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Persisting your way to FIRE

I did two things last week - I wrote my FIRE, easy or difficult? post and I watched a movie called The Founder. To be fair to myself, I did more than two things, but the other things don't have anything to do with this post.

So to the movie. The Founder is about the creation of McDonalds, from it's first restaurant to the worldwide fast food behemoth that we see today. That first restaurant, in San Bernardino, California, was opened by two brothers, Maurice "Mac" and Richard "Dick" McDonald. According to the movie, Mac and Dick tried franchising, opening a few restaurants in other locations, but found they couldn't maintain the quality they wanted. They'd rather have one restaurant doing it right, than multiple restaurants doing it wrong, even if that meant less profit for them.

Then along came Ray Kroc, a travelling milkshake machine salesman, who came across the McDonalds San Bernardino restaurant when Mac and Dick ordered an unusually high number of milkshake machines. According to the movie, selling milkshake machines was just the latest of a number of Kroc's business ideas that never seemed to reach the heights he hoped.

That changed when Kroc persuaded the McDonald brothers to give franchising another chance. To cut a long story short, Kroc made a huge success of franchising McDonalds - no spoiler alert needed for that one! However, in the movie he does it by going against the ethos and will of Mac and Dick, the original founders. In due course, having broken parts of the contract and, perhaps more tellingly, their spirit, Kroc bought the brothers out, in what the movie portrays as a morally questionable deal. The rest, as they say, is history, as Kroc went on to build McDonalds into the global empire it is today.

Two things struck me about the movie. First, assuming it's generally accurate (unsurprisingly the McDonalds website doesn't tell the same story), I didn't like how Kroc acted. He broke the terms of the contract, he took advantage of the McDonald brothers and was less than honest during the negotiations and a handshake agreement made when he purchased the business. Maybe Mac and Dick were naïve, and I get that business is about making money, but it shouldn't be at any cost. If this is what happened, Kroc crossed moral and ethical lines and went on to profit massively as a result. That's not right. In some ways, I was reminded of my own decision to quit the corporate world during a time where too many business dealings weren't fair or completely honest. That wasn't for me, amongst a number of other motives in my decision to quit.

My second reason is more favourable towards Kroc. He attributed much of his success to persistence. He simply never gave up, which resonates with me. I had a reasonably successful career without being particularly gifted. I hope there was at least a little talent, but I suspect that hard work, dependability, honestly and persistence made a bigger difference in my career.

Last week's post was FIRE, easy or difficult? and I split the journey into four stages and scored them on an easy to difficult scale.

I graded the amassing money stage as medium difficulty, but wonder if that's optimistic. One reason is because this getting to financial independence stage takes a long time, think ten, twenty, thirty or even more years, and if you're like me, it won't always go smoothly. In fact, I had some real disasters! Even a more blessed investor will face recessions and many market corrections during this stage. You definitely need a good investment strategy but, alongside that, persistence may well be the best asset to own.


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