Have you ever wondered why Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz continue to thrill audiences nearly a century later while the box office leader three years ago over Christmas weekend can’t be sold by Wal-Mart for less than a dollar from the remainder bin? Why does The Shawshank Redemption still perform well after more than two decades?
Closer to home, why do some personal finance blogs find a massive and growing audience while others languish? Mr. Money Mustache publishes a few times a month and still generates 5 million page views or more per month. What characteristics do perennial sellers have? More important, can we replicate their success?
Last week one of my all-time favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, published Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts answering the above questions. Holiday has ample experience to draw from in his work with companies such as Google and cultural icons like Tim Ferris.
You can reinvent the wheel or you can learn from the best. Perennial Seller breaks the process of creating long-term success into four parts: The Creative Process, Positioning, Marketing and Platform. We will touch on each of these before we end with a real world example from our personal finance (PF) community.
The Creative Process
Before something becomes a long-term successful seller it has to be created. Too many people want to jump ahead to marketing. They want money and they want it now. Unfortunately they will not like what the marketing section has to say if they do.
Creating a blog with a growing audience and dedicated fans willing to support the blogger, you first need to create the product. Books need to be written before they show up at the bookstore.
Holiday spends most of the book talking about creating a perennial seller in the arts: books, movies, music. He does expand the discussion to his days working for American Apparel before the CEO went off the rails. His advice can easily encompass business models for goods and services, too. The PF community will find the process valuable for their side gigs.
Creating a product, writing a book, composing a song is all hard work. The tendency is to follow a hot trend or create a knockoff of another successful product. It rarely works. You might get some success, but it never lasts. The original has the advantage when it comes to standing the test of time.
When I started this blog I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Money Mustache. And why not? His readers would be my readers. Working with an icon of the early retirement community meant people would find me by reading MMM. At first.
I knew I would be different, but I always found myself apologizing for the differences, especially the idea of retiring early. Read my early work here. It drips with desperation. Slowly I moved into the open prairie where I felt most comfortable. I started writing my stuff my way. No apologies.
I always told storing which is my hallmark. But the idea I’d be a successful follow-on of the MMM crowd gave me a momentary boost the first few weeks before curling up in submission. My traffic has since exceeded anything I managed those early days.
I stopped apologizing and started doing what I needed to do. I was different and knew it. When I allowed the differences to show through I found my audience. And good thing.
A recent reader emailed to let me know he reads over a thousand PF blogs and never saw one with a picture of Hitler on the front page above the fold. Yeah, I knew it was different.
Readers beg me to publish a book (it’s in the works) of blog posts. More on that in a bit.
The creative process is hard work. You need more than one idea, one book, one blog post. No matter how brilliant you are you need to create more.
As you think about your product, service, book, blog, or song, you need to know who it will appeal to.
Ryan Holiday has provided excellent guides to determining what your work is about and whom it is for. Positioning within a genre is vital if you want to produce a perennial seller.
Success of any kind, long- or short-term, almost always is classified in a category or genre. Nothing appeals to everyone! Too many bloggers, writers, singers think they are serving everyone. Bull!
You can make a comfortable living with a mere 1,000 dedicated fans who buy everything you produce. (Holiday said it in the book and shows how.) Imagine a humble blog, like, ah, this one. Selling t-shirts, ad revenue, third-party affiliates, and Amazon can provide a nice income stream. A thousand dedicated fans buying your book or program can add up. A simple $100 from a thousand dedicated fans gets you to a six figure income.
The trick is getting to a thousand “dedicated” fans. Part II of Perennial Seller is dripping with information on how to position your brand, You, Inc., to acquire those thousand dedicated fans. In all likelihood you will end up with many more as your cult grows.
Now we get to the section everyone wants to talk about. Well, forget about it.
Ryan Holiday is a smart young man and he knows he can’t tell you to do this and do that and you will sell a million copies of your book or get a million page views.
I’ll talk about marketing more in Part 2 of this post to be published on Wednesday.
So no one ruptures an internal organ I will share a taste before moving on.
You do not need a publicist, Google or Facebook advertising, or any other expensive promotional activities to sell well. Most money spend on advertising is useless.
You know what might work? Giving away free copies of your book to the right person. A certain tax guy might want to provide free tax preparation or advisory services to a mustachioed gentleman from Colorado. Or the same tax guy might speak for free at conferences and help attendees gratis as a goodwill gesture.
Doing these things and a few similar gestures will give you more work than you can handle. Then you need to go back to the creative process and create more and develop the brand You Inc. further. It is also time to move toward building your
You can (and should) start building your platform even as you begin the creative process. Gathering followers is how you will generate buzz and early adopters of your book, blog, song or product. I’ll share an idea Ryan Holiday used (mentioned in the book) and that caught me early in his career.
Before Holiday had a product he knew he needed a platform from which to sell his books. He tried blogs/web pages, but eventually settled with the idea of building a mailing list of his monthly book recommendations. By the time his first book came out he had 5,000 people on his email list he could recommend “his” book to. The list has since grown to over 80,000.
As you can imagine, the mailing list is a powerful tool Holiday used to sell his books. And it worked. His books continue to sell better and to a wider audience as the mailing list grows.
Before I include a personal story not in the book I want to share a special gift Holiday gives to his readers. At the end of the book he includes a web address for additional case studies and interviews not in the book. The web address is: perennialseller.com/gift. Or you can email Holiday at email@example.com. He will email back the bonus information.
Before you consider me a lout for sharing this information before you even buy the book or borrow it from the library, know that Ryan Holiday is building his email list as you take him up on the offer. He is building his platform while you get additional free information. A bit of quid pro quo.
In the Real World
Well, who in the heck is this Ryan guy anyway? You may have never heard of him until now. How about we use a live example from our own community: Jim Collins. (If you are reading this Jim, sorry. I needed a guinea pig and you were an available victim. Should sell a couple of books for you though if it is any consolation.)
Last year Jim published The Simple Path to Wealth. You probably heard me extol the virtues of the book. It is pulled from the Stock Series of his blog.
When talking to Jim you will hear him say there is nothing new in his book; it’s all in the blog. It’s a lie. (Sorry to rat you out like that, buddy. Somebody had to expose you.)
Jim’s book is all in his blog, of course. What he doesn’t tell you is he reworked the entire set of blog posts, fixing grammar errors and tightening up the text.
Then he sent the finished product to qualified first readers who promptly pulled the whole thing apart, exposing massive (several hundred) problems. Jim fixed them all. Then he sent it out to another qualified first reader confident he fixed all the boo-boos only to learn a few hundred more were missed the first round.
This went on for a while until the book was as clean and tight as any professionally published book from a major publishing house. As an end user I can assure you The Simple Path to Wealth is better edited than 95% of the stuff from the professional houses. That is saying a lot.
And it’s a self published book! It was the reason I delayed reading the thing. I know how self published books can be. Then I made the mistake of reading a few pages. I was hooked.
My good friend, Mister Collins, has had excellent sales figures on his book. A high quality work, well edited, well created, is a masterpiece. Here is how he did it using Ryan Holiday’s formula.
