Money, the game … with 7 simple steps to win it

With the possible exception of what the Treasury Department turns out, MONEY Master the Game – Tony Robbins’ new book – may be the most valuable stuff in print.  It’s absolutely jammed with advice you can take all the way to the bank.

Tony boils his message down to “7 simple steps to financial freedom.”  I, in turn, have 7 compelling reasons, why you absolutely have to sink your teeth into MONEY cover-to-cover:


  • Tony’s stories sing.  For Tony, caring and giving are properly the most powerful urges to build financial stability in the first place.  When Tony was 11, a stranger saved Thanksgiving Day by appearing like magic on his family’s front door with bags chock full of groceries.  At 17, “working nights as a janitor,” Tony spent Turkey Day treating a couple of families to dinner himself.  He describes one young woman whose motivating financial dream “was to buy a ranch and turn it into a church camp.”  As Winston Churchill wisely put it:  “’We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.’”
  • Tony’s All Star team of financial experts is jaw-dropping.  They include David Swensen, “the rock star of institutional investing . . . who grew Yale University’s endowment from $1 billion to more than $23.9 billion in less than two decades.”  Then there’s Mary Callahan Erdoes who “oversees more than $2.5 trillion as CEO of J.P. Morgan Asset Management.”  She offers families some very sage advice about asset allocation, the delicate balancing act of not stacking all your investment nest eggs in one basket.  And we hear from Carl Icahn, one of the world’s most successful investors the last 25 years.
  • Wisdom whacks you at every corner.  Whether it be Mark Twain saying:  “‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’” or Doug Warren of The Synergy Effect who contends that, “‘Baby boomers have been the primary mice used in the great 401 (k) retirement experiment.’”  How about this sobering observation?  “There’s a 50% chance that, among married couples, at least one spouse will live to the age of 92 and a 25% chance that one will live to 97.”  The longer we live, the more knowledge we acquire.  But, knowledge isn’t power until we put it to work.  “Knowledge is not mastery. Execution is mastery,” Tony declares, “execution will trump knowledge every day of the week.”
  • Commonplace conclusions are always out of place.   How do you get started?  Tony recommends asking yourself:  “What’s the price of your dreams?”  On money matters, Tony stresses, “We’ve been taught to think, ‘This is too complex’ or ‘This is not my field.’”  Tony is intent on making you an insider.  His mission is for you to “know the rules before you get in the game.”  Tony has some attention-getting contentions:  “You’ll learn why chasing returns never works [and] why nobody beats the market long-term. . .”  He’ll also equip you with some energizing skills that really work:  “You’ll . . . learn about a proven way of growing your money with 100% principal protection, and tax free to boot (IRS-approved).”
  • Tony’s candor is unflinching.  There’s no substitute for experience, and you have to be prepared to acquire it no matter what age you are.  Tony points to the sobering setback all adults have likely tasted:  being on the losing end of a video game with a youngster.  “So why do these kids always win?  Is it because they have better reflexes?  Is it because they’re faster?  No!  It’s because they’ve played the game before.”
  • MONEY is tool rich.  There are quick links to sites that help you do fast self-assessment and actually design a workable plan.  Not all of this is easy, but every inch of it is clear.
  • Constructive Advice is the heart of Tony’s message.  MONEY combs the complex wilderness and etches expert maps to guide you.  But you still need to be able to size up talent.  As Tony says, “not all professionals have equal skill or experience.”

Tony Robbins is the hands-down master of behavioral breakthroughs.  As he maintains, “I’m not a positive-thinking coach.  Quite the opposite:  I’m a prepare-for-anything coach.” Bottom-line:  You’ll not find a better heads-up map.


Mackay’s Moral:  When it comes to money, get the sense right and the dollars are sure to follow.

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Real leadership often defies the rules

Leading an organization, whether public, private or non-profit, requires making tough decisions.  It’s just part of the job, whether it’s in the job description or not.  Because as they say, it’s lonely at the top.

Business school classes in leadership offer sound advice based on solid research and practical experience.  In theory, it all works beautifully.  You make the rules, you set the example, you toe the mark:  Everyone follows your lead.  Leadership training is important even if it doesn’t prepare you for every scenario.

