How to Make Money Early in Life: My Speech to the FBLA
[If this speech makes sense to you, you should subscribe to my free report, Gary North's Tip of the Week. The subscription box is here: www.garynorth.com.]
FBLA stands for Future Business Leaders of America.
The FBLA is a national organization of high school clubs
whose members are planning careers in business. I never
belonged to the FBLA in high school, although there was a
chapter. I knew of it only by its initials. Back then, I
did not intend to go into business. Thinking back, I'm not
sure what I planned to do. I think I planned to go into
education. I guess I did. I'm in the education business.
But I'm not on anyone else's payroll.
The FBLA was founded in 1940. The first high school
chapter was begun in 1942 in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Today, it has 215,000 members. The related college
organization, Phi Beta Lambda, has only 10,000 members.http://www.fbla-pbl.org/
Clearly, there is very little carry-over between the high
school and college organizations. It is basically a high
With 215,000 members, this is an average club size of
almost exactly ten students per American public high
school. There are 21,200 public high schools.
When you think about it, ten students per high school
isn't a large figure. Given the crucial importance of
business in creating the wealth of this or any nation, a
figure this low testifies to the bureaucratic nature of
modern education. Students are not encouraged by the
system to go into business.
Given the fact of either tax funding or the non-profit
status of most education -- rarely paid for by full-cost
tuition -- this bureaucratic mind set is not surprising.
Educators assume that education must go begging. The old
saying, "He never met a payroll," applies to teachers and
most school administrators. The idea that education must
meet consumer demand -- mainly, parental demand -- is
regarded as preposterous by professional educators. Their
operating presupposition is this: "The education of
children is too important to be left in the hands of
The mind set of a classroom teacher is very different
from the mind set of a businessman. I say this as someone
who has taught at the college level -- briefly. The script
writer of "Ghostbusters" had it right. The key scene in
this regard was when the three self-appointed experts in
paranormal science have just been fired by the university.
Dan Ackroyd's character bewails their expulsion from
academia. "This means we have to go into the real world.
I've been out there. It's a jungle. You have to compete."
We must compete in all areas of life, of course, but
the nature of the competition is different. In business,
consumers set the standards. In academia, the screening
system is run by the recipients of the public's money. The
system is self-credentialed. Legislatures do not hold the
system or its criteria economically accountable. Every
failure of the system is dealt with by pouring more money
into it -- the standard response of all governments.
What saves the West is that business as an occupation
still attracts highly creative individuals who have a knack
for meeting consumer demand at prices that buyers are
willing and able to pay. These entrepreneurs were rarely
the top SAT score high school graduates or straight-A
students. But without the productivity of these people,
today's teachers and administrators would still be in the
corn fields somewhere, walking behind a mule. (Actually,
they would never have been born, or would have died in
infancy. The infancy death rate is high in non-capitalist
Business operates on this principle: "Formal education
is so unimportant that you can leave it in the hands of
professional educators." The most eloquent testimony in
favor of this view comes from John Taylor Gatto, who was
"Teacher of the Year" in New York State and three times in
New York City. His web site provides the first eight
chapters of his book, THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF AMERICAN
EDUCATION, plus his essays and other choice materials.
Gatto says that he wasted his career as a public school
educator, and his site, as well as his books (DUMBING US
DOWN, which I read this month, and A DIFFERENT KIND OF
TEACHER, which I read last year) serve as a kind of
Gatto came to his senses mainly because he had senses
to come to. He had not started out as a teacher.
After college, Mr. Gatto
worked as a scriptwriter in
the film business, was an
advertising writer, a taxi
driver, a jewelry designer,
an ASCAP songwriter, and a
hotdog vendor before becoming
a schoolteacher. During his
schoolteaching years he also
entered the caviar trade,
conducted an antique
business, operated a rare
book search service, and
founded Lava Mt. Records, a
documentary record producer.
. . .
