Tag Archives: Mark Ford

How To Move Forward

Take These 7 Steps to Get Unstuck

By Mark Ford

When you agreed to do it, it seemed like a wonderful challenge.

Now, your deadline is fast approaching… and you haven’t even started.

Getting the job done is a priority — yet it somehow doesn’t happen. Instead, it stays there on your daily task list — highlighted for attention but never attended to.

What causes this pernicious process? Why does a great opportunity turn into a very big chore… that turns into an overwhelming enigma… that threatens to turn into the big job you never even started?

There are many causes. But only one solution always works for me.

The solution involves seven steps:

  1. If you’ve been stuck for more than three days, you’re stuck. Admit it. Stand in front of the mirror and repeat: “I shot my mouth off. I’m stuck.” You’ve been waiting for inspiration to save you, but it hasn’t appeared. Stop waiting.
  2. Change the status of the job. It started as one priority among many. Now, make it No. 1 on your daily task list.
  3. Don’t even think of attacking the whole mess at once. Break it up into small pieces. If it’s a 40-page report you have to write, break it up into pages. If it’s a bunch of people you have to talk to, think of each conversation as a separate task.
  4. Working back from your deadline, figure how many discrete units (pages, calls, etc.) you need to do each day. Then figure out how long it will take you to do that many units.
  5. If each unit can be done in less than 15 minutes, you’re in luck. Give yourself the job of doing just one 15-minute task each day. If you’ll have to spend more than 15 minutes a day to finish, then begin — still — with 15 minutes… but increase your daily time commitment as you get rolling.
  6. Start immediately. Complete your first 15 minutes — even if you don’t think you’re doing the task well.
  7. Keep going until you break through the psychological barrier you’ve been up against.

The secret here is to reduce each day’s work to 15 minutes.

It’s such a small amount of time — you won’t have any trouble doing it. This gets the ball rolling… even if it doesn’t seem to be rolling in the right direction.

Sooner or later — and this is guaranteed — you’ll get the inspiration you’d been waiting for while you were stuck.

Then, you’ll find you’ve already done a good deal of the grunt work (thinking, planning, researching, whatever).

This method is particularly useful when you get to the point where you don’t even like a project anymore. Unless you have the discipline to hack away at it every day, you’ll avoid it. And it will never get done.

Some days, you’ll want to work more than 15 minutes. That’s fine.

In fact, that’s the idea. It means your creative mind is starting to kick in.

One day — and this can happen at almost any time — you’ll see the big picture… and you’ll be able to get the whole project done right. You may decide to scrap — or change — some of what you’ve been doing.

But from that point on, you’ll work quickly and easily.

What are you waiting for? Get to it.

Editor’s Note: Mark Ford is hosting an online training event all this week. It culminates with a two-hour webinar event on Thursday. He’ll explain the ideas behind his favorite wealth-building methods and show you how to create a sizable net worth in 7 years or less… without touching stocks, bonds, or options. If you’re ready to increase your cash flow starting tomorrow — and to stop being a slave to a paycheck — go here to sign up for 100% free access.

About the Author: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.

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Business Leaders

Two Kinds of Business Leaders: Which one are you?

By Mark Ford

The business press is full of content about great leaders who excel at building unified teams. Every day, I seem to read a new article touting a CEO for fostering team spirit and loyalty.

But no one talks about another valuable leadership skill: the ability to develop breakout superstars.

Leaders who possess this skill are rare. They have the unique ability to suppress their egos and identify the employees who will take the business to new heights. Determined to raise the bar of their companies, they provide these individuals with mentorship and opportunities.

Poor leaders feel threatened by “star power” and trample the talent beneath them to preserve the status quo. They see individualism as a sign of rebellion and chaos.

To be a great leader, you need to understand how to promote individual talents. Don’t just focus on the team, or you may find yourself leading an army of mediocre yes-men.

Instead, focus on how you can nurture your stars and their unique skills.

Click here to read Mark’s essay Become a More Powerful Leader.

How to Remove the Financial Industry’s Horse Blinders

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” — Albert Einstein

How to Remove the Financial Industry’s Horse Blinders

By Mark Ford

I am not an investment professional. I have never made any money managing other people’s money. I went from rags to riches the old-fashioned way: by working hard and then investing my income as carefully as I could.

Because I’d done well on my own, I never considered seeking financial advice. Then a funny thing happened. I woke up one day with the thought that I should have a “professional” manage some of my money.

