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I'm not the richest person in the world. I'm not the most important person in the world. And certainly not the most famous person in the world. But for a kid who grew up in Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania, who flunked out of High School, flunked English in college, barely got thru my undergraduate school, and had two failing businesses, I'm doing more than I ever thought I would do in life. And certainly more than anyone ever told me I would do. I've started two successful companies worth millions and millions of dollars. I've written over 100 books, two of which became New York Times Best Sellers, and two won awards from the American Library Association for Best Reference Book of they Year. I've written syndicated columns for Goodhouskeeping Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and New York Times Syndicate, and appeared in thousands of other magazines and newspapers. I've been a regular guest on hundreds of national and local talk shows including Larry King, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Oprah, Leno, and Letterman. I'm having a wonderful time in life and it keeps getting better and better. I can't wait to get up every morning and tackle the challenges that are important to me. I feel very fortunate to be alive and to be able to do what I am doing. I have learned so much over the years and I intend to keep on learning and growing no matter what age I am. Every 10 years I just find different parts to grow. Learning and understanding "how to do things" is more important to me than "just doing things." Over the years I have developed my own philosophies on how to get through this world we live in. Whether you are successful or not, we all are struggling. No one seems to have the true answer. It seems that the true answer is different for each one of us. We each walk around in a world that is unique to us and no one other person can understand completely. We don't even completely understand ourselves, so how is anyone else going to completely understand? What we get from others who share their struggles and successes, is a peek at new tools and a new understanding for dealing with our own struggles and reaching our own success.
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That's what I keep telling my staff. Because in today's world if you really believe that you know what you are doing you are going to wind up being out of business. It means you are playing it too safe. What ever worked in the past is not likely to work in the future. You have to continue to keep trying new things. And I mean things that you have no idea will work or not. The world constantly changes and if you don't keep changing with it, you will be out of business or out of a job. Nobody really knows what they're doing in life. We are all guessing, even the experts. And the sooner we admit that the better off we will be. So go out there and make sure your DON'T know what you're doing. This isn't brain surgery it's just life.
Millionaires in this country are not those people we see on TV driving expensive cars and living in big fancy expensive homes, according to the book "The Millionaire Next Door" by two PhD's Stanley and Deanko. Their data show that only about 3.5% of the country have $1 million or more in assets to fit this category and these people have the following characteristics:
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer too much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. "-- Theodore Roosevelt
Salesmen like me, will have you believe that there is something magical in the way we earned our success and that if you buy something from us you will be able to buy some of the magic that made us successful. But it's not true. You can't buy someone else's magic. We all have our own magic. We are all special in some unique way. It is our job to find what our own creative uniqueness is and share it with the world. You have your own magic. It is your job to find it.
Brian Williams, heir apparent to Tom Brokow at NBC News attended George Washington University but never finished.Harrison Ford, the actor from Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the current K-19, attended Ripon College but never finished.Milton Friedman who won a Nobel Prize in Economics flunked his qualifying exam to work in insurance. Back at the early 1900;s there was a man named Dr. Samuel P. Langley who was the country's leading expert on aerodynamics and even got a $50,000 government grant to try to come up with successful airplane. He failed after decades of work. But two, uneducated, unknown, and unfunded bicycle mechanics, Orville and Wilbur Wright did it instead.
They keep telling you about possibilities but not the probabilities. Your mom says: "Don't run with a pencil in your hand, you'll poke your eye out." "You better eat all your vegetables because there are millions of people in India starving." Your lawyer says: "You are going to be audited by the IRS and go to jail if you don't hire me to help with your taxes." "Someone is going to sue you and take your house, your car and your family if you don't do what I say." You have a 1,000% greater chance of being killed in a car than poking your eye out or going to jail for your taxes, but we never worry about driving a car. Your mom can't give you the names of 3 people who are starving in India and your lawyer can name 3 local people who lost everything because they didn't do what their lawyer said.
If you choose something you really want to do, failure can be a wonderful motivator. When you fall down, the little voice inside will say "Get up, get up. You can't let them keep you down. You can show them. You're good enough to do it. Keep trying."These little self pep talks will come easily in failure when you are doing what you really want to do in life. You are eventually going to show everyone that you can do it. That you are going to keep coming back no matter what they do to you to try to keep you down. WOW... That's really living.
Change your little portion of the world the way you dream the world should be. If you hate the way businesses are run, then start your own and run it the way you believe a business SHOULD be run. It you hate the way politicians lie all the time, run for a local office yourself, like the school board or dog catcher and start telling the truth. You may not be able to change the entire world the way you want it before you die, but you do have the power to change your little portion of it. And you cannot gain the right to criticize unless you walk the walk along with talking the talk. "Even If You Are On The Right Track You'll Get Run Over If You Just Sit There...."I found out from Tom Friedman in the New York Times that Will Rogers said this a long time ago.
