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.