Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.
1. Seth Godin on the story you tell with your money
“Once you have enough for beans and rice and taking care of your family and a few other things, money is a story. You can tell yourself any story you want about money, and it’s better to tell yourself a story about money that you can happily live with.” – Seth Godin
What kind of story does your money tell about you? Beyond the basics, it really says what kind of person you are and what your passions and interests are in a way that goes beyond words, because spending money is all about actions. You had to invest a lot of time and energy into earning that money, so to use it in the ways that you use it is really an expression of what you truly believe is important in life.
Take a look through your credit card statement. Do those expenses really express who you are in any meaningful way? If not, why are you using your money to tell that story instead of the one you want to tell?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote in the last month and wondering what kind of story I want to tell the world about myself, and what story Sarah and I collectively want to tell the world about ourselves. What are we doing with our money that’s actually meaningful to us in any sort of lasting way? It’s a hard question to answer, but when you focus on it, it can lead you in some very meaningful directions.
I’m sharing this with you for two reasons.
One, the music is tremendous at helping me focus. I’m not even sure what to call this subgenre of music – lo fi hip hop? chill jazz with strange beats? – but there’s something about it that really really brings out the focus in me. I get lost in this music and I get lost in the work I’m doing while it’s playing. This mix, and a few other similar mixes from the same record label, have been in the background as I’ve written most of the articles you’ve read in the last month.
Two, I really admire Chillhop Records’ method for sharing their music. This is basically a giant mixtape of the label’s artists, and they’ve shared that mixtape freely all over the place. You can find it on Youtube, Spotify, and many other places, and you can even get an mp3 of it from their website for your offline listening. The mixtape itself is really good, but it’s actually hooked me into tracking down some of the individual artists like Birocratic and Sugiwa, artists I would have never discovered without this mixtape.
As with most subgenres of music, this will either click with you or it will leave you scratching your head. This isn’t something I’d listen to at a party or a singalong, but when I’m working, it’s tremendously good background music.
3. Thomas Edison on subconscious thinking
“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” – Thomas Edison
This is something I’ve been trying to do, with varying degrees of success, for the last few months: I consciously choose to think about some problem in my life as I’m going to sleep and then I sometimes find that I have a great solution for it or some kind of breakthrough when I wake up and think about it again for the first time.
It was this exact kind of thinking that led me to figuring out an effective rearrangement of some of the rooms in our house, a plan that my wife strongly endorsed. It was this kind of thinking that’s been behind a good half-dozen of the articles over the last few months on the site. It was this kind of thinking that led to some helpful breakthroughs in my parenting style.
Try it for yourself. Tonight, in the fifteen minutes before bed, think through the details of a problem in your life that’s troubling you. Walk through the situation over and over, exploring details and angles in your mind, and then go to sleep as normal. You might just find a good solution in mind when you awaken.
4. Tammy Lally on getting honest with our money problems
From the description:
Struggling to budget and manage finances is common — but talking honestly and openly about it isn’t. Why do we hide our problems around money? In this thoughtful, personal talk, author Tammy Lally encourages us to break free of “money shame” and shows us how to stop equating our bank accounts with our self-worth.
Your net worth on the financial ledger is not your net worth as a person. Don’t confuse the two.
It is really, really easy to let your personal worth be defined by your net worth when you’re really focused on your finances. You’ll tell yourself things like “If I can’t even save a little money this month, what worth do I have?”
For starters, personal finance success is a long term thing, not a short term thing. You are definitely going to have months and even years where your finances aren’t very good and your net worth will go down. Emergencies will happen. The stock market will take a burp.
What matters much more are your actions. Are you making good choices regularly and consistently in your life? If so, the results will come. Just be patient.
Your actions and your character matter far more than your bank account at the moment. If your actions are consistently good and your character is good, your finances will come around.
5. Julia Cameron on the magic of journaling
“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.” – Julia Cameron
I’ve been rereading Julia’s wonderful book The Artist’s Way recently and this quote just popped out at me. It really reminded me of the reasons I often write in my journal in the morning.
The purpose isn’t to create a log of my day or create some great anthology of my life. The purpose is to dig through the distracting and muddy thoughts in my head, to get rid of the junk and clarify the uncertain thoughts, to figure out what’s really going on in my life and add clarity to everything.
If I do that each morning, I find that I’m already ahead of the game. If I set aside an hour for doing this early on in the day, literally everything I do for the rest of the day is far more efficient. I stay on task better because I’m not pulled away by muddy or distracting thoughts. I’m generally happier about those tasks because I feel more connected to the world, which makes me operate more efficiently and makes me say “yes” to more “important-but-not-urgent” tasks that I might just postpone if I’m not quite feeling so good.
National Novel Writing Month is basically a challenge during the month of November to write a full 50,000 word first draft of a novel in just a month. It’s a pretty heady challenge!
I did this a few times in previous years, completing a first draft of a novel twice. It was a great experience and, although I didn’t wind up with anything publishable, I learned a ton from actually having done it. There are ideas from the second “finished” novel that I would love to revisit someday (centered around family relationships in a near-future utopia).
If you’ve ever thought about writing a novel, this is a great way to get you “on the rails” and making progress toward actually completing something of note.
7. Leticia Gasca on failing mindfully
From the description:
We celebrate bold entrepreneurs whose ingenuity led them to success, but what happens to those who fail? Far too often, they bury their stories out of shame or humiliation — and miss out on a valuable opportunity for growth, says author and entrepreneur Leticia Gasca. In this thoughtful talk, Gasca calls for business owners to open up about their failures and makes the case for replacing the idea of “failing fast” with a new mantra: fail mindfully.
