Why We Made It and You Haven't, Yet*
We aren’t the type to believe in fate, luck, or dreams. We believe in making things happen, hard work, and goals. Because we strive to live with purpose and continuously learn and improve ourselves, we’ve created the life we want as digital nomads traveling the world and pursuing financially independent, retire early (FI/RE).
Read on to see how you can too!
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Most of our posts are written by both of us, as the collective Screw The Average. However, this one is written by Shannon. Enjoy!
Growing up, I looked around me and always saw the older girls and thought to myself “when I’m their age, I will be like them”. I thought that having more friends, being involved in extra-curricular activities, and being ‘cool’ would come with age. So I waited, and I waited. Each year passed and it didn’t happen.
I had this clear picture of who I wanted to be, this strong, courageous, sophisticated woman. But it wasn’t until my early 20’s that I realized it wasn’t just going to happen, I actually had to work to make it happen.
That’s when I got a job, started college full-time, became physically fit, and started to push myself. It was a slow start, but it was a snowball effect.
My husband grew up poor. Not poor like you live on the wrong side of the tracks and you don’t get that shiny new red bicycle. Poor like his mother would go without eating so he could feast on tortillas and butter. Poor, like living in a neighborhood where he had to pull his mother into the house during a drive-by shooting.
He was the man of the house by age 9 and made most of the major decisions.
Different Paths to The Same Place
Along two different paths, we both ended up with the same life philosophy. Continuous self-evaluation and self-improvement. When push comes to shove, we suck it up and push to succeed.
You may think this is you as well. I hope it is, but from my experience, statistically, it probably isn’t. Sorry.
The Way We See It
For simplicity, there are a four types of people.
The people who are just down and out and defeated by life. Everything is poor me. It’s like they have glasses on, that shade everything in despair.
When things go wrong for this group, they don’t really fight, they absorb the blow and curl up like a roly poly, just waiting for the danger to pass by. This group has a strong external locus of control.
2. Fighters… When They Have to Be
The people who are fighters when their backs are against a wall, otherwise they take life as it comes and are satisfied with the bare minimum and conformity.
When things are rough, this person will fight like a scraper and hustle with the best of them to get their head above water. But once they can breathe again, they relax. They could keep fighting, but as long as they aren’t drowning they accept it as a win and relax.
The people who are average work hard, put up with adversity, and make just enough to get by and live the average American lifestyle. Typically, these are the people who get a good education, get a middle management job and get a promotion every few years.
These people can be a little of the roly-poly type and a little of the fighter type, but overall they just get by and don’t ruffle any feathers. Think Leave it to Beaver.
4. Never Enough
The people who never accept average as enough. They're the scraper and the hustler all the time, not just when their backs are against the wall. They're assertive, they know what they want, they do things other people see and can’t imagine doing themselves.
This is the person who climbs the ladder faster than anyone else, the person who’s ‘financially independent’ at 35 years old, the person who against all odds made it to the top or just made it ‘out’. Think Thomas J. Stanley’s, The Millionaire Mind. Think the person who has everything they want, whatever it is, yet, doesn’t equate success with materialism and doesn’t struggle paycheck to paycheck.
Who Are We?
We’re aspiring to be the fourth type (remember, we won’t ever feel like we’ve ‘made it’).
My husband got there early in life and I tease that he was born that way. I, on the other hand, started as the first type, progressed to the second, and moved into the third. It wasn’t until my late-twenties that I started to transition into more of the fourth type.
My first ‘office’ job out of college was a tough one. It was a dog-eat-dog work environment and 60-80+ hour work weeks. Most of my colleagues set boundaries, did the bare-minimum (granted, in this job that was way more than most people do in the average position) and were stuck in the job out of financial need.
I saw the position as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone. the job and the environment were tough. Many people around me complained, cried, hid, yelled, and screamed (seriously). I, instead, took on every project I could, started working with the operations team and did special projects that were noticed by the corporate office.
Many of my colleagues and friends spent a year or two looking for a new position and some had to take demotions and pay cuts.
In my opinion, the difference between myself and many of my co-workers was that I didn’t settle.
Yes, just like them, I didn’t like the working conditions and I was incredibly stressed most of the time. But, I knew it wasn’t long term, and I often reminded myself that ‘this too shall pass'. I had a goal in mind and knew this was just a stepping stone. I used the experience to advance my career.
Essentially, the company was fine with draining every ounce of productivity out of me, so I was fine with draining every ounce of experience and advancement out of them. It was a win, win.
To sum it up, you either passively let life happen to you or you actively make life happen for you.
How To Be the 'Millionaire Next Door'?
Thomas J. Stanley is the Author of The Millionaire Next Door, The Millionaire Mind. We highly recommend this series.
Change your attitude. Luck is only hard work and a series of smart thought out choices; being prepared when opportunity presents itself.
Have F-YOU money. Simply put, this is having enough money to do what you want and is commonly known as having enough money so that you can tell your boss to get lost. This allows you to not make decisions out of fear and the need for ‘employment safety’. With F-YOU money, the focus is on you and not your paycheck. There are three realistic ways to get this money, and best results come from a combination of the three. 1. Make more money (get a raise, get a side hustle). 2. Need less money (don't equate success or happiness with things). 3. Save, then save some more (as Mr Money Mustache wrote, if you save 50% or more of your take home salary you'll be able to 'retire' and become financially independent in a fraction of time compared to the average American).
Get used to being uncomfortable. Reaching your goals means getting out of your comfort zone and doing things that are scary and even painful. A great way to learn this is to start running or jogging. It gets uncomfortable real quick. When you go past the point of wanting to quit, you see that you can do it. You learn that by-and-large pain is normal and it’s mostly okay, the discomfort causes you to grow.
Get rid of temptations. Whether eating healthier or trying to spend less. Stay away from negative inducements. Willpower is like a muscle, the more you use it, the weaker it gets. Yet like a muscle, it can ‘grow’, so it’s a fine line.
Figure out who and what you want to be. This may mean picturing the ideal you, detailed down to the job, clothing, location, and bank account. Or, it could be a list of attributes. However, you define it, know where you’re going.
Set your milestones. Once you know who and what you want to be and what your goals are, set smaller milestones. These are achievable goals that you can keep in the forefront and not be overwhelmed by the large overall goal. Small wins make goals actionable and obtainable.
Self-evaluate regularly. You have to know where you need to improve. Be happy with where you currently are, but never be satisfied with staying there. Ask yourself, your friend, your partner, or your therapist, those direct uncomfortable questions.
Set your life up for success. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Your mom really was right, you're only as good as the ‘worst’ person you hang out with. Success tends to breed success. The most impactful person in your life, the one that can help build it, or destroy it, is your partner/spouse. Look beyond lust and focus on pragmatism. This decision, if made poorly, could make all the others for naught.