I finally read Jordan Belfort’s The Wolf of Wall Street after seeing the book and the author praised by two different sources I trust. It was a fast read, as Belfort has an interesting writing voice–expressing through writing a voice inside his head that provides uncensored commentary on everything–and weaves an enthralling tale of a smart man’s rise and descent.

Here are ten ideas I extrapolate or pull from the book.

  1. Money doesn’t solve everything. Despite recognizing his own insecurities, inadequacies, addictions, flaws and problems, Jordan Belfort still needed help from those around him in order to eventually begin his road to rehabilitation. Also, despite his flaws, Jordan was still massively financially successful. This reminds me of how Ramit Sethi frequently discusses the idea that what your idea of a Rich Life looks like is specific to what you care about.
  2. You’re still the total of the five people you spend the most time around. In his story is again the reminder of how a person’s social and physical environments strongly affect them. Jordan isn’t able to stay away from drugs while he maintains ties with his old “friends”, almost all of whom were more friends of convenience. It isn’t until after he’s forced into rehab, and makes the conscious choice to change who he socializes with–going from his old drug-addict friends to his NA sponsor and wife–that his commitment to being sober holds.
  3. Money allows greater freedom to a degree. As well as leading people to do things they normally wouldn’t if you offer enough to them. But if you don’t take care of how you handle money, “you buy things you don’t want with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t even care about“, to paraphrase Fight Club. And then “the things you own eventually start to own you.
  4. Having a good mentor helps you grow faster in any endeavor. Jordan had a brief mentor in the successful broker who took him to dinner on his first day at the NYC firm–the same man who foreshadowed the destructive drug and alcohol habits Jordan would eventually adopt as he became more and more successful. Throughout the book we learn more about Jordan’s other mentors, in areas criminal and otherwise.
  5. When everyone who surrounds you depends on you for their livelihood or success, you’re not like to receive completely honest opinions and thoughts. When Jordan was fully in charge of Stratton Oakmont, all of his employees and cronies would continue enabling him as far as keeping the status quo. He surrounded himself with “yes” men who tried to live his lifestyle without having his fortune or brilliance. But without a few people who wouldn’t just acquiesce to his every desire, he would’ve destroyed himself in the end.
  6. Investing in certain areas pays off more than others. Jordan had so much money that he barely knew how to spend it, and because he didn’t seem to spend time working to heal his own inadequacies or to grow emotionally, he would spend a lot of money on tangible products in the attempt to buy his way to fulfillment–despite recognizing on some level that it wouldn’t happen.
  7. Remember your mortality but continue to practice boldness and audacity in those areas most important to you. Few people are likely to be as blessed or lucky as Jordan when it comes to all the incidents that could have killed him but didn’t. Instead of thinking that you’re “bulletproof” and invincible, make decisions that allow for long-term longevity and fulfillment while still being bold and audacious in areas that matter.
  8. You can’t escape your problems. As I read elsewhere, when you have a lot of money you end up with a different set of problems than when you have no money. So you can’t escape problems and challenges in life–but the most worthwhile change is investing the resources so that you’re equipped with the skills and faculties to conquer all obstacles without necessarily needing to throw lots of money at them. Eventually you’ll come to see that what you face on the regular are not problems but challenges and opportunities waiting for solutions.
  9. Money still opens doors. Part of its power is because of what the majority of people in our society have given it. Jordan’s huge donation to a hospital’s research department opened up a gap into a world-renowned surgeon’s otherwise months-long waiting list.
  10. True masters can have exponentially greater effect than even experts of a craft. Jordan’s favored doctor was able to at least twice work seeming medical miracles that less experienced doctors had already concluded hopeless, like resuscitating Jordan’s seemingly-brain-damaged friend Eliot and in snap-correcting a seemingly terrible diagnosis of meningitis for Jordan’s son. The applicable idea for me is to learn how to spot the true masters and learn from them as much as possible. This complements the idea I’d read some time before of how 30 minutes with a true master yields hundreds of times the benefit than hours with an expert.

Find The Wolf of Wall Street here on Amazon (link opens in new window), in your local bookstore or at your local library.

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