But in practice, results aren’t always so predictable.  Sure, personality matters.  Some people are better leaders than others.  And unexpected situations arise that defy all logic.  Trust me, I’ve been in business long enough to say I’ve seen it all – until I see the next crazy event.

To become the best leader you can be, you must take advantage of every opportunity to learn and improve.  Learning from others’ mistakes and experiences can save you plenty of misery and embarrassment.

But even more important, in my view, is setting standards for what you will and will not do, and what you will and will not tolerate.  Take the time to determine what values are important to you and your organization.  Make sure everyone you lead understands what is expected.  Then practice what you preach.

One of my favorite examples of well-defined leadership is attributed to Kent Keith, which he titled his “Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership.”  I’ve added my thoughts to these “ten commandments,” and hope they help you prepare your value statement.


1.   People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered.  Love them anyway.  I’ve learned that co-workers and customers do not always respond as I would hope.  But if I want to keep them as colleagues and customers, I need to cut them some slack.

2.   If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.  Do good anyway. If you are doing well, then you should be doing good.  The good you do will outweigh the criticism you endure.  In truth, it would be more selfish to abandon your good works in order to avoid conflict.

3.   If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway. There will always be those who will want to jump on your bandwagon or be jealous of your good fortune.  That shouldn’t prevent you from doing the best you can do.

4.   The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.  Do good because it’s the right thing to do, not because you are looking for lifetime recognition.  Remember, virtue is its own reward.

5.   Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.  Be honest and frank anyway.  I maintain that lying and cheating make you more vulnerable.  Being honest and frank translates into trust, which is the most important five-letter word in business.

6.   The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds.  Think big anyway.  Small people with small minds rarely accomplish big things, and they are not leaders.  Take some risks, and trust your judgment.

7.   People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs.  Fight for a few underdogs anyway.  Top dogs were underdogs once, too.  Great leaders mentor their replacements because they know they won’t be the top dog forever.  They also have a knack for recognizing talent.

8.   What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.  You can’t predict the future, but you can be prepared to face problems with careful planning.

9.   People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.  Help people anyway.  A helping hand might get slapped away.  But if you stand by and do nothing when you have the capacity to be helpful, shame on you.  That’s not leadership, that’s cowardice.

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.  Give the world the best you have anyway.  Put a smile on your face and give your detractors a big toothy target.  You never have to apologize for doing your best.  You should apologize if you do less than your best. 

A well-defined purpose is central to effective leadership.  It doesn’t just happen.  You have to know why you are doing what you are doing.  Otherwise, how will you know where you are going?

Mackay’s Moral:  When you lead with a purpose, people have a reason to follow you.

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Thinking big is not enough

I’ve always considered myself quite bold when it comes to business and taking risks.  I can live with failing a few times knowing that I will eventually be successful because I am determined to be.

I’ve found a like-minded colleague in Jeffrey Hayzlett, host of Bloomberg Television’s “C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett” and author of an inspirational new book, “Think Big, Act Bigger.”

519uhQJ6uFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Hayzlett embraces big and bold without apology or inhibition. “Thinking big and acting bigger is all about action and attitude:  being fearless and bold, steamrolling obstacles, ignoring perceived limitations, and even being a little irrational and pigheaded at times,” he writes.  “I’ve learned it is about being relentless in all I do but especially trusting in who I am because I can.”

He shared an important philosophy in an earlier book, “Running the Gauntlet,” where he wrote:  “Repeat after me.  No one is going to die from changes you make in business.”  He has since refined that idea, but essentially, he means, “Nothing is ever going to be perfect.  You’re going to screw up.  Things are not going to work. . . You could even fail.  So what?  No one is going to die.”

He shares five important lessons in that vein:

  1. No one is going to die when you think big and act bigger, so get over yourself.
  2. Stop overthinking things, coming up with reasons why not, and then playing it safe, and move!  You still might fail.  And that’s okay.  No one is going to die.
  3. Succeeding fast is better than failing fast:  Stop wearing failure as a badge of honor.
  4. Passion fuels that momentum and drowns out the negative voices in your head.
  5. Passion can override the voices saying no, but it cannot override facts, yet it leads to overindulgence, obsession, and lost perspective.

“Passion comes from our hearts and guts, not our heads,” he continues.  “It’s a strong emotion and can lead us into bad decisions and questionable actions.  But it is the adrenaline we need to succeed.”

