“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while the defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
~Sun Tzu (The Art of War)
When I joined the army in 2005, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were getting worse. The folks who trained me to become a Green Beret were veterans of the invasions and had a ton of experience. They knew that my generation of soldiers would be heading into a deadlier conflict.
They told us stories, instructed us on lessons learned, and taught us how to kill and save others. I studied everything I could from them. But most of it was like drinking from a fire hose. They knew so much.
Three months after I graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course, I shipped off to Afghanistan on an ODA with the mission to find and kill the Taliban. I was the junior medic on this undermanned team and became the turret gunner on the largest casualty producing weapon.
I had great senior guys around me and leadership who trusted me with their lives. The training continued. My senior would sit me down every day and we would talk about missions coming up and higher level combat medical trauma. Mostly, he wanted to check that I was prepared physically and emotionally.
On the nights when we weren’t conducting operations, I would sit down and study medicine, clean my weapon systems, check my tourniquets, IV kits and airway devices. I would look over my packing lists, bug out bags, and review my duties as the mini gun operator.
We collectively spent days and weeks preparing, because the firefights could get pretty messy. They were usually confusing. We were more likely to get ambushed rather than surprise the enemy. Every single moment over there was a unique experience.
The pay off for all the hard work preparing for catastrophic events was that we would win the battle and come home. It did pay off. I will forever be grateful for the guidance and leadership of my fellow Americans and Afghans who showed me how to successfully navigate those days.
After I discharged, I made an effort to try and make as much money as possible. I kept falling flat on my face. The largest fault that I attribute to my inability to succeed was my lack of proper preparation and inability to find a suitable mentor.
I thought I could do it alone and I thought that I could reinvent the wheel. Cause business is just business. Find a way to make money and then repeat the process over and over again. I was in business to make money. Not wealth. Once I made the money, I had no idea what to do with it. I needed the same guidance and leadership as I had experienced in the army.
So I decided to learn to golf. Rich guys golf. I know, it sounds boring, but it’s a brilliant way to get to know someone. Especially for business. You’re playing a game with someone for 3-5 hours and there is high temptation to cheat. Just saying…
I started to meet folks who would talk about things like stocks, bonds and currencies. They gave me a lot to think about and told me where to look for information. But they also emphasized that how I use my time needs to be calculated as if it were worth money. If an hour of my time is worth $50, thats the price I’m paying to play video games. I should be using my time as if it were money. Make the money work for me.
They helped open my eyes to the idea of studying billionaires. Know their names, learn their stories and study their companies. When I considered how little I knew about business overall, it made a lot of sense to take the time to study who had been successful, and why. It was an investment. Time is money.
Forbes keeps a regular list of billionaires that you can use for research. They estimate that there are 2,095 billionaires globally and 614 located in the United States.
These are twelve names that I have looked at over the years, and I recommend you check them out for yourself.
Dietrich Mateschitz – Red Bull
Rodney Sacks – Monster Energy
John Paul Dejoria – Patron Spirits/John Paul Mitchell Systems
Richard Branson – Virgin Group
Peter Thiel – PayPal/Palantir Technologies/Facebook
Ray Dalio – Bridgewater Associates
Robert Smith – Vista Equity Partners
David Steward – World Wide Technology
Kenneth Langone – Home Depot
Eric Yuan – Zoom
Leonardo Del Vecchio – Luxottica
Ralph Lauren – Polo
Virtually all of them started at ground level. Ray Kroc, the man who expanded McDonalds into an empire, said “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
Almost everyone I know who owns a business and has become successful has multiple stories of how they thought they weren’t going to make it. They would be running out of money, but would refuse to quit. Luck happens to those who dare.
So, where do they put their money?
Over the years, I’ve heard folks call the stock market “a graph of rich peoples feelings.” That seems like a true statement. I’d like to add one caveat. The risk is on the upside…
Rich people don’t like losing money. The stock market is great, but it can have a lot of volatility. So they diversify. They will buy Bonds, Real Estate, Precious Metals, Luxury Assets, keep it in Cash, put it into a business and even buy Cryptocurrencies. But stocks are a great signal for how wealthy people around the world view America. They are also an investment in companies that grow. Those other assets aren’t growth oriented in the same way.
For example, the year I was born, the S&P 500 was trading at around $195. Today, June of 2020, the market is trading around $3,100. And this is after the worse downturn in history, due to the corona virus pandemic.
Another example, on Sept 10, 2001 the S&P closed at $1,095. When 9/11 happened, they were directly attacking the heart of Wall Street. Of course, the market went down as a result. However, it took exactly one month for the index to return to pre 9/11 levels. On Oct 11, the S&P was back to a price of $1,099.
These examples happen over and over again. At any point in history, if you had bought into the New York Stock Exchange, you would have been correct. Rich people around the world bet on America. Any chance to buy America cheap, they take advantage.
I’m not saying that you go out tomorrow and buy the S&P 500 companies. I’m saying that you should study it and learn it. Be able to talk about it. The marketplace is the greatest blessing of capitalism. And anyone can play the game. Understanding the market will protect you from fraud, it will make you a blessing to your family and friends and you will be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
I’m getting long winded here, so I’ll finish up this post with one of my favorite sayings of all time.
“God created men equal. Colonel Colt made them equal”
Violence used to be the great equalizer among humans. Now, its knowledge. The creation of YouTube made it possible for anyone with a computer to make videos and put out the information that they want. Using your time as an investment to learn more by accessing accurate information is the great equalizer of our generation. What a brilliant way to prepare for battle, or the market.
I’ll leave you with a list of videos and YouTube channels that I highly recommend. They are hyperlinked.