Category: Books
How do I continue to do something that I started and loved?

How To Continue To Do Something That You Started and Loved

Does this sound like you?

Whenever you start to do something in a field (that you love), I feel very interested initially and you put in all your effort. But after a short period of time, you lose interest and stop doing it although you still love it. 

How do I continue to do something that I started and loved?

Today, I want to share with you how you can keep loving what you do, deal with having multiple interests, and remain persistent.

The Dilemma of Multiple Interests and How To Tackle It

Ever since I found about the “Follow Your Passion” movement a few years ago, I struggled with having multiple interests. It seemed like successful people had one interest and focused on that for decades until they got rich. I was told that you have to focus on one interest because no one ever got successful at multiple skills, except for once-in-a-millenium freaks like Leonardo DaVinci, Ben Franklin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But what about someone like me? I had dozens of interests that I jumped between: video games, YouTube, manga, anime, personal development, business history, music, and so on.

Now, there are a couple of TED Talks that argue that people like us have their own label. We are called “multipotentialites” or “polymaths.” They argue we should be proud of who we are and the world needs us.

But it’s hard to accept that when the world’s richest people emphasize focus so much and it’s a creative artist who is not making much money telling you this. So I respectfully disagree.

At least partially. I do agree that some of us are genetically made to have multiple interests. We are typical. We just don’t have the circumstance to have just one interest and focus on just one skill for decades, like Bill Gates did with programming or Warren Buffett did with stock investing.

Over time, I found that this was more normal than I thought. We all have different interests. It would be weird if we didn’t. Don’t we all find ourselves discussing what happened in the latest sports game, what music artists we like, which recent films sucked, and which TV shows we are into?

Even the genius Warren Buffett admitted that he takes a little time to play Bridge and watch Breaking Bad.

Try combining your interests to create new mixtures. A great example would be the author of Dilbert, Scott Adams, a highly successful comic strip. Individually, the components of the comics are quite bland. The drawings are mediocre. The discussion on business topics is cliche. But combining them all creates a unique angle that no one else has.

“The secret to my success with ‘Dilbert’ involves my unique combination of skills. Can you name one other person who has average skills in writing, humor, art, and business? It’s a rare mixture. Individually, none of my skills are anywhere near world-class. But combined, they create a powerful market force.” –Scott Adams

There are multiple paths to success and wealth. Perhaps a singular process of becoming world-class at something isn’t the only answer. Try developing complementary skills. 

“If you don’t have world-class skills at anything, don’t despair. You can become a powerful market force by intelligently acquiring new skills that work well with what you already know. I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have pursued a similar strategy, learning one complementary skill after another, to make it easier for luck to find them. They all have one thing in common: They’re rich.” -Scott Adams

Embrace the State of “Flow”

In the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I discovered incredible insights on the optimal experience state of work. Based on scientific studies, flow is specifically defined as having seven parts:

  1. Being completely involved and focused.
  2. A sense of ecstasy outside everyday reality.
  3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well you’re doing.
  4. Knowing that your skills are adequate to complete the task.
  5. A sense of serenity – no worries about yourself and a feeling of going beyond ego.
  6. Time flies by.
  7. The task becomes its own reward. You are intrinsically motivated to do it without require of money.

Mihaly coined the term, “flow” because so many of the leading writers, scientists, athletes, CEO’s, and poets he interviewed called it as flow.

By obtaining more of this “flow state”, you can enjoy your work more and learn to not lose interest so quickly. As an added benefit, you can improve your true happiness and quality of life.

You can read the details of his advice by checking out his book, but here are some of his top insights:

  • Do something that is challenging, but not too challenging or easy because you will get too anxious or too bored. 

flow by mihaly csikszentmihalyi

  • Income does not affect your happiness much once you hit a few thousand dollars above poverty.
  • Have a mission beyond just making more money, like helping others.
  • You must develop the required level of skills to do the task at hand adequately.
  • Do what you really like to do.


It’s All About That Grit

The psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth set out to discover what traits made people earn more, get better grades, win competitions, and succeed better in life. After studying top salespeople, students, and employees, she found only one constant trait.

It wasn’t good looks or health. It wasn’t IQ. It wasn’t social intelligence. It was Grit.

Grit is the persistence to stick at a task for the long term. So how do you improve grit?

