Friday, September 02, 2005

Declare Your Independence from Conventional Billionaire Thinking, Traditional Economics and Harmful Fantasies!

Good morning, Successful People!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I certainly know that I am!

This entry was originally published on July 4, 2005,

It's Independence Day in the United States
, the date in 1776 when the founders of our nation finalized the Declaration of Independence that set off our amazingly successful experiment with self-government.

I wanted to write a post today that would capture that same spirit as applied to being more successful than a billionaire..

Over the weekend, I was reading the best selling non-fiction book, Freakonomics. I was struck that the book has done so well because it has very little content, limited information that isn't well known, and employs methods that any first year statistics student could use. I showed the cover to my wife and younger daughter, and they were fascinated by what they saw. The book has an image of a sliced apple which has an orange inside of it. I decided that the title and the cover had to be big parts of the book's appeal . . . because books about doing elementary statistical analysis don't usually sell so well.

So what does Freakonomics have to do with apples and oranges? As best I can tell, Freakonomics has very little to do with those fruits in a literal sense. The metaphor seems to be intended to be applied in two ways: First, you have to compare apples and oranges to the right reference to understand what you are examining; and second, sometimes the cause of something comes from an unexpected source when we peel back the skin of surface reality.

How can we apply that metaphor to succeeding better than a billionaire?

The wealth of a billionaire is like a large object that dominates the landscape, obliterating the view of much else that is or could be going on. That dominance leads to a mind set that isn't necessarily helpful to the billionaire.

Let's think about how billionaires usually live. Since billionaires rarely live in camping tents on a deserted beach, a billionaire's life is usually the essence of acquisitiveness and covetousness . . . and in some cases, power hunger. We see those same qualities reflected in mere millionaires and the upper middle class in most countries.

Malcolm Forbes always made that impression on me. He loved his collections of Faberge eggs (made originally for the Tsars of Russia as Easter gifts) and toy soldiers. He also loved to entertain potential advertisers on his yacht. Those who didn't buy ads sometimes found negative stories written about them in Mr. Forbes's eponymously named publication. At one time he dated Elizabeth Taylor. There was no gesture too grand for Mr. Forbes. In a way, he was the prototype for Donald Trump in living conspicuously as a wealthy New Yorker.

Let's think about those qualities in psychological terms. What do they say about the person who emphasizes them? Well, I'm no psychologist (not even of the Tom Cruise variety), but I've read a lot of books about psychological research. One of the standard interpretations of those who seek to acquire more things than others in a compulsive way is a strong need to offset a sense of insecurity. Such people may feel unloved, unappreciated and like imposters who are unworthy in a world they feel is hostile to them. They fear the day that everyone wakes up to their inadequacy and leaves them . . . alone with their possessions. But at least they'll be able to eat! Those who covet, by comparison, may feel unfairly powerless. They feel inadequate because they measure themselves compared to what others have and hope that if they had more symbols of adequacy they would, in fact, become adequate. But the inadequacy is mostly in a social sense . . . people who don't get enough respect to satisfy them and crave that recognition. In a sense, these are people who feel extremely unloved. And the power hungry? They don't feel like they want love, they demand respect based on the physical ability to take what they want. Billionaire dictators who steal from their own citizens are a good example of this psychology.

What does all this have to do with you?

I want to introduce you to some other ways of thinking that you may find more psychologically rewarding than the burrs under the saddle of many billionaires.

A number of years ago I took a fascinating course with Dr. Richard Bandler, the co-founder of what is now called Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The course was called Design Human Engineering. In the course, Dr. Bandler explained that we could create any attitude, mood or emotion simply by taking charge of our minds. Here's a simple example. If you want to feel excited, you simply imagine all the times when you had felt such extreme excitement . . . and tie that feeling to the concept of having a dial in your mind that allowed you to increase or decrease that level of excitement . . . on your command. As a practice exercise, he had everyone else in the room cheering loudly for us when we wanted more excitement and then quieting down when we wanted less. That gave us a cheering memory to use to reinforce our self control over our own excitement. It's a quite effective technique, and I highly recommend the course and concept to you.

But having you learn that technique is not my purpose. Instead, I want to break down succeeding better than a billionaire into its component parts so you can become independent of the thought processes that billionaires are dogged by.

