I was fortunate in being born into a family that believed in education. But we were not rich … far from it. We were 10 people living in a small, $12,000 house. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I wore hand-me-down clothes … drank powdered (instead of real) milk … and played in the municipal supply yard across the street rather than in the recreation center that required a paid membership.
Since my allowance (24 cents a week at age 8) would not pay for my fantasies, I worked for money — cutting lawns, delivering papers, cleaning kitchens — anything I could get. The moment I turned 16, I was at the car wash wiping down windows. In terms of material things, I began my life as poor as anyone I know.
But I was given two benefits that helped me greatly:
1. I was taught to believe in education — that it made you a better, more capable, and ultimately more worthwhile person.
2. I was taught that the world (and everyone in it) owed me nothing and that I should therefore expect nothing.
These two beliefs left me with but one path to wealth: hard work. So, I woke up at the crack of dawn and worked odd hours, doing jobs that other people wouldn’t do and taking crap from arrogant bosses and rude customers. I never made any really big money during the first 30 years of my life. I did, however, accomplish a great deal and was always financially comfortable because … because I worked hard.
That’s why when I hear people tell me they are suffering financially, I have to wonder just how hard they are working. What about you? If you’re unemployed, are you putting in 60 to 80 hours per week trying to find a good job? If you are working, are you devoting an extra 20 or 30 hours a week to developing a second stream of income? Are you devoting your early mornings to goal setting and getting yourself organized? Are you reading ETR and following its advice? Unless you are working hard — really hard — at making your situation better, you have no right to complain about your situation.
So, that’s the first thing I can tell you: If you are poorer than you want to be, work harder than you are currently working. Work harder to make more money and then learn to work smarter to make much more money. If you want some specific ideas on working smarter, you’ll find several hundred of them in ETR’s index (www.earlytorise.com). The second thing I can tell you is this: If you are willing to work hard and learn how to work smart, you’ll make amazingly fast progress.
However slowly things may seem to move at first, there will soon come a time when you will begin to start moving quickly in the right direction. After that, as the weeks and months pass, money will come faster and more easily. About a year or so after I went into business with JSN, my first partner, a bunch of things started falling apart. All our marketing projects were failing, and new ideas weren’t working. Our creditors were screaming.
One day, I figured out that I was in debt (my share of our business debt) to the tune of something like $800,000. I wanted to give up … crawl into a hole … shoot myself. But JSN wouldn’t let me. He’d been through hard times himself. The gloomier I’d get, the more cheerful he’d be. He pushed me to keep working, keep coming up with new ideas, and work harder on reselling our existing companies. We called our creditors and told them we could pay them off over time — take it or leave it. It was a miserable time. I was afraid I’d be in debtor’s prison — or the modern equivalent of it — for the rest of my life.
Then, one day, all the hard work and persistence paid off. A mail-order product I created started selling well. In a matter of weeks, the debt I had accumulated was cut in half. A month later, I was in the black! In the meantime, I kept inventing new products and writing new promotions. One by one, they started clicking. All the fruitless efforts I’d made in the past, all the early morning planning, all the extra reading, and all the late-night brainstorming sessions with my partner started paying off. Our ideas were working. In less than a year after my darkest hour, I was a millionaire.
Although I’ve had plenty of challenges and setbacks since then, my financial situation overall has gotten better and better. I’m now in a position where I don’t have to worry about money. That’s a position you can be in too. If you are poor and in debt, don’t sit around waiting for something miraculous to happen to you. Starting today (not tomorrow), spend 10 or 12 hours earning an income. Then spend another several hours learning how to build wealth. Spend less than you are spending now. Work harder. Jump at every chance to get a better job and earn more money. And get rid of that burden of debt — day by day. Before you know it, you’ll be debt-free and feeling good.
And when that happens, you’ll have developed the habit of working hard and will have the advantage of all sorts of contacts, resources, ideas, and knowledge you don’t have now. The money you will make then will be made easier than the money you make now. And things will continue like that, getting easier and easier. Before you know it, you’ll be successful in the eyes of the people who know you and even by your own high standards.
If the weight of past mistakes and/or bad luck is pressing against you … if you feel as if you are pushing a boulder up a hill … if the strength of your body is gone, all the energy in your blood is depleted, and your feet are slipping on the ground … don’t despair. You need only to throw a shoulder into that boulder and push back against it. Push back hard. And just keep pushing. Eventually, it will give way. Eventually, you will move it up to the top of the hill and then send it down again, rushing forward, in the right direction. Only hard work can reverse the direction of your life. I know, because I’ve been there.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]