What We Can Learn from the Nation Branding Boom

It seems that the old method of nation branding is out. No longer is it “trample through your neighbor, enslave them, and then force them to wave your flag.” That just doesn’t seem to work anymore.

No, nations now have to play by the rules just like everyone else. And in the age of the internet, nation branding takes on a whole new meaning.

If you watch any TV at all, you’ll notice that nations like Costa Rica entice tourists through beautiful beach filled ads. It’s an odd phenomenon, but it works for a nation whose primary industry is tourism.

But what are various nations doing? Are they successful? And what can we learn from them? Let’s take a look.

1. Nations Tell Their Story

If you’re a small nation most Americans or even Europeans wouldn’t be able to pinpoint on a map, what do you do? Tell a story.

Some nations have experienced great hardship. Their history is as much a part of their appeal as their beautiful mountains. It’s places like Lipetsk (Wait…that’s a place?) that need to have their story told the most.

But it’s places like the United Arab Emirates that succeed at nation branding and storytelling the most. Their “nation” or conglomeration of states, is only fifty years old.

And yet, Dubai is a place anybody could point out on a map. Thanks to not only the travel industry promoting Dubai, but also the entertainment industry featuring the city in films like Mission Impossible, Dubai is now ranked 12 on Euromonitor’s “Top 100 City Destinations.”

And they did this by telling a story. What was their story? They created a story about a prominent and glamorous city in the middle of the desert. It’s wild and fun and cultural.

And while the city is young, it’s hip and easy to point at as a place most people would want to go.

What Else Did Dubai Do?

Outside of image branding, Dubai invested in hosted tour groups, celebrity visits, and general communication. They wanted to create an entertainment buzz around their city.

They build world-class infrastructure to rival the biggest cities in the world. And they invested in major publicity stunts such as suspending a helipad a thousand feet above the Persian Gulf and allowing top tennis players duke it out up there. Yep, that’s Dubai for you.

Dubai was nowhere twenty years ago. Nobody had the image of a massive tower sticking out of the sand back then. But today, you ask anyone what Dubai is and they’ll describe a dazzling city.

What Can We Learn From Dubai?

Of course, smaller brands can’t afford to suspend a helipad in the air. But they can do similar small acts.

You can bring in a well-known speaker to company events and create buzz around your company.

Host charity events for major charities and increase your social media presence through such events. Re-work your brand and tell the story of a company that sits at the cutting edge ready to help the world.

Tell people that your company is the coolest place to buy or do “such and such” in the world. And don’t be cheesy about it. Just build a company morale and ethics around that image.

The best marketing is actually true.

2. Nations Use Stereotypes to Their Advantage

Of course, negative stereotypes will always be a problem. But neutral or positive stereotypes are always something a nation or a brand should work with to increase their reach and their brand perception.

Costa Rica is a prime example of a nation taking a stereotype and running with it. Costa Ricans are known as some of the most chill people on the planet. And their national slogan reflects this.

If you watch any Costa Rican commercial, you’ll know the phrase Pura Vida. It literally translates to “Pure Life.” But figuratively it means a lot of things.

If you hear Pura Vida, you should think relaxation. Costa Ricans have a simple way of looking at life. They prefer a stress-free life, at least that’s the stereotype.

But the Costa Rican tourism office used this slogan to imply that anyone who comes to Costa Rica will experience Pura Vida. That you will have almost all of your worries wash away and you can enjoy your vacation stress-free.

What Can We Learn From Costa Rica?

When you go to Costa Rica for vacation, you really do experience a fairly stress-free existence. This is partly due to the fact their economy is almost entirely based on tourism.

But a promise is a promise. And most countries cannot promise Pura Vida. Sure, they can promise adventure and fun and relaxation, but culture has a lot to do with it.

If you are going to brand your company after a stereotype, be sure it’s a true stereotype. The most successful branding campaigns actually instill the spirit of the campaign on the company.

If you believe your company has a positive stereotype and some aspect of that stereotype is true and could empower your customers, run with it. You will not only be helping your own company solidify its culture, but you will incorporate your customers into that awesome culture as well.

3. Nation Branding Involves the Use of Brand Ambassadors

If you’re in the tourism market, one of the best brand ambassadors is the air travel industry. And many nations have figured out the truth.

Why are brand ambassadors important and why do Nations use them? According to Kiss PR, “The reason why brand ambassadors are important is simple: you need people to represent and talk about your brand with your audience.” And I would add that you don’t have time to be a brand ambassador.

Nations cannot be where the future tourist or business is. Their only recourse is to use an industry that is and will always be where the tourist is. And in our world, that’s up in the air.

Getting someone to spread your message is one of the oldest tricks in the book. But it’s one that a lot of marketers seem to forget about.

Look for people with massive reach and who care about your brand. Those are the people who will bring your brand to the world.

Learn from nation branding. If a large bureaucratic organization such as a country or nation-state can manage a brand, so can you.

If you’re interested in more articles about marketing and branding, check out the rest of our blogs here on Shoemoney.

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How to set smart goals ~ Get Rich Slowly

Credit Sesame

During my two-week break, I’ve been working to migrate some of my old Money Boss articles to Get Rich Slowly. I thought this long piece on how to set good goals might be useful to those of you about to set goals and resolutions for 2018, so I’m publishing it today. Enjoy!

We’ve reached one of my favorite parts of the year: the transition from the old to the new. I like that so many of us pause during the winter to reflect on how are lives are going — and the direction we’d like them to head.

As part of this, many folks set goals and resolutions for the coming year. Unfortunately, most of these goals and resolutions are destined to remain nothing more than dreams. Why? Because most people don’t know how to set good goals.

I want to change that.

Let’s take some time today to explore what science says about how to set smart goals and resolutions. My hope is that by arming yourself with this knowledge, you’ll still be pursuing your aims in April — instead of having relegated them to the realm of dreams.

The Road Less Travelled II by Phil Dolby

How to Set Good Goals

If you ask most people how to set good goals, they’ll tell you that goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed. While this sounds great — and it’s a methodology I’ve pushed in the past myself — there’s no actual evidence that it works. (Maybe your research skills are better than mine; if you can find studies that show SMART goals are effective, please let me know.)

So what kind of goals are effective? In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky shares her summary of the studies into productive (and happy) goalsetting. “There is persuasive evidence that following your dreams is a critical ingredient of happiness,” she writes. And it matters which goals you pursue while following those dreams:

The pursuit of goals that are intrinsic, authentic, approach-oriented [which I’m describing as “positive” in this article], harmonious, activity-based, and flexible will deliver more happiness than the pursuit of goals that are extrinsic, inauthentic, avoidance-oriented [or negative], conflicting, circumstance-based, or rigid. This mouthful of words is based on decades of research.

