Why Do We Discredit Other People’s Achievements?

Kid chasing pigeonsThere are two main ways of getting ahead. Do everything you can to improve your own situation or try and cut others down to come out with a stronger competitive advantage. The second way is obviously the loser way to get ahead. Anybody who employs this method will likely always be dissatisfied with what they have because they will be constantly envious of others. Everybody I’ve met who takes the second route are perpetual underperformers. I try to avoid them like the plague.

It’s probably impossible to get rid of envy. It’s also hard not to attribute our success to hard work and other people’s success to luck. As you know, the number one method to keep haters at bay is to attribute everything you’ve achieved due to luck!

It still perplexes me that in a land of cheap and easy transportation why not just take a Greyhound bus and go where life is better. The first settlers took three months to move cross country. We can do the move in a week. Perpetually complaining about the weather in the midwest isn’t going to solve the hollowing out of our great states.

We shouldn’t have to worry about other people’s finances, but sometimes I do wonder why someone would willingly drop a dumbbell on their toes and blame others for their pain.


Celebrate Small Wins To Keep Financial Motivation Alive

Life is like a bucket of cherries. Don't each one go to waste!Building wealth is a long game. It’s sometimes very easy to get discouraged as a result. Despite a lucky investment when I was 22, I felt very little pleasure having a large savings account in my early 20s. Money degenerates to just numbers on a screen that provides no utility unless spent.

I was actually considering quitting my newfound job in San Francisco after two years in 2003 to live a vagabond lifestyle in Hawaii. Surf in the morning, massages in the afternoon, and Mai Tais in the evening can’t be that bad. Thoughts of buying a Eurovan VW to go road-tripping across the continent as I took showers at rest stops also crossed my mind.

It’s dangerous to receive a financial windfall so early in life because there’s a risk of saying fuck all to everything. You suddenly think building a sizable financial nut is so easy, when it’s clearly difficult in a short period of time. With a sudden injection of wealth, you may never achieve your potential because you simply don’t bother trying as hard.

After much deliberation and a perpetually drunk upstairs neighbor, I decided to buy my own property to “get rid” of my money. I was sick of renting and I was also unmotivated to work for money, a big problem if you work in finance! As soon as I plunked down the six figure check I felt a sense of relief. Having no money never felt so good!

Finally, I’m working for something more, I remember thinking after paying my first mortgage payment. Living in a nicer property instead of a dingy one bedroom was a reward for four years of hard work and risk taking. Slacking off was not an option because if I did I might lose my home!

Perhaps the real reason why I love property so much is not so much for the returns, but for the refocus it provides. Mortgage debt saved me from being another know-it-all kid who throws his life away at the age of 26 due to a lack of patience and perspective. A mortgage was the anchor that kept me from blowing away.

Years later at the age of 32 my enthusiasm for work once again began to fade. 10 years raced by after college but I was afraid to go out on my own because work was all I knew. The Dark Side Of Early Retirement was penned to make sure I wasn’t falling into the same trap without any purpose. When the post was published, I was immediately bashed over the head by the early retirement community if you read the comments. Little did they know my goal was to purposefully bash my own crazy thoughts to make sure I wasn’t missing anything before deciding to take the leap of faith two years later!


Why Not Just Try Harder To Get Ahead? The Effort vs. Talent Debate

enjoying-sunshineAnybody who knows me realizes I’ve got very little talent in practically everything I do. Complex math was confusing so I stopped at Trigonometry sophomore year in high school. Who needs math, I told myself as a teenager who knew he could never become an engineer. My tennis serve is mediocre because I’m not particularly strong or tall. 205 lbs was the max I could ever bench and it’s been all downhill from there. Even after owning an acoustic guitar for over 10 years, I still can’t fingerpick quick enough to play Just Breathe, one the most beautiful songs by Eddie Vedder.

Even writing an article is often hard despite writing consistently online since 2009. My post on the recommended net worth by age and work experience took over 10 hours to write for example. Who the hell dedicates 10 hours of their life to write an article when I could be sipping a Moscow Mule on a beach in Bora Bora after an adventurous dive? An untalented writer who has to constantly double check his math and make sure there aren’t too many grammatical errors, that’s who.

Despite my deficiencies, I’ve managed to survive and lead a happy life. Serves are carefully placed while lullabies are simply sung. I argue that genetics plays a big part in happiness because when I was a poor college student studying abroad on $300 a month I was ecstatic. When I was getting Django Unchained on Wall Street, I was excited to be in the thick of the action. Now that I’ve retired, the happiness meter has stayed elevated as it should.

But what about effort? How much does effort play a part in getting ahead vs. talent? Every time the wheels start slipping, I ask myself, Why not try harder? Let’s discuss.


Make Time To Think Differently

Mexican fisherman and his catchThe stock markets surged to new highs in 2015 in large part because the Labor Department said the economy added 165,000 jobs in April, 15,000 more than consensus expectations. 15,000 is a rounding error in a nation of millions, but we’ll take it if we can see billions more wealth created!

