Self-Directed Living

Albert Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci on Achieving Mastery in Your Vocation

Total Reading Time: 3 minutes.
Total Watching Time: 6 minutes.

Understanding is a kind of ecstasy. 

– Carl Sagan

If you’re a bibliophile (i.e., certified book addict) like me, the euphoric rush and ecstasy that comes with new knowledge entering the mind isn’t foreign to you. This is what true learners live for — that ecstatic, unexplainable feeling of growth.
In this short video, I give you the framework that greats like Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci used to find their vocation and achieve mastery.

After working with millions of people and carefully studying the most fulfilled humans, Tony Robbins says that growth, along with contribution, is one of the most commonly ignored human needs. We know that all the universe is in a perpetual state of growth and expansion. The physics of our environment beckons us to grow, move, and stay active.
Those who do not grow are likely to fall into a zombified trance-state of depression. They become enslaved to a sort of hypnotic rhythm, as Napoleon Hill explains in Outwitting the Devil. If you don’t act, you become subject to your environment.
Now let’s assume you’ve watched the video above, read the book Mastery, and are ready to identify your vocation. Where do you begin?
You must start by identifying your confluence, which is a model I created to help entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs identify exactly where they should be spending their time. Getting in alignment with your personal interests and passions is the first step in finding this confluence and identifying your vocation.
Although this appears as a simple first step, it’s a very difficult one for many people. Every single day people write in to tell me how much they’re struggling with figuring out what it is they truly care about. We’ve become so disillusioned and disconnected from these basic truths about who we are.
As a child, it was so easy to answer these questions. But over time the disconnect has grown, and the frustration increases alongside it. You can sense it throughout even the most casual conversations. Frustrated people with uninspiring jobs, trading time for money, hoping to have have just a little time left over to enjoy the things they truly care about.
But what if we could have both? What if there was a way to align ourselves in a vocation of our choosing that was positioned to provide the maximum amount of fulfillment and success.
What if our work was so interesting, we were constantly in a state of flow? What if rather than worrying about how we could make the cover of Forbes, we found ways to truly contribute and make an impact in the world through the entrepreneur’s 12th step.
I’ve seen firsthand what this transformation looks like through my network of entrepreneur friends, and I’m now experiencing it for myself. Once you shift into your vocation and dedicate yourself to mastery, everything aligns and new doors open.
One of the best side effects is that you’re no longer worried about where you’re going next or how you’ll get there. You know exactly what your chief aim and purpose in life is, and you have a roadmap to get there.
You also know that it’s going to take time, and you’re okay with that.
Time is your friend, and it’s what will help you gain the experience you need to achieve everything you want in your chosen vocation. Robert Greene’s book Mastery is the definitive guide and resource for unlocking the genius within us. If you follow the concepts in the video and in this post, you’ll experience a shift unlike any other in your work and personal life.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, that perfectly describes what it means to live your vocation:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.
– L.P. Jacks (allegedly often misattributed to James A. Michener)

Be that master. Allow yourself to fall in love with your vocation to the point where the lines between work and play become blurred — here’s a great video by Alan Watts, another great master, on that concept.
Enjoy the journey…

Photo credit: MasterCC license

Premeditation: How Your Thoughts Create Your Future

Total Reading Time: 5 minutes.
You walk into a cafe ready to place your laptop down on the nearest table and get some work done. Sitting opposite you is a person around the same age.
From the way he has his laptop positioned on the table you can see there’s not enough space for your laptop too, so you start thinking about how he’s taking up too much space.
You know you need him to meet you halfway and share the space so you can also sit and place your laptop down. Yet, before you even request this of him you decide (casually) that he’s probably going to give you an attitude.
“Hey there, do you mind moving your laptop a little so I can put mine down too?” You ask in what you imagine to be a kind tone.
“Umm… (sighs heavily) I mean I can move it, like, a little. There’s not that much room.”
Just as you thought he’d react. What a jerk!
“Really? Okay…” Not only does this rile you up because it’s rude, but it also confirms your fleeting predictions.
Where did this prediction come from?
Why did this prediction even enter your mind?
What use or value does this prediction serve?
Furthermore, is it possible that our entire lives are premeditated by these thoughts?
 

Premeditation—what does it all mean?

