Doc’s note: Today, I’m sharing an essay from my good friend and colleague Steve Sjuggerud, in which he explains one of the most important lessons he’s learned about being successful.
And if you missed out on our recent special presentation where we explained how to invest successfully this year, you can watch it here.
I (Steve) couldn’t believe my good luck… I was going to be at a dinner with legendary investor Jim Rogers!
This was in 1996. I was 25 years old. Jim was a hero to me – he’d put together possibly the greatest track record of any living investor running a hedge fund in the 1970s.
I’d read his books, and he shaped a lot of how I think about the markets. So I was looking forward to meeting him in person for the first time. The dinner, and the investment conference it was part of, seemed like a great opportunity.
But my spirits sank as I walked in the room…
Twenty people were already seated at the dinner table.
I assumed many of those folks would want to get close to Jim… Maybe I wouldn’t even be able to hear a few words from him. A handshake might be about it.
I scanned the table for empty seats. There weren’t many. My buddy Porter Stansberry was with me (he was 24 at the time). I saw two empty seats together… And I couldn’t believe it – these two empty seats were the two seats next to Jim Rogers!
All kinds of thoughts went through my head about why I shouldn’t sit next to him:
- “Jim’s a legend, and I’m a nobody. I don’t deserve the seat next to him.”
- “Jim knows a LOT more about everything than me – I don’t want to waste his time.”
- “What if I say something foolish?”
- “I’m supposed to be an expert like him, but what if he sees that I’m nobody special?”
Jim was a legend. I’m sure many of the other folks at the dinner had the same thoughts in their heads – and that’s why none of them were sitting next to him.
I summoned my courage, put all those negative thoughts aside, and went for it…
Porter and I took a seat next to him. And it was one of the highlights of our lives to that point…
Jim couldn’t have been more entertaining or charming for the next two-and-a-half hours… sharing his strong opinions on everything under the sun.
He knew that I knew a lot of details about his story. (For example, I knew his home phone number growing up in Demopolis, Alabama was “5.” Not 555-5555. Just “5.”) He was comfortable holding court – just for Porter and me. It was fantastic.
Since then, Porter and I have done a lot with Jim. He’s been a speaker on our podcasts and conferences, and we don’t hesitate to help each other out. And it all started because Porter and I faced our fears, took a chance, and simply sat down next to him.
To me, this is a secret to much of my success in life… Just getting past the fear of looking foolish, and taking the risk. It’s hard to do… but it’s the right thing to do.
This came up again recently… And I wanted to share the story with you…
Porter and I are no longer the young bucks we were in 1996. I’ll turn 47 years old later this year. And our little business, Stansberry Research, has grown into a much bigger business.
Last spring, we had a couple-day meeting with many of our employees in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. One night at dinner, Porter and I sat at a table. The entire table filled up – except the two seats between us.
I asked Porter if he remembered the Jim Rogers dinner 20 years ago. He said, “Of course.”
We wondered which young bucks would take the two empty seats between us. All the tables filled up… everyone took a seat… and the two seats between us stayed empty – for the entire dinner.
It was an opportunity wasted.
I’m sure the same things that were going through my head before we took a seat with Jim were going through people’s heads in our company.
But trust me, you’ve got to step up. The upside is exponentially greater than the downside risk. Take the risk, and it can change your life for the better. Don’t take the risk, and you’re right where you were before the dinner – no worse off… but no better off.
I get that it seems like a big deal… and that it’s tough to overcome your nerves. Back at that Jim Rogers dinner, many of the other folks in the room were successful legends in their own right… But even so, they were too intimidated to take those seats next to Jim.
Taking a seat at the table is just one way to follow today’s advice…
Most people don’t want to risk looking stupid. But I’ve learned that it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand your idea. Can you explain it again?”
Jim Rogers didn’t look at us like we were stupid. Instead, he appreciated that we were engaged in his ideas… wanting to understand them, wanting to learn more.
Again, I approach it the same way I approach investing… You want to accept a little bit of downside risk for a lot of upside.
In situations like this, the “math” is almost always the same – the potential upside is dramatically greater than the risk of looking foolish. You just have to overcome your fear of embarrassment.
Be bold, my friend. Summon your courage. Overcome your fears. Go ahead and take that seat at the (metaphorical) table. And potentially change your life.
You will be glad you did!