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Tips From The Top: One On One With Ken Honda

I spoke to bestselling author Ken Honda about his journey and best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Ken: I am very passionate about helping people change their relationship with money. I’m proud to have transformed hundreds of thousands of lives personally and many more through my books. I encourage everyone to identify their gifts and advise them on how to monetize these gifts to live a better life and love what they do.

My first book English-language book, Happy Money, teaches readers how to treat money as a welcome guest, allowing it to come and go with respect and without resentment.

I think people would be surprised to learn how I got to this point.

My journey as an author started in the most unlikely of places—on a playground with my daughter. It was a gorgeous day and we were happily playing when I saw a mother and her young daughter—who was about the same age as my own daughter—fighting. The mother was distressed and in a hurry. She yelled, “Your mom has to go to work! So let’s go home.” But the little one kept saying to her mother, “We just got here. I want to play more! Please!” After a few minutes of battle, the reluctant little girl was dragged by her mother back home. I felt so terrible for the girl and her mother. I knew that if that mother had a choice, she would have wanted to stay in the park too. After all, it was a beautiful and sunny day. What parent wouldn’t want to be outside playing with their child? At that moment, I decided I needed to do something. I wanted to help not just this mother but all parents and people struggling to make ends meet. I wanted to take away her pain, stress, and frustration. So that very afternoon, after my own daughter was tired of playing, I decided I would write a short essay that would impart the wisdom I had gained over the years about making money and becoming prosperous.

I started to write about happiness and money in free booklets that I gave out to friends. At first I didn’t know if people were requesting my booklets because the content was good or because they were free. Nevertheless, I knew I was onto something. And when I reached 100,000 copies given away, I definitely knew.

At that point a publisher actually called me and asked me if I would be interested in writing an entire book. Since that fateful day, I’ve written over 50 books and sold almost eight million copies in Japan.
What began as a stroke of insight and an urge to help others, turned into not only a career but my life’s purpose.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Ken: My father was an alcoholic. Even though he was a successful accountant, he was often abusive.

It all started when one of my father’s clients committed an unthinkable tragedy. Because my father had denied the man a loan when he had come desperately begging for money a few days earlier, he felt he was to blame.

The consequences of his actions were never far from his mind, and my father fell into a period of dark depression and began abusing alcohol. He never fully recovered. His smile disappeared and so did our family’s.

This memory formed a distinct impression on me about the dark consequences of money. Although we were financially well-off, we were suffering. At that time, I thought having money brought us misery.

That was my belief until we healed our pain around money. By mending my family’s situation, I developed the skills to heal other families as well.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Ken: Great leaders have a keen sense of intuition. Great leaders can feel what others are feeling. They take every individual from their team into account and uplift them to their vision. Great leaders can perceive, enliven and inspire all at once.

I’ve met leaders who were warm, friendly, well respected, and loved by the people who worked for them, who had nothing but good things to say about their employers.

These leaders are what we call “the real deal.” A general rule I go by is that when the staff speaks ill of a leader behind his or her back, chances are he or she is not that decent of a person.

You can get away with appearing wonderful to the masses for a little while, but the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis will always know who is “the real deal” and who is not. Having money and the trappings of success doesn’t always equate to being a person who has something positive to offer the world.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Ken: 1. The key to business growth is to cultivate happy customers. In order to do that, when you work with a customer, always show your appreciation. When you are fired or part ways with a customer, also thank them.

2. If you show appreciation towards your businesses, people will reciprocate, so treat everybody nicely. All of the generous entrepreneurs and executives that I know have loyalty from their employees.

3. Loving what you do and exhibiting a grateful, happy energy exerts an incredible pull on the flow of money.

Restaurant owners who love cooking and serving their customers attract more people, hence more money. A dry cleaner who has a lot of passion to pull out stains and return clothes to their owners in a timely manner will likely keep and attract many clients. Lawyers who love helping people seek justice will undoubtedly have a line of clients waiting. People with lots of love, energy, and compassion are naturally attractive and alluring.

It’s not an accident that we are attracted to genuinely nice people. If given the choice between the flower shop owner who loves flowers and creating beautiful arrangements and someone who does it just because it is her job, whom would you prefer to buy flowers from?

It’s really not “magic” that nice, passionate, and enthusiastic people attract customers and therefore money. The result over time is that they will undoubtedly be able to build wealth. Though not necessarily a priority or an aim, making more money can nevertheless be a bonus for loving and serving people.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Ken: The single best piece of advice I’ve received is that people always remember how others make them feel. I always think about how I’m making other people feel about themselves during every interaction—both personal and professional.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Ken: Everyone should do something nice for other people. It can be a smile, a gift or a helpful gesture. The easiest way to pay it forward is to say thank you or I love you. Kind words always help other people feel loved and inspired.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Ken: Reading is my biggest hobby. I love reading books and as a result, I ended up writing books. I also love listening to people speak and I ended up being a speaker. I enjoy giving lectures to inspire people to start living the life they have been dreaming of. 

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Ken: I’m so passionate about teaching happy money and to creating a happy money flow — appreciate the money when it comes in, and also appreciating the money when it goes out. By doing that, people will start the cycle of appreciation. That’s what I want to share.

I believe that if you treat yourself and your loved ones with gratitude, kindness, and love, life will treat you in kind.

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