Leadership

Real 'Wolf of Wall Street' shares 3 secrets to achieving success after you hit rock bottom

Jordan Belfort and Leonardo DiCaprio
Getty Images
Jordan Belfort and Leonardo DiCaprio

Former stockbroker Jordan Belfort gained notoriety in the 2013 movie "The Wolf of Wall Street." The Martin Scorcese-directed film was based on Belfort's memoir, which detailed his life of debauchery and a guilty plea to securities fraud and money laundering that landed him in federal prison for 22 months.

"I lost my money, I lost my freedom, I lost my children for some time," he tells Goalcast in a recent video interview. "My life bottomed out."

Belfort says he managed to stay motivated and positive throughout his jail sentence (and beyond) because he did three things: created a vision, established a strategy and worked hard.

Just days after his release from prison, Belfort began writing his memoir, which received a $500,000 advance from Random House. These days, he spends his time as a motivational speaker and consultant. According to Bloomberg, he receives about $30,000 per speech and also earns royalties from his best-selling memoir and the "Wolf of Wall Street" film, which grossed nearly $400 million worldwide.

"You have to have a vision for your future that inspires you," Belfort tells Goalcast. "So when you think about it, it just makes you jump out of bed in the morning to really have a life that is far better [and] far greater than it is today."

Belfort says his vision was centered around his two young children. As he went to bed in his jail cell every night, he'd swear to himself he would do everything in his power upon his release to right his wrongs and prove to his children that he wasn't a failure.

"That was my why. It was all about my kids, and that's the secret," he says. "Your why is never about you." Belfort notes that people are willing to do "crazy things" for a cause that they believe in but will only go so far for themselves. That's why it's so important to have a vision, he says.

The second step is to have a game plan. "You have to have a strategy or a plan that allows you to achieve your vision," he says, adding that most people miss this step.

He gives this example: In 1978, Belfort went to a New York beach on a brutally hot summer day. As he was lounging with friends, he overheard fellow beachgoers complaining about having to walk over half a mile to the concession stand. So early the next morning, he found an ice cream distributor, took his "old beaten up car" and loaded up a cooler with an assortment of ice creams and popsicles. "The whole thing loaded up was $22, including the cooler," he recalls.

He then drove an hour to the beach, walked to the edge of the water and started yelling out the products that he had for sale. "Within one hour, I'd sold out the entire cooler for $125, and I made 100 bucks in one hour," he tells Goalcast. "Back then, minimum wage was $1.20 an hour. I almost made more than my parents." The next day, he went back with four coolers and made nearly $500.

Because he'd been so successful, he told five friends about his business plan and they began selling coolers with him. However, Belfort noticed something: Only one friend ever managed to make more than $100 a day. The reason for that, he says, is because four friends would stop selling ice cream after one cooler, while the other friend would join him in selling up to four coolers.

"That comes down to this last element of the inner game of success," says Belfort. "And that is your standards."

He says some people have a bold vision that sounds inspiring and grand, but they have low standards and aren't willing to do the work. He calls it "champagne vision and beer standards." On the opposite end, there are people who are hard workers but who don't have an inspiring vision.

Belfort says that the two must be on par: "It's about having a match between your standards and your vision."

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