Sacrifice and Freedom: Independence Day Message
Several reporters have suggested to me that entrepreneurs are risk takers. In my experience
and observation, I must disagree. Entrepreneurs are risk assessors, not risk takers. We are very good at assessing whether the potential reward of a decision outweighs the risk inherent in it. In order to achieve this, the "risk taker" must have a sober and thorough understanding of the risk - and be willing to accept that as a potential outcome. Thus, I say to start a business from scratch, you don't have to give everything up; you have to be ready and willing to do so.
"Giving everything up" is better stated as sacrifice. Sacrifice requires faith that the outcome is worth the "risk". In fact, only in faith that our choice is good, can sacrifice happen (unwilling sacrifice is called "loss" which carries the burden of regret). Sacrifice frees us from those bonds.
I believe that sacrifice is part of the American ethos. When we speak of our "rugged individualism" I envision the sacrifices made to achieve a greater good - in most cases freedom (either individual or collective). Our Founding Fathers risked their lives in signing the Declaration of Independence, a document of treason against the king of England. The civil war was fought over freedom - racial and economic. World Wars I and II were fought for freedom over totalitarianism. In fact, throughout our history, we Americans have been willing to make this ultimate sacrifice, at home and abroad. This makes us exceptional.
In man's history, no other nation has been as willing as ours to make individual and collective sacrifices, and that willingness continues. Just last week I had the honor of meeting Nikki Altmann, widow of SSG Joseph Altmann, who was killed in Afghanistan on Christmas Day 2011 just weeks after reenlisting. Nikki and her friends (and XIKAR fans) Todd and Jill Pistor approached me in Cleveland airport to say hello. They were on their way to the New Hamphsire NASCAR race on July 15th to witness Kurt Busch driving with Joseph Altmann's name on the side of his car. This was made possible by the Armed Forces Foundation. The AFF provides healing for families who have lost loved ones due to military service, as well as helping wounded warriors with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder including events such as bringing troops to the NASCAR track. If you wish to get involved and help out families like Nikki, please donate to AFF.
Our Changing Culture
In the past three and a half years, much has been discussed about the end of American exceptionalism, as if this is a worthy goal - to become equal citizens of the world. Yet I believe this is a cultural decline, for the loss of our exceptional nature is the loss of our freedom, and the hope it represents to the world.
I see evidence of this decline in small and large choices we make. Individuals, companies and our government are now burdened with insurmountable debt for our unwillingness to sacrifice today's reward for tomorrow's freedom. Entitlement creates debts which limit freedom.
Examples of moral decay abound. Perhaps the most visible is the recent Sandusky affair at Penn State, where none involved was willing to risk his job or the university reputation to protect those children from a known predator. The tragedy is in the crime. But sad additional damage to our society will result from new laws and regulations written to substitute where men and women fail to take a risk for what we all know to be right, to protect those children, and each others' freedom.
This new form of equality leads us to a national character that will lose its willingness to sacrifice or risk anything. "Those willing to give up their freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both." Heed Ben Franklin's warning, and understand his indictment. We have a responsibility to ourselves and one another to take a risk and make a sacrifice. Men and women of honor must be ready to sacrifice material possession for the thing that most matters: freedom. The outcome is worth the risk!