I interviewed two firms. One was a boutique business based in New York City that a friend recommended. The other was a private banking facility for one of the world’s largest brokerages.

The boutique firm was happy to take $100,000 of my money to get started. The other company wanted a minimum of $10 million. They both had fancy offices and pretty marketing brochures. But such frills scare me. They make me think, “Gee, these guys must be charging their customers a lot to afford all this stuff.”

My trepidations notwithstanding, I worked with both of them for about six months. I answered their questions about my tolerance for risk (little to none). I listened to their presentations. And then I did something that I bet few of their clients ever do.

I started asking them questions. And I kept pushing them to explain why I should believe that they could help me become wealthier.

What I got instead was clever circumlocution. A financially sophisticated version of what you’d expect from your teenage son if you pestered him about why he didn’t come home until four in the morning.

Those discussions convinced me that these guys could not manage my money better than I had been managing it.

To be fair, they certainly knew more about investment products than I did. But they didn’t know more about how to become wealthy.

These guys were smart. They had graduate degrees from great schools. They spoke eloquently. They seemed so… so… inside the game. I wanted them to be better than me. I really did.

But they really didn’t seem to care whether their services would make me richer or poorer. The contracts they wanted me to sign were going to put money in their pockets regardless. That didn’t feel right.

In the end, I told both of my elite financial planners to take a hike. And I went back to managing my money myself.

Seeing Only 20% of the Big Picture

The investment advisory industry is a huge, multibillion-dollar business based on hard work, clever thinking and sophisticated algorithms. But also on one teensy-weensy lie.

The lie is that you can grow wealthy investing in stocks and bonds.

It’s not a big, black lie. But the unfortunate truth is the financial establishment rarely looks beyond stocks and bonds. And if you think about it, why would it want to? It makes its money by ushering you from one “hot” stock or “amazing” fund to the next.

Wall Street wants you to think the stock (and sometimes the bond) markets are the only places you can make money. And because they know that you have heard that “diversification of assets” is good, they give you the illusion of diversification by having your stock portfolio invested in businesses that are “diversified” into manufacturing, retail, global trade, natural resources, etc.

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This is, as I said, an illusion. At the end of the day, it’s all invested in stocks or stock derivatives. The result? More risk and less potential wealth gain for you.

So start by deconstructing the little lie.

Building wealth involves much more than just investing in stocks and bonds. Most rich people get that way by consistently doing the following nine things:

  1. Giving top priority to increasing their net investible income, not to maximizing returns

  2. Spending less as a percentage of net income as it grows so they can save more

  3. Understanding debt and using it occasionally and strategically to build wealth

  4. Investing in stocks and bonds with discipline — i.e., without expecting to get returns that are much higher than market averages

  5. Insuring themselves against “black swan” events, but not investing with the hope of profiting from them

  6. Owning tangible, portable and non-reportable assets as a reserve that can be tapped into at opportune moments

  7. Investing in safe real estate — i.e., income-producing properties

  8. Investing directly in private enterprises and other “outside Wall Street” opportunities

  9. Keeping a substantial store of cash to be used when “cash becomes king.”

As you can see, investing in stocks and bonds is only one of nine strategies you must follow to become rich, but that was the only one the two money management firms I tried cared about.

How to Ensure Financial Growth and Security

So if you can’t reasonably expect to get rich with just stocks and bonds, what can you do?

You can model your investing behavior on the behaviors that have been proven, time and time again, to actually work.

I’m talking about asset allocation.

Asset allocation is the process by which you spread your wealth across different sorts of investments.

You might think that something so dull as asset allocation could not possibly be that important in acquiring wealth, but numerous studies have shown that it may be the most important factor. (These studies can be found here.)

Because of an early financial disaster, I became an emotionally compulsive diversifier of practically every dollar I could save, putting some of it in bonds, some in stocks, some in cash, some in real estate and so on.

Over the years, I have made hundreds of individual financial decisions — buy this, sell that. Some of them were quite good, a few of them were quite bad, and most of them were in between. And yet, overall, my net worth has increased considerably and consistently, without any down years, for more than 30 years.

I could see very clearly that particular buy/sell decisions did not account for this good fortune. It was the general decisions about asset allocation that paid off.

Since I discovered this, I have been telling my readers about my own asset allocation decisions every year. Not because I think my portfolio is the best possible exemplum of diversification, but just to illustrate my belief that one needs to go well beyond some combination of stocks, bonds and cash to win at the wealth-building game.

