Exclusive Interview – Robert Kiyosaki

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Robert T. Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki recently launched his book, 8 lessons in Millitary Leadership for Entrepreneurs. The purpose is to encourage the millitary war veterans in the USA to consider entrepreneurship, as he believes that military training provides a good foundation for entrepreneurship

As part of Brunei’s Vision 2035 aims to promote diversification by encouraging citizens to consider entrepreneurship to elevate the economy, we saw a relevant and transferable dialogue written in Kiyosaki’s book, and decided to contact Mr Kiyosaki for an interview on the subject.

We hope you will find the interview timely, educational and inspiring!

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Soldiers in training. A cut scene from Ah Boys to Men

You mentioned in your latest book, 8 Lessons in Military Leadership that “the reason entrepreneurs are important is because only real entrepreneurs create real jobs and real prosperity.” Can you further elaborate on how entrepreneurship can be relevant to a country’s economic development?
Entrepreneurs create businesses and jobs—and when a business is successful its profits add fuel to the economy and employees (more and more employees… as the company grows and becomes more successful) have paychecks to spend and that spending, too, fuels the economy.

Entrepreneurs, in my experience, are fueled by a passion. They see a way that they can serve, a need that is not being met, an opportunity that they can capitalise upon, or a way of life that will give them and their families choices that may not be available to others.

In a society or country in which the government plays a huge role in providing social programs and subsidies to its people—and where traditional thinking related to jobs, income, and lifestyle is the norm— it may be hard for entrepreneurship to flourish… or even find a foothold.

I believe that most true entrepreneurs are not deterred by obstacles or challenges. In many cases it’s those very challenges that deliver the motivation and inspiration to follow their dreams. They often see a need and know that they can use their natural talents and gifts to make a difference in their world. Most do not travel down this path for financial success, but many do achieve it. For most entrepreneurs, it is their passion and mission that drive them. They know they can make a contribution and are willing to take on the challenge and defy the odds of success.

While governments can and do create jobs, the private sector is often more motivated to innovate and the jobs created by entrepreneurs are “true” jobs —the result of demand for products and services.

While governments can and do create jobs, the private sector is more motivated to innovate and the jobs created by entrepreneurs are “true” jobs —the result of demand for products and services.

Brunei’s economy is currently undergoing a challenging period with oil prices having fallen to almost 50% of its previous value. The need for diversification and the call for entrepreneurship have never been more urgent. How can Brunei develop more entrepreneurs? 
Entrepreneurs see problems and create ways to solve them. They see opportunities and find ways to seize them. Entrepreneurs are not afraid of long hours, hard work, or bouncing back from failures…and most work months, if not years, without a paycheck. They are driven by a mission and inspire those around them to join them in that mission.

If Brunei is looking to develop more entrepreneurs I would encourage its leaders to celebrate non-traditional thinking, looking beyond the obvious for creative solutions to problems and challenges, teach business and entrepreneurship and investing to its young people, and train their minds to see what their eyes do not. Entrepreneurship is a calling…it is a “fire in the belly” that drives a person to find better and cheaper and faster ways to deliver products and services. It is being innovative and creative…in finding ways to do more with less. We can encourage and develop entrepreneurs if we create an environment that challenges the old ways of thinking, that rewards people for learning from their mistakes, and that fosters a spirit of collaboration in taking on the challenges and opportunities of today…and tomorrow.

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Photo courtesy of Robert T. Kiyosaki

The name Robert Kiyosaki is synonymous with personal finance. According to Amazon.com, your book, Rich Dad Poor Dad is the #1 Personal Finance book of all time. You have since published titles such as CASHFLOW Quadrant, Rich Dad’s Guide to investing, Unfair Advantage and Second Chance…all of which have become instant bestsellers. Your latest book is from a different genre – Military Leadership. Why have you chosen to explore this topic? What is this book’s core message?
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about—and use—lessons and training from my years at the Merchant Marine Academy and in the U.S. Marine Corps. I know that my success, today, as an entrepreneur is a direct result of the training, leadership opportunities and experiences I had during my college years at Kings Point (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) and in Vietnam. The values and skills we learned were tested under pressure and we learned a lot about ourselves. I learned that I needed discipline in my life and the structures of the military provided it. I needed experience as a leader, and the military taught me to use my natural strengths to develop strong leadership skills. I was drawn to the mission of the US Marine Corps…and when Kim and I created The Rich Dad Company we were crystal clear on the importance of mission in the world of business.