Even the next 10 seconds of your life is premeditated by the thoughts you currently hold in your mind. In this example, which is something that happened to me personally, I felt I was in the right and the outcome served my premeditated thoughts.
In fact, I previously thought I could predict how people would behave before they even took action. What a ridiculous notion. The thoughts on your mind aren’t just predictions, they are creations.
Not only does this premeditation create my reality, but it’s really just a futile method of feeding my own ego. I realized all this in a moment of self-reflection later that night. With time, it also became very clear to me during my year of solitude.
I thought back to all the times I was kind toward others and held a positive belief in my mind. Every single time these people ended up being genuine, considerate, and memorable. How is this possible?
Every single time I’ve experienced a magic moment it’s because I consciously created it. It’s possible through the power of premeditation. This is simply a way of saying that the thoughts we hold in our mind create our immediate short-term and long-term reality.
Think back to all the magic moments you’ve experienced. Were they purely accidental? What if we could create more of these, as often as we liked? Most of the time you consciously create them because of your state and mindset.
You can choose to be the cause, not the effect.
 

Another example: the long-term effects of premeditation.

Justin is 17 years old. His parents have always been very sensitive about money. People in the world around them with money are not viewed with respect or awe, but with jealousy and anger.
Justin observes and internalizes this for years. He is conditioned to think and feel a very specific way about money. By the time he is an adult, his ideas on success, career, and finances are largely pre-determined.
He hasn’t found it necessary to make intentional use of his greatest tool (his mind) to create his own beliefs. Instead his mindset has already been conditioned by his environment. But this is not his fault, he just hasn’t been exposed to the right ideas and people yet.
Justin goes through his days believing he’ll lead a very simple, average life like his parents. He’s never been exposed to thoughts outside of poverty or barely getting by. Five years later, Justin is 22 years old and fresh out of college. He doesn’t have any idea in the world what he wants to do with his life.
He can barely answer the question, “what do you like to do for fun?” let alone what he’s passionate about. He submits himself to a mediocre job and a 9-to–5 life.
Justin never seeks to learn more, grow as a person, or even climb the ranks at his company. “It’s not worth it, after all, I’ll never get there anyway. Those positions are for people that have connections and can get hooked up, not someone like me.”
Justin continues the cycle of limiting beliefs. Ten years later, Justin is 27 years old and in the exact same place he started — except worse. Every day the thoughts in his mind obsessively circle around lack and worry.
The majority of the time he’s focused on just barely getting by. He’s never given himself permission to think outside of this scope, therefore a large percentage of the time is spent focusing on negative thoughts and fears.
He continues to encounter new situations, each worse than the last, all coming from a place of fear. Little does he realize that his thoughts and focus are what is continuously premeditating the sadness in his life.
 

How to become the captain of your ship.

Justin is just one example of a person premeditating each day of his or her existence. Every month, year, and decade of his or her life is determined by these simple thoughts.
Whether it’s 10 seconds from now or 10 years, we not only have the ability to shape our existence, but it’s our greatest responsibility. The present (a gift) must truly be treated as such, and it must be realized that this is the only thing that truly exists.
The ability to create and premeditate is instilled within all of us. A key difference between the most fulfilled people and great teachers/leaders of our time is that they understand this principle and hold it close to their hearts.
They live by this principle and treat their minds like the sacred, golden temples they are. Fort Knox level security is installed to prevent any negative thoughts from entering the mind. It is protected, cherished, and used as a tool for good.
Our lives, whether we realize it or not, are entirely premeditated. Not in the religious sense or through an outside force, but from our own selves. The deep down, true inner self. The captain of the ship.
That is what creates, leads, and defines our existence.
 

More Resources

  1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  2. Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill

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I’d love to hear from you on this one. Leave a comment below, and let me know your thoughts.
Photo credit: FutureCC license

How to Create the Perfect Morning Ritual (plus the Apps You Need)

Total Reading Time: 5 minutes.
The topic of morning rituals is hotter than the Pareto principle and the center of the sun right now. God that was nerdy. Seriously though, no matter where you are on the interwebs you’ll run into yet another article on the importance of morning rituals.
There’s a problem though: I find that most of the articles are either too complicated or too basic, to the point where they’re just fluff and not actionable.
I’ve been studying and experimenting with productivity and effectiveness for years. With that said, I thought I would add my take on this topic to the pile, and tactfully set it right on top.
Below you’ll also see my exact morning ritual, and I’ll give you links to the apps I use on a daily basis.
 

Create the perfect ritual for you.

This is where I aim to really differentiate this post.
In order to create an effective, sustainable, and useful morning ritual, you must understand the goal in the first place. You must also understand how to address the root, or as I like to say “the big domino” that makes everything else fall into place.
Rituals are the secret to productivity and working more effectively. There is a certain magic about them you’ll understand once you try. Rituals allow you to put the various minutiae of your life on autopilot, so that you can use your brain power to focus on what’s important — creating and solving problems.
It’s well-documented (here’s a great book on famous daily rituals) and studied that all of the most famous artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and masters have/had a very specific set of rituals. I challenge you to study the person you look up to most and learn about their daily rituals.
Key point: Every ritual is unique and there is no cookie cutter solution. Look to another person’s rituals as inspiration, but don’t try to extract the same effect by copying theirs.
 