Let’s look at each of these qualities a little more closely. According to science, Lyubomirsky says, the best goals will be:

  • Intrinsic. Good goals come from inside you, not from an outside source. You’ll be much more motivated to get things done if you’re acting because you want to and not because you have to. Your goals should be things you’d do even if you weren’t required. (A bad goal is one you pursue simply to please others. Think “want” over “ought”.)
  • Authentic. Lyubomirsky says that people are happier, healthier, and work harder when they choose goals aligned with their values. “The more a goal fits your personality, the more likely that its pursuit will be rewarding and pleasureful,” she writes. If you’re an introvert, it might not make sense to make a resolution that involves joining a group. But if you have a dominant personality, a goal of getting involved in local government could be perfect.
  • Positive. A good goal helps you pursue a desirable outcome instead of avoiding an undesirable one. What do I mean? Well, a resolution can usually be framed as an approach goal (e.g., to be fit) or an avoidance goal (e.g., not to be fat). Studies show that people who pursue avoidance goals are less happy and achieve worse results than those who pursue approach goals. So, find a way to state your aim in a positive way — as a target you’re moving toward rather than something you’re trying to escape.
  • Harmonious. All of your goals should be aligned, complementing each other to create unified action. In this way, they can work together to make each one easier to achieve. Conflicting goals cause frustration and stress. (During my RV trip across the U.S., I had two goals that didn’t work well together: I wanted to stay fit and I wanted to drink beer in every city I visited. You can guess how that turned out…)
  • Flexible. Your goals will evolve over time. As your priorities change, your goals should too. Don’t abandon difficult goals, but be willing to alter direction as your circumstances and priorities change.
  • Activity-based. Goals that involve doing rather than getting tend to make people happier and more motivated. For one thing, you’re likely to adapt quickly to whatever it is you achieve — whether it’s moving to Miami or buying a new computer — so that the anticipated pleasure fades rapidly. Plus, you have more control over whether you do something than if you obtain something. For example, it’s better to create a goal in which you aim to take 100 photographs per day (an action you can control) rather than one in which you aim to sell a photo to a national magazine (an outcome that may be beyond your reach).

That last bullet point is important and deserves additional clarification.

Remember how I’ve written in the past about developing an internal locus of control? (If not, no worries. I’ll be re-publishing that article here at Get Rich Slowly in just a few days!)

The first tenet of the Get Rich Slowly philosophy is: You are the boss of you. This means that you should spend time and money on the things that you can actually influence while ignoring those that you can’t. When pursuing goals, I can’t determine the results; I can only determine my effort. Thus, it makes sense to set goals based on my actions (write two hours per day, go to the gym five times a week, max out my Roth IRA) instead of desired outcomes (get 100,000 email subscribers, bench-press my bodyweight, earn a 10% return on my investments).

I think of it like this: It’s better to prioritize habits over targets. You have more control over your input than you do over the outcomes.

Why go to all this trouble when setting goals? Because if you’re careful to create good goals, you’ll get better results — with your life and your finances. And the better your results, the more likely you’ll be to continue working toward your goals…and your larger purpose.

Your Most Important Goals

Here’s a quick exercise drawn from The How of Happiness.

Think about your current goals, the ones that are most important to your life today. “Goals” include intentions, wishes, dreams, and desires. On a piece of paper, list at least eight of your most meaningful goals. (You can list more than eight, but please list at least eight of your most important goals.)

Now you’re going to evaluate each of your goals individually. Go through them one by one and ask yourself:

    Is the goal intrinsic or extrinsic? Are you doing it because you want to, or because somebody else wants you to?

  • Is the goal authentic or inauthentic? Does it feel like it fits you, or does it feel like it’s not quite aligned with who you are?
  • Is the goal positive or negative? Are you working toward a desired outcome, or are you trying to avoid something you don’t want?
  • Is the goal harmonious or conflicting? Does the objective work well with the other goals you’ve listed (and your overall purpose), or does it make your other aims more difficult to achieve?
  • Is the goal flexible or rigid? If your life circumstances were to change, would the goal be easy to set aside, or does it create some sort of barrier to making future changes?
  • Is the goal activity-based or circumstance-based? Is it based around doing something, or is it based around getting/achieving something?

In answering these questions, good goals will have more of the qualities listed first than the ones listed second. Great goals will have all six of the attributes that science says lead to happiness; they’ll be intrinsic, authentic, positive, harmonious, flexible, and activity-oriented.

If your goals don’t align well with Lyubomirsky’s guidelines, ask yourself why this might be the case. Are there any discernible patterns? Are many of your goals extrinsic, based on what others want you to do? Are they avoidance goals, designed to help you keep away from some negative outcome? If there are patterns, what can you do to change them?

Next, let’s look at the relative importance of goals. Not all goals are created equal!

A Hierarchy of Goals

In the past, I divided my goals based on how long it took to complete them: short-term goals, intermediate goals, and long-term goals. More and more, however, I’ve begun to think of my goals as existing in a hierarchy. Some goals are more important than others.

High-level goals aren’t always long-term goals. Next week, for example, I’ll start a two-week “cleanse” diet. This objective is high on my personal goal hierarchy, but it’s also an immediate aim. And there are times when I have a long-term goal that’s low on the goal hierarchy. I want to visit Antarctica, for instance, but I’m in no rush to do so. That’s not a trip for which I need to be particularly fit, so it can wait until I’m older.

Perhaps the best explanation and exploration of goal hierarchies can be found in Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Here’s a diagram from the book:

Hierarchy of Goals

And here’s how Duckworth describes it:

At the bottom of this hierarchy are our most concrete and specific goals — the tasks we have on our short-term to-do list: I want to get out the door today by eight a.m. I want to call my business partner back. I want to finish writing the email I started yesterday. These low-level goals exist merely as means to ends. We want to accomplish them only because they get us something else we want.

In contrast, the higher the goal in this hierarchy, the more abstract, general, and important it is. The higher the goal, the more it’s an end in itself, and the less it’s merely a means to an end.


The top-level goal is not a means to any other end. It is, instead, an end in itself. Some psychologists call this an “ultimate concern”. Myself, I think of this top-level goal as a compass that gives direction and meaning to all the goals below it.

Duckworth’s research suggests that success in life comes from grit — passion and perseverance — which is all about “holding the same top-level goal for a very long time”.

It’s easier to pursue your passion when you’ve taken time to thoughtfully develop a group of goals to support it. “The more unified, aligned, and coordinated our goal hierarchies are, the better,” Duckworth writes. (This goes along with Lyubomirsky’s point that your goals should be harmonious with each other.)

Duckworth, who likes to use athletes to illustrate her points, cites Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver as an example of somebody who built his life around a single mission, a mission that dictated his lower-level goals. In a 1972 interview with Sports Illustrated, Seaver stated his purpose clearly:

Tom Seaver baseball card

I’ve made up my mind what I want to do. I’m happy when I pitch well so I only do those things that help me be happy. I wouldn’t be able to dedicate myself like this for money or glory, although they are certainly considerations. If I pitch well for 15 years I’ll be able to give my family security. But that isn’t what motivates me.

What motivates some pitchers is to be known as the fastest who ever lived. Some want to have the greatest season ever. All I want is to do the best I possibly can day after day, year after year. Pitching is the whole thing for me. I want to prove I’m the best ever.

And this purpose determined his day-to-day actions, his lower-level goals:

[Pitching] determines what I eat, when I go to bed, what I do when I’m awake. It determines how I spend my life when I’m not pitching.

  • If it means I have to come to Florida and can’t get tanned because I might get a burn that would keep me from throwing for a few days, then I never go shirtless in the sun.
  • If it means when I get up in the morning I have to read the box scores to see who got two hits off Bill Singer last night instead of reading a novel, then I do it.
  • If it means I have to remind myself to pet dogs with my left hand or throw logs on the fire with my left hand, then I do that, too.
  • If it means in the winter I eat cottage cheese instead of chocolate chip cookies in order to keep my weight down, then I eat cottage cheese.

I might want those cookies but I won’t ever eat them. That might bother some people but it doesn’t bother me. I enjoy the cottage cheese. I enjoy it more than I would those cookies because I know it will help me do what makes me happy.

Obviously, not even the most successful people dedicate every waking moment to their purpose and passion. Everyone needs downtime. But ultimately your success will be determined by how well you build a hierarchy of goals that supports your purpose, then spend your time working to accomplish these objectives.

