7 Timeless Lessons On Wealth I Learnt From Victor Asemota
“New billionaires are created every 10 years in Nigeria primarily because the government changes…,” Asemota said. “And there are true entrepreneurs who take advantage of this change as they see it coming then adapt.”
Victor Asemota is an entrepreneur with vast experiences across markets and industries. From his Twitter profile, he wants the last person leaving Nigeria to “please switch off the generator.” But really he is our uncle on Twitter who doesn’t hold back to share his experiences so we can avoid his mistakes, build on his insight and thrive beyond our imagination.
Among other topics that he shares a lot about is the topic of wealth. I took time to narrow out some points that I believe we shouldn’t forget and that will help us build sustainable wealth as individuals.
After stating that new billionaires are created every 10 years in Nigeria in one of his interview appearances, there was a follow-up question from a participant. “What can we young people do to position ourselves for the advantages of the next decade?” the participant asked. Asemota replied with a simple phrase “go and work.”
According to him not a lot of people can leapfrog the working for others stage and still succeed as an entrepreneur. And if it is the entrepreneurs who will capitalize on opportunities to become billionaires, then the first lesson I want us to learn is the importance of actual work experience before venturing into the entrepreneurship ocean. Well, that’s for those who desire to become billionaires. Not everyone desires that and not all that desire it will have it. So what can we all apply to lives as we seek to accumulate wealth?
1. Wealth is a mentality and not a destination
Asemota: Wealth is not a destination, it is a lifetime journey to keep living below your means and growing your income exponentially. Wealth is a habit and not just an outcome. Wealth is not the fear of scarcity but the fear of not having enough abundance. It is a drive that is more often than not powered by human ego or belief in a mission much bigger than themselves. Wealth is about optimization amid inefficiency.
We were all born wealthy until we started thinking poor. Asking is not about Jedi mind tricks. Asking is the greatest power man has but we ask for the wrong things. Solomon got wealth because he asked for wisdom. Wisdom is the greatest wealth as it makes you realize that you already have a right to EVERYTHING. No wonder Solomon was the greatest baller that ever lived. Built a magnificent temple and made many women happy.
Commentary: Some think if they are given some million dollars they could overnight become wealthy. The history of lottery winners will have us believe otherwise. And that’s why this first lesson is super fundamental. Wealth is a mindset and except you have it well defined, you can’t have it. It requires constant living below your means no matter how much you have. It requires you to keep growing your income no matter how much it is now. That’s the mindset. It’s not a destination with an arrival.
2. Wealth is created from place and time
Asemota: One of the best things I have ever learned was told to me by our father Professor Gabriel Osuide. He said the two things God gives us are time and place, we do the rest. Time and place are the greatest gifts from providence, most people never fully grasp why “place” is an advantage. Why are we where we are at any point in time? Place is always an opportunity. Either an opportunity to improve or an opportunity to seek improvement. You are not tied to any place, migration is as old as mankind. Man has always sought favourable places but each place has lessons.
Commentary: time and place is an advantage but everyone realizes it. It’s also the fundamental advantage that we all have. It takes having the wealth mentality to realize this though.
3. It takes a village to create a billionaires
Asemota: Wealth does not come as it does from golden eggs and genies granting wishes in fairy tales. It comes from understanding that those in the place where you start must also want prosperity as badly as you want it and are willing to work together to build it. It ALWAYS takes a village. It takes a village of like-minded people to create a billionaire. They must all have a certain desire for an outcome or mission that creates wealth. Some of those people in the village believe in the mission more than others but it remains the force that holds the clan together.
Commentary: it’s fine to think of yourself alone but if you desire to become wealthy, you need to irrationally think of others and how you may help them as well. You become wealthy only by giving to others what they want and they can’t get so they can give you what you want (money, respect, reputation etc).
Also, that is important because, for every billionaire you have, many more millionaires have been made in the process. Extrapolating from Asemota’s point, it will almost be impossible for you to make the billions if those that surround you have no desire to become millionaires (wealthy) themselves. But gather together a team of aspiring millionaires and you are almost sure to become a billionaire yourself.