First, choose positive fantasies. When we imagine ourselves doing something great, we are reinforcing a positive image of ourselves. A year ago during the Tour de France in which Lance Armstrong won his sixth title in a row, there was an advertisement for a bicycle company that featured an ordinary man imagining that he was winning the Tour de France. If the ordinary man carried that thought with him only when he rode his bicycle, then that thought could have a positive benefit by encouraging him to ride his bike more often. The ordinary man would benefit from both more exercise through a fitter body and from a sense of confidence as his riding improved. And anytime he saw or heard about Lance Armstrong or winning the Tour de France, his positive fantasy would be further reinforced.

By comparison, a billionaire might have a negative fantasy. Like Uncle Scrooge in the Disney comics, a billionaire might imagine that thieves are all around her or him and be afraid to meet new people who aren't billionaires . . . who might want to steal the money. Or the billionaire might think that no one loved him or her as much as the other people loved her or his money. That's the message of the penultimate scene in Citizen Kane as Kane calls for "Rosebud" with his dying breath. Having that negative fantasy harms the billionaire by making him or her afraid and encouraging behavior that will be likely to reduce positive human contacts.

To live better than a billionaire, you need to employ positive fantasies. Rather than let any old fantasy grab your mind, fill your mind instead with fantasies that bring out the best in you. Rather than imagining yourself as Mike Tyson, imagine living like the most admirable person you know or have read about. In doing this, think twice before picking celebrities who are important mostly because of how they look or how well they are known. Pick people who are wholesome and helpful to others. If you want to pick a celebrity, choose someone like Paul Newman who is a great actor or actress (such as his wife, Joanne Woodward), does great work for charitable causes and knows how to have fun as well (such as through his automobile racing) while keeping his or her values intact.

Second, create new fantasies . . . and reinforce old ones. I call this process "fantasynomics". Here's an example. One of the most powerful symbols in U.S.
culture for men is that of the cowboy. An even more powerful symbol is the marshal (like Matt Dillon, played by James Arness, in Gunsmoke) who used his wits and his gun to keep the law. For those who find this image to be irresistible, consider taking up Cowboy Action Shooting. These are competitions where the contestants don Western gear, adopt nicknames based on Western lore and test themselves in timed target shooting with Western-style guns. If you are interested, visit to find a club and lists of events you can attend and enter. There are special events for beginners and participation can cost as little as $40.

Before choosing such an activity, be aware of the downside risks. When I was young, my band teacher used to compete in quick draw contests around a similar theme. All that stopped painfully, however, when his gun caught in his holster, and my teacher shot himself in the foot with a live round.

Building around the frontier theme, many of the best parties I've attended simply asked everyone to dress up in Western attire. With put-on drawls, Stetsons, boots, silver buckles for the men and parasols, hoop skirts and bonnets for the women, everyone was quickly in fine humor. And no one had to worry about shooting themselves in the foot. I keep a set of Western gear bought at a famous store in Dallas
for such occasions. My Stetson's hat box is even fancier than the hat itself and always makes me laugh when I see it.

Third, you can employ what I call "budgetnomics" to simply purchase or access goods and services inexpensively that you thought were only affordable by billionaires. These methods usually require some thought and advance planning, and may entail some significant effort. My friends, Phil and Linda Lader, for instance, are able to entertain thousands of the most fascinating people on Earth every year at their Renaissance Weekends as a result of 25 years of hard work in developing this marvelous concept of allowing the talented and famous to show their private side. On a simpler scale, you can do what my literary agent friend did and house sit for movie stars while their homes are up for sale. Or you can volunteer to be a host at a charity event that someone else organized and help make people comfortable while you enjoy the event as well. Many other examples can be found in this blog's posts . . . and many more will be added in the future.

Notice that in some cases, you can overlay positive fantasies, fantasynomics and budgetnomics to create even better results. For instance, one year an advertiser offered the chance to ride your bicycle with Lance Armstrong. Having that experience could help you want to exercise on your bicycle more often, have an easier time imagining what it's like to be in terrific shape and learn some of the inside secrets of how Lance Armstrong thinks as he prepares to win championships. If you wanted to have that experience all the time, you could write to Mr. Armstrong and offer to help him develop a fantasy bicycling experience that ordinary riders would enjoy. You could then help run this new business . . . which could benefit charities that Mr. Armstrong supports.

In any event, I encourage you to declare your independence today from the kind of self-limiting thinking and psychology that dogs many billionaires.

Ride straight ahead instead to choose positive fantasies that reinforce constructive behavior while buying truly valuable products and experiences with limited money by employing your ingenuity and your precious time.

