“For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be rich.”
My co-host covered up his microphone and whispered to me, “shit, this is gonna be good.” I nodded.
We’re ten seconds into our interview with Jordan Belfort he kicks it off saying “For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be rich.”
This is no ordinary man and it was no ordinary interview.
You likely know of Jordan through the wildly popular movie about his life, The Wolf of Wall St.
Jordan’s life is a story of rags to riches to rags and back to riches. Born into humble beginnings on Long Island, Jordan noticed his parents were honest, hard-working, nice people — and that none of those attributes helped them to become wealthy. He wanted riches and knew he had to override his genetic instincts (and a few Federal laws) in order to make that happen.
I’m not sure there’s been a more polarizing business figure in recent memory than Jordan. Young people — men especially — love his depiction in the movie. It supports the new American dream of making millions, driving fast cars and dating supermodels. If you spend a week hanging out with a group of young salesmen, you’re likely to hear a quote from “The Wolf”.
Yet it’s impossible to overlook how he gained (and lost) his riches. Lying, cheating, stealing. Depleting people’s entire life savings in order to support his lavish lifestyle and lofty goals.
My purpose isn’t to persuade you to love or hate Jordan. My job is to get the facts. See, I believe that everyone has a superpower that, if used properly, can help them achieve just about any goal that they set out for. And I was able to identify what that superpower was, how he used it to achieve his goals and why it became his inevitable downfall.
Love him or hate him, here are five things you can learn from Jordan Belfort:
Apply Meaning To Experiences
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
— Samuel Beckett
One thing that isn’t depicted in the movie was how Jordan learned to be an entrepreneur.
Did you know Jordan went bankrupt at 23? He almost wears this as a badge of honor, explaining that the way to rebound from failure is all about the meaning that you apply to experiences.
When his business went bankrupt at 23, there are two stories he could have told himself: 1) I don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur or 2) I have what it takes — I just made a few fundamental mistakes that I can learn from.
He chose the latter.
He failed time and time again before making it big. But his goal was to fail elegantly — take a stab at something and when you inevitably mess up, try to minimize time/money lost and maximize what you learn.
“Look at things not as they are, but how they can be.”
— David Schwartz
Most people have goals, but truly successful people also have a vision for their future. This means that they think 5, 10, 15 years into the future and what they want their life to be. They write it down. They tell people. They visualize it.
But let’s be realistic: just because you write down that you want $10M dollars in 5 years, doesn’t mean it will magically happen. It’s just an additive piece to the massive amount of work required to reach these lofty goals.
Jordan did exactly that. Not only did he have his eyes on “the prize”, but he put in the work at a young age to learn sales, influence and entrepreneurship.
In The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss describes this as: “Think big, start small.” Keep your eye on the big picture, while doing the daily actions required to reach it.
“If you want to change your life you have to raise your standards.”
— Tony Robbins
Standards are what your “normal” looks like. It’s when you wake up, how much money you make, how you look in the mirror and every other aspect of your life.
Therefore, the way to truly change your life is to change your standards. Tell yourself that your laziness and low ambition are standards you simply will no longer accept.
Set the standard and follow through every day until you become the person you want to be.
Change your standards, change your life.
Mentors & Models
“A great group of people can turn a bad idea into a home run”
We’ve all heard the adage that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Jordan took this to a new level in his “plus, minus, equal” strategy.
Jordan surrounded himself with “pluses”, or people that he aspired to become. Following these people can help you to reach your goals more quickly. Success leaves clues.
He also sought out “minuses”, the people that were lower on the totem pole that he could teach. The best way to learn something is to teach someone else.
Finally, he connected with his “equals”. These people were his partners and friends that drove him to become better.
Everyone can be better off if they find a plus, minus and equal.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”
— Zig Ziglar
Motivation was a major tactic that Jordan used when building Stratton Oakmont. You know the movie scenes where Leonardo DiCaprio gave pump up speeches to the entire company? Those happened — every morning and every afternoon.
Many aspects of Jordan’s story are certainly a cautionary tale — what NOT to do on your path to your goals. If we learn from everyone we come across, we will be in a much better place in the future.