• How to Win in Life, Work, and Happiness

    by  • October 29, 2011 • Job and Career, Seven on Saturdays • 2 Comments

    #7. Bam! The Small Economies of Pleasure nails what frugality really is, how spendthrifts perceive frugality, and why the perception of frugality as suffering and deprivation is inaccurate. If you’re looking to improve your financial health and think a healthy dose of frugality is both necessary and scary, read this post.

    #6. Making little bets is a strategy which helps me bring about change. Ramit Sethi, from I Will Teach You To Be Rich shared How To Use Little Tests for Big Career Wins this week. It’s a great spin on this basic concept.

    Change is scary for many people. And even people that crave change can fail to effectively produce it without a plan and a proven method. Proving, or testing an idea is where good ideas develop into great ideas. Going from generating an idea to testing is a big jump, because you run the risk of finding out that what you thought was your eureka moment, really wasn’t. With testing your idea might prove to be not so great after all.

    There’s a lot more to say on this, but it’ll have to wait for another post. For now, read Ramit’s article.

    #5. It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do if you can’t influence others. Flexo agrees, and so does Warren Buffet. Boost Your Human Capital: Public Speaking covers the heart of it in relation to being professionally successful by saying basically that who others think you are is equally, if not more powerful that who you actually are. This might sound superficial. But it’s really not. Suffice it to say that it’s basically the “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” adage. To be a successful person in life and in work be a great person, and share yourself with the world.

    #4. Hard work. People talk about it, but what does it really mean? How hard is hard enough? And what about working smarter, not harder? Sometimes working harder than everyone else just means that you’re not doing something right. In my experience, it always seems to pay off in the end. But it’s a double edged sword. If you spend all your time working, then what are you working for? What’s the reward? My college rowing coach once told me that “A life nobly lived is forever chasing the shade tree under which you will never rest.” This week The Simple Dollar has two great articles on the subject of hard work. The Secret Ingredient to Financial and Career Success and The Changing Value of Hard Work are definitely worth a read.

    #3. Many people agree that a strong education is an essential ingredient in the recipe for success in work and life. Successful people learn some lessons in school, and others in the school of hard knocks. Personal finance is a topic that should be taught in school. Honestly, if our home and schools are yielding hard working, well-educated people, that’s a great thing. But if those people don’t possess the skills to finance all the wonderful things they’re capable of, they’re going to be unhappy people, and they probably won’t be able to accomplish all of the wonderful things they are otherwise capable of due to lack of funding.

    DigeratiLife shares a very well-written article this week titled Should a Personal Finance Be Offered in High School. A strong personal finance curriculum in schools has as much, if not more potential for positive social transformation as any other. I strongly urge you to join in the discussion.

    #2. What you learn in school is helpful, but not sufficient to produce a professionally successful individual. In order to successfully apply everything you learned in school you need, well, to learn how to apply everything you learned in school. In med school the mantra is “See one. Do one. Teach one.” The book learning is an assumed pre-requisite. The first step in the sequence basically amounts to mentorship. Connecting the dots, we have a process that amounts to this:

    1. Learn everything you can.
    2. See how others apply that same knowledge.
    3. Develop your ability to successfully apply the knowledge.
    4. Teach others to do the same.

    A recent post from SavingAdvice.com titled Emulate Someone Who Earns Less Than You: Strange Ways to Save Money. I think looks in the wrong direction, and I want to share a few thoughts on it.

    First, it’s not about how much you make. It’s about how much you spend in relation to what you make. The guy who spent $1.3 million on a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 might seem like a bad role model because who really needs a car that can go 253 miles an hour (but only for 12 minutes until it runs out of gas). But if he’s worth 100 million dollars and paid for the car in cash, then he’s been pretty reasonable on balance. He’s still got $98.7 million in the bank. And then there’s Warren Buffet who still lives in the house he bought in 1958 for $31,500. It takes all kinds.

    On the other hand, the guy who earns half of what you do, and has devised all sorts of inconvenient, yet clever workarounds for all of the challenges introduced by being broke I would consider a right awful mentor. Sure he or she has all sorts of little tricks to share. But if you’re having trouble making ends meet, or haven’t saved, are living paycheck to paycheck, or consider yourself flat broke, then what you need isn’t a handful of tricks to allow you to eek out a couple dollars here and there. What you need is a complete plan for changing your financial situation. This includes lifestyle changes, like eating lentils and tuna fish more than you’re accustomed to, buying in bulk, brown-bagging lunches or getting comfortable stitching your own clothes. But it can also include lifestyle changes like downsizing your living space, or moving to a neighborhood where housing is cheaper, or sending your kids to public school instead of private.

    The point is that lifestyle changes are tactics which are useless without a comprehensive strategy with clearly defined objectives, milestones, incentives and motivation mechanisms, consequences, etc.

    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

    Second, the formula  that allows one person to achieves balance between enjoying the moment and saving for the future isn’t likely to work for most others. Everyone has a different set of priorities, needs, fears and wants. So while one family might consider spending 20% of their income on vacation an indulgence, another family might consider it a top priority. The bottom line is that you can’t adopt other people’s priorities.

    I think the biggest reason why people struggle with money is that they try to do what everyone else does instead of deciding what’s important to them and then building a plan to achieve it. There’s no single person out there with all the answers. And even if there was, and they could instantaneously impart all of their knowledge upon you, you still would have questions and would fail to achieve your goals until you made it your top priority to achieve your goals and devised (and proved through testing) a plan that works.

    The only path to success, financial or otherwise is the one you create which exists solely to achieve what’s most important to you. And clearly, charity toward others can be your top priority. I’m not saying that you should simply hoard success for yourself.

    #1. A Big List of Things to Be Happy About. Because really, what could be better?

    Photo credit


    I had an unhealthy relationship with money until my early 30's. I write about how I developed a healthy relationship with money. I share ideas about personal finance that have helped me to break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and achieve greater financial freedom.

    2 Responses to How to Win in Life, Work, and Happiness

    1. November 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      Mr. Frugal: I strongly agree with your points in item #2:

      1. Learn everything you can.
      2. See how others apply that same knowledge.
      3. Develop your ability to successfully apply the knowledge.
      4. Teach others to do the same.

      Life is about adaptability. The ongoing pursuit of knowledge throughout our lives provides an equalizer. With a strong mind and an even stronger work ethic, we can excel in ventures we may have failed at, previously. Teaching others to mimic these actions is just good Karma. ;)

      You said : “I think the biggest reason why people struggle with money is that they try to do what everyone else does instead of deciding what’s important to them and then building a plan to achieve it.” This comment is solid gold! Consumerism may beat the root of our overspending, or prolonged ignorance concerning the should-do’s vs. the should-haves, but once we take the time to define what is most important in our lives, we no longer allow consumerism to define who we really are – and we are able to move forward.

      Thanks for a great thought-provoking article!

      • Mr Frugal
        November 3, 2011 at 9:11 pm

        Thanks Lisa. I’m glad you like the article. What I described, shifting from waiting for “the answer” to really thinking through what is important to me, what I want to achieve in life and then working through plans to achieve them, is what got me turned around. After that experience, I was in control.

        I look forward to reading more great posts over at Thriftability. You’ve written some super articles over there. Keep it up!

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