People often ask me, as I stride the halls of power in my custom Zegna suits wove with thread of gold, how I became so rich and successful. Like David Byrne, I too ask myself, how did I get here, with my beautiful house, and my beautiful wife, and large automobile? Such thoughts bounce around my mind, but they have crystallized after reading Daymond John’s Rise and Grind. I picked this book because John is my favorite regular on Shark Tank, a show I watch intermittently, and I was bored in the airport, looking for something to read. I’m not sure I learned anything new, but I was inspired to regularize some of my thinking about my favorite topic, myself, and now I will share it with the world.
I am not a frequent consumer of this genre that might be called “business self-help”—books that revolve around business, but shade, to a greater or lesser degree, into advice for people in their daily lives. On those few occasions I read such books, usually I either hate them, or can only remember a few points, since much of what most of these books have to say is unmemorable. Thus, I loathed Charles Koch’s Good Profit, and after I read Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World, the only one of the ten didactic lessons I could remember was, no surprise to those who know me, “Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold.”
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That lust for gold is inborn. When I was four or five, I can distinctly remember having two goals, both of which I assumed I would certainly achieve. The first was to be Pope. Although this seems like a religious goal, in fact it reflects poorly on me, because my aim was not spiritual leadership, but power. In my nature I wanted to be the most powerful person of whom I was aware—and that was the Pope. If Napoleon had been alive when I was a child, I would probably have wanted to be him. (Jimmy Carter was alive, and in power, but he was not the man to inspire a budding megalomaniac.) My second goal, the one we are discussing today, was to be rich. Since my family was very not rich, the only route I ever considered was earning money through business. And I have achieved my goal, by any reasonable measure.
Well, actually, I considered one alternate path. When I told my mother my plan was to marry a rich woman, she replied that was fine, but I should remember, that a man who marries a rich woman is not a rich man, he is merely the husband of a rich woman. (I am not sure if that is original with my mother. It sounds like Oscar Wilde, but I have not run across the phrase anywhere else, and the internet does not come up with it, in a quick search.) Sill, I once asked the clerk at Tiffany if she knew any heiresses (before Tiffany started focusing on selling to the great unwashed). She demurred, probably thinking I was a creep, so I gave up. Thus, business it had to be, or nothing, after first spending some years as a lawyer.
What does any of this have to do with Rise and Grind? Quite a bit, actually. The book has one basic point, and it is same one that I have often made myself about what is necessary, before and above all else, to succeed in business. Listen closely. To be a winner, you must do two things, which, as of five seconds ago, I call the Golden Dyad. You have to work hard, and you have to get done everything that has to be done. I can hear you choke with rage, and say that is obvious, and I am wasting your time. Ah, but I will tell you why you are wrong.
The empirical reality is that at least ninety-five percent of people can’t do both of those things, and usually can’t even do one. This is partially because many people are lazy, but much more so because working hard is not just doing hard work. Rather, it consists of two elements. One is obvious. That is aggregate time spent actually working, and no, there are no shortcuts. But the second element is not obvious; it is what I call the “racetrack,” what John calls “the ideas running through your head.” Those are all the innumerable thoughts that are relevant to success in business, from to-do items to customers to bills to bookkeeping to taking the trash out to strategy, chasing each other around in a circle in your head, twenty-four hours a day. Your business must consume your mind, morning, noon, and night, and no, you cannot break this up or delegate it. Most people simply cannot do this. They lack the ability, or the will, to so focus. Actually it’s more than willed focus; it’s focusing so hard that it becomes the backdrop of existence, like breathing, not a matter of choice. Most people have to, or want to, spend time thinking about other things, like what’s for dinner or what’s on Netflix. Not someone who wants to be a successful entrepreneur.
This can be hard on others. If you’re married and don’t have spousal buy-in and support, it will probably be disastrous. My wife, who married me knowing that my grand desire was to, in her words, “build castles in the sky,” says that for the first few years after our marriage, when she saw me staring off into the distance, clearly somewhere else, she worried I was thinking about other women. Soon enough (though she helped in the business) she realized that I was, instead and always, thinking about money—by which she meant the racetrack, not cash itself. Dreaming about cash as cash doesn’t get you cash. But cash, the finish line of the racetrack, is independence, safety, and power, of which more later; accept no substitutes.
