There will undoubtedly be tremendous turbulence in our lives that will test our faith. But controlling what we can control is a vital part of growth and happiness.
My favorite thing to control is work ethic. Because I realized early on I neither had the mental or physical talent to surpass my peers, the only way to get ahead was to study more after school and train harder on the tennis courts.
Unless you have a severe disability, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, Asian or Native American, gay or straight; we all have the ability to control our work ethic.
We can fail due to superior competition or unforeseen exogenous variables, but we must not fail because we didn’t try our best.
Things We Can Control To Get Ahead
Besides work ethic, there are plenty of other things we can control to give ourselves a higher chance of success. Here are some:
Attitude. You must develop a positive mindset. If you do not believe in yourself, nobody will believe in you. The world is already an incredibly competitive place. You must attack each challenge with a can-do attitude. Just be aware of reality if things aren’t going as you planned after years of trying.
Respectfulness. It’s important to show the proper respect and courtesy to those who are older, wiser, and/more successful than you. It’s the kid who says, “thank you coach,” after each practice that makes me want to spend more time developing his skills. It’s the job candidate that writes a handwritten letter, thanking the interviewer for their time that increases her chance of getting the job.
Preparedness. There are many ways to attack a problem. It’s up to us to devise different strategies to achieve our goals. Each of us also needs to plan for multiple variable outcomes in order to be as prepared as possible. Those who say “you think too much,” or “you plan too much” are lazy losers. Do not fail to plan.
Self-Control. We know that kids who demonstrate self-control tend to do better in school. Adults who are able to demonstrate self-control are fitter, richer, and happier because they’re better able to regulate their diet, save more aggressively for the future, and not be as easily triggered by other people’s opinions.
Resilience. Success is a numbers game. Those who give up will never succeed. But those who learn from their mistakes and keep on trying have an infinitely higher chance of achieving their goals. Remember, if the direction is correct, sooner or later you will get there.
A Personal Example Of Progress
About five years ago, I enlisted my father to start regularly editing my posts. I thought it would be a good idea to give him more purpose in his own retirement while also developing a stronger relationship with his son.
I also paid him for a couple years as a 1099 contractor before he decided to close his international consulting business he was doing for fun.
He has a Master’s degree in foreign policy and was a career U.S. diplomat who wrote official reports for decades. Given his experience, he is an excellent editor and I’m lucky to have him.
Despite his editing help, it’s sometimes tough to get your work cut up so thoroughly after trying so hard. I’ve got to imagine creatives are more sensitive to criticism than non creatives because we regularly put ourselves out there.
For each 1,000 words I submit, my father will find at least 50 errors, which I always find amusing. When I’ve asked my wife to edit the same post, she’ll often only find 5-10 mistakes max. And most of the time, when I dare publish a post that was only edited by me, nobody really seems to mind.
One time after editing a post, he mentioned, “I’m concerned I’m still finding so many of the same errors after all these years.”
That was tough to hear because it showed I wasn’t improving as a writer, despite all my efforts. But instead of giving up, I decided to study his edits more carefully rather than taking a perfunctory look and copying and pasting his edits as I did in the past.
Admittedly, I do not edit my posts thoroughly before submission. If I submitted an error-free article, I would take away his purpose.
Despite my lack of writing progress, I told myself to keep on going, no matter what because production outweighs talent every single day of the week.
Seeing The Objective Data
Then one day, my father told me he should send me a report on how I’m doing accordingly to Grammarly, a writing software he started using 40 weeks ago to help edit my work.
I was afraid to see my grammar score due to all his historical edits. I also think in a way he wanted to show me my grammar score to prove how bad my grammar really was!
So I told him, “Dad, you’ve got to take into account production frequency along with grammar quality. My mission is to publish three times a week for 10 years. I could surely improve my grammar score if I spent a month working on each post. But I’ve got too many ideas to share and a promise to keep.“
Despite my defense, I told him to send me the report anyway. I could handle the truth!
He was probably rubbing his hands with glee that he could finally use objective data to prove how poor of a writer I really was. Have a look at the data yourself.
Phew! In my mind, I thought I would get a 30% – 50% on my Mastery (grammar) score by the way my dad was discussing my work. But instead, I got a 78% for the past 40 weeks of writing. A “C” grade is not great, but not terrible compared to expectations.
But the number I’m most proud of is the 99% Productivity score because it is purely what I can control. I know that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never have a perfect Mastery score. Further, there are tens of thousands more words that haven’t gone through the Grammarly software in this time period.
