The mid-eighteenth century was a difficult time for people living on the North American continent. Before the United States there was a list of British colonies on the American east coast. The French occupied the great wilderness of the north while the British controlled the mid-latitudes and Caribbean.
Native Americans suffered greatly. Disease and war took a devastating toll on the Indian tribes. Itinerant preachers (lay and ordained) provided respite for Native Americans in the church services where they could feel like equals for a short period of time. Still, racism was rampant even in the Christian circles. White evangelicals pointed out lapses in the faith of natives quicker than of fellow whites. Out of this world was born Samson Occom.
Occom was from the Mohegan tribe. He converted at the tender age of 16 when James Davenport preached on his reservation. Samson Occom was eager to learn more. He became the first student of an academy set up by Eleazar Wheelock, the brother-in-law of Davenport. Later, Occom taught for a missionary society. White missionaries received £100 for their services; Occom received £15 and was required to perform double duties. This left a bitter taste in Occom’s mouth.
An opportunity for a better life beckoned when Wheelock sent Samson Occom to England to preach so money could be raised to pay for educating Indians back home. English crowds were eager to hear a native from the American continent preach the gospel. Occom was so eloquent in his oratory he raised an astounding £11,000!
Samson Occom returned to his homeland and to disappointment. The money was raised for educating Indians. Instead, Wheelock diverted all the money to found a new college that educated mostly whites and only a token number of Indians. The college Wheelock founded is Dartmouth.
Benjamin Franklin in his youth would fill a wheelbarrow with papers and wheel it up and down Main Street of his town when business was slow. He wanted to give the community the impression he was industrious.
As history records, he was well rewarded for his efforts. The list of Franklin’s accomplishments is long, including a very successful print shop.
By allowing people to see his non-stop efforts to get work done, Franklin sent a subliminal message to all who saw him push that wheelbarrow up and down the street as if he were busy delivering and picking up print jobs.
Ben Franklin had character. So did Samson Occom.
At first blush it might seem Franklin benefited from his quality characteristics and Occom did not. True, Franklin did achieve significant financial wealth in his lifetime. But money wasn’t the most important or overriding factor; character was. Yes, Benjamin Franklin enjoyed wealth, but always knew his true and only wealth lay with his character. This is why Samson Occom, despite white prejudice and racism, still was wealthy beyond human understanding. Occom had character; Wheelock did not.
It can be disheartening when you work your tail off and get abused for the effort. All the time and effort to build a quality business can be destroyed in an instant no fault of your own. An angry or jealous individual can tear you down with a lie that sticks with you a lifetime. It is totally out of your control.
You don’t control external events. The actions of others can damage you, but you are powerless to stop a determined individual bent on spreading lies. A competitor may want to tear you down and destroy you so they have easy access to your assets and clients. Sometimes it works for the better as in Franklin’s case. Sometimes you spend a lifetime of abuse due to your race or gender as Occom did.
It is doubtful Occom would have experienced a better life if he succumbed to temptation and attacked his attackers. The eighteenth century was not a kind time for Native Americans. (It’s not always that kind now!) Occom wasn’t the only Indian to suffer racism. What hurt the deepest was how hard he worked helping white man and getting no respect for his efforts. Wheelock must have known from the beginning he was using Occom to raise money on false pretenses.
Who Do You Want to Be?
The YouTube video in this post is preset to start at a point in the presentation important to today’s lesson. You can listen to the whole video, but just listen to the part pertinent to this post by clicking the video. It’ll start almost at the end.
Warren Buffett has given us countless stories on life, investing, economics, money and happiness. In the video Warren outlines how to become the person you want to be. He mentions Ben Franklin and his mentor, Ben Graham, used the same method to discover the person they wanted to be.
Reinventing the wheel is too slow. Learning from people around us and those who have come before is the best way to shortcut to the desired result. According to Buffett, we should look around for people we admire. Then we need to examine why we admire them and why others admire this person.
Once you know what you and others admire in an individual, you can nurture those traits in yourself. By building those traits internally it increases the odd people will admire you too.
Some people may consider this selling out. Nothing is further from the truth. Searching for traits in people you admire is the only way to discover what you really want! To guess correctly by chance is a helluva gamble. The odds of you finding the right formula without outside information are slim.