Gatto and I are both committed to education. The
institutional legacies that I plan on leaving behind are
all connected to education. But both of us have our
sincere doubts about anyone's ability to reform tax-funded
So, I occasionally give speeches to high school
students. I am sure that these students are moved by my
speeches, because after every speech, the students stand up
and walk out.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
My most recent speech was given in a private K-12
school run by a large Baptist church. This lunchtime
meeting was catered. For lunch, they had fried chicken,
mashed potatoes and gravy, huge rolls, and cookies with
M&M's. The entire school had this for lunch. (I don't
recall a single cafeteria lunch this good in my entire high
Over 20 students showed up. That's pretty good for a
high school of fewer than 300.
I spoke on three issues: the future, business, and
leadership. That's three-quarters of what the FBLA acronym
stands for. I didn't have enough time to deal with point
four: America. Had I had more time, I would have
contrasted America's future with Mainland China's, which
American businessmen had better start thinking about if
they want to survive.
In 2001, mainland China produced 465,000 college
graduates in science and engineering -- as many as the
United States has in total.http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/02_43/b3805001.htm
Next year, they will do this again. And the year
This doesn't count thousands of mainland Chinese
students enrolled in U.S. graduate school programs and
other foreign universities. It is a well-known secret that
the best science and technology students in American
graduate schools are foreigners, and the largest single
source of these students is Mainland China.
The United States, on the other hand, is producing
millions of people with B.A.'s in sociology, history,
political science, and psychology -- degrees that have
hardly any market value without a Ph.D., and not much value
even then. All this for only $135,000 after taxes
(Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford).
But I digress. I talked about their futures. These
were all bright, enthusiastic students. Well, anyway, they
were students. And, of course, they hung on every word of
a man who entered high school during Eisenhower's first
term as President, a pre-historic world, i.e., pre-
I began with one of my favorite themes: goal-setting.
I handed out the following outline, since I figured that
they would not remember as much as 10% of what I said
within 24 hours or less.
Say that you are 70 years old. Your family has put on
your 70th birthday party. All of your children and
grandchildren are there. They cry, "Speech! Speech!"
What will you tell them about your greatest successes, how
you achieved them, and what lessons you have learned -- in
five minutes, so that they may actually remember at least
half of what you tell them? Start planning now for that
birthday party. To make plans, you must answer three
questions, the most difficult three questions of your life:
What do I want to achieve?
How soon do I want to achieve this?
How much am I willing to pay to achieve
Remember these principles:
1. You can change a goal.
2. You can change a plan.
3. A bad plan is better than no
The Goals Notebook
Buy a three-ring notebook. But a pack of lined paper.
Buy some tabbed dividers. Insert the paper into the back
of the notebook. Using as your starting point the date on
which you begin your notebook, write the following
numerical dates on the tabs:
1. Three months out
2. Six months out
3. One year out
4. Age 18
5. Age 31
6. Age 30
7. Age 40
8. Age 50
9. Age 65 (normal retirement these days)
10. Age 70
11. The reading of your last will &
On a sheet of paper, write down your goals. The
further away, the bigger the goals. Aim very high. Use
these categories for your goals for dates 1-10:
3. Legacy (if you dropped dead the that
As for category #11, never forget this exchange: "How
much did he leave behind?" "All of it!"
Every day that a tab's date comes up, go to the
notebook and write down on a new sheet if you're on
schedule, why you're on schedule, or why you're not on
schedule. Then write down your specific plans to meet the
You are entitled to modify your goals for the next
section. Don't throw away the sheet of your original
goals. Write down on that page why you have modified your
After year one is over, add new tabs:
1. Three months
2. Six months
3. One year
Keep doing this every year. Always have your short-
term goals written down in three-month segments. Keep
referring to your list every three months.
When you start courting seriously, insist that your
prospective spouse participate with you in a joint goal-
setting session. Here you will find out if this
relationship has a future. If you don't have a filled-in
notebook to serve as an example, your insistence that the
other person create one will not carry weight.
