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Letters from Downunder

Old Eagle Eye

Submitted by Lindsay Coker, Melbourne Australia

Australia is still a land of opportunity. Like The United States, it always has been - and the opportunities have not always meant taking risks. Guts, determination, a notion for expecting the unexpected, and a good old-fashioned eagle eye have seen many a gratification become the property of their opportunist.

Of course, there's often an element of great risk, danger, and life-threatening decisions to make as well. The discovery of gold was one of these. Those intrepid souls who survived the Klondike got the taste, and many were so seduced by another chance of a little richness that they hot-footed it here. They, and 10,000 other adventurers from all over the globe came and some indeed did make a fortune, for the winnings were far richer than the frozen north had offered, but none, so far as I know, left a permanent mark or ever became the head of a dynasty. It's not the kind of thing entrepreneurs go in for, as it's mostly ruled by chance, luck, serendipity, or whatever you want to call it. Gold and gambling seem to hang together - witness the nugget on display in one of the most renowned casinos in Vegas - found over 100 years ago right here in Victoria, sold to the casino for a record $1,000,000 when it was built.

It's only a short walk from where I live to the stream in which gold was first discovered here 200 years ago, a very pleasant place with absolutely no gold, not that much was ever found at the time, but it set up the buzz for what came later. My grandfather made his money selling clothes to the miners at one of the best fields ever discovered, a place called Ballarat. Some years ago we had about 80 acres of land in the same town; it had been the place where two Scottish brothers had set up a toll booth so that all traffic between Ballarat and the port of Geelong brought a fee - or a fight. They also established the first bull ring, abattoir, and wholesale butcher supply. Now THEY were the ones who made the money. The history is interesting, but the need they fulfilled took a point of view not shared by all. No get-rich-quick schemes, just the attributes of an eagle: The eye, talons and beak, and the view from a great height.

When we think of the great inventors and innovators we realize they have the same qualities. It doesn't matter what they made, they did it without lady luck - they made their own. Yes, they had ability, but there's more to it than that. I read recently about a firm that manufactures socks and stockings, I think in Texas; their sales began plummeting when cheap imports from China began pouring in. Instead of shaking their heads and demanding a bail out, they took a long view - I call it the parallax notion - and restructured to make specialty, higher value items. They're doing very nicely, thank you. And the same is true for us today. Things are tough? So don't go the gaming machine. It makes its owners rich, not you. It's great to see new businesses starting in Emmitsburg. It's hard, but always worthwhile if you plan and think like an eagle. And remember the sign over the desk of the founder of Mattel toys, one of the great success stories: "The worst decisions are made at the best of times."

Opportunity abounds. As I used to tell my sales team, the window of opportunity is always open. But the blind is down.

Lindsay - on high from down under.

Read Past DownUnder Columns by Lindsay Coker