Financial Independence Is A Byproduct Of Mindset is a series in which I provide a detailed explanation of what I would tell someone if they asked me “Zach, how do I achieve financial independence?” Throughout this series I make the point that obtaining financial independence is simply a byproduct of having the right mindset. Once you have the necessary mindset, financial independence occurs naturally.
In part 1 I covered the first step someone must take if they hope to achieve FI some day: develop a personal philosophy. In part 2 I covered the second necessary step:
Gain an understanding of human psychology. Now in part 3 I’ll cover the next step: cultivate an unwavering work ethic.
Imagine your life is a boat. The ability to develop a personal philosophy and gain an understanding of human psychology will form the rudder of the boat, steering you in the right direction. But you’re still missing the engine that powers the boat: work ethic. This is what gives you the ability to actually move towards the place you want to go.
A Singular Focus
There is a huge difference between having a purpose and actually putting in the work required to make your purpose come to fruition.
Most people don’t take the time to truly discover what their purpose is. But even among the people who do, there is an even smaller subset who actually use their purpose to create something meaningful to give to the world. Two of the biggest reasons for this are: people attempt to do too many things at once and they spend too much time on things that just don’t matter. In the world we live in there are more distractions, notifications, updates, and alerts that beg for our attention constantly throughout the day than ever before in human history. It can be challenging to filter out the noise.
In order to do important work you must learn to say no to everything that doesn’t matter. You must realize that not everything that begs for your time and attention is actually worthy of your time and attention. It’s impossible to do meaningful work if your time and energy are spread across many different tiny, unimportant tasks.
A fantastic book that illustrates this point is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. One of my favorite images from the book and one that I even printed out to hang at my desk is the following:
By giving attention to every little thing that might come your way on a daily basis you are effectively spreading your energy out into several different directions and accomplishing nothing meaningful. By contrast, when you learn to say no to everything that doesn’t matter it allows you to place all your energy and effort towards work that truly does matter. It allows you to focus your energy on one worthy cause as opposed to a huge variety of insignificant causes.
Failing to say no to the tiny, annoying, bothersome things in life that constantly beckon for our attention only leads to one outcome: less time to do meaningful work.
So my first and most important piece of advice to anyone looking to cultivate an unwavering work ethic is this: Say no to everything that doesn’t matter so you can say yes to what truly does matter.
Stop Talking, Start Doing
Once you cut out everything in life that isn’t important to you, you’ll find that you’re left with a significant amount of time to do meaningful work that fulfills your purpose. But here comes the hardest part of all:
You must do the work.
Talking about the work doesn’t count. Tweeting about the work doesn’t count. Making announcements about the big project you’re embarking on doesn’t count. All that counts is the actual work. This is another massive reason people never fulfill their purpose, never create meaningful work, and never finish what they start. They love to talk, talk, talk, but they abhor the do, do, do.
Nothing great was ever created from talking, only from doing. One of my favorite books I have personally read which emphasizes this idea is Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, in which he points out:
“The only relationship between ‘talk’ and ‘work’ is that one kills the other.”
The more time we spend talking about pursuing our goals, invariably the less time we spend actually doing the work necessary to achieve these goals. So my next piece of advice is this: Don’t talk about being a hard worker. Just be a hard worker.
So now we know that we must make time to do important work and that we must actually do the important work as opposed to talking about it. The next step is perhaps easier said than done:
We must do the important work A LOT.
In order to do important work on a regular basis we must use the powerful tool of habits. The word habit is defined as:
“a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”
My favorite quote regarding habits is from the Greek philosopher Aristotle:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
The most effective way to develop an unwavering work ethic is to make hard work a habit. It’s very difficult to work hard only half the time. It’s much easier to work hard all the time because then it becomes habitual. The more you do something, the more natural it begins to feel. This is true for both positive and negative habits.
One of the most insightful books on the power of habits is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. My favorite illustration from the book shows that doing simple disciplines consistently over time are ultimately what create success in the long run:
This brings us to my next piece of advice regarding work ethic: Implement daily habits that will push you closer to your end goals. This will be hard at first but easier as time goes on.
Screw Talent, Be Gritty
Lastly, once you make the decision to do important work on a regular basis it’s crucial that you focus on small gains instead of grandiose victories. It’s easy to look at great athletes, speakers, artists, and leaders and think they made a magical leap from ordinary to extraordinary over night. It’s also tempting to think that talent alone helped these people get to where they are. But this is not the case. No great accomplishment was ever achieved overnight and without a ridiculous amount of hard work on a regular basis.
Arguably the most eye-opening discovery regarding success is that grit (i.e. perseverance, resilience, determination) is far more crucial than talent when it comes to being successful. Talent may get you started off on the right foot but grit is ultimately what will turn your aspirations into results.
The research behind this truth can be found in the book Grit by Angela Duckworth. She explains how grit has the capability to take you farther in life than talent alone ever could. The most successful people aren’t necessarily the most talented, they are simply the most gritty. They press on when others would quit. They are resilient in the face of defeat and refuse to attach failure to their identity.
One of my favorite quotes regarding work ethic comes from actor Will Smith:
“Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed through hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft …
I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.”
My last offering of advice is this: Don’t focus on talent. Focus on grit. Be resilient in the face of failure.
Once you have an unwavering work ethic, you have the ability to bring your purpose to fruition and create meaningful work that is guided by your purpose. Whether you are a freelancer, an artist, a part-time entrepreneur, or full-time employee for a company, the result of a strong work ethic is simply better work. When you produce better work there is an increased demand for your work, which leads to increased financial gain. This increase will push you closer towards financial independence and ultimately freedom in life.
Read Part 4 here.
Feature photo credit: boxing gloves
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