From that point on, both of you must keep a notebook.
You must begin to budget. You have two primary
temporal assets: time and money. All of life is a trade-off between time and money. In a world of scarce economic
resources, you buy what you want either by paying money
(goods/services) or lining up.
You must set up a money budget. If you have a
computer, use Quicken. If you don't, then do it by hand.
But get help in setting up your initial budget from someone
who has Quicken. You must budget 10% for the church (pay
God first) and 15% for your savings program (pay yourself
second), which you will not spend except on capital assets.
This is untouchable money for the rest of your life. You
must be able to see where your money went. You need a
You must set up a time budget. Buy a cheap pocket
imitation of a Day-Timer. Start using it for your school
work. You must be able to see where your time went. You
need a budget.
Time management is more important than money
management. Work on it.
I also handed out a bibliography on leadership. I
told them that if they wanted to become business leaders,
they would have to be economically successful. I also told
them that they would need two skills: the ability to write
and the ability to speak in public. The only other way to
become a leader in business is to give away piles of money.
It's a lit cheaper to learn how to write and speak.
BECOMING A BUSINESS LEADER
Extracurricular Activities, Beginning Soon
1. On-campus: debate team, newspaper, annual.br
2. Off-campus: Toastmasters, Junior Achievement (high
1. Career. Work for a successful small
businessman locally for at least 5
years. Master all aspects of the
2. College. Major in journalism. Minor in accounting.
Learn how to write and calculate revenues/costs.
Second-best: major in English, minor in
1. Subscribe to THE ECONOMIST. This year.
Read as much of it as you can understand.
This is the best single source of news on
the planet. Subscribe (free) to "GARY
NORTH'S REALITY CHECK." Send e-mail to
2. Books on business success: THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR
and THE MILLIONAIRE MIND, by Thomas J. Stanley. RICH
DAD, POOR DAD, by Robert Kiyosaki. THE E-MYTH, by
Michael Gerber. ACRES OF DIAMONDS, by Russell
Conwell. This book is free on the Web: http://www.temple.edu/about/temples_founder/acres_text.html
3. Books on leadership: DEDICATION AND LEADERSHIP, by
Douglas Hyde. LEADERSHIP IS AN ART, by Max DuPree.
STRONGER THAN STEEL, by R. C Sproul. MR. ANONYMOUS:
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM VOLKER, by Herbert Cornuelle.
Books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs.
4. Books on advertising: HOW TO WRITE A GOOD
ADVERTISEMENT, by Victor O. Schwab. MY LIFE IN
ADVERTISING and SCIENTIFIC ADVERTISING, by Claude
1. Spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel). Master it.
2. Texas Instruments BA-35 financial calculator. Master
The reason why I gave the speech is that the son of a
friend of mine needed to fill a lunchtime speaker's slot.
The father, who runs a successful small business, came
along to hear my speech. Afterward, he said, "I wish I had
head that speech when I was in high school." I replied:
"You wouldn't have paid any attention to it. You would
have been too young."
They were too young, too. Anyway, most of them were.
But if Pareto's 20-80 rule holds good -- and it usually
does -- then about four of them will actually put some of
my material to good use.
That's true of my mailing list, too. It's also true
of those forwarded copies of this issue that my subscribers
will send out.
Who knows? Maybe some outfit will post my two
outlines for their members. I hope they do, if they post
the entire text. But the fact is, no matter how good my
material is, even for free, most people who read it will
not put it to productive use. This is why those 20% who do
apply it can maintain their advantage. Most of their
competitors are too busy, too bored, or too ill-informed to
pay any attention.
The Rotary Club speaker announces, "This nation is
going to the dogs because of two reasons: ignorance and
apathy." One member turns to the other and whispers, "Do
you think that's true?" His fellow club member replies, "I
don't know, and I don't care."