Too Honest to Succeed

PullingHairLabel this a rant. It’s one of many examples of people being clueless, overconfident, and criminal but landing on their feet and doing better than all of us who are honest, smart, and careful.

Today I’m adding Fabrice Tourre, also known as The Fabulous Fab, to my list of people who succeed in spite of being wrong or outright criminals in Tourre’s case. Mr. Fab was convicted of six counts of securites fraud in his role in the subprime mortgage mess that caused so much damage to the economy. Since this was a civil case brought by the SEC there will be no prison time but Tourre faces a fine of one million dollars and a lifetime ban from the securities industry.

So why is The Fabulous Fab on my list? Because the University of Chicago rewarded this guy with a job as an economics professor. His first class should be “how to defraud investors and land on your feet.”

What is wrong with us? Why do we keep rewarding people who aren’t worthy? The list I’ve compiled is pathetic: a financial advisor who lost his home but got a book deal anyway, a New York Times financial reporter also lost his house due to bad decisions and also got a book deal, a financial expert who called for major defaults in municipal bonds and couldn’t have been more wrong gets a book deal and starts a hedge fund. The list goes on but the honest, smart, financially successful among us continue to write blogs, self publish books, and otherwise struggle in obscurity because…because why?

Seriously why? Please add your comments below with your opinion of why it seems only screw-ups do well.

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Is Gary Vaynerchuk a Risk Taker?

After a short break I’m back to my interview with Gary Vaynerchuk. There was one question I asked Gary that I wish I had followed up on more extensively, explained a little better and really discussed. With limited time, however, I chose to move on.

Warning! Risk AheadI asked Gary if he felt there was a difference between taking a risk and doing something risky. He didn’t see the distinction. It is subtle but it’s there. At just under 90 seconds this is the shortest clip from the interview but perhaps my favorite topic. Take a listen here:

Vaynerchuk Risk

Gary notes that he thinks someone who takes risks is dramatically happier but goes on to say that he doesn’t consider himself a risk taker. I have found that many highly successful people who other people describe as risk takers or gamblers disagree with that characterization.

In my book, What Next, I talk about risk and what I discovered is that the distinction between taking a risk and doing something risky comes down to management. Scott Loughmiller, an entrepreneur I interviewed for the book, said he doesn’t consider himself a risk taker but rather a risk manager.

When we look at the decisions of the highly successful we only see two points in time. The decision to act and the end result. What we don’t see from our perspective is the thought process, the many sub-decisions, the careful deliberations and strategizing that goes into what seems like a risky endeavor.

And that brings us to the difference between success and failure when it comes to risk. So many people don’t take the time for careful deliberation. So many people rush into really big decisions ill-prepared. That is doing something risky. On a personal level you need look no further than retirement planning. So many people put that on autopilot without enough thought.

When it comes to business, too many people put too much weight on the advice to follow their heart. That’s good advice but it must be backed up by resources, planning, and a strong dose of reality. Doing the research, exploring the many possible outcomes before acting is taking a risk but it’s not being risky and that is a huge difference.

Are you a risk taker or do you do risky things? Share some examples and your thoughts in the comments below.

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Gary Vaynerchuk and the Escalator Question

EscalatorPicWhen I found out I was interviewing Gary Vaynerchuk I had an opportunity to test a theory of mine. I believe that successful people, entrepreneurs in particular, like motion, would rather keep moving than stand still. They also don’t like other people getting in their way, blocking them from their goals.

I think successful people walk on escalators rather than stand. Gary confirmed that, sort of, but he also surprised me. Take a listen here:

Vaynerchuk EscalatorQuestion

It seems his default strategy is to walk on escalators but the surprising part was when he said that he stands when he’s late. That seemed odd to him (I think a lot of people would think it’s odd that he even gave it much thought, have you?). His belief is that he likes to be contrarian and I suggested that maybe, when he’s late, he needs that extra moment to collect himself, take a deep breath and know that those extra few seconds walking aren’t as important as those extra few seconds of calm.

The last point about the question is a bit less obvious but interesting and informative just the same; who thinks about how they interact with escalators? I don’t think normal people give that much thought. Gary and I do, however, and that says a lot about two traits we spoke of in the interview, curiosity and self-awareness.

