On an apple expedition throughout the Southeast last week I had the pleasuring of meeting with a former oil executive who founded a natural resources company and took it public in the 1980s. Since leaving his public company, Great Western Resources, he began helping other people take a similar road as him through seminars and individual coaching. Dan Pena, goes by the moniker the “50 billion dollar man” because of his coaching and mentoring of individuals whom he claims has created at least $50,000,000,000 worth of value under his tutelage.
Dan first came across my radar about three years ago on a podcast that I heard. Like many others before me, I went online and downloaded much of his “free information” and began consuming information written back in the 1990s that ran counter-intuitive to much of what you might hear. In fact I would say that I attribute much of the changes in my thinking in the last few years to Dan, primarily through two quotes
Set your goals to something that cannot be achieved in your life time
Nothing you will ever do matters in the cosmos of time.
The first quote is from a mentor of his which is a call to reach for the stars, and the other is a call to relinquish fear by having a bit of perspective.
Arranging a Meeting
Recently, I discovered that he was traveling through the United States, (he lives in a Castle in Scotland) so I decided to arrange a meeting with him in South Carolina to ask him some questions myself about things outside the scope of his books and seminar videos, and far away from what many other people online might ask him about. What I wanted to know was even more about how a person who has climbed his way “to the top” views the world today. I also wanted to know some of the behind the scenes aspects of his personality and how he does business.
The Southeast Needs an Apple Industry. I Needed Dans Help.
I am assisting in the development of an apple industry in the Southeast and tackling something this big, that cuts against the grain this much, I believe requires a bit of assistance from some of the biggest leaders of our day. Getting this industry built, cannot wait any longer, and the Southeast does not have any more leisure time to begin adopting a food system that is based in long term perennials.
Without further adieu, after a 2000 mile roundtrip drive and sleeping in the back of my truck at rest stops, here are some of the most salient, and important things I found out that Dan believes which are often either counter-intuitive, or extremely reinforcing of some “obvious” truths.
We Are Headed to a Financial Apocalypse
I am a person who is squarely focused on food security. And not like a little bit, or as a “marketing ploy.” So of course, I needed to ask Dan, out of self sanity, are we headed to a collapse.
Unequivocally the answer was yes. Far and beyond 2008. I did not expect much out of Dan’s answer to this question, but I eventually had to cut him off and move forward because he was passionately getting into it. Just due to government debt alone, Dan believes that a collapse is inevitable and actually something to take head.
In fact, I would argue its at the core of a major aspect of his, and others, strategy of moving forward in an uncertain world. How? By knowing the next item.
Inflation is Coming
“Now is the time to leverage up. I keep trying to tell people they will be paying the debt back in cheaper dollars.”
Inflation, is baked into the system’s lifeblood. It is as simple as that. Asset prices have inflated significantly since the previous lows in 2009. As a result, eventually, those assets will, in time, need to return higher returns in order to pay back the debts that public companies have taken on. (Its significant how much they have). This will result in either public companies going belly up because they can no longer afford their assets, or income will have to increase, in multiples, in order to pay back the debt.
Dan is 100% adamant that inflation is coming, and that if there was ever a time in history to use debt to get business leverage, now is the time.
Accountability is Key To Management
“Hold them accountable. Fire them. Get rid of them.”
If you watch enough of Dan’s videos you’ll eventually hear him say that he cannot manage more than 2 or 3 people effectively. I asked Dan specifically, “how do you manage 2 to 3 people”. He stated that I needed to hold them accountable.
Since this was a rare moment to gain wisdom, a follow up question for clarity, I knew would yield more. So I asked, “what does it mean to hold people accountable.”
Well that was simple enough. These statements had a profound impact on me in understanding some very fundamental aspects of enterprise and how to include others in. The reality is that in most, if not all businesses, there is one person who is at the helm. That person is doing something, and everyone else is there to support that person, or take on delegated work. That one person is responsible for everything happening and its their one and only job to take 100% full ownership of accomplishing.
When they fail, there is no excuses. “Somebody didn’t do X” will not work here.
The issue then is, how can you include other people in this, and have them perform in a manner as though their work ACTUALLY matters, especially considering the results, good or bad, will ultimately show the top person’s effectiveness? In Dan’s eyes its simple.
They either perform, or their “held accountable”, and that means they’re fired.
It makes sense, how else could you translate the results? I usually like to use military examples because they’re more straight forward, here is one.
In the Marine Corps, there are only 2 “marines.” The Grunts and the Fighter Pilots. Everyone else is in a support role to make sure that these individuals are equipped and capable of doing their jobs effectively. If a logistics person fails to be able to deliver chow to a grunt in the field, the grunt still has to perform his job, and probably take care of his own food needs (think pillaging). The “reasons” (excuses) the logistics person has for failing to complete their mission, are irrelevant, because the person doing the actual military operations was not supplied and THAT person suffered because of the logistics person effort.