As to the second element of the Golden Dyad, getting everything done, it is a basic truth, which I cannot explain, that most people simply cannot do everything that needs to be done, immediately, without delay. As John says of himself, “I identify what needs doing, then I just get to it.” This is a function both of competence and decisiveness (it is always better to make any decision than to defer the decision; you can fix things later, on the fly, if necessary). But the vast majority of people list ten things, and do seven. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they’re afraid, or incompetent, or lazy. Beats me. Nonetheless, it is a truth universally acknowledged, or should be.
And what binds together the people John profiles in his book, more than anything else, is that they get things done. They also work hard, obsessively hard, in both senses of working. John chastises self-help gurus (read: Oprah) who say that visualizing success is the key. False: that only succeeds “if you’re willing to put in the work.” Truer words were never spoken.
The Golden Dyad is also an utter rejection of that stupid phrase, work-life balance. John quotes Nely Galán (a television executive of whom, like twelve of the fifteen famous people profiled in this book, I have never heard, which should probably tell me something). “When young people say to me, ‘Oh my God, I’m dying, trying to hold down three jobs,’ I don’t feel sorry for them. When you’re young, there is no balance, and there shouldn’t be balance. There’s plenty of time later in life for balance.” This is the also the truth. When I started as an entrepreneur, fourteen years ago, with no savings, one child, and a pregnant wife not working outside the home, I worked a second full-time job, with flexible hours, and ran various hustles to pay the bills. Similarly, John worked at Red Lobster for years after starting FUBU, as well as other side jobs, hustles, and deals, some of which worked out, some of which did not.
My own side deals and hustles were legal, certainly. But borderline ethical. For example, for six months I ran a bookcase-making business, before I started my current business. I had pretty good traffic to my website, as a result of teaching myself search engine optimization, back when it was still the Wild West and amateurs could do that. Even after I stopped making bookcases, having started my current business, I kept the website up, and redesigned it make potential customers go around in a fruitless, endless loop, searching for how to buy bookcases from me. Then I put Google ads on the site, so the most obvious way to exit, for someone looking for bookcases, was to click on the ads, for bookcases. I then drove even more traffic to the site by other dubious actions, like spamming Craigslist. I made $50,000, and that money fed my family. Clever me.
That wasn’t the only ethical line I sliced thin. When I started my current business (basically packaging liquids), I had no customers. I got one customer to sign on—contingent on my showing, within a certain time frame, that I could do the work. I ran out of time, able to complete “pilot” batches of only half the required products. I struggled with the others; I wasn’t sure I could do them. But rather than admit defeat, I went to retail stores, bought the customer’s current offerings, opened the packages, repackaged them, and sent them to the customer as my own work. (I called these “special batches.”) I kept the contract. (The irony is that the customer’s only comments about needed improvements were from the special batches, not the ones I had actually done.) Would I do it again? You bet.
Or, to take another example, I wanted, or rather desperately needed, to find more customers. Databases of thousands of potential customers, with decisionmaker names and titles, were available, organized by Standard Industrial Classification code. But they were very expensive, and I had no money. So I tried various logins, finally finding that “student” and “test” worked as login and password—and downloaded all I wanted for free (using a VPN to hide my IP address, just in case). Those databases, used to send letters to potential customers, got me my first big customer, which made the company. Stealing? Maybe, though is it stealing to obtain a good that can be duplicated at no marginal cost to the owner, if I never would have been able to afford buying it?
All this is merely living the Golden Dyad. But you can’t make a book out of the Golden Dyad, so John dilutes the message with checklists about other matters derived from his own experience and that of the people he profiles. Some of that advice is pretty good, but it’s all secondary. The book is still worth reading, though, just to have the basic key points of hard work and accomplishment-of-everything hammered into your brain. It is also interesting that there are a variety of secondary characteristics that often, but not always, characterize successful entrepreneurs. Most of them make at least a brief appearance in this book. They exercise regularly. They are not fat. They are strong-willed. They are flexible. They get back when up when knocked down. But all these are not additions to the Golden Dyad; they are manifestations of the same underlying character traits that drive the Golden Dyad. Thus, for example, successful entrepreneurs are not usually obese, because obesity is the external evidence of lack of discipline, the same discipline necessary to focus and accomplish.
