Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

How Do You Get Rich?

Do What Is On Your Desk and Do It Well

A fantastic passage from page 97 of The Richest Man in Town: The Twelve Commandments of Wealth.  It talks about how success in life comes down to execution of the work that is sitting your desk, right now.  That means getting it done right, getting it done quickly, and getting it done with pride so that your name becomes synonymous with quality.

Put another way, you don’t just wake up and suddenly have an empire.  You get up each morning, sit down at your desk, and achieve what you can at this present moment in time, focusing on the things that will carry you further toward your goals.

Houston’s Dan Duncan strongly counsels against setting goals.  Instead, he says, “Just get up every day and do the best you can that day” – a piece of wise advice that he credits to his blind grandmother, who was his inspiration.  Duncan believes that if you follow his grandmother’s method, success takes care of itself: “Daily incremental improvement is the surest path to great success and a great fortune.  You’ve got to be able to execute every day.”  His path to his stunning success, and the resulting $8 billion fortune, started in the small town of Center, Texas, and has led him to running one of the largest oil and gas pipeline companies in the world, Enterprise Products Partners.  And that’s just his day job: He also operates Duncan Energy Partners, manages his five-thousand acre Double D Ranch, and is a major Houston philanthropist.  He runs all his companies as his grandmother told him, by simply doing better than the day before.

Birmingham, Alabama’s construction czar Miller Gorrie sees the world through a similar lens: “Success doesn’t come from what you plan or envision, it comes from what you do every day.  And what you do every day accumulates.  That’s how you become a big success; that’s how you make big money.”  Charlie Cawley, Wilmington, Delaware’s Richest Man in Town and the co-founder of MBNA, the credit card company that was bought by Bank of America, is known for his dictum, “life by the inch is a cinch … life by the yard is hard.

Sacramento’s Buzz Oates also believes that success is achieved in incremental steps.  “There may be a thousand steps to it, but success and wealth are created one step at a time.

Then, later on page 99-100, there is another great passage …

Once you have found your perfect pitch, they (the richest men in town) believe that daily incremental improvement is the surest way to outsize success and substantial wealth creation.  And of course it’s best if that daily improvement is in your own business.

David Rubenstein of Washington, DC, reveals his first piece of career planning advice: “Don’t plan your career.”  No successful people, he elaborates, knew in their twenties what they would actually be doing in their thirties, forties, and fifties.  “The obsession with goal setting and worrying about the future will only take your eye off the ball.”  He favors a process of making daily improvements while always being open to new and profitable opportunities.  This is the Richest Man In Town version of the respected Japanese process Kaizen, which calls on us to be in a mode of continuous improvement in every aspect of our lives.

In other words, if every night when you go to bed, you are a little bit wiser, richer and in better shape, it won’t take long for your life to reflect what you imagine in your dreams. The power of compounding is not just limited to money.