And I made one mistake. I forgot about money. That’s one of the things, and so eventually, I ran out of money. I had to do the thing nobody wants to do, I had to call my mom and be like, “Mom, I know I’m an adult, but I don’t have any money. Do you mind if I come stay at home until I get back on my feet?”
She said, “Sure”. She had a mobile home in Clayton, North Carolina. I went and she said, “Sorry, Tai, I don’t have a room for you, but you can sleep on this couch.” So I remember laying there at night, like: “Did I mess up? Did I miss out on the good life? Here I am, I have no college degree. My skills? I could milk a cow with the Amish.” That wasn’t a very marketable skill. I remember I had like $47 in my bank account.
And I actually had a car, but it had holes in the floor. Somehow it had rusted through, and if you accidentally would put your foot down, it would chop your foot off. So I didn’t want to drive it anywhere, or pick anybody up in that car. So I remembered back to what my grandpa said, he said, “Look outwards.”
So I was like, “Great idea. I’m going to go find somebody.” But I didn’t have any gas money. So I was stuck there at my mom’s house. I had $40. So I walked to the kitchen. That’s what I could afford to do. I found the Yellow Pages and I opened these Yellow Pages and I looked in the finance section and I found this guy. I said, “I’m going to visit that guy.” So I got a suit out of the closet. It wasn’t mine, it was too big. It looked weird on me. God help me! I don’t know what I looked like when I showed up at that guy’s house. But I got somebody to drive me in, I showed up and Kathy, his secretary, opened the door and I walked back, and Mike Steinback, from the phone book, I walked up to him and I said, “Mike, you don’t know me. If you show me what you know, because I figured you must know a lot about money, if you can afford a full-page ad in the yellow pages – if you show me what you know I’ll work for you for free.”
And I’ll never forget. He was sitting in this chair. He had a big mustache. He looked kind of like Tom Selick. He was sitting there, and he just rolled his chair towards me. And he said, “You know what, Tai? I’ve been looking for someone like you for 20 years. Show up in the morning, I’ll show you what I know.”
And sure enough, he did show me. And he began to mentor me on business. And now I’m an entrepreneur. I’m an investor. But I’ve continued on that path, traveling, finding mentors, reading. I read a book a day. I have a little book club, I write. And what I’ve found in my research is that I wasn’t the abnormal path. Mentors – your ability to copy – is the biggest predictor of the success that you will have in life. As Picasso said, “Good artists copy, but great artists steal.” Right?
And I looked around, and it’s interesting. Did you know Albert Einstein had a mentor? Every Thursday, he would have lunch with a mentor growing up. Jay-Z, the rapper, he had a mentor. Oprah Winfrey said she had two mentors. Gandhi had a mentor. Alexander, the Great, had Aristotle. Bill Gates had Paul Allen. Warren Buffet had Benjamin Graham. There’s something here that most of us have missed out on.
So I want to share with you some things that I’ve found, some specifics that you can do with mentors. The first rule is, I call it the Mentor Rules. It’s the Law of 33%. You should divide up your life and spend 33% of your time around people lower than you. You can mentor them, you can help them. And they’ll help you back by making you feel good about yourself. Right? It’s good to know somebody’s doing worse than you. That’s that 30%.
Then you have 33% of people that are on your level. These become your friends, your peers.
But that last 33% is what most people forget about. Those are people 10, 20 years ahead of you. They’ll make you feel a little bit uncomfortable, but that’s what you want, and remember you don’t want to make the mistake most people make with mentors, finding somebody just a little bit better than them. You don’t want to be the blind leading the blind. So I call it the 10X Rule; find somebody 10 times further ahead than you.
If you want to learn how to grow a $1 million company, you have to find somebody who has a $10 million company. Don’t be afraid to go to the top. In-person mentors are amazing. And you can get people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates. You’d be surprised! My friend heard a talk. Frank, he’s a director in Hollywood. He’s like, “Tai, you won’t believe this. I heard your talk and I emailed some people. And Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, the only man to own three companies worth $1 billion, he wrote me back and I had lunch with him. You’d be surprised, because people remember. Because people remember their struggle, and they’ll reach out and help you, too.
Remember, everybody wants the good life, but not everybody’s willing to follow these rules. You must follow these rules.
One of my favorite stories in business, Sam Walton. He becomes the richest man in America. He starts Walmart, this big empire. And he takes a trip to São Paulo, Brazil. And when he’s there, his host family, his friends get a call from the police department. They’re like, “Come bail out Sam Walton. He’s in jail.” By this time, he’s an older guy. Billionaire. They rushed down. If you’ve ever seen the inside of a Brazilian jail cell, it’s not a good place for a 60-year-old billionaire. And they asked the police, “Are you crazy? Are you arresting him?” They’re like, “We didn’t know who he was, and we found him crawling around the floors of stores.”
And they asked him what he was doing, and he’s like, “Oh, I was just taking a tape measurer and measuring how wide the aisles were because I was trying to figure out if these Brazilians knew something that I didn’t know.” Already a billionaire. You’d think he’d be cocky. You see, everybody wants the good life, but not everybody’s willing to be humble like Sam Walton was. You have to be humble.
The media has tricked us. They only show us the success at the end, but Bill Gates started at 12. It wasn’t until 31 years old that he was a billionaire. He said, “From age 20 to 30, I never took a day off. Not even one”. You must persevere, and in your search for mentors you must persevere, as well. I’ve been lucky to become friends with one of the top real estate investors in the world.
I said, “How in the world did you get started?”
He said, “Back when I was 19, I decided I wanted to do real estate. I lived in a little town, but I knew there was one developer that was pretty good. So I went down to the developer’s office. I met the secretary. I said, ‘I’d like to meet this developer.’ She said, ‘Sorry. He’s a busy man. He doesn’t have time to meet you.'”
He said, “I came back the next day. She turned me away”.
He said, “On the 17th time, the lady felt bad for him and she said, “Listen, here’s what you do. Hide behind the plant by the elevator. When he comes out of his office at the end of the day, jump into the elevator. And he won’t have a choice. The doors will close. And you’ve got four floors to convince this guy that you’re worth talking to.”
I don’t know what my friend said, but he said enough that when they got to the bottom of the elevator, that developer said, “Meet me at the airport in the morning. We’ll go down to my private jet. You can come down with me to Florida. I’ll show you how I invested in hotels down there.”
Sure enough, my friend learned from this mentor and became one of the wealthiest real estate investors in the world. He persevered, because, you see, everybody wants the good life, but not everybody’s willing to persevere to get it. You must persevere.
Books you should see as hidden treasure. Think about it, if I told you – because as I said, mentors are great in person, but some of the great mentors are no longer alive – Shakespeare, Darwin, Freud, Mahatma Gandhi. But if I told you all those people were in my house and they’re going to be there this Saturday answering questions, – magically I can make that happen – would you show up at my house? Of course everybody would buy a plane ticket and end up in California. They are there in my house. They’re on my library. They can be in your library, too.