There used to be a simple formula for building a good American life: Go to school and make good grades. Then go to college. Then find a job with a good company. Work hard. Save money. Finally, enjoy a decent (if not lavish) retirement.
For years, the middle class has dutifully followed this path. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the most exciting life but it paid the bills and maybe even allowed for a week or two of vacation every year.
Amazing how much can change in a decade or two. These days the traditional path leads only to daily stress, crushing debt, and uncertainty about the future. The most remarkable part is that so many people continue to blindly follow it, says Gregory Downing—when what we reallyneed to do is make an about-face and learn how to think about work and wealth in a whole new way.
“Consider that probably half of all college graduates are moving back home because the jobs just aren’t there,” notes Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time. “In some cases they’re saddled with student loan debt in the six figures. Meanwhile, the price of everything from food to gas to healthcare to education itself continues to rise.
“Clearly, the system is broken,” he adds. “It’s time we realize, as a society and as individuals, that we need to make a huge mental shift. The government can’t save us; it’s in dire straits, too. Neither can any teacher in any traditional school, because the education system is caught in a time warp where college degrees and 401(k)s are the be-all end-all. The only one who can save you, and your entire family, is you.”
Downing is referring to entrepreneurship. He knows firsthand how dramatically it can transform your life. Once a car dealership manager working grueling 80-hour weeks, he is now a millionaire many times over who takes four months of vacation a year. He made his wealth as a real estate investment business owner and motivational speaker, and he says regardless of the field you may choose, entrepreneurship is the only logical path to financial freedom in a global economy where all the rules have changed.
First, let’s be clear: The entrepreneurship he espouses is NOT the “open your own restaurant and bust your butt working there seven days a week” variety. Rather, it centers on generating multiple streams of income (earned, passive, and portfolio) so that the money you make is not directly connected to the time you spend. (“Time is more valuable than money” is one of Downing’s favorite mantras.)
“A single paycheck, even two paychecks added together, is no longer enough to allow a family to live comfortably and provide for the future,” he states. “If you’re lucky enough to get a good job—and that’s a big if—you might be able to scrape by, but you’ll work yourself into an early grave. And, of course, if the job goes away, the money stops. It’s no way to live—and it’s no way to teach your children to live.”
Anyone can make the leap to entrepreneurship, and, subsequently, financial freedom, insists Downing. Sure, you may have to learn new practical skills—but mostly it’s a matter of changing your mindset. Once you break free of what he calls “middle-class programming,” half the battle is won.
The 40-some Universal Laws of Being an Entrepreneur revealed in Downing’s book sum up the mindset needed to be successful. Here are 15 of them:
“I will always do exactly what I say I will do.” Most of us do keep our word to others, or at least try to. And of course being trustworthy is critical to your success. (How else will we find investors and get return customers and referrals?) But what about the promises and pacts you make with yourself? Downing says most people are far more likely to break agreements with themselves than they are with others. Yet since becoming an entrepreneur requires a dramatic change in both mindset and habits, you won’t get far if you keep letting yourself off the hook.
“It’s easy to justify breaking an agreement with yourself because no one will ever know,” he points out. “Sometimes we even do it unconsciously. But make no mistake: Your private decision has consequences for both your future and your family’s future. That’s why this law is so important—in fact, it’s the one on which all the others hinge.
“Breaking any kind of commitment—even those that may seem insignificant—hurts us because our subconscious gets accustomed to our ‘crying wolf,’” he adds. “Then, when we want to make a big change in our lives, our subconscious simply doesn’t believe us. It will actually work against our success. So when you don’t do what you say you are going to do, you are actually giving yourself permission to falter, to quit, and to fail.”