Your Goal Hierarchy

After reading Grit and seeing Duckworth’s diagram, I spent some introspective time considering my own goals. Are they aligned with my purpose? Are they harmonious with each other? Are they intrinsic? In the end, I spent an hour or two on an exercise that I think could be useful to Get Rich Slowly readers.

Before you begin, you’ll need to find space and time for introspective work where you won’t be interrupted by people or pets or social media. You’ll also need a pen and either a stack of index cards (or sticky notes) or a bunch of paper. You can’t really do this project on a computer. (Maybe in a spreadsheet, but I think it’s best on paper.)

Ready? Here’s how it works.

  1. On your first index card, write down your mission statement, your purpose. (If you need help with this, here’s a one-page PDF with an exercise meant to help you create your personal mission statement.)
  2. Next, write each of your top-level goals on its own index card (or sticky note or piece of paper). Clearly, if you haven’t determine what your top-level goals are, you’ll have to do so now. That’s why you need space and time to think deeply! (As you come up with these goals, try to make sure they fit the profile for good goals I shared earlier in this article.) My top-level goals came naturally from my mission statement. One of them, for example, is “be the best person I can be, both mentally and physically”. Note that this is pretty vague. That’s fine. Top-level goals tend to be vague. The lower you go, the more concrete your aims become.
  3. Now, for each of your top-level goals, make a list of supporting goals. Again, this might take some time. That’s okay. When I did this, I came up with two goals to support my aim to “be the best person I can be, both mentally and physically”: (1) achieve and maintain physical fitness, and (2) achieve and maintain mental fitness.
  4. I think you can see where this is going. Your next step is to look at these new goals, and for each brainstorm a list of further supporting goals. When I took my goal to “achieve and maintain physical fitness”, for instance, I ended up with five sub-goals: eat well, drink only in moderation, exercise daily, practice good grooming, and dress well.
  5. Continue this process for each branch of the hierarchy until you reach the bottom. (The bottom might come at different levels in different places. Don’t sweat it.) For my goal of “eat well”, I came up with four subgoals: keep portion sizes moderate, limit sugar intake, eat veggies first, and eat only when hungry. But for “dress well”, I only came up with two subgoals: maintain an attractive wardrobe, and wear nice clothes when possible.

By the end of this exercise, my kitchen table was covered with sticky notes — over 100 of them. Because Kim would kill me if I left the table like that (and the cats would probably destroy the sticky notes), I moved them to a spare whiteboard where I highlighted the top-level goal that’s most important to me right now (“be the best person I can be, both mentally and physically”). Here’s a photo of what it looks like hanging in my office:

My hierarchy of goals

Good Goals in Action

When you set good goals, you can accomplish more than you might at first believe possible. After graduating from college, my friend Paula Pant decided she wanted to travel the world.

“I had a huge map of the world hanging up in my apartment,” Paula says. “I would just stare at it for hours thinking of all the places I wanted to go.” Because she wanted to travel, she made financial choices that others wouldn’t.

“I hustled in the evenings and weekends writing freelance stories and increasing my income. I drove a $400 car, and I didn’t even drive that much. I walked or biked pretty much anywhere I wanted to go,” says Paula. “And what’s funny is that none of it actually felt like a sacrifice because I was so aware of the fact that these things were unimportant to me. It never felt like I was giving anything up.”

Paula’s mission kept her motivated, and it helped her set appropriate goals. In 2008, she quit her job to spend two-and-a-half years traveling through Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. (She now writes about her financial philosophy at Afford Anything.)

Successful people have a purpose, and they set goals to help them progress toward their larger goal and mission. Paula’s purpose was to explore the world, and that informed very decision she made. It helped her figure out which goals to pursue and which to ignore.

“Society says it’s normal to have a nice apartment,” says Pant. “If that’s what you dream about, if that’s what keeps you awake at night, then go for it — if that’s your dream. But if that’s not really your passion, then slash it. Live in a dump so you can do what it is you love.”

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Meet the Entrepreneurs of Generation Z

Millenials have grown up and they’re now the old fogies of the entrepreneurial world. They’re now completely entrenched in corporate culture. They’ve made their waves and it’s now time to step aside and look to the next generation.

What is the next generation? The common name we call them is Generation Z. But let’s replace that with a new term.

I’d like to call Generation Z “The Founders.”

While our generation is busy undoing pretty much everything previous generations have done (for better or for worse), the Founders will quietly and quickly re-build the foundations of our society.

And we’re already seeing some rumblings of that revolution right now. Entrepreneurs are becoming younger and younger thanks to the ubiquity of the internet.

This is why it’s wise to sit up and pay attention. Move aside Millenials cause here come The Founders.

The Founders Say “Screw That!”

Each generation’s choices shape the next generations actions. Each generation reacts to the last generations mistakes or hardships.

The world Millenials grew up in stacked the deck against them and yet they succeeded marvelously. But The Founders see the struggles of their parents and siblings and say “screw it, we’re making our own way.”

Why? Because Millenials got the necessary degrees but entered the job market right after the great recession. This meant that finding a job in your field was difficult and that earning a living wage was even harder.

Saddled with debt, Millenials found themselves working harder to climb the ladder and get out of debt. And many Millenials, despite stereotypes, actually tried traditional routes to success.

Today Millenials are moving to non-traditional work environments and they’re freelancing more. Over 30% of the workforce are now freelancers.

This is a recent development. And The Founders are most likely to follow suit.

But they may not enter the workforce with so much debt.

Online opportunities for education are abundant and cheap. Cheaper than the major university degrees Millenials earned.

You can become a programmer for next to nothing. And if you are talented, you can join the ranks of Google and other major tech companies with only experience under your belt.

This is the new path The Founders are forging it. Let’s look at some of the newest entrepreneurial members in our world.

1. Ishan Goel

According to Ishan Goel’s LinkedIn, the young entrepreneur has already consulted for over 25 startups. He’s also worked with organizations as large as Frito Lays and has marketed for the Ted Cruz campaign.

But what’s truly remarkable about Ishan is the fact he started his career in Middle School.

The blinding fast world of the internet propelled Ishan beyond what most people achieve in their lifetime. And this kid doesn’t look old enough to even buy vape juice let alone drink.

When asked how he managed to grow his network so quickly, he touts his photography skills. And no, he wasn’t just taking Instagram photos on his iPhone, he means actual DSLR photography.

He marketed his photography skills through his Instagram and other channels and used his growing network to make connections. He says that once he made those connections the networking never stopped. It essentially became seamless.

He claims that marketing for his own generation is where it’s at. Sure, Millennials are the largest consumer body right now, but Founders will eventually overtake that market.

He believes that old methods of marketing won’t work with Founders. You have to capture their attention immediately or they will just click away to something else.

His motto for how to market to Founders? “Make it clear, make it fun, and make it simple.”

2. Nick D’Aloisio App Developer

If you were born after 1992 or so, you’re most likely a Founder. Nick D’Aloisio is an early Founder born in 1995. He was only six when the Twin Towers fell.

But he has already sold his first app…to Yahoo! And he was 17 when he did it.

How much did he sell it for? $30 million freakin’ dollars. That 17-year-old is set for life, especially if he invested it all in Bitcoin.

And recently, shares in Sphere Knowledge, D’Aloisio’s company, sit at a comfortable $11.8 million.

After leaving Yahoo! two years ago, he went on to study computer science and philosophy at Oxford. He’s even published several major academic papers.

But what did this Founder build that Yahoo found so valuable?