How to create your morning ritual.

1. Create leverage.

Identify what the highest leverage thing is in your life, the domino that makes everything else fall into place. Structure your ritual around making sure this one thing absolutely happens.
For example, waking up early is critical for me. If I wake up early, by 6 AM, I rock the day. The second most important thing for me is meditation. If I do these two things, I’m unstoppable. Everything else is a bonus.
 

2. Place the big domino first.

Once you’ve identified your “big domino” (the one thing causes all the rest of your routine to fall into place) make it one of the first things you do in the morning.
 

3. Write it down.

Have some fun with this, and feel free to get creative. You can use a piece of paper, create a simple document, or just keep a list in Coach.me (formerly Lift app) like I do.
 

4. Start with just three items.

You know what the most important piece of your ritual is. Now just add two more items to the list that you must do every single day.
 

5. Start simple and make it easy to win.

Some people talk about “flossing one tooth” as an example of keeping it simple. I think that’s ridiculous, but the point is just make it easy to win.
 

6. Add more actions once the initial ritual is locked in.

Research is constantly changing in this area. First they said it was 21 days, but then this was debunked as a myth. Now we’re finding it takes an average of 66 days to build a habit. But that’s nonsense too because it’s just an average.

The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days.

18 to 254 days. That’s a quote direct from the Phillippa Lally study. The truth is, we’re all different. I know people that need no time at all, and others that need hand-holding constantly.
 

7. Nail it, then add new habits.

Once you nail this routine, add on new habits you want to create. Easy peasy, lemon squeezey!
 

8. It’s dynamic, so be open to change.

Your rituals shouldn’t be set in stone. Eventually, you can also create an evening ritual. You should be open to adjusting and adapting your plan along the way.
After a while, you may find that you actually don’t like yoga and the Lululemon’s weren’t worth it. Or you may discover how great you feel after drinking vegetable smoothies. Keeping it dynamic means it’s constantly changing, and that’s a good thing.
 

9. Don’t get discouraged, it’s about mastering the process.

Your ritual will give you power. The act of going through this routine will become an addiction, and at times you may feel superhuman because of it.
There will also be times where you feel completely lost because you missed your morning ritual. Sometimes this happens to me when I’m traveling (here are 6 ways to stay productive).
Stay strong, friendo. Don’t beat yourself up and take steps backwards. Your work is not lost. You’ve been building a muscle, and all it takes is doing the workout again.

10. Bonus!

I like to ensure success and create maximum leverage in everything I do, a strategy my good friend Chad Mureta taught me. Use your personal assistant or a friend/spouse/lover/neighbor to hold you accountable.
Promise to check in for the first 66 days of your new ritual. If you miss a day you’ll donate X amount of dollars to an organization you either really love or hate (the latter is powerful for people that are motivated by a negative consequence).
To do this you can use Stickk, a free service for setting and achieving goals. With Stickk, you can track your goals, and optionally, set stakes to donate your money to an accountability partner, charity, or anti-charity (my favorite).
 

My personal morning routine.

Again, my ritual is dynamic, but this is the general outline:

  1. Wake up at 6:00 AM
  2. Hydrate: drink a massive glass of water immediately
  3. Exercise: 20 minute jog or quick workout at home
  4. Take notes (do a “brain dump”) and plan day
  5. Cold shower
  6. Gratitude exercise by looking at vision board app
  7. Mediation: 20 minutes (this is the foundation of my morning ritual and a critical piece of my effectiveness)
  8. Breakfast: drink a green vegetable smoothie or juice and make coffee
  9. Learning time: 30 minutes of reading a book, catching up on articles, or listening to an audio program
  10. Begin working on most important task of the day (highest leverage)

I also have other actions I track that I aim to accomplish and check off each day, e.g., writing 1,000 words.
 

Apps I use for my morning ritual.

