The picture above is the car that I’m currently driving.
It’s a rental.
Identifying the difference between assets and liabilities while resisting the urge to buy things that my friends and contemporaries had has given me the freedom to pursue business and personal opportunities that others dream of. “I wish I could do that” is a common response when people learn that I’ve built 3 burgeoning businesses and wrote books all while spending 6 months abroad each of these past 3 years in Hawaii, Thailand, and Uruguay respectively.
I’m not particularly smart and I wasn’t blessed with connections. All that I continue to do is identify the difference between what makes me money and what doesn’t.
I’m not a minimalist. Maximizing time, mental clarity, happiness, and purpose is what’s important.
1. Buying a Car
A car immediately depreciates when you drive it. Years back I spent an extra $400/month on rent to live in the city, a 15 minute walk from work right on the subway line. Not only did I save money not having a car, but I saved headache. For many living far from work constitutes a false economy. While you may save a few hundred a month on rent, you waste hours driving and, if you live in a city like Toronto where traffic and construction are omnipresent, arriving to your destination frustrated and stressed out is a foregone conclusion.
With the extra hours and mental clarity I had living life devoid of all the annoyances and costs that come with owning a car and having to use it I had ample time to start to build my ideal business and lifestyle.
At 29 years old I finally needed a car for a few months in the summer. Instead of buying one, my girlfriend and I went to rentawreck.com and took out a 3 month rental. No maintenance, no required safety certificate, and when we’re done, we return it. It drives the speed limit, just as fast as all the other cars on the road. It gets me where I need to go. And if anything goes wrong I call somebody else and they deal with it so I can focus on what matters, my work, my business, and my life.
2. An Expensive Watch
A watch has come to be known as a symbol that communicates wealth. What’s funny is that the more successful entrepreneurs I meet, the more I’m surprised at how few of them own nice watches (or any watches). Most of them walk around bare-wristed like me and then have a $20 Timex used for exercise.
Watches, like cars, are one of those things where, in almost all cases, the most expensive piece in practice works precisely the same as the least expensive.
3. An Expensive Phone and Phone Plan
Take it from somebody who runs multiple online businesses – you do not need the newest iPhone. For 6 months this past year in South America I went without a phone. Email can wait. Social media can wait. If you build your systems properly you can get just the same engagement and produce as much value from a computer or by hooking up to wi-fi when available.
If you say that you cannot afford to buy a book or attend a seminar and own a $600 phone with a $100/month plan, you don’t want to be successful bad enough.
4. Designer Sunglasses
I have two pairs of sunglasses: Polarized Maui Jim’s from Hawaii and $1 dolloarama specs. You wouldn’t know which was which if you looked at me and both block the sun just fine.
5. All Inclusive Vacations
Accumulating experiences and differing perspectives is imperative to growth. An all inclusive vacation where you get drunk and sunburned may seem cool and you might think that you need to “relax”. Fight the urge. Take your time off and money allotted for a vacation and go for an adventure. Instead of getting on a plane and flying to a different country, explore your homeland. This past fall my girlfriend and I went on two separate road trips across Canada and the United States. We hiked throughout 16 different National Parks and countless National Monuments. Not only was the trip a fraction of the price, but we had an adventure.
If you want to do something different you’ve got to take yourself to different places, meet different people, and attain different experiences.
6. Goo-Roo Mentors
An old buddhist proverb states that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. You can’t rush it. Instead, you’ve got to recognize and take advantage of mentors when they do appear in your life. There may be exceptions, but somebody on the Internet selling mentoring for $10,000 is not the mentor that you need. Really successful people who know how to be successful don’t sell their secrets on the Internet to anybody who is willing to pay them money.
Instead of saying that you want a mentor, join groups of like-minded people. Venture outside of your industry. Ask questions when given the opportunity. And learn to recognize wisdom when it’s being handed down, no matter the source.
Early on in your professional life the most important asset you can attain is the freedom to fail. Gain more financial wiggle room than your contemporaries by eliminating needless expense and you’ll be able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.