Being curious means you look at things a little differently than other people, that what most people take for granted, you dissect to discover why. Being self aware means you are always assessing your actions, beliefs, and values, being just as curious about yourself as you are about others.

Do you walk on escalators? Do you prefer motion over stagnation? Are you self aware enough to answer those questions? Are you curious enough to discover your true habits? Please share in the comments below.

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Things I Wished I Asked Gary Vaynerchuk


Note: The first installment mentioned below is now live. Gary Vaynerchuk and the Escalator Question.

Part 2 is now live: Gary Vaynerchuk Knows Himself Well

Part 3 is now live: Is Gary Vaynerchuk a Risk Taker?

Starting tomorrow (Monday April 1, 2013) I’m going to break down my interview with Gary Vaynerchuk into bite sized portions, talking about what I agree with, disagree with, and how my thinking has changed. But today I’m going to look back and lament the fact that I didn’t have an hour with Gary, that I wasn’t fast enough on my feet to ask him these questions.

What does it take to change your mind?

Gary is, as he stated in my interview, self-aware. He is also a very confident person, so what does it take for him to change his mind? I change my mind a lot but I’m guided by core values that bring me back to my true self.

How do you deal with doubt?

I asked about failure and it was the only time in the interview that I felt he was annoyed by me, by my questions. Failure is not something that Gary Vaynerchuk ruminates about and yet we all experience it and we all experience doubt. How does someone I revere, someone who has been so successful, handle doubt?

I asked Gary what he hoped people who listen to my interview, and the other interviews he does, will get out of them and he said that wasn’t something he thought about. But why does he write the books, why does he make the motivational videos, why does he talk about success, winning, and entrepreneurship, if not to get people to be more proactive and successful?

What is your response to these questions and what do you think Gary’s would be? Ask him on Twitter or Facebook and let’s see if he answers. I think he will.

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Insights on Success with Gary Vaynerchuk


NOTE: Starting Monday April 1, I’ll break down the interview into smaller chunks but first check out questions I wish I asked.

Monday April 1: The Escalator Question

Tuesday April 2: Gary Vaynerchuk Knows Himself Well

Friday April 5: Is Gary Vaynerchuk a Risk Taker?

Wednesday April 10: Balancing Ideas and Execution


You never know the outcome of a decision when you make it. You may have hopes or plans but the outcome can’t be known with certainty. That’s why successful people are flexible and do more things, try more things, and take more risks than average.

I have made many attempts (some successful and some not) at meeting certain people, at getting noticed. If an opportunity arises I’ll see what happens and that’s exactly what I did when I saw this tweet from Gary Vaynerchuk:


There was nothing explicit about that tweet, but I clicked the link because I’m curious, and learned that I could sign up to interview Gary, someone I believe is a What Next kind of guy. Gary took his father’s liquor store and turned it into a 60 million dollar wine retailer called Wine Library. Gary wasn’t satisfied to build only that business, however, and has taken many more paths as an author(Crush It, The Thank You Economy, and his latest to be released in October, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook), new media entrepreneur, and motivational speaker. He is someone I’ve wanted to meet and talk with for some time. A lot of people want the same thing so when I tried to register for my 15 minutes to interview him, I was told he was already booked.


I didn’t give up and learned that he still had a couple of spots available but that I’d have to wait until October. I was fine with that. That’s why I was so shocked to get a phone call from his PR rep asking me if I was available to talk to Gary the very next day, Thursday.

My answer, of course, was yes and the interview can be heard below. In the following days I’ll break the interview down to smaller chunks and have more specific posts about the topics we covered. Until then enjoy the whole interview.

Vaynerchuk Intv3

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Recapping 2012 Part 5 of ??


Now this is funny. I began writing the introduction below in order to recap a post about failure but changed my mind. The introduction below remained but even though I selected a different post. Now the introduction doesn’t make sense but it is an excellent example of my good intentions not being executed well. Read on, it’s still a favorite post of mine!

I began this series to resurrect some of my favorite posts of 2012, to give new readers an opportunity to see what could easily have been lost to the archive. With more than 12 days before Christmas I figured I would have been much further along than the fifth installment. Oh well, my intentions were good but my execution, not so much. That’s a common thing with me, good intentions, bad execution and that is sometimes perceived as failure by others but more importantly by me. In 2012 I learned that failure is not a bad word, that much can be learned from failing and that if you never fail you aren’t attempting big enough goals.

