Entrepreneurial Success and Minding Your Own Business

Entrepreneurial Success and Minding Your Own Business

How to win at the game of business and money

Imagine you’re a player in a game. In this game, you’re put on a field without knowing any of the rules. Plus, the person running the game can change those rules at any time without warning. Just when you think you’re figuring things out, you have to learn a whole new way to play.

Would you stand much of a chance of winning that game?

The answer is, of course, no. Most likely you’re thinking that sounds like a horrible game—one that you’d probably never play. But here’s the problem: it’s a game you play every day.

It’s the game called business and money.

The ultra-rich and powerful hold the cards in the game of money

In this game, the game masters—politicians, owners, and central banks—hold the cards and are always changing the rules. Whether by increasing interest rates, quantitative easing, daisy chains, shifting expectations, changes in strategy, layoffs, revised contracts, or more, they’re always pulling levers. Everyone else is always playing catch up.

The reality is that the fundamental difference between the ultra-rich and powerful, and all those playing their game comes down to a simple element: control.

The unfair advantage: minding your own business

Growing up, I had two dads. My poor dad, my natural father, was a passive player in the game of money, always one step behind. My rich dad, my best friend’s father, was an informed player in the game, always anticipating the next move.

In 1955, my poor dad kept saying, “Go to school, get good grades, and find a safe and secure job.” My rich dad, on the other hand, kept saying, “Mind your own business.” My rich dad said this because he knew how important control was and that it was an unfair advantage.

My poor dad didn’t think minding your own business was important. He would say, “The business and the government are responsible for your retirement and medical needs. A retirement plan is part of your benefit package, and you’re entitled to it.” My rich dad would say, “Mind your own business.”

My poor dad believed in being a good, hardworking man. He would say, “Find a job and work your way up the ladder. Remember that companies do not like people who move around a lot. Companies reward people for seniority and loyalty.” My rich dad said, “Mind your own business.”

What happens when you forget to mind your own business

Being an entrepreneur is fundamentally playing the game of money at a high level—and a great exercise in minding your own business. One of the dreams of most entrepreneurs is to build a company that is worth acquisition. The reason for this is pretty easy to understand, by selling a high-growth company, most founders’ lives are changed financially forever.

Such was the case for the two founders of Instagram, the massively popular photo-sharing app used by…pretty much everyone.

In 2012, Facebook bought Instagram for a healthy $1 billion. At the time, the mobile app had 30 million users, no revenue, and thirteen employees. As of 2020, the app had around 1.16 billion users and brought in about $20 billion in ad revenue —a quarter of Facebook’s total revenue.

So it might have come as quite a shock to people when both the co-founders of Instagram quit their jobs in 2018 to “explore our curiosity and creativity again.”

But to me it’s not.

What happens when you let others mind your own business

The plus side of acquisition for founders is the immense amount of money they can make. The downside is that they let others mind their own business and they become high-paid employees rather than entrepreneurs.

The downside for high-paid employees is that, while they have a lot of leeway to make decisions, they eventually and always have to answer to someone else.

Such was the case for Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram. It was also the case for Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, the messaging app purchased by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion dollars (yes, you read that right).

Both sets of founders had high ideals for their products, which included not leveraging user data, and they thought they could keep the data-hungry Facebook at bay even after selling. But the reality is they couldn’t.

As “The Guardian” reports:

So the only surprising thing about the experiences of the founders of Instagram and WhatsApp is that anyone should be surprised by what’s happened to them. Facebook is a data vampire; the only thing it does is suck people’s life data in order to paint targets on their backs for the benefit of advertisers. All that sanctimonious guff about “building a global community” is just corporate cant.

And fast-forward to the recent news cycle, with whistleblowers coming out of the woodwork, Facebook is definitely not the gentle giant it wishes the world to see it as. Reading the Wall Street Journal’s expose, “ The Facebook Files,” is enough to make any sane person question their connection with the social media platform.

Any startup founder hoping to be acquired by Zuckerberg’s empire ought to remember Winston Churchill’s definition of appeasement as “feeding a crocodile in the hope that he will eat you last”. Because he will.

The entrepreneurial spirit always leads back to minding your own business

While Koum, Acton, Systrom, and Krieger, had a rude awakening when it came to the amount of control they would have over the companies they started once they sold them to a company like Facebook, it is commendable that all of them eventually left when there was a conflict with their values.

More than likely, they saw this conflict long ago, but they hoped that from the inside they would be able to make a positive change. This is a frequent belief of many high-paid, high-position employees, but they often realize that they don’t have the power to do what they thought they could.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not surprising to me when former founders who transition to high-paid employees leave a cushy job. Why? It’s simply not in their DNA.

So when someone like Koum says , “I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee. And I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside,” and people like System and Kriger say, “We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again. Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do,” what they really mean is, “We’re sick and tired of being told what to do.”

And that is the entrepreneurial spirit at work, and I love it.

What does minding your own business mean for you?

Financial struggle is often the direct result of people working all their lives for someone else. Many people have nothing to show for all their efforts at the end of their working days.

Of course, this is what they're trained to do.

Our current educational system focuses on preparing young people to get good jobs working for others. Their lives will revolve around finding a good wage to fill their income column while filling their liability column with all sorts of gadgets. They will become engineers, scientists, cooks, police officers, bankers, and so on. Their profession will earn them money while they mind someone else's business.

When I ask people what their business is, they generally tell me what they do. They are confusing their profession with their business. The reality is that most people have a job, not a business. They manage or work for other people's businesses.

For others, however, this means owning your own business. If you know cooking, start a restaurant. If you studied engineering, start a firm. If you're an accountant, hire other accountants and build a bigger client base. At the end of the day, however, I don't encourage anyone to start a business unless they have a desire to do so.

