Wealth AND Happiness in 2007, Part 1

“A man has to have goals – for a day, for a lifetime – and that was mine, to have people say, ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.'” – Ted Williams

This week, while trying to write two New Year’s resolution articles for ETR – one on wealth and one on happiness – I found myself using new words to say the same old things.

I brought up my problem with JG, a close friend and former partner with whom I’ve enjoyed a 30-year conversation about life and how to live it. The subject matter of my articles was good and useful – but most ETR readers have heard it all before.

Although JG pointed out that the articles would be helpful despite the fact that they repeated ideas I’ve been discussing for years, I still wanted to write something new. I just didn’t know what “new” was.

“Here’s my take,” said JG. “You’ve been working on two articles. One is about creating wealth. The other is about achieving happiness. Have you ever considered writing about the relationship between wealth and happiness? How to become rich and happy too?

“For most people, happiness seems like something that will come automatically once wealth is achieved. But you know that isn’t true. So you’ve been writing about wealth and happiness separately. You’ve been explaining what you know about making money and developing businesses and accumulating objects of wealth as if the pursuit of those things is not directly related to happiness. But the truth is, they are linked.”

He was right. I had never attempted to write about how to achieve wealth and happiness simultaneously. But that is certainly something any ETR reader – whether a beginning or advanced wealth builder – would be interested in.

JG reminded me that I run dozens of multimillion-dollar businesses and make plenty of money. Better yet, I enjoy doing it. Plus, I’m lucky to have a full life outside of business too.

“But,” he said. “I want you to consider one thing. You have several hundred thousand readers. Each is a unique person with unique qualities. You were born in the year of the Tiger, and it seems to me from observing you that you are a natural tiger. What is good for the tiger is not good for the horse or the pig or the snake.

“So you should write not only about the relationship between wealth and happiness, but also about how each individual must discover his own nature and find his own balance.

“What I mean by that is, instead of writing about achieving wealth or achieving happiness, consider writing about achieving the feeling of wealth. When people think about being wealthy, what they are really thinking about is the feeling of having those things they think money will buy them.”

JG is particularly qualified to give such advice. When he was my business partner (and was earning a giant income and running a multimillion-dollar company), he was also a martial arts practitioner and a student of Chinese philosophy. One day, he came to me and said that he was going to leave the business world and spend his time teaching the Chinese internal systems and practicing them in his own life.

Instead of being shocked that JG would walk away from a huge business and giant income and opt for a life of simplicity instead, I was proud of him and eager to see where his path led him. He in turn was happy for me to pursue my own path. In the nearly 20 years since then, he’s taught me a lot about enjoying my life by balancing my natural “tiger” capacity for bigness with what I now know is an equally natural need for peace, happiness, and relaxation.

So this year, in addition to talking about how you can become wealthier and happier in 2007, I’m going to add a third, more “advanced” component to my New Year’s resolution articles for ETR: how to feel wealthier.

Today, let’s begin by talking about how you can be wealthier this year.

As I said in Automatic Wealth, you don’t have to be a genius to become wealthy. Acquiring a high net worth is possible for anyone who is willing to put in the time and follow a few simple rules. Here they are:

1. Wake up earlier.

Lots of people object to this rule. They tell me they are “night” people, and then give me 63 reasons why they do better work after the sun goes down. I understand how they feel. For many years, I felt the same way – and, to be truthful, I still managed to make a decent living. But when I was in my early 30s, I read a study that said successful entrepreneurs get to work, on average, about an hour earlier than the people who work for them. That was enough for me. I started getting to work earlier and discovered that it worked better for me. Don’t knock it. Try it.

2. Spend that extra hour on your most important wealth-building objective.

Ask yourself every morning: “What is the single most important thing I can do right now to increase my wealth before the end of the year?” Identify what that task is and start working on it immediately. Take no phone calls. Answer no e-mails. Don’t even turn on the radio. You want to treat this hour like it is sacred … because, from a productivity perspective, it is.

3. Educate yourself.

Spend at least a half-hour a day learning about wealth or practicing a wealth-building habit. If you aren’t sure what to read or practice, take a look at our website to see the various materials/programs that ETR has to offer.

4. Develop wealth-building partners.

Nothing will make your wealth-building journey faster and easier than having good people to support you. When I think back on my career, it is obvious to me that 80 percent of the success I had was due to picking great mentors, partners, and superstar employees. That’s what you need to do this year. Improve your list of partners. Who do you have? Who would you like to have?

5. Increase your income.

Income is not the most important aspect of wealth building, but it shouldn’t be ignored. Figure out how you can increase your income this year, and then do whatever is necessary to achieve that increase.

6. Increase your equity in a business and/or real estate.

Equity is the key to wealth. Figure out how much equity you acquired last year, and find some way to get more equity in 2007. (As Justin Ford pointed out on Tuesday, the golden rule for real estate investing is to find quality properties that you can buy at or below market prices. And there should be some very good real estate bargains opening up later in the year.)

7. Save more.

What did you sock away last year? How can you do better than that this year? There are only two ways to save more: by increasing your income (which you intend to do, right?) and by decreasing your spending (which is always a good idea).

If you make a commitment to follow these seven steps, your net worth will be larger – probably significantly larger – 12 months from now. It will take some discipline, but ETR will be in your e-mail box every morning with encouragement, tips, and practical advice to help you achieve this goal – and all your goals – for the year.

[Ed Note: On Monday, Michael will reveal a five-step plan for increasing your happiness in 2007.] [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.]