Most of us like money because it’s an easy way to keep score. If we make over $400,000 a year and have a net worth of over $8,000,000 by age 60, we’re in the top one percent for income and net worth. Hooray!
But money is a pretty meaningless measure after you’ve got all your needs taken care of. Further, a rich person is no more special than someone who has less.
After a certain point, the more money you have, the more I question your goodness. In San Francisco, there are people worth hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, yet they continue to hoard more money than they could ever spend in their lifetime while over 100,000 people are homeless.
But this post isn’t about how we should tell other people how to spend their money. This post is about trying to be the best in at least one thing to have a better life.
Be The One Percent In Something, ANYTHING
In high school, I tried my best to be in the top one percent academically, but failed miserably. I only got a 3.3 / 4.0 GPA freshman year because I goofed off too much. By the time I got my act together sophomore year, it was too late. I would have had to get a 4.0 GPA for the next three years to average a 3.825 GPA. Instead, I ended up with a ~3.6 GPA, which put me outside of the top 15%, let alone 1%.
It’s scary to know your whole life can be determined by how well you do academically as a 14-year-old. That one C grade on your history final exam might be the difference between getting an interview at some prestigious college that may lead to a position at some highly coveted company or being “stuck” cleaning toilets for $250,000+ a year.
Thank goodness our lives aren’t always dictated by freshman year! What I realize more now that I’m older is there are many things we can do beyond academics to give ourselves the best chance at living the greatest life possible.
We know that if you are in the top one percent of something, people will naturally gravitate towards you. With a lot more opportunities, you’ll have a higher chance of achieving your dreams. Not everybody can be an academic genius, but everybody can be an expert in SOMETHING.
Here are some examples beyond academics where you could possibly be in the top one percent. Remember, it can take 10 years to master anything, so please be patient.
1) Fitness. The great thing about fitness is that way more people can become top one percent fit versus becoming top one percent good looking. You know that if you only drink water, eat celery for breakfast, a chicken breast for lunch, carrots for dinner, lift weights two hours a day, and run one hour a day you are going to be ripped! As a fitness one percenter, you can parlay your physique into a business. You’ll likely always be courted and have more opportunities than you deserve. People will more likely believe anything you say in regards to exercise and health even though you might be hurting inside.
2) Music and Art. Who doesn’t love listening to a beautiful voice or listening to a maestro pluck his guitar? Music is what has brought people together since the beginning of time. And great art has brought our walls and galleries to life for centuries. With enough hours of daily practice polishing your skills, you can turn a musical or artistic passion into a rewarding career that delights and impresses audiences of all sizes.
3) Sports. We worship top athletes because they amaze us and give us something to cheer for. There’s no more patriotic a feeling than seeing your country compete and win during the Olympic Games. Who doesn’t admire the captain of the football team or want to get to know the star soccer player? Who doesn’t want to date the captain of the tennis team? Sports is a part of Americana.
4) Communication. There are certain people who make you drop everything to listen to what they have to say. They know how to intermingle humor, story telling, quick wit, and charisma to make you feel more strongly than you did before the speaking began. You can develop your personality by improving your communication skills. You can join a Toastmasters group to practice speaking. You can spend years writing in a journal to master email communication. The great communicator will go farther than the smartest mind any day.
5) Kindness. Kindness is underrated. To be kind, all you have to do is always put someone else before yourself. Yet, so many of us don’t have the patience to give a rat’s ass about anybody else but ourselves. OK, being a one percenter in kindness is hard to measure, but everybody knows someone who they will immediately think of as the kindest person they know. For me, that person is my wife.
6) Side-hustling. I’ve come across so many people who are excellent at what they do beyond their day jobs. For example, a friend of mine sings in a popular SF rock band a couple times a month, another is a top seller on e-bay, several more are top niche bloggers, and another is a well rated music teacher. Don’t let your day job define you, especially if you don’t love it. Work on something outside of work that you are truly passionate about.
7) Perseverance. If you never quit, how can you lose? Perseverance, or grit, as some people call it, is an admirable trait because you see people who are less talented succeed over those who are more talented. Starting anything is easy. Sticking with something for the long haul through all the bumps in the road takes perseverance. The guy who grinds away from 10pm – 1am and then wakes up by 6am to grind some more before going to work is going to make something happen.
8) Investing. The great thing about investing is that you don’t need a degree in investing to become a great investor. You also don’t need to be a certain type of person. All that matters is beating your benchmark and your peers. If you are a top one percent investor, you will not only accumulate wealth faster, you could parlay your acumen into running a massive fund to earn even more money. You’ll also never need to work for anybody again.
9) Cooking. We’ve all got to eat at least one time a day. If you can make amazing food, you will attract anybody and everybody to your home every single time. If you can attract people with your food, you can build amazing relationships. Cultures are built around the joy of food and company.
10) Parenting. There’s no more important a job than being a good parent once you have a child. But being a good parent takes a crazy amount of patience, kindness, sacrifice, and encouragement. If your’e not careful, you’ll miss your chance at instilling in your son or daughter those things you wish your parents had instilled in you. Since anybody who is a parent will love their child more than anything else in the world, if you’re deemed a great parent, you’ll gain much respect from others who are trying to do the same. There are companies who have a bias for hiring and promoting “family oriented employees” because they are seen as more stable. There are academic institutions who may look more favorably upon parents who both show up for orientation instead of just one.
I’ve come up with 10 things that are worthy of being the best at. What are some other things you can think of?
The 1% Category That’s Most Helpful
With little talent elsewhere, I decided to focus on tennis. Tennis helped me make some friends and get into college as a teenager. After getting bumped up to 5.0 in 2015 and winning my club’s tournament in 2016, I’ve noticed a little bit more love and recognition.
The wonderful thing about sports is that the outcome on the playing field can’t be influenced by race, religion, income or politics. When you are on the tennis court, all that matters is keeping a fuzzy yellow ball in play. If I didn’t play tennis, I’d focus on another sport.
Just the other day, a highly connected VC e-mailed me to hit. Maybe he’ll open up his next blockbuster fund with what little I have? Or maybe he’ll introduce me to a larger firm in the online media world that might establish a business partnership with Rostov TV one day. Who knows.
Whenever I run into a parent of a middle schooler nowadays, they seem a little bit nicer because I’m a tennis coach at a high school they’d like their children to attend. When you’ve got to compete beyond money to improve your child’s chances of entry (since so many folks have money in SF), it’s important to build relationships with people who can vouch for you. There’s a real thing called “getting blackballed” where just one thumbs down from anyone ruins your chances or your child’s chances of gaining admission.
Everything I do now is geared towards helping my son find opportunity and happiness. My thought process before doing anything was: will this lead to more freedom, wealth, or happiness? Now my thought process before doing anything is: will this have some positive impact on my son’s future? By helping others and being involved in the community thanks to tennis, perhaps others will be more willing to help my little one when the time comes.
I urge all of you to find something where you can be a one percenter. And if you are a one percenter, don’t be greedy with your talents! There are top 0.1 percenters at my club who only hit with each other because they’re not interested in hitting with anybody of lesser ability. As a result, they don’t maximize their potential.
Be proud of your talent. Don’t let the world’s most bitter people keep you from leveraging what you have. It doesn’t matter what you choose to be good at because the world is big enough and connected enough that if you get to the top of anything, others will want to help you out if you just give them some of your time. If you work hard at being the top one percent in multiple things, dare I say the world is your dragon roll.
Readers, what is something where you are a one percenter? What is one or two things you’re working on to become a one percenter? How has been great at something helped make your life better?