President Obama’s now-famous “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” campaign speech, made recently in Roanoke, Virginia, got people talking about who is responsible for the success of the successful. Here is an excerpt of what he said:
“But you know what, I’m not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy to give tax breaks to me or Mr. Romney or folks who don’t need them. So I’m going to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more. (Applause.) And, by the way, we’ve tried that before — a guy named Bill Clinton did it. We created 23 million new jobs, turned a deficit into a surplus, and rich people did just fine. We created a lot of millionaires.
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Having watched the video and read the transcript of the entire speech, I don’t think the President comes off being as anti-business or anti-success as some in the media have made him out to be. He makes some good points, which I agree with, about the fact that those who do succeed in business and life don’t totally get there on their own. He said:
- Teachers invested in our lives to educate us.
- Al Gore invented the Internet so that businesses could make money online.
- The government built roads and bridges (paid for by the tax payers, of course).
We can debate about whether he really meant to say that if you have a business, you didn’t build it, or whether he was referring back to the roads and bridges. Regardless, I think his speech, and the ensuing argument, gives us a great opportunity to talk about what does make someone successful in their life and business.
The real question we should be asking is this:
Since everybody in America has access to the free education, roads and bridges, and the Internet (if you don’t have it at your home, you can at least use it for free at the library) that President Obama lauded, then why is it that only a few start businesses and become successful and wealthy?
President Obama said the wealthy shouldn’t think they got that way because they are so smart or because they worked so hard. And why not? Because lots of other people are smart and work hard too.
True, Mr. President. But why aren’t they wealthy too?
So again, I beg the question:
Why do some succeed and others don’t?
- Is it because of hard work? No.
- Because you’ve worked long hours? No.
- You had a great idea? No.
- You had a dream? No.
In and of themselves, none of those things are enough.
Our economy doesn’t reward people who have an idea or dream that they’ll get around to some day. It doesn’t reward people who work long and hard, trading hours for dollars, thinking that busyness equals success. Our economy rewards people who create results – who create value for others – value that others are willing to pay for.
In order to create value for others, successful people identify a need that people are willing to pay for. They take risks that others don’t. They make investments that others don’t. They create value that others don’t. And they reap the rewards that others don’t.
I’m currently reading Cracking the Millionaire Code by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen. This is a great book if you want to learn more about how you can create value that people are willing to pay for – based on what you know, who you know, your life experience, and even your problems or pain.
One of the key concepts they talk about is the fact that money flows. Money is always moving, always flowing, to great ideas that are acted upon with a plan and with focused intensity.
I’ve said over on my personal growth blog that I believe that everybody has a million dollar idea. Developing this blog offering money help for pastors, and coaching pastors and ministry leaders in personal finance, is part of my million dollar idea. It is a passion that was definitely borne out of what I know, who I know, what I’ve experienced, and my past financial problems and pain.
What’s your million dollar idea? What are you doing to create value that impacts the lives of others?
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