Here's a good way to begin.

Invite your friends to visit this blog and share their ideas with you about what positive fantasies they have, positive fantasies they think you would enjoy, and their best experiences with fantasynomics and budgetnomics.

In addition, the more people who share information through comments on this site, the more valuable this site will be. In the process, let's become a separate nation. Let's declare our independence, too, from those who seek to emulate the billionaires by mindlessly coveting what they have and their extreme efforts to obtain and keep that wealth.

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell

The Joys of Simplicity

Good morning, Successful People!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I know that I certainly am.

Do you own your possessions . . . or do they own you?

Do you control your circumstances . . . or do they control you?

Those are questions I've recently been thinking about as I work with several elderly people to help them do some estate planning. Each person yearns for a simpler life. They want the ability to drop most of their daily cares in terms of taking care of their property and financial affairs . . . but they would have to do something with all the assets they've accumulated. They find that thought overwhelming in its magnitude and psychological impact.

People do fall in love with their possessions.

I was struck by that fact again this week when I read that Donald Trump was again bringing his gambling casinos out of bankruptcy. I've lost count of how many times those same properties have been through bankruptcy while he has been the owner. It can't be a pleasant process for Mr. Trump. During those same years, owners of casinos in other parts of the country have been minting money. What's wrong with Mr. Trump? Did he make a mistake? Is he compounding that mistake by staying invested? I don't know, but it does seem like more than money must be involved.

A number of years ago I remember a time when Mr. Trump was about to lose ownership of these same casinos. I read an article that suggested that Mr. Trump's father went into one of the casinos and bought a large dollar value of chips . . . and walked back out again. This was a way of trying to rescue ownership in the casinos. I'm sure his father was glad to help. But would you want your father to have to do something like that to help you? I wouldn't. That made me feel like there might be times when I live more freely than Mr. Trump does. It's a sobering thought.

"But he's a billionaire," you point out. "He's on television all the time." "He can do whatever he wants." But is he really free? Could he just drop his businesses tomorrow and become a yoga instructor? I think not. He'll be drawn back into trying to make a buck on those failing casinos . . . again and again.

What can you eliminate that would give you a more beautiful life?

I would trade a lot of possessions to have more time to be with those I love and to do the things I adore doing in perfect tranquility. In recent years I've been keeping track of how much time various possessions take. If the time involved is more than it seems to be worth, I get rid of the possession. Every time I let go of a time-wasting possession, life seems more beautiful. And it is.

I often recommend to my graduate students that they keep track of how they spend all of their time for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week over 14 days. If you do that, notice what possession might be directly or indirectly be causing the problem.

Here's an example. Some experts wrote an article that I read that said that we still travel at the same speed as the horse and buggy days. I couldn't figure out what they meant. The article clarified the point by adding the time that's needed to buy and maintain a car, as well as the time to do the various chores a car requires, to the elapsed time spent traveling. If you do that, the average person is traveling at about 5 miles an hour for all the hours devoted to that car.

If you can find a car that doesn't cost so much and doesn't require as much maintenance, you can cut that time involved substantially . . . and move ahead faster than a horse-and-buggy. Where else are you operating at horse-and-buggy speed?

Another benefit of getting rid of things that complicate your life, annoy you and waste your time is that whatever cash you gain can be employed to do new things to live better than a billionaire on five dollars extra a day. Get on with it!

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell

Introduction to This Blog

Good morning, Successful People!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I know that I certainly am!

Success is both a mindset and a reality.

Imagine yourself being successful, and you will be.

I had a dramatic experience with this recently when I attended a cocktail party thrown by Jack Canfield. At the party, we were instructed to dress, act and talk as though we had already achieved all of our five year goals and were attending a reunion of achievers to discuss all this success.

It was a blast! I also found myself increasing my goals . . . because the ones I had picked seemed so puny (in retrospect after having achieved them).

A billionaire who inherited her or his money, by contrast, might feel like a loser. Even a high achieving billionaire whose success hasn't been so good lately might be feeling a little grumpy.

You, on the other hand, can choose to succeed in many different dimensions and celebrate your victories every day. This blog will help you to do both.

In this blog, I will begin by reprinting entries from my popular blog, Live Better than a Billionaire on Five Dollars Extra a Day ( so they can be accessed more easily. I will also write special blog entries from time to time for those who are interested advanced mansion enjoying tips.

Please send me your suggestions for this blog.

May God bless you!

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell