“The entire essence of America is the hope to first make money, then make money with money, then make lots of money with lots of money.”

-Paul Erdman

WHEN IT COMES to money, most people are drowning in information and starving for knowledge. Education is the key that unlocks the door to knowledge. No matter how much you think you know about money, there is always more to learn. Actively seek opportunities to learn more about money and increase your ability to earn, save, and invest.

As you escape the burden of your debt, you’re going to realize that you now have a little room in your life for some free time to pursue things you really want to do. Life itself is one big classroom where we learn lessons every day that help us survive and prosper in this complicated world.

When it comes to money, knowing how things work can give you a significant edge, which quite often will translate into greater opportunities to increase your income, cash flow, and the returns on your investments. These important bits of knowledge won’t come to you by accident or osmosis, but through study, work, and experience. My charge to each of you is this:

Never Stop Learning!

Here are a few suggestions on how you can gain the knowledge that will give you an edge in the world of money and finance.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING NEW

When I was enduring the major financial challenge I spoke about in at the beginning of this book, I was constantly looking for the opportunity that would change my fortunes. That opportunity came by chance after meeting a new neighbor who was a computer science professor at the local university near where I live. After telling him about the business that I ran (a sports collectibles business), he suggested that my business would be a perfect business to operate on the Internet. This was back in 1994, when people were still calling the Internet the World Wide Web.

I had heard about the Internet, but I honestly had never been online. Heck, I had never used a modem, which was required to connect a computer to the Internet. My neighbor offered to take me on a tour of the Internet at his campus office. It took me several months before I decided to take him up on that offer. Actually, I really didn’t think it would be anything that would help me with my present business challenges. But one day it was raining and I couldn’t go golfing. So going to my neighbor’s office to the see the Internet in action was the best plan “B” I could come up with on short notice.

What I saw that day made a powerful impression on me. I could see instantly how this new technology would change the way business would be done forever. It’s actually quite rewarding to think back to that day and realize that, for once in my life, I was actually able to predict the future. My head was spinning with ideas as I left his office and drove home. I remember thinking that I had just been let in on the biggest secret in the world and that I needed to do something or it would be just another thing I would look back on years later and say, “I wish I would have….”

I have a pretty aggressive personality. I guess you could say I’m a type “A” personality. My route home that day took me by a huge bookstore. As I passed it, I instantly thought I should go in and buy all the books on the Internet and read them over the weekend so that I would have this thing figured out by Monday. I pulled in and went to the business section and couldn’t find a single book on the Internet. I even asked for help, and the clerk told me the only books they had were books on writing computer code. That didn’t help me a bit.

I couldn’t sleep that night because of all the thoughts and ideas running through my head. The first thing in the morning I called my neighbor and asked him how I could learn more about the Internet, short of coming back to college to earn another degree. He told me it was so new that I would have to watch it happen. I told him I didn’t even have a computer that could connect to the Internet. I had a computer, but all I could use it for was writing letters and keeping track of my finances. I was the master of two programs, Quicken and WordPerfect. That was the extent of my computer skill. My limitations notwithstanding, I was driven to learn more. Fortunately, my neighbor offered to let me use one of his computers and even left me little lists of websites that he thought I would be interested in looking at and learning from.

Over a period of weeks and months, I began to get an understanding of how this powerful new technology could be used to do business. I decided to give it a try with my own business. I set up a shopping website that I called iMall. It was short for Internet Mall, which someone had already registered the domain name for. I called an acquaintance that published what is called a card deck. A card deck is basically a cellophane-wrapped stack of postcards with special offers on them, mostly business opportunities. I offered him a new web page in my iMall in return for a postcard in his next card deck mailing. He agreed. Yahoo! (Oops, wrong company.)

I remember the ad I created like it was yesterday. I said in big bold type, “Reach millions on the Internet for FREE!” I added a little more copy to explain that I was offering to build a page in one of the first online shopping websites, my iMall, which would reach potentially millions of people on the information superhighway. If they paid me to develop the page, I would post it on the Internet for free. The card deck was mailed out, and I anxiously waited for the return cards to start showing up in my post office box.

Within a few days, a few cards arrived with requests for more information. A few days later, I was disappointed when I opened my box and didn’t see any postcards. I was crushed. Then, as I thumbed through the rest of my mail while sitting in my car in the parking lot, I came across a note from the postmaster. It said I needed to come to the counter and pick up the rest of my mail because it wouldn’t fit in my box.

Could it be?

I raced back into the post office and presented my note to the person at the counter. The clerk went into the back and returned a few minutes later with a huge bundle of postcards wrapped in a rubber band. I was rich! Well not really, but that was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced in my business career.

Over the next few days and weeks, I collected over 8,000 responses to my little free ad in the card deck. As I followed up with all those people, I began to sell lots of websites for $250 each. By the end of my first month, I had collected thousands of dollars in orders and was well on my way to building one of the first and most successful Internet shopping sites on the Internet. A new business was born.

