Advice from Russell Brooker

A Guide for Living For a Young Person

Who Wants to be Financially Successful in Life

 The following are rules for becoming financially successful in the current American economic system.  Some of these rules may seem harsh.  You may want a list of “rules to follow so I can be successful by doing everything I am doing anyway.”  I doubt that these rules fit into the “everything you are doing anyway” category.  These rules are harsh, but they are rules to be financially successful, not rules for how to live your life. Your life is more than economic success.  Money won’t make you happy.  It won’t make you unhappy either.  Money is good to have, but it isn’t everything

1.     Don’t give up.  Actually, it’s okay to give up, but be sure to un-give up quickly.  Persistence is more important than anything else.  If you are not failing, you are not trying. 

2.     Give up.  At some point, you will run up against a brick wall (metaphorically speaking).  If you try and try and still fail, give up.  Go to something else.  You can’t win all the time; accept that. 

3.     Don’t find your own limitations.  How far can you go?  I don’t know, and neither do you.  At some point you will find your limit; you will find it because other people will point it out to you.  Don’t worry about that – there are lots of people who will find your weaknesses and frailties.  That is their job, not yours. 

4.     Develop your abilities.  Study hard. Learn a lot.  Know how to do something.  Persistence is essential to success, but you need to know something and you need to know how to do something. 

5.     Learn and use correct grammar.  To be financially successful, you will need to use correct grammar, both in speaking and in writing.  In writing, you will need to use correct spelling and punctuation.  As you progress, your writing ability will become more and more important; you will be judged by your written grammar.  Some well-meaning people may tell you that there is no such thing as “correct” grammar – just standard grammar.  Standard grammar is composed of zillions of arbitrary rules that just need to be learned by rote.  Other forms of grammar, such as Ebonics or Missouri hillbilly grammar, are just as “correct.”  The people who say this are right; they are also dishonest.  In the real world of professional employment, people will expect correct grammar, and you will suffer if you don’t use it. 

6.     Fail often.  Successful people fail more than unsuccessful people.  Success is a function of two main factors: (1) quality; and (2) quantity.  One without the other doesn’t work.

7.     Don’t evaluate yourself.  It is okay to self-assess, but don’t put much faith in it.  Apply for any job that somebody might think you are qualified for, and it doesn’t need to be you.  How do you know what you are qualified for?  You don’t.  Let other people decide that.  If you get a job for which you are unqualified, you will probably suffer for it, but you can learn something while you are suffering.  And who knows – by the time somebody realizes that you don’t know anything, you might know something.

8.     Don’t compare yourself to other people.  You are the worst person in the world to compare you to other people.  You may think you are smarter than they are; you may be right, but you probably aren’t.  You may think you are screwed up but they aren’t; yes they are. 

9.     Don’t think you can predict the future.  You can’t.  Many people give up because they think they can’t win.  But nobody knows what is going to happen.  You will probably be disappointed, but maybe not.  Don’t refuse to compete because you think you might lose. 

10.  Follow the rules.  You know the rules for living; everybody knows the rules.  Eat right, exercise, study, don’t smoke, say please and thank you, tell the truth, and so on.  Follow those rules.  Do it!

11.  No excuses.  If you have a good reason for not following these rules or doing what you are supposed to do, good for you.  But nobody cares.  You will be judged by your performance, and nobody will care what good reasons you have for not performing. 

12.  Are you stupid?  Maybe, but it depends whom you compare yourself to.  Compared to Stephen Hawking, you are really stupid.  Compared to Morris Glover, you are a genius.  Don’t worry about it.

13.  Strive for mediocrity.  Push yourself to where you can compete but aren’t assured of success.  For example, when you go to college, recognize that some colleges are better than others.  Aim for a college where you are about average.  If you are in a college where you are usually the dumbest person in the room, you will get discouraged and give up.  If you are in a college where the professors tell you how great or smart you are even when you aren’t trying hard, you are wasting your time.  Look for a school where success is possible but where you have to work hard to succeed.  [Sports analogy:  If you are on a basketball court and want to get better at shooting baskets, it won’t help you to practice from one foot because it is too easy.  It also won’t help you to practice from 100 feet because it is impossible.  Find your place.]

14.  Recognize that you don’t know much.  You don’t even know what you don’t know.  Try something new.  You don’t like opera?  How do you know?  How many operas have you seen?  Students often wonder why schools teach uninteresting subjects.  Here’s why: you don’t know what is interesting.  As a young person, you only know about television and Facebook and what other adults have told you.  There is a big world out there that you don’t know about.  Why do we teach uninteresting subjects?  Because you are ignorant and don’t know anything about interesting.  After you have seen some operas, then we can talk about whether you like operas or not.  Green eggs and ham!

15.  Do you feel inadequate?  Welcome to the world.  Everybody feels inadequate sometimes.  You may be inadequate; if so, Rule #3 applies.  But don’t let your feelings of inadequacy stand in the way of success.  Ignore your feelings.  If you really are inadequate, somebody will point it out to you.  If you are not, then you did the right thing by ignoring your feelings. 

16.  Focus on your success.  Have fun and all that, but don’t let it stand in the way of your success.  Never drop out of school for true love.  Don’t have any babies until you are finished with school.  Avoid incurable diseases.

17.  Choose success.  Stay away from losers – the people who have given up on success and want to drag you down with them.  If your family tries to stop you, love them but do what you need to do to be successful. 

18.  Do what you want to do.  If you get a job as a stockbroker and make lots of money, but you hate your job, you won’t be happy.  You can’t buy a new life with the money.  There are lots of jobs out there; get one you like.

19.  Do what somebody else wants you to do.  You won’t get paid for doing what you want to do.  You get paid only for doing what somebody else wants you to do.  Whether you work on an assembly line, in an office, or own your own business, you have to do what somebody else wants you to do.  That’s why they give you money.

20.  Love is not the answer.  Love is great.  Love is better than cocaine.  When you are young, love can get in your way.  Have a good time, but don’t think some new love is going to save you.

21.  Love is the answer.  It really is. All those sappy songs are right.  Without love all this is meaningless.  You can be ambitious and successful, and you can have the eloquence of angels, but if you speak without love, you are simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.  If you have the gift of prophesy, understand everything, know everything, and have the faith to move mountains, but you don’t have love, you are nothing. 

22.  Don’t those last two rules contradict each other?  Hey, I didn’t say this was easy.  Figure it out.  But don’t ask me; I haven’t figured it out yet. 

© 2012 Russell Brooker  (reproduced here with permission from Russell who is a Professor of Political Science at Alverno College, USA)

   © Scott Keogh 2013