Jim wrote (the creative process) the blog and later edited part of that into the book, polishing to a bright shine. He positioned his blog and book right down the middle of his genres: personal finance, early retirement and financial independence.
Jim marketed his book through his blog and asked Mr. Money Mustache to write the forward, which he did. Jim already had an awesome platform with his blog and mailing list. People were buying Jim’s book to give as gifts! Camp Mustache SE in January 2017 gave a free copy to every attendee. Nothing beats word of mouth as a marketing tool (also in Holiday’s book).
One Last Thing
Normally I tell people they can either buy the book or pick it up at the library. This book is different. If you write a blog (many readers do), run a business (many readers do) or have a side gig (many readers do) then you want to own Perennial Seller. If you do not fall into one of these categories feel free to visit the library on this one.
If you are a writer, blogger, musician, artist, business owner or have a side gig you will want to hold this one in your hand and keep it within arm’s reach in your personal library. Better bring your highlighter too. You’re going to need it.
It all went wrong before I ever started. Mrs. Accountant and the junior accountants (I have daughters so I guess they are junettes) carpooled with me to take care of a variety of errands in town. When the family gathers in a confined place the situation turns strange very fast as I start with crazy talk.
For the record I consider myself a bit of a comedian. Not in any professional sense, but I fashion myself as a funny guy. Give me an espresso or two, wait fifteen minutes and watch the fun begin. Once on a roll it is hard to stop the train.
The clan sees me writing a blog so a lot of blog writing is going on around the house. Before long I was coming up with what I considered powerhouse titles to posts when the title of this post popped into my head. Groans echoed around the cabin of the car. I stood my ground. It was funny and I knew it. (It was also clickbait and I knew that too!)
The girls of the household don’t always hold my level of humor in high esteem. It hurts. My feelings are tender. The lack of enthusiasm for my blog title only encouraged me to step up the game a level. I started to flesh out the details of the obvious humor piece. The jokes came fast and furious while I skirted around the implication of the title.
No matter how hard I milked the situation I was cowed. My udderly fantastic jokes fell on deaf ears! How could that be?
Later in the day we stopped at the office. I shared my humor with the team. My spirits found another hoof to stand on as the folks who haunt the halls of my practice found my humor enjoyable. Then it dawned on me I pay these people. They could be humoring me to preserve their paycheck or it could be I hire people as perverted as me. More research was required.
The last item on the agenda was a visit to the gym. I couldn’t wait to share my humor. But before I had the title out groans pulsed through the crowd. The ladies turned and left with twisted faces; the guys were stunned silent. As hard as it is, I had to put the idea out to pasture.
If you allow an idea to percolate in my head for a while I sometimes turn a sow’s ear into a coin purse. (My apologies to all the sows reading this blog.) The title is obviously clickbait and I am good with that. It also allows me to share stories from my farming background that help illustrate the issues surrounding financial independence and success. So here goes.
You can learn a lot about a farmer by looking at his cows. Cows are ladies and should be treated as such. They are as soft and tender as any human female. They will love you and trust you as long as it is earned. If you slap your significant other around you get the same response a cow gives when you beat and abuse her.
In the old days before milking parlors were the rage farmers milked cows while they stood in stalls with their heads secured (the cows, not the farmers) in a stanchion. Two rows of cows were secured along either side of a wide walkway.
Cows don’t always want to get milked. Some cows love it; other are a bit more reluctant to getting felt up by a human and have a machine suctioned to their teats. Women.
When a woman refuses to listen, a man has several ways to deal with the situation. You can grab a pipe or hit with the expected results of anger, push-back, animosity and fear. It doesn’t work guys! You can force all you want, but nothing beats voluntary compliance. (Stay with me ladies. Voluntary compliance through deceit is not nice either, but there is a point to this.)
There are other methods to getting a cow in a stanchion. An unruly cow can be pushed. Every farmer knows you can twist a cow’s tail in a loop and push. It causes serious pain for the cow and might be enough to get the cow to walk forward. Of course if you push even a bit too much you break the tail.
You can tell a lot about a farmer by walking into his barn. If his cows all have broken tails you know what’s going on. The farmer thinks he can force his girls into compliance. Hitting and the electric cattle prod are sure to be a part of the torture sessions.
This behavior is cruel and never works. Dumb farmers up the game by breaking the tail multiple times or getting a bigger lead pipe. Thankfully most of these types of farmers are long gone, out of business.
You never treat a lady like that. EVER! And cows are ladies. If you treat your ladies in the barn that way I can only imagine how you treat the lady of the house.
Busted tails are a bad sign! It doesn’t work either. Cows get stubborn and will take the pain before acquiescing. Hence the multiple tail breaks. It also lowers milk production. Happy cows make happy farmers; abused cows make broke farmers.
There is a way to get a cow to do what you want within reason. For that we need to talk numbers.
My Favorite Numbers
Years later we built a milking parlor (1978). (I started milking cows at a young age.) Our parlor was a herringbone style where twelve cows were milked in two rows, six on each side. The cows walked in and stood at a slight angle so the backside of the cow was slightly toward the middle.
The farmer stood in a pit between the rows of cows. The pit was a major improvement over stanchions. No more crouching and kneeling to milk cows. More knees were saved than any other time in history.
The udders were chest height to the farmer in the pit. The udder was washed with warm water and massaged to help the cow relax and drop her milk. A machine with teat cups with pulsing suction extracted the milk. Another tremendous improvement was the automatic takeoff. When the cow was done milking the machine sensed this and automatically stopped the suction and an arm pulled back the milking apparatus.
Once the cow was milked the farmer’s work was not done. The farmer would apply teat dip to each teat to prevent bacteria from entering the teat, protecting from disease.
The care and treatment of cows is of the highest importance to dairy farmers. Those girls are the entire business. An injured or sick cow meant hard times for the farmer. Treat your girls right and business was good.
Milking parlors increase the number of cows one person could milk. Our simple herringbone style parlor allowed me to milk a couple hundred cows in a few hours versus several people milking 60 cows in the same timeframe.
As the cows waited to be milked they stood in a holding area. As cows were milked and released the holding area needed to shrink to force the cows into the parlor. An electrified bar with chains hanging down were on a trolley controlled from the parlor pit. The farmer hit a button sending an alarm from the electrified chains as the trolley slowly moved forward. I hated the darn thing with a passion.
My favorite cow was Number 34. She was always the second cow in every milking on the south side of the parlor. Her daughter, Number 82, was the last cow milked every time. Both walked in of their own free will.
You see, Number 34 and I had a good working relationship. I would greet her every day with a smile and a hug around the neck. The way she turned her head to hug me back makes me believe she enjoyed our relationship. She was a good cow. I miss her.
Her daughter, Number 82, was just as friendly. Mother and daughter enjoyed more petting and brushing than any two cows I ever saw. Our cows were friendly, but these two were off the scale.
34 was nearly first every milking; 82 was last because she was cleanup crew. I hated the electric chains so I used them seldom. 82 would actually herd the last stragglers in before she stepped in herself to be milked. God, I miss those girls.
Remember I said some farmers try to force their cows into compliance? Well, it doesn’t work any better with cows than it does with humans. The preferred method to encourage compliance is bribery with food. To get cows in stanchions a farmer will place food in a bunk in front of the stanchions. It works wonders.
