Uncommon Friends and What You Can Do Together

uncommon-friends-life-with-thomas-edison-henry-ford-james-d-newton-paperback-cover-art

A book I have yet to read and has long been on my GET list is called Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindbergh. It is a 1987 publication that tells the story of the close life-long friendship that existed between these five extraordinarily accomplished men as well as James Newton the book’s author.

It has long been my belief that if you surround yourself with enough good people and discard the folks in your life who have a negative influence on you, you can’t help but be successful. These five men written about in Uncommon Friends could hardly be higher in achievement. Ford, Lindbergh, and Edison need no introduction to anyone educated beyond the 6th grade. Alexis Carrel and Harvey Firestone are less familiar historical figures, but nonetheless accomplished. Alexis Carrel was a French surgeon and biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912 for pioneering vascular suturing techniques.  Harvey Samuel Firestone was an American businessman, and the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tires, and early investor in Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company. These men set high goals for themselves and met regularly through life to discuss how to accomplish them.

It’s not an uncommon thing to have friends who together and/or separately accomplish great things. I believe it’s not unlike a leaf on the water being caught up in the wake of a fast-moving rowboat or canoe and subsequently moving along the surface of the water at the same speed as the boat…at least for a moment. I frequently take my canoe to nearby lakes where I fish; though, rather than a leaf I’m far more familiar with a lily pad getting caught…not in my wake…but in my fishing line.

My family is blessed to have several extraordinary people, who have impressive, even great accomplishments on their resume’s. For a middle-aged guy, with a middle-income life, from a lower middle-income single parent upbringing my connections to greatness or near greatness are, I believe, unusual. My brother, just one year older than I, is a millionaire several times over. He travels the world. He sets up companies for public stock offerings hopping from company to company collecting stocks and equity as he goes. My sister-in-law is an attorney at Microsoft. She’s educated at Cal-Berkley. And has made quite a name for herself in Seattle philanthropic circles. My father-in-law, George Fleming, is a University of Washington legend. He was awarded MVP of the 1961 Rose Bowl while leading the Huskies to a surprise victory over then Number 1 rated Wisconsin. He followed that with a 25 year career in the Washington State Legislature.

But despite my family connections and their accomplishments my wife and I are not unlike most people. We are on our own. And while grateful for all the support and help we’ve received over our 25 year marriage, what we have accomplished or failed to accomplish comes strictly from our own efforts. We’ve never hitched our wagon to another high-flyer and joined them for the ride.

I thought of the connection between high achievers recently since I had a difficult decision to make. My wife and I got into the direct-sales industry through an incredible company called, AdvoCare, only 4-5 months prior to this writing. We did so after first enjoying the benefits of using the AdvoCare nutritional products. They were fantastic and literally changed my life and the life of my wife. Our health has not been so good since decades before. In determining that we would try representing AdvoCare we agreed to give it 3-6 months of effort. If the company, the products and the income were worth continued effort after that then we’d certainly give it.

A trip to AdvoCare Success School in Dallas, Texas in mid-February is fast approaching. Finances are tight. And if I am to go to Success School I’d first have to determine, in conjunction with my wife, that we did want to continue working AdvoCare as a business. And secondly, I’d have to figure out how to pay for the trip. Because though my company, Total Broadcasting Service, is and has always been profitable in its 8 years and my wife makes a good living outside of our company, the economy of 2009-2011 impacted us to the tune of high credit card debts. And catching up is tough. A trip to Dallas and two-day hotel stay would just mean more credit card debt.

We made the decision to go, to make the trip, to incur the debt and to continue to help people by introducing more and more of them to AdvoCare, in part because of my belief in our friends who got us into AdvoCare. (I’m not sure they’d want me to use their name’s publicly here. So I won’t. But contact me and I’ll tell you all about them) My friend, to whom I refer is someone I’ve known since shortly after he got out of college. In age, he’s about 10 years my junior. I worked with him for several years at the same company. I only met his wife in the past year. But it’s clear that she, like him is special. And I intend to benefit from the association. I intend to be taken up in their wake and pretty soon make my own wake.

