Learn To Increase What You Earn.

Life Lesson: The less you know, the less you make.

**This article was written by Clay Clark, U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year, Author and Las Vegas Motivational Speaker.


During middle school and high school I made a killing throwing those dance parties, but eventually it was time to graduate and it was time for me to move on. Like most American kids I enrolled in college without exactly knowing why. I knew the guidance counselors thought I should, and I also knew that most of the guidance counselors who graduated from college were not thriving, in fact I knew they were merely surviving. But, like most people I took advice from people who didn’t know what they were talking about and I found myself going to college at Oral Roberts University.


Many of the classes that I was required to take at college were a complete waste of time. My knowledge of papyrus has never helped me close a deal thus far, but maybe that’s just because I don’t do much work with the Egyptians. However, one interaction with a college professor did change my life for the better. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the professor of this course. The professor was an English teacher, and I seriously have no idea what her name was because I am a jerk.


But for my sake, we will call her Ms. Amanda because that sounds correct to me. I remember that Ms. Amanda had these glasses that made her look studious, and she was younger than most other professors that I had during my time at ORU. I can also remember how upset I was that I even had to take her class. Her class was a basic English class, and English was the one subject that I dominated in high school. I always scored well in English courses in high school, and I even took college-level courses while in high school. However, my ACT scores were horrible, thus I had to take this class on the fundamentals of English. I was so pissed that I had to take this class. I remember sitting in class every day as she talked about MLA format and thinking to myself that at any moment I was going to staple my own forehead if I completely lost it. She was up there talking about diagramming sentences to a classroom full of eighteen year olds who had not figured out how to write coherently up to that point, and it really made me mad to be there because of my lousy ACT scores. It might also be worth mentioning that I had to take the ACT test multiple times just to score a 24 or something weak like that.


Every time I took the ACT, I got flustered and angry and was unable to concentrate due to my exponentially growing frustration. Today, many people would call that a learning disability, and they would put me on some sort of medication to slow my mind down so that I could focus; but I am glad they did not because both Albert Einstein and I were bad test takers.

Anyway . . . back to the story. So she is up there talking about English principles that I learned back in sixth grade day after day. And then one day out of the blue she taught me one thing that I had never really learned to do. She taught me how to read.


I know that most reading this might find this laughable, but for some unknown reason, Ms. Amanda felt compelled to teach us how to “read, comprehend, retain, and apply.” She explained to the class in great detail how most people read, and some can even read fast, but very few people can read a book and find the “nuggets” in them that can be directly applied to improve their lives. And even fewer people can actually comprehend what the “nuggets” mean, which makes it impossible for them to retain and ever apply the principles to their lives. I took this to mean, “Clayvis, if you want to succeed in business, you have to be able to read autobiographies about great business people in a way that will allow you to take their ideas, beliefs, and experiences and implement them into your business so that you can make a hell of a lot of money.” I sincerely felt like this was what she was saying.


She talked about the importance of highlighting as you read so that you can easily find good material and key points later. She talked about how dog-earring a page was okay since we were the ones buying the books in college. She hammered home the importance of really “owning” the book by writing notes on how the information applies to your life in the margins, highlighting the key points, and ripping out a page or two on occasion to post on your mirror or somewhere important if the notion should strike you. Ms. Amanda preached that if our books were re-sellable at the end of the semester, then we had not really used them. She talked about how we needed to save a ton of money by buying our books online at “http://www.half.com/www.half.com so that we would not feel upset about writing in an overpriced $60 bookstore-priced textbook. Her class was awesome!


As I reflect back on it, it is crazy to me how God puts certain people in our lives. If I had been given a choice, I never would have taken this class. And now here I was taking basic English when I was an English whiz kid back in high school. Back in high school I had won the prestigious Brown Book award for “Excellence In Communication Arts,” and yet here I was taking this fundamental English class. I know that if I had not been in this class, being taught by this particular professor, on this particular day, I would not be nearly as successful as I am today. All I do now is read books about great companies and business people. Then I take their best ideas, and I apply them directly to my life and business. The lessons that I learned about reading are definitely worth the $17,000 per year I spent to attend ORU. Although, if any of my money was spent by Richard Roberts, it makes me mad (that guy is hoser—a term we use in Minnesota for people that routinely take advantage of other people. I have no idea what this has to do with a hose).


