The Quick Road to Riches

As a teenager I took a summer job in Hawaii. I thought it would be a fun way to make some extra money while enjoying the islands. I had no idea when I signed up how very difficult it would be. My assignment was to plant pineapple on the tiny island of Lanai using a small hand tool much like a garden shovel. Plastic strips on the field indicated where to place each young plant.  The strips also kept track of how many pineapples we planted.

Our pay was based on production but we were expected to each plant at least 2500 plants per day. The ultimate goal for all the planters was to be able to plant a whopping 10,000 pineapples in a single day and become a member of the “elite” 10,000 club. Everyone wanted to be a member. It seemed at first like an impossible goal, and the more the summer wore on the more it appeared truly unattainable. No matter how fast or hard I worked, I came to the conclusion that the human body was not capable of planting that many pineapples in one day.

Finally I asked a local expert how I could ever plant 10,000 pineapples. He surprised me by responding that I couldn’t – that nobody could. After letting his response sink in for a moment he then added, “But can you plant a single row in 12 minutes?” A row held 250 plants and I had often planted single rows in under 10 minutes. I told him that I could certainly plant a row in 12 minutes to which he replied, “Then just do that, and when you are done do it again and again.” Following this simple advice, and working my tail off, I spent the next day planting single rows of pineapples in under 12 minutes, over and over again. When I left my summer job with Dole Pineapple, I was pleased to see my name engraved on the company wall plaque under the heading “10,000 Club.”

Americans are obsessed with wanting to be millionaires. Everyone wants to be a member of that club. We often think of these as the lucky few who “hit it big,” but I can tell you from my experience working with many millionaires that most are very normal people who had very average jobs. They usually didn’t just go out and make a million bucks, but rather they found a way to save and invest a few hundred dollars, then they did it over and over again.

As a nation we are an impatient people. We want everything and we want it now. The current popularity of the lottery is one symptom of our failure to understand the laws that govern success. The irony is that the quick road to riches usually turns out to be the slow road to poverty.

If you want to join the millionaire club, and I am completely convinced it is open to everyone, you need to learn to break big goals down into small manageable steps, and then patiently do them over and over again. I learned that lesson working as a boy under a scorching sun in the red dirt of a little Hawaiian island, and it remains one of the most valuable lessons of my life.