Self-Sabotage: The Biggest Risk Once You Have Money

Having money can change you, and not always in good ways. The risk is greatest for those who start out poor. For those lucky people, they have an additional challenge before them. If they fail they go all the way back into the swamp. Self-sabotage is an insidious demon.

Money doesn’t make you a better person; it makes the kind of person you are more pronounced. If you are a kind and generous person, money will tend to make you more kind and generous. And if you are a a-hole, money will make you a much larger one. 

Today I will share with you three stories: two personal and the other from a client. My hope is that you, kind readers, will learn from these lessons rather experience them personally.

I work hard sharing ideas on building wealth and lowering taxes. These are worthy goals that make the world a better place. What I don’t talk about often is the risks people face once they make it. There is no greater thrill than to watch someone born in poverty finding their way to an abundant life. All too often this is the moment they destroy their lives. Usually it is temporary; sometimes not. These lessons can help you avoid the same fate.

 

Turning on the AC

Believe it or not, you need to give yourself permission to be successful. Most people get exactly what they think they deserve. When their net worth declines the mental thermostat is turned up to bring them right back where they think they belong. And when things start going well, all too often the thermostat is turned down until the AC kicks in and pulls you down to where you think you belong.

There were two times in my life where I kicked on the mental AC is a big way. Working with clients on a regular basis as a tax professional I should have known better. I should have seen it coming. Yet, I let my guard down and suffered financially in each case.

My background starts on a farm in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin. We were poor, yet happy. We didn’t know better. We milked cows, planted and harvested crops and enjoyed life to the fullest in our sheltered world. 

By the time I reached high school I realized there was another world out there. I was driven. Coupled with the energy of youth I kicked tail and took names.

The family farm went through a wrenching bankruptcy in 1982, the year I graduated high school. I’m not certain, but I might have been the only one in the family with a positive net worth. Not bragging. Just had no debt so the nickels and dimes in my pocket was my edge.

Destructive financial habits are set at a young age. Learn to give yourself permission to have nice thing, a good life and financial success.

As hard as losing the farm was on me (I always thought I was going to be a farmer all my life) it was a blessing is disguise.

Rather than dig into a farming lifestyle I focused on blazing my own path. I started several businesses. We call them side hustles now. One of those businesses was preparing taxes for up to 50 people. It took seven years to realize that would be the course my life would take.

I started buying real estate. Most properties were single family homes and duplexes in the beginning. I bought larger and varied types of property as I gained my sea legs.

By 1990 I figured out I was going to be a tax guy. (What better way to keep your real estate profits than by learning the Tax Code inside and out?) 

My dad and brother joined me in a real estate partnership called LuK Enterprises. No LLC. Nothing special. Just a family general partnership. 

My tax practice that started as a side hustle preparing 48 returns per year jumped to 148 returns the first year full-time and 402 the second year. I never looked back.

A backwoods farm boy saw his net worth and income explode. My tax practice started earning real money by 1992-3. I was living the dream.

And my subconscious started to scream You don’t deserve this! 

By all outward appearances I was handling the wealth rather well. Except for an early mid-life crisis.

I bought a Z-28. It was a sporty little number. Bought it from Fox Communities Credit Union (back when they sold their repos to the public rather than ship them to auction). Sold it a year later at a profit. (As much as the car made me look cool, it was small even for me back in those day. I could barely get in and out of the driver’s seat.)

This is the part of the story where I will refrain from an info-dump. Suffice it to say, I did not feel good about myself. I felt like an imposter. Farm boys don’t end up like this.

So I sabotaged myself. And boy did I do a number. Looking back it I was lucky to come out alive.

My income stagnated for a few years while my net worth kept growing. I had a good setup and it worked while I was flipping out. Fortunately.

The worst part is I saw it coming! When I couldn’t self-destruct, I upped the ante and made it known I was off the rails. I never hurt anyone or put anyone at risk. But I certainly loaded both barrels and pulled both triggers with the barrels pointed at my feet. Toes were flying everywhere. Now you know why I limp; self-inflicted financial wounds.

It took a long time to undo the damage and in some ways never did. The good news is my tax practice eventually started growing again. I sold most of my real estate 5-10 years later, converting equity into cash. I rebuilt my life and moved on. Lesson learned? I wish it were that simple.

 

Self-Destruct

You would think once a farm boy became seasoned he would not be so prone to industrial-strength stupid. Ah, but I’m going to make you proud.

You see, I have a strong drive to learn and try things. Drake Software developed a DIY program based on the professional version used by my firm. I thought this could be a real profit generator while providing a powerful tax preparation tool for those going it alone. I got half of it right.

The software worked just fine and Drake kept improving the product. I think it is the best product on the market. Unfortunately, it is hard to get people to try your tax software when the major players are dug in deep. Even price didn’t encourage people! They gladly pay more for TurboTax when I see many of these folks in the summer when they need issues fixed their software screwed up.

I needed a hook to get people to try the product. That is when I came across a blogger called Mr. Money Mustache (MMM). 

I loved Pete’s (Mr. Money Mustache is Pete Adeney) work, especially the frugal ideas he espoused. His real claim to fame is early retirement. He dumped traditional work at age 30 and had a stint in real estate before rocketing to fame in the blogosphere. 

Retirement never interested me. There are too many things I want to do. Mix in some OCD and I’ll probably twitch in my grave, to say nothing of my behavior while alive. But for Pete the message resonated. He worked hard building his blog and his IT background gave him a serious advantage. He likes to make it look easy. Blame it on social media and cherry picking daily activities to report.

Well, I packed my bags with a plan to meet MMM and sell him on the DIY tax software idea. 

I attended a Camp Mustache outside Seattle that year. As long as I was there I figured I may as well give a presentation on some tax strategies. Pete took an instant like to me.

Pete made me his tax guy on the spot. It was time to spring my idea. He shot it down posthaste. 

Little did I know how badly the wheels fell off! It was the worst possible outcome and I had no idea what was about to hit me.

Pete published a post about my presentation on his blog, a blog with the better part of 10 million page views per month. Do you have any idea what that does to a small tax office? It nearly destroyed my business. But that isn’t where I went off the rails.

And I had no partnership with Pete on the tax software.

While still at Camp Mustache people started asking me if I had a blog. Well, ah…

I purchased the URL for this blog a few years prior with plans for what eventually came to pass. My timetable was pushed forward is all. I now needed to have a blog up and running!

With a push from an A-list blogger I was on the map. Blog traffic jumped right out of the gate.

Traffic climbed and people took notice. People knew me! A farm boy! From the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin! And my brain started to plot revenge. This isn’t right.

Fame (even if only modest in scope) brings out the less desirable people of the world. Some would email or call, trying to use me as a relay to contact Pete. (Me: Call Pete yourself. Them: He doesn’t answer. Me. Then he doesn’t want to talk to you.) Others wanted to pitch me. And 20,000 people wanted me as their tax preparer!

I was a popular dude, at least from what I ever experienced prior in my life. I was getting more uncomfortable by the day. I never connected well with the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community. I found nothing familiar about them, except for the frugality.

Pete was the father of the FIRE movement. I felt obligated to attend more gatherings and conferences. I hated it with every fiber of my being. My brain was working hard now on a way to sabotage me. 

Beat self-sabotage.

The best things in life are worth having. You are worth everything you have and more.

The zenith was at hand. This blog was nominated for a Plutus Award: The Best New Personal Finance Blog of the Year. And I won! I think a lot had to do with me being Pete’s tax guy.

But that is not where my brain loaded both barrels again. 

The night before the awards ceremony I had three late visitors to my hotel room. Remember how I told you fame, even a small amount, attracts the least desirable people in the world? Well, three showed up at my door. The worst part is I knew who they were and liked them! Not so much now. The warts are too visible to me now. There goal was to hurt me and I fully cooperated!

Without going into too much detail, I found my way to get out of the trap I felt I was in. After the awards ceremony I wrote a blog post, and boy was it a blistering attack. I pulled it down a few hours later and eventually deleted it in my files. But the damage was done. It was a terrible post, a rambling attack on all I felt slighted by. I gave new meaning to the acronym FIRE.

Blog traffic slowly declined as the FIRE community kept their distance. (Who could blame them? Even I scare me sometimes!) Now I’m working on rebuilding this blog. No more awards, no more conferences and a lot fewer emails.

