What's the difference between failure and prosperity? How can you be sure you are headed in the "right" direction in life? Is it even possible to chart a course to live a prosperous life? Is it just an age-old gimmick to trick the naïve and unsuspecting entrepreneur into believing that the American dream is still a possibility? Can an honest person actually make it "big" in the business world?
To anyone with any substantial ambition whatsoever, these questions-and many related to them-are very important. To me, it has been very surprising indeed how I have come to learn the answers to these questions over the last few years.
Let me just give you a glimpse of an incredible journey. It's a journey made possible only by my own choice to accept the possibilities of walking through the looking glass.
Six years ago I was making well over six figures and, given the current business trends of the day, headed down the fast track to what most around me considered wealth and prosperity. Five years ago I was filing for federal bankruptcy protection and defaulting on almost $1,000,000 of debt. Four years ago, having given up all entrepreneurial ambitions and having convinced myself that "capitalism was evil" and that there was no place in the modern world for an honest entrepreneur, I was working as a telemarketer and giving plasma twice a week (along with my wife) just to have "enough money" to pay the bills. Three years ago I had surprisingly discovered a path to earn sufficient income, independent of a typical job, to ensure that I would almost certainly never "need" another paycheck again. Two years ago I had successfully generated over $1 million in revenue and had paid back all those whose debts I had previously legally discharged through bankruptcy (plus an additional 6 percent interest for good measure). One year ago I had just completed my best business year ever with over $110 million in revenue!
As you can tell, it has been no slow moving experience these past few years. Much has changed for my family and me. I have helped thousands of people improve their lives. I have toured the country speaking in a dozen major cities helping people change their basic understanding of prosperity and the path to it. In the process I have helped create at least a couple dozen millionaires. I have helped an unknown number of people successfully get "out of the rat race" through a curriculum I developed (which, by the way, takes less than a year to complete).
I have been blessed beyond measure and life continues to be full of opportunity. I now understand why Robert Kiyosaki described his life changing experience, in regards to experiencing prosperity, using the following language. He wrote:
I had stepped through the looking glass and now could clearly see a new way of life. I began to cry, not with sadness, but with profound wonder at the perfection, bounty, and abundance that surrounded not just Kim and me . . . but all of us. Slowly, I realized that too much of the time my fear of not being enough or not having enough prevented my from allowing the abundance that life here on earth offers..I finally stepped through the looking glass, and fully understood my rich dad. 1
I too have learned that prosperity is not about some external event or some lucky opportunity. Prosperity is about a choice and the subsequent change that starts from within. It is literally like "walking through the looking glass" and seeing a world that so many people never see because of their own fears. I add my voice to those who have gone before me and say, "I too have walked through the looking glass and see a new way of life."
So what happened that enabled me to walk through the looking glass? Did I get lucky? Was I in the right place at the right time? Did I find a partner with a lot of money? No. None of these have anything to do with my success. The fact that I used to think in a way to even conceive such possible explanations for success is almost frightening to me.
Today, I am the host of my own national radio talk show, broadcast daily over the AM frequencies of Salt Lake City and across the world via the web at www.freecapitalist.com. I introduce myself to the listeners as "The Free Capitalist." I say to my listeners every day, "Wake up; turn your brain on!" That is literally my formula for success.
When you hit the ground as hard as I did (going bankrupt and losing almost everything imaginable-houses, cars, money, business, friends, etc.) the best way to describe the result is, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Since that time, each day I started to wake up, turn my brain on, and get to work using the God given assets that each of us have been given.
I'm not sure if the timeline I've outlined for my journey is exact, but it is substantively accurate. It is certainly true that each year has brought new growth, new challenges, new accomplishments and new opportunities. Truthfully, I feel like I'm just getting started. I'm certain there exists a ton more to learn and discover, and I know there are many more exciting people to meet and associate with as I do that.
Nevertheless, when I look at my life today, in every regard I have a better grasp on prosperity than I have ever had. In a temporal sense I am light years beyond the day nearly six years ago when I was up late at night in my basement searching through the Internet for "angel investors," doing everything I could think of to find any possible solution to get the "money I needed" to get out of the deep financial hole I was in and to avoid bankruptcy.
Since that day I have successfully created, purchased, partnered with or acquired over 30 new businesses-which include a motion picture company, a gold and silver operation, multiple real estate companies, a restaurant franchise, a private university, a media company, and many others; but more importantly, I've also gone through a myriad personal changes along a road of struggle, growth, pain, frustration, and a few serious setbacks. I'm certain that this has been and will be no accident for any of us in the future.
