Gregory S. Downing
agonizing over your economic future, Greg Downing says you’re
focused on the wrong issue. Who lives in the White House is almost
irrelevant. What does matter is whether you’re capable of shifting
to a completely new way of thinking about work and wealth.
Given the shaky
state of the economy, some angst is unavoidable. But Downing says
it’s absurd to think that whoever occupies the White House for the
next four years will seal your fate and make or break your future.
“They” can’t save you. Only you can save you.
“Never has the
phrase ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me’ been more appropriate,”
asserts Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to
Stand the Test of Time (www.GregoryDowning.com)
plus an upcoming book on providing a financial legacy for kids. “The
blunt truth is that no American can afford to wait on salvation from
any politician — or, for that matter, any employer or any teacher in
any traditional school.
formula that allowed people to build a comfy middle-class life is
gone,” he adds. “It’s time to focus on what you can control. It’s
time to make an about-face and learn how to think about work and
wealth in a whole new way.”
referring to entrepreneurship. He knows firsthand how dramatically
it can transform your life. Once a car dealership manager working
grueling 80-hour weeks, he is now a millionaire many times over who
takes four months of vacation a year. He says regardless of the
field you choose, entrepreneurship is the only logical path to
financial freedom in a global economy where half of all college
grads are moving back home jobless and saddled with debt.
First, let’s be
clear: The entrepreneurship he espouses is NOT the “open your own
restaurant and bust your butt working there seven days a week”
variety. Rather, it centers on generating multiple streams of income
(earned, passive, and portfolio) so that the money you make is not
directly connected to the time you spend. (“Time is more valuable
than money,” is one of Downing’s favorite mantras.)
Anyone can make
the leap to entrepreneurship, and, subsequently, financial freedom,
he insists. You may have to learn new practical skills, but mostly
it’s a matter of changing your mindset. Once you break free of what
he calls “middle-class programming,” half the battle is won. Here
are some of his insights on how to do it:
changing your life
— and don’t break that commitment. Most of us do keep our word to
others, or at least try to. And of course being trustworthy is
critical to your success. (How else will we find investors and get
return customers and referrals?) But what about the promises and
pacts you make with yourself?
most people are far more likely to break agreements with themselves
than they are with others. Yet since becoming an entrepreneur
requires a dramatic change in both mindset and habits, you won’t get
far if you keep letting yourself off the hook.
“It’s easy to
justify breaking an agreement with yourself because no one will ever
know. But make no mistake: Your private decision has consequences
for both your future and your family’s future. Breaking any kind of
commitment — even those that may seem insignificant — hurts us,
because our subconscious gets accustomed to that.
“Then, when we
want to make a big change in our lives, our subconscious simply
doesn’t believe us. It will actually work against our success. So
when you don’t do what you say you will do, you are actually giving
yourself permission to falter, to quit, and to fail.”
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Take action now
— don’t wait.
I’d like to build my wealth. I want to start my own business. It
would be great to be in firm control of my financial future. These
are nice, positive thoughts, but when they’re not paired with
action, they are nothing but daydreams. Only action — not plans, not
goals, and not ambition — gets results. Every day that you don’t
take a concrete step forward is another day of the status quo,
another day of accepting a mediocre, humdrum life.
action,” he argues. “And yet, most people just keep going through
their daily motions, procrastinating, thinking their ideas to death,
and never moving forward on them. Every morning, ask yourself, ‘What
action can I take today to move toward my dream of financial
independence and self-reliance?’ Then do it, for your own sake and
for the sake of your family. Otherwise, one day you’ll look back at
your life and realize that while you had good intentions, you did
not create results.”
unconscious, negative, and scarcity-based programming.
Downing believes the middle class has been programmed with belief
systems that barely work and weren’t designed to help us attain
wealth. But because everyone around us is buying into the formula,
we are afraid to go against the herd. And that’s a shame, because
while we’re staring at the hindquarters of the sheep in front of us,
we’re ignoring a huge world filled with riches for the taking.
every day, consciously evaluate and reconsider what works for you,”
instructs Downing. “First, think critically about risk and reward,
and how to balance the two. This involves looking closely at your
emotions, your willingness to take action, and your desire to move
forward when an opportunity to build wealth arises.
find that fear, not a rational reason, is holding you back,” he
adds. “Through this process of evaluation, you’ll gradually
reprogram your beliefs. And as you begin to experience greater
rewards, you’ll confirm the beliefs and actions that create wealth.”
percent responsibility for the results in your life.
It’s easy to blame disappointments and failures on everything other
than ourselves. While it’s true that you can’t always foresee or
control what happens in your life, you can choose how you respond to
“Life has a way
of kicking in the door and derailing your plans,” admits Downing.
“Although you need to deal with these issues, you cannot allow them
to stop you. If you aren’t taking steps every day to change your
reality, you forfeit the right to complain about it.”
Invest in a
financial education program.
For decades, American schools have taught (and are still teaching)
students that they’ll need to give the best years of their lives to
employers so that they can retire on 40 percent of their working
salary. (That’s assuming they can get a good job at all.) It stands
to reason that if you want more out of life, you’ll need to seek
some non-traditional education to obtain the skills that will enable
you to generate multiple streams of income.
skills are specifically depends on the field you wish to pursue.
They’ll likely have to do with acquiring credit, using debt wisely,
seeking and persuading investors, and marketing your products or
services to buyers. The main point is that you shouldn’t be afraid
to pay for the expertise you need.
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The annals of history are filled with the tragic downfalls of
leaders who refused to consider the advice and expertise of others,
and ran their organizations and empires into the ground.
