At the bottom of every economic downturn is the perfect opportunity to finally climb to the top. All of the character traits we were unwilling to let go of that actually blocked our success have been washed away.
Instead of settling for the illusion of success, which is a Cadillac Escalade on credit and two months behind on a mortgage, we can pull back to a realistic beginning. That may translate to downsizing to a bus pass and a two bedroom rental instead, but from reality great things can occur.
If we no longer have to hide the truth from everyone, we can finally ask for help. Not a bailout, which doesn't solve anything, but maybe a little emotional support and sage advice on how to get ahead. The money that was going toward depreciating assets can now be used toward building aspirations and night school. Not as flashy but has some real potential to change lives as we learn to value ourselves instead of what we own.
This past year, the financial fallout managed to knock down institutions and fortunes of every size leveling the playing field. Just like after a natural disaster, once the wreckage is cleared away, it's possible to see the clean surface again.
This is when Americans are at their best and our DNA kicks in as we turn toward the possibilities of what might come next. As 2009 unfolds, a lot of fresh, new ideas are going to emerge, but without all of the unnecessary flash.
Most of them will probably start in someone's garage. Keep in mind that's how Microsoft began when you hear the story of boyhood friends and New Jersey natives, Brett "Gank" Jungblut and Lindsey Nagy.
The sweetest ride to the top of a dream happens when childhood friends take the ride together. They hold each other's history and can remember when it was all just a dream.
Brett is a 29-year-old, sweet, giant of a man, who rose to early fame in 2004 as part of the famous poker group, The Crew, chronicled by ESPN during their run on the World Series of Poker. Lindsey is a 28-year-old venture capitalist, who has a successful gift for putting the right people together.
They've teamed up to launch www.ProPokerSchool.com, an online school to teach poker to the masses, which has a few twists. The first is that the school is entirely free, unlike other sites, and contains a library of downloadable videos that show Brett, the 2004 Omaha Hi-Lo Poker World Champion, playing as he explains the motives behind his moves.
But even better, plans are in the works to have a charity section of the site where members can view celebrity poker games that benefit different charities. Brett has already tried out the idea with celebrities, such as Guns 'N Roses guitarist Slash, TV host Brooke Burke, and singer Blu Cantrell, among others, that benefited the Los Angeles Youth Network.
The lesson others can take away from how these young men operate is to follow your passion, even poker, while still looking for ways to be of service in your community. It actually is possible to do both, and at the same time, benefits the entrepreneurs by keeping them a little more grounded in reality.
As the rest of us let go of what was in 2008 and put together our personal picture of what the new American dream looks like, we can include giving something back on the asset side of the books. That new line item can be the personal tithe to those around us, and ensure that everyone benefits while creating a new business model that will be much easier to live with in years to come. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.