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Davis Journal

Success isn’t easy but working hard can get you there

Mar 09, 2023 02:16PM ● By Cyclops

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author. 

With rising prices and uncertain economic predictions, it is not uncommon to hear Utahns mutter how hard it seems to “get ahead”; indeed, a significant portion of young adults question whether they will ever have the financial stability of their parents.

Let’s get the answer from billionaire Warren Buffet: “It is foolish to bet against American!” One can argue, in fact, that now is a great time to “get ahead” since extra income from part-time “second jobs” is easily available due to a worker shortage.

Granted, it’s easier to succeed financially if you are raised by upper-income parents. As my wife points out in her baseball analogy, you’re more likely to score at home plate if you already start on third base. But several examples below show different routes from people who weren’t born to advantages.

Take Ronald Read, for example. He worked as a janitor at JC Penney and as a gas station attendant for most of his adult life. He was willing to work extra jobs and extra hours – and when he died at age 92, he had amassed an $8 million fortune. From his meager pay stubs, he “paid himself first” and invested in the stock market.

I have written before about a chance encounter with a woman in her early 30s. She had brought her young son to a busy high-end restaurant and was seated next to me at a counter.  She ordered two seafood entrees and, when the boy mentioned that he wanted dessert, she told him they didn’t have enough money to cover an end-of-meal item. Intrigued that she was on a limited income but was dining at a somewhat pricey restaurant, I asked her if she had dined there before. She hadn’t, she said – but then explained further. 

“We don’t have much money. I work at a laundromat and am a single parent. But I want to show my son that there is a different lifestyle that can come if he works hard and gets an education. I don’t want him to ‘think poor,’ so once a month when I get paid, I take him out to a nice restaurant so he can see what is possible if he is willing to work for it.”

I picked up her check – and made sure the boy got dessert too.

And here’s another example. The breakfast restaurant I visit most weekdays is owned by a young man who grew up in a family with no history of entrepreneurship. He worked as a line cook for several restaurants, then took the plunge of opening a small-limited hours café. His timing was poor – he closed down a week later due to pandemic restrictions.

But his work habits weren’t poor. When restrictions loosened, he reopened. Now, two years later, I asked him how his sales compared to what he had first anticipated.  

“Hey, we have three times more customers than I ever thought,” he said. “Now I’m trying to open a second location.”

And what was the most difficult task he faced?

“It was getting up early in the morning,” he laughed. “People want breakfast, so I had to go to bed earlier and force myself to get my butt out of bed at 4:30 a.m.”

Success isn’t easy and it is not a certainty no matter how hard one strives for it. But moaning about difficulties instead of strategizing for a better result doesn’t put a single dollar in your wallet.  As the mother at the restaurant understood, it only makes you “think poor.” 

Bryan Gray, a longtime Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front.