Money isn't the most important thing in life, but it's reasonably close to oxygen on the “gotta have it” scale.
Zig Ziglar, author and motivational speaker1
I had one talent in my younger years that bordered on Olympian. Throw me into a backyard swimming pool with a collection of other kids, and I could hold my breath underwater longer than any of them. I would challenge my fellows to the Big Gulp, submerge, and watch them turn a slight shade of blue before they raced to the surface a half-minute later. I don't remember at what point I found out that the Olympics did not award a medal for this stunt—and that only magicians and madmen did it in their adulthood.
As an adult, I came to realize that many entrepreneurs also practice the Big Gulp when their business requires them to stop taking a salary. I stopped taking a salary in April 2001, thinking it would just be temporary and San Francisco hotel occupancies would start recovering once the dot-com bubble burst was behind us. I was wrong; the length of the tourism depression that afflicted the San Francisco hotel industry made the Big Gulp that I took in my youth look like what it was: child's play.
During the next few years, I became painfully aware of both my employees' and my own base needs on the Employee Pyramid. As our revenues dropped, so did our net income. Soon after 9/11, we ...