Poor People Have Big TVs, Rich People Have Big Libraries

The Single Difference That Sets the Successful People Apart

When I was in grade school, I made a pact with my best friend at the time to one day start a business together. We dreamed of making it big and swimming in “dough.” If you’re like most people, you probably had similar pacts.

Though we’re “grown ups” (our significant others may contest otherwise), we still have certain dreams of making it big. But it wasn’t until a conversation after college that I realized a fundamental difference between him and me.

I was browsing through his bookshelf (as I tend to do in someone’s house), found two books and asked, “What did you think about these?” He replied, “I don’t remember too much, I had to read them for a college class.”

I found another book I recently read and wanted to get his opinion, so again I inquired. His response: “I haven’t had the time to read it yet.” Kind of helpful… except not at all.

Then, with the most excitement I heard from him all day, he shouted, “Oh, the game is about to start. Let’s go!” In the next 3 hours, he proceeded to tell me everything about hockey I ever cared to know; how the different levels of free agency work, how player trades and drafts affect the salary cap, and every players’ stats for the last 10 years.

Wait, I’m supposed to be the hockey guy. I was the one who proudly wore the “C” on my jersey as captain of my high school and college varsity hockey teams. “How the heck do you know all this?”

“It’s what I do in my spare time.”

Wwrrreeeekkk!!! There was a complete record scratch.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

He doesn’t have any time to spend reading a book to further develop his business skills, but he has all the time in the world to read up on hockey. Does that sound like the actions of an ambitious entrepreneur?

The Difference that Makes the Difference: Desire vs Ambition

Here is my big takeaway — there is a profound difference between desire and ambition. We all desire a bigger house, a better job, and a newer car, but only very few are willing to do what it takes to get there.

The habits of the most successful people in the world are not a secret. In fact, they are pretty widely known. Forbes Magazine, a highly regarded and respected publication, printed an article examining the habits of the wealthy. One of the 10 habits of nearly every self-made millionaire and billionaire businessperson is they invest in their own education. This means they read books and trade publications, attend seminars and workshops, and, most importantly, hire coaches (that’s right, multiple coaches).

Yes, you may be busy, but I guarantee these people are even busier. Andrew Carnegie, who became of one of the wealthiest men of all time, was rarely seen without a book. In fact, his philanthropic donations and efforts directly resulted in 2,509 libraries being built. Libraries wouldn’t be what they are today without him.

Warren Buffett, famous American businessman, investor and one of the wealthiest men of all time, attributes his success to continuous learning, saying, “I spend most of my day reading.” He estimates that he spends roughly 80% of his day reading and covers at least 500 pages each day.

Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year, which breaks down to 1 per week. Mark Cuban reads more than 3 hours every day. Elon Musk is an avid reader and when asked how he learned to build rockets, he said “I read books.” Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read a book every 2 weeks throughout 2015. Oprah Winfrey selects one of her favorite books every month for her Book Club members to read and discuss.

I could go in and on.

But my point is this: these self-made millionaires had not just the desire but the ambition to work hard and do whatever it took to be able to live their dreams. They have ambition, not just a desire. As much as they probably wanted to, they didn’t sit around and watch hockey or football all day.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

If you have the ambition, you will set the conditions up for your success. If you don’t read, if you don’t attend conferences and workshops, if you haven’t hired a coach, it’s not too late. Start now!

As they say, the best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is NOW!

Start with classic must-reads, like Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (this was my “gateway drug” into personal and professional development) and Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.

I’m working on growing my library. Nowadays, I read 50+ books a year. People ask me all the time, “How the heck to you do that?!” The answer that I always want to give them is step 1) Buy a book, step 2) open the book, and step 3) READ THE D*** BOOK!

Of course, there’s more to it than that, and I wrote a whole article on the best sales books and how you can read them all in the next 6 months.

A favorite quote of mine from Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and speaker, is “Poor people have big TVs, rich people have big libraries.”

My friend asked me if I wanted to get season tickets for the Avs this year (the pro hockey team in Colorado). This was a dream ever since I was young, but I told him I have better things to do.

You know where to find me… at home ambitiously reading a book.


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