Escape the Rate Race- 5 Lessons from Usain Bolt

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As I write this post, Jamaica and in fact the world is slowing its pace if not coming to a complete halt to look on in absolute pride and awe as the living legend, Usain St. Leo Bolt gears up to run his last 100M race on home soil. This now legendary Olympian and dare I say the greatest athlete alive started out a boy from the little known town of Falmouth, Trelawny with a population of just over 8000 in one of the smallest countries in the world. I will attempt to recap a few of his list (non exhaustive) of achievements to date:

  • eight time Olympic Gold medallist
  • first person to hold both the Olympic 100M and 200M world records 
  • eleven time World Champion
  • broke the 100M and 200M world record twice each
  • part of the world record holding team for the 4x100M
  • awarded the IAAF world athlete of the year, track and field athlete of the year and Laureus World Sportsman of the Year four times 
  • #63 on the list of the top 100 earning athletes for 2016, with estimated earnings of $32.5M USD

I could keep making bullet points of achievements but suffice to say this is an extraordinary man from at best, ordinary beginnings. This is a man that has escaped the rat race both literally and figuratively.

When I look at Usain’s story, I see many parallels with the path to success in any endeavor. For those of us trying to achieve financial independence and break free, it can seem like such an uphill task. Oftentimes we wonder if it is even possible to achieve our goals. Many of us grapple with our lives feeling unhappy and at a disadvantage because of our less than ideal beginnings. Here are some lessons we can take from Usain’s journey:

Assess your skillets, focus on your core strength. Begin where you are with what you have– Usain used his God-given talent and started training from an early age, often with less than ideal equipment and facilities. Many times we think, I’ll start saving when I get a raise. However, it is important to know that we have to master a little before we get a lot. What skillsets do you have that you can leverage right now? Can you paint? Do you make really good natural juices? Can you build really cool webpages? These are all skills that you can tap into right now. Do not wait for some future time when circumstances are ideal. Begin now. Usain started out playing cricket until his coach identified his speed on the pitch and channeled him into track and field. Knowing or finding out your areas of competence will help you at being great at what you do.

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Have fun, choose happiness– You can tell from Usain’s disposition on and off the track that he truly enjoys life and tries to maximize moments of happiness. Why do we go around moping and stressing as though we have all the cares of the world on our shoulder. A colleague of mine, who happens to be one of the most inspirational persons I know gives his formula for happiness as: happiness = expectation – reality. Reality he says is really just your perception of what is real. So, being happy in life is a matter of either adjusting your expectations and improving your perception of reality. Therefore happiness is a choice. There have been many studies done on the concept of working in a state of “Flow”. Flow, the state where we feel in command of what we do, execute tasks effortlessly, and perform at our best, was discovered by researchers at the University of Chicago. They asked a wide range of people, “Tell us about a time you outdid yourself — you performed at your peak.” No matter who answered — ballerinas, chess champs, surgeons — they all described the characteristics of the flow state. One of flow’s best features: it feels great. Making the choice to be happy with the work we do will set us up to be more productive and feel more fulfilled.

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Put in work– Despite his fun and antics, when it is time to work no one puts in more in training than Usain. He leaves it all on the track everyday during his rigorous training routines. As the saying goes, the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. We often look on at persons who have achieved financial success and dream of having the same results and the fruits of success, but we don’t realize the amount of energy and effort expended in getting there. There is no going around it, if we wish to achieve financial freedom, we must get into the habit of working and being productive in our endeavors. I recommend getting into the office just one hour earlier each day. This will give you an additional 5 hours per week. in a year thats 250 hours or over 6 work weeks of increased output. Do you think you can accomplish more if you had an extra month and a half in your year? Could you make more commissions? Finish more projects? Earn that promotion? This is just from one little one hour change. What more could you achieve if you tweaked other areas of output.

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Don’t focus on others; run your race– People anticipate the moments before Usain’s race perhaps as much as they do the race itself. His superior focus and display of confidence shows a defiant man charting his own path, self assured that the medal at the end of the track is guaranteed for him. He is not concerned about his opponents, the naysayers nor anything that will prevent him from crossing the finish line first. In fact he often comes from behind to close the gap and win. In our daily lives we are so concerned about what other people are thinking, saying and doing. We often make perilous decisions based on how we believe people will react to our choices. Of course we must upgrade our cars at least every three years. How else will people know we are doing well? We absolutely must go shopping at least twice per year. I was quite shocked when I read a recent article highlighting that it was revealed by former First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama that President Obama, wore the same tuxedo to every state dinner for the past 8 years. If the leader of the free world can recycle his suit, why do we need to look “fresh” at every “turn up”? We are literally going broke trying to look rich. 

                                                         

Build your network- For a man from humble beginnings, Usain has managed to create a deep and expansive network of supporters, well-wishers and advisors from whom he can learn and with whom he can share ideas and grow. If we are to be successful, we need likeminded individuals on a similar journey, who will support us and drive us toward our goals. You are the average of the 8 persons you spend the most time with.  Habits are shared, behaviors learnt and results replicated. Look around you. Are the persons you spend time with striving for the same ideals? Are they who you wish to be in 5 years time? Do they motivate you to do more and be more? If not, you may want to make some changes.

