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Toby Hecht’s: “Real money is not currency and can’t be made with hard work”

Business knowledge, like any kind of knowledge, is the capability to produce an intended outcome in a given set of circumstances. When circumstances change during an industrial revolution because new tools are invented; i.e. computers and the internet, and businesspeople who invent how to use them in new ways that are strategic and competitive, the new […]

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Business knowledge, like any kind of knowledge, is the capability to produce an intended outcome in a given set of circumstances. 
When circumstances change during an industrial revolution because new tools are invented; i.e. computers and the internet, and businesspeople who invent how to use them in new ways that are strategic and competitive, the new standards for value they produce makes the traditional or old business knowledge invented before their appearance, obsolete.


As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Toby Hecht.

Toby Hecht is founder and CEO of The Aji Network, a company that has championed businesspeoples’ ability to produce incomes between 400,000 dollars — 4 million dollars for more than 35 years.

Toby’s work is aimed exclusively at enabling businesspeople to compete successfully, or to double their productivity, value and incomes, in The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR#4) using computers and the internet strategically and competitively to earn and save enough money to live a good life throughout their entire lives, including 25+ years of old age in retirement.

He is the author of: Aji, an IR#4 Business Philosophy, a book about how businesspeople use Aji to earn a living or become rich in IR#4.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/94f85c91049625a512c406f2f5f542dd


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My intention to learn or invent a way to double my productivity, value and income began when I started working in my twenties. I was serious about living a life that I considered to be meaningful, worthwhile, satisfying and enjoyable. To me, that included getting married, having children and earning a living to support them so I could take care of their practical concerns in addition to having a career.

When I got married in the “Love, honor and cherish…’til death do us part” tradition, I knew I was promising to treat my wife, Linda, with great affection, hold her in high regard and take care of her concerns as if they were my own until death do us part, and I meant what I said.

I felt privileged to be trusted by her, and later our two children, even though Linda worked just as much as I did. I found it deeply meaningful to work together in order to have the opportunity to earn a living, so we could afford housing, food, medical care, transportation, play, education, etc.

We both accepted that we would not receive a pension and would have to earn and save enough money to avoid running out of it during the 25+ years that we’d be too old to work…and we didn’t have a clue how to solve the problem.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out, for example, that if we needed 100k dollars annually, we’d need at least 2.5 million dollars — adjusted for inflation, which at our age was about double that amount, or 5 million dollars — in order to retire at age 60 for 25+ years and avoid becoming a “parent tax” on our children, which we were determined to avoid after seeing the resentment it produced.

Even though we were deeply shaken by the financial numbers we calculated, it did not occur to us to ignore or decline to accept them.

In our view, it is an adult’s most important duty to accept practical realities and obligations in order to take care of his or her spouse and children, even if they change and become more challenging because of an industrial revolution.

The problem was that neither I, nor anyone else, could make enough money earning what I now call a “normal IR#3 income,” or one that was normal before personal computers were first sold in the 1980’s, which began The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or IR#4.

I realized I needed to learn how to use my computer and the internet to produce an entirely new “normal” standard for productivity, value and income that could double them reliably and predictably.

So, I did.

When my customers and friends realized how well we were doing in our second business, which was the first retail computer store in Silicon Valley that grew to become the #1 chain of retail computer stores in the country, according to our vendors, e.g. IBM, Apple, HP, DEC, etc., they asked me how I did it. I discovered I enjoyed teaching my new business philosophy, which I called “Aji.”

“Aji” is a completely new way of thinking and acting that isn’t difficult to learn. It enables businesspeople, and entire businesses, to double their productivity, value and incomes reliably and predictably by using their computers and the internet strategically and competitively, instead of with task orientation, common sense and determination.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One day someone recommended a high school biology textbook about the nervous system and cognition, The Tree of Knowledge by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. I dillydallied. The title was meaningless to me. It didn’t sound relevant or useful.

