Brian Tracy

The True Path to Financial Freedom

A Conversation with Brian Tracy, author of Goals!, Time Power and The Psychology of Achievement

By John David Mann

In the entire realm of sales, business leadership and personal achievement, there is probably no name more well known than that of Brian Tracy. Author of a distinguished list of bestsellers, including The Psychology of Achievement and The Psychology of Selling, Tracy addresses over a quarter of a million people a year (in 90 countries, on four continents and in four languages) spreading the gospel of personal effectiveness. Since Brian's definitive treatise on goals (Goals! How To Get Everything You Want Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible) just came out within the last year, and his next book, Getting Rich Your Own Way (due to come out this September), talks about network marketing, we figured it was high time to sit down with the master of sales and have a conversation about goals, financial freedom and network marketing. -- JDM

Brian, you've been teaching people how to set and achieve goals for more than 25 years. What is the most important thing people today need to understand about goals?

In order to achieve success in anything, you absolutely must start with focus and concentration. That's clarity, knowing exactly what you want and what you want to accomplish. 90 to 95 percent of your success will be determined by how clear you are about what it is you're trying to accomplish.

The value of goals is that they force you to think through what you're doing. They force you to become clear.

Is there a double-edged sword to goals? Can people become overly fixated on their goals and lose track of what's really important?

The fact is, most people are completely confused about what they want. Fixating on a goal is not going to hurt them, it's only going to help. Napoleon Hill said, "All success begins with a burning desire and a major, definite purpose." The more focused you are on something important, the more likely it is you'll achieve it.

I encourage people to set 10 to 15 goals, then pick the most important one and focus on that. As you do--surprise, surprise!--you'll find yourself making progress in every other area of your life as well.

So your pursuit of that goal becomes a rising tide that raises all your ships?


Is there a prevailing paradigm in the world around us that affects our goals? To what extent do cultural goals around us play into our own goals?

The vast majority of the so-called "rich" in America are about eight weeks away from homelessness.
In my seminars, I ask people to write down their three most important goals in life. After 30 seconds I stop them and say, "Now, let me see if I can guess what each of you wrote as your three goals." People look at me and say, "That's impossible!" I tell them, "You wrote down a financial goal, a health goal and a personal goal..."--and 90 percent of the audience cracks up, because that's exactly what they wrote down.

If you were to ask this question during the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s or today, you'd get the same answer. We all want to be better off financially, have better health and have better relationships. There is something universal about all these goals.

For example, everybody wants to make a lot of money; that never changes, because money represents freedom. Ask people why they want to have money; the answer at the bottom will always be that money represents freedom.

The one thing that causes people to change these goals is if they believe that they're not achievable--or, that they're immediately achievable.

How does this shift your goals?

It can cause you to go into frenzy. During the latter part of the '90s, people started saying, "Hey, I can get rich if I only have the right idea!" This, of course, was fed by thousands of analysts saying, "The Internet has changed everything! It's possible to create billions of dollars out of thin air, with no sales or profits."

A lot of people want to believe this, that they can find a way to jump the line financially, and instead of working for 20 or 30 years to become financially independent, do it almost overnight.

It kicked off a feeding frenzy, like piranhas in the Amazon, with thousands of companies forming everywhere, all over the country. None had any substance and they all died--because ultimately, financial success comes from adding value, and every one of these companies that failed was not adding value.

How does that other type of distortion, thinking it's not possible, affect people's goals?

It will cause you to give up, which is exactly what the majority of people do. You have those who give up, and those who are looking for the non-existent short cuts--and in between there is a small elite, perhaps ten percent of the population, who just work steadily onward.

These are the people who constantly work on offering better products and services, on increasing their market base, who manage their money intelligently and invest it carefully, who don't get distracted and simply stay on-task. They are like the strong runners in a marathon. Many other runners come out of the gate sprinting and are exhausted in a mile or two.

But the strong runners keep a steady pace and win the race.

Exactly. Many people make the mistake of thinking that making a lot of money quickly is normal, that you just have to find the trick.

Now, every so often you do get a break, where you're able to sprint forward and actually make a lot of money in a short time. But that's the exception, not the norm.

