Why Opportunities Are like Poker Chips

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Opportunities are like poker chips.

You never know you’re going to get another one. And when you can cash one out for something really big.

When we started writing, we had no idea that writing would lead to this blog, and this blog would lead to a Hollywood actress reading it, which in turn would lead to Penguin publishing deal.

We also had no idea that through Chautauqua, we’d meet Alan and Katie, who we are now talking to about making a FIRE boardgame together. And I know we’re going to do it too, because when you hang out with Chautauquans, you feel like can do anything! Their energy is so contagious; you can’t help but want to build cool shit with them.

When Katie and Alan, attended a few years ago, they had no idea they’d end up running the future Chautauquas AND hosting yearly Popup Business school talks at Mr. Money Mustache’s headquarters in Colorado where they teach people how to start businesses with little to no cash put down. According to Alan, the Chautauquas “completely changed his life”!

Carl “Mr. 1500” had no idea that when he attended a few years ago he would end up hatching a business with another attendee—a business that’s launching next month.

And Jim “The Godfather” Collins had no idea when he spoke last year in Ecuador that one of the attendees, who works for Google, would invite him to do a talk. That talk would lead to his daughter, Jessica, finally becoming curious about what he does and want to know what this whole FI thing is about, which by the way is the entire reason Jim started his blog in the first place.

People say most of success has to do with luck. As if you’re supposed to just sit there, do nothing, and wait for luck to happen. I don’t buy that crap. I believe in creating your own luck. And no, I don’t believe it’s only about hard work.

Hard work can only get you so far. Hard work without opportunity and without strategy is wasted effort. To me, luck looks a lot like opportunity. But working hard in a bubble alone will not help you get those opportunities. You need to get out there, and start picking up those poker chips. Then keep trading those chips for bigger and better things. The more chips you have, the more chances you have to trade them up for something even cooler.

To an outsider this looks a lot like luck. But in reality, it’s strategy + grit + surrounding yourself with the right people. The one thing you can’t control is what opportunities will come and how many. The only thing you can be sure of is that the more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities you get. Busting your butt inside of a bubble won’t get you any chips.

So for those of you struggling to get somewhere with your side hustle, passion projects, or on your path to FI, remember you don’t have to do this alone.

Starting up a side hustle is hard. Working on your passion projects is hard. Running the FI marathon is also hard.

But you don’t have to do it alone.

Find a business partner, a peer, an FI running partner to motivate you. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to do something hard, for years and years on end, when someone is holding you accountable, and when someone is giving you that much needed pep-talk. Especially when the tough parts inevitably come and all you want to do is throw up your hands and quit.

You don’t have to come to Chautauqua, but you do need to find your community. Don’t do it alone. The poker chips aren’t going to drop into your lap if you stay home. Get out there and find those opportunities—just like Katie & Alan, Carl, and JLCollins did. And then cash out those chips for bigger and better things.

As Alan said, it might just “change your life”

Incidentally, here’s the latest episode of ChooseFI, featuring JLCollins, Carl from 1500, Alan and Katie, and us. It’s hard to get us all in the same podcast, but I’m glad we did, cause I think it turned out great!

And if you want to hear the JLCollins Google Talk, you can watch it here:

And finally, we are now 70% sold out! So if you want to come to Chautauqua, do it before the slots are all gone!

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41 thoughts on “Why Opportunities Are like Poker Chips”

  1. Totally agree with you. If you write in isolation, the mighty Amazon algorithms may work for you–but more likely, you’ll be lost in the mightier swarm of “no one cares. Not even your mom.”

    If you constantly surround yourself with cool, smart, hard-working people, you’re much more likely to succeed. Plus it’s a lot more fun.

    Greece, huh? I’d like to go to Greece. And you are my financial idols. So it’s possible. But in the meantime, I signed up for Camp Money Mustache Toronto this September. Pretty sure I’m going to love them, too.

    1. Would love to see you in Greece (it’s seriously one of our favourite countries we visited in Europe. We loved it as much as Switzerland, if you can believe it).

      People underestimate how much you can achieve when surrounded by the right people. Like that “Grit” book I was talking about. Be surrounded by gritty people, and you WILL succeed.

      Enjoy CMMT!

        1. Yup. It goes the other way too. As Lorne Michaels says “if you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

          1. Love this quote.

            Some people love to be the smartest in the room.

            For me, I want to be the dumbest (lol). And surround myself with people who know more than me so that I can learn and grow.

            If you get to comfy when you’re the smartest in the room, you end up staying in that room for a long time!

  2. I once had a mentor tell me “Make your own opportunities”, but she failed to tell me the *second* part of creating opportunities is all about building social connections. Opportunities don’t happen without social connections.