Without a doubt I could have done things differently. I did not have to be an ass about it. It is easy to point finger. The thing is, I can’t control them, but I can control my behavior. 

If I wanted out I should have politely excused myself and left it at that. There was no reason to bring a blow torch into the picture. (Note: A large number of people in the FIRE community still communicate with me. They are good folks and forgave the wayward child.)

Of course, there is plenty more. Buy me a beer (or three) and I’ll tell you more than even I know. 

My stories were only to warm you up. The real reason for today’s post involves a long-term client. Her risks are no less than what I faced. Hopefully I can help her navigate the swamp better than I did. I’ll let you be the judge.

 

Rags to Riches

The year is 1992. Brenda walks into my office for the first time. (Faces and names have been changed. Brenda is aware of this post and approves.) She said two words at best. I prepared her return. As soon as she was finished she turned with a snap and left.

As the years went by I discovered she had a story that breaks the heart. She was molested by her step-father from the time she five or maybe even younger. This had a profound and negative impact on her adult life.

Brenda had no self worth. She didn’t talk because she was so abused. As a young adult she got pregnant, married the man and later divorced him. She told me she was practically forced into the marriage when she got pregnant. 

After the first failed marriage she jumped into an abusive relationship next. That marriage also failed. 

The details are too sordid to include here. Suffice it to say, she was one suffering young lady. 

Fifteen years ago, after she put her failed marriages behind her, Brenda finally met a decent man worthy of her love. Brenda took her time to get it right this time. She took years to make a commitment of marriage. She wanted a real marriage; one that lasted. (They have an awesome marriage I am proud to report.) 

Brenda was still deep in debt and lived in a $500 mobile home. Life was not good. Financial problems were crushing her. All she had was a man that loved her. Her body and spirit broken from an abusive step-father and marriage to a man no less abusive had crushed her spirit. 

Over the last 10 years she made every attempt possible to dig out of the financial hole she was in. She had a good man in her life. She now had a reason to live, to build a life worth living.

Somewhere around this time she started talking to her tax professional a bit more. Even before this blog I worked with clients on financial issues as well as tax. Brenda would be a special case, handled pro bono.

She listened hard. Much of the advice she refused to take. If it worked it would be too much too fast. I could see it on her face. Her AC kicked in below the freezing mark!

Slowly her finances improved. She got out of the mobile home and bought a “real” home. Her debt declined to a manageable level. Her retirement account was growing. She was starting to live the dream. Her credit score approached 800; it had been in the 500 range most of her life.

All the while this was happening I could see in her face she felt deep down she did not deserve a life as good as it had become. She was about to release a subconscious financial bomb, something I am all too familiar with.

The money grew; her lifestyle did as well. She now has more money than she ever had in her life. She has a good job. A good stock market meant her index funds (my advice) exploded! She was sitting on a nice stack of green.

Not an overwhelming amount, mind you. A nice stash of moolah, for sure, but not enough to go crazy.

All the pandemic craziness worked on Brenda’s mind. She wanted to get away. 

Earlier this year she informed me she was checking out.

While my flare-outs were much more entertaining (ahem!), she is doing what she knows best: running away. It is a common trait among abuse victims. She has enough money for a gap year or so, but she also has some debt. There is a bit more financial work to do before she can punch her card.

When I talked to her recently she informed me she tendered her resignation at work. She has a good job! One she actually keeps instead of switching jobs every few years. And she likes the people there; the people there like her! 

I asked her to reconsider before the two-week notice came due. She has stability in life now. She doesn’t have another job lined up and doesn’t know where she wants to go. She is scared because this kind of life is so alien to her. 

I suggested she cut her hours instead because it will not take long for her finances to start screaming for help if she takes early retirement too early. 

She can always quit later if that is her desire. My advice was to think before she leapt. 

Her employer allowed Brenda to rescind her resignation. She will be taking a shorter workweek and more days off. That makes sense to me. No bridges in flames and more time with her family. Now if she can only convince herself she deserves such a rich life.

There is no magic answer. Sometimes, when you are too close, it is hard to see the forest from the trees. We are all guilty of it. It is also the worst time to make a decision…

…without input from a third-party interested in your well-being.