It takes the average American millionaire 22 years to become a millionaire. If you try to beat that average you end up falling further behind, like the sprinter who runs out of energy and gets passed by everyone else. The most successful people are those who keep on growing their assets, who are frugal with their expenditures and careful with their investments. They keep their eye on the goal.

I work with Dr. William Danko, co-author of The Millionaire Next Door, and I've studied financially successful people for decades. They all have pretty much the same modus operandi: they have very clear goals, the clearest of which is financial independence. In everything they do with regard to their money, they ask, "Is this going to move me toward financial independence, or is this going to threaten it?" If it's going to move them toward it, they do it; if it's going to threaten it, they hold back.

It strikes me that the goal "financial independence" is very different in meaning from "get rich."

That's right. Financial independence means you reach a point where you work by choice, not by necessity. Becoming financially independent is the organizing principle of our financial lives.

It would seem that the key to financial independence would be to earn as much as possible, but it's not necessarily so. They have a saying in Texas: "big hat, no cattle." Many people earn a lot, but they're broke: they're living big, but their expenditures and indebtedness are higher than their income or assets. The vast majority of the so-called "rich" in America are about eight weeks away from homelessness. If their incomes were cut off for two months, they would be out on the street.

How do you define wealth?

The best definition of wealth I've heard is "income from sources other than your work."

Over the course of your life, your assets start out at zero and should increase, while your work effort starts out high and should be able to decrease. If you charted these two lines, they should be mirror images. Over time, as you work and save, these two lines will eventually cross; that is the point where your money starts to earn more than you do.

This should be taught in junior high school. "This is your life plan: start out with zero assets, then grow those assets over time to the point where they earn more than you do." That should happen by the time you're in your 50s or 60s. If it doesn't, you'll always worry about money.

You see a good amount of that "big hat, no cattle" culture and that short-cut allure in network marketing.

They have a saying in Texas: "big hat, no cattle."
You do, and that's something we need to change. Rich DeVos once said to me, "If people are not prepared to invest five years in building a network marketing business, they shouldn't even start."

Successful people think long-term. Anyone who tells you that you can build a worthwhile business in less than five years is not telling you the truth. There are certain high-energy people or dynamic sales personalities who can come out of the gate and build a huge business quickly--but this is very rare. The worst thing you could do is hold these people up as the model and say, "Look, anyone can do this!" It's simply not true.

I've just written a book called Getting Rich Your Own Way; one of the examples I use in the book of getting rich is multilevel marketing. The biggest mistake people make is to join a company with a lousy product. It's the same mistake that people made with the dot-coms: getting into a business that doesn't add value. That's a house of cards. If the product is really good, that will lead to repeat business, autoships will grow, and you'll flourish. If it's not, people will discontinue using it and you'll have to continually go out to find brand new customers, which will run you into the ground.

When I say this in network marketing circles, people who are "selling the dream," get mad at me. They say, "The product doesn't really matter, it's the dream." Nonsense! I'll tell you where all the millionaires are in network marketing: they're selling high quality products that add value to people's lives--and they build steadily and consistently, year after year, expanding their businesses, building their downlines and building their autoships.

Once you've achieved clarity in your vision and set very specific goals that serve that vision, what's next?

It's also crucial that you become clear about your skills.

A network marketing company invited me to speak to their people for a half a day, and beforehand they took me aside and said, "Look, whatever you do, don't talk about selling, because that really scares people. Talk about relationships." This seemed to be very popular in the '90s: "We don't sell in this business, we build relationships, we network."

So I talked about "relationship selling," building trust and so forth.

A year later they had me back and said, "Our business is collapsing...everybody's out there building relationships and nobody's selling anything! You've got to tell them how important it is to sell!"

Nothing happens until a sale takes place.

Correct--and that's a matter of skills. All sales revolves around three points of a triangle: prospect, present, close--one, two, three; everything else is support. If you can do those three, over and over, you're going to be successful. If you can't, you won't. It's that black and white.

If you tell your people, "All you have to do is tell your friends and neighbors, and they'll tell others, and they'll tell others, and everybody will be successful and happy..." then you're lying to them. You've got to tell them they're going to need to learn to sell. All successful network marketers are excellent salespeople, no exceptions!