Coach.me morning rituals routine screenshot
A screenshot that shows part of my Coach.me checklist
  • Coach.me (formerly Lift) – This is the app I’ve been using to track my habits, create new rituals, and get coaching.
  • Insight Timer / Headspace – I love Insight Timer. It’s not the prettiest app, but there are dozens of guided mediations from great teachers included in the app for free. It also has a cool timer for doing your own meditation. Headspace is the media darling app for meditation, and it’s very popular right now. It’s a beautiful app and it does the job.
  • Vision Board – This is a very simple, clunky app that does the job. It’s highly customizable and there are different life categories you can add text or images to. I haven’t been able to find better (if you know of one let us know in the comments)
  • Feedly – The best news/blog aggregator out there. Use Feedly to “subscribe” to your favorite sites, and do all your reading in batches. It syncs with all your favorite apps too.
  • Pocket – A read it later tool and app. Never allow yourself to get distracted and fall down the article wormhole. Use this to read interesting content later when you plan for it.
  • Outread (iOS) – This app is one of my favorites because it helps me speed read articles. It syncs perfectly with Pocket, so I can jam through articles I saved to read later from Pocket quickly whenever there’s downtime.
  • Audible – The app for audiobooks. I love Audible for when I’m not able to read or I’m in the car, otherwise I prefer Kindle books. New customers can get two free books and three months of membership for only $7.49 per month.
  • Podcasts – The app for listening to podcasts on iOS. For Android, Stitcher is a great app.
  • Elevate – A brain training app that enhances memory, reading comprehension, and writing. Beautifully designed and award winning. Very addictive.
  • Sleep Cycle – The best app for tracking your sleep and logging the data. I’ve been using this for years.
  • Day One (iOS) – An awesome app for journaling and saving memories. I compared many iOS journaling apps and this is the best. I love that you can export everything, and the entries are very customizable.
  • Stickk – A free service that allows you to create “commitment contracts” by setting goals and creating money stakes.

Are you going to create a morning ritual now? If you already have, what’s in your morning routine? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…
Photo credit: RitualCC license

24 Eye-Opening Life Lessons Learned from a Year of Intentional Solitude

Total Reading Time: 9 minutes.
The theme of my year was intentional solitude. During this time the goal was to focus on personal growth and learning how to flex my creative muscles. Ironically, I also learned a major lesson: the fastest and most effective way to learn a new skill or concept is from other expert people.
So yes, this does mean I’ll be leaving the dungeon more often now. But before I do that, I took some time to put together a list of the most eye-opening lessons I learned during this year of discovery and intentional solitude.
One of the main reasons this blog exists is to share these personal lessons and stories with you.
My hope is that it will enhance your journey and enable the freedom lifestyle you deserve.

Below are my top lessons from a year of solitude.

1. Your life is a miracle—maximize your experience.

Live in a state of awe. Shift from judgement to being fascinated by other human beings. Open your eyes in the morning and be surprised you even have eyes to begin with. Living in this perpetual state of awe has incredibly positive effects on daily life.
The enthusiasm you live with will push you to maximize your experience, and is also quite infectious to others.

2. Meditation is the pillar to fulfillment, happiness, and success.

Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not a way to escape, nor is it only for hippies or yogi’s. It is a simple, personal practice that teaches how to maintain laser concentration, and exposes a natural state of life.
If you study meditation you’ll find that most of what you’ve seen or heard is false, and it is due to stereotypes and stigmas that have spread through popular culture. It’s easy to learn, you can start with my short video.

3. Every destination and experience is what you make of it.

Most places are neither as dangerous or amazing as they sound. When you travel, everyone wants to offer opinions on what’s good, what’s not, and what to do.
Even the ugliest places on the planet can turn out to be amazing experiences—it’s all about what you make of it and the words you use (see #23 below).
My suggestion: Let go. Plan less, and go with the flow more.

4. Solitude is food for creativity.

The major theme of my year was intentional solitude. After studying so many of the great artists, writers, and thinkers of our time this is the common thread I found.
I had to experience it for myself, and I’m incredibly glad I did. I never thought of myself as a creative person, but solitude can be inspiring.
Also, learning how to be alone and enjoy your own company is important. You’ll learn a lot about who you really are and want to become.

5. Relationships with like-minded people are priceless.

I could write an entire book on this topic, and maybe I will one day. We’ve all heard it before, “we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with”.
This year I proactively spent time with different people, and the results were:

  • A feedback loop that enabled a better version of myself
  • A stronger sense of belonging
  • A grand ol’ adventurous time

But the most powerful result will trickle into your life for years afterward, and you won’t even realize it. These relationships with fulfilled rockstars are priceless.

6. There is nothing more valuable than giving to others.

Whatever you know, share it. Rather than holding onto all those million dollar ideas you’ll never do anything with, give them to someone who will.
If you have a skill, teach it to others. Whatever you have, give it. It will “pay off” for the rest of your life, and you’ll feel a true sense of fulfillment when you start receiving the appreciation.
This blog is an example of that. I share stories and lessons that give readers the skills and knowledge to create their own freedom lifestyle. The emails and thanks I receive are priceless.

7. Your plan may not be the best one—be open to “off-the-radar” possibilities.

This was a key lesson. Once you know what you want, why you want it, and how you’re going to get there, you may forget to pick your head up and look around sometimes.
It’s very important to be accepting of alternative (better) plans and opportunities that come your way. Do you still get to a similar destination? Good, go with it.
Off-the-radar plans may come to you when you least expect them. Don’t let your fate be like the parable of the drowning man who declared “God will save me” to every helping hand.