There are non-trivial costs to executing the Golden Dyad. I missed much of my older children’s very early years, and as I used to, with some exaggeration, bitterly complain to my wife, “I sold my friends for money.” John, similarly, has few amusements; he doesn’t watch Game of Thrones or do politics. He does party quite a bit, still, but his claim, which I have no reason to question, is that partying is business for him. Beyond the Golden Dyad, business approaches can differ wildly, and that is true as between John and me. I am, for business purposes, a solipsist, and my business does not require me to network or party with anyone. Nor do I have any desire to do so. For the most part, I am a ghost, and notoriously hard to actually reach except for the most important customers. You will not find me taking customers out to Colts games. John is in the image and hustle business (or rather, several of them), and that is simply a different type of business. But we are the same, down deep.
Back to the Pope. John prays, as he says several times in this book. I have to admit, I have never prayed about business. It seems greasy, somehow, to ask God to give me money. Why compound my sin of avarice with asking God to participate? That’s not to say I don’t recommend prayer; I just never made a connection between it and business. In my most recent confession (immediately prior to Eastern Orthodox chrismation), I had to cough up my love of money. Oops. Fortunately, my priest didn’t tell me to sell all that I had and give it to the poor. I’m relying on the explicitly approved example of Zacchaeus—he only gave half to the poor.
Still, entrepreneurship is not for everyone, even if you can execute the Golden Dyad and bear the costs. Some people just don’t have the personality for it. For example, most lawyers who start their careers at large law firms (i.e., the cream of the lawyer crop) embody the Golden Dyad. But by self-selected personality, they are mostly risk averse, and trained to only offer analysis and to let others weigh and make the actual decisions. If they can push themselves past those limitations, though very few can, I would put my money on such a lawyer any day as the most likely to succeed. Another debilitating personality trait is internalizing stress. The grind, in John’s word, is extremely stressful—even if you don’t face personal ruin if you fail, which most real entrepreneurs do. So if you have to take Xanax before your business even opens its doors (as a friend of mine did), you will not be a success, and you may end up eating a bullet.
The irony of all this is that all those people on the outside, who cannot or will not live the Golden Dyad, but want what it brings, and exist as wage slaves or, worse, parasites of one kind or another, rarely admit to themselves that their failure to achieve such escape velocity is their own fault. John says, along these lines, speaking of criticism of one of the people he profiles, Kyle Maynard, born with no arms or legs, “It just goes to show you that people will always find a reason to point at you and say you’ve had some sort of advantage.” The reality is that claims of “privilege,” wherever found, in business or any other area, are almost always merely an attempt by the speaker to cover up his own inadequacy. This is true in every walk of life, but most of all in entrepreneurship, where success breeds fierce envy, especially from those who know, deep down, they lack what it takes.
While the road to entrepreneurial success is always through the Golden Dyad, the reasons why entrepreneurs do what they do are not the same, and that also implies that their paths, past a certain point, diverge. Some love the process, the racetrack, the work and the accomplishment; such people often become serial entrepreneurs. Others, like me, are in it purely for the money. Those who are in it for the money may be it in for money itself, as a marker of success; those are the types who, like the fisherman in the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, keep asking for more until they are cast back to the poverty of their beginnings. Or they may be like me, in it for the money, for what the money can do.
That is to say, I don’t enjoy the racetrack, and I’d be happy to get off. In fact, I am off, mostly, even though I am still running my business, because I have an outstanding team whom I have given near total independence. But it took ten years to get even a small break from the grind, and twelve to get where I am now, able to spend whole weekends nearly without thinking about the business at all. Certainly, I have to pay some attention, to keep it growing and make sure it doesn’t go off the rails, but past a certain point most businesses have a certain degree of stability. My biggest concerns are macro concerns, with the economy or zombie apocalypses, not immediate business concerns. Those do not have a place on the racetrack.
I can hear you asking, what if you don’t succeed, even if you execute the Golden Dyad? I talk as if success is guaranteed, but that cannot be the case. Certainly, other things intervene—simple fate, inadequate talent in a chosen field, and much more. My strong belief, though, is that as long as you stay away from loser businesses like restaurants, reasonably intelligent people who can execute the Golden Dyad are highly likely, probably greater than eighty percent likely, to be a success—that is, to generate substantial, if not spectacular, wealth. But of the twenty percent, there are two distinct negative outcomes: delayed success, and actual failure.