My wife and I live what most would term an upper middle class lifestyle. But we can do a lot better. By better I mean more income, more vacation time, more money to help our grown kids, more time and money to help and care for more people, and a freedom to do things we cannot currently envision. My friend may not be Thomas Edison or Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh. But then again. He might be. And if he is I intend to gain from it.

Some cliche`s come to mind: Familiarity breeds contempt. And A prophet is never known in his own land. Too often we allow familiarity to blind us to a person’s true greatness and thus deny ourselves of that which is great about a person because we know what aspects about them or their history aren’t great. When you do so you only hurt yourself.

Thanks for listening. Comments are welcome.

Individual Achievement is What Made this Country Great

Portrait of Henry Ford (ca. 1919)

Henry Ford (ca. 1919)

Ford Motor Company was started by a man named Henry Ford. In 1891 Ford was an engineer working for Thomas Edison at the Edison Illuminating Co. This position gave him enough time and money to independently work on his hobby, the gasoline powered engine. After developing to prototype motor cars Ford created the Detroit Automobile Company in 1898. His effort failed. The company closed in 1899 due to poor quality vehicles that were too expensive.

Not deterred Henry Ford created and raced a 26-horse power vehicle which he used as a prototype for opening yet another company, Henry Ford Company in 1901. But after bringing in investor Henry M. Leland, Ford left the company bearing his name. The company was renamed The Cadillac Automobile Company.

1903 cadillac: runabout with tonneau

1903 cadillac: runabout with tonneau

Showing the grit and determination of all successful American entrepreneurs Ford took a third swing at corporate success when he took a $28,000 investment from Jim and Horace Dodge to form the Ford Motor Company. It grew into America’s most successful car making company. Of the three remaining American-originated car companies, Ford is the only one not to take, or need a government bail out in 2009. Ford solicited his investors, then put their money to work in a way that made them all exceptionally rich. Did he have help along the way. Only the help he sought and curated.

Andrew Carnegie, American businessman and phil...

Andrew Carnegie, American businessman and philanthropist.

Andrew Carnegie started working for Ohio Telegraph Company as a messenger boy in 1850 at the age of 15. He made $2.50 per week. In 1855 his mother provided him $500 from mortgaging her $700 home. He invested that money in a freight and cargo company called Adams Express, a company still in existence today. Carnegie continually took dividends and profits and re-invested them in several different companies. In 1864 he had $40,000 which he invested in in Story Farm in Venango County, Pennsylvania. That investment turned a $1,000,000 profit within the year through dividends and oil sold from the property.

Carnegie made his greatest fortune in the steel industry. Like Ford (and many successful entrepreneurs) he did so by figuring out how to make a desirable product more cheaply. At his Pittsburg plant Carnegie employed the Henry Bessemer Process in which the high carbon content of pig iron was burnt away in a furnace in a controlled and rapid fashion. The price of steel dropped, and Carnegie reaped the benefits.

As wealthy as Carnegie became the longevity of his name comes more from the giving-away of his money, than the accumulating of it. This hard-core capitalist, who used brutal methods to fight unionization efforts at his mills is believed to have given away more money on an inflation adjusted basis than any single individual ever. Carnegie’s money was used to build libraries, schools, performance halls and so much more. Like so many successful American 1%-ers Carnegie individually, without the help of government, made the lives of average Americans better through his charitable giving. In doing so he also maintained his wealth, throughout.

These are but two examples of a nearly infinite number of American entrepreneurs who used their own courage, daring, money, and effort to build wealth. In more modern times Apple Computer is now the worlds richest company. Apple was nearly bankrupt and out of business twenty years ago. Their resurrection began in 1996 when Steve Jobs, who had left Apple in 1985, a company he founded in 1976 while working out of his parents garage,  was brought back as company CEO.

