A Letter From a Man Whose Mother Is a Bank

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- I received a letter this morning that began as follows:

Dear Mark – I hope all is well with you and yours. I want to reach out to you because you can help me…

I looked at the signature. A name I didn’t recognize. Perhaps I had forgotten. I asked Gio to look him up in our files. She couldn’t find him.

Notice his rationale for “reaching out to me.” It was because I could help him.

I was intrigued. Either I did know the man and he was making a claim on that relationship, or we had no relationship and he was oblivious to how arrogant his request was.

His letter continued:

I am living at home in a toxic environment trying to launch my internet business. I haven’t worked for months; jobs are hard to land these days. I do not want any handouts, I just want the opportunity to explain my circumstances.

He went on to tell me all about his life… his dreams and his challenges. He explained that his current financial problems were “not his fault” but the fault of his “dysfunctional family.”

And then, in the very next sentence, he mentioned that he had been using his supposedly dysfunctional mother “as a bank for almost nine years.”

I was now reading with the utmost interest.

“My livelihood is on the line,” he said. He had “boxed himself” into a fast-disintegrating financial corner, but he was not going to give up. Where there is hope, he believed, there is hope!

And what was that hope? Words of advice from me? Perhaps a free copy of Automatic Wealth? Or Seven Years to Seven Figures? Or Living Rich?


“To be totally transparent with you,” he said, “Money will take care of the aforementioned problems.”

Aha! So it was as easy as that. All he needed was some quantity of my money. All I had to do was sign a check and send it off… and presto! He would be in fine shape.

Every week, I get letters from people asking for advice. And I answer every one of them. Sometimes with a quick suggestion but usually by suggesting that they read one of my books. But it’s rare that I get a request like this.

I believe that no one has an inherent right to wealth. I believe that we are born into a universe that guarantees us nothing. But I also believe that the acquisition of wealth – enough to sustain oneself – is a fundamental human responsibility.

It requires three things:

Read MoreA Letter From a Man Whose Mother Is a Bank

Principles of Wealth #24*

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- The banking industry promotes the idea that money stored in cash instruments (such as saving accounts, CDs, and money market funds) is safe money and a riskless financial strategy. But it is not true. Cash, like every other asset class, has risk.

On Saturday, Ted reads an article in The New York Times predicting that the president’s new tariff plan will decimate international commerce. Sunday morning, he reads a WSJ article pointing out that the stock market is dangerously overvalued with an average P/E ratio for the DOW of 25. At noon, he reads an essay by an economist he admires that points out that US debt is now higher than it has ever been.

He goes to bed feeling uneasy.

Monday morning, he calls Joe, his stockbroker. “What’s going on with the market?” he asks.

“You’ve seen the numbers?” Joe replies.

“What numbers?”

“It’s down.”

“How much down?”

“About 10%.”

“Is that bad?”

“It’s not good.”

“And my account ?”

He hears the tapping of fingers on a keyboard. “You should be relatively okay,” Joe says. “Your portfolio is very conservative.”

A bit more tapping. Then, “You are down just a bit more. Around 11.5%.”

“Shit,” Ted says. “I knew this was going to happen. What do you think I should do.”

“That depends on how you feel about the future. Our analysts believe this is a dip in a long-term bull market.”

“I don’t believe that,” Ted says. “Sell.”

“Sell everything?” Joe asks.


“And do what with it?”

“Just leave it in cash.”

The tapping again.

“Okay,” Joe says. “You are out. Your money is sitting in cash.”

“Good,” Ted says “I feel better.”

“Then you made the right decision,” Joe says. “What could be safer than cash?”

Read MorePrinciples of Wealth #24*

10 “Truths” About  Building Wealth That You Won’t Hear from Your Financial Advisor

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- When I “decided” to get rich, I didn’t know the first thing about creating wealth.

I was an editor. I wanted to be a novelist. I’d never taken a course in finance or economics. Plus, I was broke.

