“Once you are really challenged, you find something in yourself. Man doesn’t know what he is capable of until he is asked.” – Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary General

 This week, we are talking about building wealth — your wealth. We both know there are more important things in life than money. But there are also many less-important things. Such as indulging yourself in instant gratification, superficial pleasures, and temporary distractions (e.g., junk food, bad television, and crappy books). You can find plenty of time for wealth building — all the time you need — by recognizing these time wasters and eliminating them in your life.

I promised that this week I’d tell you details about what I’ve learned during my own wealth-building history so you could have a quicker and smoother climb up the ladder.

The first and most important lesson I’ve learned is this: To get more out of something, you have to put more into it. To make more money than you are making now, you will have to work more. To make a lot more money, you will have to work more and differently.

This may seem too obvious to mention, but it came as a bit of a surprise to me.

You see, there has always been a part of my mind that bought into the mythology of fast-and-easy money. Although I wasn’t a reader of the most obvious junk on that subject, I did enjoy newspaper and magazine accounts of overnight riches — and I occasionally picked up (and furtively devoured) the more sophisticated get-rich-quick book.

Let me explain.

I work as hard as anybody I know. It is not unusual for me to be at my desk at 7:30 in the morning, work continually till 1:30 in the morning, and then get up the next day and do it again. I typically work seven days a week and every day while I’m on vacation. I work not only long hours but hard hours: I use every technique I’ve told you about to make the time I spend efficient.

That said, I must tell you that I am, at heart, a very lazy fellow.

It might surprise some who work with me, but my basic nature is much closer to that of a slug than it is to that of a bumble bee. As a youngster, I spent my hours lolling about, daydreaming and playing, thinking and sleeping, wondering and musing — in other words, avoiding work.

Even today, there are occasions when I zone out. Something happens, and suddenly I don’t care about my goals anymore. One moment, I’m all fire and fury; the next, I’m a placid, limpid pool of nonchalance.

And I like that feeling — and could get used to it.

But I know from experience that when I go from work mode to dream mode, my life goals stop dead in their tracks. So I get myself going again the only way I can: by choosing only one thing to do and then telling myself that this task is going to be quickly and easily accomplished.

In other words, I lie. I tell myself the myth, and it gets me going.

I believe we all have the capacity both for laziness and for hard work. Some, like me, are more prone to laziness than work. But if I can get myself to work hard, I have to believe anyone can. You don’t have to be a naturally hard worker to work hard. The trick is to find out what gets you going.

Another important thing I’ve learned: Although idleness is very peaceful, hard work can bring you happiness. I find that if I’m doing something that has meaning for me, the feeling of working hard feels good, goes fast, and provides substantial and long-lasting benefits.

Since so many of us got to know work by doing work we didn’t care about, we learned — and now it’s deep in our bones — that work is hard, dull, and boring. With that idea in mind, it’s no wonder we look for promises of quick and easy. We want to be thin. We want to be smart. We want to be rich. But we want it fast. And we want it easy.

So we lie. We fool ourselves and those we care about. We promise quick and easy and we deliver long and hard. But once the train gets moving, once we are moving quickly down the tracks and realize we are going where we want to go — then, ironically, all that work and effort ends up seeming, at least in retrospect, quick and easy.

To become wealthy, you need to put yourself in the profit stream of a thriving business and contribute to that profit stream by exercising a useful skill. This can be selling, marketing, product development, or profit management. But whatever it is, it will take you time to get good at it.

The more time you can put in during a given period, the faster success will come to you. That’s one of the reasons I believe — as Ben Franklin did — that the most important thing you can do to acquire wealth is get to work early each morning. The extra time gives you a tremendous advantage over everyone and every thing you compete against. Plus, the discipline of doing something most people are not willing to do will pay off in just about every other area of your life.

The great achievers — from Henry Flagler to Dennis Brain to Michael Jordan — started early and put in the extra time. And so does every successful moneymaker I know. If you want to become wealthy — by whatever measure of wealth you establish –you have to put in the extra time.

But don’t worry about working long or hard. It’s not going to feel that way. If we do it right, it feels quick and easy. The easy thing — and the quick thing too — is simply to get to work an hour early.

Be at your desk tomorrow morning an hour earlier than the rest of the world and everything else — the brilliant moneymaking ideas, the diligent follow-through, the sticking to priorities, and the devilish details — will all follow.

Start with the easiest thing. Set your alarm. Drag yourself out of bed. Take a shower. Roll into the office. Have a cup of coffee. And start to work early. I promise that you’ll have an immediate and definite sense that you are on your way.

[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.