The Secret To Success In Any Endeavour
From time to time I see articles about “wild success stories” in CNN Money or other mainstream media outlets that run across my Facebook feed. Most recently I saw an article about a young woman who was able to purchase her own home by her mid-20’s, no small feat, but nothing newsworthy. It was while reading this article that I had to take a step back and realize how immersed I am in finance on a day to day basis. The fact that someone can make the news by purchasing a home after diligently saving is baffling. Shouldn’t that be obvious?
I work with people everyday who want to save more, and I help see a lot of my clients to and through home ownership in their mid-20s, so this young woman’s story didn’t seem particularly exciting to me. I’m of the opinion that the majority of gainfully employed people can own a home early in life, or achieve whatever other financial goal they have if they put their minds to it.
Then I read some of the Facebook comments on the article (never a wise choice). Unsurprisingly, the majority of them were nasty. Some assumed she received most of her money from her parents, others claimed her house (which isn’t in the downtown area of a big city) would be worthless in a few years. Still others lamented their own lives and how all the things she did would never be possible for them. Frankly, people believed that she was an isolated incident, unindicative of the world at large. An impossible anomaly. So perhaps her purchase was newsworthy after all?
The Most Powerful Gift You Can Give Yourself
I think I see a different side of the world than most people do. My clients come to me because they want to make a change, they want to be better at financial management, or they simply want to learn what their options are. But taking that step from “I don’t need help” to “I understand that someone has figured out more than me, and I want to learn from them” is a huge moment. I’m glad, for the most part, that I live on the positive side of that moment.
A lot of people I meet jokingly tell me they’re bad with money. It’s some kind of bizarre badge of honor among young people these days. But very few of them ever seek advice to change their habits and beliefs. Much like the Facebook commenters, they can rattle off dozens of reasons why they’re poor or they don’t save money or they live where they do. They are finely tuned excuse and negativity machines.
But the people who make change are very different. They listen instead of talking. They plan instead of sulking. They recognize that they don’t know everything. The greatest gift they have that the excuse machines do not is openness to new ideas. And this trend extends well beyond personal finance. Whether you’re watching a particularly skilled concert violinist, a millionaire real estate mogul, a genius computer programmer, or a talented public speaker, the story is the same.
If the first thought that crosses your mind is “I could never do that” or “He probably had some advantage I don’t” then you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. By becoming an excuse machine, you’re guaranteeing that you never reach the level of success you dream to achieve. But by becoming open to the possibility that whatever skill you wish to possess can be learned, and that you simply have to find the right teacher, a world of possibilities opens up in front of you.
The Things That Excite Us And Why Money Doesn’t
With few exceptions, we aren’t excited by the mundane. The first time baby crawls is incredible. The 400th time, we’re exasperated by how quickly they can escape. We’re impressed by models with rippling muscles because it’s much easier to be fat and flabby. We appreciate people who win Nobel prizes because so few people ever achieve that recognition. We dote on child prodigies who spend backbreaking amounts of time early in their careers to become masters.
Why? Because we recognize that each of these accomplishments (and many more) take tremendous effort. A strict diet and exercise regimen. A lifetime of dedicated study. A childhood devoid of play and friendship. For better or worse, we are impressed when people do things that take effort beyond the average.
And that’s why money is different. Don’t get me wrong, we’re amazed by millionaires and billionaires. If we weren’t, nobody would know Warren Buffett’s name. But we don’t appreciate the work in the same way. When someone gets paid more for doing the same amount of work, our immediate reaction is how unfair the situation is. Perhaps they’re better negotiators? Or maybe they’re more productive over the same amount of time. Or maybe they’re using a skill that is more highly valued?
Of course, I want to be quick to point out that unfair disparities sometimes do exist in pay for people who are equally productive, particularly for minorities and women. But when that argument, or any other “unfair” argument is used as the sole reason for explaining the differences in people’s income or wealth, it distracts us from the fact that people can learn how to become wealthy in the same way we learn any number of other skills.
We can learn how to negotiate salary. We can learn new time management skills that increase productivity. We can learn how to invest and where to invest. We can learn budgeting and saving techniques. I’m here to argue that just like playing the piano or learning to drive, wealth is a skill, not a state of being. The question is whether you’re ready to learn. But then again, it’s a lot easier to come up with a reason you’re not ready to learn, isn’t it?
Nathan is the Chief Financial Advisor a Monte Largo Financial