Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Entrepreneur’s Commencement Address – 10 years after graduation

July 17th 2010 is my 10 year high school reunion. Ten years ago I was asked to give a speech at my high school graduation. Recently I’ve read a few blogs by entrepeneurs providing advice to recent graduates…  That got me thinking about what I’ve learned a decade after high school and what I’d say if giventhe opportunity today… And this time I don’t have to deal with the principal censoring me… 🙂

Ten years ago, my speech focused on the powers of the mind and positive thinking. Topics I’ve reviewed in my blog in several instances and, though those lessons are still paramount, my new speech offers a bit more “practicality”. After writing out my suggestions, I noticed I’ve written blogs to explain most points in more detail so follow the links for more clarification.

Keep in mind that a blog is much different than a speech. A blog can be read, reread, reviewed, and linked to additional information. A speech is heard only once. If given a speech I’d simply focus on 9, 11, and 13 and tell a memorable story to illustrate each…

  1. Develop good habits – We are all creatures of habit. Our eating habits, work-out habits, reading habits, education habits, relationship habits, drinking habits etc. etc. etc. ultimately form who we are. Your habits will control you. If you develop bad habits you will be fighting them for years to come.
  2. Never stop learning – Read. Attend seminars. Ask questions of your grandparents and parents and those better than you. Write and expose your thoughts to criticism. You are what you know. The difference between you and your millionaire neighbor is that he knows something you don’t and he’s taken action to do something you haven’t. Learn what he knows and then do what he does. This lesson is applicable for all professions.
  3. Always spend less than you make – This sounds simple. And it is. So do it. You don’t need ANYTHING that you can’t afford. To that I’ll add, never take out debt to pay for a toy (i.e. motorcycle, atv, jet-ski), vacation, or non-essential. In other words, ONLY take out debt for real estate, your college education, and, if you have to, your primary mode of transportation. Pay cash for everything else.
  4. Save, save, save – Now I’m bordering on preaching but Americans seem to have a serious issues with financial discipline. Get into the regular habit of saving at least 10% of your paycheck. Setup an automatic transfer to savings. When you get a raise, increase the percent you save and keep the same standard of living until you can live for 6 months entirely on your savings. Then invest.
  5. Attend every wedding you’re invited to – In the last few years I’ve attended weddings in Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana, New York, and Wisconsin. I’ve spent literally thousands of dollars travelling to these weddings and the only weddings I regret are the ones I missed in Florida and Nevada. If a friend thinks you’re important enough to invite to their wedding, you need to attend.
  6. If you’re not happy, do something else – At 10 years after High School and 5 years after college it amazes me how many of my friends wake up to jobs they hate. Promise yourself, at whatever cost, that will not be you. And if it becomes you, which is almost inevitable at some point, you’ll do everything you can to change it.
  7. Network! – Your #1 goal with attending college should be to network with as many people as possible. That includes classmates, professors, alumni and just about anyone else you bump into. Actively search out and befriend influential people. It will help you get a job, find investors, find great investments, and it’s a lot of fun. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know“, is as true now as it ever has been.
  8. Never lose touch with your friends – In the world of email, IM, texting and Facebook, there’s simply no excuse. Keep in touch with your friends. It makes the journey a lot more fun.
  9. Live today – tomorrow is never guaranteed – At every high school commencement you can stand there and say, in 10 years some of you will no longer be with us. In 10 years, some of your parents, or grandparents, or friends, or family will no longer be with us. You’re not guaranteed a 10 year reunion and your not guaranteed to have the same friends and family to celebrate with. In the words of James Dean – “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
  10. Serve God and others – TODAY! – The World Bank defines poverty as having less than $1.25 per day to spend on living expenses and they estimate more than 1.4 billion people fall below that bar. No matter where you are or what you’re doing there are people less fortunate than you in this world. While you’re at college, while you’re working through your first job and paying down debt, you’re still blessed. Don’t wait to volunteer when you have enough time. Don’t wait to donate to charity when you have more money. Give to others today and you’ll always be the better person for it.
  11. Set goals – And put them in Do x Be = Have context. According to a Yale study from 1953, the 3% of graduates who had written goals had amassed more wealth than the other 97% of classmates years after graduation.
  12. Believe in yourself – Because chances are, at times, you’ll be the only one doing so. Be confident and fearless.
  13. Take a risk – I used to travel a lot for work. Maybe 40,000 to 50,000 air miles per year and another 20,000 miles on the ground. On a flight one night, on my way home from California, it hit me. My whole life and the “success” that people had seen in it was perfectly planned. In 25 years of life, as far as I could tell, I had never taken a single risk. It was a hollow and scary feeling to think that I was limiting myself to only taking on the challenges I knew that I could accomplish. Never give yourself the opportunity to look back and say that to yourself. Learn to fail. As the book, How We Decide, by Jonah Leher points out, our minds are designed to learn more from many failures than from a few successes.
  14. Skip class when you have more educational things to do – In the words of Mark Twain, “Never let school get in the way of your education.” When you’re negotiating for a job, never forget to get as much paid vacation as possible. I always attended class unless I had something going on where I’d learn more. Sometimes that lesson was that it’s more important to go motorcycle riding with my friends than listen to a professor talk about things I could read in the book. 😉 For some reason, that’s a lesson I’ve never forgot.