Each person has a different dream, but many of us have a shared dream, or at least portions of dreams. Most people want some level of affluence. Money makes a big difference in life. Most people want at least a few close and dedicated friends. We want a loving family; a loving significant other; good children who are respected and respectful.
This is why you can’t just focus on one individual! Some readers may find my long-term marriage and business success traits they’d like to emulate. Some may envy my writing skills. Or, you might find my rural lifestyle intriguing. There are also things not as endearing. I tend to work too hard and get grumpy when tired. My disdain for travel is legendary. It is okay to pick and choose the traits you find most appealing.
Most people seem to have wanderlust. They want the opportunity to travel more and further. That’s okay! You can pick my traits you want to incorporate and leave the rest. You DON’T want to be a mini-me running around. As Riddick said, “They don’t know what to do with one of me.”
It might not be fair, but outcome with be unequal. Samson Occom had it better than most other Indians because of his efforts. He still suffered racism. Nothing was going to stop that. The same effort by Ben Franklin has left Franklin’s name as a household word. When you think of Ben Franklin you think of industriousness. When you think of Samson Occom (if you ever thought of him at all) you should think of resilience. Occom isn’t a household name, but he is remembered. A footnote in the history books is more than most get.
Warren Buffett studied Ben Graham and then was a student under him. I think you’ll agree Buffett went further than Graham. Graham did just fine in life, but Warren became the richest man on the planet for a number of years. He is also loved and adored by many. Graham is mostly remembered due to Buffett.
Occom was admired, too. When he preached Christianity people quieted and listened. Life could be cruel out there, but in here he was at the front of the room spreading the Good News to his fellow Indians and even white settlers.
Samson Occom was bitter over his treatment; he was beside himself when he discovered the money he raised to help educate Indians was diverted to a new college mostly for whites; the knife cut deep. But he never stopped preaching! He held firm to his faith. He always remembered the words of Davenport that fateful day when he was not much more than a child. Occom found the traits he found most endearing and incorporated them all the way down to his soul.
Show Me the Money
No one, not even your favorite accountant, can guarantee you the outcome of your efforts. You can follow in my footsteps exactly and get a different final outcome. That’s life. Not everyone who followed the industrious example of Franklin in the eighteenth century became famous and wealthy. What I can tell you is that everyone who practiced those qualities did tremendously better than if they had not.
The early retirement and financial independence community have an endless variety of characters. Some traits are admired, others not so much.
Think of it this way. Tim Ferris has a massive following. He has many positive qualities (traits) we should all consider. There are also things you may not like about the guy. The same can be said for the super-bloggers and super-podcasters. I think it’s insane when people want to consult with me so they can learn to be more like Mr. Money Mustache, another blogger or me.
I write a blog and publish a lot more than Pete (Mr. Money Mustache). But my statistics are nowhere near his. If you see a beach spread to the horizon, this blog is a grain on said beach compared to MMM. That said, there are many traits you might want to acquire from Pete. I hope not every trait because one Pete is also enough. Maybe you can pick up a few traits from numerous people.
Certain characteristics tend to show up again and again. If you admire people with money you might notice they tend towards frugality and index fund investing or own a business. You can emulate that easy enough. You might notice many travel and want to do the same. By following their example you increase the odds you will accumulate more resources to travel.
There is no guarantee you will get the same results. A person in prison will have limitations from the rest of the population. Nelson Mandela is a perfect example. He gained the respect of the guards and the people of a nation while imprisoned. He was fortunate that he was released and led South Africa for many years. Other people doing the same thing will almost certainly get a different result.
This blog is about wealth. It might depress you when I say you can search the traits of those you admire and incorporate those traits only to find less admiration than those you worked to emulate. That misses the whole point. Successful integration of quality traits do not guarantee anything and shouldn’t even be the goal! It is the daily effort to improve yourself with the traits you acquired that makes you wealthy.
The daily journey is the reward, the riches you seek. You can examine the admired of your community and work to integrate those positive traits into your persona. But please, kind readers, make plenty of room for you. Explore the qualities already inside you.
Then you will be the person admired.
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