This fall marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of The Millionaire Next Door. The book was not developed in a vacuum. I had a variety of great mentors who influenced me. These mentors include those whom I have known personally, such as professors and business contacts, and those about whom I have only read.
Early in my career I realized that most millionaires are first generation, small business owners and that heritage and politics have little to do with succeeding in America’s economic arena. Millionaires who are self employed business owners are much like fighter pilot aces. Both achieve success because of their ability to match their most important attributes with market opportunities.
I have greatly benefited in my own career as a small business owner from reading the biography of Erich Hartmann who holds the world’s record for arial combat victories . The book is entitled The Blond Knight of Germany. “Knight” is the appropriate title given to Hartmann by the book’s first author, a senior U.S. Air Force officer. The countless near death experiences recounted in the book make Tom Cruise and Top Gun appear like Sesame Street.
It was Hartmann who eloquently stated that:
Inexperience is the handmaiden of panic, panic is the father of mistakes.
Hartmann gave great praise to his early mentors for keeping him alive long enough to gain the experience necessary for success. He emphasized that he was a “blind kitten” during his first few combat missions. And even this ace of aces of fighter pilots encountered fear. He once was attacked simultaneously by eight P51 Mustangs. He recounts that it took every bit of courage and experience to overcome his fear and not panic.
Fear is something that those in all competitive environments need to deal with. Many people opt out of self employment, for instance, because they are fearful and believe that only those who succeed are fearless.
Generating aerial victories is much like generating wealth. Both take much discipline and focus. The millionaire next door types are highly productive in transforming dollars of income into dollars of wealth. Hartmann too was successful by using the fewest number of his cannon shells to shoot down a targeted adversary.