Merriam-Webster: Grit (firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship…)
If one hasn’t experienced certain aspects of life, it is easy to criticize another person’s position. Even though it may be a false premise, repeating it over and over again, it becomes real in their mind. With a lack of experience as an entrepreneur or businessman, one cannot truly describe what it entails, or factually talk about it, without actually having been in the arena. Being in the business-world entails risk-taking, borrowing money to meet payrolls, and signing your name on loans to lenders. Not all deals work out, so you need to be prepared for setbacks and losses. Being in business is not for the faint-hearted.
Politicians, pundits and academics proffer about how Mitt Romney made his money, and the taxes he pays. Most of these critics have never taken such risks. They need to remember Mitt made his money the “old-fashioned-way”, over a period of time, taking many risks along the way.
I can relate to Mitt, having also worked hard, making my money over a period of fifty years. Those who succeed in business should be very proud of their accomplishments. Along the way they would have survived at least seven recessions and major economic downturns; changes in government regulations and the voluminous tax code; two banking crises; several international catastrophic events, in order to survive. However those that did, may well be part of the one percent of Americans being talked about negatively today. The reward for survival in business is to pay taxes to support the others who were not as lucky, or been the risk-takers, or just want to be unjustly enriched by a redistribution of another person’s hard efforts.
I relate to Mitt and other similar achievers, more than I do to politicians and pundits who have never met a payroll in the real world, created employment or taken a business risk. Some of the politicians come into office with a zero bank account, and leave as millionaires, using their positions for insider information for stock purchases, to sell their memoirs, speak at corporate events, serve on prestigious business boards; and stalk the halls of Congress as consultants and lobbyists. You need to ask yourself, would they have become millionaires if they had to prove their “mettle” in the private sector?
The “risk-reward” in building a business, for the most part, means working twenty hours a day, sacrificing family obligations; persevering through uncharted waters along the way. If you are fortunate to make a profit you pay taxes based on your income, which could fluctuate from 15% to 35% depending on your type of business activity. What you hope however, is that there is enough left over to expand and grow your business, which in turn means hiring more employees. To portray most business people in a bad light, and measuring their success by how much they pay in taxes, is not what the American Dream of owning a business is all about.
In a nutshell, President Theodore Roosevelt summed up well, the essence of risk-taking:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
In my book “When the White House Calls“, I further discuss my experiences as an entrepreneur, and risk-taker; the setbacks I suffered to become a successful businessman.