4. Those who are given to self-pity can’t create wealth
Asemota: I have never seen a clan of complaining people creating wealth from self-pity. That is the lesson I have learned from Thiel’s talks about China’s “Determinate Pessimism.” Things were bad, they also knew that things could be much worse if they did nothing but hope and pray.
Commentary: Asemota picked a lesson from China’s history on how they moved obscured poverty to the powerhouse that they are now. Instructive for us is the idea that wealth doesn’t come from self-pity nor does poverty end on the whims of it. The opposite of self-pity which self-responsibility must then become our watchword if we desire wealth.
Self-pity will condition you to think you are a victim and that the power to rise from your misery does not lie in your hand because of current condition (time and place). But we learnt at least one thing at all from the earlier point, it is that time and place (our condition) are our greatest gift. It gives us either an opportunity to improve or an opportunity to seek improvement. And that’s that we need to build wealth; improvement daily.
5. Loss teaches more lessons about wealth than anything else
Asemota: I started a business at 22 but didn’t intend to be rich with it. Became rich quickly and lost it all. Trying to get it back again is another exercise in learning about self-discipline. Creating wealth is ultimately about self-discipline and structure. You can’t be disorganized and become or remain rich. An epiphany.
Commentary: Asemota takes us back to the psychology of wealth. It’s a mental state and not a destination with a conclusive arrival. He was sharing something about Naval when he mentioned the quote above. So I’d like to quote Naval here as well.
“A lot of people think making money is about luck. It’s not. It’s about becoming the kind of person that makes money. I like to think that if I lost all my money and if you drop me on a random street in any English-speaking country, within 5, 10 years I’d be wealthy again. Because it’s a skill set that I’ve developed and I think anyone can develop.”
Replica of Asemota’s experience. He lost it all but because he has developed the skill, he could earn it back. Some of us think it’s about the money but these two brilliant and wealthy individuals will have us believe that it’s a skill, a state of the mind and habits.
6. Time and money should be invested in compounding opportunities
Asemota: Someone came to me recently with his life savings of some tens of thousands of dollars and asked for investment advice. I told him to save that money where it will compound and think of something he is passionate about and invest his time and not just his money.
If you have been able to save $30k then you must be doing something right. It is better to find how to expand and grow on that knowledge. Sometimes, we don’t realize what we already have and look towards what others are doing. I told him not to get carried away with public hype. I love training, I started my career and business with training and will retire as a teacher. Teaching has brought me more money than any other endeavour.
We see the things we think others make money from but don’t see their secrets. Nobody really advertises their source of advantage. Never get carried away with publicity. Know what people are doing when they display wealth, it is a means to an end.
Commentary: Oh my my, I like this point. And the entire narrative is loaded. The investment that will give you the highest returns is one where your time and money are invested. If you know me well, you will know that I favour passive investment in the stock market. Thinking about this now I realized it is because I do not expect my greatest return to come from there. The greatest return should come from that thing that keeps me up at night from sleeping, that takes from me my necessary food and that I enjoy doing. For some it could still be the stock market, that’s why we have Mark Cuban, Ray Dalio and Warren Buffett. Do not expect the highest returns from any investment that only cost you money without demanding your time.
7. Where you live is more likely to make you rich than how hard you think you are working
Asemota: Many times, what people think is hard work is just overcoming obstacles to exist. The hardest work is deep thinking and creation. It is not jumping on buses and trains. You need comfort and lack of distraction to do your best work. Each time I am in Palo Alto seeing the simple homes without fences, I remember Lagos homes in supposedly affluent areas.
I took some time off once in San Francisco to go to Napa to get an article written. It was the best work I ever did. Suffering to be productive because of the hardship and limitations in your environment is not a virtue.
Commentary: The hardest work is deep thinking and creation and this is best done if you don’t have to overcome obstacles to exist. By obstacle to exist, Asemota meant among others one, the long hours’ traffic of Lagos, two, the battling with electricity and generator noise and three, expensive basic amenities. If you will have wealth, the scale at which you will have may correlate with how less you have to overcome obstacles of existence.
Also read this – My Investment Journey In 2020