'Nam Marine, millionaire author attributes success to character development gained in Marine Corps
By Cpl. Luis R. Agostini
| | November 27, 2007
U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES PACIFIC, CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii --
"I'm a better Marine now than I was thirty years ago."
Robert T. Kiyosaki, best-selling author of the "Rich Dad" series, and former Marine gunship pilot during the Vietnam War, explained how his worldwide success as a financial leader stemmed from his Marine Corps experience during a phone interview Nov. 5.
"If you're going to be successful in business, you have to find a place to develop character," said Kiyosaki. "The Marine Corps did that for me.
"The toughness, the discipline, the training - it carries on, and it made a man out of me," said Kiyosaki.
A son of two former anti-war Peace Corps workers, Kiyosaki was deemed ineligible for the draft during the Vietnam era, due to his employment with Standard Oil's tanker office, based out of California, a "non-defense vital industry."
After debating whether to attend the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., or the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., Kiyosaki decided to enroll in the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and graduated from the King's Point, N.Y.-based school in 1969. That same year, his brother volunteered to join the Air Force. That's when Robert questioned his own courage and integrity.
"Am I a coward or not?" Kiyosaki asked himself.
"There weren't a lot of flag wavers at the time," said Kiyosaki, one of the co-founders of "Rich Dad," an organization dedicated to financial well-being, according to their website, www.RichDad.com.
When looking to join one of the Armed Services, Kiyosaki was warned by a Marine Corps recruiter, "If you talk to them (the other services), don't talk to me."
That bold statement alone easily lured Kiyosaki into the Marine Corps.
"I didn't have to go," explained Kiyosaki. "I volunteered not because I liked the war, but because it was the right thing to do."
Kiyosaki, an Arizona resident, fought in the Vietnam War from January 1972 to 1973, and briefly as a U.S. Merchant Marine midshipman in 1966.
"[Mariners] actually lost people in the war," said Kiyosaki. "It was what was called a battle standard. The Naval Academy, West Point - they don't have that."
Attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM)-264, comprised of Hueys, CH46s and CH53s, the young Lt. Kiyosaki was greeted by tracer rounds during his first flight into country.
"Holy (expletive)! What are those things?" Kiyosaki recalls asking.
Gunnery Sgt. Jackson, on the bird with the startled gunship pilot, tapped him on the shoulder, and informed him that he has seen his type before. Jackson then gave Kiyosaki some vital wartime wisdom.
"You know what's bad about this job? There's no second place. Either you go home or we go home, but both of us aren't going home," said Kiyosaki.
Kiyosaki ended his tenure in the Corps at Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
According to Kiyosaki, 95% of success comes from character development, which stems from strengthening values such as courage, integrity and honesty.
"A lot of the guys who are good businessmen, from WorldCom and Enron, lacked character, and that's why they fell," said Kiyosaki.
Regardless of the levels of success he has achieved, the Wall Street Journal best-selling author continually strives to improve himself.
"Training is continuous. It doesn't end after you leave the Marine Corps," said Kiyosaki. "I value it (the training) more now than I did when I was in."
Kiyosaki developed his hard-nose style of leadership from his experiences with senior staff noncommissioned officers and flag officers he encountered.
"A lot of people are afraid to tell the truth, to say no. That's where toughness comes into play. Toughness is not being a bully. It's having backbone.
"You don't have to pull rank if you're a good leader," said Kiyosaki, and jokingly followed up, "but if you're a weak leader, pull rank!"
The former devil dog's instincts still happen to kick every now and then. When Kiyosaki encounters commonplace civilian habits that would normally warrant verbal thrashings in the Marine Corps, it's hard for him to maintain his composure.
"I had this one 22-year old punk come in for a job. The guy put his feet up on my desk," recalled Kiyosaki. "Can you imagine putting your feet on your CO's (commanding officer) desk?"
Running into former Marines from time to time, Kiyosaki says that he's never met any Marine who's had something bad to say about the Marine Corps.
"That tell's you something about that training," said Kiyosaki.