In 1966, Manny came to this country not speaking any English.
He enrolled at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and began his life here in America.
His first week, a young man showed up at school with a gun. Coming from Latin America, Manny had seen many things. Growing up, he’d always been taught to take action, whether in school, in life, or when there was a conflict.
With that in mind, seeing this young man with a gun and the danger he presented, Manny moved quickly. He went right up to the boy, reached back, and swung as hard as he could. POP! Manny hit him square in the face and the boy went down.
Manny made sure the gun was safely away and then picked the boy up, put him over his shoulder, and walked him to the principal’s office.
Action versus inaction. Risk versus reward.
Ten years later, Manny came to my father and suggested that they start a business. They’d gone to high school together, knew each other for years, and trusted one another.
Manny had recently been to Europe and witnessed firsthand how stylish sunglasses were the biggest craze. He thought that if that was the case in Europe, then certainly America would follow.
“Steve,” he said, addressing his old friend, my father. “We have the opportunity of a lifetime! Sunglasses are the thing! People are wearing them everywhere in Europe.”
My father cocked his head, listening but already skeptical.
“They are wearing them as a fashion statement, as an accessory to their wardrobe,” Manny said. “I bet if we started a sunglasses business here in the states, it would be huge.”
Action versus inaction.
“Why don’t we each put up $10,000 and start selling them here,” Manny proposed. “You have all the contacts from the fur business, and I bet we could make this huge here.”
Needless to say, my father declined Manny’s offer to partner up – or invest at all.
My father felt that the business he was in (the family fur business, which had been around for 50 years) was fine. Stability was what he really wanted, and my father didn’t want to change or rock the boat. Making that kind of an investment of time and money wasn’t for him. He thanked Manny but said no.
Fast forward 30 years and Manny’s Optical Fashion Center sold for tens of millions of dollars. They were basically Sunglass Hut before Sunglass Hut found its way into every mall in America. Manny had created a business and built an empire.
Risk versus reward.
In my life, I’ve always taken risks.
Looking back, some were smart risks, and some were definitely not – but I was never afraid to take risks. I’ve consistently chosen action over inaction.
The way I saw it, no matter what, I’ve always believed in myself, giving me the best chance of winning and dealing with the consequences if the risk didn’t pay off.
I believed in myself even when others did not, and that’s why I chose risk and action over inaction, like Manny did.
What choice would you have made if presented with Manny’s original offer to start a sunglass store?
Would you have branched out from that (perception of) safety and stability?
And how would you have felt thirty years later if the company hit a big payday and you were still on the sidelines?
The next time you’re presented with a risk that could also be a grand opportunity, which choice will you make?