Editor’s Note: As you may already know, Mark Ford was the creator of Early to Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes his Creating Wealth newsletter.

For the last six months, Mark’s been working on a special project only a few of his employees know about. It’s the culmination of his 35 years of experience in building wealth for himself and his protégés. And he’s about to reveal it to select readers…

He’ll show you exactly what you need to do to create more wealth. You’ll learn every detail, shortcut, and “loophole” he’s discovered. And you won’t have to quit your job, go into debt, or take any crazy risks. Mark’s even discovered a way you can make an extra $20,000 to $100,000 this year…

Click here to add your name to the “preview” list. You’ll also get exclusive wealth-building content — 100% FREE.

Criticism is the Price of Success

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Criticism is the Price of Success

By Mark Ford

One of the most surprising and disappointing things about reaching an important goal is that many people won’t share your happiness when they hear about it. Some will even criticize your achievement.

This has happened to me a lot in my success-driven life. The criticism always hurts — but it hurts less now than it did when I was younger. Moreover, I’ve learned to profit from it. You can too.

What’s important, I’ve found, is not the criticism itself but how I react to it. Praise motivates me to do more of what I’m doing. Criticism — which used to make me want to quit — spurs me to examine what I’m doing and see if I can do it better.

This happened after I published an article in my Ready, Fire, Aim newsletter about the economy. Two of my most esteemed colleagues read it, didn’t like it, and chastised me for bad writing. That set me aback. I consider myself to be a pretty good writer, but they made me wonder if I was really just a shallow-minded pundit of mediocrity.

After doubting myself for a few days, I set to the task of profiting from their comments. I reread what they said and made notes on those points I thought were valid. I circulated my notes to Jason, Suzanne, and Judith, my editors. That began an ongoing discussion about how we could improve the newsletter. And we came up with a few good ideas.

I then wrote to my two friends who were nice enough to honestly critique my article. I thanked them for helping me make the newsletter better. And I meant it.

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, Marshall Goldsmith talks about how important feedback is to success:

Feedback is very useful for telling us “where we are.” Without feedback… we couldn’t have results. We couldn’t keep score. We wouldn’t know if we were getting better or worse. Just as salespeople need feedback on what’s selling and leaders need feedback on how they are perceived by their subordinates, we all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress.

Goldsmith acknowledges that negative feedback “can be employed by others to reinforce our feelings of failure, or at least remind us of them — and our reaction is rarely positive.” Worst of all, negative feedback can sometimes shut us down. “We close ranks, turn into our shell, and shut the world out.”

When Goldsmith was a child, his mother told him he had no mechanical skills. He went through high school believing that, and, when he was 18, scored at the bottom of the entire nation in a test given by the U.S. Army.

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A few years later, a professor persuaded him to take another look at his mechanical abilities. That’s when he realized his mother was wrong, and he was “just living out the expectations [he] had chosen to believe.”

So that might be the first thing to say about profiting from criticism. Recognize that a negative comment about you or your abilities cannot damage you unless you let it.

Goldsmith says that he wasted years, convinced that he was mechanically inept. But he didn’t blame his mother. He blamed himself. “I was the one who kept telling myself, ‘You can’t do this!’ I realized that as long as I kept saying that, it was going to be true.”

Here are some useful techniques for profiting from criticism.

1. Remember that criticism is the price of success.

As writer Elbert Hubbard said, “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” So if you do something, you’re going to be subject to criticism. President Obama gets criticized. Clint Eastwood gets criticized. Even Mother Theresa was criticized. The more success you have, the more criticism you will engender. Some of it will be helpful. Most of it will be useless. But don’t be afraid of it. It won’t kill you. It will only make you stronger.

2. Dump your failure-support group.

This group includes jealous friends, professional enemies, and habitual critics. These people get their kicks from kicking you when you are up. They want you to be down where they are. Don’t go there. Just ignore them.

3. If you can’t ignore your critics, frame your responses strategically.

Sometimes, you won’t be able to ignore your critics — if, for example the criticism is coming from your boss or your family. That’s when you need to stay calm and respond strategically.

In Self-Esteem, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning recommend a technique they call “clouding.” “Clouding involves a token agreement with a critic. It is used when criticism is neither constructive nor accurate. When you use clouding to deal with criticism, you are saying to the critic, ‘Yes, some of what is on your screen is on my screen.’ But to yourself you add, ‘And some isn’t.’ You ‘cloud’ by agreeing in part, probability, or principle.”

