In reflecting on what got me to the point where I could pursue my passion and leave my job, I discovered two types of leadership, personal Leadership and people leadership.
Personal leadership is the recognition that you have the personal power to define what you want; figure out what you need to do to get you there; and do whatever it takes. Where did I learn to embrace the principles of personal leadership? Through reading many personal development books and my love for two sports that require strength and endurance—running and rock climbing, which I have devoted many years of my life to.
These experiences taught me about dreaming of big, inspiring goals and doing the work needed to reach them. The lessons that I learned taught me not only that I could set and reach big goals, but they also showed me how to do it. This learning helped me achieve several big goals in my life including getting my Ph.D. while working full-time; publishing several books, also while working full-time; and becoming a multi-millionaire at age 52.
It was about twelve years ago that I set the formidable goal of becoming semi-retired by the age of 50. For me, this meant having the money and flexibility to pursue different, and hopefully more fulfilling work, than I was doing at the time.
I was an engineer by trade and did enjoy the work. I must say though, that it was not my life’s passion. The career had been good to me and provided me many challenges and much growth. It also helped me provide for me and mine for many years. But, I wanted to pursue my passions—the things that I can’t wait to do every day; the things that make me smile and really enjoy life.
At that time, my net worth was less than $150,000 between equity in my home and my 401K. To many, it would seem like I had a good start, but when I did the math, I found out that I needed millions in net worth to make my goal a reality. From all the training and experiences I had, I knew that to reach this goal, I needed to have a plan. I knew that I needed to be prepared to be flexible and modify my plan if things didn’t go as I expected. I also knew that I was ready to do what needed to be done to make it happen.
My first step, was to hire a financial adviser. Together, we figured out what I needed to earn and save each year in order to reach my goal. I had a plan and I worked to follow it. However, things did not play out exactly as I planned, when one of the worst recessions in U.S. history hit shortly after we inked my plan. I remained committed to my goal and stayed flexible. Remarkably, at age 53, my net worth ended up exceeding my best-case projection in the plan, by a few hundred thousand dollars.
While personal leadership enabled me to have the vision, create the plan, and have the grit to see it through; people leadership abilities gave me the increased earning power that I needed to reach the goal. People leadership is the ability to lead people in accomplishing a goal or goals. During my engineering career, I had led highly successful teams of over 200 people in designing and bringing semiconductor chips with nearly half a billion transistors in them to market.
For 20 years, I constantly worked to improve myself as a leader, taking training classes, reading leadership books, and organizing leadership book clubs. I loved teamwork and leading teams, and immersed myself in learning as much as I could about being the best leader that I could be. My commitment to leadership paid off as I became one of the highest-rated leaders in all the companies that I worked for.
Research shows that leaders get paid significantly more (60% to 75% more) than non-leaders, and I was no exception. By the time I left my last leadership job, I was making in the deep six figures and was in the top 1% earners in the nation. You might be saying, “Yeah Don, but I’m not you.” While it’s true that you are not me, you can develop the same leadership abilities that I possess and significantly increase your earning power.
If you want to learn more about personal leadership and people leadership and how they can help you build wealth and find fulfillment, download my Lead and Grow Rich e-book here.