Our future is being created daily. It is our duty to ensure that when we arrive we are pleased with what we see and whom we have become. It is not enough to merely exist and pass time. We should strive to become the best versions of ourselves. Bring your talents “to the world”.

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10 Signs You Are Financially Awake

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Sometimes I look around in amazement at those who appear to be taking the proverbial bull that is life by the horns. I used to think that they are super humans; gifted with some extraordinary ability and/ or skill-set, setting them apart from the rest of us mere mortals. Being a naturally curious (read nosy) person, whenever I get a chance to interact with these large and in charge figures, I make it my point of duty to soak up all possible nuggets of wisdom. From my observations and interacting with these super men and wonder women I realize that whilst they themselves have struggles, that they have made certain decisions, which have led them along their path to success. There are certain traits which are common to them all. As a firm believer in the principle that like actions cause like effects, I have outlined below 10 traits of the truly Awake:

i. You make and live by a budget–  Money is an expression of value. When you release your energy into the market place, you receive payment in the form of income. The truly Awake realize that “money is a good servant but a cruel master”. Every dollar earned may be spent on: enjoying life, investment or charity. All three (3) are worthy areas. The point is to have a plan for every dollar earned, addressing all three and to  stick to that plan.

ii. You spend less than you earn– No man ever attained independence or power by spending all he earns. Society, has made it a little harder for us by making it possible for us to spend more than we earn through loans. The truly Awake, ensure that they not only live within their means, but below it. They realize that the only way to give to any charitable cause or to have money for investing is to spend less than you earn. 

iii. You set goals and plan for your future– The truly Awake begin with the end in mind. They develop long term goals, which they break down into shorter term targets and take action every day toward achieving these. As Napoleon Hill stated in his famed and impactful book, Think and grow Rich, “success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal”. Note he made no mention of speed. There is no short-cut. The important variable then is your direction. A constant movement in the right direction will get there.

iv. You are a pupil of lifeAwake people realize that, the difference between where you are now and where you are 5 years from now is what you read/ learn. They know anything can be learnt and invest their time and energy into learning the skill-sets needed to succeed.

v. You surround yourself with positive people– You are the average of the 5 persons you spend the most time with. Therefore to grow, you must be around people committed to growing. Successful people have the uncanny ability of seeking out persons who can fuel their development.

vi. You give your word and keep it– Your word is your bond. In the end all you have is your integrity. The  Awake say what they mean, and mean what they say. To make this work, the Awake are very specific to whom and what they commit. They learn the art of saying no to the less important matters and commit fully once they give their word.

vii. You focus on your health/ fitness– “Mens sana in corpore sano” is a Latin phrase, usually translated as “a sound mind in a sound body” or “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. As internationally known speaker and author, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer stated, “we are spiritual [and intellectual] beings having a physical experience”. The Awake realize that maintaining your health, makes for a much more pleasurable and fulfilling experience.

viii. You are always in solutions mode– Problems are a dime a dozen. Unless you are a diagnostic expert, chances are you do not get paid to point out problems. The market rewards those who bring solutions to the pain points of life. 

ix. You remain positive despite setbacks– With the best of intentions, we all meet upon periodic setbacks. That file you have been working on all day has magically disappeared. Your investment portfolio has taken a hit due to market conditions. That “sure thing” deal you thought you had in the bag, suddenly fell through. The Awake ones amongst us realize that persistence is a must have trait and keep on keeping on even with these setbacks.

x. You genuinely love to help others– The successful and truly Awake person realizes that they themselves are the benefactor of the intervention and assistance of coaches, mentors, supporters and well-wishers along the way. He/she understands the value of this and tries to pay it forward. Life (and the market) has a way of rewarding the “go-givers”. Never become so engrossed in self that you forget to help others.

Investing- with a small amount of money

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You did all the right things: went to school, got good grades, landed that oh so elusive first job and began running on the track toward success. You’ve managed to skimp and save bits and pieces from the morsels you’ve received for your efforts. You have a small amount stashed and lately all this running has got you feeling like Harvey the Wonder Hamster. People often ask questions like: “I have a small amount of money (read $200/ $1000/ $2000/$5000 USD etc), what can I invest in to become financially free?”  Having asked that question myself, scoured the globe (read research/ books/ seminars/ trainings,  countless meetings with financial advisors and several financial missteps), and still being on the quest, I have arrived at a somewhat unorthodox view on the approach to be taken with small lump sums or financial nuts. Below are my thoughts:

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Invest in your self

When you are starting out on your financial journey, the best person you can invest in is you. Instead of looking for someone to give your hard earned cash to, I vote YOU for President of your financial state. Further your studies in an area that will put you at a greater advantage toward earning more. Learn a new skill. I know of several small and part time entrepreneurs who have built viable small businesses from skills learnt in areas such as: graphic design, sewing, carpentry, interior decor etc. Find something you’re curious or passionate about and explore the hell out of it. When you do what you love, you will never have to work a day in your life. Set yourself up for success. Also, you can find inexpensive business options to invest in for yourself. I remember my days of doing network marketing. It was a powerful platform to earn real income. It afforded me the privilege of forming solid relationships, some I hold dear to this day and also taught me the value of focusing on personal development. So, even though I did not become the next Holton Buggs (highest earner in network marketing, earning in excess of $1.3M USD per month), I became a better version of me.

compunding

Pretend like it doesn’t exist

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying that “compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world”. This basically puts forward the view that when it comes to investing, time is your greatest ally. There is a principle called the rule of 72, it basically is used to give a rough estimate of when a sum of money invested at a particular rate of interest will double if compounded. You divide 72 by the interest rate per annum to get the number of years. As an example, if $2000 USD is invested at 6% per annum it will reach $4000 in approximately 12 years (72/6=12years). However, even at a very unrealistic and highly optimistic rate of return like 12% per annum we would need all of 6 years (72/12= 6 years) to turn $2000 into just $4000.  It’s not rocket science then to note that relying solely on a small sum of money as the main source of investment to secure one’s financial independence is foolhardy. So your best course of action is to lock this away into some safe instrument or account and do the following step.

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Take massive action

Jim Rohn, famed American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker is quoted as saying “We get paid for bringing value to the market”. Money is a reflection of the energy you put into the market place. Your greatest resource then when your financial currency is low is to use the currencies of energy and creativity. Think of ways that you can serve a market. What great pain is there that you can alleviate? When you see an opportunity, go for it like your financial life depends on it, because it does! Take massive action. People have met financial success doing many different things. Financial success is in the middle of the town square. The whole matter of success then is less about whether this road can take me there, but rather when will I start my journey. For any path once undertaken with purpose, in the right way and with persistence will take you to the center of town. Seek advice from those who have done it before. If you wish to become a baker, research all you can about baking. What will make your cakes different/ more appealing? Life is also such that if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, you can begin afresh. Take the lessons and just keep moving toward the center of town. When you are starting out on a new path it is expected that your effectiveness will be low. If you are in sales, you will hear more NOs than YESes initially. Until you have mastered your craft, your only strength then is productivity and action. Make more calls. If you need to make 10 sales to reach your quota and you get 1 YES in every 5 calls, you only need to make 50 calls to be a star. Get moving…

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So to sum it all up, it is a very good thing to begin saving at an early age to benefit from the powers of compounding. However, when you are just starting out and have a small financial nut, the best thing you can do is to keep doing things. Invest that small sum in you and take steps to increase your income. Your real currencies are your energy, creativity and time. Wait until you get to a meaningful financial nut before taking on complex investments. Pretend like this sum doesn’t exist and get right back to working.

What’s your take on investing with a small amount of money? Is there anything you’d like to add? Feel free to leave a comment or query below.

 

Starting a New Year’s Revolution

Happy New Year to you all. Just as quickly as it came, believe it or not we are already 10 days into 2016. I spent the first three days developing and capturing my goals for the year, and as recommended in my article “2015: A year of growth. Lessons learnt” they span all the key areas. In that time I was routinely greeted by questions from friends and associates regarding my New Year’s Resolutions. They like many people, without even knowing it had joined the ranks of the ‘New Year’s Resolutionists’. You know those persons who wait for every new year to wipe the chalkboard of their lives clean and rewrite resolutions in chalk, soon to be erased again for another run at futility. I myself have been amongst the fold. I have had my false starts every January in the gym proclaiming every year as the year I get in the best shape of my life. I have thrown out many supplements and once fresh vegetables that had remained unused. I have justified and renegotiated (albeit with myself) budgets and savings targets to ease the pressures of attempted frugal living. I have conjured up and shelved many seemingly good business ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this jolt of new year zeal and energy. The challenge is the follow through; the “sticktoitiveness” required to bring dreams to fruition. The world isn’t devoid of new game changing concepts. However, what I have come to realize is that when it comes to ideas, most often it is not the grandest ones that are successful; but rather the simplest ones coupled with excellent execution.

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So to increase our chance of success for this year; what if we moved from making a wish list of things we want, to a firm actionable list of things we wish to discontinue? This way we move from making New Year’s Resolutions to real a New Year’s Revolution. How do you join the revolution? Initiation is simple. I have decided to make a short list of things revolutionists should discontinue doing:

Procrastination: We should never put off for tomorrow what is meant to be done today. I know first hand how dreary working out can be, especially in the initial phases, but you will never get to the destination without enduring the journey. That business plan that you should write, get to it! You’ve been putting off starting school for years, the sooner you start the sooner it ends. That book you’ve been waiting to start writing, pen the first paragraph. By whatever means necessary get started.  The 19th century philosopher and poet Henry Thoreau, put it most aptly when he said “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”. Let your grave be a bankrupt account; spend every penny of intellectual capital before you get there.

