Step One: Be Apathetic
A great place to begin your journey is high school. This is where you want to become apathetic with life. Learning isn’t fun and studying is hard. It’s cool to not care. This attitude will serve you well throughout your life.
Step Two: Take On Debt
Everyone goes to college nowadays. The overwhelming majority of college majors out there are “fillers” that exist to attract a larger customer base to colleges, but that’s OK. Select your major based on ease of curriculum, not based on job opportunity statistics. Pay no attention to college costs. That’s what student loans are for. If the government promotes student loans, they must be safe. Upon graduation, reward yourself with a new car.
Step Three: Sell Your Time For Money
There are 24 hours in a given day. Spend 70% of your waking hours working for someone else. A flat hourly rate, or a salaried position with no opportunity for commissions and bonuses will do. Ensure pay is the same regardless of how hard you work.
Step Four: Make “Step Three” Your Only Source Of Income
Be completely dependent on one job. If you do not get out of bed in the morning, you do not have any other sources of income. You need that motivation to keep showing up to the place you hate.
Step Five: Don’t Invest Any Of Your Money
There are so many nice things to buy. Investing a significant portion of your paycheck for the future means less nice things you can have now. You shouldn’t have to wait. Don’t have the money right now? No problem. That’s what credit cards are for. You only have to pay a $25/month minimum and it’s yours.
Step Six: Live Paycheck To Paycheck
A natural progression from “Step Five,” this is the only way to keeping up with the Joneses. They’re doing it. Why shouldn’t you?
Step Seven: Avoid Passion
Between work, the work commute, miscellaneous errands and taking care of the family, you have barely any time to sleep as it is. Most of your hobbies and personal interests have to fall by the wayside. You’re just too tired to pursue them. Besides, hobbies are for kids.
Step Eight: Unwind Each Night In Front Of The TV
The daily grind really takes its toll on us over the years. At the end of the day, you just don’t want to think anymore. Develop a playlist of TV series’ to watch and stick to that schedule religiously. Just sit, stare and stop thinking.
Misery Is A Vicious Cycle
As I look at the world around me, I do not see a unified nation. I see a nation of lost souls. Everyone appears so tired. So worn out. So unhappy. I see a nation of angry 99-percenters jealous of “The 1%.” We work so hard, we have so little time to ourselves and we have so little money to show for it.
OK, that explanation is far more grim than actual reality. Most people in my life are relatively happy. However, they yearn for something more. I believe the secret to life is flexibility, and most people are simply not flexible. Between their rigorously routine careers and the demands of their families, the lack of free time they have for themselves does not allow the proliferation of passion. And a life without passion is not a fulfilling life.
At the tender and relatively inexperienced age of 29, the greatest tool I have in my arsenal is time. I have spent a lot of my time trying to isolate the mistakes most people make that create unhappiness and believe the Eight Steps listed above to be the major culprits for the average person’s struggle for freedom and independence (and ultimately fulfillment). My main goal in life is to drop the “Struggling” adjective from “The Struggling Millennial” and I think avoiding those Eight Steps is key to living a happy and fulfilling life.
Breaking The Cycle
I have done well at avoiding Step One and Step Two. I went to college for Electrical Engineering because engineering fields had the greatest opportunity for employment post-graduation. I calculated college costs and chose a school I could afford. I graduated on time and paid off my loans within three years.
My primary source of income by far is Step Three. At this stage in my life, this is difficult to avoid. Almost all of us will at some point find ourselves working for someone else. However, I have begun to set up ways to avoid Step Four. While I certainly cannot live off of my passive income by any means, I have begun developing multiple additional revenue streams not related to my 9-to-5 career that generate income whether or not I get out of bed in the morning (passive income). I hope that in a decade or two, they will exceed my career income (active income where I sell my time for a pre-determined rate).
Step Five and Step Six are of crucial importance. I try to invest 25% or more of my post-tax income. And while I live comfortably enough for myself, I live below my means. The funny thing about creature comforts are once you add them, they are difficult to remove. You become accustomed to luxury. There is a stark difference between being cheap and being frugal. I recommend every up-and-coming person to practice frugality.
Step Seven may be the hardest thing on Earth for us to do. I believe the Holy Grail of financial independence is finding a way to successfully monetize your passion. I am fortunate that I have a career I enjoy most days and can tolerate almost all days, but this is only the beginning. The true path has eluded me as of yet, but I will not rest until I find it. I believe this is the step that virtually everyone fails at throughout their lives.
Step Eight may be the biggest obstacle in the way of people finding their Step Seven. I truly believe spending our nights in front of the TV (or computer, or tablet, or mobile phone, or video game console, etc) is a plague on happiness and prosperity. The amount of time that people spend every single night of their lives staring at useless television programming is staggering. That time could be spent chasing dreams. With that extra time, you can start your own cottage industry business. Start a blog. Write a novel. Film a documentary. Write a cook book. Design, print and sell T-shirts. Start a charitable organization. The sky is the limit. You could be monetizing something you truly love – maybe even something you forgot you truly love – taking the pressure off of or completely eliminating your 9-to-5 “grind.”
Maybe money isn’t the motivating factor at all. Maybe it’s the sense of pride, community or companionship. Maybe it is helping your fellow man. The amount of time you can donate to noble causes to give your life more meaning, more value, instead of wasting away developing a couch-shaped curve in your spine – could be life-changing to both you and so many others.
The next time you think you don’t have enough free time to cultivate and/or monetize one of your passions, ask yourself how much time you spend watching TV, playing computer games or aimlessly browsing the web.
Lessons From Success Stories
My journey has begun and I am making progress, but I still have a long way to go, and I hope my lessons learned can help others struggling with their own personal journeys as well.
For those who are success stories – to the folks reading this who have found success monetizing their passion and now ultimately work for themselves, enjoying the flexibility of being their own boss and controlling their own destiny – how did you do it? What is YOUR secret to success, happiness and fulfillment? I would love to hear personal stories in the comments section.
To everyone else – don’t give up. You are not alone. The road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. If it were easy, everyone would do it!All information found herein, including any ideas, opinions, views, predictions, commentaries, forecasts, suggestions or stock picks, expressed or implied, are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only and should not be construed as personal investment advice. I am not a licensed investment adviser.