There are few advantages of living a lot of years. The one that strikes me as particularly important is that old folks get to see both ends of the Seventy-Year Cycle. History operates on that cycle. It’s the opposite of Instant Gratification. This story will illustrate how it works:
It’s 1939. I’m 10 years old. It’s the height of the Great Depression. One of our neighbors, Sam, a good friend of the family, decided he could do better than working a dead-end job of common labor. So, even in those tough economic times, he took what little money he’d saved, scraped together a few dollars from friends and bought some garden tools from a manufacturer. He had hoes, rakes, spades, rubber hoses, sprinklers and the like. He built a two-wheeled trailer to tow behind his 1934 Ford, loaded it with the tools, filled the car with 25 cent gas and hits the road. He was a good salesman and tenacious. It was a short time and he had sold his trailer load of tools at a profit. He bought more tools and hit the road again.
When he was home he told stories of his travels to Terry, his son, who would soon be old enough to travel with him. Sons need to learn the family business. Terry did.
Now it’s 1974. I’m 45 years old. We’ve been through more wars than anybody wanted. The neighbor’s garden tool business has prospered and the son became General Manager a few years ago. He works hard. He does this because he saw, first hand, what it takes to build a business. He had served his time on the road.
By now Sam is wanting to retire, having made and saved enough to do that. He gave the Company to Terry, as dads do with their sons. The Company had, years ago, hired salesmen to go on the road taking orders for the products and having them shipped from a central warehouse. Neither Sam nor Terry had been on the road for a long time.
Terry brought his son, Lance, into the business. but Terry and Lance never had talks about what it takes to make a business go. Terry didn’t want his son to work as hard as he and his dad had worked to build the business.
Now it’s 2009. I’m 80. Sam’s been dead for a few years and Terry wants to retire. The business is still going well even though Lance has never exhibited a burning passion for garden tools. The stories have never been handed down because Terry wanted something better for Lance.
You’re way ahead of me aren’t you? Terry turns the business over to Lance, retires and Lance sells the business to the first available buyer.
Sam knew how to build a business and demonstrated it to his son. Terry didn’t pass the stories on to Lance.
The same Seventy-Year Cycle is demonstrated in wars, nuclear bombs, famines, epidemics and things without number. When times are good we don’t like to remember the bad times. When the market is up we forget that it went down. Since polio is almost eradicated, who need inoculated?
It takes two generations for the cycle to repeat itself. Tell the stories!