Entrepreneurs, by nature, are go-against-the-grain types. It’s easy
for them to assume they know best and disregard good advice from
those who’ve been there. Don’t fall into this trap. Not only should
you carefully consider advice, you should actively seek it out.
“Keep in mind,
though, that a true mentor won’t just tell you what you want to hear
— he or she will tell you what you need to hear,” Downing affirms.
“Sometimes it’ll be uncomfortable, and you’ll be tempted to
disregard the advice. Don’t fall into that trap. Leave your pride at
the door and always remain open to learning new ways to approach
minimum wage activities.
Our culture puts hard work on a pedestal. From sayings like, “If you
want the job done right, do it yourself” to the belief that the
longer you work at the office, the better employee you are. It’s
clear that Americans think that spilling one’s blood, sweat, and
tears is a noble calling. Not so, counters Downing. If you don’t
separate yourself from the mundane, you might micromanage your
business away from success.
“You must stop
telling yourself to work harder, and learn to work smarter,” he
says. “It’s crucial to understand that the work of an entrepreneur
is the work of the mind: thinking, planning, creating, leading, and
providing oversight. If you want to reach the highest level
possible, you have to leave tasks that can be accomplished by others
to those with the skills to do them.”
time is more valuable than money.
Chances are, you grew up being taught that the way to support
yourself and to get ahead in life was to trade your time for money.
In other words, get a job. Linking time and earning potential is
middle-class thinking, asserts Downing.
entrepreneur understands time is a precious commodity that must be
used wisely and efficiently,” he explains. “You must devote your
time to creating wealth, planning and building business systems, and
leading your team. Once you have this foundation firmly in place,
you’ll find you’re free of the obligation to work nine to five.”
credit score of 760 or higher.
Your credit score is the door standing between you and the success
you dream of. That’s because lenders use credit score ratings to
control the amount of money in the marketplace. As an entrepreneur,
it’s crucial for you to be able to borrow money whenever you need it
— regardless of what the market is doing.
Downing reasons, “you should choose to have A+ credit with a score
of 760 or higher. Not only will this score allow you to borrow money
any time, it also means that you’ll qualify for lower interest
rates. Make it a priority to become a master at understanding,
evaluating, and controlling your credit score and credit
availability; that way you’ll never be barred from the resources you
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debt as negative.
We’ve all heard the horror stories: families so sunk in consumer
debt they were forced to declare bankruptcy and individuals whose
educational debt haunted them for the rest of their lives. In part
because of these cautionary tales, we’ve been programmed to believe
the only route to financial freedom is becoming debt-free. Downing
says it’s time to reprogram that belief.
“It’s not that
debt itself is bad — it’s that the way the average American uses it
is destructive,” he clarifies. “Instead, commit to using debt to
invest and build your wealth. Yes, debt can be financial quicksand.
But used wisely, it can also give you leverage and make you rich.”
Seek to fulfill
the unmet needs of others.
If your business doesn’t address and fulfill an unmet need, it’s not
going to be successful. And in today’s highly competitive world with
a business on every corner, it’s critical to identify what others
aren’t doing (or aren’t willing to do) so that you can compete and
unmet needs,” points out Downing, “you need to ask yourself
questions like: What problems are keeping my potential customers
awake at night? What do they want that they aren’t getting? What
would make their lives easier? When you have some answers, work on
creating a unique approach to delivering that product or service.”
Become a master
at creating systems and processes.
This is all about building a business that runs — and can continue
to run — effectively and efficiently. Why? Because you don’t want to
have to spend your valuable time reinventing the wheel and
master at creating duplicable systems and processes means that
you’ll need to understand the steps that lead to success, clearly
define them, write them down, and explain them to your team,” says
Downing. “But once you’ve done all this work up-front, you’ll no
longer have to run your day-to-day operations. You’ll be free!”
Build the right
relationships with the right power team members.
If you’re truly working toward creating wealth, you’re not going to
be building one small business that you personally operate and run.
Instead, you’ll be creating multiple, duplicable small businesses
that are constantly creating new streams of income for you. You’ll
need to be able to hand off tasks and duties to others. And that
means you’ll need a strong team of the right people doing the hard
work for you.
team is the force behind your skill as an entrepreneur,” explains
Downing. “That’s why it’s critical to evaluate these people
personally and make sure they’re right for the job.”
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Make it a
As you’re transforming yourself into an entrepreneur, be sure to
instill the same mindset and skills in your kids. Not only can you
narrate what it means to own a business — talking through issues
like finding opportunity, understanding revenue and profits,
differentiating yourself from competitors, and so forth — your kids
can also learn from the best teacher: experience.
advise parents to help their children take typical ‘kid jobs’ to the
next level,” explains Downing. “Instead of just being a babysitter
or a tutor, for example, kids might start a franchise where they
hire out jobs to a database of subcontractors. Or they might invest
in some gumball machines. The idea is to let them cut their teeth on
critical business principles and see firsthand how they can make
money that isn’t directly connected to their time.”
acknowledges that some of these tips may seem deceptively simple.
But it’s their very simplicity that gives them their power.
“Life is really
just a series of choices,” he says. “We decide whether to watch TV
after work or spend an hour on our action plan, whether to take the
class or not take the class, whether to hold the cards or place the
bet. Most people take the path of least resistance and go with the
herd. Those who don’t are the ones who will create rich, full lives
that are truly worth living.
Downing has dedicated his life to teaching his students that every
family can truly control its financial future. He is an author,
speaker, family expert, and organizational consultant. With over 20
years of experience in management, leadership, training, and
business ownership, he uses his principles of motivational and
investment training to help others build wealth and prosperity for
themselves and for their families.)
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