Full text of The Law of 33% by Tai Lopez at at TEDxUBIWiltz Conference
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Why I read a book a day (and why you should too) – The Law of 33% by Tai Lopez @ TEDxUBIWiltz – MP3
Everybody wants the good life, but not everybody gets the good life, right? Imagine for a second. If right now, today, how much more successful would you be if you just started a company 50:50 with Bill Gates as your business partner and he was using every trick of the trade that he used to build Microsoft into one of the biggest companies in the world?
Imagine how much money you’d have in your bank account today – how much more money, I should say – if Warren Buffet was teaching you how to invest in the stock market, showing you what he used to build Berkshire Hathaway into a $140 billion company. Imagine how much happier you’d be today if the Dali Lama was your personal guide, showing you how to find fulfillment in life, in the little things that most people overlook.
Imagine how healthy you’d be today if when you woke up, you went down to your gym, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was waiting there, who was your personal trainer, showing you how he built his body into the most fit body maybe ever, right?
Imagine the change you’d be making in the world, the injustice you’d be solving today, if Mother Theresa and you were running a charity together and she was showing you what she learned on the streets of Calcutta, helping the poor, the sick, and the dying.
Mentors have the power to do this in your life. I think everybody here recognizes the importance of a role model. But in the next few minutes, I’m going to show you how mentors are more powerful than you can possibly imagine in their ability to transform your life. It’s interesting that I’m here in Luxembourg, because my grandmother was born not too far from here, in Berlin, Germany. She is 96 years old, by the way, and she said, “Tai, tell them hello.” So, hello from my 96-year-old grandma.
She said, “There was a role model, a mentor that I had when I was a little girl.” She was born in 1918 in Berlin, and she said, “We had a renter in our house.” Edith Knox, who was a famous piano player from California in the 1920s. And she said, “Tai, this woman made such an impression on me.” She rented a room for a summer, and she said, “Edith Knox wore pants.” My grandma said, “I’d never seen a woman wear pants.” Apparently, in Germany in the ’20s, no women wore pants. And not just regular pants. She had an orange jumpsuit on.
And then she’d play the piano, and Edith Knox, every hour, would stand on her head for exercise. My grandma was like 7 and she said, “Tai, I thought if that’s how women are in California, one day I’m going to move to California.” And sure enough, she ended up in California. That’s part of the story of how my family ended up in California. And I’m from California. I flew here. It took me 20 hours to get here, and I’m from Hollywood, specifically.
So Hollywood, the “Land of Dreams.” Or for most people, it’s the land of broken dreams. Every year, 100,000 people move in and out of Hollywood. Some come to be movie stars, actors, singers, writers, comedians. Most go home empty-handed. So I live up in the Hills, and I’m surrounded by all these celebrities. I have one on my left, one on my right. And I often think, “Why did these celebrities make it? What did they do differently that allowed them to make it?” Because in Hollywood, everybody wants something, but not everybody gets what they want. So I want to talk a little bit about that today.
Because life is short. I think we all realize the sands of time quickly can slip by in your life. And you don’t want to be old when you finally get the good life, or too old. Right? It’s like the Dutch saying, “We’re too soon old, too late smart.”
Steve Jobs said, “I didn’t want to be the richest man in the graveyard.” And I realized this. I remember back, I was younger and Alan Nation, one of my mentors, he had told me, “Tai, what did you want to be when you were 16? That’s the truest version of yourself. What did you want to be when you were 16?”
And I remember at 16, I wanted to find the good life. Aristotle talks about eudaimonia, his definition of the good life. Health, wealth, happiness, love. All those things. And I remember going, “It’s too hard. How am I ever going to figure this out? There are so many hard questions. I’m 16. I got to figure out what college I am going to go to, what religion I’m going to follow, who I’m going to marry, what politics, where to live, what career and path to pursue.” And I had this idea. I was like, “I know the perfect idea.” What I’ll do is I’ll find one person – I thought this was so genius, it turned out to not be so smart – But I’d find one person who had all the answers.
So I wrote a letter. The smartest person I could think of was my grandfather. So I wrote this letter and I was like: “Will you tell me how to design my life?” TED is about T-E-D. The “D” is about Design, the designed life. So I said, “Will you help me design my life?” And I was so excited.