But I had a great advantage. I was working for a human wealth machine – a man who, at 43, had already created three hugely profitable businesses. He adopted me as a surrogate nephew and taught me everything he knew about making money. Eventually, he made me his partner.

I retired about 7 years later with a net worth well in excess of $10 million.

Eighteen months later, I gave up on retirement and went to work as a “growth” consultant for a publisher I much admired. By combining the marketing know-how I’d learned from my previous partner with this man’s ideas and generosity of intellect, I was able, about 10 years later, to retire again, my wealth having multiplied many times over.

In this, my second retirement, I focused on two long-put-aside lifetime goals: to write and to teach. I was able to do both at the same time by starting a blog called Early to Rise. In the ensuing 10 or 11 years, I wrote and published more than a dozen books and thousands of essays, “teaching” my readers what I knew about entrepreneurship, marketing, business management, and wealth building.

And even though it was no longer a priority, my net worth continued to grow.

At 60, I meant to retire again. But I got talked into going to work for someone who worked for someone who worked for me. (Don’t ask.) As co-founder of Palm Beach Research Group, I still write about wealth building. But I’m older now and have more experience.

I’d like to think that my observations and advice are somehow better now. At the very least, I’ve been able to go wider and deeper in terms of thinking about wealth, how it’s created, how it’s invested, and how it’s lost.

Why am I telling you all this?

Maybe because I’d like you to think that when it comes to the subject of building wealth, I have some insights that might be useful to you.

For example, I’ve come to believe that many commonly accepted “facts” about wealth building are, in fact, fallacies.

Take these examples:

Read More10 “Truths” About  Building Wealth That You Won’t Hear from Your Financial Advisor

Timothy Leary, the Psychedelicists, and the Doors of Perception*

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- In August 1960, Timothy Leary (a Harvard professor) traveled to Mexico to explore the ceremonial use of psilocybin mushrooms by the indigenous Aztecs.

It was there that he ate the psychedelic mushrooms for the first time. It was, he wrote, life-changing. He said he learned more about his “brain and its possibilities” in particular and about psychology generally than he had learned “in the preceding fifteen years of studying and doing research in psychology.”

When he got back to Harvard, Leary and his associates, notably Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), began The Harvard Psilocybin Project. The goal was to determine if psychedelic substances could alter human behavior in beneficial ways.

Their first subjects were convicted criminals. Most of them, Leary and Alpert reported, felt they had “mystical” or “spiritual” experiences while taking the drugs. This got the attention of Alan Ginsberg, the poet, who then joined the team. Bolstered by Ginsberg’s support, the project became a cause célèbre of artists and intellectuals.

The project was expanded to theology students and then to graduate students, writers, and philosophers. According to Leary’s autobiography, Flashbacks, LSD was given to 300 subjects. Two hundred and twenty-five of them described their experiences as significant, revelatory, educational, and/or transformative.

In 1964, Leary and Alpert (along with Ralph Metzner) coauthored a book titled The Psychedelic Experience. In it, they wrote:

A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity.

Read MoreTimothy Leary, the Psychedelicists, and the Doors of Perception*

Your Ultimate Productivity Guide for the New Year

Friday, January 4, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- Most ambitious and successful people set goals and use task lists. I’ve seen those task lists. They’re usually handwritten on lined paper – pages and pages of “things to do” with no way to sort out what’s important.

I used to do that. But I was never able to accomplish my long-term goals that way.

I doubt those people do, either.

The time-management system I use now is more detailed. And it takes a bit more time. But it works. I mean it really works.

Prior to using this system, I was able to accomplish my main goal, which was about achieving wealth. But I was forever putting off my other life goals. Had I still been writing down yearly resolutions and daily task lists, I am sure I would have continued to add to my net worth. But I doubt I would have done much if any of the following:

  1. I wrote and had 30+ books published. (Two of them were New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.)
  2. I wrote four screenplays. Three were made into movies.
  3. I earned a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
  4. I started a family charity that funded – and is running – a $5 million+ community development center in Nicaragua.
  5. I relearned the French horn.
  6. I developed several financial products and services that have helped many people achieve their financial goals. (I’m very proud of that.)
  7. I started a boutique publishing company that has produced books for unknown writers who I think deserve to be noticed.
  8. I am developing a 20-acre botanical palm tree and sculpture garden that I hope will one day be open to the public for free.
  9. I stayed healthy, kept my friends, and enjoyed my family.

