Review: Seven Years to Seven Figures

Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal productivity, personal development, or business/entrepreneurship book of interest.

Seven Years to Seven FiguresI like Michael Masterson’s books. In the past, I’ve given high marks to three of his works: Automatic Wealth, Automatic Wealth for Grads, and Ready, Fire, Aim.

Because of my enjoyment of his other books, I decided to look past the wariness I felt about the title of this, Seven Years to Seven Figures. The title gives me a big “get rich quick” vibe, and that’s a type of book that I actively choose to stay away from. I decided to give this one a shot, solely because of my faith in the author.

Is this just a boring, generic, bogus “get rich quick” book? Or does Masterson actually offer some compelling advice in this area? Let’s dig in and find out!

A Look at Seven Years to Seven Figures

The meat of this book (the middle eight chapters) focus on a series of specific cases where individuals managed to build seven figure wealth in seven years or less. In other words, this is a “teach by example” book. Some people thrive on these, others don’t.

Another thing to note is that most of these stories revolve around entrepreneurship, often entrepreneurship that is seeded at their current job. For most people who have the drive to do something big but don’t know where to start, this type of story is perfect.

One: What the Heck Do I Know?
Masterson opens the book with his own story, relating how he started at an editorial position in a newsletter-writing business and leveraged his work into a bigger salary and eventually a stake in the business itself. In other words, he knows what he’s talking about. The portion I found most impressive, however, is that he recognizes that nothing would have happened had he not made a deep and serious commitment to making it work. He was basically a person with too many dreams – he wanted to write, he wanted to explore, and he wanted to do many, many other interesting things. The problem was that he didn’t have the freedom to follow those dreams, so he committed to doing what he needed to do to make them come true – and that was to build enough savings in the bank that he could make choices about his life without regards to the income consequences.

Two: Are You Ready for Wealth?
Masterson is blunt here: if you want to actually do this, the only way to do it is by making an absolute commitment to making it happen, then diving into entrepreneurial activities and saving it. That means spending less than you earn in both senses of the word – work hard to earn more, but don’t spend to match it. Instead, invest that difference. Masterson says go hardcore – if you really want to make this work, you need to not only be busting your butt to maximize your income, but you need to be saving 50% of what you make.

I like this attitude. If you want your dreams to happen, you have to work for them. Period. Sitting around dreaming about being rich isn’t going to cut the mustard.

Three: Audrey Maxwell
Audrey started out as a copywriter who spent money as fast as she made it, even leading to a negative net worth at one point. She turned this around by doing three things: she turned her reputation as a quality hard working copywriter into the foundation of a business, figured out the sweet spot of pricing that business, and started saving that money to build personal equity (starting by buying a house in a good neighborhood). The real lesson learned? If you know you don’t have the skills to make your own business work, know what skills you do have and find people that can complement that in a business.

Four: Alan Silver
Alan’s story is really all about “chicken entrepreneurship” – in other words, he kept his day job while making something else work. This is more or less what I did with my writing – I wrote in the evenings and the early mornings while still maintaining my day job. While this does provide financial security while making entrepreneurship work, it’s hard – very hard, especially if you have a family. Masterson encourages people who try this to seek help – find a mentor who can provide advice and guide you.

Five: Bruce Buffer
Yes, the brother of boxing announcer Michael Buffer. Basically, Bruce figured out how to really effectively market his brother and got on board with the business end of Michael’s career. What’s the lesson here? Pay attention to what’s going on around you and look for opportunities that are just waiting to happen. Basically, Michael was very good at being a ring announcer and fairly good at promoting himself, but didn’t have the foresight into building it into something bigger and sustainable. That’s where Bruce stepped in, building his brother’s announcing talent into a larger business (and dabbling in ring announcing himself with UFC).

Six: Justin Ford
Justin was basically very confident of his skills as a copywriter, but he had no money – he had recently declared bankruptcy. So, while maintaining his day-to-day copywriting job, he also took on some copywriting opportunities where he didn’t get paid. Instead, he would just receive some percentage of the income that the company earned from the ad. Since this was essentially free advertising, several large organizations agreed, and Justin put his skills to work on some very successful direct marketing campaigns, earning a percentage of the income from those campaigns. He took that extra money and, instead of spending it, invested it in real estate, buying land wherever he could find a bargain deal.

Seven: Ken Morris
Ken liked antiques and building furniture. He made the observation that there was a lot of cheap, old wood to be had in his area, so he took to building “imitation” antiques from this old wood, giving newly-built furniture an antique look. He sold these items at far below the price of equivalent antiques to people who were interested in having the antique look, but weren’t worried about the authenticity and didn’t want to pay the price. As his business took off, he eventually moved into making the furniture for others to sell, and then moved on to training others to do it. Once that happened, he had a significant amount of cash in the bank and was able to move on to new endeavors – such as becoming a homebuilder. What’s the story here? Ken did what he was passionate about – building antique-looking furniture – and he found the right market to sell such items (the southern Atlantic coast). In other words, he knew what he was passionate about, so he invested the time and effort to find when and where that passion would sell.

