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Ken Rupert of ‘Financial Black Belt Academy’: “You cannot produce gold without digging below the surface”

“You cannot produce gold without digging below the surface.” Even if you are surface mining, you must remove the top layers of earth in order to find the gold ore. However, most gold miners travel to great depths to extract the gold ore required to produce gold. And once you have found the gold ore, […]

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“You cannot produce gold without digging below the surface.” Even if you are surface mining, you must remove the top layers of earth in order to find the gold ore. However, most gold miners travel to great depths to extract the gold ore required to produce gold. And once you have found the gold ore, it needs to be crushed and processed before you can produce gold. Producing gold requires back-breaking labor and sweat. So, to, will overcoming some of life’s most difficult challenges. When faced with difficult circumstances, you need to dig below the surface and find your gold ore… those character traits that will not succumb to the crushing situations and procedure of processing that refines your ore into the valuable metal that results.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Rupert.

Ken Rupert is an author, an educator, a strategist, and someone who lives by the principles and strategies he teaches in his Financial Self-Defense Training course. He is the author of several books including Financial Self-Defense Training Guide, Simple Wealth Building Strategies, and God, I Was Wondering. When he is not studying the stock market, developing a new investment strategy, or researching his next investment, he enjoys practicing HapKiDo, playing golf, and going to the shooting range.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Finance was not my primary pursuit in life, but it is my passion. Personal finance is so central to life and yet so many people make simple, yet profound financial mistakes that trap them in a cycle of functional poverty. Due to my circumstances, I have become passionate about teaching people how to manage their basic personal finances as well as how to invest to build wealth. Financial Self-Defense Training really grew out of my passion for martial arts and the reality of my disabled son’s lifetime needs. When my son was born, it became painfully obvious that his needs would require financial resources beyond my years on this earth. Knowing that I would not be around to ensure his care and comfort, I decided that I needed to do all I could to provide the resources for his care beyond my death. His needs became the motivation behind Financial Self-Defense. Interestingly, every step in the process of becoming financially independent aligned with the belt structure of HapKiDo, the martial arts form I study. After researching the statistics on personal finance in America, I realized the need for such a program geared towards the average person. So I founded the Financial Black Belt Academy to provide instruction on all things personal finance.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There have been several books that have influenced my push into the area of strategic financial coaching, but one really opened my eyes to making changes. The book “Who Moved My Cheese” really presented to me four general personality types and how they are motivated to live. I have never been the type of person to wait for something to come to me nor have I ever been the type of person who is satisfied staying where I am. I am perpetually pursuing the next objective, the next goal, the next accomplishment. This book helped me see that there is nothing wrong with being that type of person. Today, I am motivating others to take control of their personal finances and teaching them how to develop and execute a strategic plan that is focused on achieving the three goals of maximizing profits, enhancing sustainability, and promoting growth — the three tenets of Financial Self-Defense. The overall take-away from this book is that people are motivated differently and being able to identify how people are motivated can determine the success of the person as it relates to Financial Self-Defense. “Hem” and “Haw” will not cut it. Personal financial success just doesn’t come to them. A person needs to possess the “Sniff and Scurry” temperament in order to be successful Financial Black Belts. Sniff out opportunities and then scurry to take advantage of them.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Instead of providing 5 reasons to be hopeful, I would like to provide 5 nuggets of wisdom that can help others navigate the challenges that are facing us today. The power of transformation is often found in experiential learning. That is, learning through our experiences instead of fearing the unknown. It is important to keep in mind that some of the greatest lessons are forged in adversity. When a person is able to overcome adversity, he or she gains confidence in the face of many challenges. It is not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you that matters. The 5 nuggets of wisdom that have risen out of my experiences during this time of difficulty should inspire your readers to consider looking at their situation from a different perspective and maybe find some hope of their own.

First, “You cannot produce gold without digging below the surface.” Even if you are surface mining, you must remove the top layers of earth in order to find the gold ore. However, most gold miners travel to great depths to extract the gold ore required to produce gold. And once you have found the gold ore, it needs to be crushed and processed before you can produce gold. Producing gold requires back-breaking labor and sweat. So, to, will overcoming some of life’s most difficult challenges. When faced with difficult circumstances, you need to dig below the surface and find your gold ore… those character traits that will not succumb to the crushing situations and procedure of processing that refines your ore into the valuable metal that results. Not every mine produces gold ore, but no one mines for elements that are not of value. Whether you are mining for rare-earth materials, salt used for road treatment, or diamonds, you have to dig below the surface and find the deposits that eventually become things of value.