Angela has been skeptical of any advice out there on how to build grit. The honest answer is science hasn’t found out yet. Grit is unrelated to your talent levels. But Angela believes the best idea so far in building Grit comes from Carol Dweck. Carol discovered a mindset called the Growth Mindset during her research in Stanford University…

Develop A Growth Mindset Rather Than A Fixed Mindset

Carol Dweck has taken the personal development world by storm with her science-backed book Mindset: The Psychology of Success. Many influencers reference her often, including Bill Gates. And for good reason.

The book is full of psychological studies that prove that what a child or adult believes affects what he or she achieves. But how does this relate to how to stay interested in a skill?

Carol found for fixed mindset people, they believe that they cannot improve and their potential is fixed. Therefore, they give up earlier and don’t even try. That’s exactly why you might be losing interest.

Maybe you are losing passion because you are frustrated with your lack of progress. Because you have a fixed mindset and don’t believe you have potential for vast improvement, you give up in trying. Rather, try adopting a growth mindset. Growth-oriented people are energized with tackling more difficult changes and embrace mistakes because they know that it is a necessary stepping stone to success. They are patient with their progress because they are in it for the long game.

Be Like Seth Godin and Embrace “The Dip”

The world’s most successful people have gotten there by persevering when others quit. They don’t give up.

Elon Musk failed 3 rocket launches and was almost out of cash. He barely succeeded on his final attempt. When asked if he would have given up if the 4th failed. He said he never gives up unless he was dead or completely physically incapacitated.

That brings up the question of how do you keep going while others cannot?

I want to share with you what I learned from the most well-known book on this topic: The Dip by Seth Godin.

Give Up On The Wrong Things. Don’t Give Up On The Right Things.

Seth argues that it’s more distinct than just “never give up” or “winners are never quitters.” He believes that successful people know how to choose which things to persevere on.

I agree with this. John Lee Dumas of The Entrepreneur on Fire Podcast and eofire.com is a man who quit many things in his life. Yet he is now making 7 figures a year through his podcast and products he sells.

I learned in an interview at Fizzle.co that John quit numerous jobs, commitments, and businesses. He was so committed to law school that he bought a home right next to the school. But he quit after the first semester because he realized he hated it.

He was so committed to law school that he bought a home right next to the school. But he quit after the first semester because he realized he hated it.

He started a real estate business and made six figures doing it but quit because he knew it wasn’t fulfilling enough.

He had a six-figure corporate job that he hated but he assumed that you weren’t supposed to love your job. One day, his boss made a presentation to fire up his workers. His bossed shouted that “if you don’t love your job, you shouldn’t be here!” John realized he didn’t and quit.

However, John chose to stick through with Entrepreneur on Fire. Why? Because he loved what he did. He wanted to quit numerous times because he didn’t see viral growth, but he kept at it. Over time, he consistently grew to an audience large enough for him to monetize.

He chose to not give up on the thing he loved because this time, it was fulfilling and lucrative. He chose to quit on the right things. 

Another great example I came across is Matthew Santoro. For people who aren’t as plugged into the Youtube space as I am, he is a Youtuber who gets tens of millions of views per month on his videos. His journey to where he is now was not an overnight success.

His journey to where he is now was not an overnight success. It took him over 5 years. He had to pivot a few times because the content he was putting out wasn’t getting views. He tested different things. He pivoted from comedic skits to “Top 10 Fact” videos because the latter was performing better.

Based on an interview from Behind the Brand, he wanted to quit numerous times but he didn’t because he loved it. He realized there wasn’t anything else he would do if he quit. According to an interview with Youtube Creators (a channel run by YouTube itself), Matthew never had a viral hit. It was all consistent growth.

Because he loved it enough, he didn’t quit when others did. He worked on his videos on the side as he worked as an Accountant. He finally made enough to quit his full-time job.

Now, let’s examine Steve Job’s advice on passion. He has started a company that is now the largest company in the world. During an interview with Bill Gates, he has said that the ones who succeeded in society were the ones who loved it so much that they didn’t give up no matter how tough it got. Everyone else quit because they were sane.

I think my own life is a constant reflection of this as well.

I’ve learned quite a few times that an overall interest in a topic is more important than productivity tips or discipline. Have you ever got mad at yourself because you didn’t have the time management or willpower to stay focused?

Have you ever got mad at yourself because you didn’t have the time management or willpower to stay focused? There were many courses in school that I just wasn’t interested enough. I had all sorts of reasons behind it such as I had too many distractions or people who took away my time. But when I eliminated all those, I realized I just wasn’t interested enough.

I would get mad at myself and wish that I had better willpower to concentrate. But it wasn’t my fault. I remember one time, I had to read 80 pages of a thick textbook. I lost focus so many times and thought it was my own fault. Looking back, I wish I could have told myself it’s OK.

  • John Legend was a management consultant but he quit to become a musician.
  • Ray Kroc was a milkshake salesman who quit to build McDonald’s.
  • Jeff Bezos quit his stable full-time job to seize the chance to get into the rising dominance of the Internet.
  • Martha Stewart quit her job as a stock broker because she hated it to start a business empire.
  • Suze Orman was one of ten thousand VPs. She quit that to become a personal finance authority.

Get Close Enough  To See The Finish Line Because You’re Less Likely To Quit

No one quits on the last mile of a marathon. They quit halfway through because they can’t see the end.

If you can get close to seeing the end, you’re going to be motivated to get through.

Realize There is Massive Reward In Being the Best

Seth makes a great point that the best in a world at a specialized skill makes a disproportionately large amount of money compared to everyone else.

This applies to all sorts of things in life.

  • You will pay more for the best foot surgeon in the world rather than the best doctor or an average doctor.
  • The best lawyer in the world makes a lot more than the average, replaceable lawyer.
  • The #1 flavor of ice cream gets 4 times the purchases as #2.
  • The most well known champagne gets much more sales than the rest.
  • The #1 movie of the week gets more sales than the others combined.
  • The best horse ballet instructor gets more inquiries for her services than everyone else.

Most people quit before getting to the end goal. Seth argues that this is because they don’t know the huge benefit and potential of getting there. He asserts that this is all the more reason to persevere.

I believe people do for some things that are obvious, like being a doctor. They don’t for lesser known things like flavor of ice cream or being the #1 garbage collecting brand in the world versus #2.

I suggest specializing and finding something you’re naturally good in to increase your chances. There’s less competition and the specifics will really speak out to you. For instance, do you want the generalized doctor or the specialist who has worked for 10 years studying your specific illness?

Seth states that you are more successful if you are more specialized rather than a jack-of-all-trades. I think the “success” he means is referring to making money, fame, and reputation.

I don’t think specialization works for other things like dating. Dating is more of a balancing act. Being really wealthy but horrible at social skills, confidence, grooming, fitness, or health doesn’t work.

Seth argues that it’s more important than ever to be the best in the modern world because the internet and search engines make information more accessible.

It’s easier to sniff out people who aren’t as great as they appear. Being partially good or 2nd best won’t cut it anymore.

No one believes you if you say you’re the best. You have to prove it.

Self-explanatory.

You can scream and yell that you’re the best in the world. But anyone can.  You have to prove it.

Once you get a little ahead, you get more ahead

If you achieve a little success more than other people, Seth argues that you get more successful.

If a singer gets her first big break and a few radio stations start playing a song, more and more people will keep playing the song. And you get farther ahead of others.

I think it’s partially true. The song (just like a viral article or video) needs to be contagious and viral enough to keep being spread.

Lean In To The Dip

“The dip” is a concept Godin uses to coin the period where you want to quit but you shouldn’t. He says successful people don’t just stick it through but lean into this tough time. They embrace it, and push through it with vigor.

“Anything worth doing has a dip.” -Seth Godin

From my own observations of successful people, they do this by finding something they love and are passionate about. They love it so that it’s not as painful to not give up.

The best example is Steve Jobs who said in an interview with Bill Gates that he kept going because he loved it so much while everyone else quit because they were insane.

We only see the overnight success. We never acknowledge the 10+ years of hard work.

We always celebrate the great successes in the world without realizing the hidden 10+ dark years of work that got them there.

Media loves to celebrate and share the success story on the internet to make it look “quick and easy” when there’s a lot more behind the scenes.

Psy spent over 10 years as a Korean rapper before his song Gangnam Style become a viral sensation and reached billions.

The actor who succeeded had 10+ years of waiting tables before that.

It’s impossible to over-invest and become the market leader

Seth argues that all the top business market leaders from Nike to Amazon to Starbucks never failed by over investing in becoming the market leader.

It’s easy for Seth to say something like that with theories, but I think you can definitely waste a ton of money and go bankrupt by spending too much inefficiently to try and be the leader…

Choose The Right Thing

Seth mentions that it’s important to choose the right thing to be good at. Choosing the wrong thing can lead to failure.

