The 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.
STRATEGIES FOR LESSENING THE HATE
I’m going to provide some common scenarios where hate can rear its ugly head. In each scenario I’ll offer up some suggestions to help deal with your haters. Hopefully as the economy gets better, there will be structurally less hate going forward.
Getting Good Grades & Getting Into College
Congratulations for being a great student! Unfortunately, if you happen to do very well in school, you will likely get picked on to no end by other students who can’t compete. It’s important to never tell anybody how much you study after school. Shrug off your good grades to easy classes and nice teachers.
When classmates start wondering how you got into a good college, tell them you have no idea. Do not reveal all the time you spent working on your essays, summer internships, extracurricular activities and so forth. Tell them, “Even a blind squirrel gets lucky and finds a nut sometime.” They will still be envious, but at least they will appreciate your humility and focus their hate on another student who doesn’t show humility.
Please never feel ashamed about getting good grades. Try your best to get the best grades possible so you have the most amount of opportunities upon gradation. Think about what type of people give you peer pressure for doing well in school and why. I can assure you that many of these folks will regret not trying harder 10 years from now. Be proud of your accomplishments.
Getting A Job
There are around 24 million unemployed Americans today and many more around the world struggling to find employment. If you have a job, you should consider yourself lucky and treat your job as if you won the lottery. Do not complain about a crappy bonus or a lack of promotion when so many people would do anything to be in your shoes. Remember to also never speak ill of an employer if you ever want another job again.
You can say you got your job due to connections, but chances are your peers will resent you even more. Instead of telling them about the hundreds of resumes you sent, the dozens of networking events you attended, and the long job fair lines you waited in, just tell them you have no idea why someone would take a chance on you. Mention how your job is demeaning and does not utilize any of your skills. Tell them you fully expect to get fired after the three month probationary period is over.
Because you realize many job applicants were either never responded to, or rejected from the job you hold, please never take your occupation for granted. Your job is likely the most important way to build wealth in your life time.
A Healthy Income
Unless you have a big ego or are really insecure, never explicitly tell anybody exactly how much money you make if you earn more than your peers. If all your friends make between $50,000-$100,000 and you make $75,000 a year, it’s not such a big deal to compare notes. But if you happen to make $150,000+ a year, then either lie about your income or keep your mouth shut.
It’s hard for people to contain their envy, no matter how close you guys are or how hard you tell them you’ve worked. Your friends should have no clue what your real income figure is because you’re spending 1/10th of your income or less on a car, you’re not telling everybody on Facebook about your awesome vacation, and you’re not bragging about all the expensive things you’re buying. Be rich, but act poor.
Sometimes you just can’t help but have a healthy income since some industries pay more. For example, if you graduated as a Electrical Engineer from MIT, you’re likely making $75,000 your first year out of school. If you join an investment bank or management consulting firm, you might even make more. Your income is a function of your job. Clearly not everybody can make the same amount of money working the same number of hours. But your haters aren’t going to give you the benefit of the doubt, so it’s best to keep your income vague. If you are interested in industries or occupations that pay six figures, here’s a post on how to earn six figures at almost any age.
We’ve got a great term in the early retirement world called the “Internet Retirement Police.” The IRP are those who have not yet retired, but create strict rules about what retirement is to try and discredit your retirement. There is also an implicit assumption that their lives are better than yours even though they’ve got to work for a living. Kind of weird isn’t it since you’re free? Maybe if they graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Early Retirement Studies (doesn’t exist), or actually provided their own financial situation for credibility, early retirees might bother paying attention, but they don’t, so whatever they say doesn’t matter. It’s like someone who isn’t a millionaire teaching you how to be a millionaire. I have no idea how the IRP knows anything about retirement given they aren’t retired.
The best way to get early retirement detractors off your back is to say you are unemployed. You’re not lying since you don’t have a job. Try not to say you are an entrepreneur or a consultant because that’s when they’ll try and nit pick further. As soon as you tell envious people you are unemployed, their competitive juices wane because obviously having a job is better than not having a job, right? Just don’t tell them about how big your financial nut is and all the fun you’re having. Emphasize the negatives of early retirement, such as loneliness, boredom, and living on a tighter budget.