Sphere Knowlege is an app that gives people the ability to talk to experts instantly about any topic. It’s immediately interactive. And the experts are actually paid well.

The difference between this and say Quora or other “expert” websites is the high standard and bar of entry set to determine an expert. Sphere uses both computer learning and human curation to pick experts. And then they pay them better than any other platform.

Among his other accomplishments, he also became an entrepreneur in residence at Airbnb, was awarded “Innovator of the Year” by the Wall Street Journal and was included in Time Magazine’s “Top 100.”

The Founders Are Our Future

Each generation must decide how it will manage the world left behind by the previous. I’m an unwavering optimist, especially when it comes to generational success. I believe that if we rally around the next generation rather than maligning them, we will see an incredible world reborn for our grandchildren.

People like Ishan and Nick will take the tools we’ve built and make them better. They’ll take what we’ve torn down and make something new.

If you see a Founder succeeding at something, take the time to encourage them. They will build our future.

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Why Everyone’s Freaking out About Walmart’s E-Commerce

Watching the world of commerce flip upside down and inside out has been like waking up from a particularly realistic dream. You don’t know where the dream ends and real life begins.

But before I go all Matrix on you (too late), you should know that the e-commerce world is totally up in arms about Wal-Mart.

Wait! Aren’t they like this big box store chain? Why should the e-commerce world care?

But now is the absolutely perfect time for box stores to go “e.” People now do more of their shopping online than ever before.

They’re even buying their groceries online. Experts predict that online grocery shopping will reach $100 billion by 2025.

And WalMart already does it all. Why wouldn’t they tap into the online revolution?

But are they really a threat? Let’s take a look at why Walmart might actually be something you have to worry about.

1. The Google Problem

We all know what happens when someone powerful chooses sides. The powerful become even more powerful.

That’s what happened back in August when Google decided to back WalMart’s bid to go “e-Commerce.” But why would Google choose a box store over Amazon?

In some ways, Google isn’t an Amazon competitor. Their main product is search and pay per click ads. But Google does sell a lot of things that Amazon does.

Music, apps, movies, books, and the like are all cross-markets for both Amazon and Google. If Amazon goes the way of the Do-do, then more for Google.

And Google wants it all. Their Google Express shared storefront hasn’t been the forefront of e-commerce sales.

It used to be a subscription sales site. Google recently dropped the subscription requirement in advance of adding WalMart to the app/site.

Google stands to gain a lot from a strong WalMart e-commerce game. And WalMart has proven to be worthy of the title.

2. WalMart: Prince of e-Commerce?

The old physical location giant made bank this last quarter. Their stock earnings rose by more than 50%. And this has everything to do with their increased e-commerce efforts.

But besides teaming up with Google, what did WalMart do to actually start competing with Amazon?

While Amazon is just getting into the physical retail location game, WalMart has owned that territory for generations. And the marriage of e-commerce and traditional commerce is where it’s at.

People still want to touch objects and look at them before they buy them. And they want fast delivery if they decide to buy it online.

WalMart Knows How to Use Point of Purchase

WalMart is fulfilling both of these desires. With 11,000 stores, WalMart is almost everywhere. If you wanted to go see a product in person, you could just hop down to your local WalMart.

And while you might mean to shop around online after seeing the product, you’re not getting out of the store without the temptation to buy something else.

This is where Amazon will lose out until they can build enough retail locations.

Every e-commerce store owner should learn more about Point of Purchase tactics that physical retailers have been using for ages. While they won’t be able to fully compete, there are ways to use this tactic online.

Two-Day Shipping

Logistics is a beautiful but complicated industry. How companies like Amazon consistently hit the mark when it comes to shipping times is beyond me.

But it works. People now expect Amazon-like speed when buying online. I mean, I even paid extra at a small e-commerce site the other week just to get my package in two days.

While we still think of Amazon when we hear “two-day shipping,” WalMart is slowly changing that.

You can’t just buy anything on WalMart.com and have it at your door in two days. But, if you run your order above $35, you’ve got two-day shipping.

And when you’re buying your dog food and your cat little all in the same order, you quickly hit the free two-day shipping threshold. When my wife figured this out, it was over. Last week she bought all of our non-perishables on WalMart.com.

In-Store Pickup

This is something WalMart has done for a few years now. But it’s definitely something e-commerce stores cannot compete with.

If you see something on WalMart.com and it’s at your local WalMart, you can have it ready to pick up at the service desk within the day. While this does mean getting out of your house and driving, it does mean you’ll have your product almost immediately.

But again, this has been around for a while and can’t account for the growth WalMart has seen. But there is one other thing WalMart has that Amazon just can’t touch yet.


e-Commerce plus in-store pickup plus groceries equals extra revenue. Not all of WalMart’s locations offer a curbside pickup service. But I imagine all WalMart stores offering the service eventually.

Essentially, WalMart customers must buy at least $30 worth of groceries to qualify for curbside service. And once you’ve hit the $30 all you do is pay and drive down to your local WalMart.

They even load the groceries into your car.

Consumers will save time and WalMart will earn money and nobody in e-Commerce will be able to compete.

3. Is There Any Good News?

WalMart does work with the little guy, but it’s not as easy to sell on WalMart as it is on Amazon. It’s absolutely possible, though.

This means that as an e-commerce retailer, you can ride the WalMart wave if you want to.

If you can’t beat them, join them, right? And if you sell a competitive product, you could increase your overall revenue with your products on WalMart.com.

Should You Be Concerned?

Whether you should be concerned depends on your own flexibility. If you run an Amazon storefront, you might be freaking out at the moment. Customers might go to WalMart.com.

But if you do your research and adapt, you’ll continue to see growth.

If you’re interested in learning more about the e-commerce world, check out our other e-commerce blogs.

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Getting into the crypto currency

So I came to cryptocurrencies pretty ignorant. Made an account on coinbase and bought the limit of my bank deposit ($7500) worth of Bitcoin. I bought the next week the same. It was around $10,000 per bitcoin. Since then it got up to 20k and as of today its fallen to 17k.

But I have also been buying other cryptocurrencies and will be reviewing them as I discover more.

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A Christmas Rhapsody

Just a quick note that Get Rich Slowly is on Christmas break. For the next two weeks, I’ll be posting infrequently — if at all. I’ll update the “spare change” links now and then, but I don’t plan to publish new full-length articles until early January.

Kim and I have decided that next week is dedicated time off from work. We’ll enjoy some quality time together with our dog and three cats. We’ll paint a few rooms in our new house, work on some projects outside, and discuss our shared plans for the future.

Plus, I’ll be traveling during the first half of January. I’m flying to Orlando to participate in both weekends of Camp FI (formerly Camp Mustache), a retreat for folks to discuss financial independence and early retirement. I won’t have much time to write while I’m on the road, so I need to prep for my absence now.

My hope is that this self-imposed blogging break will also give me time to take care of some lingering tasks, such as restoring the GRS forums, setting up the GRS email list, and more.

In the meantime, enjoy this short 1948 film from Encyclopedia Britannica called Christmas Rhapsody.

It’s corny as can be — but fun: “Now he knew that of all the forest, he had been chosen to bring joy to the world.” Hahaha.

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to drop me a line. In the meantime: Happy holidays! I’ll see you in January.

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How much does your commute cost? ~ Get Rich Slowly

While I’m not a rabid anti-car crusader, there’s no doubt I think the U.S. is too car-centric. I understand the historical reasons behind our vehicle dependence — we’re a young nation with sprawling cities spread far apart — but I also believe that if you, as an individual, make an effort to live in a walkable (or bike-able) neighborhood, you can save tons of cash while enhancing your lifestyle.

