From Homeless to Best-Seller
In 1984 as I was preparing to leave Hawaii, I met the most beautiful woman in my life, we talked about our life’s purpose, and we fell in love. I had made millions and lost millions and was starting all over again when I met Kim. The reason I know she didn’t marry me for my money is because I didn’t have any money.
Although I had no job, no money, and no future, Kim and I held hands, took a leap of faith, and left Hawaii for California.
In 1985, my wife Kim and I were homeless. We were unemployed and had little money left in savings. Our credit cards were exhausted, and we lived in an old brown Toyota with reclining seats that served as beds. At the end of one week, the harsh reality of who we were, what we were doing, and where we were headed began to sink in.
Our homelessness lasted another two weeks. When a friend realized our desperate financial situation, she offered us a room in her basement. We lived there for nine months.
We kept our situation quiet. For the most part, Kim and I looked quite normal on the surface. When friends and family were informed of our plight, the first question was always, “Why don’t you get a job?”
At first, we attempted to explain, but we usually failed to clarify our reasons. We did odd jobs occasionally and earned a few dollars here and there, but we did that only to keep food in our stomachs and gas in the car. Those few extra dollars were only fuel to keep us going toward our singular goal. I must admit that during moments of deep personal doubt, the idea of a safe, secure job with a paycheck was appealing.
We Never Looked Back
We never gave in to what seemed easy because job security wasn’t what we were looking for, we kept pushing on, living day to day, on the brink of the financial abyss.
We knew we could always find safe, secure, high-paying jobs. Both of us were college graduates with good job skills and solid work ethics. But we weren’t after job security. We wanted financial freedom.
Nothing Was Going to Stop Us
From 1984 to 1994, I became an educational entrepreneur because I became interested in how people learn. Although I disliked school, I enjoyed learning. Also, I wanted to know why I always felt stupid in class. During those 10 years, Kim and I built an education company that taught entrepreneurship and investing from our oﬃces in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United States.
During this period of time, I did things diﬀerently, almost the opposite of the way traditional schools teach. Instead of creating an environment where only one or two students were smart, I created an environment where everyone could feel smart and learn. Instead of competing, the class cooperated. Instead of having students listen to me lecture to them, I created diﬀerent games to teach speciﬁc subjects. Instead of being bored, adult students were actively challenged, and participated.
By 1989, we were millionaires. Although financially successful in some people’s eyes, we still hadn’t reached our goal of true financial freedom. That took until 1994. By then, we never had to work again for the rest of our lives. Barring any unforeseen financial disaster, we were both financially free. Kim was 37 and I was 47.
CASHFLOW® Board Game
On New Year’s Day 1995, my best friend Larry and I hiked up to a mountaintop near our home. We went through our annual New Year’s Day ritual of discussing our past year, planning for the next year, and writing down our goals for the coming year. We spent about three hours upon the rocky peak discussing our lives, the past year, and our hopes, dreams, and goals for the future. Larry and I have been best friends for many years (we started at Xerox together. He had become my new best friend because, at that stage of my life, he and I had more in common than Mike and I did. Mike was already very, very rich, and Larry and I were just starting out with virtually nothing but a strong desire to become very, very rich.
Larry and I spent years together as partners, starting several businesses. Many of those businesses failed even before they got off the drawing board. When he and I reflect back on some of those businesses, we laugh at how naïve we were back then. Yet some of those businesses did very well. We were partners in starting the nylon-and-Velcro wallet business and developing it into a worldwide business. We became best friends through starting businesses together and have remained best friends ever since.
At the end of 1995, nothing had happened. I had not achieved my goal.
New Year’s Day 1996
Larry and I sat on the same mountain peak and discussed our results for the year. Larry’s company was on the verge of being sold, but it had not yet happened, so neither of us had accomplished our goals for 1995.
Larry was close to achieving his goal, but I seemed far away from achieving mine. Larry asked if I wanted to drop the goal or choose something new. As we discussed the goal, I began to realize that, although I had written the goal, I did not believe that it was possible for me.
In my soul, I did not really believe that I was smart enough, qualified enough, or that anyone wanted me to belong to that elite group. The more we talked about my goal, the angrier I got at myself for doubting myself and putting myself down so much. “After all,” Larry said, “you have paid your dues. You know how to build and run a profitable private company. Why shouldn’t you be a valuable asset to a team that takes a company public?”
After rewriting our goals and shaking hands, I walked down the mountain with a lot of nervousness and self-doubt because I now wanted my goal more than ever. I also walked down with more determination to have my goal become reality.
Self Doubt to Success
Nothing happened for about six months. I would read my goal in the morning and then go about my daily activities, which at that time was to produce our CASHFLOW® board game.
We spent the next few years creating our board game. It is the only game in the world that uses a financial statement as a scorecard.
The purpose of the game is to teach players how to transform their ordinary income into passive and portfolio income. Many players report the game changed their lives. It changed their lives because the game was designed to change a person’s context.
The board game was submitted to a group of instructors at a prominent university for their feedback. Their verbal reply was, “We do not play games in school, and we are not interested in teaching young people about money. They have more important subjects to learn.”
There is a rule of thumb in business: “Don’t go where you’re not wanted.” In other words, it is easier to make money where you and your products are wanted.
The good news is that more and more schools have been using our games as teaching products in their classrooms. However, the best news is that the public likes our products. Our board games sell well to private individuals—as well as to community organizations, churches, and youth programs—who want to improve financial education for themselves and their members.
And in 1997, the “marketing brochure” I wrote for the CASHFLOW game was published as a book, Rich Dad Poor Dad.
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily