I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. - Jorge Luis Borges
Our new series on books may come as a surprise to many in the Wealth Builders Club. After all, the Club aims to help you create substantial wealth over time.
So why do we ask you to keep a library?
Ayn Rand, the author of great books like Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, once said, 'Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think.'
And a man's capacity to think increases with:
Experience Whatever incidents he comes across during his course of action: the good or bad decisions he takes help him grow and evolve over time…elevating his thought-process. Knowledge Experience may well be the best teacher, but it can't replace knowledge. The latter gives you familiarity and perspective about many things around you - what is their meaning and relevance, whether they're good or bad, right or wrong, etc.
It is knowledge that gives birth to confidence.
Needless to say that reading is an inseparable part of acquiring knowledge…hence the library. A friend recently started investing. He was quite unfamiliar with stocks, mutual funds, precious metals, etc. And nobody in his family has ever invested in stocks, so they couldn't help much.
Alas, he turned to books to learn the investment basics. He started with The Elements of Investing by Burt and Charlie, and went on to read seven more books on the subject in just a few months. He hasn't been investing long, but he seems confident about where he is going. When we spoke on the phone a few days ago, he told me the books really helped.
Keep a Library When I say that you should keep a private library, I don't mean build large halls stuffed with books of every genre. And I certainly don't mean you should buy a thousand titles including books on quantum physics, nuclear science, or the Harappa civilisation.
You can put just one book on your shelf (if you haven't already), read it, and build your collection from there. Your collection could be 50 books or 500…as long as they intrigue you to read and you learn something every day.
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
Starting to collect books doesn't cost millions, but the books you collect could help you make millions.
Before starting your collection, it is important that you know a few things.
Your interests Most people acquire the habit of reading as they go through simple stories or fiction novels.
As a teenager, I was smitten with books. If I remember correctly, the first fiction I ever picked up was The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer…though I never completed it as our school library issued books for a limited time and I had enough on my platter.
It wasn't until I came across my great grandfather's collection of vintage books that I felt 'home'. Prominently featured were novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and James Hadley Chase.
Since I wasn't obliged to return a book on a specific date,I rowed at my pace in that great sea of literature. Getting hooked to crime and detective novels was inevitable as I was reading the masters of their genre.
By the time I graduated, my interests had changed. I switched to non-fiction - mostly autobiographies of successful people - which seemed closer to life and resonated with me more.
I tried to read political non-fiction and satirical essays by writers like Kurt Vonnegut, but that didn't seem my cup of tea. I naively bought several books on topics I was never interested in, and as you'd expect, I never bothered to read them.
If I was intrigued and kept up with a book till the end…it rarely disappointed. Be it fiction or non-fiction, I derived good lessons. Whether it was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkein, or Lee Iacocca's autobiography. Even some bad books that I read had something good to give in return.
The point is - it is important to know what your interest is before buying books - especially if you are a beginner. Otherwise, believe me, you'll never pick them up. Or even if you do…you'll stop in between and never resume.
Your available space Fortunately, my family had enough space to dedicate to a library. Whenever I go home, I spend hours reading and surfing books on Hinduism, travel, astrology, etc. The best thing about my library is that it's quiet, clean, and free from unnecessary interruption. No naughty kids or tacky relatives end up in that corner even by accident. People who are not interested in reading never bother coming close to it, and those who read…religiously keep to themselves.
A library is a personal space where you can think and focus.
Based on your interests and availability of space, you can decide the size of your library. It could be a shelf, a cabinet, or a whole room. Just make sure you put a reading table there and things will be sorted.
If you have no space at all, or you lead a nomadic life, or simply prefer digital - you can keep an e-library on laptops, mobiles, or e-readers such as Kindle.
Where to get cheap books E-commerce websites like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc regularly offer heavy discounts on books. And many cities in India host book festivals where you can find great books at reasonable prices.
Some festivals even sell books by weight for as low as Rs 100/kg!
Just look into the deals and festivals around you, and I am sure you will be able to procure books that you want without emptying your wallet.
Editor's Note: Reading a little everyday gives you new ideas, perspectives, and adds to your personality. It gives you a break from routine. It inspires you and brings you across many lessons that could you can apply to business, finance, art, and every field of work and life.
As we continue this series, we talk about some good books that we have in our library, the lessons they gave us, and how they could be applied in your life and wealth-building journey.
In his book Monkey Business, William Oncken describes this all-too-common - but easily fixed - problem that most managers run into:
It's 10 o'clock Monday morning. You are walking down the hall on your way to your office. This morning, you are going to shut the door and get to work on a project of great importance - something you've been wanting to do for some time. You are feeling pumped, because you know that by noon you will have accomplished something very important for you and your business.