worrying

Worrying about the future: We should never try to do tomorrow’s task today. Close cousin to procrastination is anxiety. You know those people who are at work thinking about being home with their family and at home with their family thinking about work. When all is said and done they are never really anywhere. There is a reason why we get the year one day at a time. This is because that is exactly how it is meant to be lived. Many illnesses are borne of worry and anxiety. There are generally two types of situations we encounter, those for which we can control the outcome and those we cannot. If you can control the outcome then you won’t worry. So that leaves the uncontrollable outcomes. There are ways to deal with those things you cannot change. When faced with a difficult situation, I ask myself three questions: 1) What is the most likely outcome? 2) What is the absolute worst that can happen? and 3) What would I do if the worst should occur? After taking stock of the situation, I begin to put plans in place to deal with the most likely outcome. Simultaneously, I look at contingencies to address the absolute worst case.  This way, I have ready options and courses of action to take in any eventuality. Do not worry! It will all be ok in the end. If it is not ok, it is not the end.

negative self talk

Negative Self Talk– We are our own worst critics. In Major League Baseball a batter with a 0.300 batting average is considered to be excellent. What is the point of this reference? A professionally trained, elite athlete is rewarded with millions of dollars in contract payments and endorsement deals; and showered with admiration and praise for getting it right 30% of the time. How many of us believe we get it 70% wrong in life? I am willing to bet that none of you do. However, we have become oriented to believe that we must be perfect in order to be of any worth. Whenever, we make a misstep we berate ourselves and end up causing the worst kinds of mental and emotional wounds; self-inflicted. Woosah… this too shall pass. For 2016, let us catch ourselves each time and nip the negative self talk in the bud.

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Complaining– One thing we do with almost a matching degree of proficiency to negative self talk is complaining. “He is always late to meetings” No person is always anything. In each person is some good and bad, choose to focus on the good. “This job is the worst there is”. Why not leave? You’re doing yourself and your coworkers who wish to be there a great injustice by staying. Go find greener pastures. People who find a problem for every solution suck the joy out of living. The good news is if you are such a person this is the perfect time to change. Leave the complaining tendencies in 2015 and instead focus on solutions.

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Quitting too soon- Anything worth having is worth fighting for. The trick is to be able to quickly assess what is worth having. Oftentimes when it seems like it is time to give up, is really when you are about to hit the tipping point of an idea. Successful businessman and motivational speaker Bob Proctor calls this the terror barrier. As he puts it the very next “cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek”. If you quit at everything, you finish nothing. Life has a way of rewarding those who finish the race.

2016 for me will not be a refresh and forget year. For certain I have made missteps in 2015. However, there are key things which can be applied to the new year. Whilst goal setting is mission critical for the year and for life in general, let us move away from feel good wish lists veiled as new year’s resolutions; let us create a powerful life changing new year’s revolution.

Join in the conversation. I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the things you will stop doing this year? How will you ensure you close 2016 strong?

 

 

2015: A year of growth. Lessons learnt

It is almost the year’s close, and soon we will all be singing or humming (for the melodically challenged ones like myself) the tune  of “For Auld Lang Syne”. If you woke up on this side of the earth, count yourself as blessed, and smile with pride for you have survived yet another year. If your 2015 was anything like mine, it would have been wrought with trials, challenges and surprises. It would also have been heavily sprinkled with many moments of happiness, joy, gratitude and fulfillment, which can only come from facing and overcoming the periodic adversities of life.

Happy NEw Year

It is that time of year when most people are in high spirits, gleefully planning the excursions and exploits of the festive season. The more conscientious and disciplined ones amongst us are steadily reviewing goals set on the cusp of NYE 2014. I personally still have 17 days to learn hand to hand combat, vacation in Europe, start fishing on the weekends and to lose 15 more lbs.  I won’t beat myself up too badly, because considering the number and level of involvement of the things on my list I have done pretty well… In fact I think I deserve a cupcake or 6 (make that 16 lbs to lose, but who’s counting?).

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I had all 6 of these in one afternoon…

By now, you may have picked up that I view life as a journey. Each leg, new travel companion, experience, pit stop and adventure comes with its own purpose. Every exchange is an opportunity to learn. Looking back, I can safely say this has been a year of expansion. Not necessarily financially or even at the waistline, but primarily in my mentality. 2015 was a year of growth. I have decided to encapsulate 5 of the key lessons I have learnt on my journey this past year.