In the parlor there was a place for corn or haylage in each spot the cows stood. Corn is a powerful inducement to get cows to do what you want. I never bribed my girls. They always walked in because they wanted to be milked.
A cow with a full udder must feel uncomfortable. At least it seemed to me by their body language. The only reason a cow will not volunteer for the blessed relief of an empty udder is abuse or fear. Food can get a cow to respond even when afraid, but it is completely unnecessary if you treat the ladies with respect.
My voice was all I needed. “Milking time girls,” is all I needed to say and they came running. If they were out in the pasture I yelled out, “Here, CABAASSSSS!” The high pitched wail was all that was needed to bring the herd running, yes running, to the barn. There is something about a couple hundred cows running straight for you at full speed. A cow weights around 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) each. Mutual respect is the only reason I felt safe standing my ground while exposed.
My cows knew me and I knew them. Each cow has her own personality. Daily I would walk among the cows as they grazed in the field or roamed the free stall barn, petting them as I went. I knew a cow was sick before she did. I could see it in her body and actions.
Communication was important. My ladies knew my voice and knew it meant safety. They ran to my voice any time of the day. If I walked among them they always gathered around.
There is no doubt my girls knew what I was saying. Sure, they didn’t know the actual words, but they knew the tone. They knew I was going to brush them before I did. The cows would rub against me, careful not to knock me over. I didn’t push them around and they didn’t push me around. Something I was always grateful for. My girls a big!
Milking cows taught me how to treat women (and money). You can’t force either. You might use intimidation or fear to get what you want but it is always a self-defeating activity. My cows wanted to come by me and be milked. Mrs. Accountant loves me and stays by me because she wants to. I can’t force her (or the junettes) to do anything they don’t want to. The relationship is symbiotic.
People try to force money all the time by playing the lottery of day trading. It rarely works. You can start breaking tails to force the issue or bribing with yummy corn. In the end it is the hard way to get anything done.
The only way to financial independence is the same way to treat cows. You spend time at it patiently. You invest daily and allow the investment to yield dividends. When done correctly the cows walk right in to be milked. When done correctly money comes to you without threat or intimidation or forcing of the issue.
Finally, all those years of experience massaging cow udders to please my cows have paid off with Mrs. Accountant. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist at least one joke from the original content.)
Show me a successful person and I’ll show you someone with deep seated pain. Pain is a powerful motivator. Few can reach lofty heights and keep pushing without underlying pain driving them forward.
Steve Jobs said you have to be “. . . insane to do this. . . ” when he discussed why he worked so hard to achieve so much because “. . . it hurts so much.” He expanded the insanity to include all successful people. It doesn’t matter what it is you are the best in. Being the best and marching forward after attaining the top is an exercise in pain regardless the field.
Some are satisfied with “good enough”. They are the lucky ones. Normal people attain a certain level of success and sit back and enjoy it. You see these people everywhere. They are the upper middle class people lucky enough to have reached the level of “having it” or “made it” without the grinding pain from earlier in life driving them on.
Then there are the people we see in the news on a regular basis. These are the business leaders and entertainers who never are satisfied with their performance even when they have reached so high they have cut new ground. They climbed to the top of the mountain and started building the mountain higher. What drives these people? And are you one of them?
The Pain Train
You don’t choose where you are born or the family you are born into. Throughout life, things out of your control mold who you are. Some people cower and hide. Others leave the safety of the nest and go on a mission of discovery, driven by the pain, looking for the control they so desperately need to understand their own life.
One doesn’t need to look far to hear the pain these super-performers deal with daily. It is no surprise to learn the Loony Tunes artists who gave us the classic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd cartoons frequently came from a painful past filled with abuse. Abusive fathers warped these young boys who later grew up and made us laugh so hard. They made us laugh, and laughed themselves, because the alternative was even worse. They worked hard and never stopped working once they had enough to step back. The pain cut too deep. They ran and kept running to keep the pain at bay.
Today we see the same thing with modern performers. The popular music group Imagine Dragons has numerous hits to their name and still they keep performing. Why? Maybe the words of their songs can give us a clue. Listen to the words of their hit: Shots:
Oh, I’m going to mess this up
Oh, this is just my luck
Over and over and over again
And later in the song:
I’m sorry for everything
Oh, everything I’ve done
From the second that I was born it seems I had a loaded gun
And then I shot, shot, shot a hole through everything I loved
Of course this could be a one-off song written in moment of depression. Perhaps we should listen to the words of their massive hit single: I Bet My Life:
Remember when I broke you down to tears
I know I took the path that you would never want for me
I gave you hell through all the years
The words drip with pain and anguish. We can even imagine what it is they are suffering from as they struggled to perfect their art and gain recognition for their work.
We could go on about entertainers who sing, act or write about the painful loss of a child or loved one. We could talk about the super successful business owner with millions to her name, fame and respect within her community, enjoying parties with the in-crowd, running from the demons that just will not die. Running from the memory of a drunken father hitting her again and again or raping her repeatedly. Running from a brutal date rape. Running from the betrayal of a friend that took advantage of her.
The key word is running.
Now we will hit closer to home. We will talk about me as an example. Don’t worry. We will talk about you and your pain next.
Can I Do Anything Right?
Recently I gave my first ever comedy skit. It went over well. People were practically on the floor (except for the sourpusses) laughing. They even chanted my name at the beginning. I’d say it was a rush, but it wasn’t. I kept thinking about what wasn’t working. It has been a week and I am still playing the scene over and over in my head working the entire skit for areas I could improve. Good is never good enough for me.
Of course that is a symptom. This pattern in me did not magically appear in the last week. I have a successful business and plenty to retire on, yet I never rest. As Jobs said, You have to be insane because it hurts so much. Am I insane? (Don’t answer that.)
The way I act today is a direct result of the events in earlier times of my life, most notably when I was most impressionable as a child. There are stories to tell, just not today. Some wounds never really heal and some stories need time to see the light of day and some have to wait.
From an early age I was driven. My family joked about all the crazy business ideas I had growing up. I was an entrepreneur before I knew the word existed. I still need to look up how to spell entrepreneur.
Self deprecation is a powerful speaking device to gain acceptance. Rarely do I make someone else the butt of my jokes. I expose my failures frequently as a learning tool for me, but also as a learning tool for you. Success is a poor teacher. Showing someone else’s failures never has the punch of exposing your own. It also allows people a peek inside my life to see it isn’t all glory as it sometimes appears to people who don’t know me well.
Frequently I refer to my writing as “hack”. I guess it is a matter of opinion. This blog has received accolades for the writing and editors and agents have requested to the point of demanding I turn over a recently written work for consideration for publication. Rare is the instance when I do. Publishing here is easier because I don’t have much time to think about what I wrote before hitting the “Publish” button. I love writing fiction, but what if my fiction sold well? I’d have to keep writing more! I have it in me; the stories that is, but the time necessary to do it right is another story. (Doing it “right” by my definition.)
So I run like all those before me. It is a natural response. A human response. To run from pain. To run from the devils haunting my mind.
