In Pursuit of Old Men in Wigs | Teen Ink

In Pursuit of Old Men in Wigs MAG

January 23, 2015
By Howard Wu BRONZE, Long Grove, Illinois
Howard Wu BRONZE, Long Grove, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I grew up with an inherent fascination with money. Food. Clothing. Toys. All were gained with this strange green paper. How did little portraits of old men in wigs lead to my Legos? I wanted to understand this ethereal phenomenon – every last intricacy. When I was nine, I noticed an investment book called Rich Dad Poor Dad on my parents’ bookshelf. Compelled by curiosity, I opened it, and it forever altered my view of the world.

When Robert Kiyosaki, the book’s author, was nine himself, he was working in his town’s general store stacking cans. One day, he saw the manager trashing the previous month’s comics to make room for newer editions. Robert saw an opportunity. He asked for the old comics – still in excellent condition – and started a comic book library in his friend’s basement. By charging for admission, he made money from trash.

Reading this set my mind on fire. You can make money without money! Inspired, I approached my parents and triumphantly proclaimed that I was going to start a business. Laughing gently, they asked how a nine-year-old could conjure up a business from thin air. I soon realized they were right. Nevertheless, I promised them – and myself – I would succeed.

Thus my inner entrepreneur was born. He wanted to solve the ultimate enigma: how to generate capital from nothing. My alter ego pondered this for months as I lived my ordinary third-grade life. Then, one day, he had a revelation. Candy!

My teacher had a unique learning activity. Each day, she’d write a “Smarties” question on the board. Whoever answered it right would receive a roll of Smarties candy. As my “Smarties” victories increased, so did my tummy aches, causing my appetite for sweets to fade. But because my drive to answer the questions remained, a sugary army soon conquered my locker. I needed space; I needed a business. Trembling with excitement, I realized I could solve both dilemmas at once. I’d collect candy by answering “Smarties” questions in the morning, find customers in the halls, and sell to buyers in the afternoon bus lines.

Within a few months, my first business had accrued nearly $50. (Sometimes customers would offer more than the 50 cents I was seeking; I didn’t mind.) Then my parents found the money. Businesspeople themselves, they were mortified that their son was spearheading a black market candy conglomerate. In a passionate century-long lecture (or maybe it was 20 minutes), they explained the details of an invisible rule book titled “Ethics.” Apparently I’d broken about five or six chapters’ worth. Oops. I refunded my customers, embarrassed; they were more disappointed that I had no more candy for them. My “company,” Smarties International Corporation, went bankrupt. But my passion for business only grew.

As I matured, so did my bookshelf. In middle school, I studied Hogwarts’ history as well as Google’s policy on making money “without doing evil.” I watched Derrick Rose’s highlights in addition to Peter Lynch’s portfolio. And while Donald Trump’s hairdo haunted my nightmares, his bold real estate deals inspired my soul. By sophomore year of high school, I was day trading with a legal account under my mother’s name using a method from One Up on Wall Street. As of today, my portfolio somehow has one stock that’s up 45 percent since I bought it (yay), and another that’s down 40 percent (ouch). By junior year, I was furiously searching for an internship: I wanted to learn how to run a business.

Fortunately, last March, my mom helped my search over the dinner table. She was recounting a conversation with a friend. I listened politely – until she mentioned that he owned an international recycling company. A business that made money helping the environment? That was something new!

“Could I intern there?” I blurted out, pasta threatening to escape my mouth.

My mom pointed out that the company was “pretty far away” (Google Maps said 73.7 miles south, to be exact). I mentioned that I’d suddenly developed a incredible love of driving. My mom then stated that it’d be a big time commitment; I’d need to get up at 6 a.m. and wouldn’t get home until 5 p.m. every weekday. I claimed that I suddenly detested sleep. She mentioned I had no previous work experience. I pointed out that I could learn. Bemused, she eventually helped me set up an interview.

So, last summer, I worked with shipping records in the recycling company’s warehouse. I learned about contract creation in the office. I worked with so many financial documents that I now see why even IRS workers hate themselves. And I loved every second of it.

I do realize the fortune I have experienced in life. It isn’t just friends, family, a house, or possessions. It’s purpose. Lots of people drift aimlessly, with few concrete goals beyond “make money for rent.” However, I am lucky. I have a passion for learning about business. And I was able to discover it while young.

Today, my great dream is to start a business that can better society. I will achieve that dream. While money is complex, learning about it has taught me one ultimate lesson: Dreams, like money, are illusions. U.S. money is a fiat currency, which means that our coins and bills aren’t intrinsically valuable. Their worth is created only through the belief of those who use them – otherwise, they are simply paper. A dream is the same. Without sustained belief, it is simply an illusion. So I’ll turn my dream into ambition and my ambition into goals, and one day it’ll be an accomplishment at last.

Then I’ll move on to the next dream!

The author's comments:

My 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Arias, told me I should think about submitting this. So Mrs. Arias, if you’re reading this, thanks!

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