Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In the last several years, I’ve traveled to nearly 60 countries, and actually spent some real time in most of them. (Being a perpetual traveler doesn’t necessarily mean only spending a day in each place.)
Among these countries are some of the wealthiest on earth – Norway, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg – and some of the poorest yet most promising – Cambodia, Laos, etc.
And contrary to popular belief, there are wealthy people just about everywhere you go. In Malaysia, where I maintain a home, prices for luxury goods are sky high yet the city’s endless number of shopping malls are always filled.
There are more Louis Vuitton stores within a ten-mile radius of my home than in the entire US state where I was born.
Heck, I even remember shopping for Rolexes at a casino in Cambodia as my local friend suggested the store did relatively brisk business.
In each place I visit, I try to study the local opportunities, the local culture, and exactly what successful people there are doing. That’s, of course, what this site is about.
You see, for years I traveled the world as an American entrepreneur, marveling at the things that were happening in China or how smart and relaxed people seemed in Sweden. I wanted to be a part of it but I felt like an outsider.
Whether it was listening to the financial media bash emerging markets or listening to my American dates saturate our dinner conversation with talk of rape culture, I felt stuck.
While I had grown up in a successful family and learned a lot about business and finance, I didn’t know about business and finance in the places where people were becoming filthy rich.
It’s one thing to be Warren Buffett and get rich ripping off family businesses. It’s another thing to be in a place where money is so freely being made for the simplest of ideas that the west tackled decades ago.
That feeling of being an outsider led me to drop everything and figure out how to partake in the opportunities I now see on a daily basis. What I discovered was just how easy it is for the right people to make money away from their home.
Like the guy I met in Beijing, China who scraped his savings together to open a small donut store. Within a few years, he had dozens of them.
Or the girl in Guangzhou who started a factory literally making widgets in South China. She took a small investment from her parents and was making nearly half a million dollars a year when I met her at age 25.
I’ve taken notes of these success secrets for the last six years, and I’m working on a forthcoming mini-book on all of the “secrets” of the wealthy that I’ve discovered while traveling around the world.
These are the lessons that everyone from the shipping executive in Turkey to the Russian guy with the yacht in Montenegro to the mover-and-shaker in Vietnam followed. Many other people I met followed these lessons, too.
I’ve talked about these lessons before, but I am now going through my old journals, old scraps of paper, and the notes on my old laptop and piecing together as many of these lessons learned as I can.
For now, here are seven success secrets of the wealthy that the uber-rich of the emerging world almost all follow.
1. They are open minded
While not to say that there aren’t racial or social tensions at times, those who have built wealth are generally open-minded to new ideas and new cultures. The Middle East is the hidden gem of the emerging world because they are among the cultures most interested in working with the west.
2. They are decisive
When an opportunity comes along, they pounce on it. They follow the principle of either answering “yes” with great enthusiasm, or saying “no”. They don’t take on projects half-heartedly, but are very decisive when the right opportunity comes along. It’s important to develop your own instincts.
In fact, I’ve often said that being successful in business is all about instinct. Sure, some people “better at business” the same way some men are better with women. However, by focusing on an area you know something about, you can afford to be more decisive.
3. They own a business
Have you heard the idea that a professional athlete is “rich”, but the team owner paying him is “wealthy”? Employees will almost never be able to achieve the financial and personal freedom that those with their own business do. That’s why approximately 80% of high net worth individuals earned their money in a business they own.
Here in Malaysia, the Malaysian-Chinese are the wealthiest of the three main ethnic groups and are often stereotyped as being successful because they can’t get government jobs… so they start businesses.
4. They minimize or eliminate their taxes
This is no secret: watch any TV news program and you’ll see someone complaining that the rich use some offshore voodoo to avoid paying their “fair share”.
Of course, offshore strategies are 100% legal, and if you’re an international businessperson, more than reasonable. Living an international lifestyle offers you legal strategies to stop paying 30-60% in taxes and put that money toward building your own wealth.
5. They don’t follow the herd
Remember the old adage that it was time to exit the market when a shoeshine boy is giving stock tips? Because the wealthy have access to other wealthy people, they follow a different set of trends.
On a global level, most wealthy people don’t invest in the stock market. They favor investing in their own companies, friends and family, and exotic opportunities most people don’t know about.
6. They invest in themselves
The wealthy understand “the law of abundance”. They don’t hoard money when it could be put to good use investing in new ideas or training to improve their lives or make them money money.
The Chinese are one of the most interesting cultures in this regard. They are notoriously frugal in many ways, but they also put their money to work for them, often by loaning it via the “shadow economy” to friends and family members to start businesses.
My business mentor often told the story of an African immigrant family that saved up to buy a gas station, then lived in it. The entire family lived in the gas station and invested in their future success. Eventually, their children inherited dozens of gas stations valued at tens of millions of dollars.
7. They are happy
The most successful people are often some of the happiest people. They are also the least likely of anyone I’ve met to complain. You can say it is the fancy dinners, first class travel, and five-star hotels, but those things don’t in and of themselves make someone happy. T
he wealthy people I’ve met ultimately have a sense of happiness and a desire to get along with other people. After all, they never know where the next opportunity will come from.
I’ll be adding more success secrets as I collect more of them. For now, focus on what you take action on to build more success, be it protecting or growing your money.