Its About The Doing

A question that comes up off and on is the question of how smart must you be to be the President of The United States? The answer is not easy to assess, but the consensus is that genius might be a disadvantage. That seems odd, but when you think about it, there are not many skills that the president must possess that require a genius thinking level or a profound education.

How to be a success

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, claims that the most successful people are ones who are near-brilliant at a few narrow things and good at many others. You don’t need to be the best at anything as long as you have many skills. Donald Trump is an example. Not a great orator, but good. Not a planning guru, but can he pick from a list and get it right enough. Easily liked? Not so much, but he can get people to follow his lead. Scott calls it a skill stack, and we should all spend time adding to ours.

Others have had thoughts on the subject.

From French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes, “It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well” to Greek slave Epictetus, “That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with more learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes, we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should.”

More recently, Phil Knight and Nike offer a similar thought, “Just do it.”

All in all, nothing happens until somebody does something. It really doesn’t matter what you know until you do something with it. Education won’t make it happen.

How many people have little education yet succeed?

How many earned degrees does Bill Gates have? None. Mark Zuckerberg, also none. Elon Musk -undergraduate degrees in physics and economics. Surprise – most people think he is an engineer.

It has always been so. Ford – none, Edison – none,

The point is all of them were action-oriented. You learn a lot by making mistakes. What happens when you rely on knowledge instead of experience? Eventually, you end up with very bright people who think knowing is what matters and doing is for others.

We are being led and influenced by people who have that mindset. It doesn’t work for a simple reason.

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” Thomas Sowell. That’s what experience is about. It has a price.

Thomas Sowell is an intellectual too, but he seems to have a practical side to him. He looks for evidence and lets it lead him to conclusions. Some are obvious but not until you have them pointed out. One that surprised me involved why much of Africa didn’t prosper early on. The answer is, “They have no navigable rivers that can take goods to ships and thus permit trade.” Look at the countries that were trading powerhouses in the 16th and 17th centuries. All of them had convenient access to the ocean.

Do you suppose the Russian interest in Ukraine begins with the same issue? How many year-round ports are there in Russia?

Education helps you learn from the experience of others and is less expensive. It is not an answer by itself.

The bits to takeaway

We learn best by doing. Doing involves mistakes, and those are how we learn. People sometimes avoid mistakes. Avoiding mistakes is itself a mistake.

Phil Knight of Nike adds another thought that shows that intense doing is necessary. “The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us.” If you get a chance to read his book, Shoe Dog, do it. You’ll learn a lot about the attitude that works. How did he survive in the “That leaves us” situation? ““When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly.”

Don’t overestimate what it takes, and especially don’t underestimate yourself. Just do it!

I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software startup, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning and business matters. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Federal Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at

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