Society does a great job of telling us what is “normal” and what is “weird”. As social creatures, human beings tend to seek approval from others. We spend an awful lot of time trying to win the approval of people around us. Our desire to be accepted by others never ceases to exist.
Right from childhood, our minds are conditioned to spot for approval signs. It could be a simple smile from your mother or a word of appreciation from your teacher for an assignment you completed; all of these shape our identity. Over the years our behavior gets tuned in ways that maximize our chances of getting an “approval” from others. We get good at “following” the crowd. We learn to play it “safe”.
Are You An Outlier?
We all have examples of what success looks like in our lives. It could be a rich uncle who runs a successful business or a cousin who plays for a prestigious sports club. Depending on what you identify yourself with, you tend to idolize one or the other.
Most of us often work backward. We look at what worked out for others and we try to deconstruct how they got there. We try to reverse engineer their success and retrofit the steps to our own plans. All along, we are looking for a proven recipe for success. We don’t want to take risks.
If you are one of them, you are not an outlier! If it’s any consolation, I am not an outlier too. Heck a vast majority of us are not outliers. There’s a reason they are a minority; otherwise, they would be just “normal”.
Most of us are not designed to be outliers. You can attribute that to our survival instincts or our averseness to risk or an urge to fit in. In any case, it takes a conscious effort to become an outlier.
Is Your Life On Autopilot?
When you are deep in the trenches it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. You often don’t recognize how you slipped from childhood to teenage and finally into adulthood. You might be swamped by student loans, mortgage, and a crappy job. You might have already started a family or might be dating someone. All of this makes you wonder if you were jaywalking through all of this. I don’t blame you for any of this since that’s what happens to a vast majority of us. Your life might be running on autopilot.
Have you ever paused for a moment to think about where you are in your life and how on earth did you get there? Did you question why you chose to graduate from a certain college? Why did you join a certain company? Why did you choose a certain career?
Swamped by the burden of day to day problems, you might be missing the woods for the trees.
Discovering Your Why
If your life has been on autopilot till now, it might be a good idea to switch to manual mode. Take this opportunity to pause for a moment and build the blueprint of your FI journey. This can be one of the most rewarding tasks you’ll ever complete.
Here’s a list of questions to answer before you pursue your FI journey.
- What does success mean to you?
- What do you want to do for a living?
- What are your financial goals in life?
- What makes you happy in life? Is your FI journey going to take you there?
Few words of caution
There are lots of ways to reach a goal. This applies to financial independence too. Although it can be a very fulfilling journey, I would like to caution you of a few pitfalls.
1. Don’t follow the FI crowd blindly
Don’t do the mistake of blindly following the crowd. A lot of people get fascinated with FI and confuse it with some sort of magic pill that will fix all the problems in their life.
2. There is more than one way to skin the cat
There are many ways to achieve financial independence. You can start your own business or invest in rental real estate or invest in the stock market. No matter which path you choose to achieve the goal, make sure it is aligned with your personality. What works for others might not necessarily work for you. There is no single path to success. Choose what works for you and discard what doesn’t apply.
3. Know what it takes to succeed
Don’t underestimate the sacrifices it takes to reach FI. When you look at people who have already achieved FI, you tend to focus on the results and not the effort that went with it. Before you seek success recipes from others to apply in your own life, don’t forget to confirm if they are aligned with your “why”. If the path you choose doesn’t play well with your personal belief system, you’ll have a lot of conflicts down the road.
4. Measure twice cut once
Your FI journey can last anywhere from a couple of years to a decade. When pursuing a long-term goal, it’s a good idea to come up with meaningful milestones to know if you are on track. Make sure you spot check frequently to confirm you are still on track. Before you pull the cord on your day job, make sure your numbers are right. It’s very important to err on the side of caution. Always have margin built into the plan to
Financial independence gives you the freedom to pursue a life of your dreams. It is not a panacea for all of your life’s problems.