And Now We Talk about You
I see you cowering in the corner, kind reader. Yes, I know what you are going through. I have felt your pain, your anguish. I see the worn soles of your shoes, worn from all the running. I see you struggle and fight for acceptance. I see you struggle and fight to achieve your goals.
How many goals did you already conquer? What did you do once the goal was achieved? Made another goal! Financial independence is NOT enough. I get it. FI is so easy in our modern world it is almost a laughable joke. Ten to fifteen years is all it takes if you are serious. The newsfeeds are riddled with people retiring by age 30 or soon thereafter. It’s almost like you failed if you haven’t broken seven figures in your index fund by 35. What have you been doing with your life?
FI is not a goal! It’s a situation. Your savings rate drives your FI date. Period. FI is not something you do; it’s something you want; it’s something that is. No more. People say they are FI like it is a person. It isn’t anymore than poor is a person. It is a state of being.
You see, Steve Jobs, the guys at Imagine Dragons and your favorite accountant are not unique. We have pain just as you do. That thing you did as a child that ended up with someone hurt still haunts you. Nobody probably even remembers it anymore other than you.
Too many children are abused. Why does one child crumble under the weight of abuse and another climbs the highest mountain and keeps climbing to the sun? The answer is here (pointing to my temple).
Every faux pas is not a disaster. Your brain sometimes interprets it that way. Something you did 30 years ago still haunts and drives you. The driving part is okay if it isn’t excessive and harming your health. The haunting needs to go, however.
How you deal with your pain determines how healthy and well-adjusted you are. You made a mistake. So what! I have news for you. You will make more! Many more! I know it is cruel to say it, but it is true. You will, with the best of intentions, fail. The alternative is to crawl under a rock and wait for the Grim Reaper. Not much of a choice.
An Inside Look
This post started as a very, very dark listing, indeed. I started writing notes a few days ago and the notes extended longer than the actual post would be. And it was dark. It was so depressing I started walking to the barn with a rope it was so bad. It was the wrong message I wanted to send.
Many times I know where I want a post to end. In this case my dark post had a happy ending, but it was too short on happiness and hope compared to 1,500 words of dire. Even the ending dripped with pain.
After thinking about it for a few days I found a way to convey the message in the manner I wanted. I hope you agree it was worth the extra effort. The ending I have in my notes is too important to leave on the cutting floor. Here are the final words I had originally planned without edit. I hope they move you as they did me:
Your pain and failures will make you better if you allow them. But they must not consume you. At some point you must let go of the pain. It is okay to relax. The monster will take a break when you stop. When you are ready to run some more, the monsters will renew its pursuit.
I am so tired. So are you. It is time to stop running. To rest. You have already made it. There is nothing left to prove. And after your nap, when your energy is renewed you can RUUUUUN!!!
Here is to all the losers of the world. No matter how high we fly we will never reach the sun. So we fly harder and harder until death gives us the peace we always dreamed of.
The best way to learn is by studying the best. Experience has value as long as it also has a foundation in knowledge. Reinventing the wheel again and again is a fool’s errand and not conducive to personal development.
Studying the best takes many forms. Working for someone at the top of their game is the best way to learn, but the opportunities to do so are limited. Formalized education communicates facts without always presenting the best in your selected field. The number one way to learn from the masters is to study them through intense research of their work. The greatest minds are available like never before. YouTube videos of their speeches and books and news articles on their practices give us massive quantities of material to learn from.
Today we will focus on a simple story shared by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s friend and right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway.
Tell Me a Story
Munger gave a talk to the USC Business School in 1994 where he shared a story Buffett told when lecturing at business schools. Here are the exact words Munger used:
When Warren lectures at business schools, he says, “I could improve your ultimate financial welfare by giving you a ticket with only 20 slots in it so that you had 20 punches—representing all the investments that you got to make in a lifetime. And once you’d punched through the card, you couldn’t make any more investments at all.”
He says, “Under those rules, you’d really think carefully about what you did and you’d be forced to load up on what you’d really thought about. So you’d do so much better.”
Buffett’s story is about more than investing; it’s about life. People buzz around trying to do everything and end up doing poorly in each endeavor. Investors trade stocks like baseball cards; people buy home after home believing they are moving up with each new personal residence; employees keep moving from job to job looking for more . . . ; business owners search for new clients endlessly.
Around here we encourage index fund investing. It’s a perfect way to set it and forget. That counts as one punch on the 20-slot card. I have a mad money account where I invest a small portion of my liquid net worth. The account only has a handful of stocks. By limiting how many companies I own I spend more time researching those companies and evaluating their prospects.
I also make incredibly stupid mistakes and pay the inevitable price for such mental lapses. In the late 80s and 90s I was in a partnership with my dad and brother. We bought real estate. A lot of real estate. By the time we were done we had 176 properties to consume our lives. Actually, my dad and brother were not involved so “I” had 176 properties to consume “my” life. I punched my 20-slot card 176 times!
Lack of focus hurt results. I had properties spread out over a 200 mile radius. Multiple property managers were involved. We had the money so we kept on buying. And selling.
Eventually I experienced burnout. The fun, even the desire for profit on it, was gone. The buying stopped and the selling accelerated until there were no more properties. The partnership was done. Countless hours yielded a good, but not great, return. The lust for more for more’s sake cost dearly. Lesson learned. Kind of.
What could I have done better? The money was there and so were the opportunities. Burnout could have been avoided. If I would have heard Buffett’s advice back then it would have saved me from plenty of pain.
The 20-slot rule applies to more than stock investing. Rather than buy so many single-family homes I should have bought fewer multi-unit properties. I toyed with the idea at the time. I reviewed a serious number of apartment complexes and commercial properties. The numbers were compelling. In many cases the profit potential was higher than anything I could earn with my current mix of investment properties. The reason why I decided to pass on multi-unit buildings was because it would be harder to sell such properties and would likely take longer as well since fewer buyers were in the multi-unit market.
If Munger were standing beside me he would have smacked me up behind the head. I can hear him say, “Idiot. Think like an accountant!”
Warren Buffet says you should buy a stock as if the stock market will be closed for five years. The point again is to focus on the investment and invest for the long haul. I didn’t buy fewer large value buildings because it would be harder to sell them. I acted like real estate should be day-traded. SMACK!
The missed opportunities are only talked about now. My choices when I ran LuK Enterprises cannot be changed. It’s in the history books. At least I learned my lesson. Right?
Thinking like an Accountant
This blog is about teaching people to think like an accountant. You would think an accountant with decades of experience could communicate such a message with clarity. You would also think said accountant would walk the talk. Welcome to my fantasy world.
I share my failures in business (and sometimes in life) because that is where the opportunities to learn exist. Plenty of successes brought me to this place. Bragging about the times I knocked it out of the park would waste both our times.
Sometimes a 20-slot card is too many slots and other times too few. For example: In my practice I have more than 20 clients. Most businesses require more than 20 clients to be viable and to reduce risk. One client should not determine the success of a company.
As my business has grown over the years and with this blog, I find myself saying “no” to new clients more often. My practice is small for a reason. I enjoy the work. Expanding to additional locations would not make me happier. Quite the opposite. More locations and more clients would reduce the relationships I have with my current clients. A thousand clients is too many at times already.