As you proceed down the hall, whom do you see at the other end coming in your direction but George. And when the two of you meet, he says, “Good morning, Boss. By the way, we've got a problem.”
That remark stops you dead in your tracks. You've never been known to walk away from a problem. That's one of the reasons you were promoted to the management position you hold now. So you stand there, transfixed, as George disembowels the problem all over the floor in front of you. You listen as he goes through, in excruciating detail, the crisis that now confronts him.
Why are you listening? Because you had his job once and therefore know you can solve his problems. In fact, you can probably solve his problems more easily than your own.
Solving George's problems feels good. It gives you a sense of control and intelligence.
Plus, you have a humanitarian side to you. It gives you pleasure to make George's problems disappear. And you feel that George will benefit from watching a genius (you) at work as a fringe benefit of his job.
As George talks, the problem begins to embroil you. You recognize in this problem the two characteristics common to all problems that people bring to you:
You know enough to get involved. You don't know enough to make the on-the-spot decision expected of you. After what seems to be five or 10 minutes, you look at your watch and realize a half hour has gone by. You say to George, “Tell you what, George. I'm late for something. This is a very important problem, and we've only scratched the surface here. I'd like to make a decision now, but I can't. Let's do this. I'll think it over, and I'll let you know later today.”
That satisfies George, and the two of you part.
You proceed to your office and prepare to work on your big project. You get the preliminary stuff done, but you can't set your mind to the problem. You are preoccupied with George's crisis. You make a quick phone call to George to clarify a particular point. You promise once again to get back to him. You try to get back to your project, but it's difficult to get into it. You go back to George's problem because it is more irritating and also more resolvable.
The hours slip by. Suddenly, it is noon and you've done almost nothing on your own big, important project. George pops his head into the office. “Got an answer for me, Boss?” he asks. You feel enormously agitated as you tell George, “No.” He looks disappointed. He shakes his finger at you mischievously and asks, “What time shall I check back?” You promise to have his answer by the end of the day.
No sooner has George closed the door than you get a call from Sally. She asks if you have returned the critique of her memo that you promised. You apologize profoundly and promise to get it right back to her. You search your office and find what you hoped was a two-page memo. It's an inch-thick bundle of single-spaced type. You settle in to your critique.
Then your assistant interrupts you with a call. It's your boss. He wants you in his office immediately. You spend the rest of the afternoon talking to a group of investors he's entertaining in his office.
At five o'clock, you go back to the office, weary and frustrated. There, sitting by your door, are George and Sally. They are smiling. You want to kill them. “I'm on it,” you tell them as you trudge into your office. Forty minutes later, your secretary buzzes you to tell you that she is leaving but that George and Sally are still waiting for you. “They seem annoyed,” she tells you. “Shall I tell them to come back on Monday morning?”
You concede. You call your spouse and explain that you'll be working late and that you'll be spending most of the weekend catching up. And that's what you do. You work until 11 p.m., at which point you go home and fall asleep. You dream of monkeys. You are perched high up in a tree, hugging a limb - and there are monkeys on your back. Dozens and dozens of monkeys. They are pulling your hair, tugging your shirt, trying to get you to fall off the limb and go crashing to the ground. You are hanging on for dear life.
The next day, you wake up and get yourself coffee. You switch on the computer and think about what you are doing.
Yesterday morning, you were all set to get to that important project. Just the thought of getting it done was giving you energy. But then you bumped into George and he told you his problem. You listened to him and promised to come up with a solution. When you walked away from George, he no longer had the problem. You did. By the end of the day, you had both Sally's and George's problems on your back, but you could get to neither because your boss' problem took precedence. You left the office having solved only one problem - your boss'. George's and Sally's problems were unsolved and delayed. And your own important project was postponed… perhaps indefinitely.
To put it another way, by promising to give George and Sally advice on their problems, you accepted responsibility to take the next step. Thus, you temporarily (at least) shifted the burden of the solution from George and Sally to you. From their point of view, they gave their problems to you.
Oncken explains this process in terms of monkeys. He says that the monkey is “the next thing that has to be done.” When you first met George, he had a monkey on his back. Thirty minutes later, that monkey was on your back.
And it's not just George and Sally - it's just about everybody who has a problem and has heard about how good you are at solving them. “He may not be good at getting it done on time,” they say to one another, “but eventually he will get it done for you.”
Promise yourself you won't let this happen to you. Today, make a resolution that you'll carry no more monkeys on your back except those you put there yourself… or those your boss puts there.
