Saturday, November 11, 2006

Staying with the familiar may cause you grief

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
- Andre Gide, French writer (1869–1951)

Could you discover new lands? Would you allow yourself to lose sight of safety for that long?

Few people can do that. Few people want to.

Few even have the creative bite to devise some worthwhile venture that would require them to do something very different. That's not insulting, just human nature. We are social animals and, like all social animals, most of us are conditioned to be followers.

Few people have the ability to operate their own business. Of the small number who attempt it, a large majority (85%) fail within the first five years. For those with capital to invest, franchises give the feeling of independence while having someone nearby to hold their hands and give careful and detailed guidance. Most people want to be employed by a company that already has its business plan in place and customers ready to order.

One of the more lucrative jobs (one that often requires nothing extraordinary in the way of education) is sales. But selling involves venturing out on your own, taking chances, making cold calls, sometimes living on the edge. Successful sales people love their jobs, but most people do relatively poorly in sales because they don't want to act on their own.

Witness how many people refuse to leave their land when it might be inundated by ash or lava from an exploding volcano. They are afraid of what might happen to them in unfamiliar surroundings with no source of income. People in areas devastated by hurricanes sometimes turn to crime because they can't figure out how to earn a living in unconventional or unfamiliar ways. We value the familiar, even to our own detriment sometimes.

We are a species of followers. It would pay us to remember that when formulating rules and laws. We follow the examples set by our leaders. They are our role models.

When our leaders are crooks who sacrifice the best interests of those they represent in favour of their own, ordinary folks find it pretty easy to circumvent the law too.

The level of civility of people of a country usually reflects the level of honesty of its leaders.

If a country's leaders refuse to take initiatives to improve life among their people, the people themselves may be counted upon to accept their squalor or their deprivations until another leader comes along to pull them out of it or to point out how they are being mistreated or abused. The new leader will be followed only if he or she agrees to lead and to set the standards.

Virtue works best at the grass roots level, but it must begin at the top and work its way down.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show how a country can improve its standing in the world by improving the quality of life of its people.
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