The book’s core message is that, with good “jobs” becoming harder and harder to find, I want to encourage the men and women in the armed forces who have learned so much in their years of training and service, to put those skills and talents to work. Many face significant challenges as they transition back into civilian life and one of the key messages in that book is to draw upon all that they have learned and experienced and accomplished—and consider the path of entrepreneurship. I hope these new entrepreneurs will create the company or “job” of their dreams… one that addresses and serves a need in society but also delivers (for themselves and their fellow veterans) an opportunity to create the life they dream of for themselves and their families.

It breaks my heart to see those who have served us all so bravely and selflessly return home to economic challenges, poor job prospects, and an uncertain future. I want them to realise that they have the skills and the power to pursue the path of entrepreneurship.

robert4Military leadership sounds rigid and disciplinary. What about the softer side of business that requires lateral thinking and relationship building, is this not as important? What is the difference between military and corporate leadership?
When I designed the B-I Triangle—the 8 Integrities of a Business—I did it with an outer triangle that allows the five inner components to hold their shape. The three exterior sides of the B-I Triangle are: Mission, Leadership and Team. These three elements truly are the foundations for any successful business… shared vision in a mission, strong and visionary leadership, and a team of like-minded individuals who bring a wide range of skills and talents in support of the team and its mission.

Relationships, in my experience, are built on trust and shared values…and there is no better environment for building trust than within the military. Our veterans and reservists bring valuable core values to roles as entrepreneurs and have a great likelihood of success.

If Brunei is looking to develop more entrepreneurs I would encourage its leaders to celebrate non-traditional thinking, looking beyond the obvious for creative solutions to problems and challenges, teach business and entrepreneurship and investing to its young people, and train their minds to see what their eyes do not.

In your book, you spoke at length about building a learning culture in an organisation as a key ingredient to developing a successful entrepreneur. “To become a successful entrepreneur, I strongly suggest you take the military’s culture of constant education and constant training to heart and instill that culture in your business.”

However, in Asia, there are many entrepreneurs who are extremely street smart and successful who do not share your principle. To an extent, the open sharing of information such as cost and profit margin are rarely discussed, especially amongst small businesses in this part of the world. Employees are often hired to do, not to learn. How can we change this mindset?
A good starting point for a change in this mindset might be with education within the personal development arena, versus “business” education. There are, in my opinion, times for a business owner to share “inside” information… and times when those disclosures, that transparency, is only a small part of building a great team. All of us at Rich Dad believe in life-long learning and in constantly challenging ourselves to become the best we can be. This includes reading and studying—all kinds of different topics and books. It includes a focus on health and wellness—so that we are strong and fit and ready to take on challenges. Vocabulary building— learning the language of money and business and investing—is another area of focus as we fulfill our commitment to education and creating and strengthening a common culture… one of learning and education.

What in your opinion is the single most important characteristic of a great leader?
I believe that the single most important characteristic of a great leader is spiritual strength. When times are the toughest, days the darkest…a true leader is able to draw on an inner strength that will guide and sustain them and inspire their teams and organisations. The other factor that makes spiritual strength such an important attribute is that we are all capable of enormous strength of spirit.

We’ve all heard stories of people doing “the impossible”—something that would be considered physically or mentally impossible. How does that happen? What makes it possible? I believe that people can nurture a strong and resilient inner strength, their rich spirit, and take great comfort in the fact that they can draw upon—call upon—that spiritual strength when they are facing the toughest of times.

This article was published in the Jul-Sept 2015 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!