We've determined money is not real. I mean not real in the sense that money is not a tangible thing having value.
You might be thinking: why am I working so hard; five, six, or seven days a week for something that isn't real? Money isn't real, but what it represents surely is.
There are three ways to acquire money. You can be given it. The easiest way to get rich is to be born into a wealthy family. Some wealthy heirs, however, will tell you that's just not true. But you know what I mean. The second way to acquire money is to take it. There are legal and illegal ways of taking money, and millions of people are working hard to take what they can. I'm here to tell you there's a better way. This brings us to our third way of acquiring money: making it.
I for one always aspired to be rich.
As a boy, I did chores for my extended family to make money. Around the age of twelve, I sold seeds and greeting cards to family, friends, and neighbors. I tried my hand at multi-level or network marketing with Amway Corporation a couple of times – once in college and once a few years after college, but I never got anywhere. In my twenties and thirties, I dabbled with a half-dozen million-dollar or billion-dollar ideas.
My first potentially millionaire-making idea was opening a fitness center. This was in the 1980's. I developed a business plan to open a gym in Durham, New Hampshire – home of the University of New Hampshire, my college town. A single gym would not have made me rich but I like to think I would have franchised and grown into something. I never executed; never established that fitness center. Funny thing; a decade or so later someone put a gym directly across the street from the site I had originally selected.
My next idea could have been a billion-dollar idea if I had persisted.
I'm by nature an introvert. So meeting girls and dating was not something that came easily to me. I thought that perhaps there might be a better way of screening potential partners or mates. I developed a questionnaire to discern people's likes and dislikes, prejudices and preferences to help people more readily find the right match.
I advertised my "dating system" through flyers I posted on bulletin boards. I think I sold about five or six questionnaires before I gave up. Eventually with the advent of the internet that system, now online dating has gone on to become a billion-dollar industry.
My next millionaire-maker idea came toward the end of the 80's. There was a horse racing track in Salem, New Hampshire – I grew up in Southern New Hampshire. The horse track, called Rockingham Park was closing. I had this bright idea of building a sports-themed mall on the track site. It would be a sports megastore with interactive departments: batting cages; volleyball courts; trampolines. Mall goers could play their sports and then purchase all the gear they needed right on site.
I wrote to the owners of Rockingham Park to float my idea. They ignored me. A development company built a traditional mall on the site. Strike three or four for me.
But I kept at it.
My next million-dollar idea came by way of the U.S. Army. Right out of high school I had enlisted in the Army Reserve. Through college and for decades after I continued to serve. But one of the activities I thoroughly enjoyed with the Army was running obstacle courses.
In those days there was a show on television called American Gladiators. The final event of the Gladiator competition was an obstacle course race. I envisioned building gyms comprised of obstacle courses for total-body conditioning. I never seriously pursued the idea. Today we have Spartan and Tough Mudder obstacle course races; and American Ninja Warrior – a multi-million dollar segment of the fitness industry.
Bright idea number five was inspired by a visit to Disney World in Florida. My wife Lisa is a big-time Disney fan. So when we lived on the East Coast and could afford it, we made annual pilgrimages to Mickey mecca. At the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, I heard a beautiful chorus – which gave me an idea.
I produced a choral music album; recording the sweet sounds of wonderful choruses from all over the country. I titled the album Sounds of America and set off to market it to corporations for use as a promotional item. This was 1990 and soon the first Gulf War was underway – my timing seemed perfect. An Americana music album was surely going to be a winner. With the ground-swell of patriotism, competitors seized the opportunity and I never got off the ground. I still have cases of CD's of Sounds of America on my shelves.
I'm not intending to bore you with my antics. I expect you've had a number of these million- or billion-dollar ideas. The key is not the idea – anybody can have the idea – the key is execution. I never got the execution right.
My sixth million-dollar idea came after the Gulf War. The internet was in its infancy. My father and I discussed various business prospects and we settled on the idea of starting what would have amounted to an internet search company. We would conduct searches on the internet for a fee. Not that we would have evolved into Google, but I like to think we potentially could have been on that path.
Instead of jumping into that internet search company project with my father, I opted to go on active duty with the Army – where I spent the next two decades.
I didn't get rich – in the sense of amassing wealth. But, heck, I haven't given up. I'm still growing, I'm figuring it out. I, to this day, keep a list of promising million and billion-dollar ideas. I'm getting richer every day.
Maybe if we connect we can talk about those sometime.
For now, let's keep on exploring the truth about money.
You have hopes and dreams and aspirations – things you want to feel. You've probably thought about amassing money – building some level of wealth. You've probably at least thought about, if not executed some promising ideas to make money.
Money is just a means to an end. It's the end we're after.
Money works because of trust. We trust we can convert money into feelings. And feelings are always and only what we are after.
Everything we do and have in life – all the feelings we feel, in some way, involve other people. Life and money, what you have and what you feel, are all about relationships.
Making money is all about relationships.
I should have begun those million and billion dollars ideas by focusing on relationships.
We'll dig deeper into relationships in the next session.