Okay, but so what? You may be wondering why I have taken the time to outline this short list of key events in my life over the last six years. Well, my reasons definitely have nothing to do with the money, the temporal success, or the luxury life now holds. I could lose all that at any moment and as unfortunate, frustrating, and painful as that would be I would still have something that could never be taken away: my knowledge.
What I have learned through my journey is priceless to me. I have literally gained a treasure that is so powerful, so amazing, and so exciting that it is now my deepest desire to share it with those who might be looking for the same answers to the same questions that I once regularly asked-questions like those I started out with at the beginning of this essay. Why would I be so anxious to share? Well, the answer to that question is the reason I am writing this essay today.
I am convinced that no matter who you are and no matter how "rich" or "poor" you may feel at this moment in time, the message of this short essay can quite literally change your life.
If you are headed in the wrong direction, it will give you what you need to turn your life around. If you are headed in the right direction but want to do so with more conviction, more power, more speed, and more competence, it will give you that too!
Are you willing to believe that this kind of change is possible? Even if you don't believe it yet-even if you can only "wish" what I'm saying is possible (since you've taken the time to read this far), all I ask of you at this point is to give me a chance to share with you a formula for prosperity I did not invent but have discovered. It is an ancient formula and one that you can verify for yourself. You do not need to trust me or any other "guru" to get ahead; all you need to do is to "wake up" for a few minutes and "turn your brain on." If you'll do this, I promise that what I'm going to share with you will have an amazing influence on your life, starting right now.
How Are Your Ideas Working for You?
One of my favorite sayings today is something that just popped into my mind one day and has stuck with me ever since. I have no idea if anyone else has said it. It goes like this, "Some things are true whether you believe them or not." That statement is where the journey begins. You must allow your mind to ponder the possibility that what I'm about to share with you is true. It is up to you to ultimately judge for yourself. Your judgment will not change the truthfulness of what I say one-way or the other; however, it will change the way you respond to my message and what happens in your life as a result.
Ideas have consequences. This is a simple yet profound truth. The way you think, the ideas you hold in your mind, are much more powerful than you've probably been taught to imagine. They determine whether or not you live in the Consumer Condition™ or the Producer Paradigm™; but, I'm getting ahead of myself.
In the late 1990s, I considered myself "on top of the world." As the president of a small Internet company (one I built along with a few partners), I thought I was at the helm of a strong, vibrant and growing enterprise. This company was "my ship" and from all appearances it was about "to come in."
It was during the heat of the "dot-com" boom. I was optimistic that if things kept going the way they appeared to be going it looked like I was going to be super rich. Everyone around me was telling me about their excitement and optimism.
Interestingly enough, it wasn't the fact that I was going to be rich that excited me; rather, it was the feeling of having a lot of money that gave me confidence in the future. In my mind, at the time, the idea of making a lot of money meant that I would be secure. Security is something that I had been looking for in my business life for quite some time. "Finally," I thought to myself, "I am at the right place at the right time."
Little did I know then that my future was indeed certain. Certainty and its attendant destination, however, was something I was completely blind to. As anyone familiar with the "ancient principles of prosperity" can see from what I've shared thus far regarding my thought pattern six years ago, there is sufficient evidence to know for certain that regardless of the way it happened there was no way possible for me to avoid my worst fear. Failure!
Read back through what I've explained already about my thoughts at the time and you can find at least three "absolute" and "objective" reasons why I was most certainly headed towards failure. Indeed-as surprising as it was to me at the time-by the end of the year 2000, I was broke, and it was ugly!
Oh, I could tell you a long story about how it came about. We could talk about the dot-com bubble and how it burst. We could talk of politics and how I should have been more shrewd in how I used the business to support my own political initiatives. We could even talk about how I had inadvertently run astray of the complex and nuanced details of State securities laws. All of these topics would be suitable and fertile ground for the excuses of a "well intentioned" businessman, who through no real "fault of his own," happened to be in just the "wrong place at the wrong time;" however, such excuses are not the truth.
We are all where we are in life because of the way we think! This one very sharp truth is like a double edge sword. Once we accept it, embrace it, and wield it, we can powerfully create a life we love; however, until then, it is this truth that cuts deeply and often appears so frightening that we turn away our glance and pretend somehow, someway the laws of the universe might change just "for me" and make it possible to succeed some other way.