How much can you save? Well, that’s tough to quantify. There are a lot of variables that go into the calculation.

The folks at Transportation Evolved, however, have mae an effort to crunch the numbers. They’ve created a cost of commuting calculator that takes into account a wide variety of factors — then allows you to further explore how this cost affects your true hourly wage and the opportunity cost of lost inverstment income.

Since my commute involves a 30-second walk down to my writing shed, this calculator doesn’t work for me. But Kim commutes 9.1 miles three times a week (or more) in her 1997 Honda Accord. I ran the numbers for her situation and they’re not terrible.

Cost of Commuting Calculator

According to this calculator, Kim spends about $1074.93 per year commuting. Believe it or not, she spends more in lost time. This calculator estimates her commute removes $1620 per year from her true hourly wage. (She would agree with this. She was just complaining last Thursday about how she hates the drive home, which takes 45 minutes. It’s only 18 minutes in the morning.)

And the opportunity cost? Assuming she invested in index funds for 20 years, the Transportation Evolved calculator estimates she’s missing out on $154,352 at retirement.

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The Secret Behind Lucrative Side Hustles

One of the jokes you hear about in the solo entrepreneur world is that people will gladly work 60 hours to keep from working 40. But it’s so true.

I personally have a friend who recently caught the side-hustle bug. He’s done his research and settled on two niches, running blogs and books.

You would think he works some dead-end job and doesn’t make much money. This is far from the truth.

My friend works at one of the most prestigious Catholic schools in the nation (Go Irish!) and he makes more than me (for now). So, why is he adding to his already busy schedule to run a blog and sell books? It’s all about passion.

My friend is an avid runner and he has always dreamed of opening his own used bookstore. He’s spending his extra time pursuing his dreams so he can live them. But how do people like this succeed? Let’s talk about it.

1. Spare Time is Never Wasted

Throw out your PlayStation or XBox. Pair down your friend list. Block out anything that distracts you from your true passions.

This is what people who build successful side hustles do. They open up every bit of free-time they have and devote it to their side-hustles.

Have a few minutes of a break from work? Why not post on your new blog’s twitter account and reply to a few messages there?

Find all the tasks in your side-hustle that are small enough to fit into a short space of time. Take those tasks and schedule them into your breaks.

Have to watch the kids at hockey practice? Why not bring your laptop or tablet? And no, you can’t play Pokemon Go while you’re there if you want to make your side hustle grow and succeed.

2. They Are Doggedly Consistent

Taking advantage of your free-time doesn’t mean you need to neglect family duties or friendships. And not every side-hustle requires hours of your time each night.

You do need to be consistent. This means every weekday sitting down and doing something to contribute to your side hustle.

My friend who runs the running blog devotes at least fifteen minutes a night to writing on his blog. This often translates to an hour as his brain kicks in and he begins to plug into his flow state.

You’ll find that consistency is the number one rule you will ever need when building your side business.

It’s like Bob and his baby steps. “Baby steps get on the bus…baby steps down the aisle…”

When you take consistent baby steps toward your goal every day, you’ll eventually find that “ah!” you’ve made it to your goal.

3. Automation and Outsourcing

A side hustle might eventually replace your 9-5 and become your main hustle. But that might be a ways off.

Until then, you must still wake every morning and spend at least 8 hours away from your side job. But this doesn’t mean your side job goes away.

That blog is still sitting there and all of the social media accounts and email accounts attached to it. And if nothing is happening with it during your day job, you’ll wait a long time until your side job becomes your day job.

How do you make your side hustle work while you’re not around? Automation.

Hootsuite is probably the most popular task scheduler and automation tool on the internet. Entrepreneurs mainly use it to automate their social media.

You can outsource pretty much any smaller task to a computer. If you need customer tracking or constant invoice tracking, you should take advantage of various online financial software options.

If you want to spend a little bit more money, you can find all-in-one automation tools. These will do everything from post to social media to run your credit card validator.

Outsourcing Non-Digital Tasks

If you offer an educational blogging service to a particular niche, you might want to print out your information so your clients can use your product more efficiently. Buying a color printer and printing the pamphlets yourself will be costly and time-consuming.

If you instead built the price of hiring a printer and shipping the pamphlets direct, you’ll save yourself some time. That time could be spent improving other aspects of your business.

The return on investment for outsourcing time-consuming non-digital tasks is enormous. And sometimes that return won’t be monetary, at least not immediately. But you’ll eventually see it in other areas of your side hustle.

4. They Aren’t Hermit Hustlers

Like my Animal Biology professor once said, “No one is an island.” And this is even truer inside entrepreneurship.

If you run a blog, what’s one of the best ways to drive traffic apart from e-mail marketing? Guest blogging.

You can’t do that without networking within your niche.

This means you have to come out of your shell and actually get to know other bloggers.

Whatever your side-hustle may be, you should find other side hustlers. These people will become a valuable network.

Within that network, you might find your “co-founder.” Some of the greatest entrepreneurs shared the responsibility of starting a business with a partner.

Sharing your passions and goals with another person will help you achieve more.

5. They Make Money While They Sleep

Some people seemingly don’t need sleep. For those people, a side hustle that takes hours and hours of their week outside the 9-5 grind is perfect.

But for the rest of us, this isn’t sustainable. It’s the side hustle that makes you money while you sleep that will more likely replace your 9-5.

There are hundreds of passive income opportunities all over the internet. And while it takes some time and effort to set up your store or blog or YouTube channel, you’ll quickly see your effort turn into income.

Follow Your Passion

Even if your side hustle never turns into a main hustle, you’ll have followed your passion. And there is nothing more fulfilling than taking a passion of yours and making money with it.

If you’re interested in starting down your entrepreneurial path, check out our other blogs.

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What rich people do differently ~ Get Rich Slowly

I’m fascinated by the differences between rich people and poor people. Are the differences mostly a matter of class and economic mobility? Are people born to wealth and poverty and destined to remain there? Or are there observable differences in attitude and action that tend to lead people to specific levels of affluence?

From my experience, it’s some of both.

I believe that there are absolutely systemic issues that contribute to wealth and poverty. But I also believe that there are attitudes and habits that foster wealth and success. These attitudes and habits can be learned. They can be applied to our own lives, allowing us to build better futures.

My Story

I grew up in a family that had always been poor, a family that had lived for nearly 100 years in rural Oregon, barely getting by. The things we had and said and did were “lower class”, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

I was raised in this trailer house:

The house where I grew up

My father was a serial entrepreneur and the primary breadwinner for the family. Occasionally his businesses did well. Mostly, they didn’t. But even when our family did have a decent income, Dad spent that money on boats and airplanes and computers. He didn’t save. Then when hard times came — and hard times always came — he had to sell those toys to put food on the table.

The boom times were rare though. During the 1970s and 1980s, Mom and Dad spent most of the time living paycheck to paycheck. They fought about money. When Dad’s businesses weren’t doing well (which, again, was the norm), he worked as a salesman for various industrial companies. Or he was out of work. He spent long stints unemployed. We had to have help from extended family and from our church. (I can’t recall that we were ever on government assistance, but it’s certainly possible.)

Just before he died in 1995, Dad pulled me aside to apologize for how poor we were when I was a kid. “I remember that one Christmas when we didn’t have enough money for presents,” he said, “You and your brothers wrapped your existing toys and gave them to each other. I felt so ashamed. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you guys a better life.”

So, I’ve experienced poverty. Maybe not poverty as extreme as some others, but poverty.