I believe failure is ok. It requires some stumbling to feel out what your true strengths and weaknesses are. I suggest you test things out and slowly start moving towards something you have the potential to be really great at.

I used to be really hyped about this “best in the world” self-help advice before I even found out about this book or Seth Godin. However, someone pointed out to me that you can make a healthy amount of money and achieve your goals even if you’re not the best in the world.

You just need to be above average.

By all means, you still want to strive to be the best in the world at something you have the potential to. However, I thought this message was helpful because it helped me relax and not stress out.

Only a select few can be the best in the world. It’s OK if you’re not.

Most People Give Up Too Soon

Most people give up when things get somewhat difficult.

Most businesses fail in their first year. But most of these people immediately quit and never start a 2nd business.

If you realize this, you can gain an advantage by not giving up when everyone else does. By just persevering longer, you will all of a sudden have a lot less competition.

Pushing farther during that time dramatically increases your chances. Consider Com Mirza who failed dozens of businesses before he got it right. He had multiple more tries to succeed than the business owner simply because he didn’t quit. Now he’s worth $500 million.

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Billionaire productivity hacks

12 Productivity Lessons From Billionaires

There are around 2,000 billionaires in the world.

And by definition, they’re some of the best at time management. They’re bombarded with thousands of emails. They have a thousand things they could do: meet with an employee, schedule a meeting, find a new marketing strategy, work on a product design, etc.

How do they choose what’s most important and still effectively build their wealth to $10,000 per day or more?

It’s not a “myth” that people succeed because they’re more productive.

  • The female billionaire Sheryl Sandberg has stated in her books that she made sure to leave work at 5:30 every day because her children were a priority.
  • Richard Branson has over 400 companies to run but he still has time to kite-surf because he puts his fitness as a priority.
  • President Bush has a million things to do: foreign leaders to call, CIA briefings to read, voters to please, and so on. Yet he was able to still read 95 books in a year: more than most people ever read.
  • Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell Soup, sent 20 handwritten thank you notes a day while running a Fortune 500 company.

I stumbled across a book called 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs.

It has the longest title I’ve seen in a while. And I think it’ll help you uncover some secrets of time management.

Here are the top tips on billionaire productivity tips I know (which I learned from this book and all the other videos and podcasts I consumed):

Keep Reading

Views – 839

If you could only read 10 books to live the wisest life, what would they be?

If You Could Only Read 10 Books For The Rest Of Your Life, Read These. Here’s Why

If you could only read 10 books for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Today, I took a stab at answering this tough question. I thought it’s a great one because the limitation it places on you really forces you to cut the fat.

Obviously, this list will differ if your goals are different. I tried to answer the question by targeting books that will make you wiser, happier, richer, healthier, and more fulfilled when you die. Therefore, these books are not the best for solving niche goals, like becoming a top athlete, famous musician, or self-actualized individual.

As far as why you should listen to me, I’ve gone through hundreds of books and have a much more thorough knowledge of the self-help book universe than 99% of people alive.

There were plenty of books I wanted to add to this list that unfortunately didn’t make the cut. But if you’re strapped for time, this list will do you good. Click play on the player below to listen to my podcast episode and which books I chose:

Subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher by clicking the icons below to get access to all my podcast episodes free.

Will's Personal Development Podcast

Will's Personal Development Podcast

If you’re a helpful person, please leave a review on iTunes if you like it by clicking here.

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how to be more creative

How To Be More Creative: Advice From Titans

I was watching a speech by the billionaire David Rubenstein, the founder of the largest private equity firm in the world. He said something really profound and useful that I would like to share.

He said that you cannot succeed in business by just copying other people because you will just be an echo or reflection. You have to stand out by doing something completely differently. Now, I’m not saying that you should never copy. Other successful people, like the founder of Costco, Sam Walton, and Steve Jobs, have emphasized the importance of copying when it’s a no-brainer better way of doing things. I am saying that there is a lot of value in  coming up with new ideas and doing what’s been done before in a different, better way.

That’s why I want to talk about how to be more creative and imaginative. I have compiled some of the best advice out there from the world’s most successful creative people.

Keep Reading

Views – 243

Rich Froning Mental Toughness

How To Become Mentally Strong: Advice From The World’s Best

A year ago, I stumbled on an article on how to be mentally strong that got a ton of comments and shares. It confused me. Why do all these people care about this?