If I could sum these 14 points up in a single sentence it would be simply, figure out a way to do what you love with the people you love and everything else will take care of itself.

Lucky for you, my speech is much shorter than it was 10 years ago. These are a few of the important lessons I’ve learned. God-willing, in another 10 years, I’ll be able to review my thoughts again.

To your life-success, Bryan

The self help guru’s are wrong – daily affirmations are a daily waste of time…

Take a minute and think for yourself what the most common self help lessons are… We’ve all heard them both in real life and parody by now. You’ve probably come up with something like:

  1. Think positively
  2. Tell yourself how good you are and that you have self worth
  3. Create a positive self image by reciting “Affirmations”
  4. Make use of the Law of Attraction – “Thoughts become things” – This one can be true if you full understand it’s meaning as you can read in my blog here. It has it’s place, but that place isn’t all alone as your guiding principle for success.
  5. blah, blah, blah

Stuart Smalley

Does that sound pretty close? We’ve all heard that stuff to some extent and obviously I’m going to now tell you that’s mostly wrong and half-true at best.

Do you think Kobe Bryant or Lebron James getup every morning or sit down before every game and tell themselves:

  • “Gosh darnit, I’m a great basketball player”
  • “My J is like butta” (i.e. I have a great jump shot)
  • “I have mad handles” (i.e. My ball-handling skills are awesome)

Do you think Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin do the same thing every morning or before hitting the ice? What about Warren Buffet? Does he sit down every morning and tell himself he’s the greatest investor in the world?

Of course not (though they may visualize taking a game winning shot, or negotiating a billion dollar deal but we’ll get back to visualization in a different blog). That’s ridiculous. Why don’t they do that? Because they already know it to be true. They know this in both their conscious and sub-conscious mind. In other words – they know logically and instinctively they’re great at their given profession because they’ve already proven to themselves (and the rest of the world) that they are.

Ok, but maybe they’re great because ever since they were little they told themselves they were. Of course we’ve heard of the professional athlete who predicted as a 10 year old he’d be in the NFL. But then again which 10 year old doesn’t think they’ll be a professional athlete? Sorry, that’s not enough. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. Think that helped his self-esteem? So did he sit around for the next year telling himself he was a great basketball player? Of course not, he went out and practiced until he actually was a great basketball player. And he kept practicing, and kept working hard until he was arguably the greatest athlete to ever pick up a basketball. Even the self help genius, Stuart Smalley, didn’t quite understand why Michael didn’t need affirmations.

Are you starting to see the failed logic of the self help “guru’s”? They tell you to tell yourself that you’re great before you ever are. Sorry to break it to them, but your mind knows the difference between truth and fiction. Even worse yet, as a general rule, your mind will reject the fiction and you’ll be no better off.

So what are you REALLY supposed to do to become successful? (And why should you listen to me about this?)

