Have you ever heard the quote from Jerry Rice about doing what others won’t do?
Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.
I find that’s a powerful quote that’s true both in work and in money. Dave Ramsey says something similar when he talks about living like no one else, so you can live like no one else. Basically, you need to stand out and be different in order to accomplish what most people never will.
Don’t Be Average
Many of us know or have read about the scary financial statistics of the so-called “average” American. Here’s the top five that come to mind:
In order to be successful at money, reach debt freedom, or become financially independent, you need to be comfortable with being different.
Most people look for the external trappings of wealth to decide who to emulate. They look at someone elses house, car, granite countertops, fancy clothes, expensive haircut, and elaborate vacations. They decide that the people who exhibit these characteristics must be wealthy, because they spend a lot of money. Why do they think this? Because it’s all they can see. Because they were trained that way by their friends, family, and the media. Because they can’t see when that so-called “wealth” results in a near zero-or negative-net worth. They don’t see the money fights, the paycheck-to-paycheck stress, or the games played when one credit card is declined and another must be used.
To reach financial independence, you must buck that system and stop looking at the external trappings of wealth. As Dr. Thomas Stanley says, you don’t want to imitate the “glittering rich”, who are often not nearly as rich as you might think. Who’s really become wealthy? Who’s already reached financial independence? Study them. Discover their values and behavior. If what you want is to be financially independent, you need to learn to live like financially independent people do. You have to reject the “normal” view of the rich and look behind the curtain to see the “real rich”. The people who have their money in a bank account, investment account, or real estate property – their wealth isn’t hanging around their neck or driving around on four wheels.
Look at things differently. Instead of seeing a fancy, expensive new car as something to strive for, you want to look at the reality of having that car. It’s a rapidly depreciating asset that you drive to get from Point A to Point B. It’s a gas hog and repairs are expensive. And how’s that monthly payment? Is it enough to do something else, something you want more than to get from Point A to Point B in a more fancy way?
That’s not to say that having a fancy car is wrong, or bad – it’s certainly not. I know plenty of people with awesome cars who love them, for whom the trade-off in time and money to pay for the car is worth it. But I also know many others who feel stuck in their car, or like they were forced to buy it. People who would rather not have that payment, those expensive repairs, or all that gas. For those people, looking deeper into what drove the purchase-and what alternatives are available – would be wise.
If most people aren’t willing to consider a used car, or a more practical one-maybe you should. If most people upgrade their house when they get the big promotion, perhaps you should stay put. If most people would redo their kitchen with their bonus, instead you can use it to reach financial freedom. Rather than a fancy vacation, you could take a fun but less costly one. Think about all your choices, and instead of doing what your friends/family/media want you to do, go ahead and make a different choice in alignment with your goals.
To become financially independent, you need to be willing to do what others aren’t willing to do .Then you can achieve what others aren’t able to achieve.
Doing What Others Won’t – Work
This same principle can be applied to success at your workplace. When you look around at your co-workers, especially those older than you who’ve been in the same jobs forever, what do you usually see?
I know what I see. Complacency. Not standing out in any way. Plenty of “not my job”, and a reluctance to adapt to change. Complaining – about changes that have come their way, about the latest assignment from the boss, about the customer, or about other teams in the company. Someone who rolls in late, rolls out early, and frequently works from home (that should be “works” in quotation marks, because no one knows what they’re doing).
I never see someone that has kept an attitude of adaptability and learning. Someone who spends time studying the overall company, trying to make sure they understand the business and how the company makes month. A person who takes courses like Toastmasters to try and enhance their public speaking skills, and then seeks out opportunities at work to use those skills. Someone who works from home infrequently, or while they’re remote are fully active and reachable at all times.
Believe it or not, you can stand out at work just by doing a few simple things – because others don’t do these consistently. Here are ten basic ideas that you can use to transform your career – no matter what your job is.
- Come in on time, or a bit early – and leave on time, or a bit late. And if you need to come in late or leave early, drop a note to your team to give them a heads up
- If you’re working from home, be clear on your availability. Don’t just disappear for a few hours when you have an appointment.
- Start and end meetings on time. After a minute of chit-chat to connect with your coworkers and catch up, be sure to keep meeting conversations on track. Bring the conversation back to the meeting purpose if you drift off topic
- Learn how to speak in public and in front of large groups
- I highly recommend Toastmasters – being part of that program in my early 20’s directly led to me accepting an opportunity to speak in front of 30k people at my company
- Spend a few hours every quarter listening to your companies earnings call and reading its financial statements. Learn how your overall company makes money and how your role/project supports that
- Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. If you can’t do something, or you’ll be late, just communicate it clearly ahead of time.
