Monday, May 28, 2012

You Bet On The Horse, Not The Race


Was hanging out at Athol's post, Could Have, Should Have, Would Have, Didn't, and as usual I shot my mouth off in a copius manner.  Since I'm recovering from a severe intestinal issue (don't worry, all the juicy details in a future post!  You wouldn't want to miss an update of my bowels, now, would you?) and don't feel like putting together my usual insightful, original, and arguably brilliant posts, I figured I'd recycle the comment.  It stands pretty well as a post, I think.  So go read the original piece at Athol's, if you wish, and come back.  I'll wait.




I’m going to skip over all of the golddigger BS and come to a more important and perhaps pertinent point in Athol’s sagacious post. As part of your due diligence before proposing, regardless of whether you’re male or female it’s important to remember that you are betting on the horse, not the race. That is, you are committing to share your life and your fortune with another person, not investing yourself in their performance in one particular role.

An important question to ask yourself about your spouse, if morbid, is whether or not you think that they could support themselves deprived of their primary means of doing so. If you married a famous pianist, for instance, is he the type of dude who could segue into something else if his hands were maimed in a freak manicure accident? If your prospective wife is a first-rate accountant, are you confident in her ability to make a living doing something else if suddenly she were deprived of the ability to do math?

The importance of this point is outlined in Athol's post: Athol and Jennifer hit a major career bump, in which they had to regroup, re-plot their course, and re-commit to it. Had either one of them been married to the job-title or the earning potential, then that short shock may well have put an end to the marriage (as it has to many folks). Since they were committed to the family first and foremost, not the career, when a career avenue dried up it was painful but possible to marshal their resources and — together — plan a way out. It’s one of the hardest things to do in a marriage, when everything you do is so critical to the health, safety, and welfare of others, but granting your spouse the room to fail (or at least dealing with their failure if it occurs without summarily judging and rejecting them) is part of the high art of marriage.

My first big marketing gig on my own concerned a large piece of heavy construction equipment and a very, very narrow market. I didn’t know the first thing about marketing heavy construction equipment. But I waded into it and I gave it my all for six months . . . until the client fired me and I lost a very lucrative contract. I was devastated. My first foray into Big Time Marketing . . . failed. Mrs. Ironwood (still in college) never blinked — she hadn’t married a marketing mogul, she’d married Ian Ironwood, and she had every faith in my ability to learn from my mistakes and persevere. And plenty of reproductively active years ahead of her to ditch my sorry ass and find a replacement if I didn’t get my act together.

The combination of unlimited support with reasonable accountability and high expectation on both of our parts has gotten us through economically harsh conditions, grueling employment, and sudden and unexpected changes in job situations. If either one of us had to quit and change careers tomorrow, I have no doubt that we’d be successful again in short order in our new jobs — because we bet on the horse, not the race. The horse isn’t going to win every race. But if it’s a good horse, it will win enough races — and the right races. But you don’t beat the horse for losing a single race, and you don’t sell the horse as long as it’s still trying to win races. In fact, you might have to work with it a bit to get it back into shape. But if it’s a good enough horse, then in the long run it will pay off.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed, marrying "right" makes most of life seem like a breeze despite the ups and downs. My profession, and my growth within it, has been very linear. My wife's chosen some different routes, and has taken some twists and turns but because she's a very excellent and bright individual she's succeeded at every venture. I've never been worried about if she would "make it", but was interested to see what arena(s) it would be in.

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