Wisdom From Babylon

The Richest Man in Babylon, the book written by George S. Clason, is a regular revisit for me, at minimum on an annual basis. Written in story form and fairly short, it's a simple read, but full of the wisdom of handling money and building wealth. Here are some highlights of the great wisdom shared in this classic book. The concepts are fairly basic and practical, and yet most do not heed these simple rules of money that will, over time, create a fortune for them.

  • A part of all you earn is yours to keep - Set aside at least 10% of your income. Save it and invest it, don't spend it.

  • Seven Cures For a Lean Purse
  1. Start thy purse to fattening - Only live on 90% of your income. As stated above, you need to have the mindset and discipline that a part of all you earn is yours to keep.
  2. Control thy expenditures - Cut your expenses to the essentials. It's ok - and I believe necessary in order to keep your sanity and stay disciplined - to have some "fun" money set aside as an essential, but be realistic and keep it reasonable. You likely will have to cut some things out, but keep something you enjoy doing on the table. Use those things you want to do but can't fit in your budget to motivate you to get yourself in a position where you can add those things back in.
  3. Make thy gold multiply - Invest wisely the money you have been diligently setting aside. Put your money to work for you.
  4. Guard thy treasure from loss - Protect your principal from loss. Invest in secure investments, not "blue sky" propositions. Gain knowledge of what you're investing in. Find those who are knowledgeable and heed their advice.
  5. Make of they dwelling a profitable investment - Own your own home.
  6. Insure a future income - Put proper insurance and other protection in place to protect yourself and your family and provide for your needs as you get older.
  7. Increase thy ability to earn - Increase your knowledge and your skill set, and your ability to earn more will increase with it. Don't rely on policy or your boss for an increase in pay. Make yourself more valuable and the opportunities will come, or even better, you can create them for yourself.

  • The Five Laws of Gold
  1. Gold comes gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.
  2. Gold labors diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment.
  3. Gold clings to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.
  4. Gold slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.
  5. Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers, or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

    Here are a couple great little "one liner" pieces of advice as well:
  • Better a little caution than a great regret.
  • We cannot afford to be without adequate protection.
  • Where the determination is, the way can be found.
  • Opportunity waits for no man.
  • Men of action are favored by the goddess of good luck.
If you're in debt (and I'm talking here about "bad" debt such as credit cards or car payments, etc. There are plenty of instances, especially in business, where debt makes sense and can be used as a tool. We'll talk more about this in a future post) the book gives a simple formula to chip away at those balances that are hanging over your head. Live on 70%, use 20% to reduce your debts and pay off your obligations, and at the same time do not neglect to put aside 10% to save and invest. You can do it. Find a way.

I implore you to take these nuggets of advice seriously, and if you're not practicing them in your life, start doing it today. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today. Why won't most do this? First of all, it requires discipline, which is unfortunately severely lacking in our culture. Our "have it all and have it now" instant gratification mindset that is throw at us from every angle, easy credit and extremely little, if any, training on money before we get out into the real world all contribute to the reason why such a small number will even attempt this. Trying to keep up with your neighbors and their new cars, boat, RV and beautiful home (who, by the way, probably put themselves enormously in debt acquiring those things) will only strap you down and make you a slave to debt. Remember point 3 of the "Cures For a Lean Purse" - Money should be working for you. Make it your slave and make it produce a return for you. Don't put yourself in a position where it's the other way around.

Another reason most won't attempt these simple formulas is that it takes time. Again, in our culture, we want the instant gratification and the "quick fix". Everyone's hoping for a windfall. They sit there waiting for a "big hit" that (they think) will take care of all of their money issues. Just look at the number of people that play the lottery and you know it's true. Look closer at those who actually win, or who inherit a large amount of money, or who make it in acting or sports and all of the sudden have a huge sum of money but have no knowledge of the Rules of Money. Does their stroke of luck fix the situation? Rarely. More often than not they end up more broke than they were before. Why? It's because without the knowledge of how money works, more money flows through your fingers just as quickly as less. Money itself does not solve the problem. More money only makes you more of what you already are, and if you're terrible with money, with no plan or discipline, more money will just make you even worse with handling it. Knowledge and discipline are what gets you and keeps you in the place you want to be; with money working for you instead of you working for it.

