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Review: The Business of the 21st Century

The Business of the 21st Century The Business of the 21st Century by Robert T. Kiyosaki
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Whereas the majority of the books on my read shelf come from my favorite authors, recommendations from librarians and friends, or hearing buzz about my favorite topics and genres, this is the first book that has come to me thanks to a trip to Lowe's. Allow me to regale you with a true story before my review.

We hearken back to early July 2019, where we find our protagonist (me) shopping for granite countertop sealers at Lowe's, decked out in a sleeveless shirt from my college. I generally hit up Home Depot, as it is closer to my house, but they do not stock my preferred brand there. So I stand there in the aisle, picking out what I need. I turn to go check out when I hear, "Oh a [my college] grad! I went to [college nearby my college]!"

I turn to see an unassuming man in his early forties before me. (For this story, I will call Tom so I don't have to call him random Lowe's man.)

Not wanting to be rude, I say, "Oh I had some friends who went there."

Tom: "What brings you down South?"

I reply, "A teaching job."

Tom: "No way, I used to be a teacher. I eventually left to work in consulting."

Me: "I do some consulting on the side, too."

He looks at me for a moment. "You know, maybe a guy like you could work with me."

Knowing that extra income is always nice for public school educators, I say I'd be interested and we exchange numbers. A few days later, he texts me to set up a meeting at a cafe inside the local Wegman's, which seemed a bit amiss.

Nonetheless, I forged ahead. I roll up to the meeting and we make small talk. I hate small talk, but I do enjoy money, so I engage with him.

Eventually, it turns to business. He begins telling me about his business mentor who also happened to go to college and also happened to be a teacher, but he retired at 26 as a multi-millionaire. I should note that a generic name was given at one point, but he generally referred to him as mentor, so I will do the same.

Long story short, Tom had asked mentor to be his mentor and teach him how to business. I have no idea what the actual business is, but it apparently makes a lot of money. Tom then begins to ask me about my financial life.

Do I live the life I've always dreamed of? I truthfully reply that education isn't exactly a windfall, but it pays the bills.

Could I be happier with more money and financial freedom? Yes... but I feel like most people would say yes to that too.

(At this point, you're probably wondering how this story is going to eventually tie into a book review. I promise that we're getting there soon.)

Tom tells me he was in my shoes when he was my age. He had told his mentor about our meeting in Lowe's. Little weird, but sure, I guess I'm remarkable. Tom said he had asked his mentor if I could be brought on like he was.

I was confused at this point because I thought this was a quasi-interview to work for Tom as a consultant. Tom tells me his mentor kind of does what Amazon does, but smaller and differently - so basically, not like Amazon at all?

He then drops a bombshell. Tom's mentor makes money from something called "network marketing." When asked if I know what this is, I said it kind of sounds like BeachBody or MaryKay or the likes. Tom tells me it is, but it isn't. Such clear details I am getting.

Enter the book. (See, I promised it would be coming soon.)

Casually, Tom slides this book across the table to me. It's a slim volume, clocking in at about 115 pages. He asks how fast I can read it. Flipping through it, I say it should maybe take me a few days. He tells me the book is mine to read and mark up as I'd like, and I should send him my thoughts as I read it. As we're wrapping up, he wants to get another meeting on the calendar.

He says, "How does Thursday work for you?"

Somewhat perplexed, as I have learned no real information in the past hour, I reply, "Well that's my first full day of work, so I don't know if that will work." I should also note that this is Monday evening, effectively giving me three days to read this entire book - and I was in the middle of Pines already (which was fantastic).

He pushes for a Thursday meeting, and also asks me to bring my wife to meet his, which I find very strange. At this point, I just agree to it, since I want to leave. We part ways, and I leave with the book in tow and a ton of questions in my head. When I get home, I really have no words to explain it to my wife other than, "It was a very strange meeting, and I think there is going to be a second, and he wants you to come, too?" She is skeptical.

Wednesday evening rolls around, and I have not even begun the book. Tom texts me asking about my progress. I tell him I haven't even started. He asks me when I could be finished with it. I reply with, "Maybe by the end of the weekend?"

Tom: "Ok, I will ask my mentor if that is ok with him to extend you some more time."

I haven't felt such deadlines to read since my time in high school AP English and I am a bit taken aback by a man who is claiming to spout financial freedom needing to get permission for me to take a bit more time to read.

The next morning, my phone dings with a text from Tom. He's cleared it with his mentor - I now have until Monday to read this book.

My curiosity takes over. What could be in this book that is so urgent? I crack it open that evening and dive in...