The story hasn’t ended. She could easily crash and burn. She is at a dangerous time. Things have never been better for her, but deep down she is still fighting the demons of a past that tells her she is worthless. 

It is hard when you care for your clients. I hurt when they hurt. I can’t fix her or any client for that manner. She has to find her own way. All I can do is hold the lamp and hope she makes the right decision.

 

Advanced Self-Sabotage

Brenda’s and my stories have multiple lessons. But there is one more lesson. 

Self-sabotage doesn’t always take place once you have had some success. Often, we have an idea that when fleshed out has real promise. Before we ever begin our brain envisions the successful outcome. 

To prevent any overheating our brain tells us to sabotage the effort. Procrastination kills more wealth than all other dangers combined. 

There are so many ways to burn your future. The goal is to short circuit the thermostat. Life when you were a child built many of these walls. They need to come down.

You do deserve a good life, filled with financial abundance and good friends and family. Break the thermostat. Let your dreams flourish.

 

Coda

There is no other line of work for me. I make a difference. Every morning I jump out of bed ready to serve. It gives my life meaning, helping others find meaning in theirs. 

I made enough mistakes, some rather large as we just saw. Perhaps if the right person came along I would not have committed the slash and burn I did. I doubt anyone knew how deep the knife cut. I needed to open up and accept help.

Coming from the outside I can help people see the forest from the trees; provide a gentle guiding hand. I have plenty of experience, and the scars to prove it. I have no problem telling my stories, even the less flattering ones. 

The story doesn’t end here. It never really ends. Each day is a challenge to live up to our potential and convince ourselves we are worth everything we have.

 

Have you ever self-sabotaged? Of course you have. Same as Brenda and me. How did you find your way back to the light? What lessons did you learn? How did you convince yourself it was okay to be wealthy, to have life good? Are you still picking up the pieces?

Many times the conversation ends up on Facebook. Consider adding the conversation to the comments here so others that come along later have a full guide on how to avoid the self-sabotage we all plan when things go better than we feel deep down we don’t deserve.

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Success is the Best Revenge

It happens to everyone: a business partner embezzles funds destroying the company and leaving you with the mess, an ex betrays your trust, a co-worker or supervisor harasses you. It is easy to get angry and fire from the hip. But reaction only makes it worse. To make matters even worse, the person who slighted you gets away clean while your response is dealt with harshly. There is something true to the adage: the second one to throw a punch gets caught.

There is a better way that doesn’t harm any party involved: success. Success is said to be the best form of revenge, but it only works if it isn’t done for traditional revenge reasons.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said if your life has a why you can bear almost any how. This is a fancy way of saying your life needs purpose to strive for the important goals.

Money will drive you if your finances are in desperate straits. Once the basics are covered new motivations are needed to keep striving for goals. Sheer love of the process drives some, but this is the minority. The vast multitudes need something more, a prod to keep them moving forward.

Dreamscape

Failure happens. All your hard work and planning sometimes ends up in flames. Your financial dreams are tested in these dark times and to make it worse, people delight in your pain, some more than others. A certain crowd enjoys watching people suffer. Sometimes it is a crowd specific to you.

People are jealous of other people’s success. The people closest to you can be the worst, secretly delighting in your misfortune. Building financial success is one thing. As the market claws higher, over-spenders of the world secretly pray for the day when the market collapses or at least your investments take a serious haircut. A jealous brother or friend despises you because you had the discipline to spend less than you earn and invest the excess in index funds.

An ex is the worst of all. In their mind you don’t deserve success or any pleasure after your relationship with them ends. There is something decidedly psychopathic about such attitudes. When you move on with your life and start dating again she takes great pleasure in each relationship that doesn’t work out. It’s as if their worth in life is tied to your failures.

Failure happens more than success so the haters have plenty to gloat on. Your financial investments will have plenty of down days, some remarkably so. Staying the course means time will be kind to you so you get more revenge than your nemesis.

All these feelings, unfortunately, are counterproductive. Revenge is the acid which destroys the vessel which holds it. We all attract haters as we grow. People will do incredibly horrific things to tear you down. The higher you climb the more excuses these people have to hate you for your success. They will work tirelessly to harm you.