This isn’t just true for entrepreneurs – it’s true for everyone.
We’re all going to fail in life at some point. Yes, the old story goes that the winners pick themselves up and try again, but there’s more to it than that. The people who eventually win are those who actually learn from their experience.
What knocked them down? How did that happen? How can they ensure that it doesn’t happen again next time?
If you let life keep drumming you in the face, you are never going to get the results you dream of. Stop for a bit and figure out how and why this keeps happening to you and change something. Don’t let life keep knocking you down, because if you do, that’s all it will ever do.
8. Peter Lynch on the failure of timing the market
“Far more money has been lost by investors trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in the corrections themselves.” – Peter Lynch
One of the most common themes in reader emails and messages is market timing. “The market seems strong, should I buy?” “The market is trembling a little, should I sell?” No and no.
Don’t waste even a second of your life worrying about market corrections. Don’t try to “time the market.” Don’t try to sell at the high and buy at the low.
Instead, have a long term plan and follow it. Know that the market is going to have bad days and bad weeks and bad years before you even invest. Also, know that if you do try to time it and miss by very much at all, you’re going to be substantially worse off than if you just rode with it.
The best strategy? Do nothing. Stick to your plan, one that you considered long before you ever started watching the market. Keep putting in money just like you always have and pull it out according to your plan, too.
Sure, if you think the market is low right now and you have a few extra bucks, it’s not a bad idea to make an extra contribution to your investments. However, that’s not a change in your plans – that’s just an extra log thrown on the fire.
Stick to your plan. Don’t sweat what the market is doing today or tomorrow or next year.
Over the next twenty to fifty years, a lot of jobs are going to be automated out of existence. Truck drivers. Cab drivers. Most factory workers. Warehouse workers. A lot of service workers. All of those jobs (and more) are vanishing, and they make up a big part of our economy.
What happens to those people? It’s a really tricky problem to solve, but it’s one we’re going to have to figure out as a society.
The most compelling idea I’ve seen is a “universal basic income,” which is basically a small allotment from the government that provides enough money for everyone to eat and keep a roof over their heads, but not to live any sort of fancy lifestyle. People can work as much as they want – or as much work as they can find – beyond their UBI to live a nicer lifestyle, but no one starves. This money is paid for by an additional tax on companies that rely heavily on automation, because they’re saving so much money by not having to actually employ people as truckers, factory workers, etc. In effect, companies would pay such employees a low wage to not work.
While I’m not sure it’s the ideal solution, it’s the most well-formed one out there, and it’s something that’s not only interesting to think about, but something we need to think about. This is a real problem and it’s coming closer every day.
10. Christopher Sommer on playing your cards
“You’re not responsible for the hand of cards you were dealt. You’re responsible for maxing out what you were given.” – Christopher Sommer
Everyone is dealt a different hand in birth, in childhood, and in the unexpected events in life. Sometimes, that hand isn’t fair. The great political debate of our time, in my opinion, is how much of a role society has in balancing out the fairness.
On an individual level, however, we’re responsible for playing the hand we’re dealt. You can’t change the hand you’re dealt; all you can do is play it to the best of your ability. That might mean that you work hard for much less reward than someone else or that you suffer unfair treatment. The challenge is to overcome that and succeed anyway.
Yes, it’s going to be easier for some, and it’s going to be harder for others. Perhaps there are nice solutions that can help with that on a societal level, but those solutions have nothing to do with what you choose to do with your day when you get out of bed in the morning. It’s up to you to make the most of that day. That week. That month. That year. That life.
In the most recent update to iOS, Apple released a new app for iPhones called Shortcuts. Basically, it lets you take repeated actions that you take in many apps – all of the default ones and many popular apps from other companies – and essentially link them together into little scripts so that you can execute them at the push of a button or a verbal command to Siri.
I’ll give you a great example of this. I used to turn my phone into Do Not Disturb mode when I went to bed, which blocks all notifications and calls except from a very small number of trusted sources. I’d also set an alarm for the same time every morning – 5:30 AM. Doing all of these things used to take a memorized routine of about fifteen or so taps. I built a shortcut that does all of these things and turns off the Do Not Disturb mode at 5:30 AM when my alarm goes off. It now requires one tap or a quick voice command – “Hey Siri set my alarm.”
I’m loving this! I have all kinds of nifty things set up along those lines – a shortcut for taking a family picture or a selfie with the good camera on my phone, a shortcut for texting my wife my current location and ETA to get home when I’m leaving from somewhere, and several others like that. It’s a wonderful app to play around with, and you’ll likely come up with a few useful things out of it.
12. Steve Jobs on shaping your world
“Life can be so much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” – Steve Jobs
You don’t have to work at a certain job or live in a certain place. You don’t have to buy certain brands to impress your friends. You don’t have to watch the latest shows or see the latest movies. You don’t have to do any of that.
You have far more freedom to decide what you want to do with your life than you think you do. If you don’t feel free to do something, that’s because you chose to cede that freedom to someone else. Take it back (unless it’s a responsibility, like taking care of your child).
Live the life you want to live. Keep tinkering and trying new things and hanging out with different people and trying new routines until you reach a point where you’re genuinely excited to get out of bed most mornings. It’s all a work in progress, and you don’t have to live how anyone else tells you that you have to.