Agreeing in part — finding one part of your critic’s comments to agree with or acknowledge.

The Criticism: You’re not reliable. You forget to pick up the kids, you let the bills pile up until we could lose the roof over our heads, and I can’t ever count on you to be there when I need you.

Your Response: You’re certainly right that I did forget to pick up the kids last week after their swimming lesson.

Agreeing in probability — acknowledging that there’s a possibility your critic could be right. The chances may be a million to one against it, but you can truthfully say, “It’s possible you’re right.”

The Criticism: Starting a business now is a terrible idea. The economy is in the crapper, and you’re just wasting time and money.

Your Response: Yes, it’s possible that my business won’t work out.

Agreeing in principle — acknowledging the logic of your critic’s argument, but not necessarily agreeing with his assumptions. This clouding technique uses the conditional “if/then” format.

The Criticism: You’re really taking a chance by claiming all these deductions you don’t have receipts for. The IRS is cracking down. You’re just asking for an audit. It’s stupid to try to save a few bucks and bring them down on you like a pack of bloodhounds.

Your Response: You’re right. If I take the deductions, I’ll be attracting more attention to myself. And if I get audited, it will be a real hassle.

4. Take helpful criticism seriously.

Helpful criticism is sometimes harsh but it’s always well intended. It’s not hard to identify it. The hard thing is to accept that it is helpful and use it to improve yourself.

In Succeed for Yourself: Unlock Your Potential for Success and Happiness, Richard Denny says, “Constructive criticism is not negative, so be enthusiastic about it. Remember, you are very fortunate if you receive it. Encourage others to offer constructive criticism.”

5. Thank your critics.

I make it a habit to send a personal “thank you” to anyone whose criticism has helped me do better work.

6. Solicit criticism — from people you respect — while there is plenty of time to make changes.

One of the most successful publishers I know does this regularly. When considering the launch of a new product, he sends a memo to a small group of more experienced publishers explaining his concept and asking them to poke holes in it.

By getting their criticism early, he doesn’t feel its sting. After all, it’s not his baby that is being criticized. It’s just an idea. And ideas, as we all know, are not worth anything until they are put into action.

Another benefit — and this is a big one — is that it saves him time and frustration. By getting input on an idea before he’s done a lot of work on it, it is much easier for him to make changes.

9 Wealth-Building Lessons From Billionaires

9 Wealth-Building Lessons From Billionaires
By Mark Ford
There is no shortage of billionaires today. In 1985, there were fewer than 20 of them. Today, there are more than 1,800. As many as 536 of them are American. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Nor is their collective net worth of around $2.5 trillion.

At the moment, the U.S. has the world’s largest and most-profitable economy. But, India and China are catching up. Their economies are growing fast. And they are not wasting trillions of dollars on foreign wars.

One of the best ways you can create and maintain wealth is by following the lead of people who’ve already done so.

About 33% of the very rich got their money through inheritance. Take the Waltons (founders of Wal-Mart), for instance. The rest — two out of three — created their wealth through business. About half of those mega-entrepreneurs started with family money, and the other half started from scratch.

These are the people — like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page — who earned the wealth they have. These are the people I’d listen to if I wanted advice on how to succeed today.

I don’t know any of these billionaire entrepreneurs (BEs) personally, but I do know lots of multimillionaires —  entrepreneurs, authors, professionals, and even a few successful artists. And in my experience, they share the following traits with billionaires:

9 Wealth-Building Lessons From Billionaires
By Mark Ford
There is no shortage of billionaires today. In 1985, there were fewer than 20 of them. Today, there are more than 1,800. As many as 536 of them are American. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Nor is their collective net worth of around $2.5 trillion.

At the moment, the U.S. has the world’s largest and most-profitable economy. But, India and China are catching up. Their economies are growing fast. And they are not wasting trillions of dollars on foreign wars.

One of the best ways you can create and maintain wealth is by following the lead of people who’ve already done so.

About 33% of the very rich got their money through inheritance. Take the Waltons (founders of Wal-Mart), for instance. The rest — two out of three — created their wealth through business. About half of those mega-entrepreneurs started with family money, and the other half started from scratch.

These are the people — like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page — who earned the wealth they have. These are the people I’d listen to if I wanted advice on how to succeed today.

