Posted in Money on March 6th, 2017
Seven years ago, I made three predictions about young people’s current behavior to an audience of financial executives:
1. Many young people would regret attending college.
2. Many young people would regret their extensive travels.
3. Many young people would regret trying to find their self.
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
~ Snippet taken from 1 Samuel 8:6-9, 19-20
Some of the executives have reached out in shock at how these predictions came to life because I warned them to avoid marketing to young people using these techniques (college, travel, finding yourself). While a few of them experienced a temporary boom, when the boom subsided, many of these young people began to realize that their actions to grow and learn were, in truth, actions to escape the problem that they knew they wanted to overcome. In other words, college, travelling, and finding themselves were forms of procrastination from the real problem. Young people tend to see what others are doing and assume that these others know exactly what they’re doing, when the reality is that they generally don’t. I had warned these executives that many young people would see their marketing message as a form of financially preying on them (another rare human behavior is accepting responsibility for our own mistakes, like the children of Israel refused to blame themselves when they later hated their king).
We can fall into the same pattern with our financial behavior if we’re not careful – we know what we need to do, yet avoid it by following what others are doing because that feels safer. Let’s look at how to avoid the above scenarios, then build a pattern for our financial behavior so that we live according to our vision and not the vision of others:
How can we use this to create our own financial vision? In the case of college, college represents a historic institution where one spends time and pays money to learn from those who are the best in their field. There is one problem: colleges no longer feature the best in any field, and most of the best networks can be found in online communities since people on their own time choose to learn skills. Written another way: why are you reading this topic about financially building your own vision? Because you want to follow your own path and not live on the terms of others. Your very interest in this topic sets you apart from others; this is what universities used to offer.
In the case of a new experience, how does the new experience deepen what we’re working on? For an example, if we are trying to increase our income, how does playing video games move us in the direction of increased income? If we are trying to pay off debt, how does an expensive vacation to Brazil move us closer to no debt? If we’re trying to save money, how does gambling $100,000 in Vegas increase our bank account size? When our actions don’t move us closer to what we want to do, our actions distract us from our vision. Any action that does not move us closer to our vision is a distraction.
Finally, we address the last myth – “I’m finding myself.” It will always be easier to find than create since finding inherently involves something that already exists and creating involves some mental work that the human brain despises. Creation is the beginning of the most read book in human history – The Holy Bible (Genesis 1) – and it involves a step-by-step process, where we create, reflect on what we create, and add to what we create. I’ve never met a self-honest person who didn’t have at least one idea of something to create, but most people have excuses for why they can’t create their idea. Creation requires work, from physical effort to mental energy where we reflect over what we made. Financially, it will always be easier to copy someone else’s financial life – like Mr. Jones wants to be a millionaire, so let’s copy him and be one too – than it is to create our own financial life. How do you know what to financially create in your life? What can you do financially that would make you stop and say, “That’s good.”
As we build our vision, like we read in Genesis 1, we will iterate on our vision, add to it, and improve it. This is to be expected. I doubt that Genghis Khan set out to conquer the world initially, but it became something necessary to accomplish his vision. In the same manner, we may require additional skills or tools that require adding to our vision.
We will require disciplined self-honesty here: it’s very easy to become distracted and replace the vision with the distraction. For an example, one might think about borrowing more money on an investment to pay off a debt – but is borrowing more money to gamble on an investment going to move us closer to our goal of eliminating all debt? Or is the investment a distraction? We see this quite often in the cryptosphere where people forget why they got involved in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, only to become distracted for a season or completely derailed. Investing is another example of this; many people buy stocks as retirement assets, though this completely misses what a shareholder is – a part owner of a company. The reason why people fall into these traps is that they lose sight of their purpose and how that purpose is integrated with their own vision. I’ve known many entrepreneurs who invest in no public companies and either re-invest all their money in their own business, or invest in local businesses and have crushed all indexes every year.
Since I live in Western culture, this point may seem odd to people who live in Eastern cultures, but in the West loneliness is considered negative, even though a season of it will be imperative for a person’s vision. I’m always reminded of Bill Gates when I think of loneliness; in Bill Gates’ father’s book, Showing Up For Life, Bill’s father remarked that the younger Gates had always taken time alone to reflect on his life and vision. This time paid Bill Gates with creativity and focus, which often are drained when we are around others. As I observed when raising sheep and goats as a kid, as social creatures, we are heavily influenced by what others think. While this is not a negative statement, we must remember to take time in isolation on occasion to remain committed to our vision because it is exclusively our vision.
Loneliness means that you value your vision and it offers you time alone to value the people who are in your life. Part of the human experience is longing for others, just like part of our experience is smiling when we see our vision come to life and reflecting in our mind, “It is good.”
Without a vision, personal finance becomes incredibly difficult. In addition, we miss out on greater fulfillment in life – one of the many reasons that we see rampant hedonism in today’s world (hedonists have no vision). Discipline feels difficult, if the discipline serves no purpose; but when there’s meaning in what we do, even the most difficult skills become the easiest to move us closer to what we’re building.