This is a mixture of a post for the “Blogging a Book” project and an example of how some of us are both cursed and blessed by the entrepreneurial spirit and the paths it leads us along.
Today’s post has been inspired by my own quest for success in what is the 5th career or business of my life and by the serendipitous reading of a newsletter article that has a bearing on the development of what I plan to be the last (and most fulfilling) stage of my business life.
To clarify my choice of “last” and prevent any suggestion that I expect this stage to be short: I use “last” because “final” sounds just too final and because I expect to be doing most of what I am doing now for the rest of my active days. I certainly hope that there will still be many of them.
This will probably need to be a two-part post to avoid both writer and reader fatigue.
The article was “Part Two of Your Life” by Craig Ballantyne for his ETR Transformation contest, as that article is in a newsletter, I cannot provide a link, if you would like to get it, you can subscribe by going to the Early to Rise website here: (I have no commercial relationship with ETR.)
I will expand on how the article is relevant to my own journey and life in general later, but first the background.
I arrived in Canada in June 2003 to escape further persecution and almost certain imprisonment for opposing the theft of our farm in Zimbabwe. Sue was relatively safe living in a cottage on my brother’s property near our village of Marondera in Zimbabwe, because of the uncertainty as to whether we would be accepted as immigrants in Canada, we decided it was wiser for her to stay where she was and dispose of the remainder of our possessions that we had salvaged from the farm.
With an inflation rate in the millions of percent, that was a heartbreaking exercise. Selling items for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwe dollars but in reality for just a few US$. A prime example was a 3 ton truck that we had bought second-hand for Z$100 000 and sold 3 years later for over Z$1 million, but in real hard currency terms for about half what we had paid for it.
Selling one’s last few assets before they get stolen, knowing that the cardboard box loads of cash received for them would be practically worthless in a few weeks is a very real demonstration of the soul-destroying effect of hyper-inflation.
We had visited Canada earlier that year at the suggestion of my elder son who had married a Canadian girl and moved here a few years previously. Prior to that we had investigated moving to Australia for its similar climate, location in the Southern Hemisphere and because many of our friends and fellow Zimbabweans had moved there. Being over the age of 45 and with no in-demand skills or qualifications we would only have been accepted if we had the financial resources to post a half million dollar bond each.
Although the South Western USA may have provided a closer match in climate, politics and farming, we could not afford the cost and time involved in hiring legal consultants to apply for green cards. We had no contacts there and no money to get established.
The Canadian authorities indicated that our application to become residents would have a good chance of success and that because of our almost refugee status, we could live here while waiting for approval. But we could not work or start any form of self employment.
That was another reason for Sue remaining in Zimbabwe, it was tough but manageable for me to live with my son, his wife and their two children for what was still an unknown period, it would have been difficult and expensive for both of us.
Up till then, I had only lived in a city for very brief periods of my life. Most of my life had been spent on farms or in houses with big gardens in the suburbs. Living in a small semi-detached house on a handkerchief size plot on a busy street was, for me a distinct type of hell. Not having money to pay for distractions of any sort made it worse.
Luckily, through another ex-Zimbabwean, I made contact with a large farming operation and asked if I could spend time on the farm. I was not permitted to work or receive compensation, but the opportunity to get out-of-town each day was like a reprieve from purgatory.
I went back to Zimbabwe in November that year to escape the Northern Hemisphere winter and spend Christmas with Sue. It was a risk but I had been away for 5 months and Sue needed my help sorting out some of our affairs in Zimbabwe. I kept a low profile, enjoyed the sun and returned to Canada in February 2004, still uncertain if, or when we would be given resident status.
Later, when the weather warmed up, I resumed my visits to the farm. Before long, we were granted residence status, I found a house to rent, started my greenhouse and irrigation contracting work and Sue arrived with our 6 cats in June that year.
The farm work involved long hours, 7 days a week for most of summer and getting wet on bitterly cold nights setting frost prevention sprinklers in the fall. Not easy physically for a 55-year-old or mentally for someone who had formerly employed 180 people to do similar tasks.
But it did provide an income and by keeping me busy was good therapy for the previous 3 years of stress. As so often happens, I fell into the trap of getting comfortable in a familiar rut. I did not believe that I would easily find a management job in the corporate world as I had been out of the field for too long and had no local experience or contacts. I could not contemplate any form of factory or retail job, nor could I handle the stress of commuting long distances to one of the bigger cities. I had no resources to start a business more in line with my skills and passions. I was definitely unemployable in the conventional sense, so I stayed in my rut.
Although I unhappily remained physically in that rut, mentally I never stopped looking for opportunities. My ex-wife and I had a brief flirtation with a network marketing business in South Africa many years before. My involvement was writing cheques for what ended up as a substantial stockpile of soap, household cleaners and detergent in our garage.
I resisted sales calls from network marketing people, get rich quick experts and assorted other telesales people. Years earlier, I had made some money on the stock market, mainly investing in companies I knew something about, before or immediately after they went public. Therefore when a slick sales letter promoting investment software and a subscription to daily share price updates arrived in the mail, I was hooked.
As embarrassing as it is to confess now, I used my credit card to pay several thousand dollars for that software, I used our meagre savings to fund my initial share purchases and actually did quite well the first year, more than recouping my investment (on paper). Human nature being what it is, I did not liquidate my holdings and play it safe, I continued the following year, ignored several warning signs and lost all my gains very quickly. By the time I got smart and sold all my remaining shares, I was down about the amount I had paid for the software.
In 2006, I did get involved in a Network Marketing company, did make some money but did not enjoy promoting either the products or the business opportunity and found it difficult to give it much attention while I was spending many hours on farms.
Those then were my first two ventures into “home business” type self employment in Canada. They showed me the potential to generate a good income once I found an ethical, good business model that I enjoyed.
To get back to the article I quoted at the beginning of the post, it is a good reminder of how many formerly successful people have had to take a break or detour in their path to the next big success. Sometimes coming back to their original paths years later and achieving even bigger goals. He uses the example of Steve Jobs leaving Apple, creating Pixar then, returning to rescue Apple and produce the new “i” products that have become trend setters.
To be continued….
Are you in part two, three or more of your career and life? Or did you get it right the first time around and find part one kept on getting better?
Wishing you success.
image from: Ronald Saunders via Compfight