I quickly contacted my friends at the National Football League, who were making arrangements for the Super Bowl that year in Miami, Florida. I was a licensee for my sports collectibles business (I made the coin that was tossed at the start of the Super Bowl each year), and I had recently participated in a trip to Florida to see all the attractions and facilities that were going to be available to visitors during the Super Bowl. While on the trip, my friends with the NFL asked if anyone wanted to play some golf. I quickly agreed, and the guy who hooked me up for a round happened to be the public relations director for the host committee. I kept his card so I could thank him later for the free round of golf.

Now that I was an Internet expert (hey, nobody knew much more than me!), I had a wild idea. I should do a website for the Super Bowl in my new mall. It would be a huge hit and would generate a ton of traffic to the other stores I had sold to my customers. I called my golf buddy in Miami and he told me I was too late. They already had a page on Prodigy (remember that one?), and they had spent their budget. Without hesitation I said, “Well Prodigy isn’t the World Wide Web. How about I build you a website on the World Wide Web for free?” I said the magic word and got his attention. He said he would ask his boss and get back to me.

A day later, he called me and said they would let me do it if they could approve all the content I put on the site. They overnight expressed me all the details for every event during the Super Bowl week. I went online to register a domain name for the website and decided to try the obvious, www.superbowl.com. Imagine my surprise when it came up as available. I’m not making this up.

I registered the name www.superbowl.com and had my computer science neighbor (now my business partner) build a website by typing and scanning everything in the package they had sent us. We had a site up in three days. I added a little online store with about six products—shirts, hats, programs, and, of course, my commemorative toss coin. People could order online by filling out an order form that my computer science neighbor programmed to print on my printer.

Now I needed something to drive traffic to my www.superbowl.com website. I called a ticket broker and arranged to buy two tickets to the game to give away in a drawing. I then went out and posted ads for FREE Super Bowl tickets everywhere I could. It was a huge success. We created one of the busiest websites on the entire Internet in 1995, and we sold a ton of Super Bowl merchandise to fans in over 30 countries. I like to say we were doing e-commerce before anyone even created that word. My little iMall became a big success on the seminar circuit and was eventually bought by a little company called [email protected] for several hundred million dollars in stock. Too bad I didn’t own more of my start-up when that happened, but I owned enough to set myself up pretty well.

So why am I telling you this story? Because it still sends chills down my spine every time I think about it. But more important, I want to make the point that you need to be open to opportunities that come your way to expand your knowledge, your skills, and your ability to increase your income and wealth.

Had I just decided, when I visited with my neighbor on that rainy day, that since I didn’t know anything about computers I could never do anything on the Internet, the biggest opportunity of my life would have passed me by. So this leads me to the second point I want to make in this chapter.

BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME

I’ll bet you’ve heard that saying before, right? You probably know someone who you think struck it rich because they were in the right place at the right time. They’re not any smarter than you, but they got a lucky break, and it rewarded them with the lifestyle of their dreams (and probably yours, too). Admit it; you’ve had this experience before, right?

I’m here to tell you that every single person reading this book will get at least one chance in his or her life to be in the right place at the right time. You’re probably thinking, if that were true we’d all be living the life of our dreams. If you’re reading this book, chances are you’re not living that life yet, so what’s up with that?

Well, here’s the catch. Everyone gets a chance to be in the right place at the right time at least once—and some more than once. The key to getting the reward really has nothing to do with luck at all. Many people who are in the right place at the right time have no idea they are there! They simply fail to see the opportunity that is right in front of them.

Even most of the people who see that life-changing opportunity don’t get the reward because just seeing it isn’t enough. You have to do something about it. You have to take some action. That’s the secret. That’s what makes the luck, recognizing opportunity and doing something about it.

When I say, “Do something about it,” I don’t mean that in a passive way. When I saw that I was in the right place at the right time (after seeing the Internet at my neighbor’s office), I cleared the decks of all distractions and invested some time to fill my brain with knowledge that would help me eventually turn my ideas into income. I was driven to learn how to do business online.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took lots of time and hard work and some expert mentors. But I didn’t quit. The biggest test was when my neighbor/partner told me he needed a new computer to build our new Internet shopping site. I thought we could just run down to CompUSA, buy one, and be on our way. When he told me that the kind of computer he needed was a $30,000 Unix workstation, I was crushed again. I barely had lunch money, let alone $30k for a computer that I didn’t even know how to use. Through another neighbor who was a dealer for Hewlett Packard, we arranged to lease the computer my partner needed. I literally pledged every penny I had to my name to lease a computer that I couldn’t run to create a business in an industry I had only learned about six months earlier.

That’s what I mean by take action! Success doesn’t fall from trees; you usually have to climb to the top rung on the ladder to reach it. Everyone in life should have the feeling of success from recognizing they are in the right place at the right time and taking action. The more you learn and the more you open your mind to the amazing potential you have to be successful, the more likely you are to see that opportunity when it comes by. Trust me…you’ll know it when it comes. Just be ready and make it happen! You deserve it.

LEARN TO LOVE READING

I’m convinced that there is nothing in this world that you can’t learn about if you are willing to read. You can teach yourself a language, a new trade, a new investment strategy, or a new hobby—anything.