My 20-slot card has only one slot when it comes to marriage. Two slots would be too many for me. Even my dating card had fewer than 20-slots. I dated fewer than five women in my life. Two received more than one date and only one became my wife.
I never understood the idea of dating a large number of people to find Mr. or Mrs. Right. The answer is obvious when speaking with a potential mate before it ever gets to the first date. If the answer is obvious, why invest the time? You are not dating to see if this person is right for you; you are dating for the opportunity for a piece of ass. Be honest. You know it’s true.
There is no guarantee a mate will work out. Divorce happens for a variety of reasons. If a young lady doesn’t fit my vision of a life mate we can still talk and be friends. All the emotional baggage is eliminated before it is ever created.
Most people take whatever comes their way in interpersonal relationships. I am no fan of luck. I actively sought out Mrs. Accountant. I would come to the table with a one-slot card and was darn careful about punching that slot.
None of this guarantees success. Limiting the number of stocks you buy, researching to the nth degree an investment does not guarantee it will work as planned. But you do increase the odds by magnitudes of order it will.
Buffett has owned more than 20 stocks in his life. The 20-slot rule is not hard and fast. It is a metaphor to remind you to spend more time focusing on fewer projects.
Focusing on a narrow group of projects is the only way to maximize profits or pleasure. When I find a good company I keep adding to it. Index funds should be the bulk of more people’s investments. It’s an awesome idea so you can comfortably keep adding to the pile whenever funds are available.
In my practice I add clients selectively. Opening new offices and expanding rapidly might work as long as I accept the greater risks of growing my type of company to such proportions. When there is room I add to an already successful business model. It works and it is profitable.
Even in my marriage I keep adding to the one investment I have made. Having an affair or spreading it around is of no interest to me. There is no doubt I would NOT be happier playing the field or searching for something better.
At the risk of sounding cold, I am not looking for the absolute best stock on the exchange; I’m looking for one I can live with for a lifetime.
My marriage is the same way. I never intended to find the perfect person I would be most compatible with. Heck, she probably lives in Timbuktu. It’s not going to happen. I found someone, Mrs. Accountant, who I knew I could enjoy a lifetime with. No need to punch 8,304 slots on the dating card to come to that conclusion.
Or you can keep chopping your 20-slot card to bits in an attempt to find the ultimate investment or mate. But be warned; you will not be happy with what you get.
Tax season is over. The long days and endless weeks are finally at an end. It’s time for a nap.
In my younger days I also ran long stretches with limited sleep. Farming is intense during spring planting and autumn harvesting; college was late night studying or visiting with friends; and now taxes provide me with twelve weeks of unrelenting work each year.
Society idolizes people who run with limited amounts of sleep. It is a badge of honor to pound your mind and body mercilessly and do it with lack of sleep.
As tax season clawed toward the finish line my performance was no longer acceptable. The amount of work I completed was down and concerns over accuracy started to pop up. Nobody can perform at peak while fighting fatigue and lack of sleep. Nobody.
I call these bursts of hyper activity “marathon runs”. Tax season is my current annual marathon run. It appeals to me because I have manic depression and I learned a long time ago autumn is a bad time and springtime is power time. It was a natural fit. The disease doesn’t always cooperate, but I have learned to control it enough to use it to my benefit.
Yet, the risks of long hours without sleep are a real problem. Lack of sleep is a leading cause of transportation accidents. Even if you read the news poorly you have heard stories of airline pilots, ship captains, train conductors and barges in catastrophic disasters due to lack of sleep. Doctors frequently perform surgery in the morning for a reason. Only emergency surgery is performed later in the day.
The Evidence is In
You don’t have to look any further than this blog to see first-hand the effects of sleep deprivation. With tax season over I can finally get some sleep. One eight-hour night of sleep does not make up for all the lost hours over the preceding months.
I am always tired this last week, even more so than when I was working. I get up and then take a morning nap. Once you reach that deep and are that over-tired it has consequences. Slowly my body returns to normal.
In 2011 I published a short piece on a content farm about living on 4 hours of sleep per day. I had convinced myself I was one of those special people who could live on almost no sleep and still function at a high level. While it is true each individual needs a specific amount of sleep—some more, some less—most people require 7 to 9 hours per day. It doesn’t have to come at one time or all at night either. An afternoon nap can be a powerful part of your sleep pattern.
Then there is the delusion. You need look no further than this blog for a prime example of how sleep deprivation affects cognitive thinking. A few weeks back I allowed a guest post which turned out to be a scam. The warning signs of sleep deprivation were in full flower. Still, I trudged on to the tax due date. Now, with tax season over and a few more hours sleep, you would think my mental capacity would quickly return to normal. It’s not that simple.
Friday’s blog post had all the hallmarks of a sleep deprived person struggling to recover from a marathon run. The story was solid and the information valuable, but I wrote a shorter piece with too much profanity. I was puffing up the story. Worse, over the weekend I edited some of the profanity out and tightened the story and noticed multiple glaring grammar and spelling errors. My editing skills were affected more than the writing process itself. I couldn’t even see my own mistakes!
Sleep deprivation allows you to think everything is okay when it is not. “I’m good,” you say when it is painfully apparent you are impaired.
Clients get upset when I refuse to set appointments the week after tax season ends. What they don’t understand is how badly I need rest.
Everybody want me, and only me, because they think I have some magic when it comes to taxes because I write a blog and speak around the country on the subject. Well, I am good at what I do, but no matter how good I am, there is a limit to what one human being can do before serious health consequences arise.
I need sleep and I bet you do too. You are no good to anyone, much less yourself, when you are running on fumes. Peak performance never comes after a marathon run.
But who hasn’t had an all-nighter? Me, for one. As much as I reduce sleep at times, I still don’t engage the legendary all-nighter. Been close a few times.
We all reduce sleep occasionally when we are doing something we really like. The late night party or a good book you can’t put down until 3:30 in the morning are examples of short-term sleep deprivation that works. The fatigue isn’t too bad the next day. It doesn’t take much of a leap to start deceiving yourself you can handle living with less sleep.
Trouble starts as soon as you do. Health.com recently ran an article on the benefits of adequate sleep. Several struck close to home for me. Better memory, longer life, more creativity, less stress and a healthy weight were all connected to appropriate sleep levels. These are important things to me and I bet they are to you too.
Yahoo Beauty recently discussed the same issues as they relate to appearance. Ladies, if you want to look younger, more alive, vibrant, get eight hours of sleep each day! You know this is true. You can point out a sleep deprived waitress from a mile away without knowing anything about the person. It shows on her face. Given enough years of sleep deprivation and you will show additional years of wear and tear on your face too. Is there a better argument for more sleep?
Okay, I understand I am preaching to the choir. I have sleeping issues, admittedly. When I try to sleep sometimes I can’t. It come and goes.
Success is important to me. I enjoy running my tax practice, serving my clients and sharing ideas here on this blog and with audiences wherever they will have me. Successful people sleep.
Contrary to my 2011 article chronicling important people who live/lived with only modest amounts of sleep, successful people sleep. A lot.