8. Solopreneurship doesn’t have to be lonely, nor does it have to be hard.

This is a common misconception. Yes, the word solo does mean “one”, but in reality solopreneurship is just a unique long-term strategy to self-employment. I define it as a form of entrepreneurship which allows the lifestyle to takes precedence, not the business.
Build a network of solopreneur friends. Go to events in your industry. Create a mastermind group. Get out of the dungeon.

9. You’re either a victim of the world or the creator of your experience.

Life isn’t black and white, most things are nuanced. But generally you’ll notice people fall into one of these two archetypes. Either life happens to them, or for them.
Be the creator. If that word makes you uncomfortable, pick another one, but realize this truth…
You are the director, not the actor.

10. Relaxation is as important to your success as hard work.

Most of us over-achieving freedom lifestyle types feel guilty for taking breaks. You can divide your work-life into two time buckets or categories:
a) Focus on high-revenue, high-lifetime value activities.
b) Focus on complete rest, rejuvenation, and relaxation.
Once you realize that your effectiveness and output will actually increase by giving yourself deep rest, you’ll become addicted. I learned this directly from Eben Pagan (someone I deeply admire as a mentor and person) and I intend to incorporate this for the rest of my life.

11. Time constraints will massively boost your productivity.

Along with some good rest and relaxation, limiting your work time with constraints will also increase your work quality and output. Give yourself pre-determined chunks of time to work on projects, and you’ll be more focused and effective.
Open-ended doesn’t work well. This is a proven, counter-intuitive concept used by many great leaders.

12. A morning and evening ritual is the foundation to an effective workday and grounded life.

The way you start and end your day is critical. If you haven’t yet created your own morning ritual, do it now. Mine is always changing, but it gets done every day.
Identify what the highest leverage thing is in your life, the domino that makes everything else fall into place. Structure your ritual around making sure this one thing absolutely happens.
For me it’s waking up at a certain time every day and meditating before I start working. For some it’s exercise, and for others it’s journaling—you get the idea.

13. Focus on your growth to stop living for others.

It can be difficult to completely let go of what others think is best for you. From a young age we’re conditioned and rewarded to follow instructions and quietly mold into the herd.
But we’re non-conformists, and we’re not here to perpetuate status quo. Through personal growth and mastery you’ll eventually let go of these concerns, and the journey becomes so much easier.

14. A financial goal without a proper plan for getting there will get you nowhere.

I don’t believe in just manifesting money through thought, this is a big fallacy.
What if the brilliant idea never hits? What if all you’re doing is dreaming and visualizing?
A financial goal needs a proper plan, backed by massive action. This plan needs to be incredibly detailed. You should be able to back into the numbers. Start somewhere, even if the plan isn’t great, and be open to off-the-radar-ideas (see #7 above).

15. If you treat yourself like a King or Queen others will automatically do the same.

How you carry yourself changes the way people see you. How do you talk to yourself? How do you see yourself? I guarantee that this is how others see and talk to you too.
Learn to “love yourself like your life depends on it”.

16. Your nutrition, sleep, and movement directly affect the way you feel and operate.

I underestimated how important these were for a long time, but this is the year I truly learned how directly it affects mood, performance, and vitality.
a) Eat healthy, whole foods. Don’t make it hard. Listen to your body. I drink insane amounts of water, juice vegetables daily, and eat many small, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day.
b) Wake up at the same time every day, after a week or two this will automatically regulate your sleeping pattern to what’s best for you. That’s it. Read this to learn how to become an early riser.
c) Remember to move. Get a standing desk, or work in chunks by setting a timer and taking breaks. Stretch, exercise, play a sport, take the stairs—just move!
If you’re feeling off, you can almost always attribute it to a lack of hydration, nutrition, sleep, or exercise.

17. It is easy to experience everything you’ve ever wanted—don’t be your own obstacle.

We tend to overcomplicate things. We also tend to be our own worst enemy. You may have mental blocks around what’s easy, or what you can and can’t do.
You’ll notice that the most adventurous, fulfilled people don’t have these BS rules, they just go for it. I’ve learned to let life flow more easily, and found that it only leads to more of what I already want.

18. A blog is not a business, it is a media property or platform.

Most blogs die because:
a) The owner gets frustrated or tired and stops publishing.
b) They were created with the wrong intention.
A blog is either a media property for your business, or a central platform for your brand. Look at it this way and approach it as a business, not a hobby, and it will change everything.

19. Don’t fall into the trap of perpetual over-complication.

We’re surrounded by abundant amounts of information, and everyone and their mother has an opinion. Know your outcome clearly, define your bigger vision, and use that as a filter for what you’ll spend time on.
I shifted from wanting to know everything in a topic, to focusing on the best material. Consume information from the best resources and take baby steps every day, you’ll get there.

