As a child, I loved to play in the big woods near our home. There never seemed to be an end to the exciting adventures we could have there. We rode our bikes on the dirt roads that went through the woods. We climbed on, made forts out of, and hid behind the many rock formations that dotted the woods.
One day some men and equipment appeared in the woods. The men began to dig a big hole, which we gradually came to realize was to be the basement of a house. We went to the site each day after the men had finished to see the progress they had made that day. The work went on for many days. and that hole got bigger and bigger.
One day the men packed up their equipment and left. We watched and waited for them to return. They did not. After about a week our curiosity got the best of us, and we slowly approached the place the men had been digging, to get a closer look at what had happened. We played in and around that hole for the next several weeks until we became bored and moved on to another part of the woods. Although we wondered what had become of the plans to build the house, we never saw anyone at that place again.
I have no idea why that house was never built. I have often wondered over the years why someone would begin a project like that and not complete it. Whatever the reason, it has always served as an example to me that whatever I am going to do I need to count the cost before I begin.
That cost can include money, time, energy or any other resources. Sometimes the costs are simple obstacles that we can’t overcome no matter what we do. I would love to get my private airplane pilot’s license, but I have a visual impairment that would keep me from ever passing that portion of the examination. At other times, the cost may simply require an ability we do not possess. My wife is a Certified Public Accountant. While I have gained a true appreciation for what she does, I just do not have the ability with numbers to even consider pursuing that or any similar field of study.
A cost we decide is too great might involve something we simply are not willing to invest the time money and effort into accomplishing. On at least two occasions in my life I have seriously considered pursuing a Ph D. In each case I had the opportunity and enough interest to begin the process. In each case, and for different reasons, I decided that the time and energy and money in my life would produce more of the things I want by investing them in other pursuits. I am over simplifying what, in each case, was a deliberate involved process, but the underlying principle remains the same. Counting the cost involves understanding what I really want to accomplish and then determining what I am willing to do that will most effectively get me to where I want to be.
This sounds so simple and so obvious. Yet it is amazing how often we do exactly the opposite. We get caught up in a dynamic presentation of an exciting business opportunity, or we think of a great new career opportunity, and we think of all the things we could do with the amazing amounts of money we are told others are making in this fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity that is being presented to us.
What do we want to do with the money? Are we interested in the things we will have to do if we pursue this new opportunity? Do we have the dedication and motivation to learn the things we will need to learn in order to be successful at this opportunity? Do we believe we can do what it will take to be successful? These are some of the fundamental questions we must ask ourselves when we count the cost of any new endeavor we are considering.
No one can know exactly what will happen when we begin a new venture. This makes a deliberate, systematic process of counting the cost even more important. What did the people who bought the land and had the hole dug near my childhood home hope to accomplish with what they began? Were they building a family home, a retirement home, a vacation home? Did they underestimate the difficulty of digging in an area as filled with rocks as the woods near my home? Did something unforeseen happen in their lives that suddenly took the money they had earmarked for this project and required them to use it somewhere else? Was there a death in the family? Was there a divorce? Did they simply lose the interest or the motivation that would’ve allowed them to finish this project that they had started?
What do you hope to accomplish as you consider a new opportunity or beginning to look for a new job? What do you want or need in your life that you don’t have already? Do you have a hobby or some other interest that you believe would translate successfully into a profitable business? Do you have some specialized knowledge or ability that you see as marketable and profitable? What skills do you have or are willing to acquire that will give you the possibility of being successful in this new venture?
None of this is intended to discourage you from starting a business or making career adjustments. Beginning something new can be an incredibly satisfying, rewarding experience. If you don’t count the cost, it can turn into a disaster that will consume your time your energy and your money and leave you frustrated discouraged and in debt.
Those who successfully begin new businesses or seek new jobs start with that critical self-examination. Knowing what you want to accomplish must come before even examining your skills and your interests. This will logically lead to an understanding of what you know or are willing to learn. This flows logically and naturally into a realization of what you are willing to invest yourself in to achieve this success you desire and the realization of your dreams.
Counting the cost before we initiate a change can help establish our dreams and goals in a context of reality. It is one more way to ensure that we will be moving steadily toward success–whatever that means for each of us, in every area of our lives.
–David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.
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