I didn’t care about mental toughness. I wanted money and happiness. And I didn’t see how mental toughness would help me with that unless I wanted to change my goals to becoming a Navy SEAL. But everything’s changed since then.

Mental toughness is incredibly important to your peak performance.

Today, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know on a critical skill you may be overlooking. I’ll share with you why mental toughness matters and how to improve it. And if you’re wondering why you should trust me, it’s because all my advice comes from people you can trust: the world’s top performers.

Keep Reading

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My Favorites Quotes from Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart and Richest Man in the U.S.

Sam Walton may have been the richest person to ever exist. It is hard to get a number for his net worth when he was alive. But the inheritance he left his four children kept them consistently at the top ten richest people in the world. And he was declared the richest man in the United States when he was alive.

I just had to read his book Made in America to discover his secrets to success and learn more about him as a person. And man, was I shocked.

Sam is the complete opposite of the stereotypical show-off, jet-setting millionaire CEO who parties with models. In fact, he was humble, frugal, and cared about the lowest level employee. He was also charismatic, hard-working (sometimes to a fault), and a family man.

Lately, I’ve been noticing this trend of an “old-fashioned, humble guy” among the billionaires I’ve studied, including Warren Buffett and Phil Knight. Perhaps, these show-off millionaires on Instagram can learn a thing or two from them.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite Sam Walton quotes and why they’re so awesome:

“I don’t subscribe to any of these fancy investment theories and most people would be surprised to know that I haven’t done much investing in anything but Walmart. I believe the folks who have done the best with Walmart stock are those who have studied the company and understood our strengths and our management approach and who, like me, have decided to invest with us for the long run.”

-Sam Walton, from the book Made in America

Sometimes, the best investment for a CEO is to reinvest in what they already understand and what’s already working really well. Having studied a lot of investing myself, I realize investing is a different skillset than running a company. Although Warren Buffett says they’re complimentary, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be good at one if you’re good at another.

Eerily similar to Warren Buffett’s investing method, Sam argues that the investment firms and individual stockholders who have done the best with Walmart stock were not looking for technical chart patterns or short-term profits. They were not people who saw Walmart as nothing more than a ticker symbol and didn’t know much about the actual company.

They were people who studied the company until they fully understood its strengths and management approach. And they were willing to hold the stock for a long time, if not, forever. According to the book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, the real money is to be made in the long term, not the short-term jumping in and out.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

 

“I have always been driven to buck the system, to innovate, to take things beyond where they’ve been.”

 

“High expectations are the key to everything.”

 

“I had to pick myself up and get on with it, do it all over again, only even better this time.” (And he did)

 

“What we guard against around here is people saying, ‘Let’s think about it.’ We make a decision. Then we act on it.”

 

“Everything I’ve done I’ve copied from somebody else.”

Like quite a few others I’ve met, I used to think it’s unethical to copy from someone else. While in some creative arenas, like art, music, or fiction, it is, that’s not the case for business. It’s not so black and white.

As long as its legal, you’d be a fool to not copy another who has found a much better way. According to Warren Buffett, a core part of any business industry involves building a durable competitive advantage so others can’t copy you and accepting copying as natural by realizing competitors will copy your good ideas.

A few years ago, I saw a popular thread on Reddit. The creator of the thread was complaining about how his own cousin stole his business idea and sold the same product behind his back. While I did think it was a dick move that his cousin shouldn’t have done, I also realize how small-sighted his thinking was.

If it’s a good product, tons of people will copy it. If it wasn’t his cousin, a stranger would have. In fact, it wouldn’t just be one person — but many. It’s legal to copy product designs if you don’t have a patent. So instead of whining, be like Sam Walton and learn from others, while strengthening your advantage so it can’t be copied.

“Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea.”

 

“For my whole career in retail, I have stuck by one guiding principle. It’s a simple one, and I have repeated it over and over and over in this book until I’m sure you’re sick to death of it. But I’m going to say it again anyway: the secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want.”

 

“The small stores were just destined to disappear, at least in the numbers they once existed, because the whole thing is driven by the customers, who are free to choose where to shop.

This quote is so insightful. Sam was never one to be stuck with the old. You might think he is because he’s old and speaks in Old English. But he saw reality as it was and changed with the times. Sam knew that the penny-and-dime business model was coming to an end, so he started building discount retail stores instead. Others would have clung on to what they were comfortable and familiar with.

Another huge point is understanding that everything is driven by whatever the customers want. They are free to go wherever they want.