I’ve also experienced wealth.

Today, my life is very different than it was when I was growing up. I’m fortunate (and grateful) to have a solid financial foundation. I achieved that financial success through a combination of hard work and luck. (And make no mistake: There was definitely good fortune required to get me where I am today.)

My brothers too have managed to work their way to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. We have it better than our parents did. At the same time, it’s clear that the three of us retain some of our old habits and attitudes. (So too, I think, do other members of our extended family who also grew up poor.)

From my experience, I believe that poor people have certain habits, attitudes, and expectations. I think that these habits, attitudes, and expectations differ from those of wealthy people. Sometimes these qualities are a result of being poor (or wealthy); sometimes these qualities lead to being poor (or wealthy). In other words, it’s neither the “chicken” or the “egg” — it’s both.

What do I mean? Let’s take some time today to explore the types of habits that foster wealth and success.

Important note: Before we go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that this is a complex subject, one weighted with political, economic, and social issues. I don’t expect for one blog post to be a definitive exploration of the topic. I do, however, hope that this article can highlight some insights from myself and others — including you. This piece is not meant as a takedown of the rich or a takedown of the poor. It’s meant to highlight habits and attitudes that can improve the odds of success.

The Secret Language and Behaviors of Wealth

First up, here’s Chelsea Fagan from The Financial Diet sharing eight things wealthy people do differently. Fagan breaks down what she calls “the secret language and behaviors of wealth”.

At first I thought this video would be cheesy. It’s not. It’s excellent — which is why I’ve placed it at the top of this article. Fagan’s observations are astute, and she offers lots of practical advice for her intended audience: young women.

“Wealth isn’t just about how much money you accumulate,” Fagan says. “Particularly in America, there’s a whole different approach to life — not just the financial parts of it — when you’re wealthy.”

She continues: “There are many specific behaviors that wealthy people tend to practice which are adapted to perpetuating their wealth. The good news is there are many of these habits ane techniques that you can adopt even if you’re on a serious budget.”

According to Fagan, these are the eight things wealthy people do differently from the rest of us:

  • They don’t wait for permission. From a young age, we’re conditioned to get permission to do the things we want. As a result, most of us enter adulthood with the idea that we still need permission to pursue our desires. Wealthy people have shifted their mindset from permission to control. Echoing my friend Chris Guillebeau, Fagan tells her viewers, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” (This is one of CG’s mottos. He lives by it.)
  • They know the landscape around them. In the U.S., for instance, we’re taught that it’s bad manners to talk about money. Most people don’t. The wealthy, however, do talk about money — at least amongst themselves. (From my experience, this is very very true.) Talking about money helps wealthy people better understand the financial world around them so that they’re able to make better decisions. Plus, wealthy people actively seek advice and information about money.
  • They ask for help with what they don’t know. This one is huge. From my experience, when poor people don’t know something, they tend to shrug their shoulders and go on with life, never seeking an answer. Wealthy people aren’t satisfied to remain in ignorance. They have what I call a personal board of directors, a small group of trusted advisors to which they can turn for information and advice. I just emailed my accountant the other day, for instance, asking for help with a financial issue. This morning, I’m driving an hour to meet with my friend Michael, who has acted as both a friend and advisor for a decade now. Even if you can’t afford to have an accountant, attorney, and/or financial advisor, much of the info you need is available for free online. You just have to take the time to search for it.
  • They put a specific (and growing) value on their time. “Wealthy people decide that every hour of their life has a value,” Fagan says, “and they stick to that value while constantly trying to raise it.” Wealthy people are aware time is money — and money is time. As a result, they try not to waste time. This is an area where I struggle. That’s why I did a time inventory last year (and discovered I spent twice as much time playing videogames as I did writing about money). Fagan urges viewers to treat every hour of their lives as if it has value — because it does.
  • They speak the language of money. Wealthy people are more financially literate than the poor. They’re better educated about personal finance. Because they know what they’re talking about, they’re better able to advocate for themselves. They’re able to make better decisions.
  • They understand that money is a long game. Or, put another way, wealthy people recognize that there’s no reliable way to get rich quickly but that almost anyone can get rich slowly. They keys are persistence and patience. Do the right things for a long time and you will achieve your financial goals. “The choice is not between this $5 Starbucks that will make me happy or this $5 sitting in a sad bank account making me feel bad,” Fagan says. “The choice is between this $5 Starbucks today or the hundreds of dollars it has the potential to be when it comes time for retirement.”
  • They outsource, outsource, outsource. Wealthy people are aware of where their skills and talents lie, and they play to those strengths. They know when it’s better to delegate a task to somebody who’s better at it. Or they know when to outsource because their time is better spent elsewhere. (This is another area where I suck. I’ve never really figured out how to outsource, so I often find myself doing things that I’m not good at or that I’d rather pay somebody else to do.)
  • They know the importance of recharging. While you might not have the ability to jet off to a beach house in Florida, we’re all able to make time in our lives to “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey put it in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Deliberately dedicate time to self-renewal in your physical life (exercise, proper nutrition), social life (spending time with friends), mental life (reading, education), and spiritual life (meditation, church).

This video is truly excellent. If I had a college-aged daughter (or a college-aged son), I’d urge her to watch it. But I think it contains good info for anyone at any stage of life.

The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals

Rich HabitsTom Corley is the author of a book called Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, which summarizes his research into the habits of the rich and poor. (He defines “rich” as those having an income over $160,000 per year and net liquid assets of more than $3.2 million. To him, poor means a gross income of $35,000 or less and no more than $50,000 in liquid assets.)

Corley’s approach is unique because he took time to interview people from both ends of the financial spectrum. While I haven’t yet read the book, I did manage to track down a piece he wrote for Success magazine that gives some insight into the results of his study. According to Corley:

  • Rich people live within their means. “Wealthy people avoid overspending by paying their future selves first. They save 20 percent of their net income and live on the remaining 80 percent.”
  • Rich people don’t gamble. “Every week, 77 percent of those who struggle financially play the lottery.”
  • Rich people read every day. “Among wealthy people, 88 percent read 30 minutes or more every day.”
  • Rich people spend less time in front of screens. “Two-thirds of wealthy people watch less than an hour of TV a day and almost that many…spend less than an hour a day on the Internet.” On the other hand, “77 percent of those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day watching TV, and 74 percent spend an hour or more a day using the Internet recreationally.”
  • Rich people control their emotions. “Loose lips are a habit for 69 percent of those who struggle financially. Conversely, 94 percent of wealthy people filter their emotions.”
  • Rich people network and volunteer regularly. “Almost three-quarters of wealthy people network and volunteer a minimum of five hours a month. Among those struggling financially, only one in 10 does this.”
  • Rich people work harder. “Unsuccessful people have ‘it’s not in my job description’ syndrome…Successful people work hard to achieve the mutual goals of their employers or their businesses.”
  • Rich people set goals; poor people make wishes. “Every year, 70 percent of the wealthy pursue at least one major goal. Only 3 percent of those struggling to make ends meet do this.”
  • Rich people avoid procrastination. “Successful people understand that procrastination impairs quality; creates dissatisfied employers, customers or clients; and damages other nonbusiness relationships.”
  • Rich people talk less and listen more. “Wealthy people are good communicators because they are good listeners. They understand that you can learn and educate yourself only by listening to what other people have to say.”
  • Rich people avoid toxic relationships. “Of wealthy, successful people, 86 percent associate with other successful people. But 96 percent of those struggling financially stick with others struggling financially.”
  • Rich people don’t give up. Wealth individuals “simply do not quit chasing their big goals. Those who struggle financially stop short.”
  • Rich people set aside limiting beliefs. “Almost four out of five wealthy people attribute their success in life to their beliefs.” They pursue personal development.
  • Rich people have mentors. “Finding such a teacher is one of the best and least painful ways to become rich.”
  • Rich people make their own luck. “Successful people create their own unique type of good luck. Their positive habits lead to opportunities such as promotions, bonuses, new business and good health.”
  • Rich people know their main purpose. “It’s the last Rich Habit, but it might be the most important. Those people who pursue a dream or a main purpose in life are by far the wealthiest and happiest among us.”