Jeff Bezos turned Amazon into the massive company it is while making eight hours of sleep a day a priority. Many business owners feel it is a badge of honor to run and keep running non-stop day in and day out. The relentless drive is all they know about success. It ends poorly. Heart attacks and questionable business decisions blanket business news. A few years back investments banking firms got in trouble when an intern died from lack of sleep working the job without rest or time off. Clue people: that is NOT success; that is torture! Stop torturing yourself.
Back in July of 2015 Ryan Holiday, a writer I admire and enjoy reading, wrote a piece on sleep. It’s short and to the point. I recommend you read it.
Holiday talked about how he found time to read so much and quickly made it clear it wasn’t sitting up all night. He went a step further and said ample sleep is what allows him to be a prolific writer and reader.
You can imagine how this sat with your favorite accountant. My love of reading was front and center. I could read more and enjoy it better if I had a good night’s sleep. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote: So it goes.
Secrets to a Good Night of Sleep
My mind races. Ideas are always pouring out of me. It never stops.
Over-the-counter and even prescription sleep medications carry the risk of dependence. Worse, if you are like me, they don’t work well or for an extended period of time. The only way to sleep is to turn off the kaleidoscope of voices demanding to get out.
Melatonin might be the sole exception to the medication rule. This naturally occurring substance is produced by the brain to facilitate sleep. Many people find blissful rest using melatonin. I am not one.
An active mind is not a bad thing. The ability to turn it off is important, however, if you plan on keeping your level of creativity and performance high.
If you haven’t heard before, I’ll briefly say now: stay away from bright lights, TV, computer screens! smartphone screens! (yes, those exclamation points were intentional) and similar activities prior to nap time. You don’t need the phone by the bed. The President is not calling you. And if someone has died and you are not known for performing resurrections, voice mail can handle it. The body will still be there in the morning.
Reading a book can help you relax. But if you are like me and become engrossed in books easily, this can backfire. Regardless, reading is a great way to unwind the body, preparing your mind for slumber.
Meditation is the most powerful tool to encourage sleep. The last half-hour prior to retiring to bed it is a good idea to sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. This practice will help clear the mind of racing thoughts. When thoughts try to break in, let them. And then quietly ask them to take a seat to the side where you will deal with them the next day. Return your focus to each breath.
God knows I have put a lot on my plate at times and sometimes others have had a hand in it too. Each night before bed and each morning before starting my day are reserved for quiet meditation. Sometimes I reflect on the previous day or plan out my thoughts. Always return to focus on your breathing.
Thinking about issues important to you or upsetting you are best handled in the quiet contemplation of meditation. Ten minutes should be enough most days. Sometimes, when the world crashes in, you need more time to order your thoughts and prepare for sleep. Take as much time as you need.
We are not gods, people, as much as we sometimes like to think we are. In the three major monotheistic religions of the planet God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. You are not better than God. You need your sleep if you want a long, happy life filled with meaningful activities.
You are only truly awake when you first have adequate, deep, nourishing sleep.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take a nap.
A reader of The Wealthy Accountant recently offered me lunch. I have a weakness when it comes to food. Offer me a free meal and I am virtually a prostitute.
I accepted the offer of lunch for three reasons: 1. He is a local reader; 2. He asked nicely; 3. He wanted to discuss quitting his current job and starting a bookkeeping business as a side hustle. The last point is what got me. A local guy who wants to do bookkeeping is also a guy I might build a strategic alliance with to handle some of my bookkeeping work.
As we talked I shared stories like I do here. Eventually I got to a story I like to tell a lot, but failed to mention on this blog so far. I am not sure where to fit it in, but the story is so powerful it needs sharing. So I decided a story about making a list would be perfect for the Christmas holiday.
I Was Home
There is an old sitcom called Night Court. For those of you who don’t remember the show, it is about a night court presided over by Judge Harry Stone. Stone is an oddball, joking and playing around while using unusual methods to help defendants.
In the first episode members of the court complain about Stone’s first day on the job. Dan, the prosecuting attorney, asked how Stone ever got appointed to the bench. Judge Stone said it was a funny story how he got the job. You see, he said, it was Sunday and the mayor’s last day in office and they needed a judge. My name was on the bottom of a 1,000 name list of potential judges for the opening. They started calling the first name on the list, then the second, and so on. It was Sunday so no one was home. Finally they got to the bottom of the list and . . .
The court clerk, Lana, was incredulous. She muttered, You mean you were appointed judge because . . . She paused.
I was home, Judge Stone said with a smile.
The audience laughed. I thought it was profound and nobody got it. To make the point, Judge Stone later said to Lana when she was offended by how Stone got appointed: Think of me what you want. My name was the last on that list, but it was on that list.
That is the story of life. It doesn’t matter if your name is the last on the list as long as you are on that list. As a business owner I see people go through all the work and then never show up for a job interview. Every year a handful of people never pick up or file their tax return. The work is all done and in many cases a refund is due if they file. After three years the tax return is out of stat and the refund is lost. It blows my mind.
We are all on the list! Like me, most of us are somewhere near the bottom of that list. But so many people higher on the list are not home or refuse to answer the phone and fail by default.
That is where my reader buying me lunch comes in. He sent an email and expected nothing. He caught me at the right time so I said yes. He was on the list. The last name, no doubt. But he was still on the list. He knew my schedule was tight and getting me to have lunch was a long shot.
This blog exists because I was on a list. The Wealthy Accountant was rolling around in my head for years. I secured the url years ago, but never put it together. Getting traffic to a personal finance (PF) or tax blog is a tall order. There are a lot of them out there. PF bloggers make the same mistake restaurant owners make. Restaurant owners mistakenly think running a restaurant should be an easy way to make money. When they walk into my office with the idea they tell me everyone has to eat. I try to temper the excitement by replying: Everyone needs to eat, but they don’t need to eat at your restaurant. In truth, the restaurant business is brutal!
I wasn’t in the mood to make the same mistake. Sure, everyone loves money and could use solid tax and financial advice, but they don’t have to get it from me. There are a gazillion other resources to choose from.
I also did not make the mistake assuming prior writing and blogging success would automatically translate into success at The Wealthy Accountant. The workload on this blog would be higher by magnitudes of order than with previous blogs or writing projects. This blog requires me to expose my personal values and weaknesses. It isn’t easy exposing yourself to the world at large. (I could make a legal joke here, but modesty forbids.)
How I Was Home
This blog owes its existence to Mr. Money Mustache. Arguably the best PF blogger out there, he also has one of the largest, if not “the” largest, following of any PF blogger. Many accountants over the years tried to land Pete as a client. In case you missed it in the past, I’ll repeat how it happened here.
My goal was to build a partnership with Pete on a business idea. I attended a conference held in his honor in Seattle with the idea of meeting Pete and sharing the idea. Since I would be at the conference anyway I asked the facilitators if I could give a tax presentation. They agreed. Before I had a chance to introduce myself to Pete he attended my presentation. Fifteen minutes in, he interrupted me and stated I was his accountant. The rest is history.
