Gamblers Who Don’t Gamble

 
Entrepreneurs are gamblers who don’t gamble and risk takers who aren’t risky.

Sparked by curiosity, entrepreneurs explore farther and wider than most people but they aren’t reckless (at least not the successful ones).

RouletteNothing happens without ideas, and curiosity is what leads to the best ideas. You have to go through a lot of ideas before you find that magical one that both excites you and works. That search can sometimes take a lifetime and the search is what many people don’t understand about entrepreneurs. In my interview with Gary Vaynerchuk he said he has ideas “24/7.” But he doesn’t blindly follow all of them or most of them or even some of them. He said that if the idea sticks around for a while, just won’t leave his mind, then he’ll follow it.

Which takes me to the idea of risk. Acting on any new idea has risk associated with it but there is a difference between being risky and taking a risk. Being risky is doing something without much thought or planning. Taking a risk is researching, learning as much as you can, turning the unknown into the known so that surprises are minimal, and then going for it. One approach is dangerous the other is smart.

A lot of people confuse this penchant for risk as gambling but gambling is a loser’s game, gambling is a game of chance and successful entrepreneurs work hard to reduce chance. You can’t eliminate chance but there comes a tipping point when risk has been reduced to the point that action makes sense. This is why I put the following quote in my book: “I have always found that if I move with seventy five per cent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.” That was Lee Iococca, the former CEO of Chrysler and that is the difference between someone who sees entrepreneurship as risky, as gambling, and someone who understands risk and works to make it less risky.

The person who has to wait until all risk is eliminated will never be an entrepreneur, and the person who rushes in without thought or preparation won’t be successful, but the balance between these two extremes puts the odds in your favor. It’s why I ask What Next and why I work hard to answer that with facts.


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Finish Strong

 
finish-lineI don’t want to cross the finish line feeling half dead, I want to cross that line feeling victorious no matter what place I’m in.

I’m no coach or professional trainer but, as I work my way up to 13.1 miles in preparation for my first half marathon, I have a specific method to my treadmill workouts (it’s cold outside).

I always start slow (my current starting pace is 5 mph) and increase my speed as the run continues. When I reach a comfortable speed (currently 5.5 mph) I stay there for most of the run. On longer runs I will drop back to 5 mph and then build up to 5.5 or higher to finish.

The point is that I want to finish better than I started, and the important takeaway is that it’s a gradual but building process. The same is true in life and business. A business doesn’t go from $100,000 in revenue to a million overnight, they build up to it over time.

Sometimes it’s necessary to pull back, to intentionally slow down, so you can be fresh and have the energy needed to see the goal to the end. How many people and businesses keep the pedal to the floor but run out of stamina or money?

As I was increasing my speed on the treadmill I thought about what incremental changes I could make in my life, what could I do more of to get ahead. As I was dropping back to my starting speed I thought about what I could let up on so I could focus on more important things.

This gave me a whole new perspective and I wanted to get off the treadmill right then and get to work (ok, I just wanted the workout to be over). So I finished strong and turned my attention to other ways I’ll be sure to finish strong.


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Slow Motion Lottery

 
powerballI didn’t win the Powerball (I also didn’t play but my wife did) and to make matters worse, my net worth has taken a big hit so far this year as the stock market has cratered. If I were close to retirement I’d  be worried.StockDecline

People, so called experts (you know my feelings on experts), are saying stupid things like sell everything, or sell into any rally. Don’t listen.

On the contrary, buy and keep buying. Don’t take every last penny and invest, that’s just as stupid, but if you buy regularly as the market falls, you’ll have a lot more shares when things turn around. It’s a proven concept called dollar cost averaging. These “experts” make it sound like dollar cost averaging is only a good idea when markets rise but it’s just the opposite. It works best the further the market falls.

The spring is tightening, coiling up for those of us smart and confident enough to stick with a plan, and bold enough to adjust the plan to take advantage of panic.

The lottery is real it’s just not a sudden and unexpected thing. It’s predictable (over long periods of time) and involves some faith but mostly discipline. The slow motion lottery of investing and working hard isn’t found in a convenience store, it’s found in your character.

So what should you do?

Make a plan. Investing blindly is no different than paying money for random numbers you hope will match some other random numbers.

It’s a new year and if you didn’t max out your 401k last year, this is the year to do it. I have calculated the amount I need to invest each paycheck so that I’ll hit the max on my last paycheck. Here’s how you can do the same: Take 18,000 (2016 max) and divide by your salary. This is the percentage you should invest. Take that percentage and multiply by your gross paycheck. For example: if your income is $80,000/year then the percentage you need to save is: 22.5%. Your weekly gross is $1,540 and you should put $347 each paycheck into your 401k.

That alone is good but it’s not lottery worthy. Save more now than you ever have and invest in accounts other than your 401k.

Discipline is hard. Saving when you really want to spend is hard but it’s a winning lottery ticket you just have to have the guts to buy it.

PS: if you read this far I’m impressed but I know you’re probably thinking there is no way you could save and invest that much. You’re wrong. Check out how much I save and stop making excuses.


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OPM = Opium

Do you know what OPM stands for?

Other People’s Money and it’s what get rich quick schemers tell you to use to do everything from buying real estate to…well really I’m just talking about buying real estate.

House for SaleI was on vacation at my house/rental property in California and I kept hearing ads on the radio about a real estate investment seminar where the star of a house flipping show will teach me, the listener, how to invest in real estate using other people’s money. “The Palm Springs area is an ideal place” to use these techniques, the voice said.

The funny thing is that when I got back home to my primary residence, I heard the exact same voice of the exact same television star saying that my town in NJ was an ideal place for these techniques.

What this person was really saying is that there are plenty of suckers in Palm Springs and plenty of suckers in NJ. This house flipping is easy and can be taught to anyone drug is the opium being pushed on innocent people who lack some common sense and want an easy way to success.

Real estate can be a great investment, I’ve invested in real estate and now own three properties, but it’s not easy, it’s not short term, and no one is giving you money without a proven track record.

Money can be made flipping houses, I don’t doubt that, as a matter of fact, my nephew has been quite successful doing it, but it’s his full time job and it was something he grew into building from a different but related business. Flipping houses is not something that can be done on weekends or in your spare time.

I know (if anyone actually reads this) that there will be some who say, “but I’ve done it, I flip houses on the weekends, in my spare time and it works.”

My response is if it works so well, why don’t you do it full time? If it’s so lucrative why not quit your 9-5 and get serious about it? The reason is that it probably doesn’t pay as much as you think and when you really do the numbers you’ll see that.

Don’t get sucked up in the it’s easy to make money (especially if you use other people’s money) game. It’s a losers game.


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Dumb Quotes 2

 
I admit that I’m probably the most inconsistent blogger out there. When the mood strikes (or when I have time which is even more difficult) I’ll write something.

The mood struck when I saw this article: Study Finds People Who Fall For Nonsense Inspirational Quotes Are Less Intelligent. It reminded me of my “series” on dumb motivational quotes of which I’ve only written one post. Well today is post number two!

TallTreeToday’s dumb motivational quote is: “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.” I have no idea who said that which is good because I won’t feel bad saying that quote is really really stupid.

First of all how well does this person really know trees? I mean, are they on a first name basis? Is there a tree this person would want to have a beer with? But beyond really “knowing” a tree what exactly do trees teach about patience?

I get that they wait, they stand still, that trees aren’t in a hurry, but that’s mainly because they’re inanimate. Patience is one thing but I don’t think there’s anyone out there whose goal is to be inanimate. Trees live a long time and that too takes patience but a tree isn’t going to teach anyone to live hundreds and even thousands of years. At the end of patience is an outcome but for a tree there is no outcome just more of being a tree.

Patience is a good thing and not enough people practice it (I know I struggle with it). We get angry first and ask questions later, we listen just long enough to jump in and add our thoughts or comments, we want things now rather than later. Instead we should seek to understand first and give the benefit of the doubt before anger begins to form, we should listen, really listen, and try to understand. It’s ok to wait because not everything happens on your schedule.

Patience however shouldn’t lead to inaction. Sometimes you have to push things along. A healthy balance between patience and agitation keeps momentum going.

What dumb motivational quotes do you recommend I feature in future articles? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Buy, Save, Hold, and Buy

 
I tweeted this Friday as the stock market was poised to fall:

BuyHoldTweet
While it’s true, it’s also a little too simple as tweets often are.
My real strategy is a buy continuously, but buy more when prices fall, and save (and hold) as prices rise.

Buy Continuously
This is your automatic savings and investing such as your 401k, Roth IRA, or 403b. Start young and do your best to max this out. Take full advantage of any matching funds and never, ever, take a loan out against these accounts. The money coming out of your paycheck on a regular basis is dollar cost averaging and captures both the ups and downs of the market and smooths out wild swings like the downside rout we’re having now.

Buy More as Prices Fall
When the market drops, that’s the time to buy. As Warren Buffet said, “be greedy when others are scared, be scared when others are greedy.” Don’t try to wait for the bottom, just dollar cost average more aggressively. Friday I invested less than 5% of the money I’ve been saving over the past year. As prices continue to fall I’ll buy more again.

Save as Prices Rise
Over the past year or so I haven’t been buying stocks (I buy stocks only in low cost index funds) and instead have been saving more aggressively. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been buying any stocks, just not any above my set investment plan. Now I have more capital to invest and since prices are lower I hope to get better returns. Too many people don’t have the discipline to save like this but if you can then you’ll be prepared like I am.

It Paid Off Before

Do you remember how far the market fell in 2008? In 18 months the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 50%. Many people sold, panicked really, but not me. I continued buying throughout 2008 but still I lost a huge amount of money, with my net worth diving 16.44% (check the chart below). In 2009, however, my plan and my discipline paid off. My net worth rebounded by 24.93%, more than recouping the losses of the previous year.

My net worth percentage change chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what’s your plan in this tumultuous time for the market? Panic and sell at the worst time or stick with your plan and take advantage of low prices?


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Yes, Elon Musk is Crazy

 
SpaceX_logo2I read an article recently that said Elon Musk asked his biographer, Ashlee Vance, if he thinks he, Musk, is insane.