Overall, it's very lackluster. There are a few nuggets of wisdom in there, but not enough to warrant 115 pages. The author alternates between humblebrags, thinly veiled put downs against the working class, and his close ties with Donald Trump, who seems to be the only wealthy person he knows.

This book was also written in 2009, and has not aged well. On one page, while mentioning successful businesses, he discusses Microsoft and Tupperware in the same paragraph... neither of which are exactly the same powerhouses today in 2019. The author also speaks at length about his time being homeless and living in his car, but refusing to work since it's "beneath him."

However, he says by thinking differently and growing assets, he made millions. Yet, he never gives too much away in the concrete details, so the reader has to infer a lot. When you read between the lines, you realize what he is calling network marketing is the same thing as multi level marketing or a pyramid scheme.

I may not make much as a teacher, but I also don't want to be blowing up friends and family with trying to get them to buy random crap. Not long after, I finished the book, more just because I wanted to add it to my read shelf since I haven't figured out this whole abandoned book shelf yet, and then dove into the Internet to learn more.

Apparently, there is an army of Toms out there who do the same thing to young people all over - approach them in a public place, strike up conversation, initiate a meeting later, give them this book, and then try to rope them in on this pyramid in further meetings.

Suffice it to say, I felt both flattered that I appeared young enough to be approached and shocked that I seemed like a good mark. I almost texted Tom to cancel the Monday meeting, but then I realized I could beat him at his own game. I decided to play it cool.

When he texted me on Sunday to confirm our meeting, I decided to ask for more time, but with a ridiculous excuse to see if he would take the bait.

Tom: “Hello Justin. How far have you made it through the book?”

Me: “Hey Tim. I was at my friends farm in Pennsylvania this weekend for a rodeo and left the book here in Virginia. I haven’t had a chance to start yet and I’m exhausted from the bucking broncos. Do you think you could ask your mentor for another extension?”

I pressed send and waited with bated breath. This would determine the course of the next few days.

Less than a minute later…

Tom: “I will do my best. Give me a definitive time you will have the book down and I’ll see what he said.”

Though I had clearly irked him, Tom was on the hook. I had to tread carefully to reel him in. I promised to be done by Wednesday. We agreed to meet on Thursday evening and he told me to “get started on that book.”

Oh Tom, I have already finished it. It is the fun that is just getting started.

The following evening, I decided to push it further. I opened to a random page about the different “quadrants of wealth making” (or something like that) and decided to come up with a ridiculous question. I asked him about my friend, the fictional farmer, and if he would be considered in the self-employed quadrant as a farmer or as a business owner quadrant since other, also fictional people, worked on his fictional farm, and paid him a fictional cut of their fictional profits.

Almost immediately, Tom responded by saying:

“Good question. He makes money from both quadrants. My business coach did extend time til Thursday but said this was the last extension. Glad you’re diving into it. Keep me updated with your progress.”

I did have an update of sorts… I had yet another question about Old McDonald’s Fictional Farm:

“What about the animals themselves? Are they technically in the employee quadrant or are they in a different quadrant? They provide income for the farmer but they’re provided with their needs.

Silence for nearly 45 minutes. I fear I have pushed it too far.

However, Tom, despite being financially independent and his own boss (with a boss of his own too!) clearly sees something in me and texts back.

Tom: “I’m going to assume that last question was a bit of a joke. Let me know what you are learning from the book.”

Sensing his aggravation, I make a quick pivot.

“I’m thinking more outside the box than literally. I understand that animals don’t really accrue wealth but I am applying the concepts on a different scale.”

One minute later…

Tom: “Got it. Glad to know you weren’t taking it literally. It’s always tough to decipher text communication.”

A sigh of relief. I have recovered, but I must forge ahead.

“So thinking in hypothetical, what would you say the animals would be?”

Tom: “They would definitely be in the employee quadrant. Ultimately their services are helping the owner achieve his dreams and goals not their own. And at the end of the day the owner is the one that decides how much value they have and whether or not they should be kept alive or not.”

That took a bit of a dark turn there, so I choose not to push it further that evening. I already have my plan for the next night’s text.

I text him another question… “What is the function of Metcalf’s Law in your consulting business, if there is no real product?”

However, I do not send that exact text. What I do say is…

“Como funciona la Ley de Metcalf para su negocio de consultoria, ya que no hay un producto real?”

Eight minutes pass… no response. Did I break his mind. But then my phone buzzes, and I suddenly understand why he wasn’t as fast…

Tom: “La parte más importante es los componentes de mayor valor de orden. El objetivo es el crecimiento exponencial de todos modos. no es que no haya un producto, es que la tutoría tiene un valor más alto que el producto.”

