From Useful to Useless?

While I was looking for retro clip art to use for a design project, I came across images of all kinds of things we no longer use, so I started a list. I’m curious if I missed anything.

Things we no longer need (as much): Road Maps (or atlases), Pay Phones (or land lines), Printed Newspapers (or articles cut from a newspaper), Travel Agents, Photo Albums, Live Television (or VCR’s), Snail Mail, Fax Machines, Phone Books, Watches, Checkbooks, Dictionaries, For Sale Signs, Flashlights, iPods, and . . .


From Useful to Useless?

The Multimillionare Next Door

In the book, The Millionaire Next Door, the authors point out it’s not the people with the big house, flashy car, or expensive watch who have the most wealth. In fact, it’s just the opposite. In this article I want to tell you about my neighbor who I just found out is worth tens of millions of dollars (who knew?) and how he did it.

Never in a million years would you guess that Mike is a multimillionaire. He works a regular job, drives an older truck, and lives a modest lifestyle. That’s why as we sat and watched the sunset together the other day I was so surprised to learn of his enormous wealth. He was very reluctant to discuss the details of how vast his holdings were, but I persisted until he told me everything (wink).

It all started over twenty-five years ago when Mike and his wife had their first child. He was working as a maintenance man (and still does) in a downtown office building. It was then that one of the painting contractors he hired mentioned their company was selling off some of their older trucks. When Mark learned they were willing to part with the trucks at pennies on the dollar, he decided to buy one.

Since he was mechanically inclined he repaired and refurbished the first truck he bought and sold it for a tidy profit. He used the proceeds to buy two more trucks and flipped them for a nice return. He kept doing this until he was buying and reselling entire fleets of trucks and vans and pocketing the profits–which were really adding up. 

Next, Mike set his sites on buying a building he could do the same thing with–fix and flip. As luck would have it, a nearby muffler shop had shuttered its doors and the building was up for sale. Mark purchased it for less than its actual value and after fixing it up found a tenant to move in. After buying a few more buildings from this national chain of muffler repair shops, he decided to fly out to their headquarters and ended up buying ten buildings across the country for $1.4 million dollars–which he quickly turned into twice that . . . and still retained half of the properties, which he still owns.

Since then, Mike has bought raw land, homes, and other real estate using the profits from his portfolio of properties. Although he didn’t give me an exact number, he and his wife are worth tens of millions of dollars–but you would never know it by talking to them or by their lifestyle. 

After our sunset chat I started thinking about my own finances, and all the squandered opportunities. If only I had been more like Mike . . . Maybe someone out there reading this can learn from my mistakes and Mike’s smart and shrewd money management.

Here’s what I wish I knew then (25 years ago) that I know now . . . thanks to Mike (and others who have applied these same principles).

1. The vision to see into the future and the faith and discipline to delay immediate gratification for greater wealth later in life. In a word, the willingness to “sacrifice” today for a better tomorrow.

2. Having a steady “day job” (or a spouse that has one) to be able to weather any financial storms that will inevitably blow through our lives.

3. Knowing that hard work and “sweat equity” will beat out a get-rich-quick mentality every time and that there is no white knight coming to our rescue, instead we have to do the work to make it work.

4. It takes money to make money and that means not spending everything we earn (and then some), but instead spending our money on things that will make us more money.

5. Amassing wealth doesn’t come without risk, but if we are going to gamble, why not gamble on ourselves. When we know what our strengths are and use our time and talent in the right ways, we will succeed.

There are several more traits that wealthy people share (frugality, for example) but in the end it all comes down to the decisions we make today about how we handle our money that will determine where we are years from now (God willing).

The Multimillionare Next Door

All The Time

Pay phones, typewriters, and snail mail are three things that were once extremely popular, but now are seldom used–replaced by smart phones, computers, and e-mail. These changes have changed the way we work. It used to be we worked from 9-5, in an office, on weekdays. Now, the lines are blurred between work days and off days. Life balance is something we once strived for, but now is obsolete.

