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“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
The other day a reporter from CNBC contacted me asking whether I’d like to have my article syndicated on international news.
Long story short, I am now an internationally syndicated author.
Let’s back up for a second. When we first started this blog back in May, I never thought we’d get this far. I never thought we’d be picked up by BNN, CBC, Yahoo Finance, and Business Insider. I never thought we’d grow to 650,000 total page views and 150,000 views per month in less than 6 months. This means we’re expected to grow to 1 Million views in 2.3 months, tracking to Mr. Money Mustache’s progress of 1 Million views in his first 9 months. From an outsider’s point of view, it might’ve looked like we’re either geniuses or really lucky.
But let me just set the record straight:
Luck or genius-ness has NOTHING to do with success.
Back in 2013, we were crawling through the writing trenches, and wallowing in misery after 75 rejections and 2 failed novels. There seemed to be no end to our crushing failures. Even though we’d been writing for 5 years, we hadn’t been paid a dime and we had little hope we would accomplish our dreams.
We didn’t know it at the time, but we were actually just 1 week away from landing a publishing offer. That offer would lead to 4 literary agent offers, which would lead to an offer from the biggest children’s publisher in the world—Scholastic.
But we were so discouraged from all the rejections, we were ready to give up.
Like most people, we naively believed success looked like this:
This is why most people quit way too early. They are expecting to see immediate returns for their hard work. When it doesn’t happen, they tell themselves “what’s the point? I’m not cut out for this. I should be doing something else.” Then they give up and move on to the next shiny thing.
That could’ve been us. We were that close to giving up.
We didn’t realize, at the time, that success actually looks like this:
In the beginning, you have to put in a metric shit-ton (yes, exactly one METRIC SHIT-TON) of hard work with little or no reward. You have to do this consistently for a LONG time. I’ll admit, this part is PAINFUL. And feels like it goes on forever. But from experience, I can tell you that it doesn’t. When that part finally ends, you will hit “the curve of glory”. And at this point, your reward grows exponentially with little effort.
And this happens on the path to financial independence too. In the beginning, when you’re building your portfolio, it’s small so you’re not really seeing massive returns yet. You get discouraged and wonder whether you’ll ever get there. But over time, as your salary grows, your budgeting skills improve, and your investment compounds, your portfolio grows exponentially and then one day you wake up and you realize you never have to worry about bills every again.
The reason why most people never get to this point, is because they stop way too early. They’re not feeling immediate gratification.
Like my friend, Andy, for example. A serial entrepreneur who bootstraps tech startups as often as Donald Trump spews garbage out of his mouth.
Every time Andy tries to start another business, he runs out of money and has to go back to work. And after trying and failing for 10 years, he still has nothing to show for it.
What Andy doesn’t realize is that every time he quits, he loses ALL his gains and has to start over from scratch. Each time he starts a new business, he’s unknowingly throwing away all the progress he made from the previous one.
I know what you’re thinking. “oh c’mon. You can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again, when you don’t even know if you’re moving towards the goal. How do you know if you’re on the right track?”
And that is a fair point. BUT…constantly giving up and starting new things won’t get you anywhere. What will get you to your goal is MASTERY.
What do I mean by “MASTERY”? Let me give you an example. There were at least 3 times in my life that I had to master something.
First, coding. Second, writing. And most recently, financial independence.
When I learned how to code, I had to master 3 skills:
1) Architecture – What pieces should I build that will later fit together to solve the problem?
2) Implementation – How do I actually build each piece?
3) Debugging – How do I figure out what’s wrong when something doesn’t work right?
When I tried to master all 3 at the same time, I failed miserably. Trying to learn all of them at the same time was like trying to climb mount Everest wearing rollerblades. So instead, I mastered one skill at a time. It was PAINFUL and sometimes it felt like I wasn’t making any progress, but just like that graph predicted, one day I could suddenly do all 3. It took more than five years, but I did end up succeeding and finding a job.
When I learned how to write fiction, same thing. I had to master:
1) Plot – Does my story even make sense?
2) Pacing – How do I keep the reader turning the page?
3) Voice/Characterization – How do I make the characters sound unique?
This took another five years. For the first novel, I had the pacing right, but the characters were flat and the plot was a mess. The second novel had a stronger character, but the plot was still a mess. Finally, I sat down, plotted out the entire story, gave it to brutally honest writers to tear the whole thing apart, and re-wrote the entire plot. And guess what? It worked! By the time I finished the 3rd novel, the one Scholastic published, I had all 3 right.
And finally, Financial Independence. In order to become Canada’s youngest retiree, I had to master:
1) Earning – How do I make enough money?
2) Budgeting – How do I control our costs so all the money I make isn’t lost?
3) Investing – How do I turn that money into a perpetual firehose that never runs out?
In order to push our salaries higher, I worked as much overtime as I could, shoving everything into our tax-sheltered accounts.
In order to master budgeting, I sat down, created detailed spreadsheets and tracked the ever loving crap out of EVERYTHING. I also minimized vacation costs by travel hacking and food costs by cooking.
Each of these skills by themselves do not push you closer to the “curve of glory”. But combined, they turn into a rocket ship, propelling you up the curve and compounding your returns.
Had we not crawled through the writing trenches of HELL for five long years, this blog would never had gotten this far in less than 6 months.
So on your path to Financial Independence, remember, if you’re not getting immediate gratification for your hard work, don’t freak out and quit. Once you master these 3 key skills: Earning, Budgeting, and Investing, you will have built a rocket ship, giving you the freedom to never have to worry about bills again.
As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”. I never knew the truth of those words until I experienced it myself.
As it turns out, MASTERY is the key, and only when you’ve actually mastered something can you look back and say “so THAT’s what all the hard work was for. WORTH IT!”