I came across an essay on the subject of how to read a book every week in Common Sense Living, the publication I founded in India, where Anisa lays out my method for how you can read a book each week.
'I finally read a book a week all last year,' Anisa said. 'It feels amazing. It helps you think clearly, connect with the world better, and as long as you're reading you will never run out of ideas.'
He's right. Despite all the modern developments in communications - including the Internet and the nearly infinite amount of data available to us instantly these days - books are still the most efficient way to input data.
Watching TED Talks and listening to podcasts are great. But you simply can't ingest ideas through video or aural media as quickly as you can by reading.
I know from perusing my journal what a positive effect books have had on my life. One book alone, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, put me on the road to wealth building.
Another book, Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, gave me a strategy in my 50th year to accomplish all of the big goals I had been deferring to that point.
Of the most important ideas that have improved my life, I'm quite sure many of them came from books.
There is an axiom in data processing: The quality of the data you put in is directly related to the quality of the information you retrieve. This is obviously true of our brains. And yet many perfectly smart people are not at all careful about the kind of data they consume. (I'm thinking now about one of the smartest people I know who reads nothing but the sports pages and watches nothing but junky Hollywood comedies.)
So here's something that you must consider. Reading a book per week is certainly, as Anisa noted, an 'amazing' accomplishment. But if you want to become a person who can solve complex problems, make difficult decisions, and produce many quality ideas, you should make sure those 50 books are good books. If that makes sense to you, commit right now to read one good book per week for the rest of this year.
The Promised Reading Shortcut: How to Read More Nonfiction by Anisa Virji The Promised Reading Shortcut: How to Read More Nonfiction When I was young, I used to have a waking dream. I'd fantasise that I got lost at sea and washed up on the shores of an island made of books. And I would get to spend eternity just reading…
I also thought that, as I got older, I'd read more and more books. Logically, that makes sense, right? I'd become a better reader…faster, smarter…and I could read more books and learn that much more each day.
Boy, was I wrong. That idea was true as long as I was in college, but the minute I stepped off the fantasy island into the sea of reality, my mountains of books disappeared and were replaced by…eh…a couple of shelves at best.
We are all convinced that reading is good for us (I won't go into the reasons here because I've gone into them before). So why aren't we?
Because we suffer from an affliction called 'optimism'. Although usually a good thing, in this case it makes us delusional (the 'tomorrow-I-will-be-a-better-person' delusion). We tend to believe that tomorrow we will do the right things - eat better, sleep better, make better choices, have more time, read more…
But if you crane your neck to look back just a little, you will see that the past proves no such thing. Even if you have changed things in your past, it has been a result of either a) changed circumstances (such as a new partner with a more effective nagging style) or b) concerted effort on your part (such as the effort it takes to quit smoking and run marathons).
So you want to read more?
More books on management and running a better business? More personal development and becoming a better person? More wealth and how to build it? More success and how to achieve it?
The bad news is, if you want your future to be different - if you want to read and learn more - you have to make a concerted effort. The good news, it's not as hard as you might think.
Last week, I asked you if you were interested in learning about a brilliant shortcut I use to read nonfiction. Many of you showed interest…so here it is.
This method applies only to nonfiction because the reason we read nonfiction is very different from the reason we read fiction.
With fiction, we want to immerse ourselves in the author's world and experience the story he has woven for us to take us away from ourselves.
Nonfiction is the opposite. We need to be present and focused if we want to discover the ideas the book is trying to convey.
Mark Ford believes that every good book conveys one big idea, and many small ones. When reading, all you need to do is discover that big idea.
Since you have a narrow focus (only what is most important), you can probably learn at least one important thing by reading 30 minutes a day. Focus on books, articles, and essays that pertain to your industry - primarily the 'how-to' pieces. Give preference to authors who've done it themselves as opposed to academics and/or journalists.
And here's the shortcut I learned from Mark that I use to go through most business books in an hour or two…
Read the table of contents. By reading your way through the entire table of contents, you can gauge the range of ideas the book covers, and identify what it can teach you. Because you always know what's coming next, your reading will become targeted and efficient.
Read the introduction and/or first chapter. The first part the author writes usually gives you an executive summary of his main argument. It's where he will present the big idea he wants to convey. The problem with reading other people's summaries or reviews of the book is that sometimes they miss the point…so the author's own words are most useful.
Read the first paragraph of each successive chapter and the first sentence of each successive paragraph. When people try to skim or scan a book, they usually just read arbitrarily and too fast to grasp any meaning. Instead, if you read the first couple of paragraphs of each chapter and the first sentence of each paragraph, you can understand the meaning (and the big idea) of the chapter even though you skip most of the text. If a paragraph seems intriguing or complex, then read the entire paragraph to obtain its meaning.
