The One Thing All Wealthy People Have in Common

There is one thing that all wealthy people have in common:

They earn money in their sleep.

They have assets — things that they own or created — that continue to put money in their bank account, even when they’re not doing anything.

I still get frustrated by this fact, because it’s so simple and obvious, yet no one teaches this to you when you’re growing up. In fact, we’re all raised to believe something far more destructive.

We are trained in school to be employees. We’re trained to be someone else’s asset.

We’re told to work hard all of our lives, to do great work for the boss, to play it safe and get a “secure job” because maybe we’ll get promoted… and be an even bigger asset. We’re taught that we have to constantly be doing work in order to convince one person — our boss — to hand us money. And that is a treacherous path that often leads to “How am I living paycheck to paycheck? How am I in so much debt?” It’s the blind leading the blind.

The goal is not to be someone else’s asset. The goal is to HAVE YOUR OWN assets.

To create them, or acquire them, or get a piece of someone else’s. The goal is to make those assets available to the world, to sell them to as many customers as possible, for a profit that allows you to keep doing it. Keep playing the game on a bigger level. Make better gifts that improve people’s lives.

It’s never been easier to create products, or to sell them, or to start a global business. To own assets. You can get started with less than $50. If you make something a lot of people love, some really smart people will want a piece of your asset in exchange for helping it grow. Maybe you’ll end up on Shark Tank. (I’m making it sound easy. It’s not. It’s f*ing hard. But not as hard as working at a job you don’t like for 10 years.)

I self-published a book three years ago. Every single day, it makes money. Not a lot, but it’s an asset. I don’t have to do anything, but I know I’ll get my monthly check from Amazon.

One of my friends is a fantastic writer. He’s written dozens of short stories that people would love. For three years, I’ve begged him to put those stories up for sale on Amazon. He never has. Instead, he’s been entirely focused on getting his writing acknowledged by a publisher and literary snobs (aka critics). Because they haven’t responded, he believes his work “isn’t ready.” He complains about how he never has any money.

Instead of creating a dozen assets that could earn money in his sleep (which would literally take less than 24 hours to set up), he spends all of his time chasing after approval. He invests all of his energy in the hope that someone will stroke his ego and make him feel special. “Pick me! Make me your asset!”

Honestly, it’s like talking to George McFly. “What if they say I’m no good?”

THEN YOU MAKE SOMETHING BETTER NEXT TIME.

Meanwhile, my book has given me a bunch of unexpected bonuses:

  • Two free trips to the Caribbean so I could give TEDx talks
  • Eight visits to military bases around the U.S., working with soldiers and veterans
  • Giving a talk at the Pentagon
  • Free services from readers I’ve helped
  • New clients whom I love working with
  • Hundreds of reviews and countless emails from people saying “Thank you!”

Speaker

My friend continues to wait for the beautiful people to tell him “You’re one of us.” How many more years will he wait?

Artists are so vain. We desperately want to be acknowledged by a “respectable institution” or an “important person.” To have someone higher status than us give our work their stamp of approval. We’re so desperate for this that we’re willing to give them a HUGE percentage on our creative work, forever!

“Thank you for saying you like me! I know you’re not the one person I should care about (a paying customer) but your compliment meant so much that I’d like to cut you a check every month for the next ten years!”

Everyone does this. They beg to be someone else’s asset, because the fantasy in their head is telling them the rewards will be so sweet.

Even though Harry Potter was rejected 12 times, and was only published because the 8-year old daughter of an editor happened to read it and begged her dad for the sequel.

Even though Chicken Soup for the Soul was turned down 140 times by publishers, and has sold hundreds of millions of copies.

Why would you fight for their love? They’re not paying you! They are making a bet that you will pay them!

Why would you hand over your assets to the people who turned down:

The list goes on and on…

All these brilliant creators were rejected. John Kennedy Toole, who wrote one of the greatest works of fiction of all-time, killed himself because his book got rejected so many times. His mom discovered it in his house, and begged a local author to read it. He loved it. A Confederacy of Dunces won the Pulitzer Prize.

Why would you fight for those people’s love? Who cares what they think? They’re not buying your work, they’re taking a cut.

I can think of 10 friends who’ve made a full-time income from self-publishing their own books. That is insane. It was unthinkable 20 years ago. Books are the most competitive category of any product, with awful margins. But they’re making it work, because the world has changed. The margins are 3-5X better without a traditional publisher. They can hit “Publish” as many times as they want. They can sell unlimited books! Amazon makes it possible for anyone to sell their work 24/7, to the millions of people who visit their site or own a Kindle. It’s a magical world for creators.

Same deal with software developers. And musicians. And videographers. And actors. And designers. That list goes on and on.

Every tool is in front of you to MAKE AND OWN ASSETS. The laptop or phone you’re reading this on connects you with more than a billion people around the world. Your assets can reach anyone! You can post a video on Youtube and literally reach 1,000,000 people. So many people have done it already that it’s no longer special to us. What’s stopping you?

You can even do it for free! You can make as many assets as you want! Delete them if they suck and don’t make any money! At least you tried, unlike everyone else who’s so terrified of putting themselves out there and making themselves vulnerable and feeling ashamed for trying to earn money with their creativity and intelligence. Unlike everyone else who begs to be someone else’s asset, instead of making their own.

The difference between wealthy people and poor people is simple:

Wealthy people OWN assets. Poor people ARE assets.

Getting paid more money at your job is not a solution. You’re still only making money when you’re working. You’re someone else’s asset.

Nassim Taleb once said:

“Those who do not think that employment is systemic slavery are either blind or employed.”

We all have the same number of hours during the day. You can create wealth, or not. It’s a choice. Today is another day.

Will you make an asset, or be one?

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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Author Marketing at Book In A Box. He lives in Austin, Texas.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Brandon

    This was probably my favorite post written by you, Charlie. You laid out the reality of wealth in very straightforward language.

    I’m tired of being an asset for other people to get wealthy from. It’s time for me to start making assets to work for me.

    Recently a man asked me if I’d join a company he was forming. The founding principle of the company is every employee is paid a percentage of the product sales. Meaning that everyone’s wealth is tied to company profitability, not to a fixed salary. Or to put it differently: the products produced by the company is every employee’s asset. Given what you described in this article, I may have to give his offer more consideration.

    Thanks Charlie!

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