You might wonder how today’s post could connect the dots between two articles which at first appear totally unrelated.
But I believe they are.
The first was an article in the Saturday May 1st edition of the National Post about Halsey Minor, who sold his business, CNET for $1.8 billion in 2008 and is now filing for bankruptcy with debts of $100 million – double the value of his remaining assets.
What he frittered his fortune away on is not relevant to this post, if you are interested, you can follow the link above and read the story. What is relevant, is that he made the transition from successful entrepreneur to owner of a large business without too much difficulty but failed the next transition to being wealthy without a clear purpose.
Exactly the same phenomenon that causes 70% of big prize lottery winners to go broke, get divorced, experience many other problems, within a few years of their big wins.
We can explore why this should be after considering the next article which was “Why You Should Run Away” by Paul Rosenburg in one of my favourite newsletters Early to Rise . In the article, the author describes how at age 16 he was put on a bus, all alone, to travel 2000 miles to visit his grandmother. He goes on the explain the lessons he learned from that adventure. The most important of which had little to do with the journey itself but much to do with breaking out of the mould of conformity imposed by other people’s expectations. His article has a great message for all of us, you should read it.
When my elder son was about 19, a year out of high school and with a year of commercial studies under his belt, he came to work for me in my export trading business which was based near Johannesburg, South Africa. I was purchasing a commodity in bulk truck loads from a source in Zambia, over 2000 km and 2 countries away. The loading of the initial shipments required supervision by someone I could trust, my options were to go myself and put other business on hold or incur the cost of hiring a responsible person in South Africa and transporting him to Zambia.
I offered my son the opportunity, he had only recently obtained his driving licence (age 18 in South Africa), there was no cell phone coverage outside the main centres in South Africa, and none at all in the other countries at the time. Land line telephone service was spasmodic and unreliable. Outside of South Africa, borders were inefficient, staffed by incompetent and often corrupt officials. Crime rates along most of the route were high, reliability of vehicle breakdown services poor and fuel filling stations few and far between.
To remove one potential risk factor, I had arranged for him to pick up a Zimbabwe registered vehicle from my brother who still lived in that country. South African registered vehicles were assumed to belong to rich South African tourists and were prime targets for criminals in Zimbabwe and Zambia. I put him on a long distance coach to get to my brother where he would pick up the old but reliable Mercedes-Benz, and sent him on his way.
He had a wonderful adventure, handled everything that was thrown at him exceptionally well, did all that I expected of him in regard to loading trucks, checking quality of the goods, preparing export documents. He tolerated being accused of drug smuggling at the Zambia / Zimbabwe border, waited for hours while officials almost stripped his car (trying to intimidate him into offering a bribe) and got back to my brother’s business in Zimbabwe safely and much more worldly-wise.
The most dangerous part of his journey was when my brother’s step son insisted on driving the car back to the house with my son as passenger and overturned it in a ditch. Neither of the boys were hurt, but the irony of the car having driven hundreds of kilometres without missing a beat and then being crashed in the final 20km was not lost on either of them or my very angry but relieved brother.
My son (who has lived in Canada for the last 15 years) gained more life skills experience on that trip than most people do in a lifetime of safe, comfortable living. Living vicariously through reality TV programmes is nowhere near as exciting as relying on your wits and negotiating skills to avoid succumbing to intimidation from a corrupt official (often carrying an AK47).
Was my son in danger on that trip? Yes to a degree, but young men and women at that age are at more risk serving in the military in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Now let’s connect the dots.
I believe that Halsey Minor fell into the same trap as the majority of lottery winners or those who suddenly and unexpectedly inherit considerable wealth. As humans, most of us are not wired to responsibly handle wealth we have not earned ourselves. Even when we have earned it ourselves, we have a problem when we no longer have the purpose in our life that drove us to create it. That failing makes a good case for trusts and professional administrators.
Who knows what drove Halsey Minor to spend his fortune on bad real estate investments, art and racehorses, none of which he knew much about. Maybe, if he had “Run Away” instead as Paul Rosenburg recommended, spent some of that money on seeing new places, experiencing new environments, he might have found a new purpose in life.
Both my son and I have taken very unconventional journeys through life, have we learned from them? Absolutely yes. Has it stopped us making mistakes? Some yes, but it has also led us to make newer and bigger ones. The two huge rewards are that it has helped us develop the resilience to withstand everything that has been thrown at us and, speaking for myself, led me to enjoy an extraordinary and exciting life.
What about you? Are you ready to Run Away on your own journey of discovery? You can start that journey right now by just changing what you spend your time on, do something different and see where it takes you.
Leave a comment about your idea of Running Away.
Wishing you success and an exciting life.