Interview of Dr. Randall Bell, Author of “Rich Habits, Rich Life”

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Interview of Dr. Randall Bell, Author of "Rich Habits, Rich Life"Recently I read Dr. Randall Bell’s book, “Rich Habits, Rich Life: The Four Cornerstones Of All Great Pursuits.” An economist and sociologist, Dr. Randall Bell develops strategies to overcome problems and maximize peak performance. His own description shows some of the fascinating extent of his background:

When it comes to real solutions, Dr. Bell gets the call. He has consulted on the World Trade Center, the Flight 93 Crash Site, the BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, OJ Simpson and hundreds of other cases. His work has brought billions of dollars to his clients to help rebuild lives, businesses and entire communities. Now, Dr. Bell explains why some take a dive, some merely survive, while others truly thrive. The shocking answer lies in our tiny choices and habits!

I I read the book for its life planning lessons and was not disappointed. In fact, just one paragraph from Dr. Bell’s book inspired me to write the article “The Happy Habits of Appreciation and Gratitude” earlier this year.

Since then I also had a chance to correspond with Dr. Bell and ask him additional questions about developing healthy habits.

Your book focusing on building a rich life starting from very small changes of habit. At the beginning of your books you write, “One ritual might be to list those things that really make you happy, and then simply deciding to do more of them.” This seemed like such simple and powerful advice as it begins both gratitude and intentionally. Are all good habits as powerful as they are easy to cultivate?

I learned an important principle in elementary school. I liked the teachers I could understand, and did not like the teachers I did not understand. Building on that observation, I have tried to deliver a book with sound principles, makes sense and is backed up by university studies and field research.

The human brain cannot distinguish between a “good” habit or a “bad” one. We must make a conscientious effort to choose them. That being said, some habits are easier than others. Ultimately I want people to avoid the “January 4th Effect”, which is the day that most New Year’s Resolutions are broken.

The best way to be authentic about adapting new habits is to start with just one new habit, and to make it simple. So, instead of committing to do 50 pushups a day, just commit to one, but do more if you want. That way you stay with your habit, even if you are tired or worn out on that day.

There is enormous power in the power of “one.” We get smart reading one page at a time. We make friends one smile at a time. We lose weight one pound at a time. We build financial stability investing one dollar at a time. We build an empire setting one goal at a time.

All habits have a “ripple effect”, and that small habit will naturally grow into something significant.

While I thought your book would be helpful for young people to read, I thought it was even more appropriate for those aged 40-70 who have enough life experience to engage in life planning. Would you agree with that assessment?

I never had a target age in mind for my audience when I wrote the book. I wrote the book for anyone who really wants to take control of their lives, but were tired of anecdotes and sugar-coated notions of success.

Some people get to that point early, and some wake up to it later in life. I have heard some great feedback from high-school students and a lot of college students. One college professor just emailed me and said she made this book “required reading” for all her students. However, I would agree that most people that read the book are 40 years old or older.

One personal habit you suggest is to be continually reading and learning. What are five books you recommend everyone read.

1.       Scriptures – I believe it is important to have faith and to keep grounded by reading the scriptures of your faith.

2.       The Power of Kindness (Piero Ferrucci)

3.       The Richest Man in Babylon (George Clason)

4.       Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl)

5.       How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

Another personal habit you suggest is to engage in spiritual habits that connect with a higher power. How do you connect spiritual practices with authentic spirituality?

The first cornerstone I discuss in the book is the “Me” cornerstone, which is our level of wisdom. It is a combination of intellectual (think), philosophical (believe) and spiritual (feel).

Quiet, personal reflection is essential. The enemy of this is distraction. When I consulted on the Heaven’s Gate Cult in San Diego, I discovered that the cult leader Doe was able to brainwash his followers by keeping them constantly distracted. They never thought for themselves and eventually then they went along with the crazy idea of committing mass suicide. We can never let ourselves get too distracted or allow anyone to do that to us.

