I’m a political agnostic. While I may agree with various positions of several different parties, I’m thoroughly disgusted by all the politicking–as I think many people my age are–so I choose not to take sides. I put this disclaimer because, I’m going to quote a comment on a Facebook cartoon picture depicting a pro-government/anti-Tea Party position, and I don’t want you to think I’m endorsing either position. The comment said:
The blame game is a useless exercise…You can blame either party for their share of egregious mistakes, blunders, and the resulting conditions…Or you can pick yourself up by your own belt and start doing something about it all. … No one promised you a fair and equitable life. America is the land of opportunity not of Socialism, level playing fields, and fairness – you have to fight for each and every thing that you get…
I liked this comment because it brought to light two things that has been bugging me for a while: (1) the “blame game” and lack of personal responsibility people seem to be embracing, and (2) the increasingly Socialist stance that many people (not politicians–people) seem to be taking.
Side note: Granted, the Democrats have been trying to capitalize on this trend by pushing more social programs and entitlements, but we need to realize that they wouldn’t do that unless they thought there were votes to be gained by doing so. To be fair, the same is true about the apparent Republican embracing of the religious groups’ stances. [Steps down from the soapbox.]
Back to the quote… What really stood out for me was the reminder that America is the land of OPPORTUNITY, not the land of equality. It seems that many people think of these two as the same, but really they are not. I realize that they are sometimes intertwined, some people have opportunities that others do not have. But that is a fact of life, and it’s not something that any of us are going to fix…ever.
So it really comes back to opportunity…are we really making the most of the opportunities that are presented to us? I can only look back at my own life and say, yes, I believe I have. I am a graduate of the public school system and I attended a state run university. I participated in extra-curricular activities when I could, but also worked part-time starting from the summer before my senior year in high school all the way through graduating from college.
I didn’t have the opportunity to attend a private school, and all the academic and alumni network advantages that it presents. Neither do I have the advantage of attending a prestigious university with the name recognition and alumni networks that it provides either. Yet, I was still able to work for one of the “Big 4” CPA firms and start my own firm at the age of 25. Since then I have continued to work hard to build a name for myself and am now recognized as a national level contributor and thought leader in the CPA profession. The key is that I was, and continue to be, willing to work hard. And that is the American Dream: if we work hard, and really give it our all, that we can create a rewarding life for ourselves and our families.
I also took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. Did I take advantage of every opportunity? No. I picked and chose the ones that made sense for the goals that I wanted to attain. For example, I mentioned that while the Dot Com boom was happening, I had the opportunity to move to Silicon Valley and make some really good money. But I chose to not that that route. In the long run, it was more important to me to be near my family and to build a local professional network because I knew that I eventually wanted to be a partner in a CPA firm in Hawaii. So I chose to stay near to home and work at local firms where I could build my network and begin establishing a name for myself.
There are also opportunities that I wanted and tried for that I didn’t get. During my junior year in college I applied for an accounting internship with Deloitte and didn’t get it. I was devastated. But did I turn around and blame other people or circumstances for why I didn’t get it? Well yes, initially I did, but that was just my anger and frustration. Once I passed that (which was pretty quickly, I was just venting) I went and analyzed what went wrong and how I could do better for the next internship interview. Eventually, I got an IT internship with Coopers & Lybrand–and that became the basis for much of the rest of my current career.
So my career has had its ups and downs. There were opportunities that I wanted that I got, and some that I didn’t get. There were opportunities that presented themselves that I took, and other that I did not. Through it all, I kept my eye on my goals, and made sure that I worked hard and was ready when opportunity knocked. Because each opportunity only knocks once. We need to be ready to open the door–whether we let them in or turn them away, the main thing is being ready to open that door and getting to see what that opportunity has to offer.