Can You Keep a Secret?

| November 4, 2009

As you have read in previous posts, RMITs are not believers in long-term planning. America’s big successes got where they are by incremental improvement and strong, careful execution, but they didn’t get there by deciding at the outset how they would hit a $2.5 million profit target or achieve a 72 percent market share. They followed their perfect pitch, always moving forward while remaining flexible enough to adapt to change and to take advantage of opportunities. As Dan Duncan, Houston’s RMIT, told me, “Daily incremental improvement is the surest path to great success and a great fortune.” As I found out as I was researching The Richest Man in Town, however, for all that they cautioned against too much goal-setting, many RMITs have a secret.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness?

| May 21, 2009

It’s a cliché I heard a lot while I was writing The Richest Man in Town: “Money can’t buy happiness.” I can tell you that there are a lot of miserable rich people out there, and it is certainly true that pursuing money for money’s sake will not lead to a satisfying life. But for RMITs wealth is not only a tool to achieve great things and add value to the community; it’s also the reward for their hard labor, that allows them to pursue their passions and have a full, well-rounded life. Across the board, I found that having money is indeed related to happiness. And science backs me up: In April of last year, University of Pennsylvania economists Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers presented a study at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., on just this subject. According to the New York Times, Stevenson and Wolfers found that 90 percent of the households in America that have incomes of $250,000 or more call themselves “very happy.”

There’s No Place Like Home

| May 16, 2009

The eminent novelist Thomas Wolfe once posited that you can’t go home again; in fact, that was the title of one of his best-received novels. Well, I beg to differ. I admit that growing up among the tall pines of Carrollton, Georgia, I often dreamed of the world outside this quaint little hamlet. I wanted to experience that wider world and all its attendant glories. And looking back now, I can say that I have seen much of the world and tasted many of its splendors.
Carrollton doesn’t look that different today from how it did when I was growing up here; there is more traffic, but I would say there is much more culture and sophistication, too. What hasn’t changed, however, is the warmth and grace of her people, and I experienced that in spades this week as I celebrated the release of my new book, The Richest Man in Town, in my hometown. I can’t remember when I’ve had a better time, or a warmer welcome.

Fake It ’Til You Make it

| May 9, 2009

I have long thought that Jesse Kornbluth is one of the finest writers in America. He has a sharp wit, an incisive understanding of the culture and despite his occasional playful grumpiness is a kind writer, too. Vanity Fair hasn’t been the same without his powerful pen. And to my great delight, the great writer had some nice things to say about The Richest Man in Town, and a few very funny things, too. In his review, Kornbluth poses this question:

Have you noticed that almost no one ever seems to ask the rich about the subject they know best? No, on the Fiddler on the Roof theory—“When you’re rich, they think you really know”—the rich get to sound off on all manner of topics outside their expertise. We’re regularly served their views on inheritance taxes, wars, medical research and the arts. What’s harder to ferret out: what they know about becoming and staying rich.

Jesse Kornbluth says that my book delivers in this regard, bless him. He does make a little fun of me and my lifestyle, saying, “As far as I can tell, he [that would be me] has amassed piles of money. In addition to the duplex in Manhattan, there’s a house in Westchester. I doubt his kids have ever been shamed by clothes from the Gap. And his wife needed an operation on her earlobes a while back, thanks to decades of wearing earrings encrusted with massive diamonds. (No. Not really. But you get the idea.)” Very funny, Jesse, and by the way my kids most certainly do wear clothes from the Gap. My wife does have earlobe problems, though.

Despite Jesse’s rather regal impression, in truth I am simply faking it ’til I make it. After two years of research and hundreds of hours of interviews, though, I am rich—if not yet in extreme wealth—in ideas and inspiration for new business-building opportunities that I can’t wait to execute.