As to the former, how long can an entrepreneur keep going if success does not appear? Quite a long time, I think. If you once begin to execute the Golden Dyad, in most cases you can keep going forever. And in fact, if you fail, you can often pick yourself up off the ground and keep going. For years, about ten percent of my racetrack was contingency plans, how to ease the creation of a totally new business if my core business failed. Whether your can bear the stress, or your family can bear the stress, of too-long-delayed success, is another question. But for some people, their pepper ship never comes in. Or their failure is so catastrophic as to prevent any resurgence. I don’t have a solution for that; sometimes life isn’t fair.
Beyond individual entrepreneurial success, it is worth mentioning that the Golden Dyad of hard work and ability to accomplish is not just a rarely found personal characteristic. It is also grossly unevenly distributed across cultures, which is why some cultures are economic (and cultural) winners, and most are losers. Ten years ago I spent a week in Shanghai, where I went all over the city. Not once did I see a single person not busily occupied in accomplishing something. Not once. If I went to Cairo, or Mexico City, or Naples, I bet I couldn’t get ten feet without seeing several people (usually men) doing nothing at all. Collectively, such actions have consequences, visible and invisible. A culture that demands, and rewards, excellence, like we used to be, is going places. The converse is also true. Get woke, go broke.
Oh, I have many more thoughts on entrepreneurship. I also have thoughts on what follows from success in entrepreneurship, including why the term “giving back” is odious and stupid. These are the core thoughts, though. And yes, I will answer questions directed to me on this topic, so feel free to ask away!
Carlyle: “A man perfects himself by working. Foul jungles are cleared away, fair seed-fields rise instead, and stately cities; and with the man himself first ceases to be a jungle, and foul unwholesome desert thereby. The man is now a man.”
> Ten years ago I spent a week in Shanghai, where I went all over the city. Not once did I see a single person not busily occupied in accomplishing something.
(I actually recently moved to Hong Kong — flying Cathay Pacific, of course — and the extremely high level of activity is surely one of my favourite things about the city.)
Great read Charles! I certainly agree with your Golden Dyad. Any talents I may have been blessed with aside, I am typically up and at the desk, working, by 3-4am every day, seven days a week. Few others are!
But I count myself in good company. Plato, in his *Laws*:
“Everyone should think it a disgrace and unworthy of a gentleman, if anyone devotes the whole of any night to sleep.”
But how much sleep do you get? I used to be a “less sleep is better” guy, but the older I get, the more I sleep what I need (seven hours). And my wife has convinced me that’s a lot better, for everyone, including children. She might disagree with Plato!
BTW, someday it will be Cathay Pacific for me too!
I actually get about seven hours myself. I’m typically in bed by 9 and am up at 3:55, but occasionally (perhaps twice a week) I find myself awake and fresh at 3, and decide to get up then. I find I tend to waste the evening hours somewhat, or am generally less productive at that time of day. But I am reliably extremely productive in the early morning hours, when nobody else is awake to distract me, so I do my best to get what I can out of them.
I more often than not supplement with a 15-20 minute nap at around 12:30pm as well, which I find to be surprisingly refreshing.
I agree that sleep is wonderful stuff (I recently re-read the Iliad and noted Homer’s repeated use of the word “sweet” to describe sleep) but I find many people stress unduly over it if they believe they don’t get enough. That doesn’t help, so I recommend they not worry — get as much as you can, but make due with what you get.
(Carlyle again: “Napier used to say, if you would be a soldier learn to sleep! Few can do it: Napoleon could. Snatch sleep whenever and wherever there is a chance.”)
Yeah, I totally agree, morning is better. Maybe I should try the nap, but I’ve never been able to nap. That said, I bet I could learn if I needed to. Hopefully not going on campaign soon, though.
Thanks for this insight Charles. I too have a similar life story, and i can concur that the keys are extreme focus and grit.
You make a point about different cultures promoting or not promoting the Dyad, particularly you mention China (promoting), Mexico, Egypt, Naples (not promoting). Have you read Sam Huntington’s “Who Are We?” He claims that the reason the US Founding Fathers did not want Roman Catholics to immigrate to the US was because Roman Catholicism contained within it a strain of poverty-admiration. Huntington says that it was only when US Roman Catholics modified their faith into an anglo-protestant version (which they did) that Roman Catholics would be acceptable for immigration.
