The Path Less Traveled

Here is a picture of a statue.  A stone statue.  How many times have we heard it is not written in stone and we can change.   Perhaps that is what is missing from some people’s lives.  The fact they do not have permanent plans or beliefs.  Indeed they may not even bother to write them down as that is too much commitment and would prevent them from being conveniently distracted by the next big thing.   The statue also depicts a couple embracing and is there anything more ironic when divorces are so high and domestic violence just as common, that a relationship would be so solid and perfect it could be proclaimed in carved stone.

Decades before my working life where I attended all manner of business and personal development conferences and courses, I was a white sheep in my family and school.  Preferring to paraphrase philosophers and Nobel prize winners, covering my room with Nobel ideals and personal messages to myself.  Enough to make an NLP coach blush and it was only 1985.  Years before any of the modern gurus and mentors, whose books, videos and events flooded bookstores, email in boxes and hotel ballrooms.

So today I find myself of Robert Kiyosaki’s Facebook page of all places and cannot fathom how people would even follow the business advice of someone declared bankrupt.   Regardless, he lists a fairly accurate flow chart of how people tend to have been guided by their families, society and media for the last century, so here it is:

#1 – Go to school.

#2 – Get a job.

#3 – Work hard.

#4 – Pay your taxes.

#5 – Save your money.

#6 – Get out of debt.

#7 – Invest for the long term.

#8 – Retire.

At that point I stopped reading.   I mean I scrolled down a little bit and he wrote about how the world has changed and how could anyone be expected to be rich if following the above eight steps.   You have to ask yourself why is it really so hard for people to decide on a new path and stick to it.   Or do you?  People always say I was lucky to find my dream career, although it was anything but lucky.  I was either too short, too late, too far away, too young, too poor, too uneducated, although I was also too persistent, too creative and too good at being what I wanted to be.   I wasn’t interested in business and being rich back then, I just wanted to be doing the work.  Let’s stop right there as this is not about me.   It might even be about you.

For now let’s just stick with Mr. Kiyosaki’s list of eight steps we are all pretty much pushed through and I will show you how I quite unwittingly turned this list on its head when I was 10 years old and with a good dose of self purpose kept on a steady course until adulthood when I found myself working in a company at my dream career.   Step 1, let’s put the list in reverse and analyse what as a primary school student would have made me a laughing stock should I had announced my intentions to a bunch of barefoot island public school boys.

Step 1.  Retire.

Retire from the crowd mentality first and foremost.  Make whatever you are doing in the sandbox your purpose in life.   As kids we wake on Saturday morning the earliest and head out without breakfast to start our projects and put our dreams into practice.  With no regard for anyone we feverishly build, scheme and collaborate, convinced we will be doing that when we are older and die having become the best at it.  We don’t care what it looks like, we don’t shower until after dark, possibly the next day;-)  Retire from peer pressure, compulsory consumerism, all the things that didn’t concern you when you were a kid.      Retire from other people’s opinions, media hype and government idiocy.

Step 2.  Invest for the long term.

Ensure everything you bother learning and some of what is forced upon you, can be used in the long term.   The biggest investment you will make will be your long term life education.   Every time you are hurt, disappointed, bored, in the wrong place.  Every class you don’t want to take or book you don’t want to read.   Make it work for you on your terms.  Build it into your Saturday morning project and think of it as being the square pegged feature you need to fit into your round holed tree house.  By the time I reached high school, selecting subjects for my next year was a breeze as a course either qualified me for my dream career, or more commonly just barely related to one tiny aspect of the industry I was seeking.   Regardless, in the long term, tolerating a less than par situation was a smart investment.

Step 3.  Get out of debt.

Your first debt will be to your parents and family for all they do for you.   You will always be in their debt.   Banks and others  who lend will do nothing for you except tie you down harder than you have ever been grounded.   Do not get into debt.   If you find yourself taking on debt, take a look at the five people you spend the most time with and reassess how important it is to be spending time and money with them.   Do not buy what you cannot afford.   Remember you have already retired from peer pressure and forced consumerism.   If that fails, remember as a child you sometimes had to wait til December 25 or your next birthday to get what you wanted.

Step 4.  Save your money.

This will keep you out of debt and delay impulse purchases.   Keep your lunch money.   Seriously, most of your family will think you do anyway.   Frame it even.   The most important step in saving money was taught by my best friend who imparted this advice with his delightfully German software developer accent.   “Keep your feet still”   Try it.  Don’t go out to eat.  Don’t go out.   Sit at your desk, table or station and do not move your feet.   It will probably stop you procrastinating too and lead you to the standard euphoria of discovering how motivating saving a penny can be.