In 2004 three college friends had an idea for a video sharing website and secured a capital investment of $11.5-million dollars to develop and launch their startup. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawid Karim uploaded the first video to YouTube.com in April 2005. Less than 2 years later they sold the company to Google for $1.65-BILLION.

John D. Rockefeller became the world’s richest man at the turn of the 20th Century by creating Standard Oil and the first ever private trust in the U.S. In building his company Rockefeller transformed how the world lit their lamps and lanterns from the ever increasingly expensive whale oil, to gas or kerosene. He saved the whales before it was fashionable to do so.

Image representing Bill Gates as depicted in C...

Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Ray Kroc, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor,

Ben Franklin DSC_0591

Ben Franklin statue

Benjamin Franklin, Lucille Ball…and on and on. The list of American businessmen, and increasingly women, who either invented a new devise, or method of doing business is long and luminous. They, as well as all of us, stand on the shoulders of giants. We are all the beneficiaries of those who came before us.

But to insult the memory of these great businessmen and those struggling to exist today by questioning how smart they are, or how hard they work relative to others as President Obama has done is to completely misunderstand that which makes a person great. And it isn’t done just by making great speeches. Greatness in business as with all things in life, comes from trying and failing, and then trying again…and again if necessary.

Mr. President I think the average business person/entrepreneur is smarter or works harder or both than the average person. Even if that assumption is wrong, there is no denying that they are more daring and more capable of facing risk and overcoming failure. Aren’t these qualities laudable?

To say, “You didn’t build that” or “You got help along the way”, and to then point to teachers and bridge and road builders as “helpers” in the construction of a successful business is just plain silly. I’m pretty confident there are roads, bridges, and teachers in Cuba, North Korea, Myanmar and everywhere else in the world. It doesn’t help people in those countries lift themselves out of pathetic poverty their socialist dictator governments impose on them. Furthermore, everybody else in America has roads, and bridges, and teachers too. Yet, only the few daring, smart, and hard working BEST of us take that leap into business ownership or entrepreneurism. They should be held up high and honored; not referenced in a snarky, arrogant defilement of their efforts and success.

President Obama revealed himself with this and other recent comments. Remember- “The private sector is doing fine”? But neither Obama nor his White House have walked-back away from these unAmerican comments yet, and at this point I don’t think they will. His whole re-election effort rests on class warfare and fomenting resentment among the masses of those successful individuals who dared stick their heads up above the crowd and try to overcome the many hurdles imposed by government, and start their own business. He rejects individualism in favor of collectivism. He rejects the concept of Liberty; a concept in which this nation was founded.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith statue

Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations wrote of the economy’s “invisible hand”, “By pursuing his own interest he (the merchant/business owner) frequently promotes that (the interests) of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it (the interests of society).” Which is to say a business person helps society best by pursuing his or her own selfish profit motives. The Wealth of Nations has been the smart economists bible for over 2 centuries. It’s a book Obama would benefit from reading. I was personally insulted and enraged when I first learned of Obama’s bitch-slap to me and other business owners. But, I am now grateful. His true beliefs and nature are showing much more than they did during the celebrity-carnival that was the 2008 campaign. And while our nation is full of his left-thinking supporters who believe it is better to force people to think their way than to allow them to think as they wish, I believe far more Americans believe in the respect of every individual, as I do.

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Whatever happened to Consequences?

Bank of America Plaza

Bank of America Plaza (Photo credit: Frank Kehren)

It used to be that when you did a bad or a stupid thing you suffered a negative consequence. The end result being those making bad or stupid decisions would learn from their previous actions and avoid such foolishness in the future. “Learn” being the operative word in the previous sentence. Ultimately one could look back on previous mistakes and turn them into a positive.

