“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi
The greatest investment you would ever make is in yourself; to earn more, you need to learn more. American Author Jim Rohn often said, “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you can make a living, but if you work hard on yourself, you’ll make a fortune.” Thinking BIG: Books you read, Individuals you surround yourself with, and Goals you set for yourself. You can not give what you do not have, and you can not take people farther than you have gone. You can expand your imagination through the books you read, you can see the possibilities through the people you interact with, and you can go places through the vision and goal you set for yourself.
If you look at the Forbes list of the richest people in the world, you will notice a pattern or a trend. Most people on the list either inherited their wealth or solved a big societal issue through their enterprise. A lot of the entrepreneurs on the list have a certain characteristic which, among other things, includes an insatiable taste for knowledge, the ability to sell their vision to attract the brightest minds, and the ability to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals as Jim Collins would often say.
Anyone you see on the list of billionaires knows something you are I do not know, or we know but have not been able to turn the data into the right information. As German statesman and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once quipped, ” Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. One of the hallmarks of the highly successful people in our society is their bias for action; they took a calculated risk, they honed their skill set, they paid the price, and wealth is the unintended consequence of working hard for the long term.
One of the ways we could all think BIG is to follow this model:
B – Books you read
I – Individuals you surround yourself with
G – Goals you set for yourself.
The key is to increase your earning power, and to do that; you need to heed the words of Albert Einstein, who said: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” The more value you can add to people’s lives, the more you can become a successful or wealthy individual. Solve the problem for a billion people, and you get rewarded with riches. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg was not the best programmer globally, but he was able to merge computer science and human psychology; hence he built one of the most visited platforms on the internet. As of April 2021, at 36 years old – he is worth over 100 billion dollars.
You don’t have to be the best in the world; you just need to take a leap of faith on an opportunity, relentlessly work hard and create your LUCK (Labour Under Correct Knowledge) in the Process)
“Man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” –Will Rogers
Books could be a magazine, a report, an undergraduate thesis, or a project; it is the insight you have that others do not have. Reading and studying is a great source of gaining insights and could lead to starting something great. Warren Buffet started investing from a very young age after reading One Thousand Ways to Make $1000, Bill Gates and Paul Allen got inspired to start Microsoft after reading about the Altair 8800, in the 1975 Popular Electronics cover story, Jeff Bezos got inspired to start Amazon after reading a report about the growth of the internet.
In Buffett & Gates: Go Back to School, a question and answer session with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates where business students of the University of Nebraska asked the billionaires questions about life and business. One of the students asked:
University of Nebraska student: “If you can choose one superpower, what would it be?”
Bill Gates: “Being able to read superfast.”
Warren Buffet : “Yeah I agree, I’ve probably wasted ten years reading slowly.”
The wealthiest people in our society have an insatiable taste for knowledge, and they are passionately curious.
Warren Buffet on Reading:
“It is fascinating what’s happened, just in my lifetime, in the 86 years. I should mention one thing about reading. It was at the library here at Columbia where I think I spent more time than any other student. I lived there, practically. I pulled a book out, which happened to be Who’s Who in America, and it told me something about my professor, Benjamin Graham. I went to the librarian and I said I want to learn more about this because I learned this over here. That changed my life. We own Geico now because of that librarian directing me to some other book and then me following through on that.”
Bill Gates and Paul Allen got inspired to start Microsoft after reading the 1975 January cover of Popular Electronics magazine.
Inspired by the January cover of Popular Electronics magazine, friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft – sometimes Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software – to develop software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. In 1980, the pair struck a deal to provide the operating system for IBM’s first personal computer. Microsoft released Windows in 1985, a year before moving its headquarters to Redmond, Washington. By the late 1980s, Microsoft was the world’s largest personal-computer software company.
Jeff Bezos: Founding of Amazon:
In Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, the author writes:
After graduation, Bezos went to New York to apply his computer skills to the financial industry. He ended up at a hedge fund run by David E. Shaw, which used computer algorithms to discover pricing disparities in the financial markets. Bezos took to the work with a disciplined zeal. Foreshadowing the workplace fanaticism he would later try to instill at Amazon, he kept a sleeping bag in his office in case he wanted to sleep there after a late night of work.
While working at the hedge fund in 1994,
Bezos came across the statistic that the web had been growing by more than 2,300 percent each year. He decided that he wanted to get aboard that rocket, and he came up with the idea of opening a retail store online, sort of a Sears catalogue for the digital age.
The value of reading can not be over emphasized as the above startup story of the 3 greatest wealth creators of our time shows. You could get inspired through a Book (Warren Buffet), a magazine (Bill Gates and Paul Allen), a report (Jeff Bezos) or even through a school thesis or project – John C.Bogle (Vanguard Group) / Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google). The key is to stay curious and invest on your earning power.