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  1. Goal setting is essential. The most beautiful thing about the rest of your life, is that you are creating it; even as you read this post.  A man/ woman with a goal is a person on a mission. You may have heard the saying “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. Decide what you want for yourself. Start by thinking where you’d want to be 10 years from now. Visualize it; every infinitesimal detail. In this process, do not yet worry about the how. It is not your job just now to connect all the dots, but simply to hold a vision of where you are going. Break that into milestones. You cannot act in the future or the past; only in the now! Ask yourself “what things do I need to accomplish in 2016 in order to ensure that I have significantly advanced in my quest to get to 2026 me?” Write those down. There is something powerful about putting pen to paper or finger to keypad. It becomes an agreement with the one person you cannot avoid; yourself. Your goals should span several categories: health, financial, spiritual and personal development etc. Review them periodically and when faced with decisions; take ones which put you more in alignment with achieving these personal performance objectives.                                             people skills
  2. People first, everything else is secondary. There is an African saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. My most meaningful experiences and achievements have been those involving others. That funny joke I heard, that new restaurant I discovered, that amazing vacation I took, that new TV show, my foiled attempt at farming… The list goes on. All of these reflect moments in time when I created lasting, invaluable memories. None of these would have been the same without the true gems in my life. People just simply make life better. I don’t profess to be anywhere close to perfect, but for my part I have discovered that one of the most important skills one can hone is people skills. Whilst your IQ (intelligence quotient) may be a good predictor of your ability to solve complex puzzles and math problems; it is your EQ (emotional intelligence) which is most telling as to your probability of success in life. Being self aware, managing self, having social awareness and relationship management are extremely critical. If you have a gap in any of these areas, you will profit from developing a plan of action to close same. I have found it pays to listen more intently than preemptively and that using empathy truly helps. Making an effort to understand rather than be understood is key.                                                                                          bumps ahead
  3. Setbacks are to be expected. No one promised you an easy ride (or at least I hope they didn’t). By now you will realize that life has a helluva sense of humor. My friends will tell you that I laugh a little too heartily at times when faced with some very tough situations. This is partly because I get the satire at play and also because in my mind, it’s better than crying. Even with the noblest of intentions and the most robust of plans and goals; there will be disappointments. I remember that  major sales order I was waiting on to make my monthly target, falling through with 4 hours to go. In moments like those, I have had to walk away, regroup, call on my support system and raw ingenuity to pull through. What I have found, is that when you start out with the  preconceived notion that the problem has a solution waiting to be unearthed, it often finds you. If there is one thing I have taken away, it is “never give up!” Even if you don’t find the “fix”, look again, there is often a major lesson to be learnt. This lesson often proves to be the very widget you need to tackle the next major challenge on the horizon. Have a mindset where you never lose; you either win or you learn.                                                                                                                                      be different
  4. It is ok to be different. Sure you may have heard that the blade of grass that stands out gets cut. However, it is often the flowering weed, which blooms most radiantly. Embrace your uniqueness. It is ok to think along different lines. Ask the questions which cross your mind. Challenge the status quo, but do so in a manner mindful of your impact on others. The key is to get your message across without distorting the channel. Anytime I find myself in a room buzzing with “uh huh”, “mhmm” and other expressions of mindless consent, I begin to look for the angle that I am missing. People are often in the “go along just to get along” mode; simply because it is less laborious, less lonely and less risky. Somehow connected to our mouth, is a bit of grey matter between our ears. We often let the former go into motion without consulting the latter. Or worse, we conceive a powerful, game changing idea but fail to ventilate same out of fear of ridicule, or isolation. Dare to be different. Be you.balance
  5. Balance is essential. Man is made up of mind, body and spirit. In the hustle and bustle of daily living, we often neglect an element or two. I remember going through a few months of battling insomnia. I would go to work and come home after a long and grueling day incapable of staying fully asleep at nights. After eliminating all possible physical causes (trip to the doctor and giving up my beloved coffee) it became apparent that it was my own mind keeping me awake. My mind was never still. Add to this mix, the fact that I began to eat indiscriminately and started to slack off with my physical activity. It wasn’t until I decided that I had had enough and that something must change, that I began to day by day make better choices. At first it was hard. The activation energy required to get going was tremendous. I began my fight against months of inertia. I got in the gym (slowly at first), started cleaning up my diet, tapping into my close relationships as a means of alleviating stress and feeding my mind (reading and watching videos focussing on my areas of development) after much introspection. It also proved important to take some time away to recharge. The results so far have been absolutely amazing. I am feeling far more energetic, am sleeping much more soundly, feel a lot less stressed and have strengthened key relationships which needed more attention. Suffice to say, anything which bothers your mind, affects the homeostasis of your systems.

As we approach the new year, it provides an ideal opportunity to look back before we leap forward. It is important to pull from each new experience the lessons we were meant to learn. Being clear on your destination is essential. However, taking time to enjoy the journey is the whole point of the trip. Live each day in gratitude, because in looking back at life there are certain perennial truths: it goes on; and over the long run it tends to get better.

Are there any other lessons that the year 2015 has taught you? What are some of your goals for 2016? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below. Feel free to share this article with your friends and family.

Continue reading “2015: A year of growth. Lessons learnt”

Breaking Free: Moving from Planning to Implementation

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Tazkruff, a follower commented on my article quitting the rat race:I must say this resonate[s] quite well with me and I seem to always have that blueprint for financial wealth however I lack the implementing aspects which I need to start building on.”

I had initially responded to Tazkruff, but in thinking further on the question, I could see and hear what wasn’t explicitly stated. Reading between the lines, I could sense and relate to Tazkruff’s disappointment and dare I say frustration with himself. Take heart Tazkruff, you are not alone! I, and indeed many of us are here with you.