To pine for pay phones, typewriters, and snail mail are fine, but it doesn’t change the fact they are no longer realistic options for how we now live and work. It’s time to give up the idea of a balanced life and acknowledge that times have changed and we must accept that being constantly connected and beyond busy is a way of life.

Sure, we could go on a digital diet, work from home to save the commute time, and cut back on how much sleep we get, but like any diet, it usually won’t last. Instead, what can do, and should do, is be 100 percent focused on what we are working on, who we are with, and what’s right in front of us at this moment.

Focus is more important than ever–it’s just different than it was several years ago. The ability to be all-in when it matters most means we give our kids our undivided attention when they need us. We focus on the task at hand when at work to be more efficient and effective than starting and stopping over and over again. If we can focus on one thing for as long as we can and not distract ourselves, that may just be what balance is about in today’s world.

Since we can’t focus on everything equally:

1. What needs 100% of your attention right now?

2. What can you get rid of right now to free up time to focus on something that matters more this month? (Since we can’t do it all, what doesn’t need to be done?)

3. If money were no object, what would you focus on? Now, what could / should you focus on because it makes you the most money?

All The Time

Hitting Your Stride

Pitchers need to stride out to throw strikes. Ideally, a pitcher’s front leg lands at 100% of their height. (For example, a six-foot pitcher would stride out 72 inches.) This almost never happens except in the pro. Yet it works so much better than a taking a smaller stride. So why don’t more amateur pitchers do it? Because it’s hard to do, and so many young pitchers think they can’t–or simply don’t want to. There’s a point to all this.

Are we striding out as far as we can? I know my own answer and it is, “No!” I will take tiny steps outside of my comfort zone, but I know I should be taking b-i-g-g-e-r ones. So what’s holding me back? Fear. Fear of failing, fear of looking foolish, and fear of not believing it can be done–or fear that I can’t do it. Like many people, I often look at others who have more success and wonder what they are doing that I am not. My conclusion is they are taking bigger strides.

To continue with the baseball metaphors, Steve Jobs once said it is better to hit a home run rather than two doubles . . . I feel like I’ve been a singles hitter. A singles hitter hits for a high average by using a measured swing and hitting the ball where it’s pitched. (Basically, playing it safe.) So what can we all do to swing for the fences more, even if we fear we may strike out?

1. Find examples of others who have done what we want to do (and possibly did it with less time, talent, and total resources). Use this to prove that what we want to do is possible. Also, study how they did it and do the same thing.

2. Stop worrying what others will think. They won’t have to live with the regret we will if we don’t try. What they think of you doesn’t matter half as much as what you think of yourself.

3. Realize that the time will never be right to try something big and bold. The time is now. It’s funny how we may say, “Well, I could die tomorrow” to justify doing something that brings us immediate gratification. We rarely do that with things that don’t pay off right away. So yes, we could die tomorrow, so let’s die trying to do all we can to make our dreams come true.

Hitting Your Stride

Control What You Can—Effort

We can’t control the outcome, but we can control how hard we try—our effort. 100% effort, 100% of the time is often the difference between success and failure, winning and losing, and could be keeping us from having what we want.

Take this quick quiz:
1. Are you doing all you can?
Most people (myself included) have to honestly answer, “No”.

2. What percent of effort do you give to the following areas?

My Finances _____ 
My Health and Fitness _____
My Relationships _____
My Ideas _____
My Hobbies _____
My Career _____
My Friends _____
My Causes _____
My Kids _____
My Chores _____
My Pets _____
My Goals ____ 
Other ____

3. What is your focus this year? How much effort have you given to this area?

Control What You Can—Effort

Now Is The Time

What do trends do you see developing in the next few years as it relates to your life? What will you be doing in 2022? What do you want to be doing?

Time traveling to the future is a lot like goal setting. When we set a goal we are trying to create the future we want for ourselves. As many of you know I am a big believer is our ability to create the future we want by being able to visualize it, describe it, and thinking of ways to make it happen with our actions in the here and now.

Now Is The Time