As I said, before I began using this system, I never had time to write poetry or produce movies. I never had time to get involved with charitable endeavors. I was very busy. But my life was speeding by without any hope of being able to look back and think, “I did everything that was really important to me.”

Determining Your Core Values

Most people you meet on the street don’t like their jobs, are unhappy with their family life, and want more money. They believe that if they could just do this or that, everything would be better.

Winning the lottery would make it all okay. At least that’s what they think. But the truth is otherwise. Unless you live your life according to your core values, no success will be enough to bring you joy.

So before you attempt to set your goals, you have to spend some time determining your core values. What do I mean by core values? I mean the feelings you have about good and evil that are buried deep within your heart.

What does goal setting have to do with core values? It’s all about ensuring your long-term happiness. If you set goals that contradict your core values, you will wake up one day and say, “I did everything I said I wanted to do. But so what?”

You don’t want to end up being yet another highly successful but fundamentally miserable person – a fate so common it’s become a cliché. Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen…

Begin by imagining a funeral. It is taking place in an elegantly appointed room. The room is full of friends and family members who have assembled to talk about the deceased. You look around. You begin to recognize faces. “Who is the deceased?” you wonder. You look at the casket. Good grief, it’s you!

So what are the people at your funeral saying about you?

Read MoreYour Ultimate Productivity Guide for the New Year

So You Don’t Believe in Making New Year’s Resolutions? Why Not?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Delray Beach, FL .- Ask 10 people if they make New Year’s Resolutions and nine of them will tell you they don’t. So I’m guessing you don’t do it either.

And if that’s true, you’ve been squashing an impulse that’s key to success in life: the natural desire to improve yourself.

I can’t say that I’ve always felt as strongly about New Year’s Resolutions as I do now, but I have felt strongly about the power of self-improvement my entire life. And I’ve attributed all of the good things I’ve managed to achieve to my drive to keep getting better.

Benjamin Franklin was my inspiration in many ways. I admired the determination and perseverance that took him from poverty to wealth, from being a nobody to being a success at everything he put his hand and mind to. (If you have never read a biography of him, you should do so one day.)

So about 20 years ago, when I decided to start writing a blog, I chose to model my theme on the advice in his generous and pragmatic letters, essays, and books.

I liked almost every recommendation I’d ever read by wise old Ben, but I had bridled at the one about “early to bed and early to rise.” After all, I had managed to achieve a fair amount of success by going to bed late and waking up after 9:00 (and sometimes 10:00).

But since he was so adamant about this particular idea, I had tried it out. And lo and behold, it immediately and measurably improved my life. It made me about 30% more productive in terms of gross work output. But it made me about 300% more productive in terms of accomplishing business, personal, and social objectives that really mattered to me.

And that, needless to say, made me about 100% happier!

So I named the blog Early to Rise, with the focus on efforts I had made to achieve the three core objectives identified in Ben’s maxim.

* My first priority at that point in my life was to increase my wealth.

* My second was to improve my health.

* And my third was to become smarter about things that I valued.

That tripartite approach worked well. It forced me to understand that although I had made wealth building my first priority, I could not ignore my second and third priorities if I expected to enjoy a somewhat balanced life.

Read MoreSo You Don’t Believe in Making New Year’s Resolutions? Why Not?

Final Countdown to Christmas: Only One More Day!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Delray Beach, FL.- It’s Christmas Eve and you’re stressed. No wonder. You’ve been working double-time while attending to all your holiday obligations and trying to enjoy the festivities.

