Practice What the Successful Do, Not What They Preach

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, says that you should invest in low-cost index funds in U.S. stocks.  He suggests a long-term view with a buy-and-hold strategy.

Yet, what Buffett suggests is almost the exact opposite of what he actually did to become so wealthy.  Perhaps it is not the exact opposite, as that might mean doing absolutely nothing in terms of saving, which many Americans are good enough at.

Buffett became fabulously rich by value investing.  It didn’t hurt that he started off in a decent situation as the son of a congressman.  His father, Howard Buffett, was about the closest thing to a libertarian in his time.  He was the Ron Paul of his time.  We have to wonder what went wrong with Warren.

Warren Buffett invested in companies that he correctly saw as having good value and good potential growth.  He became wealthy by not diversifying too much.  This isn’t to say that diversification is not a good strategy, but just that it is not Buffett’s expertise.

I don’t know if Buffett thinks others are simply too stupid to do what he did.  Maybe he is right.  Or maybe he realizes that he probably had a little bit of luck along the way to complement his skills.

I see this so often in the world though.  Somebody is rich and successful, and they tell you to do things that are different from what actually made them rich and successful.  It can happen with other successes besides money too.

For example, you could read someone’s book on how to save money.  Maybe the book has some good advice.  But the author may be well-off financially not so much because he was really good at saving money, but because he was good at making money by teaching others to save.

Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are really rich.  They have made their money by teaching others through seminars, books, radio, and other outlets.  I have my disagreements with them on investing strategies, but I think their overall advice on debt and living below your means is solid.  But if you really want to be rich, it is not so important to follow their advice as it is to copy what they do.

As the title of this post suggests, if you want to be successful, don’t practice what successful people preach.  Instead, practice what they do.

This isn’t to say that any of these people are hypocrites for saying what they say.  Again, some of the advice is solid.  I am just saying that if you really want to learn from successful people, it is better to be observant about what they are doing.

I subscribe to several online marketers who try to teach others to be rich.  I rarely buy any of their products.  However, I often read the emails because I know they are at least somewhat successful.  I want to see how they write their emails and how they set up their landing pages.  I want to see how they market their material.  I learn more from this than I could probably learn from actually buying their course, or whatever it is they are selling.

There are many motivational speakers today, and you have the gift of YouTube and other media to view these people for free.  I am thinking of people like Gary Vaynerchuck, Tony Robbins, Peter Voogd, Stefan Pylarinos, T. Harv Eker and Tim Ferriss.  You can also find these people on many podcasts.

Many of these people have made a lot of money just by motivating others to do the same.  To be fair, many of them have made a lot of money in other things as well.  Still, there is nothing wrong with this.  These guys are really great motivational speakers, and I think you should largely listen to their advice.  Unlike the examples of Buffett, Orman, and Ramsey, these people do preach what they practice.

Still, even with these motivational guys, you can still observe what they do and how they market themselves.  There are lessons to be learned other than just listening to what they say.  You can follow what they do, and that doesn’t mean you have to be a motivational speaker.

I recommend that you listen and observe these people.  Of course, there comes a time when you have to stop listening, at least for a while, and take action.  If all you do is listen to motivational speeches about getting rich, you aren’t going to become rich unless you actually take action.

In conclusion, look at the successful people in this world and determine if they are preaching what they are practicing.  But this should include what they practice that makes them so successful.  It wasn’t Dave Ramsey cutting up his credit cards or making a budget that ultimately made him so rich and successful.  It is because he learned to communicate what he had learned.  He also took action in doing so.

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