Make your decision today to start following these simple but extremely effective rules of money. Remember, they're rules. They're how money works, so don't overthink, analyze or try to argue the points. Instead, embrace them and put them in action in your life. It will take time, it will take discipline, but I promise you will reap the rewards of it over the long term. Stay focused and stay disciplined. Teach these rules to your kids! Most of us aren't exposed to these philosophies until much later in life, when we've already lost time and made mistakes. If you haven't read "The Richest Man in Babylon" pick up a copy now and read it. You won't regret taking any of these steps now and not putting it off to another day.

Hard Work Beats Talent

I just got back from our end of season celebration for 3rd grade basketball. As the coach, I wanted to pass something of value on to the kids that they could take into next season and make applicable to life. I know, they're 8 and 9 year olds, so I tried not to make it too deep, but the sooner we start building the right mindset in our kids the better off they'll be. We struggled this season, with a team of kids that largely hadn't played much, if any, basketball in the past. Most of the other teams started the season way ahead of us in that sense. But the kids all worked hard and improved a ton, which was fun to see.

When I was passing out their season end awards, I made sure to point out the phrase I had added to their trophies. "Hard Work Beats Talent". I wanted to encourage them that, although there may be other players that might have more natural ability than them, if they were willing to put in the effort and work hard, they could do better than the kids that just rely on their talent to carry them. We see this in sports all the time. Kids in college who are super talented get arrogant or complacent, and instead of dominating in the professional world, they dive right off the cliff and are out of the league. Especially at that high of a level where everyone is working so hard to beat you, you can't just rely on talent.

If you rest on your talent alone and expect it to carry you, it never will. If you use the talent and abilities you have wisely, you can accomplish great things. It's something that's a truth not just in sports, but in business, as well as everything else in life. You can never be of the mindset that your natural abilities will carry you. You must have a learning and growth mentality - that you'll never know it all and that you can always be improving yourself. Not only that, if you are willing to put in that extra effort and have the right mindset, you'll not only be able to reach great heights, but you'll even be able to surpass those that might have an "advantage" over you at first glance. Just look at the big businesses that get lazy with their place in the market, only to later find themselves struggling to stay on top with the introduction of a new competitor that has the drive and the hustle to get it done. They may not have the smartest group of leaders, they may not have the capital, but what they do to dig deep and just make it happen makes up for any of those disadvantages. Again, many examples can be found in sports as well, where the obviously dominant team is beaten by the underdogs who have less talent, but more heart and work harder in preparation and during the game.

Hustle and hard work will always beat straight talent. Use your talents wisely. Develop them and don't take them for granted. Work just as hard even if you do have the natural abilities. If you don't, know that just going all-out and working as hard as you can will beat out the majority, since most won't give it that kind of effort. You can control how hard you work, which means you have the ability to achieve anything you desire if you're willing to go and get it.

When the Day Just Doesn't Go as Planned

Sometimes days just don't go our way. We start out with a plan, with the whole day outlined of what we're going to do and when, and all the things we're going to get done. It's of course possible to set yourself up for success and have a day go just as planned. But the question is, what do you do when that doesn't happen? How do you respond when something unexpected happens, or when your day gets completely thrown off by something you didn't see coming? What do you do when your entire calendar for the day blows up and you have to completely change your day?

The common reaction is to get frustrated, throw up your hands and count the day as lost; to think about all the things you needed to get done but weren't able to because of whatever came up and stole that time. It's also easy to start pointing fingers. However, none of these reactions are going to do anything to improve your results or change the situation. In fact, all it does is increase your stress and frustration. So, since we know it will happen, what can we do to be prepared for it when it does, and how should be respond?

  1. Don't Overschedule Your Day - I'm certainly not advocating giving less than your best effort, but one of the ways to minimize the possibility, or at least the impact, of something not going exactly as planned is to have some flexibility in your day. If every single minute is planned out and needs to be 100% productive on specifically set tasks, that leaves no room for the dynamics of life and business. Leave some margin in your day to deal with any necessary changes in focus or direction.
  2. When Something Does Interrupt or Change Your Day, Deal With It - Ignoring it won't make it go away. If you need to change your focus for a minute, or your schedule changed because of something out of your control (or even something in your control), accept it and deal with it.
  3. Don't Stress - Stressing out about it won't help make the situation better. It will only make you more frustrated and less effective in getting the rest of your day finished out on the right track.
  4. Learn From It - What could you do in the future to avoid a similar situation from happening? Could you be better prepared or pay more attention to detail to avoid a mistake that cost you time? Could you reprioritize your schedule to make more sense with the natural flow of your day? Figure out what changes or adjustments you can make to lower the chances of a similar interruption in the future.
We're all going to have days that don't go exactly as planned. What we do and how we respond during those times has more of an impact on the final outcome and how we feel about it at the end of the day than the actual cause of the derailment. Set yourself up for success by creating margin in your schedule, deal with issues and changes when they come up, know that it's just a part of life and business and don't stress about it and, most of all, learn from those situations so you can be better in the future.

Don't Plan, Just Go

Planning, preparing and setting a course is a great thing to do. It's important to have a clear idea of what it is you're after and what you're trying to accomplish. After all, how can you have intentional action towards achieving something if you don't even know what that is? You also need to know what steps it will take to get there. Having a plan is important and definitely has it's place as a necessity to achievement.

However, it's easy to get caught up in the planning, to the point where we get so focused on the plan that we fail to leave room for anything outside of that plan. It's not that you don't want to be committed to the plan and follow it through. What you have to remember though is that life and business are dynamic. They're always changing. There is no way to completely plan out your course ahead of time. You want to stay on course as best you can, but you have to be willing to adjust your sails along the way. Technology, systems, laws, economies - everything is changing constantly. If you can't adapt and change along with it, if you're too set in your predetermined path and step-by-step plan, you'll just get frustrated and you'll never make the progress you could have otherwise. Those that plan but can adjust are those that will be most successful.

Life itself is dynamic. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. Again, you need to be able to flex with the changes and keep moving forward. Not only do life circumstances change, but we change as we stretch and grow. The thing we set out to do 5 years ago that was all we could think about doing may not end up being what we ultimately want to do those 5 years later. If we're unwilling to divert from the plan, we'll be stuck continuing to move forward at something we no longer have our passion in, simply because it was "part of the plan".

It's also easy to get so stuck in planning mode that you fail to take any action. A plan is no good if you never take the first step! If you're going to wait until the plan is perfect, and every little detail is worked out, you'll never move forward. Remember, everything is going to change along the way, so no matter how perfectly you plan out the entire process, it will never turn out exactly the way you planned it anyway.

Plan, prepare, set out a roadmap and detailed steps to get there. But don't get so caught up in getting down every single detail before you move forward, and don't be so rigid that you can't adjust when something doesn't go exactly as planned. You can plan well, but you can only plan so much. Forever planning without taking action will get you nowhere, and having no flexibility in the plan will mean disappointment and an inability to adapt to the inevitable changes, whether those changes are something out in the world or something within yourself.

One Month Down

Wow, just like that we're through January and into February. We're officially 1/12 of the way through the year, and it seems like it just started! So, the question then is this - how are you doing so far this year? We all know the high percentage of New Years resolutions that are already shot, likely thrown out the window weeks ago before they even had a chance to take root. How are you doing with your 2016 goals? Are you anywhere near where you thought you would be? Have you made the progress you need to at this point to be on track for your year-end goals?

It is critical to take time consistently to review where you are and if you're doing the right things to achieve your goals for the year. Without keeping them top of mind and continually reviewing what we've accomplished so far, we have no idea if we're on track. Worse, if we're not on track, we don't know we're not, and we also can't figure out what needs to be adjusted to get back on track. Remember, you're not going to be one of those that looks back in December wondering where the year went and why your goals were not reached.

I do a quick overview of my goals every morning to remind myself of what I've set out to do. I also take a closer look at progress at least once a week, so I can see how I'm doing and make any adjustments. Once a month I sit down for a longer period of time and really dive into the details so I can discover what I can do better to accelerate hitting those goals. It's also important so I can make sure I'm not getting distracted by other projects that will not help me in reaching them, and to add back in any tasks that are necessary and may have been neglecting. Another important reason to do all these reviews is because, as you grow, as your business grows and as you are pursuing and changing, your goals may change as well. It's ok to adjust and change your goals throughout the year, as long as it's an intentional change for a new or better direction and not an afterthought or because you've slacked off and are behind.

Take some time this week, as we're now through the first month of the year, and assess how you're doing. If you're on track or ahead of schedule, great! If you're lagging behind, don't hang your head and give up! Figure out why and resolve to pick up the pace. Identify the things you need to be doing consistently to be where you need to be to reach your 2016 goals. You can reach those lofty goals!

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

WSJ.com: Commercial Real Estate