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Continuing the analysis of the Yahoo! Finance article 21 Ways Rich People Think Differenly, a condensed “interview” with Steve Siebold, author of How Rich People Think.

4. Average people think the road to riches is paved with formal education. Rich people believe in acquiring specific knowledge.

“Many world-class performers have little formal education, and have amassed their wealth through the acquisition and subsequent sale of specific knowledge,” he writes.

“Meanwhile, the masses are convinced that master’s degrees and doctorates are the way to wealth, mostly because they are trapped in the linear line of thought that holds them back from higher levels of consciousness. . . . The wealthy aren’t interested in the means, only the end.”

Mr. Siebold, I’m afraid you’ve been lied to. Yes, there are some wealthy folk who don’t have college degrees, and more who maybe only have a bachelor’s degree. But the majority of the wealthy “world class” (as you call them)—the CEOs of banks, investment firms, oil companies, etc.—have master’s degrees (usually MBAs) or PhDs.

Ah, but perhaps you’re referring only to the “self made” wealthy, the ones who started out just like regular folks, but had a revolutionary idea and the vision/genius/cojones/whatever to make it real. Like Steve Jobs, who dropped out of Reed College after only six months and started Apple Computers in his garage.

Well, guess what? As I outlined in Part 1 of this series, he got ridiculously lucky. (He was also ruthless and dishonest, but that’s not entirely germane to this point.) For every one like him, there are thousands (at least) of others who tried to do what he did and failed spectacularly. Not because their ideas were any less great or their vision was any less clear, but simply because they didn’t catch all the breaks that Jobs did.

There’s also the fact that, while advanced degrees may not be a sure path to wealth, they definitely enhance the hireability and earning potential of “average people”. In fact, a recent study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce concluded that the median income of those with advanced degrees is over 38% higher than those with only bachelors degrees in the same field. Over the course of a career, that difference can add up to more than a million dollars of extra earnings. For most people, that’s a no-brainer.

So, Mr. Siebold, whatever these rich people told you about formal education not being valuable, it’s a crock. If so few of the rich people you talked to have college degrees that you can conclude that “the world class” do not value higher education, then your sample is so skewed as to be useless. Either that, or you’re being mislead. And perhaps the rich folks are misleading themselves as well, discounting the value of their own degrees and playing up the role of specialized knowledge in their stories. But either way . . . you, sir, are full of it.

And one last thing. That bit in the second paragraph, the one that goes “because they are trapped in the linear line of thought that holds them back from higher levels of consciousness”? [Emphasis mine]

Like before, I’m gobstopped. That is just such . . . arrogance! Pure, unadulterated arrogance! Do you truly think that, just because someone is wealthy and successful, they’ve achieved Nirvana?!? Because that’s what it sounds like you’re saying. And even if you just mean “rich people are smarter/savvier/better multitaskers/whatever than average people”, it’s still arrogance. Success just means that someone has a skill or created a product that just happens to be in high demand in the marketplace at this point in time and at this place on Earth. Smarts and savvy certainly play a part, but “higher levels of consciousness” almost certainly do not.

Tomorrow’s installment gets into backward-looking versus forward-thinking people, and is the first point wherein I agree with all of Mr. Siebold’s statements . . . just not the inferences he obviously makes from them.*


*Also, “tomorrow’s” installment may be delayed. I had hoped to have it finished well ahead of time, but I had a head cold over the weekend, and critical thinking was made exponentially more difficult because of it.

Previously in this series: Prelude and Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 10th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I can't agree with you in your estimation of Steve Jobs as "ridiculously lucky, ruthless, and dishonest." Apple was a success while he was CEO, lost value after he was fired, and rebounded to astronomical heights after his return. This seems to indicate something far beyond sheer 'luck'. It is also documented that he was quite driven (i.e. passionate to a fault) about everything he did, which I'm sure attributed to his successes. You could call this 'ruthless', though whatever word you use (and however distasteful), it helped Apple meet some of the impossible goals he set forth. As for his alleged dishonestly: I'm sorry; I've heard he was a tyrant to work for, but I don't recall him ever being called dishonest. The only example I can think of that might fit that description is in regards to the blue-box pranks he pulled with Woz back in college, but nothing after Apple Inc. was founded.

Contrary to the above paragraph, I'm not a big fan of Steve Jobs personally (he had way too many character flaws in my opinion), but his business savy and ability to 'get things done' has always garnered my respect. I've often been called a hard worker, but even in hindsight I don't think I could ever have provided the drive and determination that he did in making the 'magical devices' of Apple, Inc. ever come to fruition.

Sep. 10th, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
IIRC [w/out taking refresher research time] Jobs was less-than-honest in profit sharing and stock allocations.
Still, an amazing individual.
Sep. 10th, 2012 06:50 pm (UTC)
Sorry, Steve Jobs was NOT an honest person...
Discussing planning to defraud the UC system AND the advertising agency that my dad was working with (he was a freelance photographer)? While he was in my dad's studio ... and Apple was a going concern. The only reason that he didn't do 5-to-10 in the State penitentiary was that he managed to sweet talk someone into buying the European rights to Apple (which gave him enough money to make good on his deal with UC, thereby making moot any question of fraud).

He also forced Woz out of the business (and Woz was the real technical genius behind the Apple II's success). No, Jobs was good at being a Robber Baron style leader of Industry. Not that he was by any means unique in the Silicon valley in the 1970s...
Sep. 11th, 2012 11:48 am (UTC)
A correction for a correction...
According to Steve Wozniak's Wikipedia entry, he wasn't "forced out" of anything—after his plane crash, he took two years off, came back to Apple as a design engineer (because he didn't want anything higher), then went back to Berkeley to finish his degree. It's all here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Wozniak#Employment_with_Apple

That being said, though, the story about your dad and the UC system is pretty disturbing. The "dishonesty" I was talking about was his lifting of technology and design elements from Xerox PARC.
Sep. 11th, 2012 12:21 pm (UTC)
Re: A correction for a correction...
"Stealing" the ideas from Xerox PARC amounts to: we use an idea, not the implementation of an idea. That's not stealing - that's research. Not that dishonest. It's the difference between reusing a plot (with a different story line in detail) and plagiarism - "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy kills himself" - that's ROMEO AND JULIET ... or KING KONG. It's all in the implementation. (I'm swiping this last routine from JMS of Babylon 5 fame - "only steal from the best").
Sep. 11th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC)
Re: A correction for a correction...
That may be true, but then Apple went and patented all the things they "researched" at PARC and tried to sue other companies who used them (such as Microsoft).
Sep. 10th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Lies, damn lies, and...
Statistically, the best way to ensure that you are going to be a wealthy person is to be born to wealthy parents. Rich people who inherit wealth are no more intelligent or hard working than poor people - they are just luckier.

It is far easier to go from 10 million dollars to 20 million dollars than it is to go from 0 dollars to 1 million dollars. A quick check on the 4% ROI of double tax free bonds (a PERFECTLY legal investment) makes that clear...(that, and the rule of 72 - if you invest $10M at 4%, in 18 years it will be worth $20M - an easy way to make $10M double-tax free ... if you have the initial $10M and are able to just "let it ride").
Sep. 11th, 2012 11:49 am (UTC)
Re: Lies, damn lies, and...
All true.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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