Finally, read the entire last chapter and/or conclusion. Just as the introduction/first chapter introduces the big idea, the last chapter or conclusion will often summarise it. This is a good time to reflect and go through the entire flow of the book in your head again, pausing to relive the highlights and to take notes of the ideas you learned. The interesting thing about this method of reading is that, even though you spend less time with the book, you actually retain more of what you have read. This is because you weren't reading passively, but actively engaging with the ideas in the book.
With a little practice, this method of speed reading will become second nature. Never again will you hesitate to pick up a book that could be helpful to you.
Your knowledge and skill will increase, and you'll find lots of great ideas that will make your life better. And one day, one of these ideas will explode and change your life.
So give this method a whirl and let us know how it works out for you. If you don't already have a book in mind, may we recommend Living Rich? It is full of wonderful ideas you can use to live a richer life right away.
Money makes money, and the money that money makes, makes money. - Benjamin Franklin
Before I tell you anything about The Elements of Investing - a book by Burton G. Malkiel and Charles D. Ellis, I insist that you google a simple question: How to build wealth.
I googled the same when I turned 25. And to my surprise, most search results pointed only in one direction - investing.
Long term investing, if done right, can create tremendous amount of wealth over time.
But how to do it right? And more importantly, how to start?
Investing is a skill - it improves with time and experience, but before that one needs to learn its basics.
The Elements of Investing by Burt and Charley is a simple book that throws light on the basic principles of saving and investing. As the introduction reads, it is '208 pages of straight talk that can be read in just two hours.'
Unlike other books on investing which are loaded with heavy and complex terminology, Elements of Investing remains thoroughly easy in its language.
This book is perfect for the person who has no clue. I have just stepped into the investment world. And this book is the perfect introduction. Everything is explained simply and gives you a basic understanding and a good list of warnings. - P, a reviewer on Goodreads
The Elements of Investing begins with a simple note - don't let anyone tell you that investing is too complex for regular people. The book is divided into six parts - Save, Index, Diversify, Avoid Blunders, Keep it Simple, and Timeless Lessons for Troubled Times.
Save The first section starts with a simple yet effective message - one must save before he starts to invest. And there's only one way to save - reduce your expenses way below your income. The sooner you start saving, the better investing opportunities and returns you're likely to get.
Never spend the buck that you haven't earned yet. Avoid the use of credit cards - they will slide you into overwhelming debts.
The chapter throws further light on some big and small hacks to save money, viz. -
Shop in the off-season or when things get discounted; Avoid spending unnecessarily on movies, coffee, dinner, and other activities of leisure; Put limited money in assets that depreciate over time (like cars); Ask your employer to help you save by automatically deducting 5 or 10 percent of your pay and adding to your tax-advantaged investment account. Index The second part of the book presents an incredibly easy plan for investing your saved money. It advocates that you use low cost index funds as your primary investment vehicles.
Index funds buy and hold stocks (or bonds) in all or part of the market. If you buy a share in a 'total market' index fund, you get an ownership share in all the major businesses.
By doing so, you can eliminate the anxiety to predict which individual stocks, bonds, or mutual funds will beat the market.
Diversify This section asserts that investors must diversify their holdings.
What does diversification mean, practically? It means that when you invest in the stock market, you should have a portfolio holding many stocks. By doing so, you tend to reduce risk as most economic events do not affect all companies in the same way.
One must not only diversify across asset classes, but also across markets and time. Don't make all your investments at a single time. Build up slowly with regular, periodic investments over time.
Avoid Blunders In this chapter, the authors highlight the common mistakes that can prevent investors from realizing their goals. As in every field, it's sensible to avoid serious troubles while investing - especially those that originate from taking unnecessary risks.
Never let overconfidence get the better of you, nor should you invest in a business that you don't understand.
The secrets to success in investing, as in most human endeavours, are patience, persistence, and reducing mistakes.
Keep it Simple While the world of finance and investing appears incredibly complex and scary, it's simple. And you can prosper in it by embracing simplicity.
The fifth chapter of Elements of Investing reminds us that financial security is easy to achieve. All we need to do is follow some easy rules, like…
Save on time, Set aside a cash reserve, Avoid debts, Diversify, etc. Timeless Lessons for Troubled Times Finally, the book teaches us that market volatility can be our friend and enhance returns if we're a disciplined long term investor. While those investors who attempt to time the market often make the worst mistakes at their worst times.