Weeks went by until we went on a holiday with some friends to a place I didn’t really want to visit. When they went off for the day I stayed back, went up to the roof, sat on a lounge chair and began to read the book.

The book is 10 chapters long. By the third chapter my life began to change, and I couldn’t put the book down. My entire understanding of how I knew what I thought I knew disintegrated because even though the book’s claims were completely new to me, and almost unbelievable, they matched my experience exactly.

The book explained why trying to use our common sense with computers was 100% wrong and why those who kept trying couldn’t fulfill their financial, career or business intentions. It explained why Rene Descartes was wrong when he claimed observing and thinking about life, or our computers and the internet, was all we needed to do in order to know what was real!

At the same time the book revealed that no amount of looking at a computer, learning their operations from books and videos, working with one to complete tasks or thinking about them will ever reveal how to use them strategically or competitively, or how to make them the best money-making machines every invented, it also showed how to begin to think about them much more effectively.

I realized that businesspeople needed something like The Tree of Knowledge that went so deeply into how the world works that it transformed how they understood human beings, the tools they use and how to make money in a new way.

They needed new orientations, intentions and business skills that could only be learned and that couldn’t be figured out, or invented, using common sense and determination.

They needed something like Aji to explain an entirely new set of descriptions, meanings, relevance, value and purposes for their computers that made a new kind of sense and it couldn’t be common. It had to “make sense” to businesspeople but in an entirely new way.

Life, computers, the internet and how to make money with them in the most rapidly changing competitive situations in our history, just isn’t obvious, objective, perceivable with our senses or permanent as Rene Descartes claimed. This is why businesspeople have such a difficult time understanding value, leadership, trust, dignity, power, strategy and competition, and why they are important for making money or doubling one’s income.

Aji’s new strategic and competitive capabilities are linguistic, rather than Cartesian, a la The Tree of Knowledge. That’s why they make so much sense to businesspeople and why they are able to double their productivity, value and incomes so quickly.

In other words, I built Aji for speed or rapid change, increasing complexity and intense competition so businesspeople, and entire businesses, could “win” in IR#4, instead of failing every day to earn and save enough money to avoid running out of it during 25+ years of old age.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

There are five:

  1. The most important, practical, dignified and enjoyable purpose of work for an adult is to earn a living, or become rich, to take care of their spouse and children.
    This makes the work we do to fulfill our financial, career and business intentions deeply meaningful, totally worthwhile, completely satisfying and enjoyable.
    What isn’t important, useful, dignified or meaningful for an adult in my view? Organizing their life around their comfort and convenience, being casual about keeping their marriage vows and commitments to children, being a “parent tax” on one’s children, and pretending to be “fine” when nothing could be farther from the truth.
  2. Business, and life, is a game of power. The people and businesses with the most power win, which means they fulfill their financial, career and business intentions to earn a living, or become rich.
    “Power” is the capability to produce outcomes whose value (importance, utility and worth) is superior to one’s competitors.
    This compels buyers to accept offers quickly and increases their willingness to pay a premium.
  3. The marketplace is organized around help that is fresh, new, highly valued and scarce relative to demand, not hard work, common sense, determination, busyness, etc.
    The four offers, goods and services that people call help are:
    – Making it possible, or improving the likelihood, for people to fulfill their intentions
    -Lowering the cost to fulfill their intentions; e.g. the time, energy, money and lost opportunities
    – Improving the importance, utility and worth of the outcomes they can produce
    – Producing an outcome for someone
  4. Dignity with one’s household finances is necessary to live a good life.
    “Dignity” is the social assessments about businesspeople’s “integrity” and “value.”
    It’s based on businesspeople’s trustworthiness, value, authority and leadership in the marketplace, and includes assessments about how they speak and act with their spouse and children, and whether they have the financial integrity to earn and save enough money to avoid becoming a financial drain on their children or society.
  5. Technology refers to practices invented and used by human beings, and not their tools.In other words, computers and the internet are not, and have never been, a technology. Calling them a technology is marketing hype. It’s nonsense that misleads and disables businesspeople.
    They are tools, or artifacts, with no more intention to help human beings than a rock. Thinking otherwise makes it impossible for businesspeople to use their computers strategically and competitively enough to double their productivity, value and incomes, as they need to do in order to take care of their family.
    The technology businesspeople need to know about is the strategic and competitive practices they need to design and execute in order to use their computers to fulfill their intentions, or to produce competitive outcomes, that Aji enables.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

I invented a completely new business philosophy, or orientation, set of intentions and new business skills. I named it “Aji.”

