Who hasn’t daydreamed about being rich enough to live the high-life? Or check your bank balance and see a few extra zeros?Or being your own boss and overseeing your own very important portfolio of businesses, whilst jetting around the world? I know I have, and that is why I jumped at the chance of spending a charming afternoon with a self-made millionaire to get the insight on how it really feels:
The High Life
I got to spend three hours with Paul (name changed to protect identity) one sunny afternoon. He was very open to chatting and answering my questions about the life of a millionaire. Paul has always worked for himself and built himself up from simple beginnings to a self-made millionaire with property and restaurants in the USA. He is now living in South America, but at 68 years old, he is still a very active part of all of his businesses with no immediate plans to slow down.
What becomes very evident as we spend the afternoon chatting about wealth and success, is that this man hasn’t made it to the position he is in in life without some clear ideas of how it’s all going to work. Condensing three hours of talking into one blog post is challenging, but after leaving some time for the conversation to settle, I think I’ve found some useful themes to share with you.
You’ve Got To Like People
Quite often we read the word „charming“ when we’re reading about successful people, but I don’t think this actually does Paul justice. Charming leaves a certain bad taste in your mouth and can feel superficial. After speaking to Paul, I get the feeling that he isn’t the „shark“ I might expect him to be, I get the feeling that he actually really likes meeting and working with people. He is a good listener, a considerate speaker who doesn’t boast or ramble on for hours, he also enjoys interjecting questions of his own. He admits that he only has a few really close friends, but this might actually be more due to the amount of hours he still works, rather than his interest in people.
Look For The Win Win
This really surprised me, because as with the previous point, I was expecting a much colder, harder business approach when I met Paul. He was very clear to explain to me that always trying to „win“ leads to a win-lose situation. It made sense when he pointed out that in every win-lose deal you will only ever win once, because the person won’t want to work with you again. If you look for the win-win for everyone in the deal, they’ll want to work with you again. Sometimes this has led him to take hard losses in his business and personal life, because once he worked out what he wanted, he was flexible in giving the other person what they wanted. This may sound a little naive, but it fits together with the next point.
I sometimes find it hard to plan my week, never mind my next few years. Paul admits that he often had long term plans, even in his personal life. He knows where he wants to be, even if this is going to take a year and a lot of compromise to get there. I was shocked when he told me he’s been almost bankrupt a few times in his life. He explained that being a millionaire is not a static status! He described peaks and troughs in his financial situation that would make me lose sleep at night, but he always relied on his vision and just kept working to it. One example of this was when he graduated from one of the top universities in America with an MA but couldn’t find a job. He looked around to see where people were making money and set his sights on being a car salesman. He soon became the most successful car salesman in his district because he had the vision to build a successful business while he was young.
My daydream was blown a little when Paul described the long hours he is still putting into his businesses. Most of all the fine tooth comb that is still being drawn over every balance sheet, every bank statement, every cheque. He is very much in control and described how knowing the small decisions helped keep on top of the direction of the company. I can imagine his employees have to get use to this micro-managing. But he’s right when he says that he carries the responsibility. Definitely more exhausting than I was hoping for.
One thing that has lingered with me since meeting Paul is how pragmatic he is in his decisions. He just gets things done (including cosmetic surgery he felt was necessary and was very open to talking about). I think how often I mess around deliberating the hundreds of possibilities around my decisions and maybe even laying stones in my own path. Paul makes decisions he feels are necessary to move forward and gets on with it. It still has me wondering how much I could achieve if I followed this mindset. Paul says he has been taking risks all of his life. Of course he admits to making mistakes, but as long as he is following the vision he has before him, he’s willing to take short-term loss for a long-term win.
I still haven’t decided whether I would like to swap with Paul, even for a day. Yes, his new pool in his apartment complex looks a lot nicer than the paddling pool in my garden. Yes, it must be nice to travel first class instead of the lowest of budget airlines. BUT one of the parting gestures Paul made to me when we were speaking was when he stood up to leave and pointed to his shoulders. „The weight here“ he explained, smiling and reminded me of the stories his niece told me of the many members of family that Paul has supported, as well as the many employees that rely on Paul for their futures. The weight might no be physical, but it is certainly palpable as Paul bows his shoulders to illustrate his point.
I’m impressed with all I have learnt from this one meeting with Paul, but I’m not sure I have it in me to give what I would need to in order to get what he has. I’m not sure I’d want to even if I could. However, there are things that have challenged the way I do things now. One of the biggest challenges for me is to develop the patience to make long-term goals. How about you? Do you have what it takes, and would you swap if you could?