I’ve noticed a lot of small business owners who express feelings of outrage and injustice when their loyal customers leave them for a new competitor. First off, that implies that the loyalty they thought they had wasn’t as deep as they thought; they need to work on being better at building that. But more importantly, it means the customer will go where there is the most value.

At some point, every customer has a price. No matter how loyal a customer is to one company based on past history, some degree of higher value (in the form of cheaper price, higher quality, or something else) is able to steal that customer away. At least, that’s the theory I have come up with based on my studies.

“And this is a very important point: without the computer, Sam Walton could not have done what he’s done.”

Some context might help here. Sam said this — about himself. Also, he was the first of his competitors to adopt computer and satellite technology, which put him ten years ahead of everyone else. Don’t be confused by how traditional and non-tech Walmart seems, Sam constantly embraced change and innovation.

“I don’t think any other retail company in the world could do what I’m going to propose to you. It’s simple. It won’t cost us anything. And I believe it would just work magic, absolute magic on our customers, and our sales would escalate, and I think we’d just shoot past our Kmart friends in a year or two and probably Sears as well. I want you to take a pledge with me. I want you to promise that whenever you come within ten feet of a customer, you will look him in the eye, greet him, and ask him if you can help him. Now I know some of you are just naturally shy, and maybe don’t want to bother folks. But if you’ll go along with me on this, it would, I’m sure, help you become a leader. It would help your personality develop, you would become more outgoing, and in time you might become manager of that store, you might become a department manager, you might become a district manager, or whatever you choose to be in the company. It will do wonders for you. I guarantee it. Now, I want you to raise your right hand—and remember what we say at Wal-Mart, that a promise we make is a promise we keep—and I want you to repeat after me: From this day forward, I solemnly promise and declare that every time a customer comes within ten feet of me, I will smile, look him in the eye, and greet him. So help me Sam.”

 

“What’s really worried me over the years is not our stock price, but that we might someday fail to take care of our customers, or that our managers might fail to motivate and take care of our associates. I also was worried that we might lose the team concept, or fail to keep the family concept viable and realistic and meaningful to our folks as we grow. Those challenges are more real than somebody’s theory that we’re headed down the wrong path.”

 

“As an old-time small-town merchant, I can tell you that nobody has more love for the heyday of the smalltown retailing era than I do. That’s one of the reasons we chose to put our little Wal-Mart museum on the square in Bentonville. It’s in the old Walton’s Five and Dime building, and it tries to capture a little bit of the old dime store feel. But I can also tell you this: if we had gotten smug about our early success, and said, “Well, we’re the best merchant in town,” and just kept doing everything exactly the way we were doing it, somebody else would have come along and given our customers what they wanted, and we would be out of business today.”

 

“The two most important words I ever wrote were on that first Wal-Mart sign: “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” They’re still up there, and they have made all the difference.”

One of the best parts of Sam Walton is his ability to keep it so simple. How many businesses are failing at satisfying their customers every time? You don’t have to over-complicate it.

“Well, now, Sam, how big do you really want this company to be? What is your plan?” —FEROLD AREND, shortly after coming to work at Wal-Mart “Ferold, we’re going to take it as it comes, and if we can grow with our own money, we’ll maybe add a store or two.”

 

“Watson, Sr., was running IBM, he decided they would never have more than four layers from the chairman of the board to the lowest level in the company. That may have been one of the greatest single reasons why IBM was successful.”

 

“I’m asked why today, when Wal-Mart has been so successful, when we’re a $50 billion-plus company, should we stay so cheap? That’s simple: because we believe in the value of the dollar. We exist to provide value to our customers, which means that in addition to quality and service, we have to save them money. Every time Wal-Mart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes right out of our customers’ pockets. Every time we save them a dollar, that puts us one more step ahead of the competition—which is where we always plan to be.”

 

“Rogers had been open about a year, and everything was just piled up on tables, with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. Sam asked me to kind of group the stuff by category or department, and that’s when we began our department system. The thing I remember most, though, was the way we priced goods. Merchandise would come in and we would just lay it down on the floor and get out the invoice. Sam wouldn’t let us hedge on a price at all. Say the list price was $1.98, but we had only paid 50 cents. Initially, I would say, ‘Well, it’s originally $1.98, so why don’t we sell it for $1.25?’ And he’d say, ‘No. We paid 50 cents for it. Mark it up 30 percent, and that’s it. No matter what you pay for it, if we get a great deal, pass it on to the customer.’ And of course that’s what we did.”

