Easy is the Hardest Thing in the World if You Want to Be Rich

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This moment was brought to you by hard times. Difficulties and challenges make you stronger. The only way to have an easy life is to embrace hard times. #easy #financialindependence #easystreet #success #motivationRichard Branson outlined in his autobiography, Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography, 75 times he had close calls in his life. Recently he published number 76 on his blog. It seems strange for such a successful man to have had so many close calls. Branson has several successful businesses and a life most can only dream of. He is living the dream.

From the outside it always seems easier. I hear the same thing from readers. “You make it sound so easy, Keith.” To which I respond, “Then you haven’t been reading close enough.” Life has been anything but easy for me. Most people have difficult lives. It is these difficulties that define us. We either rise to the occasion and grow or wither and die. One path leads to a sense of accomplishment, the other pain and loss.

The challenges are endless. To outline a few highlights of my life’s plights: heart disease and a heart operation at age 13, shot in a hunting accident at age 13 which led to the discovery of my heart disease, numerous attempts at business ideas that failed, two daughters with serious medical conditions. Need I remind of the attempt to destroy my business only a decade after its inception? The attempt almost succeeded. Now might be a good time to repeat the millions of words I wrote and published over the years before I attracted even a modest following. No, kind readers, it was never easy.




Beg for Hard Times

From an early age, telling me “No!” was nearly a virtual guarantee I’d check it out. Don’t climb that haymow. Don’t walk to the creek alone. Don’t play with the vase! {crash} “Sorry.” And then the tears.

I was blessed (or cursed if you see things that way) with an insatiable curiosity. The only way to grow, to succeed, is to do what nobody wants you to do. And that means plenty of painful moments.

My dad wanted me to work in the family business working in agriculture. Our family has a long history in agriculture. I wanted something different. When I announced my intentions of going full-time in taxes and accounting my dad told a neighbor, “You won’t believe what my idiot son is going to do.” I have a great relationship with my parents, but that one hurt. The neighbor he told ended up an employee for two decades. (Clients: Remember Bev? She still comes in every year.)

Even people you love and trust will sometimes cause pain and make it harder. They mean well, but they don’t understand. Readers around here have stories to tell about their family’s reaction when they pursued early retirement and world travel. It’s never easy.




Burn the Ships

In 1519, Captain Hernan Cortez arrived in the New World at Veracruz. The first thing he did was order his men to burn the ships. Cortez knew his men would always hold back when retreat was an option. With nowhere to retreat, Cortez and his men pushed forward. What other option was there?

Early adulthood had me wondering what I was going to do with my life. Fortune (and frugality) allowed me to build a nice nest egg. If I watched my spending close I probably could have checked out in my early to mid 20s. That wasn’t my intention or goal.

Working in the family business wasn’t for me. I grew up on the family farm and had no intention of working in agriculture the rest of my life. (Now I live on a farm and have raised many animals. How times do change.) The family farm ended in bankruptcy the year I graduated from high school so the family business in ag repair was my only option. (It was the Rust Belt in 1982. There were few options.) For anyone looking for the easy road; I wasn’t on it.

Then I met Mrs. Accountant. If anything went according to plan, my relationship with the awesome and adorable Mrs. A was it! It’s about the only thing that went off without a hiccup. (Actually, if you get us in the corner we could share some stories. It would be inappropriate to share publically on a blog.)

Marriage also had challenges. Easy wasn’t in the lexicon. We worked hard to build a solid relationship.

The marriage process threw a massive wrench into the works. I was slumming when I met Mrs. A: enjoying loads of good books and a few college courses to round out my days. A good husband, the minister who married us said, needs to provide for his family. So I was hired as the janitor for the church.

Fourteen months later I quit to move full-time in my tax/accounting practice. I was young and foolish. Like Cortez, I burned the ships. I knew if I had an escape route I might take it. There could be no going back.

My client list was less than 50 when I started. Since I moved into town I left most of my regular clients behind. No problem, I thought. I know exactly how to get more clients. I quit my janitor job January 31, 1989. February 1st I was living the dream as a full-time business owner. I worked out of my home. What could be better?

Two and a half months later, on April 15th, I stared out my bay winder and thought, Oh, Sh{beep}! I didn’t exactly replace all the lost clients. To be exact, I had 48 clients and ~$3,000 in revenue. (I said revenue.)

Don’t tell me about easy. There was no easy in that moment. Looking back it seems foreordained. It was anything but! My nest egg was hit hard by startup expenses. The ships were burned. I HAD to move forward. My wife counted on me. To say I was nervous and worried would be an understatement.




Kick’em When they’re Up, Kick’em When They’re Down

You know how the story ends. I survived and even thrived. That’s why I’m here. That means my story is colored by survivor bias. The ones who didn’t make it aren’t talking to you on a blog about it.

Richard Branson had some really close calls in his life. I’m sure there are many more we don’t know of. Every business, every marriage, every relationship, every parent has stories to tell. After the fact it looks easy because all the while we are listening we know the endgame. In the warzone it was anything but clear how things would turn out.

There was no guarantee I would survive heart surgery in 1978. My cardiologist died of AIDS later. One nick of the glove and you’d be reading something else right now. I was a third of a millimeter away from a very short life.

Tempering make the iron stronger and more pliable. People, too. Difficulties and hard times give you the strength to grow. #success #motivation #life #lifelessons #personalfinance #freedom #growth #strengthThe hunting accident also put life in perspective. First, it saved my life by exposing my condition. Without that I would have died of a massive coronary sometime in my 20s, or at the latest, early 30s. It would’ve been just one of those things. Family would have spoken of the tragedy for years until I was all but forgotten. But I was shot. And if one of those pellets would have been a half inch deeper I would have died before anyone knew I had a medical problem. Luck does play a role.

