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Dirty Work

Success is a funny thing. Many people want it, but most are unwilling to do what it takes to achieve it. You see the same dichotomy when it comes to building wealth. Many people want it, but most aren’t willing to do what it takes.

People covet the outcome but disregard the process.

Professional athletes know this better than anyone. Millions of kids see them and think, “I want to be that person when I grow up.” And why not? What they see looks great. They see the smiles when they hit a game-winning shot. They see the fancy houses and nice cars they can afford. They see fans adoring them around the world.

It’s what they don’t see, though, that counts.

They don’t see the early morning workouts. They don’t see the hours of film watched. They don’t see the grinding practices. Most people, quite frankly, would hate following a professional athlete’s strict regimen. But that’s what it takes to be a professional.

Building wealth is no different. I can think of two examples to prove this point.

The first example: saving for an expensive retirement.

People dream about retirement. They love the idea of smashing their alarm clock and living on beach time. No worries. No cares. Just fun.

They may see someone with a nice vacation home, who also takes trips internationally every few years and gives generously to charities, and think, “I want that life; they have it made.”

But what they fail to acknowledge are the sacrifices that were likely made along the way. They don’t see the long hours worked, or the vacations that were never taken, or the gifts that weren’t purchased. They don’t see the money that was diligently saved every single paycheck for decades.

People covet the outcome but disregard the process.

The second example: making millions by owning

Amazon has been one of the best investments of all time. In fact, a $10,000 investment in Amazon when it first went public in 1997 would be worth something like $23 million today. Investors look at Amazon and say, “Why didn’t I buy a few shares back in late ‘90s? I could be rich today.”

Not so fast.

Even if you were smart enough – or lucky enough – to buy Amazon at $18 per share in 1997, very few people actually held on to the investment over the ensuing 24 years. Why? The path to a 235,000% return was pure torture.

As financial writer Michael Batnick has explained, “Some of the losses Amazon has experienced along the way have been totally insane. It fell 15% in just three days 107 different times, it has lost 6% in a single day 199 times, and it fell 95% from December 1999 to October 2001.”

The process of holding onto a winning investment is far harder than people think. Few can actually do it. The benefit of hindsight blinds us to the reality of what it’s actually like. Again, Amazon’s stock price had fallen 95% by late 2001. A $50,000 investment would have shriveled to $2,500. The headlines were terrible. It probably felt like Amazon was going out of business. Most people would have sold Amazon long far before it hit rock bottom, let alone hold on to the stock for another 20 years.

Building substantial wealth isn’t easy. In truth, most people can’t bear it.

The late writer and speaker Steven Covey urged people to “start with the end in mind.” I think that’s wonderful advice. But you also need to clearly understand the process of getting to the end successfully.

It probably requires more dirty work than you know.

Justin Lueger is President of Invisor Financial LLC, a registered investor adviser firm in the State of Kansas. All opinions expressed are his own and should not be viewed as individual advice. He can be reached at

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