I wasn’t the best with money.
So, when I was about 13, my father opened a brokerage account for me. He believed you’re never too young to understand money—particularly investing. On my 300-baud modem connected to an Apple II computer, I researched penny stocks on the Vancouver Stock Exchange via CompuServe, The Source and Dow Jones Newswires. With my $400 nest egg, I called our broker to give him buy/sell instructions. I lost what was a lot of money to a teenager in those years, but I learned the value of money through that experience. I learned the value of investing and taking smart risks. My father taught me how to think like an entrepreneur. That was priceless.
But even those lessons didn’t preclude me from making the kind of money mistakes young people often make. I maxed out credit cards and treated my lines of credit as a source of capital to fund my next new business idea. I felt it was better than spending them on frivolous things, though I’m sure I did plenty of that, too.
I don’t believe debt is necessarily a bad thing. There are so many entrepreneurs who waited until they had cash to take the next step in launching their idea rather than taking a loan to start immediately. Money equals opportunity to an entrepreneur. It allows them to test different ideas—much like I have with 17 companies during the past several decades.
Through those tests, I learned how to make a sustainable income. I wasn’t keen to leave a lot of money sitting in a bank account earning minimal interest. It felt like a squandered opportunity.
I was raised to believe that it’s riskier to take a job than it is to start a business. In my father’s way of looking at the world, it’s better to be an entrepreneur than to have a job. According to him, the entrepreneur has unlimited upside with limitless earning potential, while a job is fixed with a salary and maybe a bonus. Early on, my father helped me think about entrepreneurship from a perspective of income potential. From that mindset came determination: If I’m going to do something, it has to be creative.
Now, there is a time and place for the risk associated with starting an entrepreneurial venture. If you have a family and financial responsibilities, you need to earn income. In that case, you could work on your business in the fringe hours of your day while you earn the money you need to keep up with your responsibilities. I’ve certainly held traditional jobs and done my requisite stint of hourly employment. But it just seemed like a very long path toward my goals. So, I kept testing and learning, which is really the key.
The greatest gift an entrepreneur gives themselves is the continuous opportunity to learn. And you can’t learn until you try. Money is no different. Like with business, I became a student of money. I learned how it’s created; why the U.S. dollar was created versus another type of asset; how the government uses it to fund initiatives and priorities. I learned I probably should have bought Apple stock rather than the penny options I was dealing in. But you only know what you know—until you know more. There is beauty in that truth.
The reality of entrepreneurship is that it takes about 10 times the perceived effort to actually be successful. But if you’re committed to figuring out what works, doing what it takes, being positive, building relationships with as many people as possible, being a student of business, being a student of your craft and being 100% committed, your rates of success will match.
You, more than any penny stock, are worth that investment.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of SUCCESS magazine.