Creativity Begets Creativity

Creativity begets creativity. If you want to be more creative then hang out with creative people, or read about them, or watch them on TV. If you want to be creative find a way to experience other people’s creativity.

I’ve seen a few tweets about something called World Creativity and Innovation Week. I’m too busy to look up what that is because I’m exploring how it can help me. A friend tweeted this:

Creativity Tweet

Curious exploration

Being a curious person I clicked the link and then clicked the second story in the list which took me to a post by Mike Brown. In his post Mr. Brown told a story about seeing a poster called Peter’s Laws which he modified and turned into questions to spark creativity.Peter's Laws

Again being curious I wondered what the origin of Peter’s Laws was. A Google search later I had my answer with this webpage. Peter Diamandis is the founder and chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation which is most famous for their $10,000,000 Ansari X PRIZE for private space flight which Burt Rutan won.

Back to Peter’s Laws

A couple of the laws caught my eye because they fit so nicely with the concepts in What Next.

One law reads “When given a choice…take both!!” and that is an essential part of asking What Wext. You can walk multiple paths in life – we all do it as spouses, parents, employees, business people, and friends. What successful people do is excel on multiple paths and that takes dedication and work. If you aren’t dedicated and/or aren’t willing to work, then you won’t succeed.

The Peter’s Law that immediately follows the one above is “Multiple projects lead to multiple successes” and again we have the key point of What Next. The do one thing well concept is just as wrong as the jack of all trades master of none concept. Who says you can’t do lots of things really well or at least hire people who can?

Back to Creativity

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write my next blog post about but reading Mike Brown’s post and being curious enough to do a little research sparked my creativity and led me to write this, proving that creativity begets creativity. The same can be said about the other traits of What Next: curiosity begets curiosity, adventure begets adventure, action begets action, and success begets success. If you want any of those things then get to know people who exhibit those traits and start spending time with them.

As another of Peter’s Laws states “When faced without a challenge, make one” this is your challenge, to succeed, so what are you going to do about it?

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Whatever Happens

Preparation isn’t just about a goal, isn’t a task that is only completed when you have something planned. Preparation is about weathering a storm and expecting the unexpected.

Be Prepared For AnythingIn What Next I write that “it’s not the plan for the expected outcome that saves you, it’s the plan for the unexpected outcome that does.” This is what preparation is all about and why I often have a plan B, C, D, E, and F.

I haven’t written many blog posts in a while because I’ve been busy working on my latest What Next venture, my current priority.

The reason I’m writing this is that two months of planning, two months of high expectations, may end badly. I will be sad, upset, worried, and yes even angry, if this falls through, but one thing I won’t be is beaten. I won’t be much worse off even if it goes terribly wrong because of the preparation I’ve done, not just for this one thing but throughout my life.

As you live your life, are the things you’re doing now putting you in a stronger position later? It’s worth asking so you’ll be able to succeed no matter what happens.

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Is Your Ego Really That Big?

I saw this quote in a tweet last night: “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to produce uncommon results. -Unknown”Teamwork quote I believe that two heads are better than one. An idea that sounds good is rarely ever thought of, fine tuned, and brought to market by only one person. Any successful person or business has been successful because of the team that has been put together.

As skillful as an entrepreneur is at coming up with new ideas, they are equally skillful at choosing the right people to execute those ideas. Richard BransonRichard Branson decided to start an airline but he isn’t the CEO and COO and advertising company and pilot and flight attendant and sales agent, and he wasn’t personally responsible for hiring each of them either. You get the idea, it takes more than one person to create success.

Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire because of his entrepreneurial ideas and he put together quite a good team to execute those ideas. Without the internet, without someone else’s idea first, Facebook would not be successful, it wouldn’t even make sense. Imagine Facebook without the internet! Take it a step farther and without the government, specifically the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), there would be no internet.

I’m working on a business that has requirements, laws on the state level that regulate my business (more clues about my latest What Next). Those laws level the playing field and insure scrupulous behavior, insure that while I do the right thing, so do my competitors. Those regulations are important for my success even though they are also annoying and create red tape.