Let me make something clear. I am not the smartest, best, or biggest tax guy on the planet. I am at the top of the list in tenacious, however. Smart people frequently outsmart themselves when trying to reach a goal or when building a relationship with clients. Pete had many accountants try what I succeeded at. There were subtle differences, I am sure, but at the end of the day I got the call and answered because I was home.
Life is a series of lists. Unlike Judge Stone, everyone is on these lists. Like Judge Stone, we are many times are at or near the bottom.
As we head into a new year, think about the lists you are on intentionally. Working toward early retirement or financial independence is really just a list you chose to be on. Every time you make a contribution to your retirement account you are answering the phone. You are home.
Plans of traveling the world are the same. You put yourself on a list and now are working toward the goal. Plans to start a business or work you do when in business are all lists.
It is the holiday season so I will keep this short. You don’t need more examples or stories on this. Just remember to answer the phone when it rings.
Buying a car is like marriage to me; it is until death do us part. So far she has been the one dying and I remain to keep the memories alive. In 2009 I bought a 2007 Toyota Camry from the local credit union to help them clean up a bad loan. I have never had serious problems, but periodically I have to invest a bit into the vehicle so the ‘ol girl makes it to 20. The Camry had one of those days.
The exhaust pipe broke near the head next to the catalytic. The metal was too thin to weld so replacement was the only option. My neighbor across the road (how convenient living out in the country), Roger, has a lift in his garage and handles most minor repairs for me. I still change the oil so I can brag this accountant gets his hands dirty now and again.
The replacement part had the cat in it so it wasn’t going to be cheap. I went over the O’Reilly Auto Parts for the replacement. It set me back $184. Roger charged me $25 to change it. I knew it was going to be a bit more than a simple muffler repair. When I picked up the section of exhaust pipe the kindly clerk asked me if I was a member of their rewards club. I said I was now. It works like this: for every $150 you spend they send you a $5 coupon for a future purchase.
I’m a sucker for that crap. But when I really think about it for a minute I realize how much a waste it really is. I don’t buy stuff at O’Reilly’s that often. The only way to use the coupon is to run over there for oil and a filter before the coupon expires. All for $5. I charge $120 per hour minimum for my time at the office. I average just under $340 for every hour I actually work at the office. (I don’t work that much.) Even if it is a slow day and I only turn $200 per hour, my time is worth over $3 per minute. How much is that $5 coupon worth now?
And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut said. Mrs. Accountant sits at the kitchen table clipping coupons and testing products for surveys for some side change. She wants to feel she is contributing to the household finances. She doesn’t understand how valuable she is to me regardless the coupon clipping or product testing.
Mrs. Accountant is not alone in such foolish endeavors. I like to handle certain projects around the farm and at the office myself. How much money do I really save changing my own oil? Roger charges me ten bucks (I have to buy the oil and filter). He does it faster and cheaper than I ever can. I convince myself it is a good expenditure of time because I am not working at the office so I may as well do something that saves money. And it is the prime reason I am not richer; it is the prime reason I don’t help more clients. I spend too much time fucking around on projects I have no business doing in the first place. My free time is worth as much as my work hour rate! Free time is important time to recharge and refresh; time to grow the relationship with Mrs. Accountant and my girls. But at least I saved $10. Right?
People spend too much time crying about money when they need to focus on their strengths. I’m pretty good at earning money; I’m also tight with money so there is a stickiness between money and me. I’m not so good as an auto mechanic. I have ramps so I can crawl under the car and pull the plug. What if those ramps ever failed? I would be killed or worse over $10. Do they have a medicine for that level of stupidity? Doubtfully.
The $10 spending spree to pay someone to change the oil does not affect my financial situation one bit. In fact it makes it worse because I am focusing my time on a weakness. A short consult with a client during the same time the oil is changed would yield 20 times more wealth.
The line becomes blurred as the activities change. Some people steal (yes, steal) soap from hotels. Vacation time is an opportunity to fill the soap drawer back home. Jesus fucking Christ people! The last several years I have earned 8% interest guaranteed from banks around town on up to $50,000 at a time. Every bank with a bonus offer had your favorite accountant enjoying a FREE cup of coffee and opening an account. One day after the bonus period ended I went back and got my money. Yes, I know that is $4,000 per year, but the full $50,000 wasn’t always invested as there were a varying number of banks with offers at any one time. The amount of time I spent dicking around opening accounts and closing them for what ended up as no more than $2,500 per year was a fool’s errand.
My sanity has returned. Sort of. I have given up on the idea of sticking it to the banks and their bonus programs. I’m still a sucker for a credit card bonus, but the time involved is small and I rarely cancel a card. I don’t sign up for as many cards as I once did. I carry two with me and another dozen reside in the sock drawer with other assorted personal possessions. The card I always use pays 2% back on everything. Story over. Time to live life.
It’s not just about money either. All this stupid stuff takes time. Because we have employers (or are a motivated business owners) we keep the coupon clipping and other crazy stuff to our personal time. While Roger is fixing the Camry I will not be on the phone with a client. I stuck around and helped (if Roger reads this don’t believe a word he said about me standing around the entire time with my hands in my pockets). Between busted knuckles we talked. You know neighbors used to do that kind of thing.
Filling our down time with tasks destroys happiness. Everyone needs downtime to recharge. Not every second of every day needs to be filled with productive labor. It is okay to read a book, watch a movie, and make small talk with the wife. AAHHHHHHH! Yes, you must talk with your wife. She is a nice lady if you ever got to know her.
When was the last time you had a beer with a neighbor? When was the last time you snuggled your wife. . . for hours? When was the last time you sat quietly alone in a room doing nothing, only you and your thoughts? Yeah, I thought so.
Friday night is cards for your favorite accountant. I play sheepshead with family and neighbors. As a bunch of old codgers, we don’t play late. My youngest daughter likes to sit behind one of the neighbors and watch him play. The memories created on Friday night will make us smile a lifetime and one of the experiences every one of us will hold fondly on our death bed.
Turning Failure into Success
You are a failure because you focus on the unimportant. Financial independence is not built on 30 cent coupons. Yes, Mrs. Accountant still uses coupons, but a hell of a lot fewer than in the past. Most grocery coupons are for processed food we should not eat anyway. Mrs. Accountant loves testing products and reporting her results. It makes her happy so I support her efforts. The $250 or so a month she earns testing said products is not a productive use of time unless it brings happiness. It is not a real moneymaker. If she did anything else it would earn more.
Elon Musk is so hyper focused on his businesses and ideas there is no time for a personal life. People like Musk create the world we live in with their products and services. I am okay with that. Most of us don’t possess the ability to be so driven. Most business owners live their business, but still need down time to maintain good health.
Yet, we all try to act like Elon Musk, filling our days with stuff to do. We fail because what we focus on is unimportant time wasters. A free second waiting in line causes fidgeting. Soon the Mister Spoke tricorder, aka, the smartphone, comes out. Gotta check the time, email, and news. God forbid we have more than nine seconds without mental stimulation.
You can turn failure into success. Money is not the indicator; happiness and satisfaction are. When you sacrifice time with your significant other and kids to save $10 changing the oil in the car you need your head examined.
