Back in January 1848 a California settler by the name of John Sutter was busy building an agricultural empire on the American River near Sacramento. His foreman, James Marshall, was working on a water powered lumber mill, and noticed some shiny metal in the tailrace. Sutter and Marshall tested the metal and found it was Gold.
Now, you would imagine that they jumped up and down and cheered at this news, but you would be wrong. Sutter realised that if news of the gold leaked out his dreams of farming this land would be over. So his reaction was to keep the news quiet. Well, he failed. The news leaked out and was soon shouted in the streets. By December 5th 1948 President Polk was able to confirm the rumour of the find to Congress in Washington.
So Sutter had, pretty much, a full year to develop the find before it became widespread knowledge. The following year the ’49ers arrived from all over the world. All told 300,000 people made the trip to California, half by land and half by sea.
Sutter suffered from what we in the industry might call “Marketing Myopia”. He was short sighted to the opportunity. He was so focused on the day to day work in front of him that he could not spot a huge opportunity when it landed at his feet. Many business owners face a similar problem. They are so busy IN their business that they don’t have time to work ON their business. What he needed to do was sit down and review what his life goals were. Instead of hiding the find he should have exploited it. Farmland can be found all over the world, gold fields are rare. If you find yourself sitting on a gold field you don’t plant onions.
If Sutter’s dream was to build an Agricultural empire then fine. Build it. But use the gold and build it faster. In fact he could have been doing both. Those 49’ers needed feeding, so Sutter could have taken the gold on his land and used it to buy farmland nearby. He could have built his “agricultural empire” in a single year because he had capital and a market.
When opportunity knocks you don’t open the door and say “sorry, not buying today”. Opportunity is something that needs to be recognised and grasped. OK we don’t all find gold in our gardens, but opportunities abound everywhere. Always be looking for the next big thing. Who knows, you may just strike it lucky.
The Spell of the Yukon; by Robert Service
I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.
No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)
It’s the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth—and I’m one.
You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it’s been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.
I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top.
The summer—no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness—
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.
The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’ve bade ’em good-by—but I can’t.
There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back—and I will.
They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish
I’ll pike to the Yukon again.
I’ll fight—and you bet it’s no sham-fight;
It’s hell!—but I’ve been there before;
And it’s better than this by a damsite—
So me for the Yukon once more.
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.