By Ryan Wibberley
When I was growing up as a boy in a small town in Maryland, we would often visit my grandparents who lived in the next town over. These visits typically consisted of Sunday brunches, birthday parties for a family member or just a quick hello. My visits with my grandparents were always enjoyable, but like any kid, I was mainly interested in playing with my friends, riding my bike and skiing. Looking back on those days, I realize that one particular, seemingly routine visit changed my life significantly.
On this very average day, I noticed some scattered reading materials on my grandparent’s coffee table. Typically their choices would not have aroused the slightest bit of interest in me, but this one magazine seemed to stand out. There was something about it. Something alluring – it drew me in. My grandfather spotted me perusing the pages and swooped in – this was his chance to bestow some wisdom. As I listened to him speak about why he read Forbes, I remember, among other things, how fond he was of Malcolm Forbes, the diehard capitalist who ran the Forbes Company and was a proud promoter of capitalism. This was beyond a magazine, it was an inspirational tool – a symbol of success and the American dream.
My grandfather was a man who spent many years providing for his family as a salesman for the General Foods Company, after serving as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Somewhere along the line, he became very interested in antique firearms. His interest in them grew as he collected more and more and this passion became a driving force in his life. He became a student of these historical pieces and after many years, eventually became one of the largest antique firearms dealers in the world. Watching him grow a business out of nothing more than a passion for antique firearms, convinced me that his fondness for Malcolm Forbes was more than a symbol of how to do things. He had created for himself a virtual mentor. I hadn’t realized quite how successful he was until after he died in November of 2000.
Not long after this exchange with my grandfather, a delivery came for me in the mail – he had subscribed me to the magazine as a gift. My grandfather had opened up a door for me to walk through, and off I went. For years, the magazine would arrive in the mailbox and I would soak it in. The exploits of Malcolm Forbes – he rode motorcycles, sailed yachts, and was known for frequenting at the hottest bars in NYC. I knew this man had influenced my grandfather and his publication and lifestyle were now leaving an impression on me. I was forming a way of thinking, perhaps partly subconsciously, that would ultimately lead me to an interest in Wall Street – the epicenter of American Capitalism. I have become fully immersed in the world of finance and I love watching seemingly ordinary people exceed society’s expectations, and their own, every day. I parlayed my early day’s interest in Forbes into becoming a student of the markets and a financial advisor. I run an expanding and up-standing practice managing hundreds of millions. I don’t have a yacht, nor do I hit the VIP nightclub circuit, but I have built things – my family, my own business – from scratch. And I think that’s the key, finding what drives you, identifying it as early as you can and then having the courage to go for it.
Warren Buffett grows up 1200 miles away from Wall Street (without the internet), and later forms Berkshire Hathaway, becoming the most successful investor who ever lived. Sara Blakely is getting dressed for a night out and came up with an idea of how to hide some of her “extras” and turns two years of hard work and $5,000 into a multibillion-dollar company called Spanx. A young boy picks up a magazine, gets interested in capitalism and eventually builds a multi-million dollar financial advisory practice. What a great country.
Some politicians speak of Capitalism with an air of disdain, as if the meaning of it is that the world is only for the 1%. That is defeatist, and sad. Capitalism, coupled with leadership and inspiration, is a good thing. Either way, take a moment to look around for a valuable new perspective, where you might not expect it. Take a second to positively influence a small kid who could use some guidance, if only by guiding them to your favorite magazine.