20. Be careful not to fall too far down the wormhole.

There is a dark side to everything, even positive environments like personal development, religion, or spirituality. The slippery slope can get quite greasy if you lose self-awareness.
It’s okay to be a big fan of something, but it’s more valuable to maintain a true sense of self while also experiencing new and unique subjects and communities.
I’ve found that, ironically, most people fall into the same “herding” trap they were trying to escape, just on a smaller scale.

21. It is possible to be in total control of your emotions.

Your environment doesn’t have to predict your mood or conditions. What a person says or how they act does not have to affect you, nor should it even cause a reaction.
I learned that we are truly in charge of our emotions, and it’s a victim mentality to give that control up to someone or something else. The same applies for difficult situations, like traffic or airports during the holidays.
You can choose to slow down, take a deep breath, and react differently. Change the pattern and you change your experience.

22. It is never too late or too hard to change a relationship or situation. Never.

I experienced miracles in this department. I believe it has something to do with #21 above, but the key lesson was this: it’s never too late.
Whether it be a dream you’ve given up on, or a family member you’ve lost touch with, it’s never too late. Trust me.

23. The words you use create your experience.

We all have a story. The words we use give a lot of meaning to this story, and it’s the meaning that creates our experience.
Here’s an example: Relationships get more exciting as time goes by. They are easy and fun. They continuously grow and get better with each passing day.
This is what I tell myself daily, and that is the reality I experience. Imagine if I believed or said that relationships get old and boring after a few years, or that they’re hard work.
Be mindful of the words you use to describe your experience, you may be surprised to find out what an impact they have.

24. Wealthy people don’t focus on cash.

After years of studying this topic I’ve only recently discovered the secret: having a big bank account of cash is not the path to wealth. And surprisingly, it is actually more difficult to keep wealth than it is to accumulate it.
Wealth is the accumulation of assets, ones that ideally trickle off cash flow (interest) which you can then live off.
Once you know the wealth formula, you can begin focusing your efforts in the right direction and achieve financial freedom for your freedom lifestyle.

I hope these lessons were as eye-opening for you as they were for me. Which of these did you enjoy most? What lessons have you learned lately?
Photo credit: IsolationCC license

How to Automate Your Personal Finances and Stop Worrying about Money

Total Reading Time: 8 minutes.

“We’re heading to Belize with some friends to go diving at the Great Blue Hole near Belize — you should come! Can you make it?”
“Umm…I’m not sure if I have the funds for that. Let me think about it and get back to you.”
Or…
“This is a really great investment opportunity. They are multi-family apartment complexes, and you’ll receive a check in the mail every month.”
“Hmm…I don’t have enough in my checking right now, and I don’t want to touch my savings for this.”
Face palm. Sound familiar? What if there was a way to know exactly how much money you had available in each category of your life? What if you could have your finances completely automated?
Ah, well there is a way, friendo. Use the strategies and tools in this post to do just that. Get rid of most (if not all) of your worries about money, and know exactly where you stand financially. It’ll also become a lot easier to say yes or no to Belize trips (and there’s nothing wrong with saying no — here’s how to do that the nice way).

Real freedom is the ability to do what you want, when you want, how you want. — Tweet this!

Understanding how the rich think about money is a great start, but it’s only part of the puzzle.  The other piece is having your finances on lock down and being able to make decisions confidently.
This is about shifting from a reactive mode to a proactive one. This will result in much less time spent on finances and feeling way more in control. I’ve been using the strategies in this guide successfully for almost ten years. The key is to take action and implement each step right now.
Personal finances are also an important part of becoming a full-time solopreneur. Knowing when to make the change and having your finances in order is key.
A common roadblock to becoming a solopreneur is the fear of not having enough money. Handling this is critical to your long-term success.
After all, you want freedom, but who wants to live like a college student again and eat Cup Noodles again?
 

Get Organized the Easy Way

This is pretty much Step 0. It is important that you get organized and immediately begin tracking a high-level view of your finances.
The fastest and easiest way to do this is with a Mint.com account. I don’t see any reason to use another service, as this one is already a proven, popular solution and has all the features you’ll need. Let’s not complicate this, it’s about getting started.
Mint gives you the detailed, transactional level information you need. You’ll also get a high level overview of your finances, i.e., you’ll see your cash flow and balances across all accounts. This service is customizable and comes with a ton of features to take your finance game to the next level.
Once you’re set up and comfortable with the interface, I’d recommend setting up a few budgets and goals to make the most of it.
 