    For more introverted people like myself, it has definitely been a challenge! But with a little practice and a lot of “putting yourself out there” even hopeless introverts like myself can find opportunities!

    1. agreed, my spouse and I are both extreme introverts and it is really hard for us to get out there and make those connections. At least the internet and social media can make things easier now to get your work out there without pounding the pavement the old fashioned way.

      1. I feel the same way, Liz. What I found is that when we were writing, we met a lot of our CPs (Critique Partners) online. But the relationship became much stronger after we met them in person (at various writing conferences). It’s out to get out there, but you can use social media as a stepping stone, and then build those connections up even stronger at conferences, meet ups, Chautauquas, etc.

    2. I used to be introverted too. I hated talking to people as a kid. But that’s something that you can grow into a skill as well. It won’t turn you into an extroverted, but at least you can learn to put yourself out there and talk to people. It’s not easy but gets easier with time and experience.

  3. “Strategy + grit + surrounding yourself with the right people” – Well said. Love it. It’s so important to connect with other people that you admire and that are working through the similar challenges.

    Just over a year ago I connected in with the “London on FIRE” group (that would be London, Ontario…). The Facebook group and monthly meetups are quite active. It’s such an encouraging environment, it even has a few people from all over the world participating in the discussions and people driving for over 2 hours to come to the meetups. And yes, Millennial-Revolution is a commonly shared blog in the group. (Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with running the group – I just really like it! I hope it’s ok to mention it here, because it fits in so nicely with your topic.)

    Regardless of wherever we all are (physically and metaphorically), I wholeheartedly agree in the power of working together, and of the opportunities that it can present. Keep up the encouragement, you guys 🙂

    1. Wow, I had no idea there was a London, Ontario FIRE group! I only knew about the one in London, England. Very cool! So glad you find your peeps!

      1. Ha, I’m in a secret FIRE group for my small city…stealth FIRE people. I bet there are lots of groups like that since openly talking about it isn’t always rewarding!

  4. I think the “working hard in a bubble” issue is a tough one to solve. It’s where I’ve been since I started my own blog, and while it’s grown tremendously beyond what I or anyone else thought I was capable of (9,000 page views in 2015 vs 41,000 in 2017), it’s still one of those blogs that exist secretly in the dark corner of the Internet where nobody looks. Simply writing blog posts and even doing guest posts hasn’t allowed it to hit that “success threshold” yet.

    The “success threshold” at this point is when Commission Junction doesn’t claw back my affiliate income every month due to lack of sales.

    I think you are spot on with your advice to find a partner, mentor, or someone to hold your feet to the fire. When you go it alone, you find yourself veering off course without even realizing it. Maybe you come home and you’re too tired to write, or maybe a task seems too daunting and you decide to drop it in favor of something else. But sometimes you just need someone to answer to, so to speak, to keep yourself working towards a specific goal. I have a companion project to my blog that I might consider having someone hold me to.

    Awesome post! Good luck with your book deal!

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    1. Thanks, ARB! Feel free to join us at Chautauqua if you have the time and the means! We will definitely “hold your feet to the FIRE” (ha ha, bad pun).

      Anyhoo…wish you lots of luck in the blog! Your writing is great and I hope you continue to post! 🙂 And getting to 41K views is an awesome accomplishment! *pats you on back*

  5. Wow the picture of the guy I mind pictured for JLCollins was totally different. It’s nice to finally have a face to tie to the name

    1. He’s even better in person 🙂 Like a very wise Pope who will support and guide you through all your investing fears. Come to Chautauqua and you’ll see what I mean!

  6. Unfortunately my spouse has been working hard in a bubble his whole life and it has been really hard for me to even get him to let me put his work out there online because he doesn’t want people to steal his artwork. He has piles of completed artwork that no one has seen but friends, family and coworkers. People are always blown away by his skills saying things like “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this!” a lot of the time they even want to take a picture of it and he won’t let them just in case they put it online.

    1. Wow, impressive! Well, if he’s doing art just for himself, that’s totally understandable. And I can see the fear of something else taking your work (as writers, we worry about copyright as well). Is there anyway, he can copyright his artwork to alleviate his fears? Maybe a way to spin it would be he’s depriving the world of his awesome talent?

      1. Well as I songwriter I have looked into copyrighting my own work and it was really frustrating. They charge you $50 per piece and that is basically just to have the name of the piece and the date you copyrighted it on file, they don’t even keep a copy of the work so it seemed like a pretty stupid way of proving you made the work first when they don’t even keep a copy of it on file. As a songwriter you can then also pay this separate song writer’s association to keep a copy of your song on file with an official date stamp on it but I don’t know what artists would do. $50 is a pretty steep price to pay for each piece of artwork that gets posted on social media though, especially with the way that algorithms work where you need to post so much stuff just to be seen.