To me, spirituality is all about reflection and an awareness of how we feel. We normally do not think of a link between business and spirituality, but I think there is. Some people have a “feel” for the business and the “feel” the corporate culture. The same thing applies in personal life in terms of how we feel about ourselves, others and our Creator.

There are many spiritual practices, and I like them all. They include meditation, prayer, nature walks, and attending our personal place of worship. Just this morning, I read a Harvard study where Dr. Sara Lazar found that mediation not only brings calm, compassion and empathy, but physically alters the brain.

Frankly, it is unwise to just wake up and rush right into the day. It is far better to set aside some quiet time to first read and reflect on what is most important to you.

Much of society isolates us from other people. What one or two habits can help us find and connect with a tribe?

I tell my kids, you are likely to turn out as a sum of your five closest friends. So choose them carefully! Reaching out with the rich habits of phone calls, thank you cards and small gestures all add up to connections with terrific people.

Connecting with the right tribe can also just be trial and error. I was once a part of a “tribe” in a neighborhood where they film the reality show, “Real Housewives.” It turned out that this group was superficial and even started to promote a “charity” that turned out to be a fraud. As soon as we figured it out, we got as far away as we could. My advice is, “Don’t try and impress and connect with the wrong people.” Practicing integrity is important, and with that we will attract the same people into our lives and businesses.

Another concept was told to be by a great friend, who said, “You make your own fun.” We can’t just wait for the right tribe to come to us. We need to take initiative and create the connections ourselves. My wife and I are always inviting people over to the house or out to dinner. Of course, we have great friendships and connections with people who are interesting and a lot of fun.

What gets you energized in the morning?

I like to wake up early. Many days I take a long walk. I go for about five miles, and one-third of the time I listen to music, one-third I listen to audio books and one-third I just quietly think. This way I exercise my mind, body and soul, which is the sum of the “Me” cornerstone.

What keeps you awake at night?

My wife is amazed, but I normally fall asleep in a couple minutes. But when I do worry, it is about my kids. I am fortunate to have four great kids, but as a dad I try to think of ways to help and support them in their goals and ambitions. Ultimately, I think that helping the next generation is what matters most.

Did you learn anything from the process of writing your book and what was it?

I have had an amazing career that has taken me to 50 states and seven continents, where I have worked on the solutions in the aftermath of disasters. This gave me unique access to interesting sites and people around the world.

With this privilege, came the responsibly to share the lessons. For years I attempted to communicate these lessons effectively, and became frustrated because it was not coming together.

To my credit, I just kept persisting. I never gave up. It finally came to me when I was unexpectedly stranded in the Marianas Islands for three straight days. That is when the four cornerstones of “Me We Do Be” just came to me.

Once this happened, it all came together.

Our website is devoted to wealth management. You wrote an entire chapter on financial habits. What are common mistakes you see people make with money?

I am proud of the fact that my consulting work has generated many billions of dollars for my clients, in terms of legal verdicts, settlement, insurance recoveries and savings.

I don’t use the word “hate” too much, but I hate debt. It is nothing short of modern-day slavery. This is the single most common mistake that people make.

Wealth management is the opposite of this. Instead of piling up debt and making the lenders rich, we wisely save and invest and let the interest, dividend and profits roll in to ourselves.

The other poor habit is when people flaunt their money. Several of my clients are billionaires, and they often are the most down to earth people I know. They are quiet and dignified about it. Their wealth is for real, and not for a show.

What else would you like to say to our readers?

I wrote the book, “Rich Habits Rich Life” because I have gained some insights from having consulted on the biggest disasters in history. To sum it up, “Poor habits lead to disasters, and rich habits lead to success.”

There are two great lies in life. First, “It can’t happen to me.” Second, “There is no hope.” In this book, I take on the two great lies and lay out a framework that is complete, balanced and authentic.

I love hearing from readers and learning what new rich habits they implemented, and what success it generated!

Thank you for corresponding with us!

Dr. Bell has a website which supplements the book at

Photo from Rich Habits website.

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President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.