“Hard Work Is The Only Shortcut To Success”, Words of Wisdom with Paul Koger

“This is something I learned the hard way. You spend so much energy trying to find a shortcut to success only to realize that success requires hard work. And without it you will never get there. The sooner you realize it, the faster you’ll reach your goals.”
I had the pleasure to interview Angel investor Paul Koger.

What is your “backstory”?

I grew up in Sweden and moved to New York to attend NYU after graduating high school in Stockholm. The first jobs that I got during and after university didn’t really strike a chord with me. I started out as an assistant risk analyst in a big bank and within 3 years rose to be the head of proprietary trading risk analysis.

I was never happy in the position, I honestly really just did it for the money. However I was working together with actual day traders, whose risk I had to monitor. Now their job seemed highly appealing to me. They all had 4–8 monitors on their desk, screening and trading various stocks. Each person had a significant amount of capital allocated to them and they could go in and out of stocks as they pleased. For as long as the risk level remained under control.

After a while of thinking I actually applied to become a trader myself. This worked out and I spent the following 3 years as a proprietary day trader. The transition was life-altering for me, because I quickly found that this was where I belonged. I loved to go to work and never had any problems with post-vacation blue, which I find to be a good indication of do you really like your job or not.

After 3 years had passed I had accumulated a significant amount of money to start my own company. I have always been entrepreneurial. Both my parents are entrepreneurs and I don’t really like to answer to anybody. Without much thinking, I started my own company. At first I was trading by myself, but after 6 months I started hiring people and rented a bigger office. The company has grown ever since and we have been profitable as a team for 46 months out of 50 that we have been in business.

I still day trade myself and I have a close friend, a leader-type of person, who is the active CEO of our company. He does all the hiring, meetings, events, takes care of employee satisfaction and does what a normal CEO would do. I like to spend my time elsewhere.

Which person or which company do you most admire and why?

The person and the company I admire the most is Ray Dalio and Bridgewater Associates. I love that he is crazy successful while still being very humble and generous. This is something that you don’t usually see among super wealthy individuals.

Also he has a policy in his firm where everyone’s ideas are welcome to be challenged. Ray calls it meritocracy. This is something that we should all learn from. Employees often have valuable ideas, but are afraid to speak their mind due to not wanting to confront the system. I see this in my firm as well and I try to break that.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I haven’t done as much as I could, but I am a regular donor to an organization that is established to find and help gifted kids from all backgrounds. Often times these kids’ parents don’t have the resources to enable appropriate education for their children. This organization is meant to find and help in situations like these.

One part of it that I really enjoy is to actually meet the kids that I’ve helped. I think that being able to see where your donated dollars are going has a huge impact on you. It motivates me to do more.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Hard work is the only shortcut to success. This is something I learned the hard way. You spend so much energy trying to find a shortcut to success only to realize that success requires hard work. And without it you will never get there. The sooner you realize it, the faster you’ll reach your goals.
  2. Follow your heart not what other people tell you — When I made the transition to becoming a day trader, my parents were in a shock. They expected great things from me as they also paid for my NYU degree. Now they see their “investment” being squandered. 
    Had I listened to my parents, I would probably never have been so successful or happy as I am right now.
  3. Family and friends are more important than work — I’ve seen so many successful people that are sad inside. They have spent their youth working 100 hours a week. This has brought them wealthy, but they have no one to share it with.
  4. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes — Our current school system punishes us for making mistakes. Whenever you answer wrong to a question, you risk of humiliating yourself in front of your class. This dogma stays with us in later life. While in reality, mistakes are what get us closer to our goals. I like what Edison said about inventing the light bulb — “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.
  5. Invest into constant education in your chosen industry — Education and knowledge are the key components of innovation. Innovation helps you maintain a competitive advantage and keeps you from falling behind in ever changing environment. When you’re not improving you’re falling behind.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I would love to have a private breakfast with Ray Dalio. He is the one person I admire the most and would have a lot to learn from.