Are Your LEAPing Forward?

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I’m always interested in learning how people challenge basic premises – common knowledge or personal prejudices – only to find that they’re wrong and self-limiting. Only by recognizing the truth, can we realize our potential when it comes to our lives, companies and communities. That’s the thinking behind the Wachs-Berger test which identified football-brilliant skills that traditional aptitude tests couldn’t measure and Billy Bean’s unique approach to recruiting a winning team of baseball players for the Oakland Athletics (see MoneyBall). It’s one of the reasons I enjoy serving as a trusted advisor, executive coach and Vistage chair: I have the privilege of working with people who are willing to explore “different boxes†in order to grow.

Lewis Schiff, in Business Brilliant, uses research Russ Prince and he collected several years ago to compare the views of middle-class respondents (people with incomes in the upper third quartile of the US (e.g., $50-$80,0000) and accumulated wealth putting them in the top 10% of US households to self-made millionaires whose net worth, through only their own earnings, ranged from $1-10 million. On many criteria, education, marital status, family size, the groups were fairly similar; on financial aspirations they also were similar, with 85% of both agreeing that “money can buy happinessâ€.

He discovered that the middle-class respondents were blind to the mechanisms in how wealth is produced according to the self-made millionaires. For instance, while the former  believed people should “do what I love and allow the money to follow†, the latter believed people should “do what you love, but follow the moneyâ€. Similarly, while the former focused on increasing savings – as Suze Orman recommends, the latter focused on earning more – often by simply asking for more, because they’ll often get it!  A few more differences: self-made millionaires are less concerned with innovating and more concerned with imitating and adapting ideas; while “knowledge (“know what and how†) is important, knowing the right people (“know whoâ€Â  is often more important; and finally, while no-one likes to failure, self-made millionaires more often say setbacks and failures as important teachers concerning what they should and shouldn’t do.

Schiff concludes his analysis by identifying four areas of daily activity that successful self-made entrepreneurs undertake more efficiently and consistently that most people. They form the acronym LEAP:

L earning what they do best and pursuing opportunities to do what they do best

E arning through projects/deals that maximize dollar potential, while limiting downside risks

A ssistance by cultivating networks of friends, partners and associates to get advice and help on taks beyond the bounds of what they do best.  (That’s the power of Vistage’s Peer groups!)

P ersistance means taking an authentic interest in one’s setbacks as an important and necessary aspect of the success process.

How would you rate yourself as a person willing to take the LEAP to self-made wealth? Schiff subdivides these categories into a list of 17 Essentials of Business Brilliance you may want to read the book to identify them  — and then explore which of your preconceived notions regarding wealth generation are holding you back!

* Jerry Cahn, Ph.D., J.D. is a Vistage Chair in New York City working with business owners and CEOs. For more information contact him at, or 646-290-7664.