How can anyone forecast what the world will be like 6 months from now or 3 years from now? Most of us don't know what we will be doing next Thursday. So how is anyone going to be able to predict what a business will look like 2 or 3 years from now? So when someone asks you for a business plan in order for you to apply for money just give them what they want and don't worry about how accurate it is. The best experts in the world don't know the future so why should you? If you need help with your business plan contact your local Small Business Development Center. The help is free or close to it. To find a center near you go to http://www.asbdc-us.org/
If you're looking for free money to start a business and you can't find exactly what you need, what are you going to do then? That is the test of a true entrepreneur. Will you give up? Will you say, "I told you so. I didn't think there would be any money for me." Do you think that all the great businesses and entrepreneurs in this country started that way? Do you think they gave up at the first road block? Life is full of road blocks for everything that is really fun to do in life. If the road blocks weren't there, it wouldn't be fun. Look at them as something to go over, around or through.
Remember, you have nothing better to do than to try to improve your life. And you can have a great time doing it. When you call these agencies, they are not going to have professional comics answering the telephone giving you a laugh a minute as they shower you with all the information you need to get a wad of cash. They are just people like you and me trying to get through the day and do a decent job. But you can create fun for yourself and make the process a wonderful experience if you don't take yourself so seriously.Make the whole process a game. Tell the bureaucrats things like:
Talk like this disarms people. The more natural and honest you are about what you are doing, the more people can relate to you, and the more fun you will have.
The two ways to have job security are to create your own job by starting a business (you're not going to fire yourself unless you're really stupid!) or get the education and training that people are willing to pay money for so if someone comes into you organization and fires you, you can go right across the street and get a better job than the one you have because you have the skills that people need. You can't rely on other people. You have to rely on yourself. So invest in yourself and not the stock market. Why give all you money to some stock broker when they will have all the fun playing with your money and you have all the worry. Stock brokers aren't so smart about the market. They're smart about getting your money. Did you have any money in Internet stocks?
When kids learn to walk for the first time they fall on their butts 100 times before they get it right. Why is it that we get so frustrated when we do something new and we can't do it right away. If you want to do something new in your life you will fall down on your butt 100 times before you get it right. It's OK. Everyone does it. They just don't admit it.
Look at all the stupid people running businesses in this country. I certainly worked for enough of them myself at one time...
...that ever made anyone happy. The notion that work is a burden is a terrible mistake."This is a quote from the famous movie star Katharine Hepburn. I read this in a story about her recent death at the age of 96. I believe this, too. But I also put family up there, too. She didn't have kids. I guess Ms. Hepburn and I have more in common than just clothes.
I just started a book called "Stories Of Personal Achievement" by a woman who is the granddaughter of the founder of IBM. She interviews a few dozen highly successful business, non-profit, and artistic leaders and concludes that...."success seems to stem for a single variable: They trust their passion for something beyond themselves and follow it with a full dedication. Almost everyone I interviewed said that to find their passion, they simply remained vigilant in their search. Nearly all the leaders did find their passion, and then followed it with great intensity throughout their lives. Most suffered difficult times but managed to stay on their paths, demonstrating high levels of self-confidence and resilience. They handled conflict and criticism in a positive manner. They used their struggles as opportunities for creativity and finding new ways to approach their endeavors and themselves. All share an inner knowledge that their passion in something beyond themselves is so strong they can only succeed." This rings true in my ears.
If you're not sure exactly which program to apply to, then apply everywhere. The worst thing that can happen is that you get too much money. That's a nice problem to have. You can always give it back. You can also take the approach of thinking nationally but acting locally. Keep in mind that there are federal programs you can eventually turn to, but start applying at the local level first and see how you do. The local level is where officials are going to be more sensitive to your needs and have a better understanding of you and your project. Then you can turn to the state and then go up to the federal government.