  1. You can NOT be anything you put your mind to. Sorry, your mom is flat out wrong. Think about it for a second, there are only a mere fraction of human beings every physically or intellectually capable of becoming Olympians. I say intellectually because you can be the greatest physical specimen the world has ever seen, but without discipline you’ll never be world class. We all can’t be Einstein’s. Doesn’t matter how good you are at high school physics or how long you study, it’s just not possible. If you need more proof than simple appeals to logic, read, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham. With very exhaustive research, he demonstrates why your mom’s words of encouragement are not at all realistic. Instead he points out that by a combination of nature and nurture we are predisposed to be good at something. Figuring out what that is, is obviously the trick.
  2. Visualizing vague potential future scenarios doesn’t work. In the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath references a UCLA study that had 3 groups of students try to resolve problems in their lives. The first group (the control group) was given some basic instructions on how to deal with problems by thinking about the problems and coming up with ideas to resolve them. They were then given a list of benefits for fixing the problem such as reduced stress. The second group was instructed to visualize the problem and all of the steps that lead up to the problem in an effort to find the solution. The third group was told to picture the problem being resolved. In other words visualize the future of how the problem will be resolved and what that will look and feel like. If you’ve heard the self help preachers, as I have, then you instantly “knew” the third group did best. Sorry, wrong answer. By almost every measurable dimension the group that visualized the steps leading to the problem, NOT the group who visualized the possible future solution or how that solution would make them feel, did better. Sorry, self help guru’s. You’re wrong. (Honestly, that came as a shock to me too. But when you consider the science and a bit of common-sense, its easy to see that they’re obviously wrong.)
  3. Lying to yourself is just plain silly. Noah St. John points this fact out in his book, The Secret Code of Success. He suggests that if you tell yourself every morning that “I’m rich” and you aren’t, your mind knows the difference and you won’t just become rich. Instead he claims that your mind prefers to look for solutions to problems. In other words, if, instead, you ask your brain, “Why am I so rich?” every morning, your brain will instinctively try to find the solution to that problem. He has plenty of anecdotal evidence though no real scientific studies to back up his assertion. In my book, that makes a LOT more sense to me than lying to yourself.
  4. Confidence comes with experience. Two weeks ago I went on my first off-road mountain bike ride in about 5 years. Our trail was one of the top 50 ranked trails in the US called “The Alien” in Aztec, NM. The trail was a complete blast to ride, but I must admit there were some hairy parts. It’s mostly single-track and you spend a lot of time looking into canyons, riding between large boulders, and trying not to lose your traction on desert sand. Lizards regularly run across the trail. My guide was a friend who has quite literally ridden the trail about 50 times. He even completed a race on the trail less than 2 weeks before. He also just happened to be a national BMX champion in his youth. He has half a room filled with biking trophies. In the particularly scary parts of the trail, of which there were really only 2, he warned me ahead of time. He could ride the trail with his eyes closed (actually he does often ride it at night) but he knew I was on a new bike on a new trail doing something I hadn’t done regularly for a decade. I was a bit nervous. He was not. He had mastered the trail. I was just glad I hadn’t wrecked. He had immense proficiency due to years of riding in general and in particular on this precise trail. I had neither. No matter how much time I spent that morning, or even for the last 10 years, telling myself I was a great mountain biker I wasn’t going to do as well as him. On the other hand, I promise you, he didn’t expend one ounce of mental energy “affirming” for himself that he was a great rider that day. Confidence comes with practice and experience and not with mental repetition (visualization is something entirely different).

So why do all of the “guru’s” get it wrong? I can offer a few guesses:

  1. They are naturally positive, confident, and good at things that bring success such as public speaking, learning, negotiating and leading people. Or they have some of those qualities and taught themselves the others. Since much of it is natural, they can’t ever figure out why other people aren’t that way and so just guess that if everyone else repeated to themselves daily what these guru’s already know to be true about themselves, they’ll improve themselves. Seems like a somewhat logical guess. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.
  2. They don’t really dig deeper. By that I mean they don’t read and research the books and studies that attempt to explain the human mind and soul and so never get a full picture of what they themselves are probably doing naturally.

So how do you get it right? Let me sum this up in one simple quote:

“The difference between where you are and where you want to be is knowledge.”

In other words, if you aren’t wealthy, popular, successful or a star athlete but want to be, you need to learn what people who are the those things are doing. You need to know what they know. You need to know how they came to know it. You need their knowledge and eventually experience and skill. Once you have that, you will have the confidence you need without tricking your own mind. Obviously this also assumes that you have the ability (either mental or physical) and temperament to do all the things they were capable of doing.