My answer, if Elon Musk asked me, would be yes. I think Elon Musk is insane, just as I think Ted Turner was insane, and Richard Branson was insane.

I don’t mean that in a negative way. I don’t think they need to be committed. I use insane in a positive, you-have-to-be-crazy-to-do-what-you-did, kind of way. As I lay out in my book What Next, you don’t go from a billboard advertising company to pioneering 24 hour cable news with CNN, as Ted Turner did, unless you’re a little crazy. You also don’t do that in a straight line. It takes twists and turns as you find the right path and go around or over obstacles.

Entrepreneurs hear that word, crazy, a lot. Imagine you said to friends or family that you were going to start a rocket company. Even if you had hundreds of millions of dollars, I think you would be called crazy. No, I know you would be called crazy because that’s exactly what Elon Musk’s friends called him.

But did you miss the big revelation in his story? Elon Musk had no expectation of making money at this venture. It was his passion and belief in something bigger that compelled him. In my previous post about this video called Crap Filter, Elon says that you have to be compelled to start a company or be the boss because it’s not easy. What is compelling you to do the things you do, and are you responding or pushing it off for later?

I think a lot of people confuse the word crazy with confident and compelled. Elon Musk is not crazy in the sense that we think of it, he’s just crazy enough to confidently follow through on what compels him.


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Crap Filter

 
I know it’s a gross title for a post but it is appropriate.

I watched an interview done at the Khan Academy with Elon Musk and it was his words that led to this title.

Entrepreneurship might be glamorous and could prove quite lucrative but it’s also the hardest work you’ll ever do. I’ll let Elon Musk take it from here.

Everyone thinks they want to be the boss but when you’re at the bottom of the “filter for the crapest problems in the company” it’s not a lot of fun. I can speak from experience and while my high points are not as high as Elon Musk’s neither are my low points. When SpaceX had three failed launches in a row and only had one last chance for a very big contract with NASA, that’s really low. When Tesla was a week away from running out of money with no investors willing to step in, that was very low.

In spite of all that, he still felt “quite compelled to do it” and that made all the difference.

In the face of skepticism and failure, to push forward anyway is the sign of a person who will be successful. I have wanted to give up many times, I have wanted to sell my business many times, but I have stuck it out and now it is beginning (these things take time) to pay off. I still have bad days but having come through past obstacles and problems makes the future problems easier to handle.

Feel free to share how you have been stuck at the bottom of the crap filter and come through it stronger than before.


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Blame is Good!

 
Blame me!I don’t like to be blamed but not because I feel the person blaming me is attacking me or out to get me. I don’t like blame because it means I did something wrong, or missed something. I’m not afraid of blame and that allows me the freedom to think outside the box, to try things even if they might seem a little unorthodox, and to view criticism as opportunity for improvement.

People need to move past the blame mentality. Blame is not a bad word. When I do something wrong and another person points it out, they are not blaming me, they are showing me an issue or mistake and helping me to correct it.

When my staff makes a mistake and I investigate and find the cause of the mistake I’m not blaming someone so they can get in trouble, or so I can fire them, I’m simply pointing out an error so it doesn’t happen again. This is the attitude I have when it’s determined that my action caused a problem. I’m not mad or scared, I’m glad, happy that an issue was discovered and that action can be taken to correct it. I’m also angry that I let it happen and that’s a good thing.

Everyone has two choices when someone “blames” them for something:

1. Get mad and upset which leads to a bad attitude

2. Be thankful someone caught the issue before it became a problem, fix it, and become better

Which will you choose?

If your choice is number 1 then you are doomed to a mentality of cover-up, fear, and passing the buck. All of that leads to a bad workplace, a bad marriage, and bad relationships.

The second choice gives you power; power to take control of the situation and to learn from mistakes which leads to open communication, the freedom to think differently, the comfort to speak up.

The bottom line is that we all have to re-think the word blame and recognize it for what it really is, help and a way to improve.

So I pledge that if I mess up and you blame me, I’ll thank you and we will all be better for it.


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Million Dollar Lunch

 
Warren BuffettIf you had the chance to have lunch with Warren Buffet, would you? If you had the chance to ask, one on one, Richard Branson for advice, would you?

I think the answer to both of those questions is a resounding yes! I would too, but would you pay a million dollars, or in the case of Warren Buffet’s latest charity auction, 2.3 million for lunch?

Even if I could afford it my answer would be no. From my perspective the fabulously wealthy offer little value. Sure, their success sets the bar high but I’m more interested in people who have done a lot with relatively little, the people whose advice can actually lead somewhere.

I’d rather have lunch with the man or woman who opened a local restaurant and now owns several throughout the state. I’d rather meet and talk to the person who created something that a lot of people use. Maybe they didn’t make billions but they did fill a need and did well doing so.

These are people I have access to, or more access than I do to Richard Branson or Warren Buffet.

By looking for lessons and advice from these entrepreneurial rock stars you might be overlooking the valuable advice that’s sitting next to you at the barber shop or on the subway.

Many people don’t listen enough, aren’t curious enough to ask questions, to discover the wisdom that’s right under their nose.

 


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