Luck didn’t make me feel invincible; it made me feel vulnerable, like I was living on borrowed time. I tried everything. Burning the ships was a natural act. Prodding myself, forcing myself to move ahead was exactly the situation I set up.

Here is the secret: Every failure, every painful moment, drove my harder. My life appears easy because it has been so hard. I’ve been kicked and beaten unfairly and if you want a really painful story pull me to the side sometime when I’ve had a couple so my defenses are down. You’ll find out how easy it really was.

Zig Ziglar once said we should pray for hard times and difficulties. He understood. Ziglar went on to say hard times and difficulties make for an easy life and easy makes for a very, very hard life. The message was clear. Iron is brittle until you heat and hammer it. Fire and stress harden and strengthen the iron. With the right ingredients you get steel. But there is no chance for strong steel until you apply heat. It is the tempering which makes the metal strong.

And so it is with people. I know you have dreams. That is why you are here. Your goals of financial independence and/or early retirement need nurturing. Starting your dream business will not be easy. I can tell you what to do and it will not be enough. You will need to adjust, try different things, to succeed. Frugality is challenging. An awesome marriage is work. Some days it doesn’t work. Then you try something else and if that doesn’t work you try something else, and on and until you win.

In relationships it is easier. The endless effort is noticed by all parties involved. It makes a difference. My marriage isn’t great because I’m so good. No. My marriage to Mrs. A is awesome because I never stopped trying to make our marriage more alive. Mrs. A and I work daily on our relationship. Even when we don’t feel like it. (That happens, too, even in solid marriages.)

You will get kicked and hard. Thank God for that! If you never took a groin shot you would never grow. I know from experience I grew and learned the least when things were humming along. It was the challenges that strengthened me. All the idiots of the world who attempted to tear me down made me the success I am today. Don’t stop hating me now. I’ve got new heights to climb.

Pray for the same. Pray for money problems so you can learn really money lessons; pray for marital problems so you can appreciate your significant other and build a more solid foundation; pray for a bad economy and job loss; pray for bad weather. Pray to whatever god you believe in and ask for hard times.

It’s the only way to have an easy life.

 

 

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Keith Taxguy

7 Comments

  1. JD@WealthNotRetirement on July 30, 2018 at 7:48 am

    Great article, Keith. I, too, found success after many, many, many struggles and failures (and ongoing struggles and failures depending on what I’m trying next or life hits me with).

    I have a side project that’s been burning in me for a long time to speak with and document “these people” who claim they’ve worked and struggled “all their life” and “ended up with nothing”. Anytime I have a conversation with someone about success (not a bragging one… just a general one with people who don’t even know me well), I’m always saying “with enough hard work” and not constant bad decisions, I believe anyone can be successful. I get nothing but negative comments, shaking of the head, and my most hated phrase “You’re lucky”. And I tell them, *I KNOW* what I’m saying… *I KNOW* where my family came from… every generation trying to improve on the previous. I was lower, lower middle class to “upper poor” growing up, but my dad grew up without a father, 6 brothers and sisters, slept on a wooden floor with pigs running underneath. As a family we’ve worked many, many hours for everything we have. And the only unsuccessful people in my family (remember all the brothers and sisters), the ONLY ones who haven’t had a good life are the ones who made CONSTANT bad decisions (lazy, not working, and drinking all the time).

    I simply do not believe one can not find some level of money/success/savings, living here in the U.S. (excluding those with special needs of course). If you’re 50 and have nothing but debt to show for it, it is only you to blame. We are where we are right now due to the sum of our choices.

    • Keith Taxguy on July 30, 2018 at 8:38 am

      That was a mouthful, JD. And you are right! Life will knock you down again and again, but if you refuse to stop trying it is only a matter of time. I also think you hit the nail on the head when you mention how often people shake their head when they hear the secret of success. It proves they weren’t working it all that hard all along and so life is hard on them. Great insights, JD.

  2. Brian McMan on July 30, 2018 at 8:57 am

    This article hurts, I don’t think we should pray for hard times since 99 out of the 100 people who get kicked while they’re down never get back up.

    Perhaps we should pray for the ability to overcome the hard times. The hard times will come, will I have the strength of character to get back up or not?

    • Keith Taxguy on July 30, 2018 at 9:38 am

      But if you never hit the ground, Brian, you never acquire the lessons needed to soar.

      Yes, we should pray to overcome hard times because hard times will show up regardless.

  3. FullTimeFinance on July 30, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Crisis breeds change.

    Anyone who is successful and not born with a massive inheritance has struggles in their past. Overnight success is largely a myth, with the few lottery winner exceptions seeing the money wash through their hands. Easy come easy go. The rest of us take the long slog.

    • Keith Taxguy on July 30, 2018 at 9:42 am

      You bring up a good point, FTF. Those born into wealth or win the lottery have it the hardest because it was so easy. Have you seen what happens to many lottery winners? It’s horrendous! The angst the trust baby must feel knowing they are dependent upon the trust payment to survive because they have no skills to fend for themselves. Brutal! I’ll take the kicks and the accompanying lessons, thank you very much.

  4. John Maddox on August 1, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    My second favorite quote. My #1 is related: TR “The Man in the Arena”. http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html
    Semper Fi!

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