Take a Stand

attitude, character, communism, Constitution, freedom, leadership, Podcast, Success, supreme court, trust, virtue

Podcast # 19   On Taking A Stand

Learn how holding fast to your character leads to greater opportunity in this podcast!

Throughout history there are those who boldly plant themselves in the critics path to defend just principles. The strength of their character preserves freedom and justice for all.  Listen to this inspiring story of one in our modern era who did just that.  He represents the thousands of others who, in pivotal moments, put adulation, power and even popularity aside to protect the principles that set us free.   Enjoy this powerful podcast about James Donovan!

The Virtue of Money and the Value of Today’s Resolutions

achievement, attitude, Blog Entries, money, resolutions, Success, Uncategorized, virtue

Why do we wait for the New Year for “new resolutions,” when in reality most of those goals are just old resolutions resurrected under a different time and title?  Why don’t more of us resolve to fix our work, health and financial habits right now when we are feeling the pain?  In fact, why not resolve today to adjust just one habit that can improve your relationships or increase your sales or grow company profits?  Because just being engaged in the right activity consistently brings rewards.  Let me provide a couple of illustrations.

In a cause I have worked with for years, one of our sales reps I’ll call Bob shared with me an experience he had while cold calling on businesses for support.  During a drop in call, a customer of that business after hearing his introduction walked up to Bob and warmly said, “its good to see you out beating the streets.  I used to be a supporter of your organization before I retired and I want to support you again.”  He then pulled out his checkbook without another word and wrote him a decent sized check.  You see, he wanted to reward effort, diligence and important work.  Now, if Bob hadn’t maintained the daily habit of being out in the field he would have missed that “easy” sale.

For the next example, I turn to the author Ayn Rand.  In her controversial book Atlas Shrugged, she creates a scene which emphasizes the merit of dedicated work.  The scene is set at a party where a wealthy industrialist responds to an intellectual who proclaimed that, “money is the root of all evil:”

 

“…So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is  a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.          Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by  trade and give value for value.  … Money is made possible only by the men who produce.  Is this what you  consider evil?

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will  exchange it for the product of the effort of others.  It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to  money.  Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your  wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow.  [Money is],…, a token of honor—your claim upon  the energy of the men who produce.  Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world  around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money…

To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will.  Money rests on the axiom that every man  is the owner of his mind and his effort.  Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except  the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return…”

 

Thomas Jefferson put it this way, “It is not to the moderation and justice of others we are to trust for fair and equal access to market our productions… but our own means of independence, and the firm will to use them.”

So what does all this have to do with resolutions? Well, I believe most resolutions stem from a desire to be happier.  One thing that keeps us from enjoying happiness is a lack of resolve to get engaged in meaningful work and worthwhile goals.  Unfortunately, society has allowed “moochers and looters,” as Ayn Rand puts it,  to manipulate the supply and flow of money to reward special interest as opposed to value added.  The more we allow this the more it affects our ability to produce fairly and enjoy wider happiness. This goes for the welfare recipient who is fully capable of working to the politician who uses his position to get something for nothing.  Happiness won’t be found that way and society certainly has no value added in both cases.  As more people buy into this “something for nothing mentality” economies slow.  Individuals then become fearful and hold on tightly to the few remaining dollars and freedom for all diminishes.

So the next time you decide to skip making your daily sales calls, or stay in bed, or avoid work or that uncomfortable conversation you must have with an associate, or skip breakfast, or burn up your savings, or stop investing, or watch TV instead of reading that book  or listen to the tabloid talk shows instead of personal development audios or stay up late playing video games instead of taking your wife on a date or whatever productive task we drop because idleness is easier, resolve to look squarely at the habits that lead to the results you know down deep that you want and ask, am “I willing to make my resolution now to produce?”  In other words, will you put forth an effort that is worthy of the honest trade of another man’s money.  Because when you do, that willing exchange will not only make you wealthy and free, but your nation as well.  And that can only happen now not on January 1st!

Warren Buffett:  “You Do Not Have to Cheat to Make Money”

investment, personal development, Success, Warren Buffett

At Coca Cola’s annual shareholders’ meeting last month, Warren Buffett, whose investment firm Berkshire Hathaway holds more of the companies stock than any other single holder, surprised the 700 attendees by playing his ukulele.  Coca Cola and it’s largest investor seized upon the moment by recording a little publicity piece that features Buffett playing and singing the vintage 1970s jingle about “…buying the world a coke” something Buffett admits at the end of this ditty he could do, but didn’t feel it would be prudent for the sake of his shareholders.(1)  Buffett who is irrefutably the greatest investor of the 20th century and beyond, could be criticized here for shamelessly hocking unhealthy sugar water by the ultra health conscious; he could certainly be slammed for his insatiable appetite to drive up his profit by the minimalist; and anyone from the socialist to the hard core conservative could find reason to criticize him. However, his down to earth style in this video strangely captures the essence of the man.

For the record, Buffett does enjoy picking up the ukulele and he doesn’t just hock coke for profit he actually enjoys consuming it on a daily basis. So no, he’s not the model of physical fitness nor does he care to be.  And yes, he is driven by profit, yet strangely he spends virtually none of it on himself.  Through and through he is who he appears to be.  So if greed, vanity and luxury don’t drive him, why does he relentlessly pursue wealth?  Now I am no Buffett expert, but my theory is that this unique man finds passion in the pursuit of business excellence and money or market valuation just happens to be the scoreboard.  Because Buffett has been emphatic about sticking to his core guiding principles he has developed a trusted reputation that has saved numerous companies over the years.  In 2008, just two years after signing over 37 billion to 5 different charities he was listed as the world’s wealthiest man.  Ironically, the world knows his name but he doesn’t seem to care as evidenced by the absence of his name on his recent giving and the fact that even his company, Berkshire Hathaway, lacks his name.  And though he totally recreated that company from a textile company into an extremely successful investment firm, a quick company search reveals another as its founder. It seems his passion is enough and his formula for success, though unorthodox, obviously bears fruit worthy of sampling. (2)

Robert Kiyosaki noted that wealth creation requires three things: long term vision, delayed gratification and leveraging the power of compounding.  Buffett understood this before Kiyosaki declared it and not only did he live by them, but his solid conservative mid-western upbringing taught him that hard work, frugality, honesty, determination and character must be the bedrock upon which these wealth creation principles rest.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska during the great depression, Warren learned valuable lessons on frugality when his stock broker father lost his job.  He also managed to maintain a clear vision that one day he would be wealthy.  Paper routes provided seed money and a reputation for reliability.  He soon acquired the best routes and saved his earnings.  Exercising delayed gratification he put away a staggering $ 5,000 (60 K+ in 2015 dollars after adjusting for inflation).  Upon graduation from high school Buffett was ready to start his own investment business but his father, who he greatly respected, persuaded him to go to college where he breezed through his courses.  At 19 he found himself in an interview for Harvard Business School, but Buffett laughs in retrospect at the failed interview, chalking it up to immaturity.  This “loss” however sent him to Columbia University where he met his business mentor, a professor Ben Graham, who helped inspire his philosophy on business investing.  Graham instilled in him an understanding that the market is not there to inform you but rather to serve you.  Put another way, the market is often wrong so don’t get caught in the “trends.”

Armed with ideas and an insatiable drive, Warren instantly became a maverick by turning his back on Wall Street and heading home to Omaha, Nebraska where he would start his company, raise his family and continue to live in the same house to this very day.  Though brilliant, Buffett ran into his first obstacle as a business investor: himself. Referring to this early obstacle he recollected, “My sales pitch wasn’t very effective. I was 20 years old, I looked like I was 16 and probably behaved like I was 12… I would go through all these facts and figures and then… they’d say, ‘What does your dad think?’ At that point I’d want to punch them…” Instead of bemoaning his lack of people skills, he turned to self-help books and took a course from the Dale Carnegie institute to learn public speaking and the art of communication.  Like any good student, he immediately applied what he was learning and proposed to his wife. He laughs in an interview stating, “Right there I got my money’s worth.” (2)

The rest really is history, Buffet survived through all kinds of adversity and always came through the battle whether in court, sanctions or market crisis with his character and reputation in tact.  By 30 he was a millionaire, in his 40s he was a billionaire and his company always well outperformed the market. In 1985, stock in his company was trading at $ 2,000 per share.  In 1993 the same share was worth $ 17,000 and by 2007 it hit a staggering $ 150,000 per share.  During the economic disaster of the sub-prime crash in 2008 his show of confidence in struggling financial companies saved them from ruin and though he too suffered losses in the down economy today, his shares are trading at $ 200,000 per share.

Buffett is a true rugged American Individualist; he marches to the beat of his own drum.  He’s relentless in his pursuit of a bargain.  He’s shrewd, yet honest. He’s absent minded yet laser focused. He’s driven to excellence in his areas of passion and unimpressed by any show of pomp or extravagance that doesn’t line up with his purpose. His life illustrates what can be done when one maintains a long term vision, delays gratification over and over again and allows the power of compounding to work in their behalf.  And how did he learn all this?–through self-study, mentors and the school of hard knocks.  But when those knocks came it is clear he learned, adjusted and met them head on.  Finally, the man, who though strict adherence to excellence has earned more money than just about anyone on the planet, wasn’t really that interested in spending it on himself and so he gave more money away then any other individual in the history of the world because it turns out that pursuing money wasn’t really the motive. No, it was about a passionate pursuit of being excellent at what he loved to do.

While addressing a group of college students recently, Buffet advised them that success would come if they would get out of debt, stay out of debt and then never stop investing in themselves.  Your passion to create positive change in your life or in the world may not be in business investing, but if your capital (time and money) is wasted on that which you haven’t earned, then the time required to repay the interest will hold you hostage to your creditors and your dreams and influence will escape you.  But if through some exercise of vision and delayed gratification you pursue your passion and even acquire some seed money you may just find yourself in a position to give more away than you ever thought possible, but remember your joy will be found, as they say, in the journey.  A journey defined by living free and becoming who you were meant to be.

References:

  1. http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/from-one-icon-to-another-warren-buffett-serenades-the-coca-cola-bottle
  2. Warren Buffet Biography Documentary – Produced by Luminant Media for Bloomberg TV 2012
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Buffett accessed accessed 5/11/2015