Q&A: Ethical Investment Advisor, Joss Biggins on the Application of Thematic Principles

By Raiden Huang

Asking questions has been the fundamentals of what I’ve built my life on. However, a consistency I’ve struggled to decipher has been the grey area between the top one percent and everybody else. Excluding what’s already apparent, what else is left?

– Raiden Huang

Joss Biggins

Raiden: How do you manage to not get overlooked while working alongside individuals double your age?

Joss: You just have to show up. Age has a certain level of volatility to it. It’s a terrible metric. Experience is the best metric. The problem is we can’t quantify experience, it’s very hard. Time doesn’t age you, life ages you. 

I’ve jammed a ton of life into my short time on this planet. Some sixty-year-olds have lived less than I have. They’re the ones that have done the same thing over and over again. How do you not get overlooked? Show up. Play, be experienced, know your stuff, and don’t take anything for granted. When you’re going into a situation where you’re younger, especially like wealth management or even podcasting, you have to be three times more prepared. You just have to be, period. You have a hole in your experience. There’s no way around that. You can mask that very well with being able to communicate and sway with your conversational skills but the simple fact of the matter is you need to show up way more prepared than everyone else. Which I found isn’t that hard. Humans as a baseline don’t work that hard. It’s not as daunting as it may seem. If you show up well prepared, you’ve got a good presence, hold yourself well, speak with confidence, and know your stuff, age is a joke.

Raiden: How’d you first get your foot in the door? 

Joss: I became a registered investment advisor by the time I was twenty-two. Before that when I was twenty to twenty-one, I had asked a firm to sponsor me and take me under their wing. I asked for them to give me a shot and they said no. I come from a very poor background, I don’t have a high net worth individual friends, I was not well connected, and I didn’t have the knowledge base. I was just very ambitious and I worked hard.

From there, I decided to quit a great job to work in a back office for a year. It was the worst time of my life. I was doing just paperwork every day seven to three. After a year, I asked for another shot. I went, “here’s a proposal, here’s a transition plan, here’s how I’m going to make you guys money, and here’s how I’m going to bring clients in.” I presented this to the branch manager at the time and he was like, “I’ll give you the co-sign but you have to speak to the vice president.” The same thing, I show up with confidence. I went, “hey listen you may think I’m just this little kid but I have a plan. I thought about every angle, I understand the business, and I know how I’m going to make you more money. This is a net win for you. Yes, you have to take a gamble for a year but I’m going to make you more money than I’ll cost you, just give me a shot.” “Well okay, go talk to the CEO,” he said. It’s the same thing. Every single time, show up more prepared. Continue to hammer away, have great communication skills, great emotional intelligence, find a way to show up. 

Young people have the distinct advantage of being young. They don’t understand how much of an advantage that truly is. Even I don’t understand how much of an advantage that truly is. The average age is about sixty-years-old in the wealth management industry. If I’m on a team and they show up with a twenty-three-year-old that’s freshly out of college on the same level as they are, that just makes them look far better. You have the power as a young person to take your weakness and turn it into a strength. Use it as leverage. The great leaders see that. When seeing great young potential, anyone from an organizational leadership standpoint does not factor in age. 

Raiden: When you don’t have any real value to bring, how can one access the same circles as the high net-worth individuals? 

Joss: There’s a common denominator. It can be anyone from Elon to whoever else that’s super hard to get a hold of. We all have these common denominators. Humans are humans. We all have to do the same stuff. I do chores and eat just like everybody else. 

So from a professional and wealth management standpoint, I can’t sit at the same table as you. But if I look at the common denominator of being a human, I can add value to your life. I can be in the same circles as you. In terms of upward class mobility and networking upward from a class perspective, I come from a very low class. It’s all about finding spots where I can interact. That may be taking certain courses they take or being in certain places they may be at.

I initially started doing the grouse grind to meet people. I was like, “I need to meet high net worth individuals. Where are high net worth individuals? What do they value? They value fitness, nature, camaraderie. I bet there’s a ton of important people that do the grind. Alright, well I’m doing the grind all the time then.” Headphones are out, I’m talking to everyone. What I did was I found a common denominator and I attacked it. Soon enough your network starts to build.

I asked you why do you think they got so powerful and influential, well that’s because they recognize talent. They recognize characteristics in young people. You can look at certain young people and go he’s got that, she’s got this. I can observe by simply watching them do the grouse grind. How you do one task is how you do every task. They’re able to communicate really well on that common denominator and that’s how you build a network. That’s how you have upward class mobility. 

Raiden: What are the largest anomalies between the top percent and everyone else in your field? 

Joss: One thing that comes to the top of my mind is the prevalence of the black lives movement. When you grow up poor, anyone that was marginalized in any way has a greater chance of being average and an even greater chance of being below average. A big contributing factor to that in life is that they truly feel like second class citizens. They act like second class citizens, “Oh-no, I can’t do that. Grouse? No.” Or “That position? No. I only have two out of the ten qualifications,” versus having a certain level of delusional confidence and entitlement. 

Entitlement is always used with a negative connotation but I’m using it with a positive connotation. I show up in rooms I know damn well I should not be in, rooms that I do not belong in. I know these are not my people. I’m out of these class ranks but I’m here. I’m going to show a certain level of delusional confidence and a certain level of entitlement as if I belong. That’s all we humans need. If we intuitively feel like we belong there, they welcome you to join. The difference between the point one percent and the ten percent is definitely the level of entitlement and delusional confidence. You can not be realistic. 

This is said way too much, but working hard does not guarantee you shit. It gets you in the door. It literally gets you a seat at the table but it doesn’t mean you get to eat. These people understand in order to be as good as the top one percent, they have to work harder than the top one percent. In order to be better than the top one percent, they simply have to kill at their craft. They have to crawl and scratch their way there and I think that’s what makes the difference between the ten percent of people and the one percent of people.

The actual answer I gave to you in our initial conversation is that these people are able to identify certain skill sets. The ability to listen to someone is incredibly valuable. If I listen to someone correctly, I can fully extrapolate the information they give me. I can actually use it and rebuttal it to use it in other conversations. That is called being observant. The skill of being observant is one of the most powerful skills out there. If I can listen to a story and fully comprehend it, I don’t have to go through the experience. If I can walk into a room and fully understand the group dynamic without talking to anyone just by reading body language, that’s a skill. These people think thematically across situations.

When I was a kid, I was a dishwasher for four years. It sucked. I hated dishes, every kid hated dishes. Then I was washing dishes for a job. The only way I got through that was by telling myself that I’m going to wash these dishes and literally be known as the best dishwasher ever. That was a skill I picked up. You may think how washing dishes is going to take you to the top one percent, well it’s being able to think thematically. It’s learning one skill and then being able to apply that to a hundred other applications. I think that’s thematic learning. It’s probably the most important concept for any kid. You learn one lesson and apply it to a hundred different applications versus school teaches you one skill equals one application. That is going to take you one-hundred times longer to accomplish the same thing as the person that learned one principle for a hundred different applications. That’s one of the biggest differentiators between young people.

Raiden: What are the tangibles to teach my brain to think thematically? 

Joss: The importance of asking “why” is how I got to that conclusion. Any task I’m doing I ask why. Why am I going to work every day to make a couple of hundred bucks then come home? I don’t care about that. What’s the why? The why is I’m going to work to observe human behavior. I’m going there to observe and learn skills. I’m going there to observe and learn skills. Well, what’s the skill? What’s the skill I’m honing there? If you use first principles thinking which is an Elon Musk term, you break things down to the very essence of whatever it is. Why am I making my bed? Well, I’m making my bed because it’s important to me. Well, why is it important to me? It’s important because it teaches me discipline. Now I’m taking that small act of going to work or making my bed and come to the conclusion making my bed is about discipline.

If I consistently boil things down to the root motivator that’s behind it, I start to realize making my bed is about discipline. Tying and untying my shoes properly when I take them on and off is about discipline. Reading my economics textbook was about discipline. You start concluding there’s actually one principle for thousands of things. Before I didn’t care about that chapter of Econ102. However, it’s not about the chapter. It’s about developing the habitual principle of discipline and picking up the book. That’s one of the ways you can unlock your brain to get to the root principles and reverse engineer it into thinking thematically. All these things in life have the same root cause. We can think thematically across them if we are thoughtful and self-aware but most of us aren’t.

Raiden: Out of my own self-interest, what’s going through your head when you’re in a room full of highly-seasoned individuals? 

Joss: You know when you’re nervous before public speaking and you’re like, “just imagine everyone with their pants off.” Well, that’s not what I’m saying here. The point is that it actually humanizes people. When you’re in that setting, you realize these are humans that breathe, love, and share their stories as we all do. You begin to realize how similar we are. One of the biggest things with our culture is that we are so into identifying the differences between us. If we really boil things down, we are so common it’s incredible. Put me in a room with a horse and I’d be more scared than a room full of ultra-high net worth people.

Yes, there’s this aura. You have respect for everyone and you learn to listen. But, everyone is human. When you are in those situations, you need to realize you are on the same playing field. Even if you don’t think so, the fact the matter is you are all humans sitting in a room. Do something about it. 

I hope this helps propel you forward. The reason I started these bits was to provide another source of valuable information to people in a world where information is withheld.

Real good information isn’t shared. You’ve got to ask. It’s a search.

My hope for humanity is to live a little less selfishly and to bring one another closer. Life is better with one another. 

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