Another strategy is to make it seem like you are so busy that there’s no way you could be retired. I don’t want anybody to actually think I’m retired because that would mean I’ve lost a step in my writing production. Early retirees understand that working a job that doesn’t provide tremendous satisfaction is soul-sucking after a while. Hence, it’s best for early retirees not to brag about their freedom since it’s a direct assault on a worker’s happiness.
The world reveres super athletes. If you happen to be skillfully gifted in a sport, don’t reveal how much practice you do. Instead, attribute your skills to divinity or genetics. Everybody knows that elite athletes are some of the most optimistic and competitive people around. There’s a reason why some of the world’s top organizations specifically look for athletes and folks who have served in the military. Athletics teaches teamwork, discipline, perseverance, and drive.
If you don’t believe you can beat your opponent, then you are doomed from the start. You not only must believe, you must also let your opponents underestimate your abilities. Use luck as reasons for your talent. Tell them, “My legs are as thick and ugly like old tree trunks,” “I’m slower than a herd of turtles through peanut butter,” or “I got so lucky scoring the hat trick,” to make them feel better and lower their guard.
Deep down, you understand that talent alone doesn’t get you to the top of your game. You’ve got to practice, practice, and practice some more with the hope that your body and mind are healthy when it comes time to compete. If you get good enough, perhaps someone will recognize your abilities and give you a chance. Imagine all the talented kids around the world who are never given the opportunity to shine. Don’t let your talents go to waste!
Whether you’ve made money in real estate or the stock market, remember this one phrase, “Bulls and bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.” So much of investing is luck, it’s almost laughable. Because it’s very hard to consistently beat the markets, most pundits including myself recommend folks invest in the long run through index funds. Of course there are some supremely gifted investors who consistently outperform the markets and make great fortunes. Names such as Bill Miller, Julian Robertson, Peter Lynch, and Warren Buffet come to mind. Stay humble like Warren. Sure you can spend hours visiting company management, combing through analyst reports, and reading 10Ks, but don’t mention it. Admit that luck plays a huge part in picking the next Google and avoiding the next Groupon!
My friends and I have lamented we wish we joined the workforce in the mid-90’s instead of the late 90’s so we could have the capital to make huge money during the internet bubble. Instead, we failed to make our millions quickly and experienced a tumultuous decade for stocks. We stopped feeling sorry for ourselves after realizing we could make just as much money buying puts, shorting stocks, and investing in the real estate bubble.
Anybody who invests for a long enough period of time will lose money. It’s the reason why you see older investors much more humble than younger investors who’ve only experienced bull markets. If you haven’t even experienced one boom bust cycle, please don’t start spouting off how much you’ve made and how fail proof your methodology is for retirement. Take a look at the proper allocation of stocks and bonds by age.
If you happen to be fit in America, you’re quickly becoming a minority. My friend Nancy is 5 feet 2 inches tall and weights 100 pounds. She constantly gets mocked by other women who try and make her feel bad about her weight. I witnessed the putdowns with my own eyes during lunch one day when one woman said, “Oh look at Nancy, she should just buy clothes at the kids section to save money,” to an eruption of laughter.
Another woman chimed in, “Nancy, you should eat more so you can buy professional work clothes.” These women were not exactly in good shape, and I could tell they were annoyed Nancy was so much thinner than them. “You should eat more” and “You should eat less” are equally as offensive to certain people.
If you so happen to love working out and watching what you eat, blaming lucky genes might enrage your heavier friends more. Instead, just talk about how annoying it is to sweat so much because of your high metabolism. Be up front and tell your detractors how everybody is always giving you a hard time. You may also even want to show your strong support for Obamacare, which expands insurance for some 30 million uninsured people. Because obesity is linked to all sorts of illnesses, it is logical to conclude the healthy will help subsidize the less healthy with a universal healthcare plan. How can your bullies be still mad at you for saving them money down the road? OK, maybe this is a slap in their face, but it might be worth a shot.
You’re either good looking, average, or unattractive. Only about 10% of the population is considered attractive. Go ahead, take a quick survey next time you are standing in line for a double cheeseburger, or when the lights are still up in a packed movie theatre. There just aren’t that many attractive people. 80% of the population is average looking, or “doable” as guys like to say. While the remaining 10% of the population are “undoable,” or hideous.
