When I was a senior in high school, I became obsessed with weightlifting. I would go to the gym every day after school with a group of friends and often lift for two hours or more.
We were teenage boys, so naturally we were competitive. We were in a constant battle to out-lift each other and put on more muscle than one another. To get an edge, I would look up YouTube videos posted by fitness gurus and professional bodybuilders. I would try to find the hidden secrets that allowed these fitness buffs to put on so much muscle.
But the more videos I watched, the more I began to notice a trend: each fitness guru was essentially doing the same types of lifts – the only subtle differences being the order in which they did them. I began to realize there was no hidden secret to their fitness success. There were simply five or six different types of movements that composed the art of weightlifting. And anyone who could master these movements was capable of building muscle.
But this realization almost seemed too good to be true. If there really were only a few different types of movements one must master to put on muscle, why weren’t there more bodybuilders out there? I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer to this question.
Over time, I began to notice a similar trend in other areas outside of weightlifting – there were always a few simple truths one had to understand to become a master in any field.
I read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing and discovered he only had two pieces of advice to aspiring writers: read a lot and write a lot.
I listened to interviews of Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His advice to young players was straightforward: if you want to be good, shoot hoops in your driveway every day before school.
I listened to Jerry Seinfeld’s advice for up and coming comedians: write jokes every single day. That’s it. The majority of them will be bad, but keep writing.
Then one day it clicked: none of these incredibly successful people were offering groundbreaking, earth-shattering techniques to become a master of a craft. Rather, they were preaching a different message: do the simple things, but do them over and over. The real secret to success lies in the amount of time one commits to doing an activity.
Stephen King wrote every single day for years on end. Kobe Bryant spent hours in the gym shooting every day for most of his life. Jerry Seinfeld wrote joke after joke for decades. These individuals weren’t incredible because of what they did each day; these individuals were incredible because of how long and how consistently they practiced their craft.
Learn to Love Boring
In no field is this idea of consistency more relevant than in finance: to truly become rich, there are only a few simple truths one must understand. Specifically:
Pay down debt.
Spend less than you earn.
Invest the difference.
And yet again, many people are aware of these truths, but very few people are actually rich. Part of the problem is the boring nature of this advice. That’s it? The secret to getting rich is to save less than you earn for many years? That’s so mundane.
Most people would rather be told they need to find the next Amazon stock. Most people would rather look for shortcuts – anything more exciting with a quicker short-term pay off than spending less than you earn and diligently investing. Most people would rather become a day-trader. This is far more exhilarating than being a diligent saver.
And while most people are out looking for shortcuts, the people who are truly becoming rich over time are the ones who do the boring things really well for many years – the diligent savers and investors. The folks who save over 50% of their income and throw it in boring index funds. These people are becoming rich. They know that the road to wealth doesn’t need to be overly complicated or glamorous – in fact, attempting to make the road complicated and glamorous is a great way to avoid becoming rich.
Consistency is King
The other part of the problem lies in the fact that people typically don’t have long enough time horizons. No matter how hard you work, how much you read, how much you grow your social network, acquiring one million dollars in two years is an extremely difficult goal to achieve. It’s a fun goal to set, but not achievable for most people. But one million dollars in ten years? That’s far more realistic.
The problem is, most people don’t like the idea of waiting ten years. They want to see immediate success. They want to see the benefits of their labor instantaneously. Unfortunately, this prevents most people from becoming rich. The inability to visualize our own lives in ten years prevents us from taking the necessary action now to create the dream life for ourselves in ten years.
Stretching out one’s time horizon for a goal is one of the best ways to drastically increase the chances of achieving that goal. As the famous maxim goes: we overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. The truth is, to acquire wealth you must be a consistent saver and investor for many years. Wealth won’t show up at your doorstep overnight begging to come in.
So do what is simple. Pay down debt. Spend less than you earn. Invest the difference. Rinse and repeat for several years. By doing this, you will likely reach financial independence sooner than you think. It’s not a glamorous strategy, but it works.
Consistency, consistency, consistency. That’s all you need.
Feature photo credit: colosseum
I strongly suggest using free financial tools like Personal Capital to track your net worth, spending habits, and cash flow to help keep an eye on your money. The more you track your finances, the better you get at growing your wealth!
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