As Ms. Amanda’s class came to an end, I could feel my excitement levels almost boiling uncontrollably. She had done what no other teacher had done. She had gotten me excited about reading. This is how I get. I start to feel as though this voice inside of me starts out softly saying, “Hey, you should do this.” And then by the end of the day, I can almost physically hear that small voice yelling at me saying, “Hey, get out of bed! I put this idea in your brain for a reason. Go do it. This is not your idea. This idea was implanted in your brain by God; get up and do it!” And then I get up and work all night. And, yes, I literally do mean all night. In this case, I felt like I had just learned a revolutionary idea of “reading and applying,” so I felt as though I had to start learning immediately. I hopped in my hatchback 1989 Ford Escort that was hand painted (to attract the ladies), and I drove to Barnes & Nobletm. Once I got inside, I bought myself a copy of Hip Hop America by Nelson George. At the time, I still dressed like I was in the Wu-Tang Clan, so I just knew that this book would have some great stories that I could directly apply to my life immediately, and my assumption was correct.


As I got back to my dorm room, I remember sitting down on the couch/foldout bed that we slept on. I opened my backpack, I got out the book, and I just starting reading and highlighting. I kept on reading and highlighting until around four in the morning when I stumbled across something Russell Simmons said about why he got started in the music business. Russell is now the famous founder of Def Jamtm, Phat Farmtm clothing, and many other brands; but the part of the book that I was reading told the story about when he was a young man in his late teens, and he was out on the streets selling drugs. The book explained that he viewed selling drugs as a means to an end, and he found his “end” in hip-hop music promotion. He said, “The goal is to be able to live your life the way Michael Jordan played basketball, or Marvin Gaye sang a song. To be able to feel the way you feel when you laugh at a joke, but to feel that way all the time.”


For some reason, his description of the meaning of life (or the goal of life) really jumped off the page at me. It set me on fire, and I am still overflowing with the heat I gained from Russell’s passion candle. It never occurred to me that the “goal was to be able to live your life the way . . . Marvin Gaye sang a song.” I could not believe it. The more that I read, the more my passion for life kept increasing. This masterwork by Nelson George explains how a Howard University dropout by the name of Sean Combs went to work as an intern for a record label. The book explains how Sean then went out on the town finding such artists at Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, and Notorious B.I.G. It then went on to explain how Sean promoted huge concerts using nothing but his passion, his ambition, his eye for talent, a good time, and flyers. This book explains how Sean Combs became P. Diddy promoting huge concert events for Howard University students.


I started to see myself doing what Sean and Russell did. I started seeing myself promoting and entertaining major college events as a way to start a business, as a way to pay my way through college, and as a way to pursue my creative passions. My plan was made that very night. I was going to begin promoting college dances for ORU students for $5 per head. I was going to try to get 500 people per night, and it was going to be awesome! Russell and P. Diddy showed me the light that very night, and they did it all without being in my room or talking with me. They did it all through the pages of Hip Hop America and the words of Nelson George. Through their lives and actions they had become the mentors that I had never met.


However, the only reason that I was able to find and act on these principles is because my English professor took the time to teach her class of college freshmen the fundamentals of how to read. And just to kick your pants about the importance of learning, Brian Tracy, the motivational speaker and success author, has found that nearly all multi-millionaires are avid readers. I have found from my life experience that anyone I have ever met who is successful is a reader; however, only one-third of all recent high school graduates will ever read another book in their lifetimes, and only 57 percent of the US population read a book during last year according to http://www.nea.gov/


I now knew what I wanted to do with my life and I now need a lot of equipment, and a lot of money to buy it. Thus, I returned to Minnesota the summer after my freshman year of college to work in the emotionally gratifying and intellectually stimulating field of manual labor. Because I had no discernable skills and because I was capable of lifting heavy things, this job seemed like the perfect fit for me.


Each morning I would arrive at the local gas station at 4:30 AM. There I would meet my fellow “grunts” and one by one we would pile into the Ford Diesel trucks owned by Lund Poured Walls. Packed in like sardines, 5 men to a truck we would drive to the job site. We weren’t allowed to start working before 6 am because of some weird state laws, and most of the job sites we worked at were more than 1 hour away anyway.


Our work days consisted of cutting steel, framing walls, pouring concrete and attempting to avoid a catostrophic injury. Because the work was mind-numbing it provided me with an unbelievable amount of time to think through many things. During these long 14 hour work days on the construction site I was able to mentally think through the entire marketing plan for my new DJ business. After milling over the numbers a hundred times in my mind while hauling steel I was able to determine exactly what equipment I needed, and whom I wanted to marry.


“Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – Thomas Edison


Please do not allow this incredible chapter from your favorite book to be wasted like “that one guy” on prom night. Answer the following questions in MLA format  (just kidding about the MLA format part):

What books can I read to learn the things I need to know to get me where I want to go?

When I read, do I retain what I read?

When I read, do I apply what I read?

When I read, do I highlight while I read?

When I read, do I write what the material means in the margins of the book?

When I read, do I think in terms of how I can apply this information to help me reach my goals?

What books contain the knowledge you need to know to get you where you want to go?

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