Some time ago my travels took me to the red soil of the Northern Plains of Thailand. A gracious schoolteacher named Harry ran a foster care program for orphans. He took me on a tour of his world.
How incredibly different it was from mine.
Someone had loaned Harry a beat up old Toyota pickup, so we didn’t have to walk. He drove me through twisting back-county roads of Kalasin, dodging potholes the size of bathtubs and showing me how the other half lives.
We would pass bands of children walking along that road and women carrying two water jugs on wooden poles stretched out across their backs. I met all kinds of kids without moms and dads, mostly living with relatives and hopefully holding body and soul together.
I met one kid whose most recent home was an old hen coup.
We visited a wooden hut where a girl, maybe 12 years old, was playing in the dirt in her filthy pink dress. She was mentally handicapped and there was no one else around. Harry spoke kindly to her in her native language. He gave her something to eat. Eventually, we left.
As we drove away, I thought, “I’d never leave MY kid here. . .”
It was gut wrenching. All these people staring at me with that blank gaze of poverty and apathy. Paralyzed by a belief that there’s nothing they can do to make their life better.
I asked Harry if he ever helped any of these people start businesses. “Yes!” he nodded excitedly. “I will show you some of our micro loan recipients.”
Harry drives me to another village. We walk into a carpenters shop. A guy named Duang is making furniture from trees. Duang had been involved in a hit and run accident when he was a kid so he couldn’t walk . His crutches are leaning against the wall behind him.
Duang does NOT have that blank hopeless stare. His eyes are clear. He’s alert and he’s aware. He’s proud of what he does. His kids have uniforms, they attend school, they are well fed. He’s a respected man in the community.
His legs might not work right, but he’s not a cripple.
Harry explains to me that with a $50 business loan, Duang founded that carpenters shop and became an economic pillar of his community.
By Western standards Duang is poor, but he’s not living in poverty. Duang doesn’t speak the same tongue as me yet when our eyes lock we both sense that we share a common language: The language of entrepreneurship. He’s proud of what he’s accomplished and he’s not asking for handouts.
My friend, there is a one and only path out of poverty. It ain’t UNICEF. Or the United Nations. It’s not even jobs or technology.
It’s entrepreneurship. It’s brave people like Duang.
Imagine for a moment that someone had taken Duang’s $50 and sold him a sham “business opportunity.” Big bag o’ smoke. Hit & run. Isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
How much would that scam have cost Duang . . . really?
For one thing he’d be a cripple living in a deserted hen coup today. Begging on the side of the street. Not a successful entrepreneur. Not a guy with a house and a kitchen and 2 beautiful kids.
His 2 kids would be living with who-knows-who, or maybe no one. Duang’s carpenter shop wouldn’t be there in the middle of his village. People wouldn’t be getting their chairs made. A certain school would be minus 2 students. A seamstress would have sold them two less school uniforms. The vendors who sell him tools and nails would have one less account.
His kids might be stealing food instead of buying it.
Do you see how these little tiny hinges swing big doors?
That’s why it really makes me cringe when snake oil salesmen sell bad business advice. They’re teaching people s*** that doesn’t work.
Doesn’t matter whether it’s Asia or America or Antarctica, it’s still a crime. I hope them scammers end up living in an old hen coup. They sure don’t deserve to be making megabucks, that’s for sure.
I got fleeced real good for the first few years of my business career. You probably know that story and if you don’t I won’t bore you with it. But anyway, I’m one of those people who believe things happen for a reason. Maybe one of the reasons that happened to me was . . . so I’d know what it’s like.
God forbid that I ever sell people big bags o’ smoke. Or that you should ever spend your money on one of those bags o’ smoke.
I believe that when someone teaches how to fish, they should teach you with real boats and real fishing poles and real ponds. Not with a flight simulator. They should be able to prove what they do works. In real market conditions with real tools and real customers. Not shills.
Every time someone sells fake business advice, the world losses a few entrepreneurs. People who might have made it, but they couldn’t recover from that one loss.
Who knows… what might have been?
Every time someone delivers *real* business advice, the world gains a few entrepreneurs. More “Duangs”. More carpenter shops. More kids going to school. More food to go around. More for everyone.
I take my job – and your job – very seriously. What we both do matters. A lot.
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