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Michael Santos

Michael Santos

According to Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, desire is the starting point of all achievement. It isn’t hope. It’s not a wish. Rather a keen, pulsating desire transcends everything. If we desire to succeed, we find our way. We engineer our path through all obstacles. Neither hoping for success nor wishing for success will get us to where we want to go. We’ve got to desire to succeed. Then we can put in the work to make it happen.

Here’s a memorable story about celebrating achievements that may help someone climb through a challenge in pursuit of success. 

  • In 1992, I earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercer University. 
  • In 1995, Hofstra University awarded my master’s degree. 
  • In 1996, a series of wardens stopped my pursuit of a doctorate. 

Needing an activity to carry me through the remaining time I had to serve, I began to study to learn more about the stock market. I ordered books, newspapers, and magazines. Every day I learned more about how investors valued companies.

The more I read about the internet, the more convinced I became that companies using the internet could change the world. By reading business and investment publications, I became certain that this new communication medium would become more essential to society than television, the radio, and the telephone.

In 1998, I crossed into my 12th year. An opportunity opened for me to earn $2,000 from a writing project. That $2,000 represented the first money I had made since my arrest in 1987. My sister asked if I wanted her to save the $2,000 for me. 

Rather than saving, I wanted to invest. 

For the first time since my imprisonment, I had sufficient capital to open a brokerage account. With my sister’s help, I opened a trading account with an online brokerage company. With a “margin account,” I could borrow against my equity to increase my stock purchase. Relying upon the borrowing power of margin, I could purchase $3,000 worth of stock even though I only had $2,000.

I bought stock in Yahoo!, one of the leading internet companies of the late 1990s. Shares of Yahoo! rose in a hyperbolic arc. Every week the stock’s value increased by several points. 

As the stock price rose, my equity level increased. When my equity increased, my buying power increased, allowing me to leverage my position with margin to purchase more shares. 

That strategy resulted in the growth of my original investment, which I began with $3,000—$2,000 in cash, plus $1,000 that I borrowed on margin. 

As my equity increased, I borrowed more money to buy more shares. That strategy grew the value of my portfolio by tens of thousands, then by hundreds of thousands within a relatively short time.

Rather than celebrating the small achievements and taking a pause, I continued to increase my exposure. The entire story is available in Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term. The short version is that at one point in April of 1999, the equity had grown to more than $1 million.

At the time, I was halfway through my prison term. Rather than capturing those resources with a sale, I held onto the stock. 

The equity of my portfolio dropped like a falling brick in a market crash. In only two days, I lost more than $600,000 in value.

I sold the position. After paying all short-term capital-gain taxes and costs associated with the sale, I walked away with about $100,000. 

Rather than celebrating the gain, I lamented that I did not sell sooner.

Several more years passed before I learned the importance of celebrating small achievements. We must keep the bigger picture in perspective. 

I encourage others to learn how to celebrate small successes, especially when climbing through a struggle.

  • Describe some small achievements that have led to more significant opportunities.
  • In what ways did you prepare for those small achievements?
  • How did you celebrate your incremental achievements?
  • How do small achievements bring you joy?
  • How do you reveal your small achievements with mentors and advisors \in your network?

Word of the day: hyperbolic / Define hyperbolic:

Use hyperbolic in a sentence:

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