And so it’s no wonder that you feel you shouldn’t have to work today. But you do. You have to work, but you don’t have to put in another typical 8- to 10-hour day. You are going to limit your work to four hours, but they will be good hours. Your business, your family, and your equilibrium will be the beneficiaries.

Today’s objective: Get a good deal of useful and rewarding work done, as much as you can in four hours. Then go home early, feeling you’ve done your bit and met the challenge without a shred of guilt.

Here’s how I do it:

Read MoreFinal Countdown to Christmas: Only One More Day!

10 Quick Ways to Improve Yourself Every Single Day

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Delray Beach, FL.- It’s that time of year when most people start to work on “resolutions” for next year. But don’t wait until January 1 to put those resolutions into action. Significant, life-improving change takes a long time – and the time to start is always right now.

I should know.

Perhaps because of a perennially low sense of self-esteem (probably deserved), I’ve been working on improving myself ever since Sister Christopher, my Grade 1 teacher, rubbed a wad of chewing gum into my hair as punishment for chewing it in class. (“That will teach you! And now maybe your parents will give you a proper crew cut!”)

So – and not to brag – when it comes to self-improvement, you have to agree: I got an early start.

Alas, we cannot become smarter, more skillful, more disciplined, or happier simply by choosing to be so. But the good news is (and you won’t hear this anywhere else – for the time being) that all of the psychological benefits of positive change come to you the moment you start changing. They are not dependent on the goal.

Another bonus: Studies show that the best way to change is through small, repeated actions.

Here are 10 “small” actions you can take every day that will make your life better:

Read More10 Quick Ways to Improve Yourself Every Single Day

Learning, Practicing, and Understanding

Thursday, December 20, 2018

 Delray Beach, FL.- What’s going to be on your list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Do you want to become a masterful writer? Marketer? CEO?

Whatever your goal is, know this: There are four stages in mastering a complex skill: learning, practicing, and understanding.

The first two are intertwined. The last is an achievement.

You cannot practice without some little bit of learning. And you cannot learn without a lot of practice. But the understanding… oh, that’s the wonder!

Let me explain.

For some time now, I’ve been mentoring three young people in the financially valuable skill of writing advertising copy.

Each week, they bring in some piece of copy for me to critique. These are not long pieces. Nor are they complete. They are early drafts of what we call “leads” – headlines and the first 300 to 700 words of copy.

When mentoring copywriters, I like working with leads because they are short and yet they provoke the most important questions about advertising:

For example:

* Does the headline work? Does it hook my attention? Does it make me want to read on with positive expectations?

* Does the rest of the lead introduce an emotionally compelling promise or idea? Does that promise or idea meet the prospect where he is at the moment of reading? Does it build from there? Does it leave the prospect desperate for more?

* What type of lead is being used? A story lead? A secret lead? A promise? An offer? If it is a secret lead, is it followed by a story? If a story leads, is a secret introduced?

The other advantage of using leads for teaching copy is that if their leads are flawed (as they often are), the flaws will typically be the most common mistakes junior copywriters make.

For example:

* Mistaking topics for ideas

* Breaking “the rule of one” – i.e., presenting  multiple ideas or making multiple promises

* Making claims without proof

* Writing copy that is generalized and/or vague

I’ve been using this teaching format for decades, and it’s usually good and useful. Smart, hardworking students generally make fast progress. I’m sure there are other ways to teach and learn that are as good or better for individuals. But for me, this is a protocol that has proven to be effective for most people most of the time.

One thing that has surprised me is that there is little to no relationship between a person’s ability to understand a writing principle and his/her ability to put that principle to work.

In fact, I’ve been confounded by how often, after, for example, explaining how a particular headline isn’t working, I will get the same mistake the very next day. And the day after that. And so on.

When I first noticed this many years ago, I assumed the fault was mine. That I had not explained the principle clearly. But repeated and even variant explanations of the same principle did no good.

So was it the student? Was it his fault?

Read MoreLearning, Practicing, and Understanding