I’d love to see the raw data that led Corley to make these conclusions but I don’t think his book includes that info. From what I can tell, it’s written as a story, sort of like The Wealthy Barber. His website does give some background on his methodology, however.

I found other articles about Corley at Business Insider (some stats included) and Entrepreneur. Corley also appeared on an episode of the Afford Anything podcast. Finally, here’s Corley’s appearance on the Art of Charm podcast:

The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind

Secrets of the Millionaire MindWhen I first decided to dig out of debt in 2004, I devoured every book about personal finance that I could find. One volume that had a profound influence on my future financial philosophy was The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.

Eker believes that we each possess a “financial blueprint”, an internal script that dictates how we relate to money. Our blueprints are created through lifelong exposure to money messages from people around us, especially our family and friends, and from our country’s culture and mass media. (I agree with Eker. See my recent article about money blueprints.)

Eker says the unfortunate truth is that most of us have faulty blueprints that prevent us from building wealth.

“Money is a result, wealth is a result, health is a result, illness is a result, your weight is a result. We live in a world of cause and effect,” writes Eker. “A lack of money is never, ever, ever a problem. A lack of money is merely a symptom of what is going on underneath.” (This echoes my advice that debt reduction is a side effect of doing the right things and ought not be a goal in and of itself.)

At the core of Millionaire Mind are Eker’s “wealth files”, a list of seventeen ways in which the financial blueprints of the wealthy differ from those of the poor and the middle-class. According to Eker:

  • Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.”
  • Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people play the money game to not lose.
  • Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people want to be rich.
  • Rich people think big. Poor people think small.
  • Rich people focus on opportunities. Poor people focus on obstacles.
  • Rich people admire other rich and successful people. Poor people resent rich and successful people.
  • Rich people associate with positive, successful people. Poor people associate with negative or unsuccessful people.
  • Rich people are willing to promote themselves and their value. Poor people think negatively about selling and promotion.
  • Rich people are bigger than their problems. Poor people are smaller than their problems.
  • Rich people are excellent receivers. Poor people are poor receivers.
  • Rich people choose to get paid based on results. Poor people choose to get paid based on time.
  • Rich people think “both”. Poor people think “either/or”.
  • Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people focus on their working income.
  • Rich people manage their money well. Poor people mismanage their money well.
  • Rich people have their money work hard for them. Poor people work hard for their money.
  • Rich people act in spite of fear. Poor people let fear stop them.
  • Rich people constantly learn and grow. Poor people think they already know.

Eker says that most people are motivated to make money out of fear. People don’t call it fear, though. They say they’re motivated by security. Eker notes — correctly — that fear and security are essentially two sides of the same coin. The tough truth is that money doesn’t dissolve fear.

Eker writes:

Fear is not just a problem, it’s a habit. Therefore, making more money will only change the kind of fear we have. When we were broke, we were most likely afraid we’d never make it or never have enough. Once we make it, however, our fear usually changes to “What if I lose what I’ve made?”

“When the subconscious mind must choose between deeply rooted emotions and logic, emotions will almost always win,” writes Eker. Even if you know what you ought to do intellectually, it can be tough to do it because your money blueprint controls your thoughts and behavior. To change your habits, you have to work consciously and constantly to create a new plan. This takes time and practice.

Want to read more about how fear affects our decisions? Check out my article on how to build confidence and destroy fear.

Millionaires vs. the Middle Class

10 Distinctions between Millionaires and the Middle ClassIn The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class, Keith Cameron Smith also makes an attempt to delineate the difference between the rich and the rest of us.

His ten “distinctions” — in order of importance — are:

  • Millionaires think long-term. The middle class thinks short-term.
  • Millionaires talk about ideas. The middle class talks about things and people.
  • Millionaires embrace change. The middle class is threatened by change.
  • Millionaires take calculated risks. The middle class is afraid to take risks.
  • Millionaires continually learn and grow. The middle class thinks learning ended with school.
  • Millionaires work for profits. The middle class works for wages.
  • Millionaires believe they must be generous. The middle class believes it can’t afford to give.
  • Millionaires have multiple sources of income. The middle class has only one or two.
  • Millionaires focus on increasing their wealth. The middle class focuses on increasing its paychecks.
  • Millionaires ask themselves empowering questions. Middle-class people ask themselves disempowering questions.

Some of the items on Smith’s list seem to be derived from Eker’s philosophy. But although there are similarities, Eker’s list gives me warm fuzzies and Smith’s list doesn’t. I’m not sure why.

Maybe the difference is this: From my experience (and your experience may be different), Eker’s many distinctions hold true (at least in the U.S.). I’ve seen the differences he describes in my own life. But I’m not convinced that the differences Smith lists do hold up.

For instance, I know lots of poor people who talk about ideas rather than things and people, and many of the same folks embrace change. A lot of my friends love learning but they’re not millionaires. And haven’t we seen statistics that show, based on a percentage of income, poor people give more than the rich do?

There are differences between the mindsets of the rich and the poor, of this I’m sure. But I think they’re closer to Eker’s list than to Smith’s.

A Brief Rant
Without taking anything away from personal responsibility (which you all know I think is vital to success), I’d like to suggest that both Eker and Smith are too quick to dismiss systemic causes of poverty. Perhaps neither of them knows what it’s like to be poor? Some of their observations make sense, but some seem to come from people who’ve lived lives of privilege.

“Rich people act in spite of fear,” Eker writes. “Poor people let fear stop them.” Why is that? Could it be that the rich can act in spite of fear because they have a safety net? Could it be that when you grow up poor, a scarcity mindset becomes so deeply ingrained that it’s almost impossible to shake? (That’s been my personal experience, by the way.)

There’s no question that wealth brings opportunities, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Those with money have more choices. The rich can take risks, and they’re often rewarded for taking them. (Thus, “the rich get richer”.) I have so many more options now than I ever did when I was a boy, when my family was poor. I think this element of “luck” is something ignored by both Eker and Smith (and many other people).

Ten Habits of Successful People

Instead of defining the differences between rich people and poor people, I think it’s more constructive to look at what separates successful people from unsuccessful people. Maybe I’m picking nits, but in this case I think focusing on a financial scorecard misses the point. It’s possible to be successful and poor, and it’s possible to be rich and a fool.

I’ll admit there seems to be a strong correlation between wealth and success, but the two qualities don’t overlap precisely.

From looking at my own friends, and from thinking about the stories readers have sent me during the past decade — especially stories about how people have moved from debt to wealth — I’ve seen the following patterns.