So yes, culture matters a great deal. You might dig into why China is a culture of entrepreneurs. It’s because of Confucianism, which the CCP has honed into a very sophisticated system of Darwinian meritocracy. Contrast that with the current US society which has create vast cohorts of homo-sapien pets. A culture of Dyad is also usually a function of the environment – by which external forces press down and cause a make or break situation which sorts out the doers from the talkers. Take a stroll around the world and look at the zones with the most difficult real estate (japan, Germany, Korea, singapore, Israel) and then notice that these are also the zones with best Dyad. The US, because of its exceptional real estate, is doomed to not having the necessary environmental factors for Dyad, and therefore artificial means are required to simulate the US population into a fear factor. This is partly why the US does not offer single-payer healthcare, for example.
Thank you. Any more insight into your life story?!
I have not read (that) Huntington, though I’ve heard of it. No doubt poverty admiration is part of Roman Catholicism; I doubt if is a coincidence that much of the Scientific Revolution and all of the Industrial Revolution occurred in Protestant countries. On the other hand, I doubt the Founding Fathers thought in such terms, but I’d have to read what Huntington has to say about it.
Confucianism, as I understand it, does not necessarily encourage entrepreneurship. After all, merchants are disfavored in high Chinese culture, and always have been. Legalism, which lost out to Confucianism, would seem more compatible with entrepreneurship. I just don’t know enough to speak competently, though, on what the PRC’s policies may have to do with Confucianism, but I suspect it’s not much, whatever gloss they put on it. You might try Toby Huff’s two books that touch on China (both of which I have reviewed).
And not to be contrarian, I don’t think geography is deterministic, beyond a certain point (namely, that easy living places like the tropics never have the Dyad). England is the original location for the Dyad on a national scale (see Greg Clark), and its real estate is not difficult. Nor is Germany’s, or for that matter Japan’s. The Jews had the Dyad long before they moved to Israel, and so on. No, while elemental factors have some impact (one of Toynbee’s points), it’s secondary.
” England is the original location for the Dyad on a national scale (see Greg Clark), and its real estate is not difficult. Nor is Germany’s, or for that matter Japan’s.”
Charles, the above statement is quite wrong.
1) Germany is located on the North European Plain. It was always sandwiched between three Great Powers – France, Russia, and Austria. Because there are no natural barriers to the east and west, it can be invaded extremely easily. There is only one place in the world with worse geography than Germany (Korea). Ask yourself, why were the 30 years wars fought in Germany? Why was Germany unified so late? The constant (and realized) threat from east, west, and south is what caused Germans to become extremely efficient, and thus finally powerful enough to repel invaders. However, when Germany is strong enough to repel invaders, then all the invaders become fearful that Germany will invade them (flat open spaces work both ways), and then they all ally together to take down Germany. The history of modern Europe is a history of the continuous waxing and waning of German strength.
2) England had terrible geography for many centuries because it is a small country of limited population and limited resources with entry points at three sides (north, east, and west). The eastern entry point is extremely easy to invade with a land force. Notice that england was invaded by the Romans, the germans, the norse, the Normans, and the Francs. The only way England was able to overcome these constant sieges was to close off the west (Hiberia), close off the north (Scotland), and then play balance of power on the continent such that no continental power ever had a free hand to think about invading England from the sea. This is why England was so fixated on keeping Belgium neutral. England was able to secure its independence by leveraging its only natural resource (coal) to create a naval force that could 1) maintain balance of power on the continent, and 2) supply england with all the natural resources it needed.
3) Japan is the poster child for natural resource poverty, living next to the world’s most powerful and longest civilizational state (China). That constant threat from the mainland is what turned Japan into a martial culture. At first chance, Japan closed off China’s invasion route (korea) and then went for the resources it needed (Manchuria).
Look around the world today, which country has the most martial culture? North Korea. Why? Because its geography is at the intersection of 4 great powers (China, Russia, Japan, and the US). Most certainly the worst neighborhood in the world.
The US enjoys the best neighborhood in the world with no Great Powers anywhere near it. And so it is this security which allows for such a non-martial society (bourgeois) to develop. Think about this: the US state is controlled by Capital. It’s a Capitalist liberal democracy in which not only is there no penalty for destroying human-capital, but there is great financial-capital to be made from doing so. China, which is resource poor and surrounded by Great Powers, is a run with almost the exact same efficient meritocratic org structure as a large corporate conglomerate, where Capital is subservient to the state.
I think you have some ideological blind spots, notably because you are trained as a lawyer, making you are more inclined to be attracted to ideologies and/or grand ideas. I am trained in business and so am inclined to ignore grand ideas and ideologies. Instead i look for more pragmatic things. Geography is very much about pragmatic things. Geopolitics is pragmatic.
