I was going to write my inaugural Next! article about Bitcoin, but the space is moving so fast that every time I pause and reflect on what to say about this exciting new phenomenon, some dramatic change occurs!
Instead, I am going to discuss affluence and how to get it -- something that struck me as I spent March Break in Europe with my family. Before heading to Spain for the holiday part of our trip, we were in Zurich for a few days of business meetings. We met a very pleasant and interesting man there. Upon hearing that we were heading to Mallorca, Spain, he informed us that he owned a home on the island and lived there half the year. He produced his iPhone and showed us a brief slideshow of his villa and its well kept grounds.
He told us he also had an apartment in Rome.
Who was this man who enjoyed residences in a couple of the most captivating locales in Europe? A wealthy Swiss industrialist? A Catalonian F-1 racer? An Italian football star?
None of the above. He was our taxi driver to the airport in Zurich. A simple vocation for a quietly dignified man, someone who had made his choices in life and seemed to have done rather well with them.
He exemplified a lesson I have learned in my own life. I first heard it from Joe Polish in his Piranha Marketing home study course. (They are hard to find, but I highly recommend it. Try Amazon.com -- there are some available at under $200. I paid over $600 for mine when it first came out and found it worth every penny.)
Joe Polish was once a hapless carpet cleaner, eking out a hand-to-mouth existence. One day, he had the chance to go golfing with a "Rich Man". He seized the moment as an opportunity to ask the "Rich Man" a question that had been burning within him for a long time.
The afternoon arrived, the golf was over and after the usual pleasantries and small talk, he saw his opening. "What business should I be in?" he asked.
The Rich Man looked at him and asked "What business are you in now?"
Joe Polish told him that he was a carpet cleaner.
"Are there any wealthy carpet cleaners?" the Rich Man asked next.
Joe admitted that, indeed, there were a few wealthy carpet cleaners in the business.
The Rich Man then gave Joe a nugget of wisdom that literally changed his life: If you aren't "rich" doing what you're doing, but there are other people doing what you do who are, the problem isn't the business you're in. The problem is you.
Joe Polish took this to heart, went away and re-invented himself and his business. Within a few short years, the man was a wealthy carpet cleaner.
This story drives home the point that Warren Buffet (arguably the world's most successful investor) continually makes when he speaks about "Circle of Competence". It means that in order to succeed in life, you need an edge. To gain an edge, you have to function within your own "Circle of Competence".
Too many people dissatisfied with their lives look outside their own circle to find solutions and fulfillment. So, you might have a bricklayer trying to learn how to daytrade. Or, the aerobics instructor deciding to "flip houses". It rarely works and the only people who come out ahead are those "Selling the Dream" - the ones putting on the "get rich learning how to daytrade" seminars.
That isn't how it's done. If you're an out of work janitor, you open a cleaning supplies company (or something like it). If you're a taxi driver, maybe you figure out a way to put a couple more cars on the road.
This is big takeaway from the parable of "The Wealthy Carpet Cleaner", which all came back to me as we were being driven to the airport by our affluent taxi driver.
Given that here in Europe parts of the continent are undergoing a veritable Great Depression (nearly 50% youth unemployment here in Spain) it is a good time to remind everybody that while your circumstances can make it easier or harder to be where you ultimately want to be, the final decision on how to get there is up to you, alone.
Anybody can have their own path to affluence, but it must be uniquely their own.
Until Next! time . . .