This column gets some of the most remarkable feedback and attention. We think the attraction is its focus coupled with the intentionally striking examples we're choosing to illuminate each concept. While there's a lot of how-to material about getting rich floating around, there's nothing out there addressing how to create extreme personal wealth. At the same time, because we're critically studying the worlds of the super-rich we see the unvarnished reality and little of it is politically correct, which we find resonates quite well with the wealthy as it closely matches their experiences and observations.
Our clinical interest in the genesis of extreme personal wealth is decades old. Today, the insights and methodologies predicated on that interest form the foundation of a fascinating and incredibly profitable boutique consulting practice. We apply our expertise with the super-rich and a smattering of the financial elite to our clients, who come to us through a tightly structured referral system. Consequently, we haven't run into direct competitors. However, it's a great big world and what we're doing is not that unique.
In the March/April Money Rules column, entitled "The Glass Bead Game," we talked about the Personal Wealth Creation Programs we structure and help implement. That column prompted considerable attention, including an overseas inquiry from an experimental psychologist. After going back and forth by e-mail and phone a number of times, we met. He was as interested in discussing our consulting business as we were in understanding his coaching practice. The psychologist works exclusively with people who are already spectacularly wealthy and are famished for more. Every one of his clients has always been a centimillionaire or better. In contrast, we will go down market, getting involved in "turnarounds" and "liftoffs."
He has two doctoral degrees. One is in experimental psychology and another in the classics. Not being able to get a university teaching position, he ended up joining a human resources consulting firm. For many years, he trudged into companies as a personal development specialist with the aim of helping middle managers better relate to each other, be more sensitive and understanding with respect to their subordinates, and become more adept at expressing their feelings and needs.
The psychologist said that, almost immediately, he realized that the consulting firm was very effective in extracting large fees without delivering anything resembling value. For him, it was every biting joke about the consulting business proved true. Being an experimental psychologist in a company populated by educational and counseling psychologists, he was regularly at odds with his peers over a plethora of business issues, such as his concern in getting demonstrable results. He saw his services on behalf of the human resources consulting firm as a "pathetic combination of mutual masturbation wrapped in Pablum."
While he was spoon-feeding "happiness" to middle managers, his erudite manner and his diverse educational background, coupled with a bottom-line perspective, resulted in engagements with a handful of C-level executives. After a few years learning the ropes, he opened his one-person coaching firm exclusively for exceedingly affluent owners and managers of privately held companies. Now, as he puts it, he flies a lot closer to the sun than he used to, but far enough away not to get burned. Most importantly, he points out that the financial rewards and personal pleasures of his engagements are extraordinary.
The experimental psychologist employs a plethora of behavior modification methodologies with and on behalf of his clients. As he sees it, his job is twofold. First and foremost, his job is to help his clients integrate a mind-set that's essential to creating a sizeable personal fortune-and let's remember all these people are fabulously rich to start with.
At its core, this means his clients must recognize that all the people they interact with are lab rats. This characterization is not meant to demean the people the clients deal with, or people in general. On the contrary, the characterization is to ensure that his clients understand that many human behaviors can be modified.
His second job is to provide his clients with the knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to motivate select individuals who are or can be instrumental to help them achieve their financial goals. As a traditional experimental psychologist, he focuses on operant conditioning. While the foundation of his approach is Skinnerian, he has made quite a number of meaningful adjustments to ensure applicability within the professional environments of his wealthy clients.
His clients, for instance, learn to approach each and every encounter-direct and indirect-as a laboratory experiment where the actions of others are to be guided often through the process of successive approximations. The overall approach is one of noting and then skillfully managing the "perfect individualized positive reinforcements." For a select number of professional relationships, the psychologist and a client will create a hierarchy of rewards. Along the same lines, it's extremely important for his clients to surround themselves with top-notch talent. Mastering the reward hierarchies that motivate and curtail this talent is central to creating those massive fortunes.