As I continue to work on my second book, "21 Questions for 21 Olympians," which highlights the stories of those who have competed in the Olympic Games, I wanted to share with you what I learned by interviewing 21 self-made millionaires. Here's Chapter 1 of "21 Questions for 21 Millionaires."
“I just worked real hard and the moneymaking came by accident.”
Millionaire 21 Richard Zuschlag
The success experts are wrong, dead wrong.
And in their excited frenzy to sell their highly marketed, tightly packaged, hyperbole-filled, guaranteed systems for success they are causing others to get it wrong, too.
Take back their books, CDs, and systems and get your money back from the motivational seminar. You don’t need to learn “The 15 Surefire Steps to Success,” or “The 8 Principles for Financial Freedom,” or “The 72 Secrets of Super Wealth Building,” to be successful.
You don’t need written goals or the advice of a mentor and you should put your subscription to travel and luxury magazines on hold because simply dreaming about it doesn’t make you rich either.
These gurus, enlightened ones, business leaders, authors, and consultants each declare that their system is the system guaranteed to bring you the happiness and wealth you desire. They claim to have the secret. They assert that their book or package holds the key to prosperity. They share platitudes and principles that they say are absolutely essential for attaining success. And they claim that their techniques are so powerful and the results so imminent that they will revolutionize your life.
Their systems, secrets, keys, platitudes, principles, and techniques are void of one important thing – the truth.
The system that was guaranteed to make you successful turns out to be a bust. The secret was something you already knew. The key unlocked wealth for the author, but not for you. The platitudes were only that and the principles and techniques were ineffective in application.
But not to be denied in your quest and hungry for success you continue your search. You run to the next guru who, unlike the last, surely must have it figured out or must have the answer for your unique situation.
“The flame of each new theory fades, only to be replaced by another ‘new and improved’ solution that promises to do what the others before could not.”1
How many hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars are needlessly wasted each year searching for wealth and happiness without finding it?
Don’t get me wrong, most of the experts believe that what they are saying is true and undoubtedly their advice has worked for some. But their “absolutely-guaranteed, works-for-everyone” systems for success are far from it.
Think about it. If there were one, guaranteed success system, why would all of the others be necessary? If one or even all of those systems worked for everyone, why are we not all retired and in Barbados right now?
After years of buying and believing what the experts were selling and only getting further into debt and more and more frustrated, I learned the truth about success by interviewing 21 down-to-earth millionaires about how and why they did what they did.
What I found is that not much of what they did matches what the experts say you have to do.
These millionaires’ experiences prove that success isn’t about the planning and hoping. It’s not about reading the right book or listening to the right person’s advice or in working with a mentor. It’s not about following someone else’s blueprint and it certainly isn’t created by wanting it badly enough. Visualization, goal setting, and thinking alone won’t take you there.
It’s all about–wait, could it be? A book that is willing to share its message three pages into it instead of baiting you to read forty pages into its self-absorbed, incomprehensible profundity? Yes, now continue reading–WORK.
There is no plan that will compensate for work. There is no success principle that is more powerful than work. There is no desire, visualization, or goal that accomplishes anything until it is coupled with work. There is no advice that replaces action and there is no “system” to it.
“Work will win when wishy-washy-wishing won’t.”2
Not only are work and its resultant sense of satisfaction their own rewards, work also creates opportunities.
In this book I share the stories of how work got 21 millionaires where they are and how it compensated for everything else. As you read the interviews with each millionaire you’ll see how work is the “secret” to any success, no matter what your definition is. You will also see how hard work brought some of the millionaires even more success than they were thinking they would achieve.
These people created success not by relying on experts, gurus, or supposed enlightened ones, and they certainly didn’t read books (not even this one!) to become successful. Instead, they listened to what was guiding them internally and they worked. By working hard, no matter what the circumstances, their unique path to success was created.
These millionaires worked constantly without being fanatical. They put effort into the little things. They put their nose to the grindstone and did so, in most cases, without knowing where it would lead. They were happy just to be doing something productive.
They simply worked.
There are many forgotten virtues in our world today and one of them is good old-fashioned hard work. If I am guilty of selling anything in this book, it is the truth of how 21 ordinary people created extraordinary success through hard work.
Through this book I wish to restore the value of work in the hearts and minds of any who seek happiness – financial or otherwise.
And I’m the guy who would know.
A Little Background
Having grown up in poor circumstances, I was anxious to be successful in all areas of my adult life, especially the financial realm. I wanted to provide well for my family and repay the many acts of kindness we so frequently received from others in my formative years. For example, I remember one Christmas we received a box of toys from someone who knocked at the door and said that Santa was delayed in Kansas and had asked him to deliver a package to us.
I couldn’t wait to do the same kinds of things for other people and I thought success would come easily. But I didn’t understand the importance of work.
Aside from my time as a church missionary and some other experiences, I had not really worked. Sure, I would show up and do the job, but I wasn’t giving it my all because my expectation was that a little work would go a long way.
I was pompous enough to believe that I was smart enough, talented enough, good looking enough, and charming enough that with only a little effort and lots of belief I would be able to move mountains. I wasn’t focused on my various jobs because I was sure the right opportunity was just around the corner and everything else was temporary.