I thought three days later, four days later I got this letter back from my grandpa. I read it and it said, “Sorry, Tai, I can’t help you. The modern world is too complicated. You will never find all the answers from just one person. If you’re lucky, a handful of people along the way will point the way.”
And I was like, “Ugh!” So much for my shortcut.
But seven days later, a package came. It was books. My grandfather had a 20,000-book library, and he had sent me some old dusty ones. A 1,000-page volume. 11 books. “The Story of Civilization,” by Will and Ariel Durant. I was like, “1,000 pages? This is too much.”
But I see now, he was giving me a hint, I didn’t understand it. There’s this myth that you have to go inward to find truth. But the truth he was saying is you have to go outward. If you can download the consciousness, the mindset of people who have gone before you – the smartest, the wisest, the most intelligent, the most experienced people – then you will get what you want.
And so I went on, and I started writing down note cards. I called them mental shortcuts. And I was reading these books. And then I started traveling. I went to 51 countries. I would read a book and I’d say, “Let me go visit this person in person.” So I went to New Zealand and Australia, South America, Argentina, Ireland, all over the world. And I was focused on those 4 things: health, wealth, love, and happiness. I decided to focus on health and happiness. I lived on for two years with Joel Salatin on his famous sustainable agricultural organic farm. And then I spent two and half years with the Amish. No electricity, trying to see what was life when we lived in community.
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 started asking around: “Will somebody help me?” My uncle said: “You know what, Tai, you need somebody who is going to show you how to make money.”
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.
Talking about Sam Walton. This is a man who made $160 billion for himself, more than all the other billionaires, basically, combined. He wrote a book on his death bed. How many people have read it? It’s a tragedy that not every businessperson’s read a $5 book by a man who built an empire. But it’s because the modern education system has turned people off from books. You’ve got to rewire your brain. Let me show you a few quick tricks.
First thing: stop seeing a book like a one-time event. See a book like a friend. You read it over and over. You come back. And just like friends, you pick a handful of them. I recommend you find 150 books. There’s 130 million. You can’t read that many. But 150 you can read over and over for the rest of your life. There’s no rule, either, at how fast you have to read them, at what pace. I set my own pace. People say, “How do you read a book a day?” Sometimes I take a week. But sometimes, books only have one or two things that are worth reading. In fact, most books only have that.
So I’ll flip through the pages. One time I like to go through it three times. First time, I read the table of contents at the back. The second time, I go a little faster. The third time, I just focus on one chapter. See yourself like a gold miner just looking for that one nugget. Then put it back on the shelf.
The average American buys 17 books a year. Maybe reads one a month. You should read at least one book a week, because remember, everybody wants the good life, but not everybody’s willing to read to get it. You must read more.
And lastly, stoic versus epicurean.
One of the first books that I read, this 11-set volume that I got from my grandfather, there was a quote that I wrote down. “A nation is born stoic and dies epicurean.” Stoics were people willing to sacrifice present pleasure for something better later. You could say they were investors. Epicureans live for now. They were consumers. They said, “You only live once.”
There’s a saying, “If you’re in a room and you don’t know who the sucker is, you’re the sucker.” You never want to be the sucker. Guess what the media wants to do. I can tell you, I’m from Hollywood. They bombard you. We see on average 2,000 ads a day. They’re trying to sell you something.
Luxury comes at the cost of killing your hopes, your dreams, your ambitions. So toughen up a little bit. Be a stoic. When was the last time you went a week without eating sugar? Or walked instead of taken a car to get groceries? Or did 100 push-ups? Or turned the air conditioning off? Toughen yourself up. Take a cold shower.
You see everybody wants, but not everybody is willing to toughen up to get the good life.
You must toughen up.
So in closing, I’ll share with you my favorite poem, Chief Tecumseh. He says, “Love your life. Perfect your life. Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long, and its purpose in the service of your people.” Mentors will help you do that. They are the shortcut that you want. You don’t want to do it the hard way.
Find a mentor, no matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re already experienced. There’s always someone to learn from. You must follow those rules.
Be humble. Persevere. Read more. Toughen up.
Remember, it’s going to be a little bit hard. It’s like Tom Hanks says in that one movie, “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.”
If you do these things, you will find the good life.