Over ten years ago I remember reading the story of a man from the South who decided to go into the vending business. He started by walking to a grocery store and asking if he could put in a machine selling candy. In exchange he would share a cut of the sales. They said yes. He cold-called all the stores in his area, installing dozens of machines. No employees were needed to do the job so his days were spent moving machines around and filling them with product by using an old pickup truck. By his second or third year he was grossing over a million dollars a year. He made more money than he thought he could ever earn.
I had just graduated from college when I read that story. The university culture was still on my mind, having been taught by a bunch of teaching assistants who were working on their science PHD’s. I had looked into the job market and knew that they wouldn’t make a lot of money for a long time, if at all. They were going to spend hundreds of hours working in the school laboratory, writing papers, grading papers, polishing their resume, and going on interviews to get a job that, as the pharmaceutical contraction in the late 2000s showed, was not at all secure. I wondered who would win in life, the TA’s or the vending machine guy.
It’s Saturday night and Chad is sitting home in front of his neatly organized workstation. He has recently uploaded several photos of himself on OK Cupid in nice clothes with a bright white smile. His profile shows he’s a well-balanced men with a professional job and various hobbies. He also mentions how he volunteers at the homeless shelter because he’s certain that good women are attracted to good men. On paper, he realizes that he’s close to the ideal man, with a balanced sense of humor and well-read mind. He carefully sends polite messages that are crafted based on the girl’s profile. He spends extra time on a few of these opening messages so they come out just right. He waits, patiently, for the girls to respond, but very few do.
It’s Saturday night and Steve is getting home late from the gym. The chat he had with Tiny about what kind of protein powder is best for muscles remains on his mind. He takes a shower, eats some chicken breast, and puts on a shirt that is one size too small before heading out to meet his boys at the bar. Once there, he starts pounding shots. He looks at a girl and says, “I like your ass.” She gives him a nasty look and turns away. He orders another shot and uses the same line again. Still nothing. His friends laugh every time he fails, but he doesn’t care. Finally, on the eleventh attempt, the girl doesn’t immediately leave. He pulls her in close and starts grinding on her like he was in college all over again. He buys a round of shots to butter her up. Steve says, “Let’s go for a walk.” He takes her behind the club and fucks her next to the dumpster without a condom. If Steve bothered to ask what the girl did for a living, he would learn that she works for a non-profit helping feed homeless kids in Central America.
Neither Steve or the Southern businessman has much in the way of brains. No intellectual would voluntarily spend time with them over Chad or the PHD students. They are looked down upon by upper society and are never commended. On the other hand, the Chads of the world are praised even though they have a fatal flaw: they act less than the think. The PHD students are ultimately scared of taking a business risk, preferring to stay sheltered in their higher education cocoon. Chad is scared of approaching women and rather play it safe from behind his computer. They may eventually get what they want, but not to the degree of the businessmen and Steves of the world who, with far less knowledge, skill, and intellect, are getting more out of life. On one end you have smart and safe while on the other you have simple and bold. One leads to comfort while the other leads to results.
You will never be completely ready to tackle a new challenge. There never will be a perfect moment, and just wondering if there is one means you’re probably too smart for your own good. The secret is taking the leap instead of thinking about how it should be done.