Think Like a Billionaire: Trump’s great classic explains how things will be under General Kelly


This situation is so unusual, it was humorous to listen to the Sunday talk shows this week put all their hopes into the new chief of staff General John Kelly in utilizing a proper “chain of command” at the White House.  They hope that Kelly will eliminate the “chaos” at the White House as if the Republicans had their act together.   Who are they to give Trump any advice?  What they really mean is that they hope that General Kelly will use a chain of command structure to slow down the Trump administration into something the bureaucrats are more comfortable with.   Well, again, I have news for them and I’m really surprised that more people haven’t picked up on the past writings of Donald Trump because much of what the president is doing now he’s talked about before and the future is quite clear by studying that past.  As I’ve said, recently I’ve been reading many of the old Trump books from his last couple of decades of business activity and it’s been very revealing.  But in regard to this issue of assigning General Kelly to the chief of staff position the manner of Trump’s thinking can be best seen in the 2004 book Think Like a Billionaire.

I read Think Like a Billionaire when it first came out.  At the time I didn’t think much about it.  It had some good motivational stuff in it, but it read to me more like a blog posting in novel form.  I did get the feeling from it that Trump wanted to inspire people into more successful lives—which made me think well of him.  When he wrote that book he was about to marry Melania, Ivanka Trump was still in college and The Apprentice was just entering its second season.  Jeff Zucker was eating out of Trump’s hand because the new television star was nearly singlehandedly rescuing NBC from financial ruin.  Trump was hosting Saturday Night Live and had his picture proudly displayed on their wall of fame in that historic theater.  In 2004 Trump was one of the most sought after celebrities anywhere and the NBC network was very protective of him—because he was their guy.

Re-reading Think Like a Billionaire thirteen years later in 2017 was haunting because so many things have changed since then.  Jeff Zucker is now the head guy at CNN.  Saturday Night Live hates the Trump presidency and NBC was one of the first networks to go to war with Trump once it became obvious that Trump just might beat Hillary in the election of 2016.  Obviously, The Apprentice tried to continue with Arnold Schwarzenegger  but it didn’t work because the show needed Trump’s business sense.  An actor couldn’t fake it, the person running the board room had to be someone like Trump and the show died quickly into its new season without a business guy in the seat.  The New York Times which Trump spoke so highly about in Think Like a Billionaire is now one of the fake news outlets because they absolutely hate Trump now that he is president.   Even Mark Cuban was spoken about favorably in Trump’s book.  So many who were literally kissing Trump’s ass in 2004 now are his mortal enemies and for some strange reason they actually think it will put a stop to the forward progress of Donald Trump.

One thing that is quite clear about Donald Trump in Think Like a Billionaire is that he thrives with a flat line management style and that is clearly what he’s doing now in his White House.   The reason for the success of The Apprentice is clearly due to the amount of people Trump has feeding him information for which he can then make final decisions as the point man.  The Trump Organization has always been a very dynamic force where everything flows to Trump as directly as possible.  A chain of command is not his style because he likes to be hands on with everything.   By having a flat organizational chart it allows Trump to jump from department to department enacting his influence and that is how Trump has been so successful and why he has never been duplicated even though he has put down the blue print for anyone to follow.  Trump has been unique because only he has been willing to work so hard to excel under that management style.

Cowardly people often hide behind a chain of command structure so that they can appear to do important things without having the responsibility of making hard decisions.  The military loves chains of command because it hides the sometimes bloody evil that occurs in the killing of the enemy allowing individuals to function clean of personal responsibility for institutional assassinations.  But the same chain of command allows losers and ladder climbers lacking merit to appear more valuable to an organization without having to actually do anything.   You can always sniff out a loser—by their strict adherence to a chain of command structure because it gives them cover in the peaking order of human existence.  They are the type of people who fear the sunlight of standing alone in the arena with the audience looking at them waiting for action.  Since they tend to not know what to do under those circumstances they seek the cover of a chain of command.

Strong people who are highly competent want the flexibility of moving wherever they need to as objectives are sought to complete resolution.  They don’t like chains of command because it slows down their natural leadership ability.  Imagine having to play chess by selling a board of directors on the merit of each move.  A good chess player wants to be able to move their pawns, rooks, kings and queens depending on what the game gives them—they certainly don’t want to be stuck explaining things along the way.  They just want action so they can win the game.  Trump has been successful using this method and he will continue to use that flat management method with General Kelly helping him do so.  If anything it will free Trump to move more quickly—it certainly won’t slow him down.  Kelly’s job is to help increase that lateral mobility while scooping up the leaks in the fast-moving White House.  So Republicans hoping that Kelly will slow down Trump need to get their grip on reality.  The move to Kelly was to speed things up, not to slow Trump down.

Think Like a Billionaire was a sequel to How to Get Rich—and these are books which essentially give readers a chance to tag along with Trump on all matters of his thinking from choices in cars to women.  Trump is very honest and open about his life and thinking with the intention that the reader might learn something to help them also achieve success in life.  But essentially the key to both books are that Trump’s management style is extremely flat—as most successful people are.  People who struggle through life are those who depend on chains of command.  Trump isn’t going to change anything at this point—he thrives under pressure so that is what Republicans better get used to.  I would recommend to them that they go back and read these Trump books, especially Think Like a Billionaire.  It is an extremely fascinating book now that he is president.   Historically, there really isn’t anything like it—it’s a book that has tremendous insight into a person who is president of the United States before he was serious about running.   But what it tells best is what is about to happen.  It shows a person who is always thinking and always working and now that he’s in control of the Republican Party only people who love hard work will survive.  The lazy people will lose their jobs—and that’s how it will be in the Trump White House.

Rich Hoffman

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