  • Successful people surround themselves with positive people. They limit their exposure to negativity and naysayers, preferring to spend time with folks who have can-do attitudes. They don’t have time to listen to the reasons something can’t be done; they’d rather find ways to make it happen.
  • Successful people aren’t flummoxed by failure. They know that mistakes are inevitable and should be treated as stepping stones to success rather than signs of weakness or reasons to stop trying. (This is why it’s important not to praise achievement, but to praise effort. The former breeds fear of failure.)
  • Successful people manage their time effectively. They recognize that minutes and seconds are a precious non-renewable resource. So, they set priorities and pursue them with passion. My successful friends seem to watch less television (and play fewer videogames) than my unsuccessful friends, for instance. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Game of Thrones or Hearthstone, but they suck up time that could be spent exercising or reading or taking a class.
  • Successful people ignore the opinions of others. They march to the beat of a different drum. They don’t feel compelled to “keep up with the Joneses”. They limit their exposure to mass media not only because it allows them to be more productive, but also because it reduces the influence of advertising and the pressure of cultural norms. When investing, they don’t follow the herd. The wealthy people I know all drive older cars (many of them bought used!), dress modestly, and avoid conspicuous consumption.
  • Successful people have direction. They act with purpose. They know why they’re working hard and saving money. They have a mission, even if it’s as simple as putting their kids through college, and their daily actions are aligned with their long-term goals. None of the folks I know who struggle with money have a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives.
  • Successful people focus on big wins. Sure, they develop smart habits and pay attention to the small stuff. But they also understand that if they’re diligent with their dollars, then the pennies will take care of themselves. The average person economizes on the small things but isn’t willing to make sacrifices when it comes to housing, transportation, or career. And the folks who are broke all of the time? Well, they fritter away their pennies and their dollars.
  • Successful people do what’s difficult. They don’t procrastinate. My friends with money work longer, harder, and smarter than my friends who have less. (This is an unpopular observation with some folks, but it’s true.) They practice deferred gratification, sacrificing small comforts today in order to obtain greater rewards tomorrow.
  • Successful people make their own luck. They practice awareness so that they can recognize opportunities when they come along. Moreover, they act boldly, seizing these opportunities where others might hesitate to act.
  • Successful people believe they’re responsible for their future. They’re proactive. They have an internal locus of control. That is, they understand that although it might not be their fault they’re in a given situation, it is their responsibility to change it.
  • Successful people grow and change over time. They adapt. They evolve. They’re not afraid to entertain different points of view. Most importantly, they’re not afraid to change their minds. They seek knowledge and experience, and they allow the things they learn to mold them.

None of these differences is absolute, of course. Most people (including me) follow a few of these rules but not others. Or we adhere to certain rules only part of the time. The most successful people I know do all of the things on this list; the least successful people do none of them.

The Bottom Line

That’s a lot of words — almost 5000! — about how the mindsets of the wealthy and the poor differ. And while I do agree with these generalizations, I think it’s important to note that they are generalizations. These principles aren’t applicable to all people.

There are plenty of poor people who have the right mindset but struggle because of external factors. There are plenty of rich people who do not have these attitudes but have managed to obtain wealth anyhow.

For me, the real takeaway from discussions like this is that regardless your circumstances, you can increase the odds that you’ll achieve your goals if you model your actions on those of the people you want to emulate. If you want to be rich, look for common themes in the lives of the wealthy. Do what you can to incorporate them into your own life. If you want to be successful, learn from the lives of successful people.

“If you don’t change direction,” my father used to tell me, “you’ll arrive where you’re going.” I didn’t really undersand what he meant when I was in high school. Now I do.

In life, there are often default options. If you don’t consciously and deliberately choose something different, you get the default. Most people live their lives in default mode. They accept the default without question.

My aim for myself — and for you, the readers of Get Rich Slowly — is to both be aware of the defaults and to question them. Sometimes they’re fine. A lot of times, however, there are better ways to live. By examining the habits of the wealthy and successful, I think we can all find ways to change direction so we reach a better future.

What do you think? From your experience, what are the differences between the rich and the poor? What qualities separate successful money managers from those who remain broke? Given roughly similar backgrounds, why do some folks build wealth and others struggle to make ends meet? How do the rich think differently? What behaviors to the poor and the middle-class have that the rich do not? Or is it even possible to create distinctions like this? Does it all just come down to luck? (Please keep conversation civil and respectful. No poor shaming — but no rich shaming either.)

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Can you use positive reinforcement to foster smart money habits?

Most of the time, I can sit down and write a blog post in an hour or two. Or three. I get an idea, then pick up my laptop, find a quiet spot, and hack out my thoughts.

Some articles, however, take months (or years!) to create. This is one of them.

You see, near the end of our RV trip across the U.S., Kim and I picked up a puppy. While visiting my cousins near Tahlequah, Oklahoma — the end of the Trail of Tears and the setting for Where the Red Fern Grows — we bought one of their hound dog mutts. Naturally, we named her Tahlequah (TOWEL-uh-kwah). From the start, we’ve been in love with her. She’s SO CUTE!

Here she is at three months old, about a week after we got her. She is done with her walk in Fort Collins, Colorado — not moving another inch:

Tahlequah is so cute!

Tally is a hound dog through and through. She is ruled by her nose. She has a strong prey drive. She is fiercely defensive of her territory. We knew from the start that proper training was going to be imperative.

From the day we got her, we started employing positive reinforcement.

What is positive reinforcement? The basic idea is that when somebody (or somepuppy) does something you want, you reward the behavior as soon as possible. This, in turn, tends to encourage the behavior in the future. It’s a like a virtuous cycle.

I love this example of positive reinforcement from The Big Bang Theory:

Anyhow, Kim and I used positive reinforcement with Tahlequah from the beginning.

The moment she did something we wanted, we rewarded it. We praised her and treated her. When she began to understand that certain actions — sitting, for instance, or lying down — led to positive reinforcement, she offered those actions more frequently. As she did, we began to name them. When she sat, we said “sit” and we gave her a tasty treat. Everybody was happy.

Tahlequah loves to dig

A year ago, I snapped this photo of a woman from our dogwalking group (Lara, a practicing psychologist) using positive reinforcement to get a group of dogs to sit. All at the same time.

Lara gets ALL of the dogs to sit

In June of last year, I got an idea for a blog post: What if we used positive reinforcement to encourage desired money behavior? That’d be awesome!

Over the past eighteen months, I’ve tried to tackle this topic six or seven times (most recently today). But I’m never able to make it work. It’s not that I think it’s a bad idea — I think the idea is great! The real issue is I can’t think of many examples of how to put this into practice. Exactly how would you use positive reinforcement to build smart money habits?

Now and then, I see small examples.

For instance, Kim deposits checks to her USAA account by phone. She snaps a photo, then uploads it to her account. When she does, the USAA app makes a cha-ching noise. “I love that sound!” Kim told me a while back. “It makes me want to deposit more checks.” That, my friends, is positive reinforcement. But it’s only one example.

But when I try to think of other examples, I come up short.

I suppose employer matches to 401(k)s (and other retirement programs) are examples, but they seem to have marginal effect. Other times, the examples of positive reinforcement in the world of personal finance don’t make much sense. A child tax credit that incentivizes having children? Uh, that’s a little weird. Or credit card rewards that encourage users to spend? Hmmm….

So, after eighteen months of trying to write an article about positive reinforcement and personal finance, I’m giving up. Instead, I’m going to turn this around and ask you for examples.

Have you seen examples of positive reinforcement in the world of personal finance? What are they? More to the point, have you applied positive reinforcement in your own life? Have you used it to encourage yourself toward better behavior? Have you used it to encourage your spouse, your children, your extended family?

Postscript: I’m not kidding when I say I’ve tried to write about this six or seven times since June 2016. I have several half-finished articles about positive reinforcement and money gathering dust in Dropbox. The first is from July of last year and it’s 3500 words long…but still not worth publishing.

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