Saturday 24 January 2015

Sacrifice: Part of Success

"To forfeit something for something else considered to have greater value." 
(American Heritage Dictionary)

Society preaches that we can have our cake and eat it too.  We see headlines like "Get ripped without long workouts!" and "Get rich without having to work hard!" and "Loose 20 pounds and eat what you want!" and "Buy a house and pay nothing down!"  The message is that we can reach our goals without giving up anything else.  It comes as no surprise, then, that the United States has a credit card debt of $886 billion!

As Frederick Douglass once said:  "A man,at times, gets something for nothing, but it will, in his hands, amount to nothing."  If you don't work to earn your fortune, you don't appreciate it nearly as much.  With every goal comes sacrifice.  If you want to become a doctor, you must give up time with your family and friends to put in the necessary hours at medical school.  If you want to become a blockbuster actor, you must give up your anonymity for fame.  If you want to become a proficient writer, you must knuckle down and write daily, rather than watching television or shopping at the mall.

Take the story of Le Van Vu.  He belonged to a successful family in North Vietnam who, in the early 1960's, owned one third of the real estate.  His father was killed by the Communists, forcing he and his mother to flee to South Vietnam.  Le worked hard in school and became a lawyer.  Capitalizing on the increasing American presence in the South by the mid-1960's, Le became a successful builder. However, on a trip to the North, Le was captured and imprisoned.

After three years, Le made a daring escape and returned to the South and his family.  He started a fishing company, soon becoming the largest canner in South Vietnam.  However, with the Communists threatening to invade, Le made a decision:  he and his wife decided to leave Vietnam. 
In exchange for all of the gold he owned, Le sought passage to the Phillipines.  In only two years, he developped the fishing industry in his new country.  

However, the Van Vu's ultimate goal was to go to America.  On the trip across the Atlantic, Le became demoralized at the thought of starting over yet again.  He was about to jump overboard when his wife stopped him, promising to help him along the journey.  His wife's encouragement was all that he needed.  

They arrived in Houston, Texas with no money and no knowledge of English.  Le's cousin invited them to work at his bakery during the day and they took English courses at night.  The cousin offered to sell him the bakery once he came up with the $30,000 down payment.  Le knew that if he rented an apartment, it would take him forever to come up with the money.  So he and his wife lived in the back of the bakery for two years, surviving on a diet of baked goods and taking sponge baths in the mall's washroom.  

After two years, Le presented his cousin with a cheque for $30,000.  Now he owned the bakery.  But he wasn't ready to move into an apartment just yet.  He and his wife continued to live in the back of the bakery until they could come up with the $90,000 balance they owed Le's cousin.  Finally, after another year of sponge baths and baked goods, Le made good on his promise, presenting his cousin with a cheque for the remainder of the loan; he owned the bakery free and clear.

Twenty years later, at the publishing of his story in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Le Van Vu was a millionaire many times over.  For the entire story, read 2.  "Willing to Pay the Price", Chicken Soup for the Soul (1993) at

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