I don’t know any of these billionaire entrepreneurs (BEs) personally, but I do know lots of multimillionaires —  entrepreneurs, authors, professionals, and even a few successful artists. And in my experience, they share the following traits with billionaires:

1. Most, but not all, have college degrees.

The great majority of BEs — about 90% — have college degrees. But it’s not necessary for success. Among the world’s super-rich today, Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, Fred DeLuca, David Geffen, and Andrey Melnichenko didn’t graduate from college. And David Murdock (Dole Foods) and Richard Desmond (British publishing magnate) never finished high school. That same percentage (90%) feels roughly true in terms of the most successful people I know. Those who lacked college educations were plenty smart and had the most important skills: thinking, writing, and speaking.

2. BEs work harder and longer than the people who work for them. 

Most say they work 50-55 hours per week. Canadian communication mogul Ted Rogers worked 12 hours per day. And some, like Bill Gates (when he worked at Microsoft) and Jeff Skoll (dot-com legend and eBay’s first president) took no vacations for years while their businesses were growing. These days, I probably work about 60 hours per week, but when I was in my “growth” phase, I was working 80-plus hours and not taking vacations.

Every successful person I know works long and works hard. But, I do know a few people who seem to be able to have some balance in their lives. Bill Bonner, for example, has always kept his weekends free for building stone walls or repairing roofs on his various global mansions. But he works 16 hours per day Monday through Friday.

3. BEs are constantly looking for profit opportunities. 

When they hear about an economic or business development, they don’t hear it as some bit of abstract news about someone else. Instead, they think, “How could I profit from that?”

In this respect, you’d have to say BEs are self-centered. Like all super-successful people, they are constantly relating the facts of their lives back to their personal careers. I can’t get through a magazine, any magazine — even one about architecture or science — without having these sorts of personal profit questions pop into my mind.

4. BEs don’t dwell on mistakes. 

They view problems as learning opportunities. “I don’t remember any mistakes,” late pharmaceutical billionaire James Sorenson told Forbes, “only opportunities to overcome problems.” I know some successful people who DO dwell on mistakes — mistakes made by other people. Usually, people who work for them. But, these same people are quick to forgive themselves.

I used to beat myself up over mistakes, but I eventually got over them. I realized it’s not about having a perfect batting average… it’s about how many times you get up to the plate.

5. BEs think neither completely positively nor negatively, but strategically. 

Instead of thinking, “That’s impossible,” or “I can do anything,” they think, “Is that possible?” and “If it is, how could I do it?” This is a big point. Most people, when they hear a new idea, think immediately about all the problems it might cause, or how difficult it might be to implement, or what obstacles one might have to overcome. When I see smart businesspeople doing this, I think to myself, “These people will never get beyond a certain point. They are limited by these instinctively negative mindsets.”

When someone suggests an idea to me, I try to shut down the critical part of my mind and listen to the potential of the idea. If my positive mind likes the potential, then I allow the critical part of my brain to raise questions and concerns. I then use both sides of my brain to come up with answers and solutions.

6. BEs don’t believe in luck.

In a recent Forbes poll of the 400 richest people in the world, none said they had become wealthy entirely by luck. Some said they considered luck to be a minor factor. Most, like Oprah Winfrey, consider luck an outsider’s way of describing someone who works hard and seizes opportunity. “Luck,” Winfrey says, “is preparation meeting a moment of opportunity.”

7. BEs are not driven primarily by money.

“Studies show the desire for financial success is no stronger among entrepreneurs than among those not starting a company,” says entrepreneur expert Kelly Shaver. Wharton School management professor Raphael Amit agrees: “No one is saying they don’t like their wealth. What matters more is the innovation, the intense commitment they have to an idea, and the difference it can make. Money is a byproduct.” I find this to be 100% true.

BEs are motivated primarily by challenge. They want to prove something — all kinds of things. They want to prove they are smart and their ideas are good and their critics are wrong. They want to show the world there is a place for better products and better services and things done the way they believe they should be done. These are their primary motivators.But, don’t fool yourself. The BE wants to get paid. He wants every dollar he’s entitled to. If you try to deny him that money, you will lose him.

8. BEs make friends. Business is never about money. 

Business is about people. It’s about who you know and who you trust. Billionaires work within their circles to get things done.

9. BEs know they can’t do anything alone. 

Instead, they create important partnerships, and work with these partners to collaborate on great projects. Most importantly, they remember to give credit where it’s due. If you want to survive and prosper in the 21st century, emulate the habits of the world’s richest people.

Educate yourself about money. Make conservative investments. And seize opportunities to start and/or invest in entrepreneurial businesses.