BTW. Check our Eric X. Li
Oh, I’m sure I have ideological blind spots. But this isn’t one of them. You can take any country or area and say it has geographic disadvantages. That’s evident from that you pick three countries and name totally disparate disadvantages. If those countries are disadvantaged, everywhere is disadvantaged.
Moreover, it’s a historically inaccurate analysis. “Germany” was not invaded at all until modern times; all wars were relatively small (even ones broader in scope, like the Thirty Years War). Invading England is actually very hard. There’s a reason Napoleon didn’t do it, or Hitler. Until the rise of oil, England was a natural resource superpower in what mattered, coal. I could pick more at this, but I don’t think we’d make much progress!
How do you reconcile your desire and pursuit of wealth with your Christianity? There are some fairly strong anti-wealth messages from Jesus. You can interpret them as being against ill-gotten wealth or wealth for its own sake or that kind of thing, but that strikes me as a bit too convenient when I try to do it.
Ah, good question. Hence the Zaccheus joke–if Jesus approved only a fifty percent cut, that’s better than giving everything away. That said, the error lies in self-interpretation of the Bible. The correct lens is that of the tradition of the Church, both in the interpretation of what Scripture says and of other activities or commands not explicitly in Scripture. Otherwise, it’s Protestants all the way down. Thus, the standard Christian interpretation since the very early years of the Church is that (a) wealth is a grave temptation and occasion of sin, but not sinful of itself; thus (b) those who are wealthy are obliged to not make it an idol AND to use it for the good of others, Christians first; and (c) the ideal life is one of poverty, and giving money away, but failing to do that is not of itself a sin.
Still, it bothers me. As it should.
You mention the “secondary characteristics that often, but not always, characterize successful entrepreneurs,” but you don’t include reading. I’ve read that very successful people, not just entrepreneurs, tend to make time for reading books. That’s in addition to the countless hours they work in order to get ahead. Maybe this is not always true. Did you read much during the early (busier) years of being an entrepreneur? What about when you were working (many hours, I assume) as a lawyer?
Regarding age, you say that “when you’re young, there is no balance, and there shouldn’t be balance.” I generally agree, but should there be enough balance to read? (Note: I have in mind books that are not related to work–e.g., about God, ancient emperors, classical conceptions of eros, etc.)
I’m not sure. John, if I remember right, says explicitly that he reads little (though he does mention some formative books, mostly of the self-help variety, especially Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich). My general reaction is that reading is not an important secondary characteristic. Empirically, most successful entrepreneurs are so totally focused on business that they have no time for outside anything, much less reading. Moreover, many don’t have the personality that is interested in reading about topics other than the ones of their focus; I personally know several like that.
I, personally, read quite little during my early years as an entrepreneur. Mostly that was mental exhaustion. I could have relaxed with fiction, I suppose, and occasionally did, but (a) wasn’t much for relaxing and (b) when I did, I mostly played online Call of Duty while drinking, which I don’t do now (whether because I don’t need the unwind or I’ve grown up I’m not sure). As a lawyer, I read somewhat more, but not nearly as much as now.
As to balance, I don’t think an entrepreneur likely to succeed, in most cases (though perhaps it depends on personality) has the extra mindspace to spend on tough topics, and I think “classical conceptions of eros” is pretty much a tough topic! My basic point is that being an entrepreneur is and must be nearly all-consuming. Perhaps not always, though–Napoleon, as I noted in my review of Andrew Roberts’s biography, could compartmentalize completely. Perhaps one can imagine an entrepreneur like that. Still, I think that is likely to undermine the chances of entrepreneurial success, just as would working 9-to-5.
My focus on reading has generally not been amusement, but deliberate self-informing in preparation for a future to be determined. That is not generally applicable, I think, though not all that uncommon. It’s not generally applicable to entrepreneurs, who more often see success as an end it itself, not something that combined with other stepping stones will lead them to something else.
I do think entrepreneurs could benefit from reading classic fiction that explains and explicates human nature. So, reading Jane Austen and Tolstoy is probably a good idea. I doubt it’s frequently done, though.