He’s hooked big time. Not only did he translate my response, he also translated his own… and didn’t even mention that we’re not speaking in English anymore. When I translate his response, it’s more or less a non answer, so I press him for a real answer… in Spanish.

He responds with: “Por que de repente estamos hablando en espanol?”

Which translates to “Why are we now suddenly talking in Spanish?” which he typed… in Spanish.

I double down. I say, “I don’t know what you are talking about. My phone is in English.” Of course, I translate this all to Spanish.

He responds with a screenshot of our conversation, which indeed shows it in Spanish.

I double down once more, for a total of quadrupling down. I screenshot my phone’s settings, which show it in English and ask him if his is also set to English. Of course, this is also translated to Spanish before sending, but not the screenshot which is in English.

There is no answer, so I double down once again, now at octopuling down. I recreate the entire conversation, but in English, with my little sister and send him a screenshot of that, with a message that says “I’m not sure what is going on. This is what my screen looks like.” This time, I send it actually in English.

Silence for the remainder of the evening. I fear I have lost Tom at this point. I begin to mourn his absence and ponder how else I can scam the scammers, because I have now wasted multiple hours of his life (and provided hours of entertainment for my social media followers, who have embraced Texts with Tom as a regular fixture). I decide not to push it any longer.

The next evening, roughly 24 hours before the scheduled meeting, my phone dings with a text message, as I am getting a friend caught up on this tale. I look at it… Tom has come through.

Tom: “I don’t know what was going on with the text messaging last night. Will you have the book finished by our scheduled meeting at 7 PM tomorrow?”


I say I don’t know what was going on either, that I will be done, and inquire about my question from the previous day (though I do ask it in English this time).

Tom says that we can go over questions when we meet, which is weird because he said if I had questions he would answer them when I text them to him. I think I am putting too much logic into my thought process or something.

Tom: “My wife looks forward to meeting your wife there as well. We can meet back at Wegmans.”

Me: “We’ll be there with bells on!”

For the record, the only time you will find me with bells on is at Christmas.

The next day is the big day I am to meet with Tom.. T-Day, if you will. Coworkers ask me if I am ready, what my plan is, and if I’m really planning to show up. I said I did entertain the idea of asking a coworker to play the role of my wife but realized Tom may not be very stable at this point, so I will just stick to texting. However, I do have a master plan, which I detail in flow chart/tree diagram form.

I anticipate Tom will text me around 7:10, asking where I am. I will not respond until 7:20, claiming that I got held up at a “Brethren meeting.” I have no idea what the Brethren is, but I will make it up as I go.

He will either say this is the final straw (and send me either an angry final text or a calm one) or grant me another extension). If he grants me an extension, I will then try to entice him to join the Brethren. No matter what all branches of the diagram point to one thing.

Screenshots and social media likes.

At 7:05, Tom texts, five minutes before my predicted scheduled time, giving me directions to where he and his wife are in Wegmans.

I happen to be on the phone at the time, so I cannot text back. However, by the time I hang up the phone he has texted me once again…

“I didn’t see or hear from you guys. I have already rescheduled twice for you. I believe I have extended all the grace I can. At this point I need to remove you from our consideration list. Best of luck with the school year.”

I am stung by finding out that I am just one man on his list (of how many, Tom?! You’re the only scammer I am currently working with!) The show must go on, so I try to rally for one last ride:

“I’m terribly sorry. The Prophet [who I had decided was the fictional leader of the Brethren; maybe the brother of fictional farmer] called me to commence a Meeting of the Brethren. We were just talking about you too and how you may be a good fit for Brethern.”

(I accidentally misspell Brethren in the last word of the text, and it will curse me for years in wondering if that is what showed my hand. A true member of the Brethren would never make such a simple mistake.)

It is a Hail Mary play, and much like 98.47% of the Hail Mary passes I throw on N64 NFL Blitz, it is not successful.

As I complete this, the Full Saga of Tom, it is with a heavy heart that I report I have not heard from Tom in roughly 24 hours. I fear I pushed him too far, but, like Thanos, I knew it was inevitable. Our relationship was not built to last, though Tom did show admirable perseverance through the ridiculous questions, wild excuses, and random languages.

RIP Tom - We hardly knew yee. Thank you for the memories, the laughs, and the likes over the past few weeks and 3,000 words as I wrote this out. What you provided to me was far more valuable than any amount of money ever could be.

It was my multi level marketing of sorts, in which it is I who was at the top of this pyramid... of comedy.

TL;DR - Basically, the book is not worth your time, but you probably got it for free from your very own Tom, so at least you didn't waste your money!


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