“Growth is actually contagious, so if you want to reach your goals, you’ve got to get around people who are going in the same direction you want to be going, and you will catch the success.” —Dr. Henry Cloud
I – Individuals you surround yourself with
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. An old proverb says: Show me your friends, and I would show you who you are. Birds of the same feather flock together. If you want to sow with the eagles, you can not continue to flock with the chickens. If you hang around the barbershop long enough, sooner or later, you are going to get a haircut. You need to tune out the noise and limit your exposure to the negative people around you. Many of us keep default friends and family members that are draining our energy, and we tolerate destructive behaviors from them. You get what you tolerate.
If you want to sow with the eagles, you can not continue to flock with the chickens.
In his book, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Author Joseph Murphy writes:
“Being a former chemist, I would like to point out that if you combine hydrogen and oxygen in the proportions of two atoms of the former to one of the latter, water would be the result. You are very familiar with the fact that one atom of oxygen and one atom of carbon will produce carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas. But, if you add another atom of oxygen, you will get carbon dioxide, a harmless gas, and so on throughout the vast realm of chemical compounds.”
Just like oxygen can turn an atom into carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide. The same people that lift you one moment can also drain you without warning. It would help if you were deliberate with the people you surround yourself with, the movies you watch, and the media you consume. If you want to become more healthy, surround yourself with people living a healthy lifestyle; if you want to become financially independent, surround yourself with people that have the financial discipline and business acumen, if you want to get to the next level, you need to leave your comfort zone, have stretch goals and execute relentlessly.
Everything around reflects who you are; your environment is critical to how far you go in life. You get what you tolerate; the standard you set for yourself is how far you go. You have the remote control in your hands; you can either pause, stop or eject any relationship that is not taking you to where you want to go right now. It would help if you made your backpack lighter as people are in our lives for a season and a reason. The challenge with most of us is that we want to carry people into the next season of our lives when their reason for being in your life has already passed.
American talk show host Oprah Winfrey in her 2012 Spelman College commencement speech to the graduating students had the following words of advice:
“My greatest advice to you is to surround yourself with people who are going to fill your cup until your cup runneth over, so that when people say you are so full of yourself, you can say: ‘Yeah. Yes, I’m full. I’m so full, my cup runneth over.’ And to know that once your cup runneth over, you cannot spend your life with your gallon-size offerings, offering them to pint-size people. You have got to surround yourself with gallon-size people who can hang in the same company with you so that you’re not offering your gallons to those little pints out there who can’t hold it anyway.”
In Meditations, Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius quipped:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
G – Goals you set for yourself
A Goal is a dream with a deadline. One of the highly successful hallmarks is their ability to set big goals, craft a vision of the future, and work relentlessly to achieve it.
In Call Me Ted, the autobiography of Media Mogul Ted Turner, he writes about one of the greatest lessons he learned from his father: Set your goals so high that you can’t possibly accomplish them in one lifetime. He writes:
Despite my father’s obvious ambition, it’s clear to me now that reaching new heights in business and material wealth actually could have undermined his mental state. He told me a memorable story on the subject. He was preparing to enter Duke University just as the Depression hit. His parents lost nearly everything and they struggled to tell him they could no longer afford his tuition.
At that young age he consoled his mother, saying, “Don’t worry, Mom. When I grow up, I’m going to work really hard and I’m going to be a success. I’m going to be a millionaire and I’m going to own a plantation and a yacht.
Given their circumstances at the time these were very lofty goals, but by the time he shared this story with me he had achieved all three. He said that having now checked off each of these goals, he was having a really tough time reevaluating things and coming up with a plan for the rest of his life.
He then told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said,
“Son, you be sure to set your goals so high that you can’t possibly accomplish them in one lifetime. That way you’ll always have something ahead of you. I made the mistake of setting my goals too low and now I’m having a hard time coming up with new ones.”
Author John C. Maxwell, writes in his insightful book, Put Your Dream to the Test:
“A dream doesn’t have to be ephemeral. Even a really audacious one can be concrete. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy made a big dream concrete when he said, “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon.” Albert Siepert, former deputy director of launch operations at the Kennedy Space Center, stated:
“The reason that NASA has succeeded is because NASA had a clear-cut goal, and expressed its goal. When you first begin to wonder about your potential and brainstorm your future, it’s good to let yourself go and think big. But when it’s time to start making your dream come true, you need to get specific.”
“As you work to remain flexible, remember that while the dream may stay the same, everything else is subject to change: timelines, resources, assumptions, plans, and team members. Comedian Bill Cosby’s quip, “Nothing fits a pigeonhole but a pigeon,” is humorous but true”.
You need to invest in yourself through the media you consume, the individuals you surround yourself with, and the goals you set for yourself. As Michelangelo Buonarroti once noted, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” The key is to continuously invest in yourself, have a bias for action, a sense of urgency, work hard, and relentlessly execute. Take care of yourself and the people around you, and most importantly, have fun doing it.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.