Increasingly, thanks to the liberal mindset in this country, nobody deserves consequences. Nobody should suffer negatively for doing a bad or stupid thing. Everyone is forgiven or rehabilitated, or saved. There are no consequences.

con·se·quence

[kon-si-kwens, -kwuhns]  noun

1. the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier: The accident was the consequence of reckless driving.
2. an act or instance of following something as an effect, result,or outcome.
3. the conclusion reached by a line of reasoning; inference.
When the Obama Administration announces a $25-billion deal with the big banks to finalize and settle the lawsuits in the mortgage foreclosure crisis the lack of any deterrent effect, result or outcome from banks having foolishly lent too much money to those who couldn’t afford to pay it back is obvious. And the resulting actions are predictable. “Hey….we’ve got ALL this money to play with and risk. It’s not ours. But let’s be as risky with it as possible. After all, if we lose it, the government will pay us back. Just like before.” 
English:

The soon to be announced settlement would pay those 750,000 whose homes were foreclosed upon $2000. It would also reduce the principal by $20,000 for those 1,000,000 underwater home owners who owe more than their homes are currently worth. For those who did the right thing and didn’t borrow against their home’s equity for trips or new cars or upgrades, didn’t miss mortgage payments, and still lost tens-of thousands, even hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in their home’s equity…you get bupkis.

When a business operates a company selling a product for less than it costs to make, it used to be that that company would not be long for this world and that it’s owners and executives would find themselves losing money, stature and reputation for so foolishly trying to run such a company. But in the Obama world companies like Solyndra get $500-million loans which don’t EVER have to be paid back. And

Image representing Solyndra as depicted in Cru...

Solyndra Executives have the President of the United States praise them as forward thinkers in the new green economy right before skating off with bonuses in the millions of dollars and closing the doors on the worthless company.

GM logo

Car manufacturers give in to oppressive unions and agree, amongst other things, to pay laid off workers 80% of their salaries while they don’t work. The companies make cars that break down far too frequently compared to their foreign competition. They create cars that people don’t want. They go bankrupt. And the government gives them $14.1-Billion which they never have to pay back. Reminds me of the old line from Humphrey Bogart‘s “Treasure of the Sierra Madre“. “Consequences? We don’t need no stinking consequences!”

Wouldn’t it be nice if all these mistakes made by individuals who bought too much home or borrowed against their equity and had no cushion when prices fell actually started again, saved their money, bought homes again in a few years and paid down their mortgage…like our grandparents used to do?
Wouldn’t it be nice if banks returned to being a safe place to put your money and a place you could count on to be there through the tough times, instead of risk takers with our money devoid of any conscience? A partnership with a bank less interested in growing its riches and more interested in growing the community it serves.
And wouldn’t it be wonderful if American car companies made vehicles we all wanted and that were affordable and didn’t break down inordinately. Learning how the market trends and meeting the market’s needs. And in doing so we could return to Henry Ford’s way of thinking to pay his workers a decent wage and price his products so that his workers could afford them.
We all learn from our mistakes provided our mistakes come with negative consequences. With no consequences we’re all equally likely to go traipsing down the same road that got us into this mess to begin with.
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Did they die for more government or more Liberty?

English: U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosev...

Franklin Roosevelt address a joint session of Congress, December 8, 1941.

“A date which will live in infamy.” That’s what President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 as he addressed Congress asking for a Declaration of War against the imperial nation of Japan. He made this call for war following the “surprise” attack on the

The U.S. Navy battleship USS California (BB-44...

Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today.

U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that left over 2300 dead; nearly half of which were entombed on the battleship U.S.S. Arizona.

It’s worth noting that today’s 70th Anniversary of that infamous day follows by one day President Barrack Obama‘s biggest, latest speech in Osawatomie (pronounced oh-suh-WAHT-ah-mee) Kansas. The symbolism of Obama’s speech is supposed to be found in the location in which he chose to make it and how it was nearly 100 years from when former

English: Orotone of Theodore Roosevelt as Pres...