Perspective

This is where you need perspective. While people may hate you for your success and feel you don’t deserve it (who does?), the truly successful know the truth of human nature. Jordan B. Peterson wrote in his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, “Most individuals are dealing with one or more serious health problems while going productively and uncomplainingly about their business.” (I recommend purchase of Peterson’s book. Read it, mark it up and then use it as a constant reference manual on living well.)

It is so easy to sink to the level of those who wish you harm. Striking back is a reflexive response. Mature individuals, however, know everyone is carrying a heavy burden. As Peterson noted, the majority of people are fighting a medical issue or a close family member or friend is. When you think about it that way it is easier to forgive a past transgression.

Forgive does not mean forget. If a friend betrays your trust you can respect the difficulties they are experiencing in their life. But you don’t have to trust them! This is a personal finance blog so we’ll use a financial example. If a friend steals from you or doesn’t repay money you borrowed him you don’t have to keep giving them more. That isn’t what friends do; that is how people enable addicts and other people in serious need to change in their life.

Hating a cheating ex is natural. The bitter feelings need to come out. But get them out quickly or they turn into a cancer harming you! Yes, you have been betrayed. Don’t allow the betrayer to continue harming you!

Motivation

Past bad experiences can be a powerful motivation tool. Anger and bitterness will eventually destroy you. The “I’ll show them” mentality also wears you out in the end. There is a better way to channel this energy.

Revenge is usually not the real motivation. You are hurt over a betrayal and you want to show “them” what they missed. Using success as a form of revenge is really about showing the world how valuable you are. The people who hurt you in the past are not allowed near you and your newfound success.

Revenge over a prior slight is a long-term steady emotion. Deep down it isn’t about revenge; it’s about acceptance. You are projecting your success as a way to let everyone around you know you are valuable. Every action is motivated discovery. Am I really able to do this? The person who slighted you may not even know you are growing and winning. It doesn’t matter. The person you are really trying to impress is yourself.

Failure brings out the worst in people. Failure is a natural and normal part of the success process.

Elon Musk is struggling with production at Tesla. His efforts to build enough cars to turn his company cash flow positive are necessary if he wants his company to survive. He has tweeted several times in the past about his detractors. He warned people selling him short they will learn a valuable lesson soon. Musk isn’t technically out for revenge, though he is working to prove all the naysayers wrong. The motivation is so powerful he is reported to sleep on the factory floor so he has as many waking hours as possible available to apply toward his goals.

Initial thoughts of revenge are counterproductive. Your first reaction is to strike out at the person hurting you. This will cause you more trouble than anyone else. After the initial sting, the steady state of numbness can go one of two ways: you can fold your tent and withdraw or you can focus on the goal. Quitting is an unfortunate reaction. Stepping back and thinking about what you really want and how to go about getting it is far more productive.

Benefits of Success as Revenge

People visiting this blog generally are looking for ideas to lower their taxes, build wealth, start a business or insights on retirement, early or otherwise. All these things are forms of success. Efforts to create something suffer inevitable setbacks. Many slights are only perceived. We think people are laughing at us or rebuking us due to our misfortune. This isn’t always the case.

A parent may show disappointment when an adult child gets arrested for DWI. The instinct is to withdraw. Burying your instinct is important. To move forward, to grow, you need to use your mistake as a motivator for change. You parents aren’t out to get you, nor do they derive pleasure from your failure. They want what is best for you so they show disappointment. And they can’t do it for you. Your anger isn’t really directed at them; it’s directed at you.

Lottery winners learn fast how many friends and family members they have. When the money runs out they find out how many true friends they have. The same applies to all of us to a lesser degree. When you bust your tail at a business or investing for early retirement or world travel plenty of people will dissuade you. Your friends are limited as you are in the building process. Not many people want to stick around. They’re afraid you might put them to work.

As the goal approaches the number of friends increases. Now you have money; now you are successful. The fun part is celebrating a victory and crowds of friends show up for that. Most you never met before in your life. Such is the nature of fair weather friends.

