The Courage To Be Disliked is one of my favorite books. It is a must read for all of you looking to improve your lives.
As I contemplate returning to work once my daughter turns two years old, I fear leaving my wife alone with two kids under three and a half. She's not too thrilled about the idea, which has tempered my enthusiasm for bolstering our finances.
Since April 2017, I have been a stay at home father with her. I am mostly in charge of feeding the family, cleaning the house, dropping off and picking up our son from preschool, and being her mental support during difficult days. On average, I spend roughly eight hours a day caring for our children and the house.
We're just facing a predicament because if our finances stay static or if there is a bear market, we may experience a significant financial shortfall by 2022. If there is a shortfall, I won't be able to provide the lifestyle we want. But at the same time, I don't want to give up our current lifestyle we've spent so many years building.
Then one day I came across a wonderful book called, The Courage To Be Disliked. This international bestseller helped me get into a better mindset about the future. I encourage you to read it as well if you would also like to make significant changes in your life.
The book made such a positive impact on me that I asked my wife to also read it and write a review of the most salient points to share with all of you.
Have The Courage To Be Disliked
The Courage To Be Disliked is written as a series of five fictional conversations between a philosopher and an unhappy, dissatisfied male youth who learns how the teachings of Alfred Adler can bring positive change, happiness, and fulfillment to anyone's life.
Here are some lessons from The Courage To Be Disliked that I thought were thought-provoking and worth sharing. I've also included my own spin on how some of these philosophies can be applied to personal finance.
1) We Each Have Our Own Unique Reality
“None of us live in an objective world, but instead in a subjective world that we ourselves have given meaning to. The world you see is different from the one I see, and it’s impossible to share your world with anyone else.”
I find a lot of truth in this. Even though we all live on the same planet, our experiences can be so vastly different.
Even if you grow up in very similar circumstances as someone, what you perceive as reality isn't the same as his or her reality. No matter how alike we may think we are, we all have different personalities, values, emotions, memories, hopes, aspirations, and motivations.
Thus, it's no wonder conflict can arise so easily between people. But realizing that we each have our own unique reality can be very freeing. I think this is why I don't hold onto grudges or stay upset when people are rude to me. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree and move on.
How This Relates To Personal Finance
All of us need money to survive in this world, but the way we each value, spend, save, and invest it is unique. Often we share similar views and habits, especially amongst those of you who are regular readers here on FS.
Yet we each have our own money reality, just like how fingerprints are unique to each person. Thus, we should not rudely judge or criticize one another about money matters. Having civil discussions and keeping an open mind on money topics is so much more pleasant and constructive.
Sam has to field negative, rude, and disrespectful comments and emails all the time from people who cannot grasp this concept. It's not easy to be the daily recipient of blatant attacks from people who believe their way is the best and only way, especially when they lack credible knowledge or experience. I wish people would be more respectful online. Hopefully more people will if they think about this concept of individual realities.
2) Everything Is Subjective
“Well water stays up pretty much the same temperature all year round, at about 60°. That is an objective number – it stays the same to everyone who measures it. But when you drink the water in the summer it seems cool and when you drink the same water in the winter it seems warm. Even though it’s the same water, at the 60° according to the thermometer, the way it seems depends on whether it's summer or winter.
… It’s not an allusion. You see, to you, in that moment, the coolness or warmth of the well water is an undeniable fact. That’s what it means to live in your subjective world. There’s no escape from your own subjectivity. At present, the world seems complicated in mysterious to you, but if you change, the world will appear more simple. The issue is not about how the world is, but about how you are.“
It's easy to blame the world or the past for one's unhappiness and misfortune. But doing so will leave you perpetually miserable. I like the concept that everything is subjective because the onus of how we perceive others, view life, and succeed or fail is really entirely up to us as individuals.
How This Relates To Personal Finance
Common complaints amongst people who are not financially secure are that the wealthy are to blame for their suffering, working more than 40 hours a week is too hard, only smart and/or rich people can invest, getting out of debt is impossible, and the list goes on. These are all excuses that stem from not taking responsibility of one's actions and outcomes.
Building wealth and achieving financial independence must start with a desire from within, paired with a relentless determination to improve one's circumstances, and a willingness to learn and change.
The amount of wealth or poverty out there in the world shouldn't be blamed for one's financial successes or failures. Your financial health depends on your actions after all. We must avoid blaming others. Adopt a strong money mindset.
3) Unhappiness Is Caused By Interpersonal Relationship Problems
If you spend a lot of time comparing yourself to others, you'll likely wind up feeling constantly unhappy due to feelings of inferiority. If you always make excuses and blame others for your stress and unhappiness, you'll fall into the trap of refusing to change.
In addition, the philosopher in the book explains that if you constantly seek recognition and/or worry about getting judged by other people, you'll remain unhappy because you're essentially living your life for other people instead of yourself.
