I am not the kind of person who vacations very well; I am always trying to derive a lesson from everything. That said, I recently returned from a trip that involved driving through eight states and the following are some of the notes that I scribbled while motoring along. In no particular order, five of the observations are:
◆ Our expectations are always elevating. When my son and I first entered Yellowstone National Park, 100 cars would have pulled to the side of the road if there had been a crow near the entrance. As we were leaving the park, though, no one who had been there for a while and seen other things would have stopped for a herd of bison unless they were also making s’mores for everyone. The more you have, the more you want and the harder it becomes to satisfy you.
◆ Conversely, in the absence of any substitutes, everything becomes a commodity. When you drive 100 miles with nothing anywhere around resembling a town, suddenly the sign that says you can feed the prairie dog for $5 sounds like a bargain at twice the price. Given other choices, though, even some of the better options that exist would fail to survive.
◆ We adapt to our environments and adjust to them. Sadly, at the first fast food restaurant we stopped at after having been in the national park for four days, I found myself arguing with the clerk that there is no way he could have rung everything up. So accustomed had I become in such a short period of time to the prices inside the park that I found it impossible to actually feed two people junk food for only $14.
◆ Every small-business person is struggling – it is not just those in central Indiana. I talked to an independent gas station owner who has had to stop taking credit cards because he can’t afford to be the one paying for the bonus points that one card offers, a craftsman of fine office furniture who has to spend far too much time keeping up with administrative issues, and so on. While the names and locations change, the stories stay the same – it is tough to be successful in small business today.
◆ It seems as if the role of mothers and entrepreneurs should be evaluated closer. Traditionally, when you think of entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses, there is a tendency to think of males and when you think of their support system you tend to think of their fathers. In stereotypes, it is the father who teaches them the basics of business, helps them get started, and encourages them to keep going when times are tough. But I have been talking to a lot of mothers lately: when trying to set up a horse-riding trip from several states away; when the kids at this summer’s business camp went to hear about the Tony Stewart foundation that helps charitable causes, and so on. The role of mothers in businesses needs to be examined more.
While some of these thoughts are commonsense, it sometimes takes encountering them to cement them in the proper perspective.
Emmett Dulaney is an Anderson resident and the author of several books on technology. His column appears Tuesdays.