The title of this article is my favorite single thing that Dave Ramsey has ever written.
The idea here is pretty simple: if you live in a challenging way right now, you’ll be able to enjoy incredible opportunities and advantages later. Almost every person who has accomplished something great in their life went through some very challenging period (or periods) to get there: executing obsessive hours of practice, living in poverty or near-poverty, spending countless late nights building up a project, and so on.
Often, we don’t see the hard work behind success.
We see the financially successful person and are envious of their money, overlooking what got them there. We see Bill Gates’ billions, but we forget that he spent his teen years, college years, and early adulthood glued to a computer.
We see the people who are incredibly skilled in a certain area and are astonished at their talent. What we forget is that, usually, it took obsessive amounts of boring and difficult practice to hone that skill – it’s rarely God-given talent.
We see people who are famous and grumble about how on earth that person could possibly have fame and wealth. Often, we forget that the person we see is often working very hard to get to that point, then to put on a good show for us, both in their actual performance and in how they “present” themselves to the public. (Yes, this usually does include the reality star du jour.)
We see the person down the street who has signs of material wealth and feel some pangs of jealousy in our gut. We usually forget that they’ve either sacrificed their past to get there (by working a lot of hours, studying very hard, or living very lean) or sacrificed their future to get there (via debt).
Almost always, when we see something exceptional that someone else has done, they have made a tremendous sacrifice of some kind to get there.
It’s because that kind of sacrifice is unusual that we find such success to be unusual. Most people don’t live as cheaply as they could. Most people don’t spend every evening and weekend for years launching a side business. Most people don’t practice their musical instrument for six hours a day for years. Most people don’t pull consistent all-nighters to nail some key projects, putting them in place for a big promotion. Most people don’t make their own laundry detergent.
And, unsurprisingly, most people don’t find exceptional success.
Each day, we have a choice. We can choose to continue to be in the same situation we’re in. Or, we can choose to start a very long journey with a single step. That journey will take a long time, but when we get to the other end, we’ll find ourselves in a completely different place than we’re at right now. Along the way, we’ll walk some roads that are completely different than the ones we’re used to.
The question is where you want to be and what you’re willing to do to get there.
When I look at some of the goals I’ve set for this year – improving my piano playing skills, reading challenging books, and getting into better shape – I see this very issue popping up. Am I willing to live in a different way, filling my free time with these types of tasks, or am I happy just being complacent and wondering why other people are successful at their goals while I’m not?
It’s up to me to be different.
Are you happy just continuing things the way they are right now? Or are you ready to live like no one else so that you can live like no one else?