5. Pay your taxes.

What taxes?   You are not even working.   You are only saving.   OK.   OK.   Taxes are inevitable, such as road, land and sales taxes.   But we are doing the reverse of what other people do, so there are technically no taxes for non-income earners.   Remember you are only tinkering in your backyard or motherboard of your computer and building the best thing in the world for solving the most common problem in the universe.  (No taxes there either, well not at least until 2040 when Americans colonize Mars).  If there is a tax you are supposed to pay, then pay it.   Let me tell you a couple of stories from the Land of the Free.   They jailed Al Capone, a wanted criminal for not paying taxes.   Donald Trump was elected despite minimizing a great number of otherwise imminent taxes.  But that does not always sit well with voters.  Your own Mother would probably tell you she would be rich too if she did not have to pay taxes.   The best thing to do is avoid paying more than you need to.   Let’s leave at that before it becomes a book.

Step 6.  Work hard.

Or should you just work smart?   These are not mutually exclusive for a start.  Who said working smart isn’t hard?  Similarly, is working hard dumb?  Only really if you are working hard on the wrong thing.   If you are doing anything you love you are highly likely to be working hard and smartly.   Regardless, harden up on your planning skills and work hard at leveraging your education, savings and physical passion for your purpose in life.

Step 7.  Get a job.

Anybody can get a job.   Not everyone can work on their dreams.   So you have accumulated knowledge through your education, accumulated some wealth through your savings and minimized taxes and possibly debts.   Congratulations as you are very employable.   Do you need a job?   Really?   Look at the way the world is right now.   There are not that many jobs, because salaries have risen higher than even big corporations can pay.  In fact, most corporations and private investors are looking to swallow up small amazing companies already established by a small effective team koolaid-passionate about serving their global niche market.    So if the five people you spend the most time with are not collaborating with you on the next best thing, you can hope those five people at least know you are the best person anyone in your chosen industry could want working for them.   The job will come to you.   Not immediately.   Not if you spend all your time with the same people and keep doing the same things that aren’t working.

Step 8.  Go to school.

Go to school and teach.   Help students to follow their dreams and to practice making the best of every situation and lesson life throws at them.   Do it for free.   Volunteer, tutor, counsel, mentor and be a role model students might not find at home.   Remember the days when a teacher would pepper a lesson with their personal travel experiences.  Remember apprenticeships and children taking over the family business.   Remember when one family business could employ and feed a village.  Then they would erect a stone statue to honor the honorable.

While a senior year book is not written in stone, it is as good as permanent given how many of my 1988 classmates keep posting its photos on Facebook.   Here now is my own entry from that time and it summarizes most of what I have written above:

“THERE ARE THOSE WHO KNOW,

AND THERE ARE THOSE WHO DO.

BUT THOSE TO BE,

KNOW TO DO AND DO TO KNOW”.

If you are not a school student and instead you are unemployed , between jobs, stuck in a position you hate, or simply wanting to get a new idea of the ground.   Try to approach your situation the reverse of traditional career paths and more like a grade schooler or primary schooler who only has free time on weekends and after school.  Right now my three children are on summer school vacation so I am surrounded by noise and it seems like there are seven Saturday’s a week for six weeks.   No matter when you are determined to work on your legacy, you will wake up earlier, work later.   I cannot begin to tell you how many times I had to move around the house yesterday to type this in peace.

Let’s say you just lost your job and decided you wanted a career change, but like most people you are either paralysed by choice or limited by job vacancies.

Retire. Invest for the long term.  Get out of debt.  Save your money. Pay your taxes.  Work hard.  Get a job.  Then go to school.

It is not as crazy as it sounds because most people do not have the money to eat and go back to full time study to get a diploma or degree in their new found industry.    They also can’t see how to save money and get out of debt at the same time.  Normally because they are trying to maintain the lifestyle they are accustomed to.   If you are serious about becoming a new player in a different industry, it is best to retire from that old lifestyle as quickly as possible.

If you lack capital or savings that is normal.   Invest time.   Learn, read, teach, help and practice for the long term.

Retiring from your old lifestyle and all its costs will help you get out of debt if you happen to be in that situation.  It will also help you to save money.   Do not become a hermit or pariah.    You are taking a road less traveled so do not expect to be surrounded by people.

You will be saving money and working hard on planning and executing as well as experimenting, so taxes should not be a big issue.

If a new job does not appear, expand your network with the view one day your will be teaching at a school one day and in teaching others you will again discover what you want to know and that will again show you want to be and have to do.

Zig Ziglar said it more susinctly.   “BE, DO, HAVE”.   In that order and so simply true it should be written in stone.   Don’t wait until you HAVE everything you need to start.   Start when you have nothing.    Decide what you want to BE, make everything you DO a long term investment in BEING that.   In no time at all, you will HAVE what you want and need.

That is the lesson we will teach our children.  That is why we let them play dress up and be what they want to BE, regardless of what we have and don’t have.   They work out how to do it themselves.   You will too.   If not, we will help you.

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