mind your own business

The Entrepreneurial Spirit 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.

Now, ask, 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. Today, the app has around 1.16 billion users and brought in about $20 billion in ad revenue in 2020—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 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.

Those are harsh but true words that illustrate something that I’ve said around the Rich Dad community for a long time: no matter how much you make, if you don’t own your company, you’re just a high-paid employee with no control and your job is never safe.

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.

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