It was my Dads 93rd birthday last Sunday, so to celebrate here is one of the excellent life lessons he gave me.
A friend is going through tough times (is losing his hearing, but cannot afford to get hearing aids) and to try and encourage him to not let a short term problem (can’t afford today) stop him from achieving long term goal (get hearing aids) I recounted a few times in my life where I had to overcome a similar issue.
One of the most important was in my youth, and is 100% down to good parenting. My Dad taught me a simple lesson that set me up with a very specific attitude for life, which has informed almost everything I do. So I will recount it here… And yes, it involved cows.
So I grew up on a farm, and as much as I loved living on a farm I did not want to become a farmer. My older brother did, but I was more of a dreamer. I loved music, and wanted to play in a band. And the final decision was made when I started secondary school: I sat a bursary test and it turned out I had a reasonably high IQ. The teachers discussed with my parents and advised I should not study agriculture (my default at that point), but instead should study Latin. (WTF!?)
So a year or two into high school and I started to learn guitar. But everyone was a guitarist and I liked playing bass more, so one day I asked my Dad if he would buy me a bass guitar and amp. Back then I needed about $1000 for a decent secondhand bass guitar and an amp, so it wasn’t an insignificant amount of money, especially at a young age. Guess what my Dad said?
He offered to buy me five calves. He said if I was prepared to raise the calves, he would let me graze them on the farm for free and in a year or three I could sell them & I would have enough for my bass and amp. Clever right?
If you’ve never raised a calf then maybe this sounds like fun, like raising a kitten or something. But what it actually means is that twice a day, every day without miss, I had to go mix some milk powder up in a bucket and feed one bucket to each of my five calves. Didn’t matter if it was raining, the calves had to be fed. I can still remember the smell of the milk powder.
This carried on for months, until they were big enough to eat grass.
But even then they were still my responsibility. If they broke out of a paddock, it was me who got on the motorbike and got them back to where they were meant to be. Now I knew these calves were going to be slaughtered at some point, so I didn’t get too attached to them, and for some reason I decided to call them all Mogey. Mogey 1, Mogey 2, Mogey 3, Mogey 4, and Mogey 5. (Mogey as in “Moe Ghee”)
A year or three passes, and I still want that bass guitar and amp. My Dad advises me the market is good now and the Mogeys are at their prime, so off they go to become steak and hamburgers.
I could not believe it – I got $3,000 for them! So I bought a better bass guitar than I was planning, and a better amp. And still had funds left over.
Over the following decade I had some of the best times of my life, playing bass in bands.
All thanks to the Mogeys!
So what is it, that my Dad actually did?
1. He taught me that being self motivated to work, with a specific goal, provides rewards that may not otherwise be achievable. Short term pain for long term gain.
2. He taught me when making big purchases it is better to wait and make sure that the big thing you want is a permanent desire, and not just a whim.
3. He taught me to value what I had worked hard to achieve. I took care of that bass guitar and amp.
4. He taught me the solution to a problem often lies outside the world of the problem.
5. He taught me to invest time and effort into creating something, that over time would grow in value.
He taught me to be an entrepreneur!
Thanks to rampant capitalism I suspect a lot of people think they are expressing their love by being extremely generous with gifts to their kids. The latest iPhone, Playstation etc..
What a missed opportunity!