What I have drafted below is an extract from something I am writing. I am not sure if it will turn into a book, a chaptered blog, a guide, I have no idea. But in short, it will be centred around good business practices and lessons I have learned. This piece comes from a chapter about money; where I address beliefs around money and all the things I was taught and had to unlearn, in fact, things I am still unlearning. These are ‘lessons’ I was taught as a young person growing up. For example, that money is a scarce resource and that you could only make a lot of it with a high level of formal education, that money was the root of all evil, the list goes on.
How do these beliefs carry over into adulthood and business? To answer this question, I am going to share a discussion I would have with a younger version of myself. Knowing what I do now, I would give myself the following information and advice to put the school system in context for how it will impact the rest of my life and my beliefs around money and how it is accumulated. In this hypothetical scenario, let us assume younger me is questioning the need to learn, to get good grades or even why he should pitch up at school and how school plays a part in becoming wealthy.
Dear Younger Me,
To start, understand that school is your childhood job where your responsibility is to learn. It’s probably the only time in your life that you will be able to spend time with your friends while at work. Appreciate the things that I am about to say because school doesn’t last long, and you will reminisce someday over the time when your workday ended at 2pm and you had time for sport, hobbies and sleeping in the afternoon. The reason school is important is that it will teach you things which you will need when you enter the adult world; see school as a framework for the following lessons:
- School will teach you the art of pitching up every day. As an adult this might be one of the simplest but most difficult things to do at times, learn to do it now, let it become normal.
- School will teach you that sometimes you will have to work hard when you see no reason to and when there is seemingly no outcome that can benefit you. One day there will be things you will need to do and put up with for extended periods of time that may only become clear later.
- School will teach you to deal with authority. To be on the receiving end of it and the giving end of it. This will come in handy if you are put into leadership positions. Learn from those who do it right and learn from those who do it wrong. Learn the importance of humility and kindness in the realm of authority by observing how teachers treat pupils and how they are treated in return.
- School will teach you to deal with people from diverse backgrounds and of different ages. Pay attention to the fact that people learn differently, express themselves differently and are good at different things.
- School will teach you to understand the basics so that you have a foundation to work from. This will apply in many scenarios later in your career where you cannot possibly know everything, but you will need to learn basics to make decisions with the knowledge you have.
- Schools are backward-looking, teaching you how things were done, not how they will be done. Knowing how it used to work can be important to better inform future decision-making. If you think it doesn’t apply to your future, at least you know how it was done in the past.
Why does this matter in the context of beliefs around money and a career? It matters because pitching up will be half the battle won when trying to finish a project, trying to close a deal or trying to build a relationship with a prospect that isn’t convinced yet – all of which, in some form, have a monetary reward. It matters because at times you will have to complete work that does not pay or merely breaks even. Like school, at times you will do work that seems to only benefit the person who asked you to do it. It matters because if you cannot deal with authority, if you cannot treat those around you with kindness and be humble when required, your business will be punished by your employees, if not your customers, or in the worst case, both. It matters because you will encounter employees, customers and colleagues that come from diverse backgrounds, have diverse beliefs, work ethic, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. You will need to learn how to treat these people, team up with them, team them up with each other and work with them to make your business (or job) successful and profitable. It matters because the basics matter, and school will provide you with the basics on many different levels. If you reject that now, you will habitually reject it later to the detriment of your personal or business’s bottom line. Doing the basics well is a strong foundation for any career or business you will pursue. It matters because understanding that often you will have to overcome the old way of doing things to forge a better new way of doing them. In the current school system, you will have a perfect example of the old way of doing things, use that as a reference point as you find better ways to do it.
Finally, and after looking at the peripheral influence of school on your skillset to make money, here is what you need to know about money that school will not teach you:
Do not use the word rich, use the word wealthy. The goal is not to be build riches, rather to build wealth. Being rich is having money; being wealthy is the knowledge of how to make it. Wealth also stretches across spheres like health, love, relationships, knowledge and happiness – not only money. Being rich is having a lot of money and being very concerned with it and the material possessions it buys, while being wealthy is having more than money, not worrying about it and having a ‘long-term’ state of mind.
The wealthy are not a group of people defined by their money and they are not an elite set of people. Wealthy people come from all the different backgrounds you can imagine. Some have little or no formal education, some have doctorates in their fields of expertise. Some have built empires without fail, some have many failed ventures in their past. I know sixteen-year-old millionaires and I know millionaires who only achieved it in their sixties.
Money doesn’t discriminate. Money doesn’t care what colour you are, how honest you are, how old you are, who your parents are or what kind of education you have. Money goes to those who work hard, even criminals.
Money is not a scarce resource. There is an abundance of it and there is no rule on the face of this earth that stops you from making more than a certain amount of it. It is there for the taking.
Money needs to work. You will not increase your wealth by saving money in a piggy bank, under your mattress or in a savings account at a bank. Money must be put to work. If you store it idly, it will reduce, even if it is hard cash, because of a thing called inflation – it will be worth less over time.
Money does not solve business problems, people and processes do. Don’t ever think that money will make life effortless or problem-free. It helps to have it, but it does not guarantee happiness, health or a trouble-free life.
Money is only a tool. It is not something to worship, to be scared of, to idolise, to prioritise, to resent or to love. Money is only a tool.
That said, you do not start a business or pick a job to make money, you do it to add value. Money is a by-product of value added. You may wonder what else to do if your business is either not making money or if you would like it to make more. Have you asked your customers what they want? Have you truly spent time understanding what your customers think of your current product/service and have you asked them what you can improve? Do you know what else your customers need? Maybe something they are currently going elsewhere for or something that would add even more value to your current offering. There are many ways to reach out to customers to ask them what they want or need. Don’t ever assume you do not need to improve or that they don’t desire more. If you work for someone you still don’t have an excuse; the company that pays your salary is your customer. Your income will be directly proportionate to the amount of value you add in the world. Once you give the market a solution to a problem or something that makes their lives easier or more meaningful, you have added value. Sell based on value added and you will find that you do not need to cut your competitor’s throat to close the deal in any situation.
Start now in your early years to pay a portion of your income to a charitable cause, tithing, a sibling’s education or whatever would be deemed a sacrifice of around 5-10% of your gross income, monthly. This will teach you another extremely important lesson:
That money should have no power over you. You should be able to let it go without a fear that it will never return. Being able to mentally and physically separate money that you have earned from yourself and put it into to something that may yield no personal return for you is the ultimate way to turn the table of power around. You will never know the power money has over some people. Do not idolise, prioritise, resent or greedily accumulate money.
In summary, you need to understand money before you can make a lot of it, else it will be squandered. School and the excuses people make for not having it are where all the false information and ‘lessons’ about money are born and fed to us as we grow up. If you continue to believe these untruths, you will only limit your potential to accumulate wealth and likely pass the untruths on to your children and others around you. You will see and make money but only a bit of it, you will miss opportunity and not see how much can be made. You will believe things like people want ‘cheaper’ and that money is scarce. There is a saying that goes ‘there is a difference between wishing for a thing and being ready for it’. The same counts for money. You need to understand money and be ready for money to accumulate it and to increase its potential while in your possession.
Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver