Each July 4 we Americans throw a national party. We celebrate our unparalleled freedoms which are the envy of the world.
Our more “famous” liberties—freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc.—are spelled out in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
But perhaps the hidden genius of that document is that it laid the foundation for a government and society where diverse people could enjoy all sorts of other freedoms that are easy to forget.
This Independence Day, I’m thinking about one of those underappreciated freedoms—the freedom we have to take big risks, and even to fail.
We see this freedom writ large in the lives of so many of our cultural icons.
Our history books tell us that Abraham Lincoln failed in business, lost numerous elections, and had a nervous breakdown…all before being elected president in1860.
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was fired by his own board of directors! Twelve years later, he came back–a much different man–to rescue the company from the brink of disaster and make it the tech giant it is today.
“I didn’t see it then,” Job would later say, “but … getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
When Walt Disney got a pink slip from The Kansas City Star—because the editor said he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”—he tried another line of work. Most would agree his “new gig” worked out pretty well for him.
At age 62, Harlan Sanders took his $105 Social Security check and hit the road, trying to sell his fried chicken recipe. Over 1,000 restaurants rejected him. Finally, he was able to sell a restaurant in Utah on the idea of a fried chicken franchise called Kentucky Fried Chicken—now known as KFC.
You get the idea.
In America, when we try and fail, we have the freedom to try again. I would remind you that in baseball, our national pastime, you can become a Hall-of-Famer even if you only get a hit 30% of the time!
Think about all the ways our society encourages risk taking, forgives failure, and encourages second chances. We have bankruptcy laws. We have laws that limit liability. We have various types of insurance that encourage reasonable risk taking.
Entrepreneurship still involves considerable risk. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years. Only one of every four new businesses makes it to 15 years or more.
Even so, here in the land of the free, we are free to try, free to fail, and free to try again!
So, on this holiday of celebrating our unique freedoms, let’s not forget the freedom we have to take big career risks or business risks. And let’s appreciate the good life we enjoy because so many brave souls have taken big chances, succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and created a more prosperous life for the rest of us.
On this July 4, let’s be thankful for the freedom to fail.
One area in which nobody wants to fail is in the area of retirement planning. To help you think through all the important retirement issues, I’ve created a comprehensive checklist of pre-retirement questions for people who are 60-something. It’s free if you’d like a copy. Email me at email@example.com, and I’ll send it to you right away.
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