The simplest explanation I’ve heard for this is Do x Be = Have. Read my blog explaining that formula.

That’s pretty much it. Sounds a bit too simple doesn’t it? No memorization, no daily recitations, no lists of positive self qualities. Though it is simple, if that sounds easy to you, you misunderstood what I said. If you want to be as wealthy as Bill Gates, you have to know and do all of the things that Bill Gates knows and does (and be lucky enough to have the timing and potential that he does). That’s not easy. If you want to simply be a millionaire, find a few who you’d like to emulate and learn everything they know and do. Unfortunately, this is a lot MORE work than the self help guru’s would lead you to believe. Fortunately, this will actually work. How do I know? I’m working through it with my businesses every day. You don’t have to believe me. Let me know how those daily affirmations work out, though.

To your success, Bryan

P.S. This, I am aware, goes against some of the ideas of great authors such as Og Mandino, Napoleon Hill, and Tony Robbins and obviously that means some people may passionately disagree. However, I have 2 quick counters to that disagreement. Firstly, I see this as an improvement not a replacement of those great minds. We’ve learned more about human psychology and are able to more effectively apply it now then they were. Secondly, that’s what blogs are for. If you disagree, comment and let me know. 🙂

The FIRST 3 steps to becoming wealthy

My reason for writing this is because I’m asked by lots of people all the time how can they make money like me. Compared to the rest of the world, if you live in the USA, have a place to live, more than a few changes of clothes, and fresh food every day you’re rich. However, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about being able to have the things that you want, take the vacations you desire, and live in the homes you dream of.

The first 3 steps to becoming wealthy are:

  1. ALWAYS spend less than you make.
  2. Understand the difference between where you are and where you want to be is EDUCATION.
  3. Put your goals into the Do x Be = Have context.

If you cannot do any one of these three things, then you will either never become wealthy or your only chance of acheiving great wealth is inheritance or the lottery. For the latter, you will most likely squander whatever you’re given anyway, since you don’t know how to spend less than you make no matter how much you make. 😉

1. Always spend less than you make. Time and time again you hear people, couples, children, etc. say if they only made another $5,000 per year or got that raise they needed everything would be fine. All the bills would be paid and they’d be out of debt in a jiffy. So what happens when they get the raise? They buy a new house, a new car, a new flat screen, etc. because they need those things and now they can afford it. Do NOT fall into that trap. If you cannot survive for the next 3-6 months with little or no income, then you have a problem. If your goal is to be wealthy, your FIRST step in that direction should be to have enough money in savings or other liquid assets to survive for 3-6 months with little or no income! If you cannot manage your own finances well, you will never be able to manage 2 or 3 or 100 times that much money for a business. Conversely, if you understand how to manage your own cashflow, translating that to business is a cinch.

Before buying my first business I had about 5 months where I only worked part time. At that time I owned 2 sports cars, a beautiful house with a 3-car garage, 1 motorcycle and the normal stuff you’d expect from a bachelor. 🙂  At the end of the 5 months I was down to 1 sports car (that I refinanced to lower my monthly payments), no motorcycle, and a whole lot fewer motorcycle and car parts then before. I needed to turn those possessions into liquid assets to pay my bills. The lawyer bills alone from the business purchase were more than I made on the sale of my car and motorcycle together! If an opportunity presented itself, would you be able to come up with the necessary cash to make the investment? Even if it’s as simple as buying and reselling a vehicle because it’s such a great deal.

2. Understand the difference between where you are and where you want to be is EDUCATION. Rich people know something that you don’t. What is it? Maybe it’s how to buy, build, and sell a business. Maybe it’s how to invest in real estate. Maybe it’s how to master the stock market. Maybe it’s negotiating skills, or public speaking talents, or simply how to find the best deals. The reason they have more money than you is because they know more than you about generating wealth. So how do you bridge that gap and learn what they know (and much more)???  Start with The Best 6 Books to Teach you how to Generate Wealth and then spend some time on my recommended reading selections. If you want the quickest (though still incomplete) lessons to get you up to speed, read my blogs. It will be worth the time and the price is right. 😉

3. Put your goals into the Do x Be = Have context. Obviously you need to read my blog on the topic to understand the full scope of this algorithm. However, a quick summary is simply this: know what you need to Do to become who you need to Be to get what you want to Have. In other words don’t just set goals, set the correct goals!