Eight: Monica Day
Monica desperately wanted to become a copywriter, so in between jobs, she basically decided to spend six months making it happen or failing. Instead of using that period of downtime between jobs to hunt for a new one, she threw herself into correspondence courses on copywriting and taking on as many spec jobs as she could in her spare time. Once she began to get some nibbles, she hunted for mentors and basically by sheer force of will pulled herself towards success. The valuable lesson here is to just go for it. Don’t wait around for the “perfect” opportunity because it won’t come. Instead, put forth your own consistent and honest effort and see where it will lead you. Effort and passion make all the difference in the world.

Nine: David Keller
David was a doctor who believed that alternative medicine was a valuable route for many people to look at for their personal health. So, he basically leveraged his positive reputation as a medical doctor (and the connections he had) to start an alternative medicine consultation business. In other words, he took his pre-existing reputation and his own beliefs and theories and passion and packaged it all together. He started a newsletter to share his views and began consulting with companies he believed in in the natural health business, writing articles and other materials for them in order to help promote their products. Eventually, this new direction earned him substantially more money than his old medical practice. What’s the lesson to be learned? It’s good to be an expert in a field, much better than being just another person in a much larger field. Keller rode his passion and general medicine expertise into being a leader in the alternative medicine niche – and did very financially well for himself in the process.

Ten: Brad Solomon
Brad was an accountant with a knack for communicating ideas with people, and he was bored in his accounting job. Eventually, he built a friendship with another fellow who was involved in a customer relations business, and he had taken on more jobs than he cold chew. Brad thought it interesting, and decided to give it a shot, as this successful person agreed to mentor him and Brad was ready to try a new challenge. This mentor recognized Brad’s skill set and built a bond with him, eventually teaching Brad how to build his own strong public relations business. The lesson here? Don’t let a great mentor slip by. If someone’s interested in you, is very successful themselves, and is willing to be a mentor for you, that’s an incredible opportunity.

Eleven: The Baby Boomer Challenge
The book begins to wind down here with a very simple argument that baby boomers – and thus anyone under that age – should focus seriously on building their own wealth following the advice on this book, because the social structures available for retirement aren’t reliable. Don’t count on Social Security, Medicare, or pensions to save you – do it yourself or it might not happen at all.

Twelve: Lessons from Life: What I’ve Learned about Building Wealth Quickly
You really only need three things to make this all work: a plan of action, the time to make that plan work, and the willpower needed to actually do the work. Many people have one or two of these things – you have to put forth a lot to be able to do all three. I agree with this conclusion – it’s basically the thread that ties all of these stories together.

A Few Thoughts on Seven Years to Seven Figures

“Chicken entrepreneurship” is a slick idea that everyone should try. A side business, particularly one without a significant additional investment from you, is one of the best things you can do with your time. You can build new skills, new relationships, and earn more money, plus it’s a brilliant way to use your spare time.

Masterson tends to focus on the areas that he knows. In some ways, that’s good – he’s obviously in the know about the areas he focuses on. In other ways, it makes for a book with hints of repetitiveness. For example, Masterson made his first chunk of change in copywriting, so unsurprisingly he focuses on several people that also used copyrighting to leverage themselves well.

This isn’t really a “get rich quick” kind of book. It’s about people starting legitimate businesses that took off and sharing what they know. There is no “plan” here that will put cash immediately in your pocket. I was quite worried about a “get rich quick” scheme when I started, but there is no get rich quick scheme – it’s really about hard work and finding mentors.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t work if you’re not frugal. If you’re just blowing everything you earn, it doesn’t matter how good of an entrepreneur you are, eventually everything will collapse. Masterson definitely understands this and preaches it throughout – when you’re making good money, you should be investing a lot of that money.

Is Seven Years to Seven Figures Worth Reading?

If the idea of “chicken entrepreneurship” appeals to you at all, Seven Years to Seven Figures is a worthwhile read. I felt a lot of kinship with a few of these people, particularly Alan Silver, who took a dream of writing, dabbled in it on the side, and eventually built it into something that was sustainable.

Masterson doesn’t sell entrepreneurship as some sort of easy route, though – it requires a lot of work and isn’t a path to yachts and Cristal. If you’re looking for a book to paint you a happy picture of entrepreneurship, this probably isn’t it. Instead, it’s realistic – if you put in your heart and soul, Masterson has a lot of good pointers that can make the difference between utter failure and some degree of success.

In the end, though, Seven Years to Seven Figures and books like it come down to you. You have to be willing to suck it up and make a significant commitment yourself or else they’re simply not worth reading. It’s a potentially lucrative (and liberating) path, but it’s only that way if you’re willing to commit.

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