I attended James Sun’s ‘The Secrets of Success’ luncheon seminar organized by artiste management company Fly Entertainment, and came away with some ideas of what made the entrepreneur-investor and television personality successful:
1. Have a vision.
James shares that he grew up with a chip on his shoulder as the son of a poor first-generation immigrant to the United States from South Korea. His father didn’t speak English, and they were constantly bullied as an Asian family in a predominantly white neighborhood. But the discrimination gave him a purpose, and he resolved as a child to improve his lot in life.
2. Have chutzpah.
James Sun says to be an “active opportunist’. He recalls that as an 11-year old, he once brazenly approached the owner of a small window-cleaning business and demanded a deal. James wanted a 30-percent commission in return for confirmed sales leads from a section of his neighborhood – in jest the owner bargained him down to 25-percent, which James readily accepted.
With that deal in hand, James corralled the other kids in the neighborhood as sales runners and soon the business of the window-cleaning company exploded. He didn’t quite yet achieve financial independence, but it was a great start.
3. Invest your time carefully.
James made an interesting observation while running around his neighborhood selling window-cleaning services. He realized that people of poor families had a predictable daily routine – they got off work around 4 or 5, came home, grabbed a beer, and watched some TV. People from richer families had a different one – they would get off work around 5 or 6, came home, grabbed a drink, and proceeded to read – usually reading materials like the Wall Street Journal. So at age 13, he went away thinking to himself: “Reading Wall Street Journal will make me rich.” James would later put his financial knowledge to good use – he started his own brokerage firm, and the rest the say, is history.
James put this down to a matter of investing time in the right things. “Everybody is given the same amount of time – 24 hours – in a day,” he says. What you do with it, matters.
4. Be memorable.
James shares his experience during the auditions for Donald Trump’s The Apprentice in 2007. He was shopping in a Seattle mall one day when he spotted a long queue – and found out that it was for the final round of auditions for the reality TV show. So there he was, clad in T-shirt and jeans, amongst a crowd of smartly-suited hopefuls, that he decided to audition. He was so different – Asian, young, somewhat cocky – that he made an impression with the interviewers. Of course, it’s not about going around in T-shirt and jeans (whatever you think of Mark Zuckerberg’s success), but being memorable counts.
James disagrees with the efficient market theory, which states that one cannot consistently outperform the market i.e. “you cannot be better than average”. He says it’s widespread thinking like this that keeps people from achieving their best.
5. Just do it.
James says “ideas are cheap; execution is expensive”, sharing the story of Sun Tzu and the 360 concubines to prove the point. He also posits – do the possible today, and soon you’ll be able to do the impossible.
Thank you to Fly Entertainment for the kind invite to this luncheon seminar.