As a quick example of this, to purchase my business I needed 2 assets:

  1. The cash (including the vehicles to sell to generate the cash) to pay the lawyers and support myself.
  2. The knowledge to convince someone else to lend me the rest.

Moreover, I knew becoming a business owner was putting me on the right track to become who I needed to Be to obtain what I wanted to Have. Which is ultimately why I buy, build, and sell businesses.

To your success in generating wealth, Bryan

The 3 pieces to becoming successful at ANYTHING… (seriously)

I know, that sounds ridiculous… But take a few minutes, learn the basic concepts, and if you haven’t heard this before, you’ll be amazed at the clarity this can bring to almost anything you do in life. I find myself teaching this lesson to more of my friends and family than probably anything else I’ve EVER learned so LEARN IT!

Here’s the basic formula:

Do x Be = Have

Now I originally learned this formula through Brad Sugar’s Entrepreneur Masters Class however I’m pretty sure he got it from someone else… If you know who originally came up with this, let me know.

The unique thing about this formula is you have to start on the right and work left – the opposite of how you normally read – to make it work.


Make a list of what you want to Have in life, at your job, at school, in your mate, etc. etc. etc.

How much money? What kind of house(s)? Any boats or nice cars? Family? What will your job be like? How often will you vacation and where? You get the idea. WRITE DOWN what you want to Have in your life.

Writing this down is essential. A few years back I recall reading about a survey that was conducted on Harvard business graduates at their 20 year anniversary. They asked the graduates, who had written down their goals when they graduated from school – 3% had written goals and 97% did not. They then found out that the 3% who had specific written goals had amassed more wealth than the other 97% combined. And it wasn’t like those 97% were slackers. They were all Harvard graduates so they had to have at least a little talent. Honestly I read so much I can’t recall where I learned this story, so if you know, please let me know. 🙂


Now, look around you and determine who has what you want to Have. What kind of job do they have? Do they have their own business? Do they have a college degree? What kind of degree? How many hours per week do they work? What do they attribute to their success?

Now you have to figure out who you have to Be to get what you want to Have. In other words, if you love children and want to be a teacher, but your list also includes a summer home in the Outer Banks, can Being a teacher allow you to Have that house? If there are any other teachers who have vacation homes down there, learn what else they had to Become (besides a teacher) to afford it.

This is the most often overlooked step. Everyone knows what they want to Have and think they know what they have to Do to get there. But they never figure out who they have to Be. Without Being the person who can Have what you want, NO amount of Doing will get you there. More than likely, you’ll just be Doing the wrong things.

If you have no idea who you have to Be to become a millionaire, check out The Millionaire Mindby Thomas Stanley. It’s a book based on lengthy surveys filled out by over 1300 millionaires. If you want to learn what kind of people Become millionaires, this is the book for you.


The last piece to our equation is figuring out what you have to Do to be who you need to Be.

Where do you need to go to school? (if at all) Who do you need to associate with? Where do you need to live? When do you need to start planning or saving?

What do you need to Do, to become who you need to Be, to get what you want to Have.

Keep in mind that if you make a list of want you want to Have in a spouse, you better figure out who you need to Be so that when you meet that person you’ve already done what you need to Do to hit it off with them. Think about it. That makes sense, right? You better be a perfect person yourself if your list describes the perfect person. hahaha

In my life, this became very clear to me almost immediately after learning it. I went to a top 10 engineering school and became a mechanical engineer because I love cars, motorcycles, and engineering in general. However, I also want an island. A nice little private island with a place to land a plane and helicopter. Maybe a 9 hole golf course and a nice comfortable villa to relax in. After looking around at all the engineers I knew, it became very apparent that Being an engineer was not going to get me what I wanted to Have. Being a successful business man will, however. Not only will it allow me to engineer new designs for automotive and motorcycle applications at my leisure, it will also allow me the possibility of an island. Something being an engineer alone could never do.

Are you doing what you need to Do, to become who you need to Be, to enjoy what you want to Have?

To your success, Bryan