Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 4, 2012

Bad economy or inability to overcome adversity?


It took me years to realize I have a unique ability: Tenacity. Whenever someone does a personality profile of me, the “Energizer Bunny” analogy frequently comes up.

Overall, I consider my tenacity to be a core strength.

It has taken me decades to figure out that few have the driving ambition that I have.

For a long time, I thought that “can’t find a job” meant they weren’t really looking, not looking in the right places or not willing to take a job below their life expectations.

I look at youth unemployment and start to wonder if that holds true.

The fast-food and service industries have normally been the “jobs of first resort.” Twelve percent of all Americans have worked at McDonalds at some point in their lives. About 1.4 million people work at Wal-Mart.

That those jobs are getting harder to come by tells me that this “recession,” caused by the Wall Street collapse, bailouts and the inability of government to say no to special interests, is far from over.

I’m also wondering if you can teach young people to have tenacity, think “outside the box” and create opportunities for themselves. If young people have been sheltered from overcoming failure, they may not understand that adversity ultimately leads to opportunity.

When I started in business, it was like the Bob Dylan song: “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” I had plenty of time and needed little money. I spent a lot of time doing volunteer work, which helped the community and allowed me to develop some great relationships.

If you are sitting at home watching reality shows, you aren’t learning new skills, developing new relationships or putting yourself in a position to ultimately succeed. I don’t know if they teach determination and tenacity in school. I don’t know if you can develop it if you don’t have it.

If we are going to reduce unemployment among young people, somehow they are going to have to acquire the skill of working hard, never giving up and getting back up when you get knocked down.

I’m waiting for someone, running for any office, to start taking that issue on.


Don McNay is a columnist for the Richmond (Ky.) Register. Contact him at

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