Maybe the question should be, “Why isn’t every single smart person rich”?
The simple answer might be that some people do not want to be rich. Money isn’t everything. Some people choose careers that are not lucrative, such as teachers, researchers, scientists or people who choose to dedicate their life’s work to a religious organization. Different people have different priorities.
Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s look at the definitions of smart and rich.
Smart – adjective \ˈsmärt\ : very good at learning or thinking about things, knowledgeable, showing intelligence or good judgment
Rich – adjective \ˈrich\ : having abundant possessions and especially material wealth
Success is More a Function of Effort than an Idea
Not taking that leap of faith, because of the inherent risk of the unknown, is too much for some people to handle. There is a blind leap required to believe you will get to the other side that simply baffles many very smart people. You also have to consider that the “smart” person knows too much, always takes the safe road or path of least resistance to appease the fear and possibility of failure. This alone hinders their ability to become rich. Many others simply lack the business skills or intellect needed. Taking risks and being outside the comfort zone is a trait of many self-made, rich people.
IQ isn’t everything. Intelligence does not equal ambition, vision or ones inherent ability to see the endgame – having abundant possessions and especially material wealth, i.e. being very rich. IQ has no relation to wealth. You also need to consider EQ (emotional quotient). While both IQ and EQ are related, they are also opposite in their view of mental ability. Whereas IQ sees intelligence as being a single measurable characteristic affecting all mental ability, EQ breaks mental ability down into many different characteristics which include the ability to evaluate, identify, express and control emotions, one’s own emotions; perceive and assess others’ emotions; use emotions to facilitate thinking and understand emotional meanings.
Luck or Lack Thereof
Some extremely dumb people are very rich and it just happens to be based on luck. Winning the lottery, inheriting money, being born into a rich family or marrying into money are all easy ways to be or become very rich. What does it mean to be extremely lucky? I would define luck as; success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions. So can being in the right place, at the right time or having the right idea and knowing the right people assist you in becoming rich?
Thinkers vs. Doers
Coming up with a good or great idea isn’t difficult – Implementing it and seeing it through to fruition is the difficult part. Being pragmatic and hands-on is a mandatory prerequisite which most rich entrepreneurs possess. Simply theorizing and not taking action is a likely rationale in understanding why the majority of very smart people are not rich. Being self-disciplined and not seeking instant gratification is also a trait of most self-made, rich entrepreneurs. Hard work and a never ending need to achieve success is an ingrained, burning desire of most smart, rich people. Individuals who are both smart and rich think differently than most and have their priorities organized differently than the majority of people who are simply smart. Creating wealth isn’t easy, even for smart people. Simply creating value doesn’t mean that you can capture or save any of it. All smart people have different driving motivations and some of these motivations conflict with wealth creation goals.
Besides a slew of other reason why all smart people aren’t rich, including but not limited to; lack of motivation, passion, poor social skills, emotional instability, the right opportunities, need or desire, not having a trusted network of advisers or mentors, you should also consider that the brightest and richest people realize that being rich isn’t a high priority, so they focus their time and energies on things which are more important to them.
Related Article: Mistakes & Failures are the Key to Success
On my way into work this morning I decided to stop and pick up bagels for the office and a cup of coffee for myself. As I pulled up to the bagel store, I noticed that I was 5 minutes early, because they hadn’t opened yet. So, I parked and got online behind the 3 people standing at the front door waiting for the store to open. I only waited about 10 minutes, but by the time they opened the doors, there must have been 20 people waiting in line behind me. Since there were only 2 people behind the counter, it seemed to be moving pretty slowly. When it was my turn to order, the guy in line directly behind me leaned over my shoulder and asked the girl who was getting ready to help me if he could try the cinnamon raisin bagel. They had samples of each of the bagels cut up for customer to ‘try before they buy’ behind the counter. The counter girl politely asked the customer to wait his turn and asked me what I needed. Before I could give her my order, the guy behind me quickly interrupted me again and said he simply wanted to try a piece of the cinnamon raisin bagel. The girl behind the counter said she would be with him as soon as she finished with me. I attempted to try and give her my order again and once again, this annoying guy interrupted me and said, “Just give me a piece of that bagel to try”. At this point, I turned to him and explained that I was next and as soon as I get my order he could try as many different bagels as he would like. He looked at me with a blank, somewhat dumbfounded look on his face and went silent. While I thought that was it and began to place my order, you guessed it, he interrupted me again and in a pissed off tone said he wanted to just try a piece of that cinnamon raisin bagel.
As you can imagine, by this point I was getting twisted and somewhat aggravated at this clown, for his continual interruptions and I figured I better put an end to his ongoing obstruction in my attempt to get my bagels and the cup of coffee I came for, so I could make it to work without a pit stop at the police station for assault. Without taking another breath, I asked the girl behind the counter how much it would cost for all of the bagels they had. After a few seconds of her comprehending my question, she turned around, looked at the rack of bagels, turned back around and said, “I’m not sure…. Maybe $400”. I then said, “OK, I’ll take them all. Give me a black cup of coffee and bag up 2 dozen bagels for me. Then give everyone else in line, except this guy standing behind me, all of the bagels they want for free – my treat.”