The same applies in the blogosphere. Everyone wants to know the bloggers slamming it. The guy eking out 72 pageviews isn’t fun to be around. It’s all work, research, and discovery. Success isn’t guaranteed. The fun part is when playtime is available. It takes courage to continue. Thoughts of revenge rarely play a key role. But thoughts of showing people in your sphere of influence you have the right stuff does.

One of the most disgusting displays of fair weather friend behavior involves interpersonal relationships. Staring and building a business takes long hours of hard work and sacrifice. Money is tight; every penny is funneled into the project. Relationships are destroyed sometimes. All parties may not be as committed to the project as you. Over my three and a half decades of practice I’ve seem divorces over this kind of thing. What I find disgusting is when success finally arrives the person who left frequently finds their old partner more attractive then. Rekindling such a relationship rarely works because it is based on one party being exceptionally shallow.

When in the trenches, look around you. When you are sleeping on the factory floor giving every ounce of energy to bring an idea to life, stop for a moment to take an inventory of the people with you. One, maybe two, of these people are true friends. When things turn the corner and success is in full bloom it will be more difficult to determine who your friends are as everyone wants to be your friend.

Enemies will be obvious. They’re the ones constantly gloating at every minor failure. They play an important—if not ignorant—role, too. They are a constant source of motivation to climb to the next level. Not to show them, but to remind you of what you are capable of.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

 

Perceptions of the Wealthy: Learning to Think Like the Rich

Our view of the world is colored by our perceptions; our perceptions are colored by experience; our experience is adulterated by media influence. The secret to financial wealth is between the ears. How you think has as more to do with wealth creation than hard work. It is possible to work hard and accomplish nothing useful. Only with the correct mindset is value created.

Tony Robbins is fond of saying, “The past does not equal the future.” I think he is right. The average man or woman spends too much time worrying about every failure they experienced in life. Moving from mediocre to significance requires burying the past: the good and the bad. Past success isn’t good enough to ride on and failure doesn’t define you unless you allow it to.

There are only a few seemingly minor differences between happy, well-adjusted, successful, wealthy people and the masses. Believe it or not, wealthy people do NOT consider money their most valuable asset; time is. Money can be lost and having money always requires investing it or burying it in the ground. Both options carry their own unique risks. Rich people know money is easily replaced. In a world of fiat money (issued by decree) the government just prints more when things get tight.

Time is another issue. Whereas, you can always rebuild from a failed financial venture, time wasted is never recovered. The best one can hope for is a learning experience applicable to future endeavors. The financially successful of our communities know every moment should provide value. Sleep nourishes, quiet time allows for reflection, work feeds the soul and reading feeds the mind.

The Neighbors You Keep

I worry at times the FIRE (financial independence/retire early) community will implode. The group is diverse with people from all walks of life. Jealous and selfish people have plenty to gain by harming the movement. Perceptions are all important.

Think of a new friend you meet at a financial conference. You hit it off and share stories. You feel a strong affinity with your friend until you are shocked to learn she has AIDS. She never changed, your perception of her did. And that is wrong. If she was a nice person to talk with, she is still a nice person even if you learn she has a disability or disease.

Judgmentalism is a damning disease that destroys everything around it. It is so easy to judge others. The Bible even has a verse warning of such behavior, where Jesus preaches to take the beam from your own eye before the sawdust from your brother’s. (Matt 7:3-5)  Many religions warn against judging other as it leads to you being judged.

Walls are easy to build; near impossible to tear down! It is easy to stay within your own comfortable group. But if you are well on your way to financial independence, you need to share with people beginning their journey. Most people would rather continue their foolish money habits. Those who come to camps, meet ups and conferences (FinCon and the various FI camps around the world as examples) are eager to learn. Sticking tight to your click encapsulates your knowledge and experience. Only with open arms can they learn and grow. In fact, the only way for you to move another step higher is to share your experience! If you stagnate you risk tumbling back down the hill. It’s happens faster than you think. Billionaires have gone broke!

We can also judge people by where they live. Our initial impression is shattered when we discover our new friend lives on the wrong side of town. Once again, nothing changed except your perception.

Let’s hit closer to home. Your favorite accountant lives in a sleepy part of a quiet state. Yet, in this quiet neighborhood, the district attorney in the county where my office is planted went to prison on federal and state charges of bribery. A few of the convictions were overturned; most were not. Justice went astray for a long time in my community.