In university I did a course in Introductory Macroeconomics and was reintroduced to a concept, that from life experience, I knew all too well. “Yd= S+C”, we learnt. That is to say that your disposable income (Y) is equal to your savings(S) and consumption(C). Therefore S= Yd-C. Anyone with a basic grasp of elementary algebra could follow that. What they failed to explore in this and pretty much every other university course is practical applications on how to reduce consumption and increase savings. No such luck for this very important matter. They left us to our own self discovery and in many cases undoing. Without a clear and pragmatic blue print from an early age; many of us turned to the easiest sources of advisory. Many of us modeled our friends’, parents’, celebrities’ and the media’s take on personal financial management. The unfortunate bit is that for the vast majority of persons, these sources have not been yielding the kinds of outcomes that they would want. Sadly but suffice to say like actions produce like results.

Who amongst us cannot relate to having heard at some point in time about the need to save and invest? But as with most things, the make or break of our financial lives is in the implementation. So using Tazkruff’s comment as inspiration, I am going to share some real practical ways that I have been able to, in my small way start my quest for financial freedom. I will also explore some of my failures too; for like you I am trying to find my way on this journey.

Having been dissatisfied with the results I was getting for many years, I decided that I needed to reevaluate and radically change my philosophy. I have explored several books, audio material, videos, interviewed several successful persons. From that I have decided to adopt just a few of the elements learned, which I think would be useful as a part of my own personal philosophy. I will attempt to share a few in my own words, though it should be noted that I am not the originator and further that I am still learning as I go along:

Mindset

A lot of material has been written on the power of the mind. Without any heavy philosophical or metaphysical reference, it is safe to say that every word or action began as a thought. Therefore every element of the modern world was once a thought for someone at a point in time. The Wright brothers saw manned flight in their mind’s eye before we were able to book a flight. Edison saw the light. Galileo envisioned the telescope. The list goes on…

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What is evident is that no great achievement  comes to fruition without the seed of a thought. We must hold in our mind’s eye, an image of our best selves. I often find myself in a place of self doubt and when I do I quickly begin to count my blessings and fall back to an attitude of gratitude. I’ve learnt that gratitude should extend not only to our current state or things we have, but rather to every conceivable situation in our lives and (here’s the kicker) things that are yet to come. It takes a reconditioned mindset to begin to view your life and the world like this, but the dividends are exponential. Additionally, life is not a zero-sum game, i.e. for me to win you must lose or vice-versa. We are not kept in lack from scarcity. The world itself, has an abundance of resources to take care of us all. The challenge is we spend quite a bit of time, looking at the greenness of the next man’s lawn. “Yes the grass may be greener on the other side, but best believe it comes with a matching water bill”.  A scarcity mindset, will bring about further scarcity, just as Galileo’s mind brought about the light bulb. Fix your mind, fix your life!

Develop a plan of action

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There are many perspectives on the path to take to financial freedom. What I have discovered from my research, is that there is no one right answer. Some are believers in ardent saving, at the expense of every creature comfort. Others believe, in more of an expansionary approach, seeking more to grow income than to curtail spending. My personal philosophy is a blended one. Whilst I do not subscribe to scarcity thinking, my mother taught me quite early, “willful waste will lead to woeful wants”. Therefore for me it is a two-pronged approach.I look for an opportunity at every turn to bolster income. I love my job and career, but I have long been sold on the benefits of business ownership. I have tried several projects and initiatives. Whilst I have profited from some; more than a few ended with a less than desirable outcome. I never see them as failure though, with each misstep come valuable lessons and learnings. I remember growing up and working in my mother’s small grocery shop. Sighting the popularity and potential demand for “Cheese on Cheese” biscuit, I decided to save a little from my lunch money each day until I could purchase a case of “Cheese on Cheese”, which was placed in the shop. Being a major foodie, I remember the personal sacrifice required to get to the capital needed. It took near two weeks. However, that pain was quickly forgotten when, I started to take “drawings” from my “Cheese on Cheese business”. That one time investment paid me repeatedly. That is, until I was bought out by mother, who had much grander plans for my “Cheese on Cheese empire” (mergers & acquisitions can be a tough game!). However, from that age, it was not lost on me that from whatever minuscule income, we can and in fact should save to invest in order to create additional sources of income. To this day my quest continues.

Trimming your expenses is also very important. As a marketing and sales professional, I know too well the strategies employed to make us feel that “state of felt deprivation”.  However, we should try to curtail expenses as much as possible. The root cause of most cases of conspicuous consumption, can be traced back to ego. That drives the desire for one-upmanship or perhaps to belong. My love of Japanese cuisine has caused me to further explore their culture. What I have noted, is an emphasis on minimalism . Within their culture, less is more. They have been able to record high levels of productivity and growth. One key learning for me; we should try to resist the drive to acquire more things that rust, rot and depreciate.