It changes the world because it enables businesspeople, and entire businesses, to use their computers and the internet — strategically and competitively instead of with task orientation, common sense and determination, which is no longer competitive — to double their productivity, value and incomes so they can earn and save enough money to avoid running out of it with their spouse during 25+ years of unemployment, retirement or old age.

Here’s another way to look at it:

If every regular businessperson in the industrial world learned how to use Aji and doubled their productivity, value and incomes, it would change the marketplace and the entire world as we know it.

It would put an end to all sorts of resignation and despair about businesspeople’s futures or old age with their spouse and children.

How do you think this will change the world?

This is simple if you accept these two philosophical claims:

  1. The most important, practical and dignified purpose of work for an adult is to earn a living, or become rich, to take care of their spouse and children.
  2. Practicality dictates that businesspeople must earn and save enough money to survive (or afford their immediate expenses for food, housing, transportation and medical care, etc.), adapt to life’s always changing circumstances (including how they age), and live a good life that is deeply meaningful, totally worthwhile, completely satisfying and enjoyable.

Millions of businesspeople go to work every day knowing that they are not able to save enough money to avoid running out of it long before they die — and they are very worried about it.

This produces households living in resignation and despair about the future (even if they don’t use these names to describe their moods and narratives). It produces spouses and children who resent and disrespect one another, rather than admire, respect and appreciate the care with which they’ve been treated.

When businesspeople learn Aji, and see for themselves how they can use it, they become enthusiastic and passionate for their future and their despair gradually disappears. And, when they open new conversations with their spouse about how they intend to double their productivity, value and incomes so that they can begin to save enough money to avoid running out of it — this changes their world in a good way and the world around them.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Yes. And this has been troubling me for decades…

Two “classes” of businesspeople are forming in front of everyone and they are producing completely different futures for their spouse, children and themselves.

The first class starts out happy and gradually falls into suffering and despair. It is huge in terms of numbers, distrustful, entitled, political and casual about their lives, marriages, parenting and household finances. They enjoy comfort, convenience and entertainment (distraction from financial realities)…until it becomes real for them that they are in financial trouble and are too old to recover.

Then, failing to earn and save enough money to avoid running out of it becomes their #1 regret.

The second class starts out worried and gradually becomes happier as their incomes and savings for old age grows. They are a much smaller but growing group of businesspeople. They get happier as their income and savings increases, and as their debts diminish.

Both classes of businesspeople start out living in the same types of homes and neighborhoods but are on completely different paths into the future. They look the same, at first, but they don’t sound the same at all.

The happy group spends all their money without worrying about the consequences they are producing for their spouse, children, society or themselves, and gradually loses their dignity with themselves, their family and society. Financial pressures eventually squeeze them out of their homes.

The worried group talks about their concerns, situations, capabilities and strategies for living a good life, doubles their incomes, gradually becomes happier and more dignified, and eventually upgrades to nicer neighborhoods where they find more serious people with whom they can be friends.

This is not going to work out well for businesspeople who are casual, nonchalant and disinterested with their marriage vows, parenting commitments, household finances and dignity with their spouse, children and society.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

After we learned that Apple was cancelling their pensions for their employees’ retirements, my wife and I spent a few months calculating how much we really needed to earn and save to live a good life together with our children and their future families.

We were in shock. We made our calculations over many months in as many different ways as we possibly could in order to find a lower number, but nothing worked.