There is no coincidence that I’m more productive than 99% of Grammarly users while Financial Samurai is larger than 99% of all websites.
The correlation with effort and reward is strong in my world, which is why anybody who believes in themselves should consider doing something entrepreneurial.
When it comes to work, entrepreneurship, athletic training, and more, showing up and producing is much more important than pontificating.
Talent And Perfection Are Overrated
People who are too afraid of being criticized never bother to try. Instead, they’ll just hate on others to make themselves feel better for their inaction.
One of the strangest things I’ve observed is the inability of amazing editors to write amazing content. If you’ve got the writing tools, surely it’s much easier to write great prose. We’ve all got the imagination and creativity to make things interesting.
The same oddity goes for journalists who aren’t willing to start their own websites to own their own content, especially as the journalism industry hollows out. If you have the research, writing, and reporting skills, there’s no reason why you can’t create your own profitable website.
Meanwhile, people who wait for perfection take an unnecessarily long time to press publish or ship a product.
It is foolish to wait for perfection when there is no perfect consumer. Tastes are always changing and you can never please everyone all the time. By the time you think your product is perfect, your consumers may have already moved on.
Are you really going to let people like me with only a public school education, a poor grasp of the English language, and minimal talent gain all the spoils? Not if the Governor of Virginia can help it!
Are you going to allow your colleague to get promoted over you because he consistently gets to work 30 minutes before everyone else?
Are you really going to allow a smaller and weaker opponent beat you because she trained her mind to be fearless in battle?
Of course not!
Just imagine what you could do if you had some talent and coupled it with a tremendous work ethic. You would destroy the competition!
Over the long run, production is always more important than talent. And if talent is what you want, don’t worry. Over time, talent will come.
What are you waiting for? Let’s rock!
Be The Top 1% In Something, Anything For A Better Life
How To Create Next Level Wealth: When A Million Just Won’t Cut It
The Importance Of Forecasting Your Misery For A Better Life
Readers, are you waiting for perfection before shipping? Why do people waste their superior talents? Why do we give up when we can just keep on going? Why does criticism and ridicule stop you from trying to do something you really want to do?
Chris Roane says
I’ve religiously followed your 3x posts per week recommendation and started my blog posting 30 blog posts per day. It is crazy how much my writing has improved over 2.5 months. I’m still not at the “Financial Samurai” level, but I am progressing.
I really loved your blog until I noticed a typo in one of your posts….said no one, ever. :)
We are actually fairly close on Grammarly scores. My score is on the left and yours is on the right. I’ve been using Grammarly for 2.5 months and it has helped tremendously.
– Productivity: 99% (88,884 words) vs 99% (51,916 words)
– Mastery: 57% vs 78%
– Vocabulary: 99% vs 92%
I can’t tell you how much grit has caused me to get to where I am. I don’t have a college degree but have managed to get promoted to managing my managers in the past. I don’t say this to brag, but to show that grit is really the most valuable thing we have. I’m definitely not the smartest person, but I’ll outwork 99% of people to get what I want. It is a bit of a blessing and a curse, as I can be a “little” obsessive.
Clearly, the amount of grit you have in order to make this site successful is amazing. You could publish a post about how burning shit saves money and people would read it. Your hard work is paying off.
Financial Samurai says
Wow Chris, 30 posts a DAY?! That’s nuts! Congrats on your production. That’s truly incredible.
Grit is huge…. never fail due to a lack of effort because effort requires no skill!
Pace yourself though. But if you’re doing 30 posts a day, or even a month, publishing 3X a week will feel like a walk in the park.
Chris Roane says
lol, words matter. I meant to say 30 posts, in the first 30 days. 30 posts per day would not be possible unless they were one word per post.
Sports H2H says
Hi Sam – first-time poster, long-time reader. I got into reading FS regularly because I saw a lot of similarities in our personal/professional backgrounds and mindsets regarding money – as much as I learn and absorb from reading your investing/money-related posts, however, I also find your broader, more philosophical posts equally inspiring.
This particular post resonates with me because as a result of your influence, I made the leap earlier this year and started my own blog, with the eventual hope of growing it into something big (I had thought of doing something personal finance-related, but decided I couldn’t compete with you :), so I went in a different route and tackled another one of my passions instead) – still early going, but I have definitely taken a lot of your wisdom to heart.
Thanks again for your guidance and motivation from afar, and keep up the great work!
