I like conflict because it gives me motivation to try harder. During high school I had the talent to play at an elite level of tennis if I trained more. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to work on my backhand and nobody was really badgering me. As a result, I only received “First Team All District” honors instead of achieving “All Sectionals” honors at the end of senior year. Because I wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend and I didn’t want to spend time traveling on weekends to play tennis tournaments, I never received any recognition from college coaches except for a small Division III school. I sometimes wonder what could have been if I went all out.
Nobody made me feel like a loser about tennis because I was already the team captain for two years and had a girlfriend. Girlfriend + Captain in high school is a respectable combo. I didn’t have anything to prove, so I didn’t do anything more.
But now as a 37 year old, I love playing tennis. I’ve worked on my topspin backhand religiously for three years and I’m entering tournaments now. The problem is my body isn’t as fast or as strong as it was 20 years ago. I’ve got a torn meniscus that is slowing me down. Damn. I wish I had the same enthusiasm back then. It’s because I know my time left playing competitive singles is limited, that I’m trying to do as much as I can now. When you’re young, you think everything will last forever.
There are other events that have left an indelible mark on my psyche. When I was 20 years old, four offensive linemen from the university football team came into Denny’s and attacked me and my girlfriend with racial slurs. We were used to racial conflict living in the South, but I was still pissed because they attacked my girl’s honor. Attack me all you want, but don’t attack the people I care about. The incident motivated both of us to do well for the remaining two years of school and try to become financially independent as soon as possible. I wanted to prove to them that I could rise above their bullshit perceptions.
When I was 32 years old, a junior colleague started making fun of me when I told him I was starting a personal finance site. He started making a weird face and typing on an air keyboard, mocking my idea. I guess I smiled, but inside I was thinking, you little prick. Whenever the going gets tough online, I remember back to this incident and push on through. Word has it he’s miserable at his job because he’s stuck. Welcome to the real world, buddy. Guess you should have joined me in air keyboard class.
SO MANY FUN THINGS TO PROVE
One of the things that some readers have pointed out over the past 5 years is that it must have been “so easy” for me to save 50%-75% of my income every year given I had a high income working in finance. I won’t deny that my income was higher than the median household income. But do people really think it’s “easy” to save the majority of income every year when peer pressure and temptation is everywhere? You try never eating a warm chocolate chip cookie if it’s sitting right in front of you all day. Sure, saving 20-35% is not a problem compared to the average US savings rate of 4-5%. But saving 50%-75% takes discipline.
I would argue that it might be harder to save a majority of your income at higher income levels under $1 million because you don’t really need to. Surely everyone has heard multiple stories of truly high income earning people going bankrupt. When you don’t need to do something, you tend not to do it. I remember saving 100% of my $4.25/hour job for months because I needed money to fix my crappy car!
But all’s good, because I enjoy detractors thanks to the motivation it provides. Given some of the pushback completely disregards my efforts to land such a job and ignores thousands of people who make even more and still do not save as much and are still working, I decided to start all over in 2012 by leaving my job. I wanted to leave because I was getting bored and the severance package was very attractive. I also thought how awesome it would be to prove to myself and to others that I could make something from nothing.
I thought for a moment what else could my detractors say about making something from nothing, and I couldn’t think of anything so I got to work. Since 2012, I wrote a severance negotiation book, published 300+ more articles on Financial Samurai, started a small personal finance consulting effort, and found partnerships with companies I use and believe in such as LendingTree for my portfolio of real estate articles and Personal Capital for my portfolio of wealth management articles.
As I tally up the business numbers for 2014, I realized that operating profits have surpassed my day job’s last year income (excluding the severance). And the year isn’t over yet. I’m proud of the results, but I never doubted this would not eventually happen if I just stuck with writing useful articles. “If the direction is correct, sooner or later you will get there,” says an old Chinese proverb.
I’m bullish on the personal online media industry because no longer do people want to simply read the news from reporters who have no skin in the game. Instead, people want to digest articles from people who have authority in what they are writing about and who provide opinions and useful advice. Those who can incorporate story-telling into their articles will rule the domain because all of us enjoy finding a connection with others.
SO WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO PROVE?
There hasn’t been any naysaying for the past six months that I recall, and I’m getting a little worried. What happened to the men who hate me for arguing why women should get paid equally as men? I don’t understand why anybody would not want their mother, daughter, or sister to have equality. Nobody is forcing young women to go out with gross old men. What happened to the pessimistic folks who are annoyed that everything will not be OK due to a massive generational wealth transfer? Our parents just went through the biggest bull market of all time. I’m sorry if they spent it all on themselves, but know that many more are passing on their wealth to many undeserving children. What happened to the folks who say making six figures is impossible, even though electricians are making $150,000 and get to retire with $5,000 a month pensions?
Off line, I’m working on my personal relationships with friends and loved ones. I’m also trying to figure out a synergistic way to incorporate more charitable monetary efforts to help specific causes. I’ve found it takes a lot of effort to coordinate with others to give back e.g. Yakezie Scholarship for education. It’s no wonder why many people just write checks. I’d like to continue keeping most of the topics on Financial Samurai personal finance related, so I apologize if there are folks out there who want to read more soap opera articles.
If you’re a naysayer and have been holding your thoughts in for a while, please let me know what you disapprove of. I need to hear your doubts now so I can try and prove you wrong. It’ll be fun and you’ll help me a great deal. I’m also curious to know from readers what are some of the things that are left for you to prove. Who are the people filling your mind with doubt, but also filling your heart with motivation?
Update for 2020. I strongly believe everybody should start their own blog and establish a platform online. You will attract like-minded people, and potentially make a good livable income stream online. Not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for starting Financial Samurai in 2009. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be free and updating this post from Budapest, Hungary!