T.R.

President Theodore Roosevelt made his famous “New Nationalism” speech. The speech was in August 1910, more than 101 years ago; and it was nearly 50 miles away in Kansas City, Kansas. Nonetheless the current day White House nearly pulled a hamstring stretching to connect the two speeches.

In his speech Obama again made the call for more government and more regulation of business. He referred to the need to level the playing field for the great middle class of Americans. And he tried to make the connection with TR and the turn of the 20th century when he said: “At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: Would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were being controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low?” The statement is patently false. The tycoon industrialists of the late 1800s and early 1900s made their money by providing products at low prices, thus serving the masses instead of catering to the rich. Same as today.

John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller founded the University of ...

Image via Wikipedia

became at one time the richest man on earth by building Standard oil into not only an oil production business, but into an oil refining and distribution business. As written in the Wikipedia biography of Rockefeller Standard Oil replaced the old distribution system with its own vertical system. It supplied kerosene by tank cars that brought the fuel to local markets and tank wagons then delivered to retail customers, thus bypassing the existing network of wholesale jobbers. He made the price of gasoline low so that more people could buy it. And in so doing he saved the whales. Prior to Rockefeller’s success whale oil was the primary means by which people burned oil. The whaling industry couldn’t compete and very quickly died.

Henry Ford

Portrait of Henry Ford (ca. 1919)

Henry Ford paid his workers sufficient wages to be able to buy his product.

didn’t become fabulously wealthy by making the most expensive car on the market. Just the opposite. He created the assembly line; a much faster and more financially efficient way to build an automobile. Thus we had the Model T a car that was affordable to the average worker. And Ford famously said his success was predicated on building a product that his employees could afford to buy.

Andrew Carnegie, American businessman and phil...

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and others all had riches and power. But those riches and power were bestowed upon them by the American people buying their products because they made there products affordably.

How is that different from today’s tycoons? Bill Gates built computer software that was easy and compatible with multiple hardware manufacturers thus bringing the personal computer to a size and affordability of most Americans and business. Steve Jobs also built computers; but his greatest success began with his company’s invention of the Ipod; an easier and more affordable way to buy and listen to music. In doing so he turned the music industry upside down and changed it forever.

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Mark Zuckerberg is the CEO of Facebook. Did he achieve his billionaire status by “keeping prices high”? Absolutely not. He took the idea of a social “facebook” (small f), distributed it more widely and made it  FREE to everyone.

Obama said yesterday about Republicans: “And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.” If only it were true. The fact is GOP politicians are nearly as guilty as Democrats in forcing government intrusion onto the lives of increasingly more Americans. The President went on to say we’re all better off when “we’re together than when we’re on our own”. On this we agree. But who made him Community Organizer in chief for my life? Who says government needs to force us together in order to benefit the most people. Rockefeller, Ford, Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg and countless others have repeatedly demonstrated that the philosophy of 18th economist Adam Smith was right.

Smith is the author of the seminal economic book “The Wealth of Nations” which correctly pointed out that the less government interferes with a free-market system the more people will prosper. Smith pointed out that when left on their own people had a selfish interest in serving people, community, the masses. Failing to do so meant a failure of a business. Doesn’t that make sense?

Official photographic portrait of US President...

President Barrack Obama

Obama’s repeated stated resistance to leave us to our own devices demonstrates a clear lack of faith in the Capitalist system and in the moral fiber of Americans. As we remember the brave souls who lost their lives 70 years ago today its incumbent upon us to ask ourselves why they died and why so many other Americans have fought and died in the name of our country through the past 2 1/4 centuries. Did they die in defense of a bigger Government controlling more and more of our lives; helping us along as Obama would want me to say. Or…did they die for our own individual liberty? Isn’t it obvious? And to properly honor their memory don’t we owe it to them and our own ancestors to struggle and succeed. For one always precedes the other.

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