Gaining Perspective

The devastation that has occurred in the wake of the giant tsunami that struck Asia on Dec. 26 is sobering to say the least. It not only serves to remind us of the awesome powers of nature, it is proof of the fragility of all we hold dear in the United States.

While it's true there is no shortage of poor and homeless people in this country, the vast majority of us live in relative prosperity. As Americans, we are conditioned from birth to want big things and to expect to get them. As such, many of us have surrounded ourselves with the trappings of prosperity - four-bedroom homes with three-car garages housing gigantic SUVs and so on. And still we want more.

All rental business owners are by no means getting rich, but many of you enjoy a comfortable living. Some of you are achieving a certain degree of affluence, while still others are struggling to make ends meet. At either end of the spectrum, however, you are far and away better off than the poor souls in Indonesia whose families and homes were washed away in an instant and who are now left with nothing more than disease and the detritus of disaster.

Based on what we heard during a recent round of conversations while compiling this month's Market Watch column, rental business professionals' top concerns include the state of the economy, increased competition and how the weather is affecting the bottom line. Everyone speculates on whether or not this year will be the harbinger of a new era of prosperity, but many of those doing the speculating are already turning a profit and were managing to do so even during the past four years of a down economy.

If you've been successful in what have been considered trying times for entrepreneurs, be sure to give thanks for your good fortune. If you're still trying to keep your head above water ... stop, take a breath and consider what those halfway across the globe are going through. Yes, there are serious challenges that go along with running a successful business, but most of them can be overcome and none of them are life threatening.

In our world of comfort and prosperity, it's easy to lose perspective and forget that what really matters is not who makes the most money or captures the biggest market share, it's appreciating our families, friends, health and relative good fortune. Try to keep this in mind as you tackle the day-to-day challenges that come up.

On a lighter note, one of the most encouraging things to come out of one of the worst disasters of modern history is the outpouring of aid and support from the nations of the world to the tsunami victims. More than $4 billion has been pledged to help provide food, shelter and medical care to the victims and to rebuild the areas which have been all but wiped off the face of the earth. If that isn't a sign of hope for us all, I don't know what is.

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