Episode 6: The Entrepreneurial Mind

If your dream has anything to do with financial success, you need to learn something about what I call “The Entrepreneurial Mind.”

There is a very famous statement made by the writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald that goes like this: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

Fitzgerald was both right and wrong.  The rich are very different from most people, not because they have more money, but because, if they have made their own wealth and not just inherited it, they have a way of looking at life that is simply different from most of the people in the world.   And that makes all the difference.

I call it, “the Entrepreneurial Mind”, and it is an enormously powerful tool.  It is the difference between those who rise to the top 20%--or even the top 1%--of the economy and those who wonder why they haven’t.  It is also something that anyone can learn and develop if they really want to.  

The best way I can illustrate the process of change from conventional thinking to the Entrepreneurial Mind is a very personal example.

As a young man, I used to have a fantasy that one morning I would wake up rich and never have to work again.  Then one New Year’s morning as I read the morning newspaper, I realized something:  I didn’t have to work that year—or any other year, ever!  Nor would I have to lower my standard of living or change my lifestyle.  

An even greater realization came later—and that is what I want to share.  I didn’t get to financial and personal freedom because I started out rich

Or was smarter

Or had a better education

Or won the lottery or a Las Vegas jackpot

What really happened was that, over time, using some of the techniques we have already discussed, I was lucky enough to realize that the power to change my life was within me and not dependent on anyone else’s rules. 

Your definition of success can be anything from wanting to create highly successful companies to wanting to cure cancer, but if you can’t wake up every morning wanting to achieve that goal—and loving even the tedious things you have to do to get there—then just get a job, put in your 40 hours per week, and hope that the pension they promised you will actually be there.   For some, that is enough. For me, it would have been a slow death.

But most of us are programmed from a very early age to believe that a lot of things are just impossible for us, that we are too poor, to uneducated, from the wrong ethnic group or have the wrong skin color to succeed.  Those negative belief systems can destroy our dreams.

I could tell you story after story—all true—of friends of mine who have started with nothing but a belief in themselves and achieved incredible success. One was an orphan in a war torn foreign country who came to this country with no money and without speaking English; another was a young man who had to flee from Iran after the revolution at the risk of being put to death by the revolutionaries and arrived in New York with little more than the clothes on his back; another is a woman whose mother was murdered, she herself was raped, and her business destroyed.  Yet each of these people is now extremely happy and successful.

The reason:  they each believed that they had the power to create their own success, no matter what happened to them from the outside.  And they did just that. How does one do that?  You replace every negative thought that tells you why you can’t succeed with one that says, “Why not; I can do that.”  It takes time and practice and there are many resources, books, courses, mentors that can help you get there, but the key to it all is to believe and act as if you were already the success you intend to be; and make that the overwhelming priority in your life.

Episode 16: Zero Sum Games

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Welcome back. We need now to talk a bit about one of the most important concepts you can ever learn about building wealth and financial freedom. It is actually quite simple and can be summed up in one phrase: “Success is not a zero sum game.”

What does that mean? Think about any sports contest. Whether it is baseball, football, or any other competition, there is only one winner. Second place is only the first loser. But financial success is not like that. Think about Apple Computer, the most valuable company in the world as I am writing this. One of the reasons that Apple is so successful is that it has created platforms for apps on which independent developers can produce and distribute apps that
can make their creators very wealthy very fast.

But consider this: everytime one of those app developers creates a successful app, Apple computer gets richer. But this is an important distinction. Apple does not get rich by making the app producer poorer. It gets rich by making the app producer richer. This is the exact opposite of a zero sum game. It is a game in which success by one party increases the success and wealth of the other. That is how business in a free society works at its best.

Are there exceptions? Sure, in some rare cases there is competition in which there is only a winner and a loser. I own interest in a company that frequently bids on US and foreign contracts. These can result in revenues of 10’s of millions of dollars. In those bids, there is only one winner. But notice something even here. In order to increase our chances of success, we often form partnerships with companies who have skills our people lack. That increases our chances of winning the contract. But it also means we have to share the income from the contract if we win.

Is that bad? No, quite the opposite. By sharing the wealth and the skills of two companies, we increase our chances of winning more contracts. Thus, even where there is a clear winner and loser, the players who share skills and profits are more likely to be successful than those who do not.

Let me give you another personal example. Many years ago I was part of a team that was helping and owner decide which of several bidders was going to acquire some real estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars. One investor was the clear favorite, but he made a crucial mistake. He tried to drive such a hard bargain that no one else could benefit. My clients heard his pitch and walked away from the negotiations. In business you often hear the saying, “you have to leave something on the table for the other guy”. This bidder did not understand that. He wanted it all. What he got was nothing and another bidder, who offered some attractive benefits to the seller, my client, won the contract. He gave up something in the beginning but ended up one of the richest men in the world as a result. He understood that Life (and business) is not a zero sum game.

If you can apply that principal in life and business, always looking for ways to make those around you wealthier as well and looking for ways to make the result of your efforts greater by cooperating instead of wanting everything for yourself, you have taken a giant first step toward success.

Success in business is not a Zero Sum Game. If you try to make it one, you are almost guaranteed to lose. Help others succeed and you will help yourself.

Episode 18: Failure vs FEAR Of Failure

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Believe it or not, one of the biggest obstacles to achieving financial freedom and an abundant and successful life can be summed up in three words: FEAR OF FAILURE. Notice that I did not say, Failure. I said Fear of Failure. In reaching any goal worth having there will be failures along the way—often many of them. No, it is the Fear of Failure that dooms most people to lives of frustration, living far below their potential.

The reasons are actually quite simple. Fear of Failure does several things, all of them bad.
1. It persuades us never to try, or
2. It makes us give up on ourselves or our dream at the first major barrier,
3. It paralyzes us at exactly the times when bold action is needed.
4. And, it undermines the inner belief of “I can do that” that we have talked about already and are starting to build.

But to deal with the fear of failure, we first have to look the possibility of failure in the eye. Every time I start on a new project that I think has any risk of failure, I do something that most of us find very uncomfortable. It is not comfortable for me either, but I have learned that doing it is one of the best predictors and guarantors of success I know. What is that something?

Before I ever take action, I ask myself these questions:
1. “What is the worst thing that could happen if I try this?”
2. “Can I survive if the worst thing goes wrong?” I’m not thinking about the kind of physical survival that could happen in a war or natural disaster I mean can I survive it economically and can the relationships that I cherish survive it.
3. If the worst happens can I do more than just survive the failure; can I rebuild my dream and try again?

My experience has been that in almost all cases, even the worst case situation can be overcome, but looking at the risks squarely, in the beginning, takes the fear out of the equation.

Fear of Failure is the biggest cause of actual failure, usually because of one basic reason: Fear of failure causes us to give less than our best. It is human nature to build in an excuse, “I could have succeeded but I didn’t have the chance to give it my full attention.” Whatever that excuse is, banish it from the beginning. It is a little scary to put all your hopes and dreams into a project, but anything less almost guarantees failure. There is a saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Mark Twain turned that around into a saying that is much better when you are talking about committing to a project. His phrase was, “Put all your eggs in one basket: and watch that basket.”

The lesson from all this is very simple: Look the risk of failure squarely in the eye and decide if you can deal with that risk if it happens. If so, commit completely and make sure that failure doesn’t actually happen.

Every successful business I have ever created has had one or more “near-death experiences” in which failure was possible. But because I had faced those possibilities in advance and was committed to success in spite of those risks, I managed in almost every case to turn potential failure into success. Out of 11 businesses I founded, one did fail, but the failure was of the business. It was not my failure and I went on to more successes. You can too.