There are some among us who believe they got where they are all on their own. My question for them is, is your ego really that big? Didn’t you have an education, teachers from kindergarten through college who helped shape who you are today? If you went to public schools then it was government money that made that possible. Didn’t you have a mentor or someone you look up to whose ideas and thoughts inspired you? Maybe you knew them personally or just read about them but someone influenced you. Have you ever sought out anyone’s advice or used ideas and concepts that came before?

There are a lot of people saying President Obama hates entrepreneurs, and business in general, because he acknowledged that other people contribute to our success. I say don’t be so arrogant. Yes you Mr. or Ms. Businessperson are smart and creative and daring but there are a lot of people and things behind you putting wind in your sails. Got Wind?Who is doing that? America, that’s who. America, a land of laws that protect you while also hindering you (there are always trade-offs) and America, the men and women who make up your workforce, who build the roads your products travel on. Once in a while you might want to look back and not only acknowledge that support but thank the people who help you to be successful.

I Googled the quote that began this post and found it attributed to Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant to the United States who built an empire from nothing (yes there was good and bad aspects to him) and if you think he didn’t have help you’re mistaken.

Listen to the entire context – we’re all in this together.

PS: I usually avoid politics but none of us exist in a vacuum. We depend on each other and I think far too many people are forgetting that.

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An Optimist in a Pessimist’s World

The Optimist

Optimism sometimes feels so lonely.

I haven’t always been such an optimist. I remember dark days when I questioned life itself. Something changed and I became an optimist, a confident believer that if you think you can do something then you can. Do you believe that? Please tell me there are other people like that out there, please.

If anyone reads a prospectus for a mutual fund (not exactly beach reading material) they would see the statement: “Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.” No one really cares. They buy the fund anyway. When it comes to me, however, it seems people believe a variant of that statement: “Past success is not an indicator of future success.” I wonder why that is?

In spite of all my optimism I’ve never proven myself reckless, thoughtless, impulsive, or irresponsible. Many believe I have taken risks but as Scott Loughmiller points out in What Next, I don’t take risk, I manage risk. Taking risk is being impulsive but managing risk is gathering all the information possible and then making an informed decision. The thing with information is that the one piece everyone wants to know can’t be known, the outcome.

I have failed in some ventures, I did not successfully make the career transition to financial planning (in spite of passing the rigorous CFP exam) and I did not become a best selling (or much selling) author. Those two items carried a relatively small financial burden. The plans and schemes I’ve had that involve large amounts of money have all done well.

Of the few ventures I’ve gotten involved in I have turned down many, many more. That means I decided the risk was too high, that I didn’t have all the information I wanted or needed. Past success really isn’t an indicator of future success but sometimes it feels like I’ve never done anything right.

Anyone else have that experience? Let’s get the optimists support club going!

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Dream Crushers

They mean well, the people who crush our dreams. They don’t want to hurt us or demoralize us or depress us, they want to help us, protect us, and save us from our destructive fantasies.Dream

Whether true or just perceived on my part, I have lived my entire life having dreams crushed. Sometimes the naysayers come right out and tell you an idea is crazy, that it will never work, that the risk is simply too big. I think the worst way to have a dream crushed is through silence. Successful people aren’t successful in spite of other people, they are successful because of other people, because of the support and encouragement they receive. When that support is lacking dreams wither and die.

Stop being a dream crusher by offering support for the dreamers in your life. Don’t let them slide with easy answers, hold them accountable, but let them know you’re there and that you care.

Dream Builders

Seek out people who will support you, who will encourage you, who believe in you and build you up. Avoid those that don’t. My problem has been finding the dream builders in real life. I have found wonderful supportive people on Twitter, people like @gingerconsult @Mark_Delvecchio @Simon_GB @MartinaMcGowan and so many more. I find myself spending more time there because of that support and encouragement, the very things I don’t get from the people closest to me. (I can write that because I know they don’t read this blog).


On balance I am very happy with the way things have turned out. Whether the support was there or not I have done many things that I dreamed of and succeeded. I wrote two books and the positive feedback I’ve received makes up for all the silence (thankfully no negative feedback yet).

No matter what I’ll keep dreaming, keep asking what next and if the support is there – great. If I can’t find the support, I know that next time I’ll be stronger for having carried the weight myself.

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