Our choice at the time was clear, either we accept the new financial realities produced in IR#4 by businesspeople using their computers and the internet while we were young and able, or we ignored the financial truths we calculated and would find ourselves out of money in our old age.

Both of us had family members who ran out of money and did not want to end up like that with our children; e.g. love with resentment and disrespect, and without respect, appreciation or admiration.

We didn’t know what to do so we went to our accountant and asked her for advice. I’ll never forget the conversation. She said, simply, “To start out, and before you have children, save 20% of your pretax income.” I remember saying, “You mean in after-tax dollars?” She smiled and nodded, yes. I said, “But that’s at least 50% of our after-tax income!” She smiled, again.

So, that’s what we began doing that month and that was my incentive — or tipping point — to find a new way, or a new business philosophy (Aji), that would enable me to double my productivity, value and income.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

There are two things that come to mind.

The first depends on how quickly businesspeople will get tired of the despair that is triggered when facing a future without enough money to take care of their spouse and the chronic financial stresses they are triggering for their family and themselves.

The second is our ability to communicate our offer to businesspeople so that it is easy, seductive and compelling to accept.

My “idea” exists in a context of concerns and commitments to people’s future, or their ability to live a good and dignified life because they are able to afford the goods and services everyone needs to survive and adapt.

Aji is not difficult to learn. It takes only about 20 minutes to learn The Aji Source Fundamental Strategy and 100 days to learn enough tactical, strategic and competitive knowledge to begin to increase productivity, value and incomes. And, after those 100 days, businesspeople can see for themselves how Aji works and are happy to say so.

Now that Aji has just moved 100% online, we’ve unlocked the potential to scale easily for the first time in our history.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Business knowledge, like any kind of knowledge, is the capability to produce an intended outcome in a given set of circumstances. 
    When circumstances change during an industrial revolution because new tools are invented; i.e. computers and the internet, and businesspeople who invent how to use them in new ways that are strategic and competitive, the new standards for value they produce makes the traditional or old business knowledge invented before their appearance, obsolete.
    Let me be clear, old business knowledge invented before computers and the internet isn’t obsolete and uncompetitive by mistake. It doesn’t just happen. It’s made obsolete on purpose by businesspeople who quit using it because they create or learn a much more powerful set of orientations, intentions and business skills such as Aji.
  2. Real money is not currency and can’t be made with hard work.
    If money is currency, then the only way to “make money” when we go to work is to use a printing press.
    Real money is help we offer others with the intention to produce an exchange, or transaction, that increases our capabilities to fulfill our intentions; e.g. such as feeding our family or saving for old age.
    This means that in order to make money with computers and the internet, businesspeople need to learn how to use them to design “helpful” offers, which includes their goods and services, to customers, employers, employees, vendors and colleagues, that they want badly enough to give something in exchange such as currency, returning a favor or gift, bartering or trading.
    When businesspeople learn how to do this, they transform their computers into the best money-making tool ever invented, by far!
  3. The marketplace is organized around competing offers of “help” to: 1. Take care of their human, financial and career concerns 2. Cope with and adapt to new situations, or new sets of threats, obligations and opportunities 3. Increase their capabilities to fulfill intentions 4. Design and execute new strategies, or ways to get things done.
    It isn’t organized around hard work, busyness, determination, common sense, getting the job done or thinking outside the box. Therefore, the way to earn a living, or become rich, is to produce steady streams of fresh, new offers for customers, employers, employees, colleagues and vendors whose “value” is superior to one’s local and global competitors.
  4. Human beings are animals who are capable of telling themselves, and others, false stories about reality and their lives. We are capable of pretending to colleagues that we are “fine” in a terrible financial situation when nothing could be farther from the truth. 
    This is weak, uncompetitive, undignified and causes enormous pain and suffering. It ends marriages and ruins relationships with children. 
    I was fooled for many years by businesspeople who declined my offers to help them double their productivity, value and income, and who pretended they are their spouse were “fine” with their financial situation. They pretended to their children that they were dignified adults who knew what they were doing. 
    The consequences when the truth comes out, as it must, are predictably harsh, brutal and tragic.
    They forsook, or abandoned, their marriage vows to take care of their spouse in favor of their comfort, convenience and entertainment in the moment, rather than earn and save enough money to take care of their spouse and children when 25+ years of old age is included. So, it’s no surprise divorce rates are at record highs for baby boomers and they are the most disliked generation in history by their children.
    They didn’t teach their children how to think or act effectively with a marriage, household finances or work in the marketplace, so they grow up “lost” and not knowing how to be an adult in IR#4.
    They lose their dignity as soon as their spouse, children, friends, colleagues and vendors discover they didn’t save enough and don’t have any more money.
  5. “Earning a living” had a VERY different meaning in IR#3 than it does now in IR#4. 
    It’s amazing how the exact same words can have such a completely different meaning after an industrial revolution!
    Before 1980, when businesspeople retired with pensions that included lifetime healthcare, driving aimlessly through one’s career until retirement age “worked.” It was practical and caused no harm.
    In IR#4, businesspeople find themselves responsible for funding their own 25+ year retirement and face a future in which they and their spouse are likely to live until they are 90 years old. Ignoring this new financial reality is undignified for an adult and leads to resentment and despair with one’s family, rather than respect, admiration and gratitude.
    No one chooses industrial revolutions. But, it is always dignified adults who accept the circumstances in which they find themselves gracefully, and who care enough about their spouse and children, to learn or invent how to cope with their situations meaningfully, satisfactorily and enjoyably.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I’m afraid I don’t think this way. I’m a business philosopher and not a psychologist.