- Don’t just not respond, or miss deadlines, and then make excuses
- Also don’t miss a key deadline, blow it in front of the business, then in a meeting show me “how busy” you are with meetings. I have more meetings than you, buddy, and I don’t miss deadlines. And if I need to delay, I’m clearly communicating that in advance. I’m not just showing up at the meeting with my work undone. Um, not that this is based on a true situation or anything
- Keep up on your e-mails. I’m sick of people telling me they’re “behind on e-mails,” or “get so many emails”, and that’s their excuse for missing key communications and do-to items. Look, we all get a ton of e-mails – get over yourself. Research e-mail organization systems and try a few until you find one that works for you
- Be more than just a worker bee. Perhaps you think your working 16 hour days, including your midnight emails, are endearing and show that you’re “such a hard worker”. I find it disgusting, and so do many of your co-workers and other bosses. Guess what? If I can do in 8 hours what you take 16 to do, I just think you’re disorganized or wasting time.
- Ever hear the saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Same is true of people who let work become their life. All work and nothing outside of work makes for a dull, unhappy, not well rounded person. You don’t want to be laid off at 45, and have nothing else in your life but work.
- Protip – you can create the perception that you work all the time simply by working in a focused way all day long while you’re at work. For some reason people think I work 50-60 hour weeks, but I don’t. I’m just massively efficient during the time that I’m working.
- Volunteer for the extra assignments, and never tell someone that something is not your job.
- By volunteering for work outside your everyday (whether it’s a new committee at work, or a club, or something else), you stand out and get to know different people from around the company.
- By not playing the “not my job” game, you might have the opportunity to try to do something new. At a minimum, if it’s really not something you can do, help the person asking you find out whose job it is or how it might get done.
- Be part of change. Embracing the change, having intelligent discussions about it, helping to figure out how your department or role should function after it, bringing in facts about why something might not be optimal – those will make you stand out
- Sure, maybe you’re tired of constant re-organizations, or your department keeps making changes that you think don’t make sense. That’s fine. Complain to your spouse and friends over a beer. But at work, figure out a way to be part of driving the change instead of just letting it happen to you
- Complaining about it to your coworkers, pushing back on your boss without facts to back you up, continuing to do something the old way because it’s more comfortable-those will make you stand out in the wrong way
If financial independence is your goal, why should you care about success at work? Well, first you might be like me where FI is your goal, not RE. Right now I don’t have a specific RE goal, but I think being FI would make me more successful at work. Why? It’s hard to want to rock the boat, or take on a risky project, when you know that your family of five depends on you to be the breadwinner.
My favorite example of this was found in Your Money Or Your Life, one of the four books that changed my financial life. A scene that always stood out to me was when one of the people is approaching the crossover point, where their income from investments is nearly enough to cover their living expenses. He comes home from work excited and invigorated, because he’s “bulletproof!”. It no longer matters what others want. He can do what he thinks is right, propose risky ideas, and have heated discussions with the bigwigs-because he doesn’t need the job.
That’s the position I want to be in. I want to have success at work so I can earn more, influence more change, and help more people. The more I earn, the faster I’ll reach financial independence. Then I can make an even bigger impact, simply because I can’t be bought. I’ve met too many people who are dependent on their jobs to support a high-flying lifestyle, are stuck doing things they don’t want to do, taking no risks, and just exemplify “the fat many in the red BMW convertible” from the Tim Ferris book Four Hour Workweek. Unhealthy, unhappy, but stuck supporting a lifestyle they don’t even really want. They do things they don’t want to do at work, simply to come home to a life they don’t want to be leading. That’s not a healthy, fulfilling life to me.
I Want To Hear From You!
Where in your work, money, or life have you done what others weren’t willing to do – and reaped the benefits? Was it immediate, or was it months-or years-down the line? Let me know in the comments!
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Note – here’s the infographic sources:
- 46% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency expense
- One in three Americans have no retirement savings
- Car loans are now over $30k, with a monthly payment of $503 and a term of almost seven years
- Average student loan debt is over $37k, and one out of six defaulted last year
- The average household with credit card debt owes over $16k