The makings of a self-made man 

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I am a self-made man. I say that not out of any outsized sense of pride, more as an alibi for everyone else who's played a role in my life and would prefer to evade any responsibility for the person I've become. I appreciate all your efforts; you are absolved.

Aside from those unnamed co-conspirators, there have been a number of other forces working in the Max forge. There was the absolute fluke of being born in the first world, the fortuitous timing of my birth, coming as it did during the post-war economic and baby boom, the great good luck of having parents who were industrious, supportive, sober and unafraid to insist I apply myself to the task(s) at hand.

I was the beneficiary of good public education. I had access to doctors who kept me healthy and mended the physical insults I visited upon myself. I was gifted with a sharp mind that withstood my many efforts to render it dull and useless. I had the opportunity to attend reasonably-priced universities and thanks to a war-mongering president, spend nearly a decade there learning more than I ever thought possible.

I profited by the first world's mercantile exploitation of the rest of the world, its political hegemony and its economic clout. I had the great good fortune to travel abroad, fall in love with a Canadian and wind up doing something I never contemplated in my wildest dreams — leaving the country of my birth and becoming a Canadian citizen. That stroke of fortune allowed me the luxury of seeing another way of life and remaining solvent when my wife was diagnosed with a cancer that would kill her and would have left us penniless had I never moved north.

Yes, I am a self-made man.

But it's acknowledging that woefully incomplete list of ingredients contributing to my self-madeness that keeps me from straining my arm by too vigourously patting myself on the back. Perhaps it's why I don't make too much of that self-made nonsense. Perhaps it's why I don't believe I have an absolute right to keep all I've earned. Perhaps it's why I don't bridle too much at tax time. Perhaps it's what keeps me from buying the Conservative — as opposed to conservative — line that lower taxes and smaller government are the holy grail.

And perhaps it's why I was impressed enough reading what Leonard Lee had to say last week in the Globe and Mail that I'm writing about him this week rather than railing against the Star Chamber FE&A nonsense happening here in Tiny Town. But as an aside, if Mayor Nancy doesn't have a good answer to share with the press this week to the questions she posed about their insufferable secrecy, I'll be relieved of coming up with a topic to write about next week.

Leonard Lee is the 75-year-old founder of Lee Valley Tools. Frequently when asked where I got something, my response of Lee Valley elicits expressions of love generally reserved for practitioners of the healing arts, incredible restaurants or demigods. People who know Lee Valley understand; those who don't, it's only a matter of time.

Lee Valley is an unusual Canadian business success story. Unusual because it started out as a mail order, catalogue business. Shortly after its start, it mined a deep vein of untapped demand for high-quality woodworking tools — hand tools, not power tools. The company slowly opened retail stores and then found another rich vein when it began to offer high-quality gardening tools.



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