As a teenager, I would often hang out with men many decades my senior. One nugget of wisdom I received (though somewhat controversial) is “there are three things in life never to be chased: technology, fashion and a bus en route”.  All three it was explained were very hard to catch, keep up with and stand a very good chance of leaving you standing still. I will admit to splurging occasionally, but I still believe there is some soundness to this advice, especially for those of us on our freedom journey. We should look around us for opportunities for both expansion and cost containment. The plan must be crafted for our own situation, but the fact is we must have a plan.

Get to work.. 

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Understand who you are, what drives you. What excites you and makes you come alive? If tomorrow, you had all the money you needed, what thing would you do that would make you feel most engaged and intrigued? What can you not stop thinking or talking about? Whatever that thing is, identify it and get cracking!

Nothing is wrong with being an employee. Entrepreneurship, whilst a faster path to financial freedom is way riskier. Whatever role you find yourself in today, work as though your future depends on it, because it does! Be the guy who gets to the office first and leaves last. Be the girl, who never stops until a problem is solved. Be the person who gives a commitment and keeps it to the letter. If you were like me, without a fall back plan or trust with your name on it at birth, you have to give just a little more than the next person. Just as the Lord loves a cheerful giver, employers, managers and our superiors absolutely cherish a great employee. It is true that due to your efficiency and effectiveness at executing your function, you may stay in a role for longer than you’d ideally prefer. However, the laws of physics have taught me that when any object expands to be too large for its current space, new space must be created. You can only stay in one space for so long… Keep giving more! Even if your current employer does not arrange this, life has a way of going to equilibrium and sooner or later, it will be repaid. Whether through the lessons from your current role or the diligence of your execution, you will be rewarded! Zig Ziglar once said “When you do more than you get paid for eventually you’ll be paid for more than you do.” Similarly, for entrepreneurial pursuits, do not stop trying. You may just be at that break through or tipping point for your idea/ business. The key is to find a need, meet it better than the competition, treat those customers well and take a profit.

Relationship Management

People can be a fickle bunch. But they’re all around us and as you will see in the post on Managing Burnout in a 21st Century World, our support system is needed in order to cope. Just as careful consideration and evaluation should go into the thoughts we let into mind, deciding on our vocational pursuits, and in selecting investment options; so too should we be mindful of the relationships we form. You need people in your corner who will support your every move but who are also bold enough to call you out when you are wrong. I do not want my ship to be cheered into an approaching iceberg.

Select people who, whilst different and with their own individuality, share a similar mindset and drive. Jim Rohn said “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. So therefore, do your assessment. Are your 5 reflective of the person you wish to become? Do they have the right value system, drive and mindset? I’ve found that as time goes by, my circle of close friends evolves. That doesn’t mean that old friends are irrelevant. It just means that they too have to be growing, not financially, but in their mentality.

Network frequently and effectively. Form relationships outside your core group of friends. This may be difficult for some, but is essential and should be viewed as such. I’ve found that oftentimes when confronted with a new challenge or situation, the people in my direct circle may not be able to assist in the way I’d like. It is by turning to my other associates and contacts that I am able to be pointed in the right direction. Make a habit of interacting more with people. Introduce yourself and let someone know a little bit about you. You never know when you may be called upon in some way or may be introduced to your next life changing opportunity.

networking

I would encourage any well-thinking ambitious person to seek out a mentor. It does not have to be someone in your direct field; this is someone whom you admire, see value in and believe that you can learn from. Choose carefully, ensure that there is synergy between your energies and a personality fit. This is someone you can turn to when life throws its curveballs as it so aptly and frequently does. They should have your interest at heart, be a good listener and should not be trying to create a “mini-me”, but “the best you”.

Keep the ball rolling

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With the growth from either your career or your business, you will soon afford yourself the opportunity to save and over time to begin to amass capital investing. This should be regarded as just that. It should not be regarded as an invitation to purchase more objects of rot, rust and depreciation. Purchase true assets. The only reason for investing is to get a  return. Seek out assets that generate free cash flow. You need things that spin off their own profits to add to your earned income. You’ve been working hard for money for years. Let’s put the money to work for you. The idea is to get your snowball rolling; increasing in size as it goes along. Be wary of get rich quick schemes and too good to be true deals. They usually are in fact so and leave you out of pocket with a lesson you could have avoided by being more prudent. Do not overly expose yourself to risk. Diversify your investments to cover you should one asset class or company go down.

The quest for financial freedom, hopes to take you away from the rat race and should not itself be regarded as a race. Even if it was a race, it would be a long distance and not a sprint event. By having the right mindset, careful evaluation/ planning, good old fashion elbow grease and making prudent investment decisions, you can break free.