All I can say is, be careful with “reasons” and “excuses.”
Not All Wealthy People “Network”
This came to me a bit as a surprise to me, but it makes sense. Dan Pena does not believe in networking at all. Dan is “strictly business” when he is building relationships. He finds who does what, incorporates them as part of his team, and then holds them accountable to their side of the deal.
What Dan does not do, is ask other individuals for contacts of theirs and then follow those up. Watching his many previous seminars, it is clear that Dan Pena does very open business and very straight forward business. As a result, he did not attempt to get ahead by “smoozing” which is probably the most commonly held belief in business. “It’s not what you know, its who you know.”
Dan thinks that’s bullshit. That may be a government moto, but when trying to get something accomplished in the real world, no amount of favortism or surface relationships is going to matter when things go south.
Trust is the key to relationships, and trust is built over time. Trust ultimately builds when you go through “shit” with another person and you see how they perform. No amount of words can change that.
To Get Ahead You Better Want More than Money
“Money is not everything. It is, however, counted and measured. So its important, its just not everything.”
Many erroneously believe that people who are wealthy want money. If you read Rich Dad Poor Dad, you’ll quickly realize why this statement isn’t just in error, its close to backwards. Basic accounting understanding shows that Robert Kawasaki is correct. However, as Dan Pena points out, money allows you to get access to things that you want.
I did not ask Dan to elaborate on what he initially set out to do when he started his company in his mid 30s, but I do know that he had the goal of wanting a castle in scotland (he achieved) and to become extremely wealthy (also achieved).
In a number of Dan Pena interviews, and now hearing him say it in person some of his followers without having a bigger purpose became fabulously wealthy and yet bored, have low self-respect, become aimless, and overall lonely.
Money isn’t everything.
Marriage Success Might Be Due To Luck
After some moments of silence and thought his reply was “Luck”
That was the answer to the question “what do you attribute your success in marriage to.” Dan has been married for an extremely long time. I am not 100% sure when he married his wife, but it was at least in the early 90s, if not the 80s. Listening to interviews showed that he and his wife are fairly close and have had a great time together after all these years, so naturally I wanted to ask this elderly gentleman what the keys to his personal success are.
Dan stated that many “marry for the wrong reasons, have kids for the wrong reasons, and stay together for the wrong reasons.” Dan is convinced that there are just too many factors that go into play about having a good marriage, and for him, he seemed to think luck was the primary agent.
The Financial System is a Trap
“The financial system is built only to extract fees. The less you know about finance the better you will be. All of the instruments that they sell are completely unnecessary.”
This is coming from a man who used to work at Bear Sterns. Dan stated multiples times throughout the interview that the financial industry is just there to figure out how to create fees.
Even Those “At the Top” Do Not Think You Can Change Others
“Do not even try it. Its futile. You cannot change culture.”
Dan Pena looked squarely in my eyes when he said this. I am not sure why, but he just finished telling me a story about meeting an islander in the pacific who wanted advice on how to change the culture of his island.
With his advice on holding people accountable, Dan can be counted in with the number of individuals who believe that you cannot change another person, let alone an entire culture. For some of us who, at times, especially in the past, thought that we could, it is fairly clear that we can only change ourselves and need to get busy working on ourselves to be demonstrations (actions, not words) to others, rather than trying to communicate to another person they need to change.
You know what they say, you can’t lead a horse to water.
Close Your Facebook
“I told my seminar attendees, close your facebook, and they turned this color right here.”
He pointed to the white paper I was taking notes on. What an interesting world we live in today that people would be surprised that if you want to get something done, more than likely the best advice is to get rid of your facebook account.
Sacrifice Everything. God, Family, Everything.
Dan is very clear about the concept of being a soaring eagle. Those who are the most “alpha” are not looking to please others, they’re looking to do what they’re set out to do. As a result, one has to give up attempting to please and satisfy all sorts of people, organizations, and commonly held beliefs.
It isn’t clear why Dan said this to me as it came out of nowhere, but it was certainly noted that he feels with deep conviction that you must sacrifice to move forward.
No surprise there. With those words I am sure he would also suggest sacrificing your own comfort to do so.
The meeting with Dan was a very good one. He was a gentleman and genuinely interested in helping others. He often comes off as an angry ball buster, but that might only come out to those who need it. For somebody like myself Dan was interested in hearing me out, answering questions faithfully, and sharing the wisdom nuggets he has picked up along the way.
Thanks Dan and cheers.
Have any comments or questions? Shoot them below.