Set up Your Banking

If you’re still hanging out at a brick-and-mortar bank, you must have been around when people took a horse and carriage to Wells Fargo. If that’s you, I’ll make this as painless as possible.
Instead of asking you to switch and let go of your beloved bank and favorite teller, I kindly suggest that you open a free account with the online bank I mention below. Once you start using them, I virtually (hehe) guarantee you’ll go all in and will forget all about J.P. Morgan and the others in the ol’ boys club.

Capital One 360

Formerly known as ING Direct, Capital One 360 is the foundation and secret to automating your personal finances. It’s free, there are no fees for anything (in fact, you even earn interest on your checking), no minimums, and it’s simple to use. You can also have up to 25 free savings accounts, but it’s the Automated Savings Plan feature that makes this all so appealing.
This is modern banking at its finest, which means there are no physical banks for you to visit — everything happens online. Don’t panic, just give it a shot and you’ll see.
This is the key to automation, and is a necessary piece of this system click here to sign up for a free account now and you’ll also get $50 through my link
 

Automation of Your Savings and Spending

First of all, let’s correct one  important piece: I want you to never pay another ATM fee again. I know, “that’s easier said that done”. But that’s why you have me in your life.
Here’s everything you need to know on how to do that: Get Rid of ATM Fees Once and For All.
Now, the next step is to set up your Automated Savings Plan. As we both know, it’s difficult to budget your money and try to save some cash. By the end of the month,  little remains.
That’s why it’s important to do this automatically, before the money ever goes into your pocket. It also prevents you from feeling a sense of loss, since you never had the money anyway.
With Capital One 360, you’ll want to create a handful of free savings accounts that match up to your different lifestyle needs — get creative with this.
 

Examples of Automated Savings Accounts

capital one 360 - checking savings automated
Screenshot of my personal 360 savings accounts – get creative!

You can change these whenever as needed, and can add up to 25 different accounts.

Some More Great Examples

  1. Gifts – I love this for budgeting in birthday and holiday presents.
  2. Wedding – You know…
  3. Real Estate – Save for your first home or an investment property.
  4. Short-term savings – You never know!
  5. Going out (fancy dinners, drinks, etc.) – I love this, no guilt for spending frivolously on indulging.

The idea here is to use the Automated Savings Plan and begin building up the balance in each of these accounts. For example, on the 1st of each month $50 gets transferred from your checking to your Shopping account. $100 gets transferred to your Long-term Savings account, and so on.
Now, when your friend asks if you want to go to Belize, you look at your Travel fund and decide whether you can afford it (and see how big you can go). You’ll also know what your exact budget is for the trip, and you’ll never need to spend a dime for your checking account — boom! It’s a beautiful thing, right?
 

Pay Your Bills Without Thinking

If you’re still paying your bills by sending in checks with cute little envelopes and holiday-themed stamps, there’s no hope for you. But if you’re ready to automate the process and have some idea of how to do this online, I may be able to help.
 

How to Properly Pay Your Bills

  1. Call every company you pay a bill to each month (or have your personal Fancy Hands assistant do it) and make sure all your payments are due around the same time each month. This is doable with most companies, but some old school ones may be a little less flexible. Arman’s tip: Adjust the due date to right after you are usually paid or paying yourself.
  2. Sign up for paperless billing. You don’t need the papers. There’s nothing fun about getting bills in the mail, and it’s better for the environment. If you ever need a copy of an old bill it’s available online.
  3. Sign up for automated payments. Make sure all your bills get paid automatically, without you ever thinking about it. Whatever excuse you have for wanting to pay your bills yourself, lose it. You will save hours per month and feel a massive sense of relief. Go focus on making more money, not managing it.
  4. Check your transaction history once a month through Mint.com. You don’t need to check your finances more than this, and it should only take 30 minutes. Every once in a while there may be a fraudulent charge or something that looks funny, and this should take care of that.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but: never carry a balance on your credit cards, pay off your debts in full each month, and try not to owe anything to anyone. If you’re in any kind of debt, make it your number one priority to pay it all off as soon as possible. Sacrifice and do whatever it takes, this is so important. 
 

Long-Term Savings

A long-term savings plan is crucial, although not nearly as important as creating wealth (see below). There will be times when you need to be ready for a financial drought, especially if you work for yourself or plan to at any point.
Make sure you are using the Automated Savings Plan feature and put as much as possible into that account at the beginning of each month. Have a goal to hit a certain number by a certain time, e.g. $50,000 within X months.
Once you hit that number, begin taking any excess and invest in assets. Choose things like real estate, stocks, gold/silver, or any asset class you have interest in. You should also be doing this with your Investment savings account.
 

Investing and Creating Wealth

As I explain in this post, money (cash) does not equal wealth. This is a misconception and lie that our environment has instilled in us over many generations. The rich are not on a hunt to accumulate as much cash as possible, they measure their wealth through their net worth.
The idea is not to get cash, but to accumulate assets that trickle off cash over time. You want to achieve a point of living off the interest of your assets. Allow the principle to stay put, or rollover into other investment vehicles.
Become interested in one specific asset class at first, (e.g. real estate) and achieve a level of mastery in your knowledge. From there, you should also remember to diversify how you allocate your investments.
Don’t try to do this alone, especially if it isn’t something you’re already passionate about.  The same way you need a consultant to help grow your business, you need a wealth advisor to help grow your investments.

Photo credit: Lendingmemo — CC license
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I Discovered What the Rich Know about Wealth and I Can’t Keep It to Myself

Total Reading Time: 4 minutes.
Over the past few months I’ve discovered a big secret, and experienced a massive paradigm shift…AKA a holy sh*t moment.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been studying money, wealth, and business — yet it took me this long to figure out the secret. If you look at my bookshelf, the word “money” or “rich” appears on many of the books.
The main motivation (the big why) for wanting to be rich, is probably the same as yours: complete financial freedom.
The ability to do what you want, when you want, how you want…even with who you want — and never worry about paying for any of it.
Now I’ve always thought that to become financially free and wealthy you had to accumulate as much money as possible. This could be through your work, business, investments, or side-gigs. This is 100% wrong.
After years of studying this topic I’ve only recently discovered the secret: cash is not the path to wealth.
Cash, in and of itself, is an awful way to accumulate wealth. Having a massive piggy bank of cash doesn’t help (for many reasons that I won’t dig into on this post). Net worth has very little to do with cash.
Through the centuries and since the invention of money backed by nothing (fiat currency), we’ve been led to believe that it’s all about the cash.
Most will never know how wealth works. Most people don’t understand the fractional reserve system, fiat currency, or even debt.
Is this an intentional conspiracy by the 1% rich against the rest of us? Not if you ask me. I believe if you want to live in that reality you can. You’ll find the answers you’re looking for.
What I do believe is that understanding how money works is where you start. That understanding will instantly help you change the way you think and feel about money.
I also believe that most of the modern rich are good people who have worked hard for their success and wealth. Success leaves clues.

So What Is Wealth?

Wealth is the accumulation of assets, not cash. Most of us have heard this before, but what is a real asset?
Your assets should trickle off cash/interest, which you can then spend and live off. e.g., real estate investments that earn you a monthly check, or stocks that pay dividends.
Most people think assets are cars or new TV’s, so they end up in the same place they started. To become financially free and wealthy we need to redefine money and our habits around it.
In a capitalist, consumer society that relies on world-class marketing to influence your purchasing habits, you’re screwed if you don’t wake up.
Companies make money by making you feel like you’re not good enough (in many ways). They want you to make a purchase to solve your problems. Yes this is a bit gloomy, but it’s not a conspiracy — just a truth of marketing (which can be used for good and bad).

Testing the Theory

Wealthy people are not the ones you think. In The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas Stanley shows us that the millionaires in this world aren’t driving Ferrari’s and living in yachts. They’re driving dependable, used cars (or maybe a classic car that appreciates in value over time), and only investing in what they need.
We’re getting our ideas of what it means to be rich from Instagram and reality TV, which are just marketable one-off BS examples of wealth. The real rich don’t even want you to know they’re wealthy. They don’t care about appearances, or what we think about their spending habits.
They’ve figured out the secret to accumulating and keeping wealth (the latter being the harder part). They don’t play by the same rules the rest of society does. If you study these people you’ll learn this for yourself.
Here’s the biggest thing you’ll find: they all have a bulletproof growth mindset. Thought you could get away from the internal game/mindset stuff for a bit? You can’t. Wealth is only limited by your own mental limits.

The Wealth Formula

As always, it all comes down to freedom. The point of money is to provide the experiences we desire most in life. The only way to do that is to master it.

Create Value through Your Confluence —> Turn Value into Income —> Invest Money in Assets = Wealth 

The Next Step

To make the shift now, move your income into assets. Decide on one reliable method to accumulate the income: your job, your own solopreneur business, a side business, etc.
Then decide on one asset class that you want to learn and master. Your focus going forward will be to invest all your cash into assets within that category e.g. a business, real estate, stocks, or any investments that trickle off cash flow.
Have fun. Use it for good.

Links to Resources

  1. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley
  2. Self Made Wealth – This online course by Eben Pagan is the most fantastic resource on wealth and money I’ve ever discovered. Unfortunately the class is now closed, but may re-open again in the future, so I’d recommend signing up for the waiting list.
  3. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi – I first read this book years ago, but it was instrumental in building the foundation of my personal finance habits. This book is all about automating your finances and making it as easy as possible.

What are your thoughts on money and wealth? What resources have been helpful for you personally? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.
Photo credit: WealthCC license

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