5 Lessons from The Wolf of Wall Street


Recently, I took the opportunity to see Jordan Belfort (aka The Wolf of Wall Street) at one of his famous motivational speaking seminars.Jordan-Belfort-267x300

Like most people, I’d seen the movie and took a vague interest in Jordan’s story, quickly deciding that I did not like the man or what he stood for much at all. But, fraud and moral corruption aside, Jordan has led a pretty extraordinary life and I figured that I’d be pretty close-minded to dismiss the lessons that he had to share at face value. So, I went along.

Not surprisingly, the people-watching at this seminar was entertainment enough. A majority of the audience was comprised of suited-up-wolf-wannabes with their highlighted copies of the book ready for Jordan’s autograph. When he took to the stage, I'm sure his fans weren't disappointed. Jordan exuded the power and confidence that Leo depicted so well in the movie. He begun the evening referring to people as “financial assets” and passionately declaring that you have to “play to win” - even asking the audience to stand and yell things like "I am the master of my own destiny" while fist pumping the air.

By the end of the night I decided that, all theatrics aside, Jordan did know a thing or two about achieving success - and he made some compelling points about how to do it in your personal and professional life:

1. Life is sales

According to Jordan, if you’re not selling you’re failing. And we are the products. Successful sales are all about the ability to influence and persuade. Basically, he says that you have 4 seconds to establish that you’re:

  • sharp as a tack;
  • enthusiastic as hell (bottled enthusiasm as opposed to hyperactive, annoying enthusiasm); and
  • an expert in your field.

How do you do all that in 4 seconds? Simply through tonality and body language. Nothing we haven’t necessarily heard before but Jordan certainly practices what he preaches. This is not surprising when he divides people into 2 categories – reasons (ducks) and results (eagles). The ducks ‘quack’ on about the reasons for not doing or getting what they want in life. The eagles “get shit done”. While Jordan delivers this message in a blunt and confronting way, the essence of its truth can't be denied.

2. Balance your inner and outer world

During the evening, everyone was asked to complete a self-assessed “wealth index” consisting of 10 questions. Based on a balance of “roots and fruits”, the questions were divided into two main categories – the inner world (emotions, beliefs, vision) and the outer world (marketing, persuasion, income). Jordan talked about the duality and opposites of these categories but said that both were needed to achieve success. We were given a score out of 100, which was our "wealth index" - our current and likely ability to achieve wealth. I’m not really convinced of the value of this test, but what I took away from it was the importance of harmony between the inner and outer world – empowering beliefs and self confidence are as essential to achieving success as being a pro marketer and levying multiple streams of income. (Plus, I feel like it totally embodied the whole concept of Roots & Wings).

3. Have a vision

We all know the importance of having SMART goals (specific, measurable , achievable, realistic and timely), but Jordan pointed out that goals always need an overarching vision. What's the difference? The goals are the answer to "how do you see yourself in 5 years?" - such as, living in [insert country], earning [insert amount], having [insert car/property/children/employees/franchises/profit]. But, the vision is “why?”. People are magnetically drawn to visions and they are fundamental to long term success - goals are evolving and changeable, as they need to be. Jordan also reminded us of the need for peripheral vision to scope for opportunities along the way. Last year, I read a book called The Antidote, which makes a compelling case as to the dangers of goal-making. Whilst drive and focus are great, tunnel-vision towards goals can lead to lost friends/lovers/colleagues/employees/opportunities. After all, life moves pretty fast so even with goals and a vision, we need to stop and look around once in a while.

4. Check your GPS

Jordan says we need to get honest with ourselves - assess and acknowledge where we are right now, before we can move forwards, onwards and upwards. I've heard this many times before (Dr Phil rings a bell), but Jordan used a great analogy. He said that for GPS to work successfully, we need to have the correct current location and correct destination - an error at either end can be the difference between a 20 minute direct route and a 45 minute "scenic" tour. So, get honest. Take a step back and have a look at your current situation, whether it's personally or professionally - more often than not, we are overly critical and see things worse than they really are. When you've sussed out your whereabouts, then you can start to map out the best, direct route to your dream destination.

5. Stay ethical

The Wolf of Wall Street didn't exactly get his name from abiding by a strict code of ethics. Although Jordan now promotes ethical business behaviour and donates time and money to charity, he adamantly states that this is not to simply toe the party line. Although he acknowledges that unethical choices led to his downfall, he still claims that wealth and ethics are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I think he was trying to be reassuring when he said that he'll earn more this year than he ever did during his years as a stockbroker. The message? Do the right thing - otherwise, Jordan says, the universe (and probably the government) will find a way to take it from you. So many entrepreneurs are taking it a step further and creating businesses with the sole purpose of giving back. My favourite local example is Simon Griffiths and his 'Who Gives a Crap' toilet paper initiative, which uses 50% of its profits to build toilets in the developing world. He's also opened a not-for-profit bar in Melbourne called Shebeen, serving exotic beers from places like Ethiopia and Laos and donating the proceeds back to those countries. It's not enough to simply be ethical anymore - we have to actively look for ways to give back and contribute, whether it's saving the world with beer and toilet paper or something else amazingly creative.

Who'd have thought I'd get all that straight from the Wolf's mouth? I'm sure there are others that walked away with messages like "buy more property, invest in stocks, bulldoze everyone in my way and take big risks". Each to their own. I think you can take away what you want and what feels authentic for you.