 

“The basic discounter’s idea was to attract customers into the store by pricing these items—toothpaste, mouthwash, headache remedies, soap, shampoo—right down at cost. Those were what the early discounters called your “image” items. That’s what you pushed in your newspaper advertising—like the twenty-seven-cent Crest at Springdale—and you stacked it high in the stores to call attention to what a great deal it was. Word would get around that you had really low prices. Everything else in the store was priced low too, but it had a 30 percent margin. Health and beauty aids were priced to give away.”

 

“When you move like we did from town to town in these mostly rural areas, word of mouth gets your message out to customers pretty quickly without much advertising.”

“The first one is could a Wal-Mart-type story still occur in this day and age? My answer is of course it could happen again. Somewhere out there right now there’s someone—probably hundreds of thousands of someones—with good enough ideas to go all the way. It will be done again, over and over, providing that someone wants it badly enough to do what it takes to get there. It’s all a matter of attitude and the capacity to constantly study and question the management of the business.”

This is probably one of the most inspirational quotes in his whole book. The fact that Sam had enough faith to believe that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there with the right idea that can take them all the way is amazing.

It made me excited for what other amazing businesses will arise and other incredible game-changers will show up. It also ends with some useful advice:

  • It’s about attitude.
  • You have to want it badly enough to do what it takes.
  • It’s about constantly studying, examining, and questioning the management of your business.

“A lot of what goes on these days with high-flying companies and these overpaid CEO’s, who’re really just looting from the top and aren’t watching out for anybody but themselves, really upsets me. It’s one of the main things wrong with American business today.”

 

“If American business is going to prevail, and be competitive, we’re going to have to get accustomed to the idea that business conditions change, and that survivors have to adapt to those changing conditions. Business is a competitive endeavor, and job security lasts only as long as the customer is satisfied. Nobody owes anybody else a living.”

 

“A little later on, Phil ran what became one of the most famous item promotions in our history. We sent him down to open store number 52 in Hot Springs, Arkansas—the first store we ever opened in a town that already had a Kmart. Phil got there and decided Kmart had been getting away with some pretty high prices in the absence of any discounting competition. So he worked up a detergent promotion that turned into the world’s largest display ever of Tide, or maybe Cheer—some detergent. He worked out a deal to get about $1.00 off a case if he would buy some absolutely ridiculous amount of detergent, something like 3,500 cases of the giant-sized box. Then he ran it as an ad promotion for, say, $1.99 a box, off from the usual $3.97. Well, when all of us in the Bentonville office saw how much he’d bought, we really thought old Phil had completely gone over the dam. This was an unbelievable amount of soap. It made up a pyramid of detergent boxes that ran twelve to eighteen cases high—all the way to the ceiling, and it was 75 or 100 feet long, which took up the whole aisle across the back of the store, and then it was about 12 feet wide so you could hardly get past it. I think a lot of companies would have fired Phil for that one, but we always felt we had to try some of this crazy stuff.

PHIL GREEN: “Mr. Sam usually let me do whatever I wanted on these promotions because he figured I wasn’t going to screw it up, but on this one he came down and said, ‘Why did you buy so much? You can’t sell all of this!’ But the thing was so big it made the news, and everybody came to look at it, and it was all gone in a week. I had another one that scared them up in Bentonville too. This guy from Murray of Ohio called one day and said he had 200 Murray 8 horsepower riding mowers available at the end of the season, and he could let us have them for $175. Did we want any? And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take 200.’ And he said, ‘Two hundred!’ We’d been selling them for $447, I think. So when they came in we unpacked every one of them and lined them all up out in front of the store, twenty-five in a row, eight rows deep. Ran a chain through them and put a big sign up that said: ‘8 h.p. Murray Tractors, $199.’ Sold every one of them. I guess I was just always a promoter, and being an early Wal-Mart manager was as good a place to promote as there ever was.”

Two big points here:

First, Sam was willing to try crazy out-of-the-box initiatives. This helped him find better ways of doing things, and stand out from the competition. Other CEOs may be too conservative, which prevents them from finding more efficient and profitable strategies, like Phil Green did.

Second, it’s important to hire people fit for the job and get out of their way. Sam identified Phil as a natural-born promoter and trusted him not to screw it up. When it seemed like he might, he waited until the results took place before he did anything. As noted, other companies would have immediately fired Phil for trying something so bold.

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