When we talk about business, Dr. Sears and I often discuss myths. Just as there are widespread myths about health among modern health professionals, there are also commonly held myths about business among successful executives.

Popular myths can be destructive. In the world of medicine, they can put you in danger of becoming seriously ill. How does the  average person separate the ideas that are helpful from those that could literally end up killing him?

“I’ve been thinking about that question for a long time,” Dr. Sears said. “And although it is impossible to have one answer that will cover you for every medical problem, there is a simple principle that anyone can follow.”

“And what is that?”

“Stay as close as you can to Mother Nature.”

“Which means?”

“Eating the way Nature intended us to eat, avoiding those things that Nature intended us to be afraid of, and seeking those things that – in a natural environment – we would be attracted to.”

One example of a medical myth has to do with sunlight. The medical establishment has been telling us for more than 20 years that the sun is dangerous, that it causes cancer, and that we should do everything we can to avoid it.

I asked Jon Herring, who is just about finished preparing a breakthrough report on this subject for ETR readers, to give you an idea of just how wrong this myth is. Here’s what he says:

“For a full generation, Americans have been hiding from the sun, wearing protective clothing, and slathering on sun block. And during this period, the incidence of malignant melanoma (the deadly form of skin cancer) has dramatically increased – most revealingly among those who stay furthest from the sun.

“Fact is, there is virtually no aspect of human health that is not improved by moderate exposure to sunlight. Except in the far north and during the winter, 15 to 30 minutes a day is all it takes. Sensible sun exposure has been conclusively shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce or eliminate the symptoms of depression, optimize weight, improve muscle tone, strengthen bones, improve immunity to illness, reduce tooth decay, improve blood sugar regulation … and this is just for starters.

“Perhaps most important, sun exposure is inversely correlated with virtually every known deadly internal cancer. In other words, the more UV light a population is exposed to, the greater the reduction in death rates due to cancer. When did you ever hear that bit of information from mainstream medicine?”

Another huge medical myth is that excess bodyfat is caused primarily by eating fat.

“The truth is that eating fat does not make you fat,” says Jon. “Sugar and refined carbohydrates play a far more important role in fat storage. For one thing, eating fat sends a signal to your brain that tells you when you’ve had enough food. So when you include fat in your diet, you don’t need to eat nearly as much to feel satisfied. This is why people on ‘low-fat’ diets often overeat. Also, when manufacturers remove the fat from foods, it is usually replaced with sugar, sodium, and artificial flavors.

“Dietary fat is actually necessary for shedding bodyfat. So rather than eliminating fat from your diet, you should focus on replacing bad fat with good fat. You should avoid vegetable oils and all hydrogenated oils (trans-fats) and replace them with olive oil, coconut oil, and fat from fish, naturally raised lean meats, avocado, nuts, and whole vegetables. Fat is essential to your health. You need it for your body to function properly.”

In business, there are myths too. For example, I know from my experience that the following ideas about success in business are bankrupt:

  • Nice guys finish last.
  • Good negotiators are tough negotiators.
  • Smart businesspeople keep their secrets to themselves.
  • You’ve got to break eggs to make omelettes.

I know these ideas to be false, yet I find it impossible to disprove them the way researchers can disprove medical myths. To make matters worse, these business myths often work – either on the surface or in the short run.

In his book Winners Never Cheat, Jon M. Huntsman (one of the country’s most successful and wealthiest businessmen) lends support to what I’ve learned from experience. He admits that the world of Wall Street, to pick a particularly serpentine environment, is filled with unethical businesspeople. But he argues that in the end (and by that he doesn’t mean the final end, as in the hereafter), the bad guys pay.

“WorldCom, Tyco, Enron, and other giant companies had leaders who failed to play fair,” he says. But “because they cheated, they lost. Accumulation of wealth became a driving force to these executives. They forgot the golden rule of integrity: Trust is a greater compliment than affection. With integrity comes respect.”

I was thinking about Dr. Sears’ idea of using the fundamental rules of Nature as a way of separating myth from reality when it comes to health advice. I was intrigued by the idea because it occurred to me that it could also be applied to the business of wealth building – and because it tied in to some thoughts I recently articulated in a speech I gave on retirement.

“If you want to get wealthy in a relatively short amount of time and achieve a desirable retirement without stress and worry,” I told the audience, “you’ll have to follow the wisdom of people who were becoming wealthy centuries ago.”

In older, agrarian societies, a man got rich first by working hard to achieve a good income … then by saving a good part of that income and investing it into a family business … then by enhancing the value of that business by providing good value to his customers … and finally by training his children to take over the business so that when he was ready to retire, someone was ready and able to take his place.

The bulk of my speech focused on that aspect of the wealth-building process: mentoring. The giving and receiving of knowledge in a way that draws upon our natural needs and abilities at various stages of life. The argument goes something like this:

  • When you are young, you are rich in energy but poor in wisdom. It is natural, then, that you should want to work hard in exchange for knowledge – following the path that someone older has charted.
  • Your income increases as your knowledge and contributions to the business increase. You begin training someone to replace you, even though you may be at the height of your power. You know you won’t be able to – or want to – work at this pace forever.
  • When you are older, you are poor in energy but rich in wisdom. It is natural then that you should work less yet continue to provide the guidance the business needs. At that point, you turn your business over to your protege, including the lion’s share of the income and value, in exchange for his taking on all or most of the hard lifting.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

This is rough thinking, I admit. But I hope you can see where I’m going with it. The point is pretty simple: With our health and with our wealth, following the fundamental rules of Nature is the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff and figure out which advice to follow.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.