My opinion is that it’s ok to be passionate, but you better be good at what you’re passionate about.

Hayzlett says successful leaders have to strongly identify with what they don’t want as well as what they do want.  Being genuine in character makes people willing to follow them even when they are pigheaded or irrational.

Does that ever strike a chord with me!  As long as people know what to expect from me, and I live up to my ideals, I can honestly say that while my staff may wonder what I am up to, they support my actions almost 100 percent of the time.  They assume I have some information or experience that is guiding my decisions.  That’s how you earn trust, and it’s critical that you don’t abuse that trust.

Hayzlett understands that irrational leadership seems to send the wrong message.  His friend Greg Lucier, CEO of Life Technologies, introduced him to the term “irrational leadership,” explaining that you have to be so far out there sometimes to pull people along to where you want them to go.  Hayzlettt writes, “I had said for years that leaders need to create tension and results by pushing farther and farther to move the rest of their teams in that direction.  Now I had a name for it.”

“Think Big, Act Bigger” is full of no-nonsense lessons that even successful leaders should study and review to keep their perspective.  One of my favorites is in the chapter entitled “Be in a Constant State of Awareness.”  He shares a personal story as a stellar example.  On a fishing trip to Canada, Hayzlett’s guide served a specific brand of blueberry jam, which came in a can, and which he liked so much that he bought a case and shipped it home to South Dakota at a very high price.

His wife was stunned.  Why would he do that?  Despite his best explanation about the special jam, she was unimpressed and teased him about it over the next couple of weeks.

On a trip to their local supermarket together, she needled him again about his expensive purchase.  He responded, telling her that she really didn’t understand how special this jam really was.  The clincher:  “You can’t get this anywhere else…”

And that’s when she told him to turn around.  There, on the shelf, was his prized jam – for $2 a can.  A constant state of awareness, indeed!


Mackay’s Moral:  Bigger risks reap bigger rewards.

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Use GPS system to chart your course

It’s getting easier and easier to navigate the highways and byways through the magic of GPS – Global Positioning System.  The service is in your car, your phone, your tablet, your watch.  You are running out of excuses for not getting to where you want to go.

Wouldn’t it be great if such a tool existed for finding your way through life’s challenges?  If you’re like most ambitious people, you’re always trying to get more done.  The secret is paying attention to what you want to achieve.  You can devise your own GPS formula by changing the words just a bit.

G is for goals.  Make a list of what you want to accomplish so it’s clear and detailed in your mind.  Make sure your goals are specific, including deadlines for completion and your measurements for success.  Don’t overload yourself.  Concentrate on just one or two objectives at a time.


Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day.  Goals tend to tap the deeper resources and draw the best out of life.

Most important, goals need to be realistic:  beyond your grasp but within your reach and in the foreseeable future.  Achieving goals produces significant accomplishments.

I remember a particular Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown is having a bad day.  He struck out for the third straight time.  In disgust, he says, “Rats!”

Back in the dugout, he buries his face in his hands and laments to Lucy, “I’ll never be a big-league ballplayer.  All my life, I’ve dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but I just know I’ll never make it.”

Lucy responds, “You’re thinking way too far ahead, Charlie Brown.  What you need are more immediate goals.”

“Immediate goals?” asks Charlie.

“Yes,” says Lucy.  “Start right now with this next inning.  When you go out to pitch, see if you can walk out to the mound without falling down.”

P is for plans.  Work out a general plan for achieving each goal over the long term.  For instance, if you want a high-level position in your organization, your plan might include earning one or two intermediate promotions, getting additional training or volunteering for specific important committees.  Each phase in your plan is a goal in itself.  Approach each interim goal methodically, and follow a consistent process for completing each one.

People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.

Try a process that I often use:  working backwards from the goal.  If you want to arrive at Point X within a certain timeframe, you need to think about what you have to achieve to get there.  That leads to your “S”.

S is for segments.  Break your plan down into separate segments that are small enough to tackle one after another, and large enough to stretch your skills at least a little.  Think in terms of what you can accomplish in a single day, where you want to be at the end of the first month and so forth.  This gives you a sense of direction and also helps you monitor progress.

Your personal GPS is not an app or option.  It is basically standard equipment that doesn’t cost extra.  But you’ll pay dearly if you don’t activate it.