The Repository of Ancient Truth
One of the things I did as I began to "wake up" each day was to read. I can't fully explain it, but I started to read like it was an obsession. The first book I remember reading during that time was Napoleon Hill's Master Key to Riches. I was trying to come to terms with the idea he calls definite major purpose. This book was my first exposure to Carnegie's fundamental axioms, one of which is that "A man's reading program should be as carefully planned as his daily diet, for that too is food, without which he cannot grow mentally." 2
So, I read. I read diligently. While reading Hill's discussion on the Founding Fathers of the United States and the mastermind principle, I was reminded of my association with a mentor in my past who had taught me about American history from the curriculum of Dr. W. Cleon Skousen. I started to re-read great books dealing with American history, such as The Making of America and The 5,000 Year Leap.
Then a friend referred me to read Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad; it was like water to a thirsting man. I read Norman Vincent Peale, Stephen Covey, and even Donald Trump. I read Bastiat, Friedman, and Ayn Rand. I could go on and on; I have now read hundreds of books since that period of time. Notably, there has been an interesting pattern that has developed in my reading.
Years ago I noticed three basic categories in my reading curriculum. First, I began reading books that could be categorized as personal improvement books-which essentially taught the concept of self-reliance. Second, I started reading books on economics and finance that related to economic independence. Finally, I began reading books dealing with history, politics and the culture of Western Civilization (this last category dealt primary with questions of politics and liberty).
It was through this experience I learned for myself that there are great treasures stored in the books and libraries of the world. Do you have a personal library?
The ironic reality is that the ancient truths, which can be discovered by studying the permanent and perennial issues with which all men of all time have grappled, can be had for only a few dollars at a time simply by selectively purchasing a few of the best books ever written.
The One Question
Deep within the souls of all men stirs one eternal question. How each of us individually answers this question determines everything. It is in fact the question of life. It is not complex, sophisticated, or difficult to understand; yet, it is not often discovered by the conscious mind. Even the so-called intellectuals are prone to overlook the question as they seek to know the mysteries of life. In its most abbreviated form the question of life is simply, "Will I choose to be free?"
For millennia before the foundations of the world and continuing still today, the battle for the "Eternal Cause of Liberty" has been waging between those who answer this one question in the affirmative and those who do not. The power of a man's mind allows him to penetrate the obscurity of ignorance and question the state of the world in which he finds himself. Darkness, doubt, fear and despair-though the common experience for billions who have lived and are now living on the Earth-are not the necessary or natural conditions of man. These are instead the result of choice, and the result of man's choice either tends toward devastating slumber or awakening greatness-toward captivity and death or liberty and life.
The Two Paradigms
Either subconsciously or consciously, we are each viewing the world through one of two lenses. Since the era of the Great Depression most people on the planet have been trained, taught, and educated to see the world as a place of scarcity-a place where there is never enough time, never enough money, never enough respect, never enough opportunity, etc. This paradigm of scarcity clouds our thinking and becomes our default program for finding fault, being cynical, and for living lives of quiet desperation.
There is another paradigm that is within the choice of all. It is a way of seeing the world and life for its beauty and opportunities, for seeing that what the "mind can conceive it can achieve," and for seeing greatness in the noble acts of men and the hero inside your own soul.
Each of us chooses the perspective with which we approach the struggle for liberty and freedom. Those who choose to do so from a paradigm of scarcity become like "starving dogs fighting over meatless bones" while those who choose the paradigm of abundance throw off the victim language and the helpless thoughts of the prisoner; and they begin to see the end from the beginning. Those who see in abundance know that life is more than the false constructs and fake allurements of dialectical materialism. Those who choose to see in abundance throw off the habit of living constantly with a "fear of loss" and instead make a deliberate and concentrated effort to develop a faith in true principles.
The 13 Principles of Prosperity
In all my reading, one of the most enlightening ideas I came across was that principles govern. Alexander Hamilton put it best in Federalist #31 when in 1778 he wrote:
In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths or first principles upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence, which antecedent to all reflection or combination commands the assent of the mind . . . and [are] so obvious in themselves, and so agreeable to the natural and unsophisticated dictates of common sense, that they challenge the assent of a sound and unbiased mind, with a degree of force and conviction almost equally irresistible. 3
It was when I learned this fundamental truth that I began searching the historical records for what Thomas Jefferson often referred to as the "ancient principles." These are the principles which the Founding Fathers recognized as the key ingredient to a great society. They had studied the histories of all great civilizations and had realized that individuals and nations prospered according to the degree to which they adhered to certain "ancient truths."