More recently, the district attorney in the county I live was booted out of office. His wife was accused of activities which could be construed as federal felonies! People get sick of that behavior from elected officials.

My county has a long history of poor behavior. The drama of the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer, took place seven miles from my doorstep! To make matters worse, one of the key players in the investigation, Mark Weigert, is now running for sheriff and is likely to win! You can watch the documentary where Weigert gets a 16 year old kid, Brendan Dassey, in a secluded room and grills him for hours without his parents or an attorney present. Dassey has an IQ of 73 and a verbal IQ of 69 according to the documentary. Making a Murderer is chilling to watch. How anyone can take pride in cracking a kid with a low IQ is beyond me.

If we saw this happen in a third-world nation we would be up in arms. Since it happened right here in the good ol’ US of A we stand in stunned silence. Do we hate everyone from Wisconsin or my county? I sure hope not! Every community has things it would rather not talk about. Once again, we shouldn’t judge people without knowing all the facts. (And you never have all the facts.) Judging someone on a past fact diminishes you and invites others to return the favor.

Perceptions can cost a community or individual. Poor choices a lifetime ago can extract a current cost if you allow it. Perception has a powerful hold.

Wealthy people make mistakes all the same. The only difference is that they don’t allow perceptions to derail their aspirations. Never allow someone else’s perception to alter your focus. Lesser people will always want you to quit. Winners don’t do that!

Your Most Valuable Asset

While average people are concerned with the perception people have of their work ethic, status and affluence, the wealthy are laser-focused on the most valuable asset anyone possesses: time.

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Elon Must and Jeff Bezos all have the same amount of time each day as you. What each does with that time determines the level of value created. Create massive value and financial wealth is sure to follow.

When you are more concerned with the actions, past and present, of other people, you are allowing your perceptions to be twisted. This will make you average, mediocre. Your desire for all the benefits financial independence brings will be derailed because you allowed your precious time to be wasted by unimportant dramas.

Tony Robbins is right, the past and future are only loosely connected. Past mistakes mean you tried. That’s more than you can say for most. Mistakes do not define you; how you handle them does. If you quit because you’re worried what others might think, you rob the world of your talent and experience! All the time invested learning those skills is squandered. You have wasted the most valuable asset any human being possesses. Rich people don’t do that.

If your dreams involve early retirement (retirement at any age) then you must use your time wisely. Business ventures will fail. Ideas that sounded good at the time will fall flat. Screwing up is not the problem. Never screwing up is! The only way to never screw up is to never try. If you never try, all you have is delusions of grandeur.

Carry It with Pride

I don’t walk around telling people my net worth. Money is a score card for determining value created in my practice. As much as I avoid talking purely money, people tend to come to the conclusion quickly I have a significant financial pot of goodies.

People develop a perception of me fast. The same happens to you. Then the gloss wears off. My human side is exposed, warts and all, and the weaknesses and failures are revealed. Business ventures that ended with a dead thud remove the illusion, the perception, everything I touch turns to gold. (I butchered that goose a long time ago for stew meat.)

Successful people make mistakes. Big ones! It comes with the territory. You’ll also notice the failures don’t distract the successful from the true prize.

Elon Musk is a modern example. He made a fortune with PayPal and instead of sitting on his hands he risked it all on SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City, and now The Boring Company. Any one of these ventures could cost him his financial fortune.

But Musk knows money is not real wealth anymore than the scorecard in a bowling game is skill. Value must continually be created! He had to risk it all to do something of real value. His rockets are unique in their performance. Nobody has anything like it. Automotive manufacturers told us electric vehicles were not a viable option until Musk made it a reality. Now the simple-minded are playing catch up.

I don’t encourage mistakes. They happen easy enough on their own. But you should own your mistakes. Wear them with pride. They are a reminder you are human and remain motivated to create value. Scars are a badge of honor. When they lay you to rest, pray your skin isn’t smooth and soft. Pray to be covered in scars of experience. Yes, it is painful. But it is the only way to live life with meaning.

Our Deepest Fear

I’m going to close with a quote from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I can’t say it better.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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