You can achieve your goals.  But there’s one catch.  You have to commit to actually taking those steps and staying on plan.  Staying motivated can be challenging, but keep your eye on the prize.  Visualize your new business card, your corner office, your dream vacation . . . whatever marks the achievement of your goal.

Otherwise, you’ll just be another Marvin.  Marvin dreamed of winning the lottery.  Every time there was a drawing, he prayed loud and long that he would win.  One day, as Marvin was beseeching the Almighty, the clouds parted and a voice boomed out from the heavens.  “Marvin, Marvin,” the voice said.

“Is that you?” gasped Marvin.

“It is I,” intoned the voice.

“Are you here to answer my prayer?  Will you let me win the lottery?”

“I will,” said the voice, “but you have to meet me halfway.  Marvin, buy a ticket!”

Buy your ticket.  Set your goals.  Follow your plans.  Make your steps.  Then take them out and look at them often.  That’s the only way you will achieve them.


Mackay’s Moral:  Life is full of detours, but you can always get back on track if you use your GPS.  

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Never lose hope

The only survivor of a shipwreck woke up on the beach of a small uninhabited island in the middle of the ocean.  Every day he circled the island, looking for ships on the horizon, and searched the sky for planes, hoping for a rescue.  But none ever came.

So he scrounged around for materials to build a small hut to protect himself from the sun and rain.  His daily schedule included scavenging and hunting for food.  He kept a small fire going so he could cook whatever he found.

After his walk around the island one day, he returned to find his hut in flames.  A gust of wind had blown some embers from his fire that ignited the hut.  Black smoke billowed in the air and try as he might, he couldn’t douse the fire.  He collapsed, exhausted and dejected.  He had lost all hope.

But the next day he awoke to find a ship anchored off the island.  A life raft was headed his way!  He would be rescued at last!

When he reached the ship, he asked the captain, “What made you stop here?  I have been looking for a ship for months and saw none.”

The captain replied, “We saw the smoke from the fire you built.  It led us right to you.”

What had seemed hopeless was what saved him.

Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.  In short, hope changes everything.

My dear friend Lou Holtz always says you need four things in your life, otherwise you are going to have a tremendous void.  Number one, everyone needs something to do.  Number two, everyone needs someone to love.  Number three, everyone needs someone to believe in.  And number four, everyone needs something in their life to hope for.

What do you want to do?  You have to have hope, ambition and dreams.


My wish, dream and hope, aside from being a professional golfer, was to own my own factory.  I didn’t know what I would manufacture, but I always hoped to be able to walk the factory floor and be able to have my employees look up to me.

But I didn’t wait for it to fall in my lap.  I acted on that hope and made my dreams come true.

President Dwight Eisenhower, a highly accomplished man by any standard, told this story about his hopes and dreams:  When I was a small boy in Kansas, a friend of mine and I went fishing and as we sat there in the warmth of the summer afternoon on a river bank, we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up.

“I told him that I wanted to be a real major league baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner.  My friend said that he’d like to be president of the United States.  Neither of us got our wish.”

The dictionary defines hope as “wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen.”

Just because something isn’t happening for you right now doesn’t mean it will never happen.  Hope is the little voice you hear whisper “maybe” when it seems the entire world is shouting “no.”

Believing in the future helps us to have hope.  “Hope is greater than history,” said American businessman and diplomat Dwight Morrow – more than a century ago.  Don’t let the idea that history repeats itself discourage you.  You can shape your own history if you have hope.

Consider these words from naturalist Jane Goodall:  “I carry a few symbols with me because sometimes you get a bit depressed, and these symbols remind me of the hope that there is in the world.  Without hope, we all fall into apathy; without hope, there is no hope.  I carry symbols that represent four reasons for hope:  the human brain, with the technology that we are now working to try to live in greater harmony with the environment; the resilience of nature – give nature a chance and it’s amazing how places that we’ve destroyed can bloom again; the tremendous energy, commitment, excitement and dedication of young people once they know what the problems are, and we empower them to act to do something about it.  And finally, the indomitable human spirit, those people who tackle impossible tasks and won’t give in, those people who overcome tremendous physical disabilities and lead lives that are shining inspiration to those around them.”


Mackay’s Moral:  Hope is what allows us to remember yesterday’s disappointments and still look forward to tomorrow. 

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