You may know Kevin O’Leary as the cold hearted realist from CBC’s Dragon’s Den concerned only with making money. But on Monday night O’Leary shared some useful information with Western students. The advice ranged from specific financial recommendations—never invest in a stock that does not pay dividends—to how to be an entrepreneur, which O’Leary called “the most noble pursuit you could have.”
In an interview before the speech O’Leary revealed his secret to early success as a youth. “I’ve always felt every student is always given money or borrows money or whatever. I’ve found if you take 20 per cent of what you earn in the summer [...] and invest it with securities that have yield, either debt or equities with dividends. You will die rich, there’s no question,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary stressed that this advice can work for everyone, employee or entrepreneur. He emphasized discipline to meet that 20 per cent goal and never spending the principle investment, only the interest gained, are the keys to success. “It’s the discipline of saving 20 per cent so you don’t buy that coffee in the morning and you don’t buy some stupid electronic toy you don’t need. You end up a lot happier when you’re older.”
O’Leary gave the audience many useful tips including exposing the growing markets in Brazil, India and China, but the most poignant advice discussed the fallacy of a balanced life. “You have to sacrifice everything you have to work 24-7 because you’re competing globally now. You’re competing with others that are willing to work that way,” he said. He stressed that the life of an entrepreneur is not for everyone. “You have to sacrifice everything for some period of time it may be 8, 10, 15 years, you don’t know. It’s tough—it’s very tough.”
To O’Leary, money equals freedom. “The whole idea is the pursuit of freedom—it’s not the pursuit of money,” he said. Despite the hard work, he mentioned the gratification that comes with the job. “I was willing to sacrifice everything to get where I got and I’m glad I did it and I wouldn’t change a day in my life. And now I can do whatever I want.”
This freedom, which O’Leary discussed in his lecture and in his new book name, may best be represented by the anecdote he told to the eager audience. O’Leary told of his son Trevor asking why he couldn’t sit in first class with his dad on a flight back from Switzerland and O’Leary simply retorted, “because you don’t have any money.”