For still others, this means finding ways outside your day job to mind your own business through things like investments and other streams of income.

Regardless of how you do it, minding your own business requires financial smarts... and it requires a plan.

What’s your plan for minding your own business?

When I was a young man, I set a goal of being a millionaire by the time I was 30 years old—and I did. The problem was that I immediately lost all that money. I had flaws in my plan, flaws that taught me some valuable lessons.

The lessons I learned from my experiences, successes, and failures allowed me to adjust my plan so that I could become financially free again by the time I was 47 years old.

The point is that I never changed my plan. I simply adjusted the strategies I used to execute it. I improved on it more and more. Sticking to my plan helped me to achieve my goals.

Often in life, when our plan doesn’t turn out, we abandon it all together. That is the wrong approach. Rather, a failed plan first requires an assessment of what went wrong. More often than not, the plan needs some adjustments, not to be abandoned.

But before you can do any of this, you of course need to know your plan. So, how do you discover your own plan?

Mind your business

Whatever your plan, always remember the words of rich dad, “Regardless of whether you work for someone else or for yourself, if you want to be rich, you’ve got to mind your own business.”

  1. Take your time

    Good plans rarely happen overnight. To find the right plan for you, you need to think long and hard about your life, what you want from it, and where you want to go. This can take days, weeks, and sometimes months. Take the time to discover and define what is really important for you in life.

    During this time, don’t talk with others until you know what you want. All too often, people either innocently or intentionally impose their ideals on others instead of respecting what others want for themselves. This is your time to define what you want for you.

  2. Find a coach

    Once you know what you want in life, find a coach that you can trust. This should be someone who has successfully done what you want to achieve. Ask them to provide their qualifications and interview several people. It will be an eye-opening experience for you.

    Your coach is there to guide you when you develop your plan and to ensure you stick to it. A coach isn’t there to coddle you; your coach is there to push you when you don’t want to be pushed and correct you when you need it.

  3. Set realistic goals

    Lots of people abandon a plan, not because the plan is bad, but because the goals were not realistic.

    Identify goals in a way that reflects what you want in life. Lots of people say, “I want to be a millionaire!” Don’t do that. That’s a cold, stale and lofty goal and one that is easily dismissed, especially when you’re having a hard time making your first $10,000.

    Set goals that are real to you: “I want to have enough passive income to cover my family’s expenses so I don’t have to worry about money and I can spend all my time with my children.” That’s better! Figure out how much passive income you need to achieve it and put a plan in place.

    If you make your goals more personal, you’ll have a better chance of sticking to your plan to achieve your ultimate goal.

    Don’t just sit on one goal and think that’s it. Start with small, realistic goals then improve or add to those goals as your financial education and experience increase. It’s best to learn how to walk before you run a marathon.

    Don’t get discouraged if you make mistakes. Having realistic goals doesn’t mean you’ll win one hundred percent of the time. Mistakes are part of the process of learning from and achieving your goals.

  4. Get a team

    Business and investing are team sports. As your plan evolves, you will need team members who can assist you in achieving your dreams. Members of your team might include a banker, accountant, lawyer, broker, bookkeeper, insurance agent, and/or a successful mentor.

    Each of these team members will need to be vetted by you. Don’t just take anyone onto your team; instead, find the right player for each position.

    When you have assembled your team, meet with them often. I held meetings with my team over lunch for many years. I learned a lot about business, investing, and the process of making money through these meetings.

    Don’t be distracted by side projects. Yes, it may earn you an extra buck but it just ate up your time; time that could’ve gotten you closer to your goal. If it doesn’t move you in the right direction in relation to your plan, don’t do it.

In minding your own business, you will be more in tune with the market’s feedback and you’ll be able to adjust your plan accordingly. Be diligent and keep going one step at a time. Do that and you’ll have a great chance at getting everything you want in life.

Do I need to quit my job to mind my own business?

The good news is that you don't have to start your own business to mind your own business. Keep your daytime job, but start buying real assets, not liabilities or personal effects that have no real value once you get them home.

Minding your own business is simple when you think of it this way: keep expenses low, reduce your liabilities, and diligently build a base of solid assets. These assets can include:

  • Businesses that don't require a personal presence

  • Stocks

  • Bonds

  • Cash-flowing real estate

  • Notes (IOUs)

Really, an asset can be anything as long as it has value, produces income or appreciates, and has a ready market.

By minding your own business and focusing on your asset column, you'll find your path to financial security and wealth much clearer and surer.

The minding your own business mindset

My rich dad believed you must constantly challenge your ideas. My poor dad believed strongly that his education was valuable and the most important thing. He believed in the idea of right answers and wrong answers. Those that mind their own business know that the right answers often change and that it’s better to be making the rules than following them.

My rich dad believed that the world is always changing, and we need to continually keep learning. Rich dad didn’t believe in right or wrong answers. He believed in old and new answers.

Today, going to school and getting good grades more often results in crippling debt rather than a secure job.

Today, no one expects the government or a business to take care of their retirement and health benefits for life.

Today, companies lay people off all the time or have a change in strategy you might not agree with. They don’t reward loyalty and seniority, and the only way to climb the ladder is to always hop on a new one and hope it’s a rung higher.

Today, my poor dad’s rules are old rules, but my rich dad’s rule still remains, “Mind your own business.”

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. No one does. But I do know one thing. If you want to be successful in life and win at the game of money, you need to “mind your own business” by continually learning and adapting. Anything less is a road map to failure.

So, how are you going to play?

Original publish date: December 08, 2015