some point in most peoples lives
comes a realization that the dreams of
youth and more sober aspirations of early
adulthood may never come to pass. A childhood
fantasy to become a famous movie star,
a teenage obsession to excel on the athletic
field, or a young workers aspiration
to be a millionaire, are among the hopes
that remain a distant vision. But as years
pass and illusions fade, each of us must
come to terms with the success we achieveor
fail to achieve. Success may be defined
in different ways, such as gaining the
respect of friends and relatives, attaining
proficiency in the arts and sciences,
or living a satisfying domestic life.
However, in our culture the very word
success denotes financial achievement.
It is in this context that we shall evaluate
whether youre headed in the right
You regularly take in more than you spend.
As a first step toward success, you must
embrace a fundamental concept: Income
exceeds outgo. This is the most important
principal to which you must adhere. It
goes without saying that there are times,
such as medical emergencies or personal
mishap, when unanticipated expenditure
is incurred. In these instances youll
vary from our rule of frugality. But,
at other times, you will consistently
live below your means. Persons who fail
to comply may expect a series of misfortunes
with no relief.
You honor your financial commitments.
Persons who promptly fulfill their financial
obligations will find all involvement
more profitable. Conduct your affairs
in this manner and success will court
You owe no debt.
One important factor separating winners
from losers is debt. Although mortgage
financing to acquire real estate, as well
as wisely arranged business loans, can
prove beneficial, personal borrowing is
normally a mistake. This means that the
clothes on your back, the furniture in
your home, and the vehicle you drive,
are owned without obligation. Ill
concede that you may appear prosperous
behind the wheel of a newly financed Mercedes
Benz, but your actual prosperity is vastly
enhanced if your auto is fully paid for,
even if you must drive a 1984 Toyota Corolla.
And concerning debt, credit card use is
particularly insidious. Its my belief
that a credit card serves a single purpose:
a convenience when neither check nor cash
is handy. Most importantly, when the monthly
statement arrives, pay the full cash balance
due before the date that interest is charged.
Follow this rule and success will follow.
If you cannot regulate your credit card
use in this manner, destroy your cards
and fashion your life accordingly.
You control the present.
As we journey through life, there are
three principal objects upon which we
may fixate: the past, the present, and
the future. All three serve a function.
Its important to reflect upon the
past, for by evaluating earlier performances
we fashion a guide for handling new demands.
Its equally vital to keep an eye
on the future, as how a course is steered
determines its outcome. But its
neither the past nor the future over which
we exercise control. It is only the present
that affords an opportunity to grapple
with events and arrange favorable results.
If you regularly conduct your affairs
so to resolve situations in ways that
satisfy you, you are exhibiting qualities
that lead to success.
You are a skeptic.
In navigating the perilous waters that
lead to prosperity, youll encounter
shoals. Avoid them by demonstrating skepticism,
defined as the recognition that ninety-five
percent of everything is nonsense. Your
thoughts then run in the following manner.
You find it baffling why anyone buys a
lottery ticket. You understand that the
variable annuity your neighbor just invested
in is a sad mistake. You entertain no
illusions that a financial advisor will
provide sound counsel merely because of
the Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
designation held. Youre not tempted
to invest in something because of a hot
tip from a friend or relative. Its
beyond your comprehension why anyone not
certifiably insane purchases a timeshare
property. Such is the mindset of one who
You are able to retire at 50.
Admittedly, this is arbitrary, but there
is something significant about reaching
this particular age. Perhaps its
the undeniable realization that there
are fewer years ahead than behind. If
the first half of your life is spent working
for your assets, is it unreasonable that
during the second half your assets work
for you? This doesnt mean you must
actually retire at this age, and indeed
most successful people pursue gainfuland
usually enjoyableendeavors as long
as they are able. Nonetheless, the option
should be yours.
You have a reputation for honesty.
Its my firm conviction that a reputation
for impeccable honesty is among the most
valuable assets you can possess. There
are no limits to the doors that open and
the opportunities afforded a man or woman
whose words and actions can be trusted.
Whether you are of truly high moral character,
or possess the personal values of an eighteenth
century London pickpocket, is not the
issue. From a purely pragmatic frame of
reference, conduct your affairs in a way
that your reliability can never be questioned,
even if it goes against the grain. This
quality is truly a mark of success.
like to share a final thought on the matter
of success. Wealth, at least a certain
amount of it, is a necessary criterion
for success. However, the possession of
wealth is not in itself sufficient, and
I know persons with net worths of seven
and eight figures that are abject failures
in every respect. It's the combination
of assets, lifestyle, and attitude that
engenders success . . . but this is a
subject for another time.
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