You can take the fear out of any audit by seeing what the auditor is going to look for when they come to audit you. You can get copies of the IRS's own In-House Auditing Manuals. These are the guidelines that the IRS auditors have to follow when they come to audit you. It's like getting the test ahead of time. But because of the government's own Freedom of Information Act, this is now legal. You can receive a listing of all available audit manuals by sending a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) to Internal Revenue Service:
Attn:Freedom of Information,c/o Ben Franklin Station,P.O. Box 795, Washington, DC 20004, 202-622-5164.If you want to look at some non-secret manuals available go tohttp://www.irs.gov/taxpros/display/0,,i1%3D5%26genericId%3D21023,00.html
Jane Killinger, who fills out grant applications for the Weymouth, Mass. schools, has adopted the same attitude she once tried to instill in her soccer-playing daughter: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." This attitude got her $4 million in the last 6 months. A great source for grants and grant writing skills is The Foundation Center at http://fdncenter.org/. Or take a look at our new book on grant writing at http://www.lesko.com/howtowrite/grgrant10
...for what is rightfully due them. For example:
We think we want lots of money, right? "If I only had a million dollars, I could do this." "Oh, if I only had $10 million, I could do that." "If I had a half a million dollars, I could do this." When I see studies of businesses and why they went out of business, they all say, "Lack of adequate financing." That is a copout. Sure, if somebody threw lots of money at you, maybe you could stay around longer. But the real trick in life is how to do it with less money than you think you need. They are the kinds of people who are the survivors in our country. The survivors are not the ones that have millions and millions of dollars to do anything they want in life. With lots of money it's hard to create anything new. You do not add anything new to our society. All you do is learn how to buy things. We all yell at Congress because they seem to be throwing money at all the problems we have in our society, and they always seem to want to spend more money. But we seem to do the same in our personal lives, right? We seem to say to ourselves, "I can't go back to school because I don't have a lot of money." "I can't start a business because I don't have a lot of money. " Gosh, we sound just like Congress when you have those kinds of feelings. You can do what you want to do in life and you just may not need as much money as they thought you did.You can start a business nowadays with just a phone, a desk and a business card. How much money is that going to take? A hundred bucks? Fifty bucks? Twenty bucks? So, $200 and you are in business, and you go and get customers. That is it. If you don't have money, then think of another way to do it, or think of a way to do it with less money. There are other solutions. You're just not thinking. The biggest obstacle to success in life is our own mind. When I started my business I used to think the same thing. I would dream about all the things I could have been doing if I only had a lot of money. I started with a phone, a desk and a couple of thousand bucks. I used to put little one-inch ads in the Wall Street Journal because I was trying to sell research to businesses. In one-inch ads, I could not say a whole lot, but that was all I could afford. I got crazy people calling or writing letters in crayon on napkins and stuff like that.
Then I had a brainstorm. How do I get in media without buying advertising? How can I get my name out to people without spending advertising money? And that is what you see now. You see this idiot on TV, acting like a madman. I quickly found out that if you are an idiot and crazy on TV, they will put you on TV! It does not matter what you say.
The way I did it was to publish a free newsletter. I said that if businesses wanted to know how to get free information for their business, subscribe to my free newsletter. And the Wall Street Journal wrote an article about my free newsletter, as did others.
Then I was getting legitimate inquiries on business stationery, like Citicorp Bank, who later became a client. They wrote for my free newsletter and wanted to know how to get free information so their business would be successful. I got a $3,000 contract from them. I figured out how to be in the Wall Street Journal for free. Now, if I had a million dollars, I would be spending more time writing a bigger ad because I would have an advertising agency, right? And if the next ad didn't work, I'd buy a bigger one, because I'd have the money. To say it louder.
But if you do not have money, you get smarter. You learn how to do it cheaper, and that is what you have to do to survive. Anybody can spend money, but can you get that business without spending the money? That is the key to success.
When I was going on TV and selling my books, I figured TV was pretty boring. I wondered who was watching TV? Most people have the TV on while they are doing something else. Then I thought, if I got on the Today Show and they said, "Next is Matthew Lesko to talk about the government," people are likely to say, "I don't want to know about the government?" And they would likely go into the kitchen or bathroom and start doing something else.
My theory is, I have got to get you out of the bathroom. So, I go on TV and start jumping around and screaming. Then you come out of the bathroom and say, "What is that idiot talking about?" Now I have got your attention. Maybe I can teach you something. I used to be a professor, teaching computer science to adult students. They had been working all day and then would come to class. I knew if I could not keep them awake at night, I would never teach them anything! That is the same thing with TV. If I cannot keep you awake, I cannot teach you anything.
Then I saw the reason why they invited me back on TV shows. It was not because I sounded smart or I knew what I was saying. They wanted me because I acted like an idiot! This was entertainment. It was not what I said, but how I said it. And you know that when we see things, it is how people do things we remember and not really what they are saying. You have to play into that and use it. That is what I did.
You have to find out how to get customers with as little money as possible. Anybody can do it with a lot of money. That is why you should not stop your dream simply because you don't have all the money you thought you should have. Find out how to do it with little money. Once you do you will become smarter and stronger.
So many friends of mine, who had millions from venture capital companies went out of business during the first downturn of the stock market. And do you know why they went out of business? Because they only knew how to do it with a lot of money. When they did not have the money any more, they did not know how to survive.
I am going to be doing what I do for a long time because I can do it with no money or with lots of money. I don't care how much I have. I will find out how to get a customer with $0 in my bank account because tht is the way I started That is how you become a stronger individual. You become a stronger member of society. Anybody can spend money. You have to learn how to do it without the money.
This is true not only in business but in all areas of society. It's easy to say, "I can't go back and get an advanced degree to better my family and myself, because I will need $300,000 to live in the style to which I have become accustomed." You are not going to grow unless you learn how to sacrifice for a few years. If you are in your thirties, forties or even fifties, don't forget you are likely to live 40, 50 or 60 more years. I am going to be 60 soon and I figure I got at least 30 more years. You have got to think long-term.
Don't worry about how many programs you can apply for, If you see a program that you think might work for you, apply to it. If you apply to 50 programs and everyone gives you the money, that is a wonderful problem to have. Only worry about it after it happens, not before.