Cliché or adage?

Posted on Feb 28 2020

Clichés abound that describe finding opportunity inside of adversity. Buy low, sell high. Napoleon Hill’s “Within every adversity is the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” And many more that we all have heard. Sometimes these adages resonate with us because of some pressing set of current circumstances, often they just roll off our backs like water off a duck.

We are smack in the middle of the poster child for adversity vs opportunity in the form of a bad and growing worse economy with little end in sight. With all else already headed downhill along comes Covid-19/Corona virus kicking us, and many other economies in the stomach while we are down. All Chinese flights stopped, reduced flights from Korea, austerity measures, reduced hours, reduced income…you know the drill.

So where could we find a benefit in all that mess? Right in front of us. Every car that gets repo’d is an opportunity to buy it and resell at a profit, likewise houses, property, jewelry just about everything up and down the scale of value from a $5 flea market item to a house on the hill. What is the downside? Getting started is hard, while you can gain, you can also lose, you could miss the correct buy/sell timing. Careful planning and doing your homework on item values can solve most of those potential glitches. Maybe the hardest one is the first one mentioned…just getting started.

For every person who has been frugal in the boom times and has put aside some cash or other liquid assets, there are many who did not. If you are one of the latter it is certainly harder to start if you have to do it out of current, reduced income, but still it is possible, just harder. Of those who did save the other obstacle is fear of failure that stops your good idea from every getting off the ground. It takes courage to buck the crowd. Everyone else is selling and here you are hanging out there like a leaf in the wind, or so it seems at the time.

The Great Depression wiped out many a fortune, closed down many a business, and bankrupted many a family. It also spawned a lot of millionaires (when a million bucks was really a huge amount compared to the average income). Every one of new those millionaires sucked it up and overcame their fear, bought what looked like a smoking deal, a house at ½ price or less, a business with hard assets but no cash flow quickly heading downhill etc. Then working hard and waiting for the right time to build it up or sell it, they profited greatly. You can too.

Are you guaranteed to become a millionaire? No, but you could stumble into a deal that good if you are actively looking and if you are prepared to act when you find it. If you only came out of the back end of this downturn $20,000 ahead that would be better than sitting and waiting for no benefit at all at the end when prices and values begin to rise again. One of the most expensive cars you could buy during the Depression was the Pierce Arrow Twenty Grand which cost, you guessed it $20,000. Very few were made and very few were purchased because $20K seemed an obscene price to pay for a car then. Now it buys a cheesy Toyota compact car. Even so if you profited enough to buy outright for cash a cheesy new Toyota at the end of this downturn because you overcame your fear and bought while others sold, that wouldn’t be too bad would it?

Check it out. Do some homework. Start looking for opportunities and you very well may find some. One thing is for sure, if you don’t look you are guaranteed not to find one.

Plastic or trash

The legislators are getting antsy as the session wears on. Each wants to be able to point at something they accomplished, even if it is meaningless, even if it actually is counterproductive, even if it is based on misinterpreted data, even if it is downright ridiculous. In this case it is H.B. 21-89 (Styrofoam) and even worse is S.B. 21-37 (one use plastic). Both of these feel-good, hug-a-tree-today bills take us backwards not forwards in our attempts to recycle and reuse.

Spend the money you would waste trying to enforce this bill on trash collection instead. The comparatively tiny amount of Saipan plastic that ends up in the water is insignificant compared to the amount that washes up on our shores from point sources elsewhere. Spend all that extra money you have laying around on a concerted effort to pick up and properly dispose of all that flotsam and jetsam that winds up on our beaches washed up by the ocean waves.

While you are at it spend the money funding regular trash pickup at all public beaches. Meaning several times per day on weekends, and at least daily on less used beach days. Spend enforcement money making sure commercial trash companies keep their dumpsters emptied regularly enough so there is no overflow.

First and foremost, almost none of the so-called one use plastic here on Saipan gets used a number of times. Styrofoam go-boxes from restaurants get reused for a number of things at my house and yours too probably. I feed my dogs in those trays. If the leftovers I bring home are suitable I feed them to the dogs right after arriving home. Then reuse that same container at least once or twice more with bagged commercial dog food before filling the container with random trash and putting it inside a tied and sealed plastic garbage bag. Likewise we keep every shopping bag we acquire in a bin and reuse them for many different tasks around the house. We line small trash cans with them then all the little bags get tied up and put into the big garbage bag for pick up and disposal, we wrap fruit in them for ripening, we store small items in the smaller bags and label them with contents. There are scores of uses. We tie them to our luggage to aid easy identification at the baggage carousel.

If you are really serious give some meaningful funding to CDA and task them with identifying a suitable plastic recycling business plan and to provide some seed money to get it off the ground. There are hundreds of reuse products now made from scrap plastic. Those petro carbon molecules are easily broken down and turned into something new and usable again.

Let’s be smart about how we spend what few dollars we have instead of posing in front of a feel good bill that actually stops reuse and recycling efforts while it inconveniences everyone one the island. Dump the Styrofoam container and the so-called one use plastic bill in their tracks. Vote no.

Thanks for reading Sour Grapes!

“A fine glass vase goes from treasure to trash, the moment it is broken. Fortunately some else happens to you and me. Pick up your pieces. Then help me gather mine.” –Vera Nazarian

“Before it is too late, go out there and find someone who, in your opinion, believes, assumes, or considers certain things very strongly and very differently from you, and just have a basic honest conversation.
It will do both of you good.” –Vera Nazarian

Bruce Bateman | Author
Bruce A. Bateman ( resides on Saipan with a wife, a son, and an unknown number of boonie dogs. He has owned and operated a number of unusual businesses and most recently worked as the marketing manager for MVA. Bruce likes to read, travel, tinker with bicycles, hike, swim, and play a bit of golf. He is opinionated and writes when the moon is full and the mood strikes.
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