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So, you want to make a million dollars

So, do you want to make a million dollars? Actually, a million dollars really isn’t that much these days so how about making a billion dollars? In case you forgot, a billion dollars is a thousand million dollars. A billion seconds ago it was 1959. A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive.

Agreed, a billion is mucho pesos.

It must take a lot of work to make a billion. Depending on your definition of work, maybe not.

In the olden days, back in the 1950’s and 60’s and 70’s and 80’s, to make a million dollars was just a dream for most of us.

Today there are about 9 million households in the U.S. that earn over a million dollars. In 2011, we gained 200,000 more.

Okay, so there are quite a few millionaires but how many billionaires are there? Well, as of March 2010 there were 403.

The richest man in America, in case you were wondering, is Bill Gates, who is worth $59 billion.

“Hey, Bill, could you lend a dime?”

Going back to the olden days, people worked hard for a living. By work I mean they had to put in long hours, be extremely focused, sacrificed playtime and used a lot of underarm deodorant. In most cases they started from the bottom and worked their way to the top, which could take 30 or 40 years.

I wish I could say that everyone who worked hard became a millionaire or billionaire.

If that were the case, I would not be writing this column. I would be on some secluded island off the coast of South America eating mangos.

All millionaires and billionaires have one thing in common. Each had an idea that no one else thought of or if they did, they didn’t do anything with it because maybe someone told them they were crazy or maybe they listened to the naysayers rather than taking action.

What is a good idea? A good idea is one that satisfies some need.

All of us have the need to eat and because we eat too much we need to lose weight. How many diet books can you find in your local bookstore? Lots of diet book authors are now sitting under a palm tree eating mangos.

Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Every college student in one class or another learned about Maslow.

Maslow’s theory was that everyone had basic needs and he put these needs in the form of a pyramid.

At the very bottom were needs like food and shelter and at the very top was something he called self-actualization or the need to feel that your life has worth and meaning. Unless you had the basic needs satisfied, it was difficult to be self-actualized.

Here is an example of a good idea that satisfied a need – actually two needs? In 1959 Don Lamberti of Des Moines, Iowa, had an idea about making a gas station into a convenience store where people could buy things to eat as well as get gas.

There are now 1,700 of these Casey stores throughout the Midwest. How many additional convenience stores are there?

We have a need for shelter. Lots of people in real estate capitalize on that need like Donald Trump, one of America’s 9 million millionaires.

The thing that is different about making a million or billion dollars today as compared to the olden days is something called the Internet. It is now possible to not leave your kitchen table and still make a million or billion dollars.

What idea can you think of that people have a need for and that has not been satisfied? I have one. People like to take movies, right? What if you could find a way to put your movies on the Internet so that your family and friends could view them as well as anyone else? That’s a great idea. Unfortunately, it someone already had the idea.

It was such a good idea that on Oct. 9, 2006, it was announced that a company called YouTube would be purchased by Google for $1.65 billion dollars. What is most amazing about this idea is that it was founded by three young men in 2005 who worked above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, Calif.

In 2010 YouTube was supporting more than 2 billion videos per day. In 2012, YouTube has roughly 60 hours of new videos uploaded every minute.

What idea do you have that satisfies a need and that can be created on your kitchen table using the Internet? How about creating a site to sell your antiques and other stuff? Sorry, that’s been done. It’s called EBay. How about creating a site to post your messages to friends and relatives. Sorry, Facebook.

You see, someone had a great idea; they didn’t let people talk them out of it; they gave it the old college try and look what happened. Some people are eating lots of mangos.

Web pages are free and easy to create. With a good idea, tenacity, and a willingness to charge ahead, who knows what can happen. Maybe we’ll meet under a palm tree some day. I’ll bring the mangos.


JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.