I am writing from sunny Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where I am attending a legal conference. While sitting on the white sand soaking up the sun today, I was thinking about some of the things that inspired me to move from broke (and almost bankrupt) to the double comma club.
And I’m not talking about the standard big picture motivations like freedom, getting out of the rat race, spending more time with family, and achieving financial independence. No, I’m talking about the personal (and in some cases odd) inspirations that I found in literature and popular movies that motivated me as I started down the path of financial independence.
[Cue Eye of the Tiger music … kidding]
Obviously, this post is a major departure from my typical instructional article. That’s okay. It’s Friday and I’m on the beach.
Before I list some of my personal inspirations, let me remind of you of where I was in life when I decided to turn things around. I had about $200,000 in unsecured consumer debt in addition to a typical starter-home mortgage. I was in really bad shape and I needed to find the restart button.
Without further ado, here are a few of my top financial independence inspirations:
1. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
I have to be honest – I’m not a big fan of motivational books, but this one is a must-read. It tells the story of a young man who wanted to become wealthy and obtain access to the top-secret scrolls that would make him the “greatest salesman in the world.” I could not put this book down and re-read parts of it all the time. Here are a few excerpts that I have thought about almost daily for the past 12 years:
Today I begin a new life.
Today I shed my old skin, which hath, too long, suffered the bruises of failure and the wounds of mediocrity.
The career I have chosen is laden with opportunity yet it is fraught with heartbreak and despair and the bodies of those who have failed, were they piled one atop another, would cast its shadow down upon all the pyramids of the earth.
Yet I will not fail, as the others, for in my hands I now hold the charts, which will guide me through perilous waters to shores, which only yesterday seemed but a dream.
In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the differences of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure. Thus, the first law I will obey, which precedeth all others is – I will form good habits and become their slave.
As a child I was slave to my impulses; now I am slave to my habits, as are all grown men. I have surrendered my free will to the years of accumulated habits and the past deeds of my life have already marked out a path, which threatens to imprison my future. My actions are ruled by appetite, passion, prejudice, greed, love, fear, environment, habit, and the worst of these tyrants is habit. Therefore, if I must be a slave to habit let me be a slave to good habits. My bad habits must be destroyed and new furrows prepared for good seed.
I will persist until I succeed.
I was not delivered unto this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep with the sheep. I will hear not those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious. Let them join the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny.
Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult.
Henceforth, I will consider each day’s effort as but one blow of my blade against a mighty oak. The first blow may cause not a tremor in the wood, nor the second, nor the third. Each blow, of itself, may be trifling, and seem of no consequence. Yet from childish swipes the oak will eventually tumble. So it will be with my efforts of today.
I will never consider defeat and I will remove from my vocabulary such words and phrases as quit, cannot, unable, impossible, out of the question, improbable, failure, unworkable, hopeless, and retreat; for they are the words of fools. I will avoid despair but if this disease of the mind should infect me then I will work on in despair. I will toil and I will endure. I will ignore the obstacles at my feet and keep mine eyes on the goals above my head, for I know that where dry desert ends, green grass grows.
So long as there is breath in me, that long will I persist. For now I know one of the greatest principles of success; if I persist long enough I will win.
I will act now
My dreams are worthless, my plans are dust, my goals are impossible.
All are of no value unless they are followed by action.
Never has there been a map, however carefully executed to detail and scale, which carried its owner over even one inch of ground. Never has there been a parchment of law, however fair, which prevented one crime. Never has there been a scroll, even such as the one I hold, which earned so much as a penny or produced a single word of acclamation. Action, alone, is the tinder which ignites the map, the parchment, this scroll, my dreams, my plans, my goals, into a living force. Action is the food and drink which will nourish my success.
My procrastination which has held me back was born of fear and now I recognize this secret mined from the depths of courageous hearts. Now I know that to conquer fear I must always act without hesitation and the flutters in my heart will vanish. Now I know that action reduces the lion of terror to an ant of equanimity.
I will act now.
I will not avoid the tasks of today and charge them to tomorrow for I know that tomorrow never comes. Let me act now even though my actions may not bring happiness or success for it is better to act and fail than not to act and flounder.
I will act now. I will act now. I will act now. Henceforth, I will repeat these words again and again and again, each hour, each day, every day, until the words become as much a habit as my breathing and the actions which follow become as instinctive as the blinking of my eyelids. With these words I can condition my mind to perform every act necessary for my success. With these words I can condition my mind to meet every challenge which the failure avoids.
Only action determines my value in the market place and to multiply my value I will multiply my actions. I will walk where the failure fears to walk. I will work when the failure seeks rest. I will talk when the failure remains silent. I will call on ten who can buy my goods while the failure makes grand plans to call on one. I will say it is done before the failure says it is too late.
For now is all I have. Tomorrow is the day reserved for the labor of the lazy. I am not lazy. Tomorrow is the day when the evil become good. I am not evil. Tomorrow is the day when the weak become strong. I am not weak. Tomorrow is the day when the failure will succeed. I am not a failure.
I will act now.
Success will not wait. If I delay she will become betrothed to another and lost to me forever. This is the time. This is the place. I am the man.
I will act now.
2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?…Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath. I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour.…[People are] always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent.…
It is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself.…
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.…
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
…When a man is warmed by the several modes which I have described, what does he want next? Surely not more warmth of the same kind, as more and richer food, larger and more splendid houses, finer and more abundant clothing, more numerous, incessant, and hotter fires, and the like. When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced.
…[A]nd the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.…
And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.…While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings. And if the civilized man’s pursuits are no worthier than the savage’s, if he is employed the greater part of his life in obtaining gross necessaries and comforts merely, why should he have a better dwelling than the former?…
Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less? Shall the respectable citizen thus gravely teach, by precept and example, the necessity of the young man’s providing a certain number of superfluous glow-shoes, and umbrellas, and empty guest chambers for empty guests, before he dies?
…This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once.
3. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
That’s right. I just followed Walden with Fight Club. Quite a departure. From the serious to the frivolous some might say. But if you look past the parking lot fights and the mass destruction and drill down into the dialogue you might be surprised to see that this work is replete with Walden-like themes. Here are a few lines that inspired me:
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
This is your life and its ending one moment at a time.
.You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f*$%ing khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.
Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think every thing you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping…. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.
You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
I see in the fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. [A]n entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh$% we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. and we’re very very pissed off.
4. The Matrix
My last one is a bit odd because I found inspiration in one image in this epic sci-fi film. And here it is:
For those of you who have not watched this film, pictured above is the main character, Neo, who has been told throughout the film that he is “The One” — a powerful leader who had the ability to save mankind from its condition of slavery in a virtual world. However, Neo just doesn’t believe it. He fails at every turn as he tries to determine whether he really is “The One”. In the above-captioned scene, after getting beat up by life throughout the movie, Neo finally has a moment of truth where he realizes he is the powerful person others believed him to be. It is in that moment that he raises his hand confidently and stops the speeding bullets that are screaming toward him.
For some reason, this scene has always stayed with me. I was completely beat up by life when I started on the path to financial independence. I was broke, in debt, divorced, and stressed out. When I decided to take control of my financial life, I pictured myself raising my hand up just like Neo and saying “No” to debt, wasteful spending, failing to save for my future, and generally losing the game of life.
Ok, now that I’ve shared a few of my millionaire inspirations I’d love to hear about yours! I look forward to your comments.
Have a good weekend everyone!