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Reaching Our Dreams Through Self-Reliance

January 19, 2015

In a society which espouses and values private ownership, self-reliance opens the doors of opportunity, choice, and the fulfilling of dreams.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in "Self-Reliance," “[T]hough the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.”  Being able to rely solely upon one’s own resources is power, power of choice, power to build, and power to act. We are grateful to live in a society which offers opportunity for reaching our dreams.

The first European settlements learned early the practical power coming from self-reliance.  At Jamestown, difficult trials left them no other choice.  Returning from one of his many expeditions, Smith found Jamestown in complete crisis. He had been away during the “extreame frozen time.”  During his absence, several leaders had died. It was his time to lead… Smith was highly intolerant of idleness.

Gathering the surviving colonists together, he announced [quoting the apostle Paul] “He that will not worke shall not eate.”  Powerful core principles like self-reliance, now by sheer necessity, would penetrate their culture.” By 1776, David McCullough noted that America had become the wealthiest per capita nation in the world.  The fruits of powerful principles including self-reliance were showing themselves. 

A practical approach of achieving self-reliance includes living by several principles and developing a few key habits:

  • First, learn to manage money before it manages you (e.g., formulate a budget and live within it);
  • Next learn and develop  self-discipline and be self-restraint with respect to money (e.g., don’t be a spendthrift);
  • Then learn and value the principle of hard work and education (never stop learning, make it an ongoing process);
  • Make wise and informed choices about your life and your health;
  • Plan for and have emergency savings (at least three months) to tide you over in times of need; and
  • Be prepared for natural emergencies perhaps even have an emergency food supply, especially during hurricane season along the Gulf Coast!

One of today’s more hotly discussed topics is debt.  Some believe that incurring debt enslaves; others just as strongly argue that debt opens doors.  Both arguments contain a grain of truth.  It is true debt’s master never sleeps and never rests until it is paid in full.  But when wise investment can return income, debt may be necessary.  Regardless, Benjamin Franklin's comment contains a truth which cannot be ignored, “when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.”  Wisely managing and eliminating debt removes shackles.  We wonder how well prepared we are as citizens when we collectively carry almost four trillion in consumer debt.
What is true for us personally is also true for our nation.  In March 2014 Congress unwisely did away with all limitations on our national debt for a year.  By March 15th of this year they will need to wrestle with this problem once again. One can only hope that they will not only cut the increase in our debt, but truly reduce the debt itself.

When a nation chooses to live completely beyond its means, the principles we have just discussed become of paramount importance.  Individually, we may not possess the power to change the direction of our nation, but history speaks loudly that those who prepare ahead of time survive! 

Mark, Bill and John