Just think about this situation for a little bit. Is it not a little bit ironic that more jobs creates more stock market wealth, but once you have lots of stock market wealth you no longer have to work? I’m reminded about the parable of the Mexican fisherman who gets ridiculed by an executive with a fancy MBA for why the fisherman doesn’t want more than his catch. The whole point about investing our money is so that our money will one day work so hard for us that we don’t have to.


Finding The Motivation To Stay In Shape: A Conversation With Big Wave Surfer Laird Hamilton

Laird Hamilton posing for me, FS, Oahu, 2013It’s hard to stay in shape as we get older. We move around less, our family demands more of our time, and our jobs stress us out to the point where we eat too much comfort food.

I’m about 10 pounds heavier that I was during college. I always tell myself it’s due to more muscle, but I know it’s a lie because I hardly ever lift weights anymore. When you no longer need to be in incredible shape because you’ve found someone who likes you just the way you are, why bother? All I do is play tennis and do the occasional push-ups and sit-ups now.

Motivation is something I’m perpetually looking for because my motivation meter never seems to stay full. I sometimes feel the paradox of freedom where America allows for a relatively correlated path to attaining what we want. If I want to get six pack abs, I’ll cut out the sweets and do 500 sit-ups every day for three months in a row. If I want to make more money, I’ll work harder at executing new ideas. I really don’t think there’s very much that’s inhibiting our progress other than ourselves.


How To Stop Haters From Hating You

Lucky Penny by Untemplater.comThe Boston attacks are a stark reminder of how much hatred there still is for America. Sadness has turned to anger as the country pulls together to understand why and move forward. It’s been more than a decade since 9/11 and yet I still think about what happened all the time after being on the top floor of WTC 2 for a conference just months before.

There are an estimated 7 billion people on Earth today. If only 0.1% of the population hates us, that’s still 7 million people who might very well be ready for war. We are a rich country full of opportunity, yet not everybody can have our same opportunity. The more successful we become, the more risk we face. The more we act as the world police, the larger resentment grows.

Whenever I meet someone in person, I do my best to downplay anything I’ve done that might seem successful. It helps that I’ve removed myself from corporate America and no longer have the desire to compete for money or status. I’m acutely aware of the widening gap between the haves and the have nots thanks to an unlevel playing field. The undercurrent of anger flows strongly through society, ready to drown anybody who is perceived to have more. Hate is part of the reason why I recommend everyone align themselves with the middle class. Blend in so that nobody can target you.

When I believe in something strongly, I will tell you so. If you demonstrate kindness, I will try to show more kindness. If you attack my honor, I won’t hesitate to defend it by confronting you and kicking your ass. What’s the point of studying martial arts for so long anyway? I do enjoy the occasional conflict if there is an intellectual debate. It’s when things start getting personal where I draw the line.

When you have what someone wants but can’t have, you’ll undoubtedly encounter some sort of conflict. One quick check at the background of your haters will reveal they have the most insecurities about themselves. Maybe they are lonely or work a deadend job they can’t escape. Constantly comparing ourselves to others is a sure fire way to zap happiness from our souls.


Don’t Forget To Dream

Dreaming Of A Ferris WheelPersonal finance is wonderful because it allows us the opportunity to dream of possibilities. When I was a freshman battling for a spot on the varsity team, I fantasized about being a professional tennis player signing balls after sliding on the red clay of Roland Garros. Every time I attend a tournament now, I feel like a kid again.

As a poor college student, I dreamed of making big bucks on Wall Street every time I passed the overly diligent business school students huddled around a TV showing CNBC. I imagined whipping around hundred million dollar positions on the prop desk as traders on the other side wondered what the hell I was up to. After a profitable day’s work, it would be off to Peter Luger’s Steak House in a black car with some clients, some friends and a corporate card of course.

After a couple years of marathon workdays in New York City, I dreamed of being free to set my own schedule. My health was fading and I didn’t know how much longer I could last getting in before sunrise and leaving after sunset. As a poker fan, I always imagined winning the WSOP multi-million dollar first prize. Some would hand in their resignation the next day while giving their boss the bird. I would continue working because work becomes incredibly more fun when you don’t need the money. Besides, I’m the WSOP champ, baby!

Now that I’ve retired from the corporate world, I continue to dream about all the possibilities. A dream within a dream if you will as I never imagined the ability to break free so soon. Why not run different financial scenarios and imagine what type of opportunities might arise in 25 years?

A reader commented in the 2013 Goals post how surprised they were to find “Live Free” as a goal. Paradoxically, it’s hard to live free when you’ve got to make all your own choices. But, I’d rather have choices than have no choice at all.

I dream of progress. I dream of adventure. The best part of dreaming? Anybody can do it because it’s free.

What do you dream about?