It can be hard to keep the complexities of relationships from impacting our lives because we are continuously surrounded by people, physically and digitally. But it is possible to be happy in a world filled with so many different people if we simplify how we view and treat these relationships.
What helps is to accept the fact that you don't have control over what anyone else thinks. They have their own reality, remember? Figure out how to live the life you want, regardless of what others are doing or saying, and you'll find your happiness start to increase.
How This Relates To Personal Finance
Have you ever blamed your parents, spouse, or boss for your financial stress or difficulties? It's easy to do, especially when you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. But that's not a mindset you want to habitualize. The same can be said for trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Instead, set your own financial goals, find a job that matches your skill sets, work towards building some passive income streams, and find a risk tolerance that you're comfortable with. If you're married or have a partner, strive to get on the same page financially and have shared and individual goals.
Who cares if someone else is earning 10% more a year, has a bigger house, and a fancier car. Focus on your personal situation and you will be happier.
4) Separation Of Tasks Is Key
One of my favorite lessons in The Courage To Be Disliked is the importance of adopting a mindset that embraces the separation of tasks. When we worry about things we ultimately cannot control and that shouldn't concern us, we are not separating tasks. This causes feelings of burden, unhappiness, stress, anxiety, and resentment.
If however, we can learn how to make the distinction between things that we can and cannot control, happiness can drastically increase for us and those connected. It's also beneficial to treating our relationships with others horizontally instead of vertically.
For example, if you have a horizontal relationship with your parents as an adult, you probably get along well because you treat each other as friends, as equals. But if your parents still treat you like a child in a vertical relationship, you will likely avoid spending time with them.
Conflict arises if you do other people’s tasks, feel responsible for other people's tasks, or have your own tasks intruded on. This isn't to say we should only care about ourselves and ignore everyone else.
To help unburden yourself from other people’s tasks, tell yourself “from here on ___ is not my task.” You can give all the assistance you can to those in your life, but don't intrude. This truly helps lighten your mental load and makes life simpler. Respect the separation of tasks and your relationships and happiness will improve.
How This Relates To Personal Finance
Money has never been my parents forte so I was determined to achieve FI and not to let the same thing happen to me. Fortunately, my finances are in order. But there was a time in my adult life when I felt a tremendous amount of stress about my parents' money matters, which took a real toll on my happiness.
For example, back in 2014 I spent hours and hours compiling my mother's expenses and debts, and put together a list of actions she could take with a clear budget to help her stop accumulating credit card debt.
How did she react? She got mad and stopped speaking to me. She rejected my help, said she simply couldn't cut back on the things I suggested, made a bunch of excuses and refused to change.
I was beyond frustrated. All I was trying to do was help, but she didn't want it. I kept running numbers and offering solutions every 6 months for the next 2 years, clenching my fists in secret, but staying super patient and kind throughout. But ultimately no matter what I said, she wanted to do things her way. I finally stepped back and let go. How she spent her money wasn't my task. Her reality was vastly different from mine and I couldn't change that.
After unburdening myself with her tasks, my happiness increased, she relaxed, and we were able to reconnect. And she knows that I'm always here if she needs and wants financial help. Do I disagree with how she manages her money? Yes! But I can only offer assistance. I can't make her change. That's not my task.
Sam's note: The “separation of tasks” is my favorite takeaway from this book. I felt it was my duty to provide as close to as equal amount of care for our kids as my wife provided. However, after a while, this often made me miserable because I also had to manage our investments and constantly write on Financial Samurai.
I've held onto this mindset of doing more because I met my wife in college when she was only a freshman and I was a senior. I was usually the one providing guidance and earning more because I was older. As a result, this act of always being a leader has carried on for over 20 years. But she's almost 40 years old now and I need to change my attitude.
Since reading this book, I've slowly gotten more comfortable with not spending as much time taking care of the household. As a result, I feel happier spending more time writing and getting out of the house more. My guilt has significantly lifted largely because I've grown confident that my wife can handle the separation of tasks.
We Are All Capable Of Positive Change
Life may not be easy at times, but it can be a whole lot less stressful and happier if we:
- Adopt an abundance mindset
- Respect that each individual has his/her own reality
- Recognize our surroundings are subjective
- Build horizontal relationships, not vertical ones
- Utilize the separation of tasks
- Are self accepting; there is no “100% person”
- Have the courage to change what is in our control
The less stressed and happier we are, the better our financial health tends to be as well. Figure out how you want to live your life, not how anyone else thinks you should. Work towards building wealth to support it. If you do, I'm confident your happiness will rise!
A New Book To Buy
If you're looking at trying to make optimal decisions about some of life's greatest dilemmas, I encourage you to buy Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Freedom And Wealth. I spent two years writing the book with my editors at Portfolio / Penguin Random House.
In the book, I discuss investing, education, marriage, retirement, you name it. It is my greatest work! You'll gain 100X more value from the book than its cost.
Subscribe to the Financial Samurai newsletter by clicking here.