Great review. I mostly agree but I do think for the most part being successful in modern society requires being outcome independent and of high intelligence. High intelligence bias has been happening for quite a long time now, and it can be argued intelligence mattered quite a bit for medieval times too, so I would focus on the first point, outcome independence. By outcome independence I mean you should not be fixated on what sort of work you do. For example, If you decided to become the worlds best Aeronautical Engineer (not play corporate politics) in 1980s, just be a great engineer, it’s very unlikely you would make great money. It’s far more unlikely you would even do great work because all jobs are monopolised by NASA, Boeing, Academia etv where innovation goes to die. If however you were in your twenties in the 1960s, and you focused on aeronautics, you would be a part of one of the most ambitious And innovative engineering projects known to man (Apollo missions) and possibly even earn quite a bit. Of course now Space X plays that role so it’s not all bad but it does show a key requirement to being successful in a capitalist society. If you decided however to be a great Historian, never would be a good time to amass wealth or other forms of success since history has basically gone to die and the only historians who gain any emminence are those who participate actively in propaganda or write books for mass consumption. Being a programmer has been excellent since 1980s.
To me the American Society does great at accomodating a large number of jobs. If however you lived in Latin America, unless you could move, it would be impossible to amass wealth as say a automobile engineer. I think this is basically a situation where a government can play a role in enabling success (for example Latin America banning importing of cars and car designs ensuring automobile engineers in Latin America can still succeeds etc)
General intelligence is strongly correlated with life success, certainly in any modern and most pre-modern societies. But it’s also true that high intelligence can lead to analysis paralysis and other conditions that are not beneficial to an entrepreneur. You see this in lawyers often, who would be good entrepreneurs otherwise (plus their trained and often inherent risk aversion is also a problem).
Did you borrow money to start your business? If so, from what type of entities (friends, family, banks, your own house/401(k))? If so, did you benefit from ultra-low interest rates thanks to Federal Reserve policy?
No, it was a small amount in personal funds, and then several months later, some equity (20%) sold to friends. Later on I had a working capital line of credit. But even there, the interest rates were relatively high (around 5%). Small businesses don’t get zero interest rates, only the rich and connected. Moreover, even that came with a total personal guarantee, such that I would be wiped out if I couldn’t pay it back. Again, those who get zero interest rates don’t have to offer personal guarantees.
You’ve passed my vetting. Time for you to run for governor of Indiana to give support to DeSantis either as fellow governor or when he is president.
I am honored. I don’t think I’m electable right now. Give it a few years. Perhaps I will simply start as local warlord.
Well said, Charles. I’ve read a Buffet quote, “Anyone can get rich. Work hard, sacrifice and invest.” I think the part most people don’t hear is “sacrifice”. They get a dollar and immediately buy the toys they have worked for, putting them on the road in endless endeavor to labor for more. These people don’t understand the concept of money. If you have to rely solely, or mostly on your labor for money, wealth, in all its forms, will be elusive.
It seems to me that this Golden Dyad applies to all human endeavors. Want to learn a language or master an academic discipline? Golden Dyad. Want to achieve Theosis and become a Saint? Golden Dyad. Very good principle.
Two questions: First, do you miss being in business now that you’ve sold it? I don’t know what I’d do with all the free time. Second, any thoughts on where current opportunities are? And would you go into manufacturing today if you were starting over?
1) Not in the least. In fact, I find the idea of running a business repugnant now. I am not sure why. When many years ago I briefly ran a woodworking business, turning a hobby into a business, for many years thereafter I found woodworking repugnant. Must be some psychological problem in me. I am finding plenty to fill my time.
2) No new thoughts on current opportunities. In general, I think opportunity tends to lie in unpublicized and unsexy areas, such as manufacturing. Yes, I’d definitely go into manufacturing today.
You’re a talented writer Charles! That first paragraph in particular had me laughing out loud. Can you write something like that in one shot or need to rework it a few times?
Thanks! It depends. Most of the memorable stuff is “auto-written”; it just comes out in a fugue state, and needs a little polish. Sometimes it’s more of a grind. It’s getting harder, because I strive to not repeat myself, and so making sure I am saying something at least partially new can be difficult.
The nasty thing about Daymond John is he is part of the Success Business. His primary products are books, courses and seminars to teach you how to get rich. His primary customers are wanna-be “success gurus” who want to teach you to get rich quick .
How do you get rich quick? Selling courses how to get rich. Who’s buying? Guys who want to sell courses on how to get rich quick…
It’s a MLM pyramid scheme like Amway. Same garbage purveyed by Napoleon Hill and Tony Robbins, both total losers outside of the Success Industry.
They teach you how to teach others how to teach others to teach others the “secret of success.” No value is actually created. It’s BS all the way down.