Instead of wasting time saving a few dollars, educate yourself to earn more. Improve your investing skills by learning how great investors like Warren Buffett control their emotions during market turmoil. Time is your most precious commodity. You get the same exact (notice the redundancy in my writing here) amount of time as the greatest men and women in our society. Bill Gates revolutionized the world with his software and had no more time available to him than you do. So why the difference in results? I can tell you one thing. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t make his money Facebooking all day. He did it by building Facebook. When you learn the difference you will start living a significant life with plenty of money.
Money doesn’t make you happy so success is not measured by the size of your Vanguard account. I know plenty of people with eight figure net worth’s so unhappy they contemplate suicide. I know happy, well-adjusted people with very little money. It is all between the ears, my friend.
Failure and success are measured by how you live your life. For some reason, people who live life right always seem to accumulate enough money to satisfy their needs and more. When you get greedy things tend to head south fast. Stop checking your email all day; same applies to social media and news. If you are a business owner stop selling to every person you meet. It’s annoying. As an accountant people want to ask me tax questions at inappropriate times. For example, while standing at the urinal is not the time to ask me about your required distributions from your IRA. I’m just saying. If I lose my concentration I might piss on your shoe. What I am trying to say is: turn it off. I am as guilty as hell on this, too, so go ahead and rub it in. An hour is not enough. The world will not end if you take a few days off here and there. Trust me. (Nothing ever goes wrong when someone says, “Trust me.”)
The most productive, successful, and happy people know how to separate work from play. They know how to come home and unwind. Happiness is not another $10 in your pocket. Happiness is handing Roger $10 to change the oil in your car and catching up with him on family news.
If you are failing in life, if you are not living the life you want, then maybe this post explains why. Focus on the important. Anything is possible when you believe. Start thinking big. You can do this. It is too important not to. Your family—your children, for Christ’s sake—depend on you. They need you; quality time with you. Kids could give two shits if you worked more overtime for more stuff. The time spent together playing cards or throwing ball are gifts they will never forget. If you enjoy changing the oil in your car at least bring junior along and have some bonding time while you work on the car.
There is so much more I have to say on this. Maybe later. I have a $5 coupon in my email with an expiration date and the Camry is due for an oil change.
More Wealth Building Resources
Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?
Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.
Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.
QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.
A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.
Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you very much!
I received an ARC from Jason Navallo, author of American Dream: Interviews with Industry-Leading Professionals. As I suspect with most personal financial bloggers, I get an above average number of requests to review books in advance. Most get put to the side for a later reading, if I get to them at all. American Dream caught my eye because Navello asked politely if I would review the book and he provided a small amount of background in the initial email.
What intrigued me from the beginning is the interview format with six very successful professionals from a variety of unrelated fields. I am a sucker for success stories so I made time to read the book. It blew my mind! American Dream is not a long book which is a good thing because I could not put it down. Navallo used a simple format with each professional. He started by asking each professional interviewed to providing some background on their early life and how they came to lead in the industry they are in. Depending on the path the interview took, he would explore unique characteristics to each professional’s path to success. He ended each interview by asking about their belief in the Power of Attraction, favorite quotes, favorite books, best lesson in life, the key to success, and if they believed the American Dream was dead. The answers surprised me.
Meet the Professionals
Six professionals were interviewed: four men, two women. The interviews begin with Peter Mallouk, the president and chief investment officer of Creative Planning, a firm that manages over $20 billion. Part of this interview branched into investment advice. Readers of this blog will find Mallouk’s interview a great way to start American Dream as it applies to all our personal lives. And, of course, investment planning and personal finance largely overlap.
The next interviewee is Ben Caballero. I know a lot of you people around here love owning real estate. Want to get excited? Caballero sold 2,491 homes worth over $1 billion in 2015 alone! I refuse to break my calculator out and figure how much that is each day; it is too awesome to get my arms around. To top it off, Caballero has over 20,000 lifetime sales worth in excess of $6 billion! Caballero shares his story of how he became such a massive producer. I bet you will be as glued as I was to his story.
Then we turn to B.J. Armstrong. To say Armstrong enjoys basketball is like saying I might like an ice cream. Yes, I like ice cream! Armstrong’s interview is unique in the group. The entire interview is like a pep talk from one of the greatest coaches of all time. He is a passionate and powerful motivator. His style of speaking is also unique. He uses repetition in a way that drills the message into your brain. An intelligent and hard working man you want to read.
Shelly Sun is the first of two women interviewed. Sun is the CEO of Bright Star Care ®. Of all the interviews this one has the lowest tone as you would expect from the leader of a healthcare staffing company. After the first three interviews it was nice to know you could reach massive levels of success without being so high-strung.
I was surprised to see Scott Gerber on the list. From my tax practice I know how profitable bars can be, but this guy takes it to a level I never saw before. All the perceptions of what bar ownership means goes out the window. Gerber runs Gerber Group like a business, the way it should be. Gerber Group currently has 14 venues with somewhere around $50 million in annual sales. How is your tavern doing? You might want to read what Gerber has to say.
Finally, we end with Liz Elting. Elting is in the communications business and the co-founder of TransPerfect. She started her business in 1992 and now revenues exceed half a billion dollars annually! Her business translates languages for legal firms and corporate customers. Her path to an uber-successful, world leading firm is different from most. She is well traveled and saw large parts of the world at a young age.
Different Paths to the Same Endgame
Predicting the path taken to achieve success is impossible as the six successful business leaders listed above attest. Their backgrounds are varied. None inherited a massive nest egg or already viable business; they did it all on their own.
Even their answers to what they considered success varied. Armstrong said he doesn’t need goals while Elting said she is “incredibly goal-oriented”, keeping both long and short-term goals in written form. Some focused on the numbers while Shelly Sun talked a lot about relationships with people they care for.
The one thing throughout the book is how motivational it was. I wanted to get up and get something done with the turn of each page. Everyone interviewed is hyper-productive; they get a lot done in a short period of time and use the extra time to take it to the next level. These professionals filled me with excitement.
At a time when we hear how America has lost its touch or businesses can’t grow or pay their employees more, we see six people who are doing it in a massive way. Business is hard on a good day. These people do it on a scale we reserve for a select few household names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, or Warren Buffett. For every Elon Musk making the news, a hundred more unsung heroes are doing that and more, building a better American and a greater future. It is about people and these six professionals make that point clear.
Each offered different quotes to live by, and books they would recommend you read. The path to success was different for each and both men and women made the list. Hard work and long hours were a common thread with each one, but all also noted they cut their hours after the initial start-up phase of their company and now have a more balanced life with family, friends, and community.
The most humbling part of this book is the answer each gave to the question: Is the American Dream dead? They all answered no, without a doubt. And I agree. Our best days are in front of us. We have only begun to do great things.
This is why I heartily recommend you purchase and read American Dream: Interviews with Industry-Leading Professionals by: Jason Navallo. The book just came out on Amazon as an e-book. It currently lists at $.99 and free on Kindle Unlimited, affordable for everyone and worth a thousand times more. I assume the price will increase in the near future, but should still be an awesome value. I hope you gain as much value as I did from the wise words of the leading professionals in this book.