One day, back in his early 20s, Richard Branson was at a conference table meeting with some investors. He was about to sell one of his first businesses, Student Magazine, and this meeting was to finalize the deal.
As part of the terms, Branson was also planning to join their company to help transition the business to the new owners. Everyone was excited about the new partnership.
The deal was almost signed … but then came a hiccup.
During the meeting, the investors asked Branson to share his thoughts about the future. They were excited to have a young entrepreneur come work for them, and they wanted to hear a preview of his brilliant ideas.
Well, that’s when Branson screwed it all up.
He went on a long tangent answering their question, sharing his wildest and wackiest hopes and dreams. He fantasized about owning airlines, offering free flights to students, starting his own bank, nightclubs, hotels, and more. Branson didn’t hold back at all. He loved talking about dreams.
The investors didn’t receive this too well. Instead of being excited, they were quickly turned off. They thought Branson was a kook! They didn’t want to be in business with a crazy person… So they promptly cancelled the contract and never went through with the purchase.
Branson learned a huge lesson that day … to only share the information that people need to hear at the time. It’s important to have wild and large dreams, but in most cases it’s best to keep them to yourself.
One of My Over-Sharing Moments
I had a similar experience a few years back (on a much smaller scale of course — I’m nowhere near Branson’s league). I was meeting with a fancy private bank in Texas, discussing a portfolio loan for some fourplexes I wanted to buy. This loan was important to me, so I came well prepared. Actually, in hindsight, I may have been over-prepared.
I remember sitting in a large corner office with a senior VP from the bank. Everything was going well until the VP asked me to share some of my real estate goals with her. She wanted to learn what type of investor she was about to be in business with.
That’s when I screwed it all up.
I pulled out my laptop and showed off my detailed business plans and nerdy rental property spreadsheets. I talked about FIRE, hinted that I wanted to quit my job soon, and dreamed about buying large apartment complexes using other people’s money in the future.
My assumption was that the more information I shared, the more impressed she would be. Oh, how naive of me. It backfired, big time.
Bankers apparently don’t want to hear about young people quitting jobs. They don’t care about FIRE spreadsheets and if you retire before 40. Bankers prefer to do business with sensible, grown-up investors.
When the deal fell through, I felt like a fool. One of my mentors talked with me afterward about lessons learned, and he said something like: Never give people more information than what they ask for. Keep your dreams (and your spreadsheets) to yourself. Especially when dealing with banks!”
Accidentally Scaring People Away From Financial Independence
When I first heard about the FIRE movement, I was so excited I wanted to share it with everybody.
But many humans still think financial independence (and retiring early) is a grand and wacky idea. Sometimes if I talk about money too quickly, too enthusiastically, or too often, people can get turned off. I sound like a nut job.
Now, I’m learning to ease into the conversation when meeting new people. Biting my tongue and only sharing small bits of information, if and when I’m asked. (I still screw up sometimes and go on tangents, but usually my wife is nearby to give me a fresh slap over the head.)
So here’s the other way I’ve begun to get more people interested in money and the FIRE movement (and perhaps it’s even the best way) …
If You Want to Spark FIRE in Others, Lead By Example
If Richard Branson has taught me anything, it’s to keep pushing toward your goals no matter how large or far off they may seem to others. Keep working hard, and others will eventually take notice and want to learn from you.
Actions speak louder than words. Keep saving, investing, trying to boost your income and knowledge. Become living proof that financial independence is worth shooting for. And if you really want to get your crazy ideas and money-making dreams off your chest, save it for the FI forums and meet-up groups. Or you can always shoot me a note — I love hearing about it!
What about you?… Do you keep your FIRE dreams a secret, or have you found any tricks to introduce new people to the FIRE community without freaking them out first?
*The story up top is from one of my favorite books. Losing My Virginity – an autobiography by Richard Branson.
Joel is a 35 y/o Aussie living in Los Angeles and the guy behind 5amjoel.com. He loves waking up early, finding ways to be more efficient with time and money, and sharing what he learns with others. Rise Early | Retire Early!