        What he was mostly concerned about was people stealing the art or ideas for his original characters for his art project so lately I’ve had him working on artwork centered around public domain characters like mythological creatures so he can have things to show off his skills without anyone stealing his ideas and without infringing on anyone else’s copyright. He certainly doesn’t want to be one of those artists who gets famous from plagiarizing Disney and Nintendo characters.

  7. Any FIRE group here in Edmonton or Alberta that any body knows? Would love to connect with same people thinking a like.

  8. I agree and need to get after this for Chicago. For those readers who emailed me before (last fall), please don’t give up on me – I’ll email everyone this week and try to set something up. If anyone else is interested and in the Chicago area, drop me a line @ sea@seandersonlaw.com and I’ll add you to the list.

  9. We were just talking about how great it is that you guys and so many other FIRE walkers have had such fantastic opportunities open up mainly from being a part of this ridiculously awesome crowd. And just listening to the podcast this morning made me wish we were going to Chautauqua again this year. What a grand time it was!

    1. Chautauqua truly is magically. Hard to describe in words unless you’ve been to one, but glad you know exactly what I’m talking about 🙂 And yes, the opportunities that come out of it are astounding!

  10. Agree! Thanks for setting up such an informative and inspiring blog. Congratulations on all of your success! Totally agree – getting out there increases the odds of luck!

    As a fellow introvert and Canadian, the internet allows the building of connections and social networks in a way that levels the field for those who are not extroverts. Though introverts will never be confused with extroverts, those who have passion and mission will go out of their comfort zone (i.e. it is a learned skill) to connect with others and spread the word. President Obama, for example, is an introvert!

    1. Did not know Obama is an introvert! Shocking! Goes to show that you can learn anything. The more you get out of your comfort zone, the better you will be at interacting with others. I know, because I used to be painfully introverted as a child. Learning how to talk to people and connecting with was hard for me but so worth it!

      1. “painfully introverted as a child”. Me too. Going to medical school and having the training on how to talk and engage with patients is a more expensive option to fix that tendency (and not recommended unless one really wants to be a doctor!).

        1. LOL. Getting a med degree to become less introverted by engaging with patients. 😛 Can you imagine me as a doctor? “Just stop bleeding already! Yeesh! You’re so needy.” Worst. Doctor. Ever.

          Very cool that you’re able to do it! That’s the best kind of doctor. Engineering doesn’t help in terms of getting you to be more social. Writing and blogging did though.

          1. I’m sure you would have been a great doctor if you wanted to. Your humor, compassion, caring and empathy via your writing and blogging come through. Critical traits to have for any great doctor.

            Helping people get healthy or back to health as a doctor is similar to all you do by helping people get healthy financially!

            “With good health, you can acquire more money. With money, however, you cannot always acquire good health.”

            Keep up the amazing work! Looking forward to continued learning (and your new book)!

  11. This post came at a good time for me.

    I subscribe to a similar belief that I frame a little differently:

    It only takes one.

    It only takes one publisher to see potential in your future book for you to become a published author.

    It only takes one job offer to launch you toward your dreams.

    It is not necessary to succeed at everything, to constantly win, to have offers pouring in left and right.

    What matters is seeing each great opportunity as a launching point to the next great destination.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Well said, Elle! That’s the saying I heard when we were first trying to get published. “It only takes one”. It’s so true. Great insight!

  12. Thanks for the timely post!

    I’m now in a financial position to be able to only work part time so I can pursue other projects. At work, I get a lot of comments like ‘oh, you’re so lucky’ or ‘not everyone is as lucky as you to be able to afford it’ etc. And it pisses me off! Like, I just sat on my bum and found myself in this lucky situation. It was only with strategic planning and hard work that allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities presented. And I’m continuously working and planning so to take advantage of the next opportunity.

    My old boss said that luck favours the prepared. I guess it’s another way to say that you make your own luck!

    Also, recognising an opportunity is crucial too. Some people can have an opportunity smack them in the face and still not see it.

    1. “Some people can have an opportunity smack them in the face and still not see it.”

      So true. And then they blame you for being “lucky”. Yeah, I get those comments all the time. Sure, if they considering growing up with stomach worms and digging around in medical waste heaps lucky, I be happy to trade my childhood with them. But hey, on the plus side, the people who attribute everything you do to luck never get anything done. More room for us to excel! YAY! Yes, whiny people, please complain more so we can get ahead of you.

      Kudos for being able to work part time and purse other projects! Clearly you are an asset to the company. Well done!

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