With only that little bit of work things didn’t open up and happen for me the way I thought they would and should. Circumstances didn’t align to make my path easy. Instead of a life of young fame and fortune, I was working two jobs just to survive.
Luckily, while working that second job, I was introduced to a personal development and mentorship group focused on creating success. I caught fire wanting to learn about success, leadership, wealth creation, and personal development. I was excited to learn what I was doing wrong and how I could be successful.
Learning About Success
For the next several years I spent money on tapes, CDs, books, seminars, and presentations that promised to help me think the right way and be successful. I read websites, e-zines, newsletters, and emails. I got books and audio books from the library.
I digested whatever I could get my hands on. I availed myself of what the success and personal development gurus had to offer and was motivated to implement it.
I believed in myself; set goals; wrote those goals down, kept them where I would see them, and told others what those goals were; consulted with a mentor; envisioned success; dreamed big; did something every day to bring me closer to my dream; maintained a positive attitude; and did all of the other things the experts say are necessary to create success. I thought success, spoke success, and dreamed success. I posted pictures of what I wanted, visualized the desired end state and planned my path working backwards.
It didn’t work.
Rather than success untold, I had debt untold. Rather than happiness, I had frustration.
I didn’t reach the success I was told I should have been able to and consequently wondered what was wrong with me – after all, it couldn’t be the experts who were wrong.
I wondered if it might be my financial circumstances that were preventing me from reaching success; maybe I needed to make more money so I could invest in the experts’ complete systems. Maybe the real secrets were in there, not in their free and low cost-information that I was using. (Note the irony here of thinking I needed to make more money before I could find out about how to make more money.)
Then I thought maybe my mindset was the problem and needed to be changed. When I still couldn’t create success, I thought maybe it just wasn’t the right time. But then I thought about the experts’ advice of “you can do anything you set your mind to,” and “you’re in total control of your life,” so again I wondered what I was doing wrong and kept searching for the secret to success that eluded me.
Adding insult to injury, I finally figured out that I was anything but good looking or charming – so much for being able to rely on those qualities to help me on my journey.
The good news, though, is that through trying to figure out what creates success I picked up on one thing: the value of work. I was finally putting in real work and that led to a perfect storm of circumstances.
Idea for the Book
While I was seeking answers about how to be successful, I came across an idea by Robert Allen who described how passion and financial compensation are tied together. He said we all have unique gifts, talents, and interests, a passion, with which we have been endowed to bless the world.
He equates the sharing of one’s passion to the playing of a unique note in the symphony of life. When we all play our notes, the symphony is rich and wonderful. When one doesn’t share their passion, the symphony of life is impoverished of that person’s sound.
Allen also asserts that when we share our passion we impact the world in such a unique and powerful way that it can’t help but compensate us financially for that contribution.
Wow, what a great thought! I immediately wanted to share it with others to encourage them to share their passion with the world and help them achieve the success that I also so badly wanted.
For years I had wanted to write a book but didn’t know what to write about until I came across Allen’s idea. The thought came to me to interview 21 ordinary millionaires to learn how they had found their passion and thus found their success. I wanted to use millionaires who were not necessarily well known to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a celebrity or athlete to live your passion and that success is closer than we think.
What is Your Passion?
I ran across one little problem with my grand idea.
On the third interview I found that the connection between passion and success might not be what I thought it was. It was a beautiful Friday morning and I was talking with Matt, a customer-turned-friend who had sold his business for several million dollars. Earlier in the interview I had asked him if he had set goals on his path to becoming a millionaire. He hadn’t.
Later I asked, “What is your passion?”
Rather quickly he responded, “I really don’t know. I’ve been asked that question before and I honestly have never sat down and thought about what am I passionate about.”
Up to that point, based on what I had heard, read, seen, and believed, I thought success was conditioned upon finding something about which you were passionate, setting goals, and creating a plan to accomplish those goals; then pursuing that plan with discipline, focus, and determination.
Matt’s answers were contrary to all of that.
Not only did he ruin the perfect subtitle for the book (Find Your Passion, Find Your Success), Matt shattered what I thought was a surefire way to find my own success and inspire others to do the same. More importantly, though, he sent me on a quest for the truth.
From that point on, my focus in the interviews was different. Rather than trying to validate the blueprint of passion creating success and prove my hypothesis right, I wanted to hear in the millionaires’ own words, from their own experiences, the how and why they did what they did. I wanted the truth, whatever it was.
I wanted to know if the other millionaires, like Matt, didn’t really know what their passion was. I wanted to know if they had had goals and if those goals were written. I wanted to know if they used visualization, had a written business plan, or any plan at all. I wanted to know if there was a formal system they followed, such as an expert’s guaranteed system. I wanted to know if they had had mentors and who those mentors were. I wanted to know if they ever had a desire to become a millionaire. I wanted to know about their belief system. I wanted to know what advice they would give to someone looking to be successful. I wanted to know what really creates success.
In seeking the truth, I found it.
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Way of the Disciple,” Ensign, May 2009, 75–78
- Thomas S. Monson, “Seven Steps to Success with Aaronic Priesthood Youth,” Ensign, Feb 1985, 22