Second, “Every pearl begins as a grain of sand.” Put another way, “At the center of every pearl is an irritant.” The first axiom reminds us that an oyster produces a pearl by coating a grain of sand, an irritant, with nacre until it no longer irritates. The result is a pearl. Pearls range in value as will your outcomes when an irritant is introduced into your life. It is how you choose to react to that irritant that determines the value of your pearl. You can fail to produce your life’s nacre and remain irritated, or you can produce your life’s nacre and create a valuable pearl that can be shared with others. The second axiom, derived from the first, reminds us that when you see pearls in other people’s lives, those pearls began as irritants, something that caused that person to overcome the situation or circumstance by choosing to secrete his or her life’s nacre. When you can face the things that are irritants in your life and choose to secrete the substance that coats those irritants to remove their irritating properties, you will produce pearls.

Third, “Every piece of coal has the potential to become a diamond.” The process required to turn a piece of coal into a diamond is one of extreme pressure and heat. Not unlike mining for gold, the deeper the mine, the greater the heat. Diamonds are formed when persistent pressure and heat are applied to a carbon deposit. Life has deposited carbon into your existence. Each one of us possesses a measure of carbon that was deposited into our existence at our birth. It called our genetic code or our temperament. Then life adds pressure and heat to form diamonds, and 2020 was no stranger to the pressure and heat that life can bring. Carbon must stand up to consistent pressure and heat in order to be transformed into a valuable diamond.

Fourth, “The same rain that washes away the soil in the summer provides a blanket of snow to insulate the soil in the winter.” In other words, “Seasons change, but the cycle of precipitation remains constant.” Regardless of the changes we have experienced this year, you must remain true to yourself. There are two influences to our behaviors. The first influence is known as motivators. These are external events that force us to act, react, and think differently than we would usually respond. The second influence is known as drivers. These are internal to our being and guide us through life. The person you are on the inside is not changed by motivators. That is why when we are forced to do something by external events that goes against who we are on the inside, we become resistant, irritated, and respond in anger. Being cognizant that we do not have to change who we are on the inside in order to address what is happening on the outside is a powerful. Some difficulties are experienced to wash away the bad soil around us while others are meant to protect our good soil from becoming corrupt. Seasons change, but you don’t have to. Maintaining who you are in the face of difficult circumstances can help you overcome the external motivators while strengthening your internal drivers.

Fifth, “The same wind that lifts the aircraft, slows it down.” If you have ever watched an airplane take off and land, it takes off against the wind and lands into the wind for very specific reasons. The airplane is always directed to take-off in the direction opposite to the direction of the wind flow. This is because the aircraft gets additional lift from the wind. Upon landing, it always is directed into the wind which allows it to have a lower approach speed. It’s the same wind, but the pilot will guide the plain to push against the wind or to flow into it depending on his or her purpose. This is how we must approach the challenging times in which we live. Everyone is in the same wind storm, but we might be heading in different directions and are trying to accomplish different objectives. The stage of life in which you find yourself will determine how you use the wind. If you are in the Developing stage of life you are preparing for takeoff and you need to use the current difficulties to add lift. If you are in the Accumulating stage of life, you are trying to stay aloft so you might have to adjust your thrust to maintain your air speed. And if you are in the Retirement stage of life, you are trying to slow your air speed and come in for a smooth landing. We are facing strong headwinds coming out of 2020 and we need to determine our direction and objectives so we can use these winds to achieve our goals in the midst of the wind storm.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Anxiety is a symptom. Therefore, in order to reduce anxiety, you need to identify what is motivating that result. In my book 10 Aspects Of Finding Your Niche I address the three qualities that produce life outcomes. The first is “What motivates you.” Motivators are external influences that cause you to make specific decisions to move towards or away from something. The second is “What drives you.” Drivers are internal systems of belief that cause you pursue things even when faced with difficulty. The third is “what are your passions.” Passion can cause you to adapt, adjust and overcome very difficult circumstances because passion causes you to do what needs to be done to accomplish what you want to accomplish. So, the first thing anyone must do to overcome anxiety is to identify if the anxiety is due to external events, internal struggles, and a lack of passion. Remember, we are talking about how to support someone with anxiety, not how to cure it. For example, when I began helping others develop personal financial strategies, I worked with an older woman whose husband was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s. I asked her what her greatest fear was. Her response was being financially destitute. As I walked her through her financial assets and resources, I was able to show her that she was in a better position than she had believed. This helped reduce her initial anxiety. My second question was, “What is your second greatest fear?” Her response was that she did not want to be a financial burden on her adult children. By developing a financial strategy that resulted in paying off her house early and then prioritizing her resources, she has left all of that anxiety behind. The motivators of her anxiety were external. By revealing her drivers (those internal beliefs) and her passion (those things to which she was committed) I was able to show her that she could overcome her anxiety with a few simple adjustments.

Therefore, the first step in helping others overcome externally induced anxiety is to help them develop a strategy for addressing the cause of the anxiety. You are not treating the anxiety, you are addressing the issues that cause the anxiety.

Externally motivated anxiety is a symptom. However, when a person has a temperament that produces anxiety, showing him or her how to develop a strategy for addressing external events is useless. In my book, Empathy: Love And Life Beyond Self I discuss how to walk along side of someone who is struggling. The first step is to develop a relationship with the person. Relationships require three fundamental elements: 1) time; 2) experience; 3) purpose. First, there is time. To build relationships you need to spend time with the person. Time that has quantity and quality. You have to spend a large quantity of time with someone to learn about him or her. And a good portion of that time must be quality time. Relationships also require shared experiences. There is something powerful about sharing experiences with another that creates bonds. Some of the strongest bonds are formed in adversity. When two people walk through a difficult experience together, a bond is formed, trust is developed, and a certain kinship exists. If you support those around you who are struggling because of Covid or any other difficulty, take the time to walk along side of that person and experience things together. Finally, having a common purpose aids in developing relationships. Having a common purpose could take the form of setting a common goal or even a common achievement. Just taking daily walks with the person to talk and exercise can end up developing a relationship. When you spend time with someone, share experiences, and focus on a common purpose, you will find the relationship required to help that person.

Don’t offer platitudes. Platitudes are easily identified by someone who is struggling and your efforts will result in appearing insincere even if you mean well. In my book The Plan I provide the blueprint for mentoring, encouraging, nurturing, and strengthening someone who is struggling. Mentoring should not appear as mentoring in the traditional sense. You are not above the person and the person is not below you. Mentoring is the process of sharing knowledge and it flows in both directions. Ask more questions than you give answers. Become a student of the other person. Then sharing your knowledge does not come across as insincere. Encouraging is the act of building courage into someone who is feeling weak based on his or her circumstances. Reinforce the truth and shine light on the lies the person is telling himself or herself. Nurturing is providing the sustenance needed to sustain someone, either mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Each of these needs food in order to gain and maintain strength. Finally, Strengthening is the process of pushing back on currently held beliefs and ideas to break down the “mental, emotional, and spiritual” fibers so that growth can happen.

Here are four simple steps I use to walk with someone who is struggling. First, meet the person where he or she is. Don’t try to pull him or her to where you are. Simply try to understand where he or she is and try to learn how he or she got there. Second, listen to what is spoken, but listen harder to what is unspoken. Often times, people who are struggling will not just come out and tell you what’s going on. So listening to the unspoken words is critical in helping. Third, Share only when it is appropriate. Don’t use comparison stories to make a connection. Just listen to that person’s story and ask questions for clarification. Finally, walk along side of the person. Don’t get out in front of him or her, and don’t walk behind him or her. In other words, don’t pull that person or push that person in the direction you believe he or she should go. Simply be there beside him or her.