For example - during the Internet bubble that gained momentum in early 2000s, overconfident investors poured their lifetime savings into Internet stocks. They were the first ones to suffer when the world hit bottom in 2008.
The book concludes with a clear message that patience and persistence are the key factors for success in investing. The long-term investor who possess these qualities, and has a sensible investment plan will likely have the best success.
If you only read one book, ever, about investing, make it this one. A slender volume, I read it today in one sitting. I picked it up on the recommendation of Bill McNabb, the CEO of Vanguard Group. Anyone who's talked to me for more than 90 seconds about finances knows that I am an unabashed Vanguard fan. - Michelle, a reviewer on Goodreads
Apart from its easy language, the book is packed with interesting examples that start from first chapter and go on till the last - they fascinate you and keep you intrigued.
The Elements of Investing is one of those books that you can pick up on a three-hour ride; and by the time you complete it - you'll have become a better investor…a sensible investor, both in markets, and life.
When my sons were growing up, I dreaded meeting with their teachers. I was always a tiny bit afraid that somewhere in the middle of the conversation the teacher would lean forward, grab my ear, and chastise me. This may be an irrational fear, but it is deeply seeded. It was planted many years ago at St. Agnes Elementary School. It was nurtured in middle school and high school by just about every teacher who had the misfortune of having me in class.
All that said, because of my deeply seeded irrational fear, I had no idea what I could accomplish early in my business career.
But that didn't stop me.
Despite my less-than-stellar early education, I went on to graduate college magna cum laude. I earned a master's degree, and stopped just short of my dissertation for a Ph.D. I've written and published more than a dozen books - including three best-sellers - won awards for writing, and have used the skills I learned in school to help build several multimillion-dollar businesses.
In The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says that unless you have a positive attitude about yourself and your abilities, “you cannot be successful or happy.”
I believe he is half right.
Yes, you need a positive attitude to be happy. But you can be quite successful by most measures simply by applying my success formula:
Decide exactly what it is you want. Make it a primary goal. Establish a series of yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily objectives to achieve that goal. Resist the urge to give up along the way. My own experience proves that, by doing this, you can achieve almost anything you want in life - even if you don't have much faith in your own abilities. And I've seen it proven dozens of times by others - people I've known, people I've heard about, and people I've read about.
As I've written about many times before, however, accomplishments don't convert to happiness.
So what if you want happiness? Or what if happiness and equanimity are integral to your definition of success? Well, then you need to follow Peale's advice and start thinking positive thoughts about yourself.
Lack of self-confidence, Peale said, “is one of the great problems besetting people today.” He makes reference to a survey of college students indicating that for 75 percent of them, confidence was the thing most lacking in their life.
Who could argue with that? If you've ever choked up in an interview, forgotten your lines in a play, blown a free throw, or been verbally stifled by a rude comment, you know too well the effect that a lack of self-confidence has on performance.
“The blows of life, the accumulation of difficulties, the multiplication of problems tend to sap energy and leave you spent and discouraged,” Peale says. In such situations, “it is easy to lose track of your abilities and powers” - but by re-appraising your personal assets, you can convince yourself that “you are less defeated than you think you are.”
As an example, Peale tells how he counseled a 52-year-old man who came to him “in great despondency.” Everything valuable in his life, the man said, had been “swept away” by a recent business setback. “Everything I built up over a lifetime is gone.”
Peale knew that although the man had indeed gone through a serious setback, his chief problem was the way he viewed it.
“Suppose we take a piece of paper and write down the values you have left,” Peale suggested. And so they did. Among other things, the list included these personal assets:
a wonderful wife - and a 30-year marriage three devoted children admiring friends, happy to help good physical health integrity That's not a bad list. And, if you're feeling down, I would hope that focusing on positive personal assets like these could help you overcome the worst feelings you could possibly have about yourself.
Let me tell you a story about this…
About 30 years ago, I became friendly with a man, about my own age, who had all of the assets listed above - plus a successful printing business and a sizeable personal fortune. He was a very charismatic guy - always good-natured, upbeat, full of good fun, and easy to like.
Then, one day, his business failed. I don't remember the details, but he went bankrupt.
I heard about it soon after it happened. When I called to console him, it was too late. Sobbing, his wife told me that he had killed himself.
I couldn't understand why he did it. He had had so many other things going for him that, in my eyes, his business and the wealth it produced was just gravy. Apparently, he didn't see it that way.
If my friend had read and taken Peale's advice to heart, he'd be alive today. He'd be enjoying all the wonderful things he had, including the love of his wife, children, and friends. He'd also, I'm quite sure, have made back all the money he lost, plus plenty more.