As the ear-to-ear smile slowly appeared on the counter girls face and the guy behind me started bitching and saying “you can’t do that”, I simply turned to him and said, “Yes I can – and – I just did”. After I finally got my cup of coffee and bagels and walked out of the store, a few people in line behind me thanked me and the ‘cinnamon raisin, impatient, bagel taster guy’ stormed out bitching about something and mumbling under his breath.
Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. Besides the moral of the story being, “Don’t be an interrupting asshole and wait your turn”, I started thinking about people being over-aggressive, not being patient and waiting their turn. Since I am involved in the email marketing space, this brought me to think about why companies are over-aggressive and send their email campaigns non-stop and how their overzealous campaign strategy can alienate their customers, piss people off and lead to unsubscribes.
Don’t Annoy your Customer with your Email Marketing Strategy
Most people think the more they send to their email list, the better chances they have of converting a new lead or sale. In actuality, the more you send, the more your engagement per campaign goes down. If you over send to your email list, besides the reduction in engagement, you’ll also have to consider that your subscribers might think you’re spamming them, and exit your list very quickly. There is no magic number when it comes to the frequency of email campaigns or newsletters you send to your customers on a weekly or monthly basis. Be sure to send them relevant information and don’t simply send, just to send. Keep your subscribers loyal and don’t give them a reason to opt-out. Make your message relevant and to the point. Find what feels to be a comfortable middle ground and send relevant information and tweak the frequency based on campaign engagement.
We find that sending to our customers and newsletter recipients twice per month is the sweet spot for us, although this is not set in stone. If we have more to share, we’ll send more often and if we have less to share… well, you get the idea.
So, for Shawn (last name omitted on purpose) from Newsweek and the 2 other emails I received questioning the validity of the events in the bagel store, I’ve posted the receipt below.
If you see a great business idea on the internet, you should steal it.
Notice I didn’t say copy it; there’s as little point in duplicating someone else’s online business as there is in doing so in the brick and mortar world. But the idea itself? Absolutely.
Starbucks didn’t invent the notion of “fair trade coffee,” any more than they were the first company to sell a cup of brew. But they “stole” the idea of marketing products with buyers’ social consciences in mind, and ran with it in a big way — they now sell more “fair trade” coffee than anyone else on the planet. If you can imagine a way to utilize an idea in a way that can make it more successful and profitable, you should “steal” it, and run; dreaming up a better implementation for a great idea is much, much easier than coming up with a great idea from whole cloth.
Beyond being easier, many believe it’s something of a moral imperative to “steal” great ideas. Squidoo founder and consummate internet entrepreneur Seth Godin this year put it well (and in his typically upbeat fashion): “Ideas can’t be stolen, because ideas don’t get smaller when they’re shared, they get bigger.” He went on to suggest that the responsibility of the “stealer” was then to improve upon the idea — just like Starbucks “improved” the idea of marketing fair trade. Or Apple “improved” the mouse.
Most tech-savvy folks know Apple didn’t invent the mouse. Engineers at Xerox built the first practical modern computer mouse — their version had three buttons, cost $300 to manufacture, and had practically no raison d’etre. Steve Jobs saw it, went to his engineers and demanded Apple’s version have one button, be cheaper to build, and be the cornerstone of not just an interface but the entire Macintosh line itself. Did he steal the idea? Looks like it to a lot of folks. But he also improved upon it, and that made all the difference.
Many of us who were alive in 1971 (and quite a few who weren’t) remember counterculture activist Abbie Hoffman’s publication of the highly controversial Steal This Book, a sixties-fueled polemic that targeted, among other things, the American economic system. In it, most recall, Hoffman both advocated and morally justified theft — but what fewer remember was the post-release controversy when researcher Izak Haber accused Hoffman of (what else?) stealing his work on the book without compensation.
Haber was eventually paid, and the ideas in the book went on to influence a new generation, who wrote books of their own, expanding and improving upon Hoffman’s ideas about social justice in ways that are easily visible, even in today’s highly technological marketplace. That businesses like Starbucks or Apple are even aware of phrases like “fair trade” or “non-sweatshop labor” speaks to the notion of great ideas as simply roots, upon which a tree grows; ultimately, the quality and quantity of the fruit harvest is all about execution. Anyone can plant an apple seed, but not everyone can develop a billion-dollar market for apple sauce — or see the potential for a mouse moving a cursor on a computer screen.
Put even more simply, and recognizably: don’t reinvent the wheel. Build something innovative that runs on wheels, and you’re miles ahead — even before you begin.