What I can offer that might be helpful is this: there is no habit or mindset that will work when people’s underlying orientation, or way of being, their intentions to produce outcomes and their business skills are “wrong” for the tools and competitive situations they have to deal with.

When businesspeople first begin to work with me and learn Aji, they are all working as hard as they can already. They literally don’t know what more to do. The idea of even more hard work, determination and busyness just isn’t possible and they all know it.

So, what I offer are three new ideas:

  1. A new orientation to their work that is serious, strategic and competitive, instead of casual, task oriented and commonsensical.
  2. A new set of intentions toproduce outcomes that includes doubling their productivity, value and incomes so that they are able to earn and save enough money to avoid running out of it with their spouse until they are at least 90 years old.
  3. A new set of business skills to fulfill their intentions, which is used strategically and competitively to produce steady streams of fresh, new goods and services that compel others to accept their offers quickly and increase their willingness to pay a premium.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Aji just became a fully virtual company, and is now very easy to scale.

Aji’s markets appear to be growing. Our biggest market — and there are millions of them — is individuals who, along with their spouses, are already worried about not being able to earn and save enough money to avoid running out of it during their old age or becoming a “parent tax” on their children, in-laws and grandchildren.

To my knowledge, Aji is the only new business philosophy that has ever been invented specifically to enable businesspeople, and entire businesses, to double their productivity, value and incomes by learning how to use their computers and the internet strategically and competitively, instead of with task orientation, common sense and determination.

The results businesspeople produce when they learn how to use Aji are reliable and predictable. Once businesspeople learn how to use Aji for about 100 days, they can see this for themselves and are happy to say so.

For a very long time I have believed that Aji would be extremely valuable (lucrative) and complementary to a business school’s or business education company because it would give them the first business education designed pointedly to exploit new strategic and competitive capabilities that businesspeople, and entire businesses and business schools, do not know.

Aji would be an enormous competitive advantage because it’s my job to make it look deceptively simple. It can’t be reverse engineered, or figured out, without years of background in linguistics, philosophy, strategy, business and competition.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow The Aji Network on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on our work, events and more.

Please also follow my LinkedIn, where I post regularly on topics related to business strategy, finance, leadership and how to live a good life.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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