A very close friend of mine passed me the book, “Unmarketing,” by Scott Stratten. Chapter 34 immediately caught my attention: “Why you can’t learn from millionaires.” As a matter of fact the title more than caught my attention, it concerned me. The mere suggestion that you can’t learn from those who’ve been successful in business is downright ridiculous. Stratten further proposes that if you’ve achieved millionaire status in the 1980’s that somehow you’re no longer relevant in business today or lack the currency to teach younger generations anything but tips. News to me. He referred to an executive and “gabillionaire” who told a seminar group they were wasting their time on Twitter and Facebook. I challenge Stratten: you’re making an awfully big, unsubstantiated generalization painting an entire group of individuals based on one encounter (one that was admittedly through a friend and not on your own). I suspect there’s a little bit of TED going on here.
Stratten says, “You can admire and take points from someone, but you shouldn’t try to be that person or company.” Maybe it’s your first rodeo, but for most people they already know not to try to be someone else. When I seek to study others, it’s not to imitate, it’s to learn. Sure, making money isn’t a career. And the idea that money is the “results not the cause,” is spot-on; couldn’t agree more. But the rest of the chapters content doesn’t fly with me. The consequence of becoming a millionaire is a product of being extremely competent in your space. The era in which you gained your wealth is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if it was realized through business in 1912, 1980 or 2013; not a heck of a lot has changed in terms of characteristics you must have to gain and maintain financial security. Many have made and lost millions over and over again. Consider the late Steve Jobs: would you consider him irrelevant? Could young generations not learn from him?
I’m certainly not suggesting that wealth defines brilliance, greatness or a quality worthy of spending your time on. (Believe me, I know many wealthy folks whom I wouldn’t spend the time to have a cup of coffee with.) However, I’ve learned plenty by listening, watching and sponging up insight into how they became successful. The way we do business has changed in the last thirty years; you’re right there. We’ve got to utilize foreign things like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But you’re making a grand speculation by implying that relationship building is new and that anyone who has been in business more than thirty years is out-of-touch. Building relationships isn’t new to the table. Perhaps the way we maintain relationships (through a computer screen) is unique, but the essence is still the same. So it goes without saying that I support the notion of building trusted relationships with “people you have at your disposal.” I would simply add, “regardless of whether they’re a millionaire or not”. I think you’ll find that many of the characteristics that made Richard Branson a millionaire in the 1980’s are the same as those that made Mark Zuckerberg a billionaire in 2008.
A portion of the content is focused on the behavior of gaining wealth off of the backs of others or the “seminar approach” (or multilevel marketing) to richness. This concept of becoming rich has been around since 1945. It’s certainly not the platform I would recommend to aspiring individuals focused on building wealth. Nonetheless, you can still learn from those in that arena as well.
The learning process is all-inclusive and all-encompassing. Business people (no matter the generation) have at their fingertips the ability to access and learn from the success and the failures of those before them. I hasten to impress on you that a millionaire from the 80’s who has maintained their company and wealth in today’s shaky market has something valuable to impart. This doesn’t mean you must have admiration or the same desire or motivation to be like them.
Life and business lessons come in all forms. I’ve always tried to keep the company of knowledgeable, sharp and pioneering leaders so I could continue to learn. We have the ability to learn from every walk of life: from every colour, creed, ethnicity, age, wealth or attitude; because learning’s are not defined by wealth or era. To take a group entirely out of this process based on your assumption that they don’t bring relevance to the table is outrageous. The most important step to defining your success is to surround yourself with positive influencers, a “master mind team” as Napoleon Hill, author of the 1937 book: “Think and Grow Rich,” states. You will encounter all demographics as you travel along through life. Don’t exclude yourself from the opportunity to learn from some of the greats. At the conclusion of the chapter we have a final resting place of commonality: the notion of proper goal setting being the answer, not manifestation. I couldn’t agree more!
And on that note, I must conclude that the chapter should actually have been titled: “Can You Learn From Millionaires”? And the answer is YES!
“Seven Deadly Sins: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Science without humanity, Knowledge without character, Politics without principle, Commerce without morality, Worship without sacrifice.” – Mahatma Gandhi
To read Chapter 34, download the PDF below.