I warn you, it is not easy (nothing worthwhile ever is), but given our current global economic mess and the continued reduction in our standard of living, it is now more important than ever for you to take charge of your own financial future!
And the great news is that it is possible for you to achieve financial independence and to do it in a relatively short period of time! But it’s not without work…remember, kung fu refers to “any skill achieved through hard work and practice…” (But I’m pretty sure we can make it fun, too).
So let’s get started…it’s time to earn your Kung Fu Finance White Belt:
Level 1 – White Belt: Vision and Commitment
The very first step on your journey to financial independence is to define what exactly financial independence means to YOU.
Before you write this off as just “crazy new-age woo-woo” stuff, consider this from Bruce Lee:
“Probably, people will say I’m too conscious of success. Well, I am not. Success comes to those who become success-conscious. If you don’t aim at an object, how the heck on earth do you think you can get it?” — Bruce Lee, Striking Thoughts
It is important to create your vision of financial independence at the very outset, so that like Bruce you can “aim at it” and then attain it! If you don’t know where you are going, I can assure you that you will never get there.
It’s not enough to sit around and “hope” you will vaguely “have more money” somehow, someday (believe me, I’ve tried this and it’s one thing that doesn’t work!). You need to spend some time deciding exactly what you want your life to “look like” when you’ve achieved financial independence.
Then, once you know where you are going, I (and others in our community) can help you get there.
Defining Your Vision
Here are some questions to help you get started creating your vision, and tomorrow I will share my own personal vision with you. So grab your favorite beverage and a pen and write down the answers to these questions:
And remember to have fun with it! One more quote from Bruce tells us,
“Enjoy yourself–Remember my friend to enjoy your planning as well as your accomplishment, for life is too short for negative energy.”
Wise words from a wise man.
1. What excites you?
It is important to distinguish between mere “happiness” or “contentment” and true, honest excitement. Most people when creating a vision for their life or their business tend to focus on what will make them “happy”. (If this works for you then by all means, go for it, but personally I have found that “happy” is just not motivating enough for me.)
“Excitement” motivates me to act whereas “happiness” and “contentment” are just…nice.
You want to focus on what truly excites you- what will cause you to spring out of bed in the morning completely excited about the day ahead?
2. What does an exciting financially independent future look and feel like to you? What will you be doing during the day? During the evenings?
3. Where will you live? In the US or another country? If in the US, which state? City or country? Can you describe your ideal home/apartment/living space?
4. Whom will you hang out with? People are so important to our happiness! Whom do you want to spend your time with and why will they want to spend time with YOU?
5. What will you eat (and drink if you are a wino like me)? Are you a “foodie”? Will you grow your own organic vegetables and entertain your friends? Or do you hate to cook and want to eat out all of the time instead? Or is “food” just not that important to you and not even a factor to consider?
6. What type of activities will you engage in? Will you travel? Golf? Swim? Read? Paint? Ski? Surf?
7. What will you do to create value for other people? (Assuming you don’t want to simply waste away in quiet misery doing nothing for no one for the rest of your life…) Do you want to work at all? Volunteer? Write a book? Write a song? Create something of some sort for others?
Many financial gurus will try to sell you on the idea of a “retirement paradise” where you “never have to work at all, ever” (and if you are reading this while currently buried at a 60-80 hour per week job I am sure that sounds fantastic to you right now!)
But I have to break it to you….Most people, after taking a much-needed break from their hectic “pre-financially independent” life, really do want to “be useful” and create value for other people (and of course feel valued in return!).
This can take on many forms, and can be for money or just for the sheer pleasure derived from helping other people. Two extreme examples that I can think of are Warren Buffett, who continues to run Berkshire Hathaway in his eighties although he certainly doesn’t need the money, and my mother-in-law, who creates special paintings and poems for our entire family just because she loves to make us smile. Both are doing something they love, one is compensated financially and one isn’t, and both are creating lots of value for other people.
Why is this vision important to you?
As you are fleshing out your vision, you also need to ask yourself why this is important to you. Why does financial independence matter to you? Why is your vision so important to your future that you are willing to change what you are doing now to achieve it?
We all know the definition of insanity (doing the same things over and over and expecting different results), and in order to become financially independent you will need to do some things differently and get out of your comfort zone.
So ask yourself why achieving your vision will be “worth it” to you…Do you work 80 hours per week and dream of spending more time with your family? Do you lose 2-3 hours per day commuting? Are you worried that Social Security won’t be “enough” for you (or worse, that it won’t even exist!) by the time you retire?
All of these reasons “why” will help you get through the necessary rough patches and succeed.
What will happen if you do nothing?
Finally, you have to make the risk of sticking with your current status quo and doing nothing more painful than the risk of going after your vision.
Capture your fears, and then set up your environment and your mind so that there is no other option for you except success.
You must want to achieve your vision in your heart of hearts, and you must understand what’s at stake if you don’t try. Otherwise, when the inevitable difficulties and roadblocks arise (and believe me, they will, that is just the way life works!), you will do the worst possible thing: quit.
And that is the only way you can fail…by quitting.
But instead, if when the going gets tough, you can hold your vision in front of you and remember why it is so important to you, you will persevere and win.
Which brings us to the final test for your white belt…
Final White Belt Test: Are You Ready to COMMIT?
This is where the rubber meets the road. By now, you should have a crystal clear vision of where you want to go, a deep understanding of why it is so important to you, and knowledge of what is at stake for you if you instead choose to do nothing and stick with your status quo.
Are you ready to commit to your financial independence?
Then congratulations grasshopper! You have just earned your Kung Fu Finance White Belt![Ed. Note. Susan Fujii won the I Dare You leadership award back in high school and though the monetary award was tiny, the impact on her life has been huge. To this day she recommends William H. Danforth’s book, “I Dare You!”. You can learn more about Susan and receive her personal finance wisdom for free atwww.KungFuFinance.com]