May 24, 2009

Does billionaire Seymour Schulich help you "Get Smarter"?

The sequel to Bruce Willis' Die Hard is Die Harder. So isn't Get Smarter the sequel to Get Smart, the 2008 movie that grossed $230 million US? Maybe you're old enough to remember the 1960s TV show about inane spy Maxwell Smart.

Get Smarter isn't a movie. Get Smarter isn't about improving your memory or intelligence. Get Smarter is a 2007 book with lessons for business and life from a wealthy Canadian. Seymour Schulich, then a 67 year old billionaire, targeted the 20-40 crowd. 
Canada now has 18 of the world's 793 billionaires according to Forbes (in $US): ranging from David Thomson & family with $13B to Michael Lee-Chin with $1.0B.
You probably got lots of free, unsolicited advice from "wise elders" like your parents. You can get more from self-help books. If you think that wealthier means wiser, you can read books by or about billionaires like Richard Branson, Donald Trump, T Boone Pickens, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Does the world need one more?

Schulich Who?
You can find out more about Seymour Schulich on Wikipedia. Although a billionaire, Schulich got support (money?) from the 
  • Canadian Council for the Arts
  • the Ontario Arts Council
  • the Ontario Book Initiative
  • the federal Book Publishing Industry Development Program
Was this taxpayer support really needed?

There are oddities you rarely find in a book. For instance, how long has Schulich been married? The Introduction says 38 years but the dust jacket says 37. If you forget an entire 365 days, would your spouse keep you until the next anniversary?

Here's another. The Introduction says that many books have "two or three main ideas" but Schulich wants readers to get "twenty to thirty ideas". Quantity over quality? The back cover quotes a reader who finds that most books have "two or three usable ideas" but this book has "twenty to twenty-five great insights". How convenient. This is similar to the odd self-promotion for Daniel Gross' Dumb Money.

You'll find incomplete statements that beg questions. Schulich says he drove the same car for 11 years but doesn't say what car. If it's a Honda Civic, kudos to him. If it's a Rolls Royce or Maybach, shouldn't it last? Does he have only one car? Is he usually driven by a chauffeur, which means he drives little? He also says he's lived in the same house for 30 years but maybe it's a magnificent mansion that's continually renovated. We don't know. Maybe he has multiple properties.

The government involvement and oddities made me cringe. Attention to detail and authenticity are keys to credibility. For your benefit, I read the entire book but skimmed Appendices II - IV. 

Lessons Learned
You'll find valuable lessons in Get Smarter. The cartoons are nice. The chapters are short and easy to read. 

Here are nine points that stood out
  1. know your edge: as Seth Godin says in The Dip, "Average people are in the majority, but they're not in demand."
  2. use reciprocity, the first of Robert Cialdini's six universal principles of influence
  3. you won't get truly wealthy if you're paid for your hours rather than your results: read Timothy Ferriss' thoughts on how much you really earn
  4. inflation erodes the buying power of your savings but helps you as a borrower: lock in your debt for years when rates are low
  5. there are no overnight successes: read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell to understand the importance of the "10,000 hour rule" 
  6. be the promoter (and contract-writer), not the promotee
  7. givers set limits because takers won't
  8. the United States has 5% of the world's population but 70% of the lawyers; these lawyers take 3% of the GNP while the profits of the S&P 500 companies total 6% of the GNP
  9. "Fusion power will power all cars electrically and power all homes."
If you're ages 20-40 and haven't read many books, you may find that Schulich shares many treasures. If you want to benefit from government support too, get smart: get Get Smarter from your library. If you want a laugh, watch Get Smart. The movie's funny and so is the TV show. 


1 comment:

nancy (aka moneycoach) said...

Those 9 that you selected are really thought-provoking! I'm on hiatus from my business for a couple more months, but I'm down with the 4-hrs-week ideas by Ferris. Tx for the post. (and it's always nice to see books with a cdn context)