For the past three years I’ve been a little, shall we say, “focused” on money. That is, making it, spending it, investing it, turning it into more of it. In my pursuit of money I’ve learned a few things, the most important of which is the fact that chasing money only leads to disappointment. The path to success is to make the money come to you. Now, what I’m about to talk about won’t apply to everyone. In fact I suppose it would be most helpful to those with a similar background and/or attitude my own. Backgrounds cannot be changed but attitudes can. So if you’ve got one but not the other, read on. If you lack both, you may not like what I have to say. So before we talk about how to make money chase you, let me briefly explain where I’m coming from.
How my attitude toward money changed (for the better)
I grew up in a Midwestern middle class family. I lived in the suburbs of Chicago for the vast majority of my life. My parents were what you’d call professionals but they always felt more like working class people to me. I have young parents. My mother is still a Sales Assistant for a brokerage firm (I don’t know exactly what that is but she worked at Bear Stearns until it went under and now Margan Stanley). My father is still a pilot and has worked for several major airlines. You’d think we were rich with parents like that but we weren’t.
I was always a smart kid. I scored above average on all the standardized tests, got good grades, was in Advanced Placement classes, and got into a good college. I was that guy you looked at around the age of 17 and could just see the path to success all laid out. You know, the idealized dream of high school students and parents everywhere; graduate high school, get into a good college, get a well paying job, then start a family and live happily ever after. But that wasn’t how it played out for me. I started college at a pretty prestigious school in Chicago on a track to become a doctor. But then I realized that while I could have become a doctor my heart wasn’t in it. And once that idea burrowed into my mind everything else fell apart. I became depressed, got addicted do drugs, left college temporarily, and more or less lost about five years of my life. In fact, there are large swaths of those five years that I just cannot remember. Sometimes, when trying to recall things from that time it feels as if I went to sleep and woke up five years later because I simple draw a blank. It truly is scary but I managed to turn it around.
After getting my act together I was far behind my peers both emotionally (my maturity was stunted) and career-wise. Everyone else was finishing college and getting great jobs and I was flipping burgers. I did this for two years and each day I died a little inside knowing that I had such potential but was instead living at home, making minimum wage, working long hours, and being treated like worthless crap. Toward the end of the second year I decided I’d had enough. I abruptly quit and started a web development company. I was even poorer than I was before but I was happy and in control of my life. It wasn’t long before I stopped chasing money and had it start following me. That’s where I came from. And here’s how it works…
Making money chase you
A mistake I see people make often is chasing money. Living in the states, we’re brought up being taught the American Dream. The myth that if you just work hard and are persistent you’ll make it in this life. However there are a couple problems with the American Dream. First of all, it’s easy to get behind the ideas of working hard and being persistent. Those are excellent qualities to have. So what can be wrong with them? Well they leave people thinking that the only way to succeed is by working more and that more work equals more success. But that just isn’t the case. You see it every day. People who work for fifty years, getting closer to retirement, having worked harder and harder all their lives to make it to where they were but still falling short of where they wanted to be. The problem is that this part of the American Dream promotes the idea that there is only one acceptable path to success. It sets the rules so that one must work for someone else, do what they’re told, keep your head down, and take on more work. But that mentality will keep you on the treadmill forever. The second problem with the American Dream is that our definition of success has changed. These days people believe they are entitled to be millionaires and famous. In a way, it’s like the American Dream is to become a Kardashian or a Hilton or one of those Jersey Shore degenerates.
Another problem I often see is that folks are afraid to spend money. They have this idea that hoarding money and not spending any of it will somehow allow them to become rich one day. But that never happens. Let’s suppose you make a $1,000 a month (just so we can work with even numbers here). You have $500 in bills and $500 is for you to play with. Let’s say you’re real conservative and only spend $100 out of your play money and save the rest. So you’re now saving $400 a month. Well that certainly does all add up but it doesn’t take real life into account. One day, ten months later, your $400 has turned into $4,000 and as you’re on the way to the bank to count your precious money your car breaks down. It’s the transmission. And guess what? It’s gonig to cost your entire savings to fix it.
What if, on the other hand, after saving up just $600 you spent it on a class. Dale Carnegie offers classes for that much and from what I understand people benefit greatly from them. Or what if you invested it (smartly) in the market or bought bonds? These are kind of cheesy examples but what I’m getting at is that saving money is a ridiculous way to make money. It’s slow, it’s tedious, and not many people have the discipline to stick to a budget. A better idea would be to invest it into something that will make you more money in the future. I would rather blow my savings on some technical training that will help me double my pay rather than letting that money rot in the bank. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think saving is incredibly important and I always put aside a chunk of money to be used later either for investing or for emergencies. That said, one way to make money chase you is by spending it. Don’t be afraid to spend it. Take the long view. It’s short sighted not to make an investment because of what you lose today. What you gain tomorrow may be far more valuable.
Let’s talk about jobs now. People have this idea in their head that in order to do anything they have to join up with a company that’s already doing it. That’s total bullshit. Before I got my current job I started my own company. I had no experience in business but I was able to provide both a product and a service. That experience was what landed me what I have now. And despite having a full time job, I don’t see it in the way other people do. To me, it isn’t a life sentence. It’s not my identity. It doesn’t control what I can do or how much success I can have in life. To me, my full time job is like a side project. I give it my all but I’m also very cognisant of the fact that there is nothing stopping me from doing anything else in the world. This mentality frees me from some of the neurosis you see in employees of large companies. I’m not afraid to second guess a superior’s decision when I think they’re making a bad call. I’m not afraid to suggest an idea that I think would be good for the company. And I’m not afraid to create and execute on projects all on my own. In fact, often times I’ll start something and then show my department what I’ve been working on when it’s close to being finished and pitch them. I usually get a green light to move forward. This is basically an entrepreneurial attitude and having one will do you far more good even in a full time job than you think. Don’t be afraid of losing your job. If you’re passionate about what you do then it won’t matter who you work for or what you do. You’ll do a great job, give it your all, and excel. You’ll have a sense of freedom that is priceless.
I made money chase me by not worrying about money. I stopped thinking about the money itself and instead focused on creating value for myself and others. I realized that, as cliche as it sounds, you have to spend money to make money. Having an entrepreneurial attitude will free you to realize that you aren’t bound by anyone’s rules. All these rules are just made up and in a lot of cases aren’t even real. The only power they have over you is the power you give them.
So get out there and stop chasing money. Do it long enough and the money will chase you.