Too many people just want to solve the problem and move on without taking into account the deeper needs we all have to connect and feel safe within our relationship. External events can cause, and have caused many to not trust others. This lack of trust, economic uncertainty, political unrest, violence in the streets, and numerous other external factors have shaken us to the point where our survival instincts have caused higher levels of anxiety. But you can be an anchor in the midst of a storm, if even for just one person, let it begin with you.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

As someone who not only has faith, but also practices and writes about it, I would be wrong for not starting with God’s word. That may offend some, but my intent is to offer hope and that is where I find my hope. Therefore, start with the Bible. I make that suggestion with the words that an old Army buddy of mine told me when I first picked up the Bible. Just read it. Don’t try to understand it; just read it. God will take care of helping you understand it later. I would also suggest for those who feel anxious to identify the source of that anxiety. The source will often point you towards the resource. At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I would also point you towards some resources I wrote. A few years back, I wrote a book titled God, I Was Wondering… where I answered questions submitted by atheists, agnostics, and anyone in between. I approached the topics with logic supported by the Bible. It is by no stretch of the imagination a doctrinal book, but it offers a look at the logical application of the Bible to our situations today. Interestingly, some of the questions that atheists and agnostics ask are the same questions with which some Christians struggle. I think the book offers encouragement to those who are trying to navigate the storms today.

If I could go back and refer to why a plane takes off and lands into the same wind, I would suggest that, depending on a person’s direction and objective, find someone who, through observation, is succeeding at navigating the storm, and learn from that person. If you are that person who is succeeding, then learn how to apply the principles of mentoring, encouraging, nurturing, and strengthening to help those who are struggling. If you need to learn how to do that, read my books Empathy: Love and Life Beyond Self and The Plan. You might even find the greatest key to overcoming your own anxiety in these troubled times is to learn how to help others overcome theirs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

If I may, I would like to share a poem I wrote in 2013 when I was struggling with my direction and purpose in life.

Abundant Life Prayer

When weariness tempts me to falter

When the world against me doeth stand

When I am exhausted and spent

And drained and depleted

Being there no one to hold’th my hand

Let my attitude be one of rejoicing

Let my balance be perfect and planned

Heaven and earth to bear witness against me

Choosing life over death, blessing over cursing

And God over anything of man

Let me nurture those who are lacking

Give direction to those who are lost

Let me take action to find, an abundance of life

In a Savior who died on the cross

Let God’s navigation be only my guide

Through my valleys, my deserts, my storms

Bound by His love, and connected by grace

Refreshed and renewed ever’ morn

In empathy He set aside divinity

To shoulder our burdens and shame

To enter the reality of someone’s depravity

To mentor and encourage, to nurture and support

An abundance of life He proclaimed

In my weariness I shall not falter

In my suffering I shall not wane

Strengthened by God in an abundance of life

Be it spiritual or physical, intellectual or emotional

My burdens lifted, I am free from the strain

Life has thrown me many curveballs. In 2001, my son was born with multiple disabilities. My wife and I have navigated our journey exclusively with the support of just ourselves. We have no close family who has walked along side of us. Our circumstances have isolated us from experiencing the many opportunities other families have. We have experienced three periods of unemployment in the last 12 years, nursed my son through eleven surgeries, and, though we never thought we could be more isolated than we are, the Covid lockdowns have shut us off even more. However, we say every morning, God uses all things for good to those who love Him and are called for His purposes. So we push on helping those we can help and developing our plan to provide for my son’s care beyond our lives. And sometimes, that’s the best you can do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

First, I would say that IF (and that is a very big if) I were a person of great influence (emphasis added), I would want to encourage people to take the time to foster and strengthen relationships with those around them who are struggling. We walk stronger when we walk together. Beyond that, I would want to help people incorporate strategic planning into their personal financial management process. To have my Financial Self-Defense process become the gold standard of financial planning would be very rewarding for me. To see people earn their Financial Black Belts would be encouraging to me. To know that I helped individuals and families manage their finances better so that when situations change and events cause financial stress, they are able to manage and overcome the difficulties, would fulfill my passion to bring about the most amount of good I personally could. It really is a simple thing. I just want people to keep the most important things, the most important and not get sidetracked by things that are here today and gone tomorrow.

What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?

I like the personal touch. If there is someone who reads this article and would like to get in touch with me, I would suggest he or she visit my website http://www.financialblackbelt.us and complete the contact form.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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