Episode 7: Skills Are Tools

Welcome back to the Toolbox. We’ve talked about broad based tools like belief systems and active imagining.  Now let’s start getting more specific.

No one would think of building a house without tools and materials, hammers, nails, lumber, etc.  So what tools do you need for financial success? Over a lifetime, there may be many, but if you start with these two, all the rest can be mastered as needed.  What are they?

1. Master the English language and how to use it to persuade others to meet your needs!

Let me get personal for a moment.  I have started 10 successful companies in biotech, medical devices, finance, and other fields.  Did I have skills in those fields? No!  I never had a math course beyond high school algebra; never had a science course at all, and didn’t study accounting until my second year of law school.

What I did study was how to use language to persuade, excite and explain my dreams to others and get them to support them.  I found scientists who would develop the products, I found financial experts to fund my companies, and I found accountants and lawyers to guide us through the process.

If you truly understand the power of language—English in particular, and other languages if you can—you can learn anything else you need to know or find someone who already knows what you need to help you.

But if you don’t know why “Me and him went to the store” is bad grammar, or if you think the language of some ethnic group is “cool”, and you use it in business, I can just about guarantee you will fail.  So learn to use language as the powerful tool it is.

With a command of language, skill in public and private speaking and writing, and the understanding of how money works as a tool and not an end in itself, there is no reason to fail. 

Learn from those who are already successful. You don’t have to re-invent every skill.  You can, instead, find someone who is already successful and learn from him or her just by observing, or, if you have the chance, by asking questions.  

Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker who built his early fame by convincing people they could walk on a bed of coals did not just build a fire one day and try walking on it.  He found someone who actually did it, asked how they did it, and then put that knowledge to work to begin building his fortune. 

Warren Buffet, the most successful investor of all time, learned from his mentor, Ben Graham, how to find undervalued stocks; then improved on that technique and became one of the richest men in the world. 

There are hundreds of other skills and techniques you can learn, but it all starts with realizing that everything you learn, in school, on the job, or just living life, can be a tool to help you achieve success.  Learning some of those skills can sometimes be hard work.  But who cares?  Once you realize that the skills are the tools to your success, the work can become pleasurable—because it has a purpose: to make your life better.

We’ll talk more about converting skills into investment assets in the next blog.

Episode 8: Skills Are Investment Assets

Let’s talk about skills as investment assets.

Consider these facts:

1. No wealthy person I know depends on a paycheck to live the life they live. They own assets, stocks, real estate, businesses that work for them while they sleep or play. 

2. A quality investment can last a lifetime, and beyond. A job is only as good as yesterday’s paycheck.

Most of the World’s wealthy people, particularly in the US, did not start out with a lot of investment assets. They first developed skills that had value and then converted those skills into assets.  Every single one of the young billionaires you see in the news got that way by trading his or her skills for ownership in a company they created or helped to create.

Let me share a personal example of how these factors can work.  Early in my career, I developed some good skills in the area of finance.  As a result, I got a job with a promising company in the real estate business.  One day, I was offered a chance, along with other executives and junior executives of the company to purchase an interest in a real estate project being developed by the company in conjunction with a major insurance company.  

I didn’t really have enough money to be able to make the investment comfortably—it involved foregoing some things I would have preferred to do with what little money I had—but I studied the investment until I understood it well.  I was pretty sure I was right, and when I learned that the CEO and President of the company were also investing their own money, I decided to take the risk. For several years I got nothing back on my money while the project was being completed.  

Then something wonderful happened.  One of the two apartment developments that made about half of the total project was sold and my share was over 30 times what I had invested.  The other half that was not sold has been providing me annual income for the last 35 years that is 4 times my original investment—each and every year! 

You could say I was just lucky, but consider these things:

I would never have had the opportunity if I had not developed skills that put me in position to be offered a share in the project.

I was willing to use some of the very limited amounts of money that I had to take a calculated risk on something that might move me up the economic pyramid. Notice that I did not take a Las Vegas type risk.  I wasn’t gambling. There was ample evidence from the actions of the more senior executives and my own research that this was probably a good investment. It was not a sure thing; nothing is; but the ratio of risk to reward was in my favor.

What I didn’t know then, but have learned later, is that this kind of opportunity happens far more often than most people realize. I even made an investment a few years ago that returned 100 times my original capital.  It was not without risk, but I had developed over time the ability and confidence to think that by using wisely the skills and capital I had, I had a much better chance of winning than losing and that the profits from my winners would far outweigh any losses on my mistakes.  That is the formula for wealth.

Above all, it started with my developing skills that other people wanted and needed, not just having a job.  In fact, the skills that led to that investment were developed through 4 different jobs that I held until I had learned all that I thought I could from them.  Then I moved on and added more skills.  Skills are assets and are worth more—and are many times more secure—than any actual job you will ever have.