Savvy Savior says
Completely agree! Talent is nothing compared to productivity, especially in the workplace setting. No matter how talented you are if you aren’t doing any work and producing it’s the same as having no talent. Which is why everyone always talks about how hard work gets you places…. because it’s true. However, I do think that there is a potent combination if you’re both talented and hardworking!
McArthur Wheeler says
I’m fairly certain I would score a negative if I dumped ( no pun intended ) my writing into the grammarly score thingy. But it means I have no where to go but up.
How many hours a week are you working your craft at FS compared to your days working for the man? I’m guessing its relatively close.
Financial Samurai says
I would say about 20-25 hrs a week versus 60-65 hrs a week towards the end.
Not bad. Goal is to be productive for about 3 hours a day and then spend time with family.
So 5am – 8am.
mcarthur Wheeler says
That rocks! Thats a lot of subject matter and writing in a compressed time frame.
This is why I follow your site on a regular basis. A good reminder that work ethic and productivity are two variables we can always control. Btw, nice Virginia gov. barb lol…love your sense of humor.
A very good point and very timely for me. The majority of the battle is showing up.
Thanks for you service and brilliance in hard times as well as in good times. I appreciate you so much. I am a older women who is almost finished with my math degree (6th grade to 12th grade). I attend full time college and full time work while working on starting a coaching business in stewardship and math tutoring. Fight on! Keep being a financial light to the world. We all need you to give us those golden nuggets in your pathway.
You provide great content and you are a great motivator, Sam. Grammer is important but a few mistakes will not kill the text. Thanks for some great ideas and being so productive. You made want to write after reading your awesome article! LOL.
Financial Samurai says
Sounds good! But better fix your typo in the last sentence first. :)
Simple Money Man says
I read a similar article about practice and repetition. The more we continue to do something, we will inevitably get better. We will research efficiencies, tailor our work/craft, and understand the other persons view better to ultimately provide a better product or service or ourselves and for others.
There is nothing I appreciate more in an FS post than unabashed sarcasm. This was funny, Sam. Keep going.
Rudy R. says
Sam, great article and insight into your production process. Your Father’s background armed him well for the task. I too worked for the federal government in an organization where the biggest product line was the written word. Articles were sometimes reviewed by as many as eight people prior to release.
It became so daunting that only the persistent stayed writing, while others took the management track–where they could become a reviewer! I totally agree that production is the “coin of the realm” for websites.
I always consoled myself with the knowledge that, “…it is easier to edit than to write.”
Financial Samurai says
Thanks. 8 people to review! Oh my…. reminds me of how I had to send my client e-mail blasts to compliance before pressing send each time. They were usually quick to review within 30 min, but just having to get my work reviewed felt like I was a clipped bird.
Now, being able to write and publish whatever I want feels amazing. I cannot take this freedom for granted.
I want to be a movie critique… it would be easier than creating a movie. But boy, how incredible would it be to create an all-time classic? Priceless.
I really enjoyed reading this article. It’s indeed so powerful- and I’m so glad I came across this post.
The Alchemist says
Ha! You’ve called me out, Sam! ;)
Definitely guilty of possessing mad technical writing chops here…. with absolutely nothing interesting to say. Which really sucks!
I agree that it’s far better to be a creative story teller than a grammatical/structural perfectionist. Sometimes having the technical “talent” is a curse, because seeing bad (technical) writing is genuinely painful. A great idea poorly/sloppily expressed triggers an instant gut reaction of “Doh! Please FIX that— you’re ruining the power of a beautiful idea!”
But 99% of people don’t even notice— they’re wise enough to see only the beautiful idea without being distracted by the grammatical clunkers. It’s a Twitter world, and carefully crafted prose is a luxury, not a necessity. Which is why you’re on FIRE, and I’ll be a wage slave ’til I’m 60. Ha!
As a wise man once said: The perfect is the enemy of the good. Hard work and massive productivity trump perfectionism every time. Extremely valuable lesson.
Financial Samurai says
Ah yes, the curse of good technical writing skills. Must be similar to having perfect pitch when listening to live performances.
I bet you will surprise yourself with what fun content you can write if you just write and hit publish every week.
I look forward to your amazing guest post!
Mrs. RB40 is my editor. She’s not giving her best because she’s busy and usually tired from work. I had to improve my own writing. Grammarly helped a ton. It’s still a struggle, but I’m way better than when I started blogging. (Almost 10 years ago!) If I let the lack of talent stopped me, I would have quit a long time ago.
I agree that hard work and persistence trump talent. Now, we just need to foster those qualities in our son. He’s terrible with all the things you listed on top. No grit at all.
One thing I would add to your comment on “Respectfulness” bullet is to be respectful not to just your older, wiser bosses, but to all your co-workers, even the younger ones. I try to treat everyone the same, because you never know when they kid straight out of school one day becomes your boss. I guarantee they will remember how you treated them well, when that day arrives.
I feel personally attacked :D Time to stop procrastinating and get to work.
It is interesting that you reference editors and the inability, in many cases, for them to apply their trade to producing creative or scholarly work themselves . There is a famous writing book called “On Writing” by Dorothea brand and she makes this point very succinctly. Just write! Every day. Write until your blue in the face, and the gap between your unconscious mind and your conscious mind shortens. Certainly I agree with the point around production and the fact that we sometimes prioritise quality and minutiae over simply “doing the do” every day
Financial Samurai says
That’s right. As a father now, I observe toddlers play at the playground or at the museum or at Gymboree almost every day. They are creative and curious. We all were these kids once. I don’t believe for a second someone is not creative in some way.
What a shame for those with a great mastery of the English language not to write. And same for anybody else not to do something in which they’ve got so much talent.
I too would be proud of a productivity score like that. As far as the rest to be honest your audience is really not concerned that everything is perfect grammatically. We are not writing English plays here.
In fact I would argue that the casual writing style goes over far better with an audience than what perfect prose would do.
The main thing is creativity in content that matter most
Financial Samurai says
Yes, and we can easily fix typos once published. It’s not like in the past, where once out in print, you were screwed. I love when readers provide me grammar and typo feedback. Then there are readers who say XYZ is not correct, and don’t offer what is correct.
To be a blogger is to be the underdog compared to major media publications who have a team of full-time writers and editors. I love being the underdog! Related: How Bloggers Can Effectively Compete With Media Giants
Kathy Abell says
I’m not sure major media publications have that many full time editors anymore. I come across so many writing errors it makes me cringe. Use of the incorrect but properly spelled word is particularly annoying. Spell check won’t find those errors. Maybe they have editors on staff, but don’t allow them sufficient time to do their jobs well?
Of all the excellent advice I’ve read on your site this is *easily* my favorite. I believe it’s come up before in the form of “never fail due to lack of effort because effort takes no skill”, which is now one of my favorite quotes from anyone ever and a mantra I’ve since incorporated in my own life as a source of motivation. Succinct, eloquent in its simplicity, and powerful, truer words have never been spoken. It really exemplifies the frequent recurring themes in your writing of personal accountability and striving to better oneself. Great stuff!
Ms. Conviviality says
Ditto on the comment about effort taking no skills!
Sport of Money says
Talent without hard work and effort is wasted. People can be successful through hard work and production with limited talent. But a superior talent cannot be successful without putting in the work and producing. Obviously, the best is to find your talent and spend the time to work really hard at it.
Kathy Abell says
As the saying goes, “No one plans to fail, they just fail to plan.” I always plan, plan, plan, and REPLAN! One of my favorite sayings back in my cube farm days was, “What good is a plan if it’s not replanned a few times?” ;)
Dave @ Accidental FIRE says
I agree for most aspects that showing up and working hard will win the day. But some artistic endeavors like playing music, maybe not as much. You’ll still do well by showing up and working hard, but if you don’t have some decent level of talent no one’s gonna want to hear you. Wait, am I describing myself? :)
I 100% agree that tenacity, grit and pure perseverance is way more valuable (in the long run) than talent. For what it’s worth, I also think you’re a great writer, so just because your dad is a great editor doesn’t mean you don’t have talent. You do!
Financial Samurai says
Hah! Thanks. But tell that to my dad. He’ll think otherwise.
But all good! If he ever said, “Son, that was a very good piece of work,” I might feel satisfaction and not try as hard.
To Virginia I say! Forget Hawaii!
B at Fire The Boss says
I fully agree with you! Talent is way overrated. Working hard puts you in the 1%. Heck, even just trying will put you in the top 10% I think. With hard work, attitude, and a lot of persistence you will reach everything.
Maybe to win an Olympic gold medal in the 100m dash you would need talent. For most work and lifestyle related topics, working hard is enough. Go get some!
Congrats on your Grammarly and productivity score! Cool stuff! I remember my middle school grammar teacher was one of the hardest teachers in school. I hated him at the time but it was worth the awful homework and classroom exercises because I feel I have a decent grasp of grammar. There are still things that trip me up today though. :)
I agree on the work ethic stuff. I like that saying of your that goes something like, “Never fail due to a lack of effort because hard work requires no skill.”