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It Is The Tale, Not He Who Tells It

Once upon a time there was a Japanese-American businessman who wrote a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad about how he was raised in Hawaii by two fathers: his own, who was poor, and his friend's - who was rich. And it was a good story, and many people read it, and his name became widely known: Robert Kiyosaki. He invented the Velcro wallet, of all things, and built a business empire.

Most recently, he was in the real estate business - not so much buying and selling real estate himself, but teaching others to buy and sell real estate. And not so long ago, he was sued for something or other, and one of his businesses declared bankruptcy. So people started saying he was himself bankrupt. And that's when the real bombshell dropped.

See, Robert Kiyosaki's story was bullshit. He never had a rich friend with a rich dad who taught him things about money. Instead, Kiyosaki learned the way most businessmen do - through observation, experimentation, trial and error - and finally "clicked" by stumbling over an opportunity which he leveraged for all it was worth until it went bankrupt. Robert Kiyosaki was not and is not the product of a wise rich man's teachings. He is the product of the same confused and undirected thrashing about that most business owners are doing. 

But Rich Dad, Poor Dad continues to sell quite well and be recommended quite highly and help a lot of people get their arses in gear so they can make something of themselves. I continue to recommend it myself.

Because it is a good story.

Do I care that Kiyosaki lied? That the story isn't true? That his real story is that flash of inspiration about the Velcro wallet, coupled with conventionally funded business loans?

Not one bit.

Let's turn to his bankruptcy for a minute. Kiyosaki has a great many "small" business interests which draw funding from his larger interests. The larger interests own stock in the smaller ones. The smaller ones pass their profit up the chain to the larger ones when necessary, and the larger ones reinvest it. The big interests never really do anything. The small ones do.

So whenever there's a lawsuit, it's directed to one of the smaller companies, and its cash reserves can be rapidly siphoned off before the lawsuit is filed. Even if the lawsuit succeeds, the small operation just declares bankruptcy and folds up.

This is only a tiny portion of his business interests, so he doesn't really lose very much. Or care. Kiyosaki speaks extensively about this in his workshops - the importance of a good "wealth protection" strategy.

But people still continue to gloat over the idea that Kiyosaki is a fraud and a sham who got sued and declared bankruptcy.

Do people care that this isn't true? That only one of his companies declared bankruptcy? That the real story is how you can sue someone for over twenty million dollars and win, but still never actually get the money and have no way to get it - even though the person you sued has it?

Not one bit.

Because it's a good story.

That's the final part of the BADASS methodology: the second S is Story.

There's really no simpler way to put it - what ultimately makes you badass is your story.

And the thing about stories is they have reliably recurring parts. A good story has specific parts which can be identified and repeated. It's not about making anything up - that's not necessary. Your life and your experiences already have all the elements of a good story. All you need to do is identify those things and focus on them in the correct order.

If you're at all interested in story structure, you've probably heard of three act structure, which can be best seen in every 1950s television program ever.

Once upon a time, there was a normal American family.

familydinnerBut someone got into terrible trouble!

dobiejailAnd then, everything was okay again.

beaverokYou can see the exact same situation play out over and over in everything from a sitcom to a Hollywood feature film.

At the other end of things, we have Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, also called the "monomyth" - he summarises this 17-stage structure in his 1949 book The Hero With A Thousand Faces:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

You can see from the colons that this is still the same three act structure - it's just added more detail. The fifties TV structure can be seen here in "common day" (a normal family), "fabulous forces" (terrible trouble), and "the hero comes back" (everything was okay again).

The added detail creates a more specific story which is likely to be more meaningful and powerful than, say, that one episode of Gilligan's Island where the Skipper thought Gilligan had been turned into a chimp by voodoo.

This post is getting a bit long, but it's a key point to note that the chief of a tribe is largely the keeper of its history... a storyteller. We'll put these pieces together tomorrow.