It's very important to be honest with people. You cannot do this just by being sincere. You're going to have to learn how to sell. If you can sell, you can be successful in almost any field, including network marketing.

And those are skills people can learn.

Absolutely. I've spoken to thousands of people who were terrified of the idea of selling, then listened to one of my programs or came to one of my seminars and said, "Hey, I can learn this! I can do this!" And they did--and their whole lives changed. Suddenly all the lights went on in their brains.

The more they did it, the better they got, and the better they got, the more confidence and energy they had, and the more confidence and energy they had the more influential they were...and pretty soon they had built successful businesses.

It always comes back to selling one person at a time on the idea of dedicating their time and their life to this business. All the lead generation systems in the world are not going to help you unless you can sit down with people and explain why this is such a good idea.

Brian, what about the stereotypical businessperson who works hard going after his financial goals, and ends up with three divorces and four coronaries? Where is the glitch that lets that happen?

Each of us is a product of our childhood; as adults, we seek that which we felt most deprived of as children. Many of us grew up feeling insecure because we were criticized by our parents, and financially challenged because we didn't have much money growing up. As adults, we have been preprogrammed to strive for security.

But it's like running a race with no finish line. We strive to become financially secure, but if we never set a specific number or target, no matter how much we have, it's never enough.

Last year I worked with a group of some of the top insurance professionals in the world. The person who brought me in told me, "When you speak to these people, it's very important that you understand that even though they're all millionaires, every one of them fears he's on the verge of losing every penny he's ever made."

I was stunned! These people are the elite of the elite; at insurance conventions they're treated like gods, people throw flowers in their paths...but inside, they feel like children about to be spanked and deprived of everything--so they work constantly and never relax.

Once you've set clear, finite goals, it's important to distinguish between your goals and yourself. As you build your self-esteem, you begin to realize that your accomplishments are not you, and you are not your accomplishments. You don't have to kill yourself! You can set a finish line; you can achieve that financial goal.

Would you describe this as being in the area of vision?

Yes, exactly. There's a wonderful line: "When will I know I have enough--and what will I do then?" Most people don't know! They have set no finish line. A vision is a finish line.

In my coaching program, I have checks written up for everyone in the program. When they come in and sit down, they're each handed a check for $10 million. Then I say, "You've just received a check for $10 million. What are you going to do differently in your life, now that you have ten million dollars?"

After they discuss this with the people around them, we write what they all came up with on flip charts. Nine out of ten answers don't cost any money.

I was quite surprised the first time we did this. I thought people would buy a luxury motor home and travel around the country, get a luxury car, purchase a home in Maui...but nine out of ten answers cost nothing.

"I'd exercise more...spend more time reading...spend more time with my family...go for walks...get more involved with my church or my political party, maybe run for office...."

These are people's true long-term goals. Not the car or the house, but the freedom to do these things they love to do. And you can actually start doing most of these things right now!

Which brings us back to clarity of vision and goals.

Most people set out in life as if they were lost on country roads without a road map or road signs. It doesn't matter what car you're driving; even if you're in a Mercedes Benz, if you're lost on the farm roads, you're lost.

Goals give you a road map and road signs. They tell you exactly where you are and where you need to go. They put you onto the freeway--and once you're there, you can make more progress in one year than most people make in ten.

The equivalent of the car here is your mind. Let's say you have a great mind, a Mercedes. Everyone reading this magazine, by definition, already has a great, receptive mind. But you can have great knowledge, experience, wisdom, education and every other mental quality you need--like driving a top-of-the-line Mercedes--and if you have no road signs, you'll still be lost!

But you can take a person of average ability, with no great skills or education, a poor background--the equivalent of driving a rusted-out jalopy. If she has road signs and a map to follow, pretty soon she'll be on the highway, miles and years ahead of where you are with your Mercedes on those back roads!

You mentioned the tragic mistake we make when we hold up the truly exceptional people as the models, and here you're showing once again why it is that this business is much more about the "average" person than the superstar.

That's right--and it's important to realize that the "average" person, in fact, can become way above average, can become extraordinary. How? By becoming really clear on what he or she wants, then working on that, every single day.