars? In the bank? Slam it down, pay in cash? Makin’ it rain? Move bitch get out da way?
Ten million dollars. See the zeros flash in your head like the jackpot sign on the lottery billboard. What does a person do to earn, not win, but earn 10 million dollars? Or more?
Well, if you are Michael Dell (house on Lake Austin), you start a computer company in your garage and hustle like a pro. Wham bam next thing you know you are showering in Benjamins.
The same goes for all those other millionaires who own the houses on Lake Austin. They created something of value. A business. A service. A product. They hustled their faces off. They persevered through difficulty. They didn’t give up. One day, they sold their product and millions of people decided it added value to their lives. That, boys and girls, is capitalism. It’s private industry. People like you and me with hustle and great ideas. It’s about recognizing an opportunity and taking a risk. And the result, if you work hard enough, is wealth.
That is capitalism. And it is good. Some may also know it as that great ideal called ‘The American Dream’. This dream drives ingenuity and keeps the economy humming. The idea that anyone can make it given a good idea and some elbow grease is what keeps people from other nations flocking here every day.
Riding along the lake, peering at those great houses, I came to a realization. I was never going to get ahead working as a cop. Being a cop is a noble profession. But as a cop, I was an hourly worker. My earnings were therefore capped. I could work all day, every day and only be able to earn a certain amount. There are, after all, only so many hours that I could give. And as a government worker, my pay was strictly determined by a scale. I could make 1,000 arrests in a day and eliminate the criminal element from the street. I could solve the Kennedy assassination single-handed. I would still only make $34 an hour. A bit more with overtime. Still, there are only so many hours in a day.
And I realized that this fact was true of any job that I might get. Carpenter. Software developer. Whatever. One will not achieve great financial success as a wage earner. You can certainly do well. Millions of people in this nation do very well with their job. You can be comfortable. This is the area where most of us live our financial lives. Some wage earners may even be well off. There are more than a few of those. But you will never be truly rich. Regardless of income level, the wage earner is always dressed in the chains of servitude.
The metaphysical state of being wealthy is more than just having a shit-ton of money. Being financially wealthy is a state of freedom. It is the freedom to choose. Or not choose (right Cardi B!). It means you are the boss. You call the shots. You make the decisions that will alter other people’s lives. A wage earner is the opposite. They are the hired hand. They are the servant. In some cases, the wage earner is the slave.
This thought hit me like a ton of bricks. I would think to myself, ‘if I want to leave the Austin Police Department right now, today, could I do it.’ The obvious answer was no. What about the health insurance? What about the benefits? What about the pension? I would lose all the contributions from the city!
Humans are risk-averse animals. Studies have shown that, given a choice involving risk, we focus on what we might lose over what might be gained. So it goes with jobs and benefits. Pay, health insurance, retirement: they are the chains of the modern wage-slave.
When you are in a mindset that you are NOT free to choose, you are a slave. I do not want to be a slave. I am me. I want to call the shots. I want to be the great decider of what I do and earn. Don’t we all?
The only way to do this is to build something of your own. People like Michael Dell and his multi-millionaire neighbors on Lake Austin aren’t super human. They are not endowed with special powers. They eat. They breathe. They suffer from insecurity and anxiety. They have wants and needs just like you and me. What makes them special? It is simple. These men and women had a good idea and put that idea into action. They took a risk. They bet on themselves. And they won.
Well, me being me, I decided that all those people have nothing on me. I am just as smart and talented. I have good ideas. I have good sense. I can do what they did if I decide to do it.
So I planned to break out of the job and into my own gig.
The insurgent was born.