When I learned this I too set out to make a short catalog or list of these basic principles of prosperity. There are 13 of these principles that if studied, understood, and applied can change life.
Prosperity is not about a new business idea, some trick or technique, or going to school to learn some new process or approach. These are all effective or ineffective based upon the application of timeless principles.
There are many truths relating to the quest for an ideal life. In fact, I suppose that each truth has an unlimited number of applications. Nevertheless, I have learned for myself that if a person truly desires to live the abundant life-to live with freedom and prosperity-all he needs to do is learn and apply these 13 Principles.
I teach a full semester class on each of these principles at American Founders University because there is much to learn. As a basic introduction, I'll provide a brief list.
Principle 1: God is the author of prosperity
Principle 2: Faith begins with self-interest
Principle 3: Agency implies stewardship
Principle 4: Perspective determines action
Principle 5: People are assets
Principle 6: Human life value is the source and creator of all property value
Principle 7: Dollars follow value
Principle 8: Exchange creates wealth
Principle 9: Profit is the tool of validation
Principle 10: Productivity is the standard
Principle 11: Force destroys freedom and prosperity
Principle 12: Collective action has no unique moral authority
Principle 13: Personal liberty requires private property
The Life Worth Loving
In Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged the protagonist in a moment of great climax boldly declares: "I am the man who loves his life." One of my dearest friends made this same declaration to the world every day. At the core of the declaration is a truth beyond the obvious.
The history of mankind is the history of the struggle between the Producer (the man who chooses liberty, lives in abundance, has faith in principle, creates more value in the world than he consumes and values each individual life - including his own) and the Consumer (the man who does not choose liberty, lives in scarcity, wrestles constantly with a pernicious fear of loosing, consumes more value in the world than he produces and deep inside loathes himself and values only the collective).
The societies that have produced the happiest men, the highest standards of living and the greatest advances have been those where the power of the collective (government, state, tribe, or gang) was limited and the individual was given freedom of independent action. As Ayn Rand has explained:
While men are still pondering upon the causes of the rise and fall of civilizations, every page of history cries to us that there is but one source of progress: Individual Man in independent action. Collectivism is the ancient principle of savagery. A savage's whole existence is ruled by the leaders of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. 4
That is ultimately the lesson I learned. I have always held deep within me a desire for freedom, for liberty, and for the opportunity to triumph. Living in a world where I had been trained, taught, and educated to think like a victim and act like a slave produced a reality that had become a literal prison to me; but when I began to wake up, to turn my brain on, and to act with faith in true principles, I discovered the world on the other side of the looking glass-a world that is invisible to those who constantly live in fear and regularly resist the truths I've described.
Today, as I have learned the virtues of seeing prosperity from a new perspective, I have new answers to old questions.
* What's the difference between failure and prosperity? It is one choice.
* How can you be sure you are headed in the "right" direction? Live by principle.
* Is it even possible to chart a course to live the abundant and prosperous life? Yes.
* Is it just an age-old gimmick to trick the naïve and unsuspecting entrepreneur into believing that the American dream is still a possibility? No.
* Can an honest person actually make it "big" in the business world? Yes.
I believe because I have learned for myself that within the power of each man and woman is the ability to live a life worth loving, to live a life of principle full of abundance and prosperity.
I believe because I have learned for myself that there is no justification for living a life of quiet desperation.
I believe because I have learned for myself that we each write the story of our own life through action and deed, and I believe that our role in that story as either a hero or a victim is ours for the choosing-to write each day.
I believe each person thus informed and empowered has the choice of walking through the looking glass.
Those who make this choice will stand united in a common Cause with a mighty force of individual free men and women who boldly proclaim, "In the name of Liberty, we will step forward, we will live lives we love, and we will prosper!"
1. Kiyosaki, Robert T. Rich Dad's Retire Young, Retire Rich. New York: Warner Business Books, 2002. 333.
2. Hill, Napoleon. The Master-Key To Riches. New York: Ballantine Books, 1965. 97.
3. Hamilton, Alexander, Jay, John, and Madison, James. The Federalist Papers. New York: Bantam Dell, 1982. 176.
4. Rand, Ayn. "The Only Path to Tomorrow." Readers Digest January 1944: 88-90.