Here’s my challenge to you. Set a goal to read one business or self-help book each month for the next 12 months. I promise that if you’ll accept my challenge, you’ll learn something that will put more money in your pocket, solve even more of your problems, and, most important, bring more joy and happiness into your own life and the lives of those closest to you.

Here are a few books I’ve read that had a big impact on my life. Maybe you’ll want to add a few of these to your reading list.

  1. Over the Top – Zig Ziglar
  2. The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
  3. Awaken the Giant Within – Anthony Robbins
  4. One Up on Wall Street – Peter Lynch
  5. LEAPS – Harrison Roth (my favorite book on options)
  6. How to Make Money with Stocks – William O’Neil
  7. Market Wizards – Jack Schwager
  8. Who’s Your Caddy? – Rick Reilly (I had to include a golf book)

It’s easy to tell a person’s passions and priorities by what they like to read. I hope you’ll take my challenge.

SEEK OUT A MENTOR OR A TRUSTED ADVISOR

Let’s face it; it always helps to have someone to talk to when we get confused and just need some help. You may be surprised to find a person who is willing to help you navigate some of the complexities of life and money without even charging a fee.

Look around you and identify people who have achieved a level of success that you admire. Seek these types of people out to mentor you and teach you the lessons that will help you navigate your path to a debt-free and wealthy life. Having had the opportunity to be a mentor to several people in my life, I can honestly say that I was always flattered when someone would ask me to assist them with a business or money challenge.

I look at those opportunities as one way I can give something back. It’s something that I talked about in the last chapter. You may not be in a position yet to be a mentor because you still have lessons to learn and experience to gain, but you can seek out a mentor or trusted advisor to help you shorten that learning curve.

Be brave, but don’t impose. A true mentor will recognize your sincerity and commitment and do their best to help. Remember the old saying, “It’s a wise man who learns from his mistakes, but it’s a wiser man who learns from the mistakes of others.” A wise mentor will have learned many lessons in the school of life he or she can share to help you avoid a few of life’s many pitfalls.

HOW DO ADULTS REALLY LEARN?

The last topic I want to touch on is near and dear to me. Much of my career has been spent as a teacher. I never intended it to be that way; it was just one of those “right place, right time” things.  The goal of this book is to get you to change your behavior as it relates to your personal finances.  Now that you’re read it, it’s important that you approach this task with the right perspective.  Let me use an example to illustrate what I mean.

Do you play a musical instrument, like the piano, or know someone who does? If so, think about how you or they gained that skill. If you attended a weeklong seminar or read a book on how to play the piano, I’ll bet by the end of it you would probably know the difference between the white keys and the black keys. You would probably be able to read a little music and recognize which keys on the keyboard you need to hit to play the right notes. You may even know which of the pedals to push and what it will do.

That’s a great start on learning to play the piano, but I doubt after finishing that book or seminar you would want to invite a group of your closest friends and family over for a recital.

Think about how anyone learns to play the piano. They first get a good instructor who knows how to play and, even more important, how to teach and communicate in such a way that a person of reasonable intelligence can also learn that skill. You meet with them for 30-45 minutes to learn one or two new skills or techniques, and then you go home and practice for a week to master them. You then return to the instructor and demonstrate your proficiency, and when you do, he or she teaches you the next skill or technique, and you repeat that process.

Learning how to build wealth is just like learning to play the piano. It’s the secret that will help you learn the things I’ve tried to teach in this book and make sure that you are able to implement them properly to get the life-changing results that are possible. Here are the keys you need to know if you really want to learn what I’m trying to teach you.

1. You must gain knowledge if you want to change your behavior. It must be broken down into bite-sized chunks so you can master it one chunk at a time.

2. You must be motivated to stay the course, or you’ll likely quit at the first sign of adversity. Remember mom telling you to practice your piano or you wouldn’t get to play with friends? Most of us need someone to motivate us through the tough times.

3. You need to apply what you learn in a real-time environment to see the impact of your own decisions and abilities. We’re talking about behavior change, not just filling your head with new ideas. You must put what you’ve learned into action and see results.

4. You also need someone to hold you accountable. Who holds us accountable as adults? Me? How are you doing? It’s the role of the teacher to hold us accountable for putting in the time, coming to the lessons, and doing the homework.

5. All of this has to happen over time. You can’t absorb it all in a one-day seminar. Real learning takes place over time.

There are a few people I know who can read a book, figure things out and then implement what they’ve learned perfectly—and in short order. When it comes to things like diets, exercise, debt, and finances, those people are rare. When we can’t stick to the diet, we get a counselor or doctor to help us. When we can’t stick to our exercise program or we’re not getting the results we want, we hire a personal trainer or at least work out with a friend.

And when you can’t seem to make any progress in eliminating your debt and building real wealth for you and your family, you hire a debt or a wealth coach. If you reach a point where you’re not making the progress you’re looking for and want to get some help, you need to visit my website at rossjardine.com. I’ve created some additional tools and resources that will help you get started quickly and stay the course until you reach your goal of a debt–free and wealthy life.

So don’t give up. This battle for freedom from debt—and the prosperity, joy, and happiness that come with it—is worth it. If you follow the basic strategies outlined in this book, I’m confident that you’ll be making music like Mozart in no time at all.