"The door of opportunity is always marked PUSH." -- BOB GASS
Every day the headlines are alarming. As we usher in 2015, domestic news about street demonstrations, data breaches, minimum wage protests, and corporate misdeeds dominate the media. Americans are feeling helpless. Angry voices are also heard throughout the country against the use of excessive police force in the inner cities. Then there are the repeated attacks by organized terrorists and lone wolf attackers who vent their rage by shooting up schools and public places. Marches for and against U.S. immigration policies occur almost daily. There are many arguments about how we got into these situations, but very few workable solutions that can help get us out. It seems like our collective house is on fire, while we are having a debate about how the fire got started instead of paying attention to extinguishing the blaze.
The fact is that even though the unemployment rate is down, there are still more than 40 million Americans living below the poverty line, which gives them feelings of powerlessness and desperation. Across the country anxiety about job security remains high. In my opinion, all of the problems we face have a root cause in the economy. Happy and secure people do not act out in violence, launch terrorist attacks or participate in large, frustrating demonstrations. Low wages are at the heart of the matter. Incomes are simply too low for the working poor to meet their living expenses. Only the highest income earners are adding to their net worth. The fact is that wealth in the highest brackets has grown dramatically, while it has decreased consistently for the bottom 98%. Several economists believe that this is an irreversible trend line.
The reality is that each one of us is capable of improving his or her conditions. We all have the potential for financially secure futures. While I am not an economist, I am a successful 91-year-old entrepreneur who started with nothing and has prospered throughout the trade wars and economic cycles of the past seven decades. I am a veteran of World War II who has survived and thoroughly enjoyed my career as a successful entrepreneur.
The most remarkable thing I have learned over the years is that we truly can take control of our own destinies. How we accomplish this is up to us. As Harry Truman once said, "A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."
In the old days we could depend on big companies, trade unions, and politicians to keep us prosperous with secure incomes. This is no longer the reality. While opportunity knocks every hour of the day, we must have the guts and the will to make it work for us. The capability we possess as individuals, as well as the responsibility we have for our own success, abides in "The Power of One." It really is up to each one of us.
Either we moan and groan about the challenging conditions, or we strive to achieve our ambitions by accepting risks. When our forefathers spoke about the American Dream, they were really talking about the great potential our country offers.
Budding entrepreneurs should start by recognizing the power they already have. Markets are always in flux, and success will come if you work with determination, creativity, and flexibility. "Find a need and fill it" is one of my favorite expressions and one of my published tips for entrepreneurs because it has such universal application. However, this is only half the equation. You may see the need, but your potential lies in the execution of how you fill that need in the marketplace.
When I started my career with just a high school education and no special skills, I had little money and no business training, but I could not wait to get out in the field and start my career as an entrepreneur. Over the years, I have owned and operated more than a dozen profitable companies in the United States and around the world. My great desire now is to pass on what I have learned to those who are ready and help them tap into their "Power of One" mindset. Today, more than ever, you have all the tools you need to take the first steps and identify your passions and specific skills. With my most recent book and video, I am trying to extend my mentoring skills to all those who are ready to move into the entrepreneurial world, launch their new ideas, and fill their financial gaps. I speak as one of the many who have personally started from the ground up, and there are others in our communities and nationwide who can provide this same kind of inspiration.
Just the other day I heard about the inspiring story of Zhena Muzyka, a young, single mother who had an infant son in need of life-saving surgery and only six dollars in her wallet. In 2000, her son was born with a severe birth defect. With few resources to make ends meet and no health insurance to pay for her son's rising medical expenses, she turned toward entrepreneurship to earn the income needed to ensure his survival.
Muzyka took what she knew already, her family's long and happy relationship with tea that she learned from her Gypsy grandmother, and she paired it with her knowledge of aromatherapy, creating new, custom-blended artisan teas. She converted this concept into a thriving business by starting with a cart on California street corners. Today, Muzyka is thriving as an entrepreneur who not only created a viable income for herself, but also a tremendous opportunity for others to be employed and share in the success of Zhena's Gypsy Teas. Now, her son is healthy, and her company is a multimillion-dollar brand. I do not know Muzyka personally, but to me her journey is a perfect example of "The Power of One" concept. She exemplifies so many others who have overcome financial hardship by embracing entrepreneurship.
Over the years I have mentored many people who have similar stories about turning passion into prosperity. Zhena Muzyka started with something she loved and understood, and she created a simple business plan by filling a need. This is exactly the point that I reiterate many times with aspiring entrepreneurs: the universal goal is to make more money than you spend.
Everything I write or talk about is something that I have actually done. There are very few obstacles that I have not faced. "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur," the title of my newest book, contains 50 tips pulled straight from what I believe to be the most valuable lessons of my career, which can be applied on a daily basis. My mantra is "The Power of One" because the power of opportunity really is in your hands; it's up to you to make it work. And for those who can't seem to get started, but face a financial gap to fill, consider the words of Milton Berle: "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."
No matter your situation in life, you can change your circumstances. You have all the capability within yourself to make good things happen. And while pursuing your goals, you can enjoy every minute of it.
Jack Nadel is a 91-year-old Hall of Fame Entrepreneur, decorated veteran of World War II, and author of the award-winning book, "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur: Featuring 50 of My Best Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Business" - winner of five Global Ebook Awards including three Gold Awards for BEST in Business, Leadership and Careers/Employment - part of the inspiring e-book and streaming video learning set for entrepreneurs, available on-demand (www.JackNadel.com). He is the founder and chairman emeritus of Jack Nadel International, a global leader in the specialty advertising and marketing industry. Jack is also the author of other books, including, "There's No Business Like Your Bu$iness," "How to Succeed in Business Without Lying, Cheating or Stealing," "Cracking the Global Market," and "My Enemy, My Friend."