If you so happen to be good looking, you’ll get a lot more attention from everyone. People will give you the benefit of the doubt and some will bend over backwards to help you. Everybody knows that all else being equal, better looking people get paid more, receive more promotions, and have more selection of mates. Unfortunately, you are going to get a ton of haters from the other 90% who despise you for taking away their crushes, their jobs, and perhaps even their happiness! It’s always a trip to observe a woman check out another attractive woman who enters the bar from head to toe.
A great way to deflect attention is to wear a bear suit to hide your looks. Rarrr! And if that doesn’t work, just dress down with unkempt hair, simple clothing, no make up, a baseball cap, glasses, or whatever that hides your true beauty. I’ve found women are particularly unkind to attractive women in the work place. Dress down and blend in. Good looking men don’t seem to run into as much hate for their looks as women do for some reason. Perhaps it’s because men simply care less about our looks which we can’t do anything about (washing our face and getting a haircut is the extent of our beauty regime), so we focus more on what we can control, which is our humor, wit, and financial status.
Hobbies That Turn Into More
Blogging is one of my favorite hobbies that allows me to eat ramen noodles every day. Yeah baby yeah! For the first three years, bloggers, friends, colleagues, and some readers have called me “lucky” for having such a platform. Initially, I was a little offended. Nobody sees how long it takes to write decent posts 3-4 times a week for over 160 weeks in a row. Nobody sees the research I spend, or the countless revisions that still lead to common typos and gramatical errors once a post is published. All they see is the final product, all the comments, and the sometimes tremendous amount of social media support that occurs at the end.
Instead of challenging my detractors, now I just say they are right. I am extremely lucky to have so many enthusiastic commenters who share their wonderful thoughts. I am lucky search engines send traffic my way in the hundreds of thousands a month. I’m lucky readers will occasionally share my work with their friends. Not everybody can make a living online because not everybody can be as lucky.
If you’re interested in blogging, start off by spending 2-3 hours everyday after work writing unique posts and commenting on other sites. I promise you will find success if you write three to five, 1,000+ word articles a week for three years in a row. If you are lucky to have an engaging personality or plenty of interesting real world experiences to draw from, even better! Persistence is key. As reference, this post is over 3,000 words long and took over six hours to write. All six hours were spent before 6:30am and after 11pm so I can do all the things I want to do on vacation.
LUCK IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR SUCCESS
For 11 years in a row I saw my little hand written note taped on my monitor at work saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” My father told me these words after I spoke to him about all the work place stress I was feeling after 9/11. I’m so lucky to have supportive parents to encourage me not to give up.
I’m lucky an employer gave me a chance after I screwed up in my teens. I’m lucky my mind allows me to write thoughts online to be shared to the world. I’m lucky readers support some of the things I recommend so I can eat. I’m lucky to have grown up in third world countries to witness the amount of poverty that scared me straight early on. For all the things I wish I had, but don’t, it’s OK. Just being able to live in a free country is a blessing.
There’s one thing my haters don’t know and that is I really appreciate their hatred. Without their hate, I would be so much less motivated to work hard because I’m so easily satisfied with what I have. I’m happy with good enough. As a result, I sometimes pursue hatred through controversial posts, confrontational comments, and direct challenges when I’m feeling demotivated. I want to get down and dirty so I can feel alive again.
Because I’m lucky, I never want you to feel unlucky. If it makes you feel better by attributing anything I’ve done to luck, know that you are right. When you are speaking to people who show animosity towards you, emphasize luck as the most important factor to your success. Never attribute your hard work and risk taking as reasons for why you are successful. There are countless other folks who work just as hard but can’t get to your level. Maybe even apologize to them for your good fortune. Good luck and may you never surrender!
START A BUSINESS AND CREATE YOUR OWN LUCK
It’s been around six years since I started Financial Samurai (2009) and I’m actually earning a good passive and active income stream online now. I never thought I’d be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai actually makes more than my entire passive income total that took 15 years to build.
If you enjoy writing, creating, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, see how you can set up a WordPress blog in 15 minutes with Bluehost. You never know where the journey will take you!
Photo: My lucky penny, FS.
Updated for 2015 and beyond