 

Health Before Wealth- exploring wellness & fitness

The Roman poet Juvenal in his book of poems “Satires X” wrote “Mens sana in corpore sans”. That is latin for “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.  For those of us on the quest for truly full living, we must never neglect the importance of having a healthy body. In our daily pursuit to quit the rat race we must always remember to place “Health before wealth”. As I lay here writing I’m reflecting on my own quest to get into the best shape of my life.  I like many of you have been less than squeaky clean in my daily habits. Late night eating, those repeated final glasses of wine at that recent event and those “I’ll just work out tomorrow” days leave us all feeling guilty and conflicted. The good news is, it is never too late for a shower of rain. Whilst I am more than a little ways away from attaining Sparta like abs and obliques, I have already been experiencing marked improvement in some very valuable ways (I will give an update on my progress in a future post.)

sparta

Many of us are not fully happy with our current physical states and would love to better understand the various areas of impact to reach better physical conditioning. Our bodies are marvelous objects of creation, which with proper understanding and care can be transformed into a most wonderful source of expression and container for our mind and spirit. I will attempt to share with you some of my learnings and research on the topic of physical wellness. These areas include:

Diet– You are what you eat.

diet

The food we eat is broken down by our digestive system to provide energy and nutrients for our body’s many processes and functions. Energy is measured in the form of calories. Therefore each item of food we consume has its caloric count. The source of calories in foods can be further classified into one of three macronutrients. These are:

  • carbohydrates (e.g.: grains, juices, sugar, pastry)
  • fats (e.g.: animal and plant fats and oils)
  • proteins– (e.g.: lean meats, fish, nuts).

It is important to understand the role each of these macronutrients plays. As we go through our day, we require different amounts of calories to execute our tasks. To get the energy to run, walk, talk or dance our bodies use insulin to break down the carbohydrates we eat into their simplest form; glucose. As far as possible we should try to avoid simple carbohydrates. These are the more refined carbs (e.g.: food with flour, sugar, syrups) as these have a higher glycemic index, i.e. are broken down more quickly by the body and rush to the blood stream, spiking our blood glucose levels. Instead, complex carbs (e.g.: ground provision and whole grains) should be substituted as these have a lower glycemic index and convert more slowly into glucose.

To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, we should take in just enough calories to fuel our daily activities. Any unused glucose is converted to glycogen and is then stored in our body as fat cells for future use. However, technology and societal evolution have taken us far beyond the days of eating just to meet our daily needs. In this age of consumerism, convenience and sedentary lifestyles we have been stocking away this surplus of fat at alarming rates. This current generation is the heaviest in history. Some fats especially healthy i.e. unsaturated fats (fish oils, avocado, olive oil) are good for your heart and circulatory system. Proteins provide amino acids, which are needed to build and sustain muscle as well as for repair of damaged tissue.

With this understanding the whole matter of weight loss, gain or maintenance becomes a matter of balancing caloric inputs with caloric needs. To know how much calories you need to maintain your weight, just take your current body weight in pounds and multiply it by 14 and 17. Somewhere in between those 2 amounts will usually be your daily calorie maintenance level. For example, a 180 lb person would do 180 x 14 and 180 x 17 and get an estimated daily calorie maintenance level of somewhere between 2520-3060 calories. If we wish to lose weight, create a caloric deficit. If we want to gain weight, create a caloric surplus. To maintain your weight, simply eat just the right amount of calories. We will explore other nutrients and vitamins in a future post.

Exercise- Get Moving!

exercise

It should be no surprise that this point features in this article. Exercise is of prime importance in maintaining a healthy body and fitness level. It is also needed to sustain our muscle integrity (especially important for those of us looking to fight gravity and the effects of aging). Nice tight muscles not only look and feel great, aid us in attracting mates, but also increase our resting metabolic rate (the rate at which our bodies burn and make use of food, while in a resting state). When it comes to exercise, however it should be noted that it is not a one size fits all approach. Whatever you do the key is to just get moving! It is recommended that we get in between 3-5 times per week for approximately 1 hr (give up 1 hr of video games or TV time). This is less than 3% of our time available each week. For my part, to ensure I do it, I treat it as I would an appointment with a client or my boss. Even if I’m not quite up to it, I get dressed and turn up for numero uno!

It would be also instructive to spend a bit of time exploring the general categories of exercise, which should be incorporated in your program; despite whichever specific form it takes. These include:

  • Cardiovascular exercise (aerobics)– The goal here is to increase our heart rates and keep it at a safe level above its resting rate for a sustained period. This conditions the heart and circulatory system, making them more efficient at transporting much needed oxygen and nutrients around our bodies. Aerobics is also important for creating the caloric deficit and for burning off excess fat stores. You can explore running, walking, cycling, the elliptical machine and swimming. I personally prefer walking very briskly on the treadmill (gentler on my knees and back than running etc).
  • Resistance training– With muscles, you use it or lose it. Use weights, machines or plyometrics (exercises relying on ones body weight & motion) to create resistance for muscles in an attempt to make them stronger, firmer or for them to grow. To develop any muscle, put it to work in a consistent manner. This may also force the muscle fiber to tear in a very minute and harmless manner. The idea is that our bodies will repair this tear with the amino acids from the protein you eat. The body’s natural aim is to become stronger to prevent tears and be prepared for similar loads in the future. I have personally seen good results by training specific body parts once per week on a designated day. I recommend crafting a program to fit your needs and schedule.
  • Flexibility training (stretches)– The objective here is to maintain our body’s full range of motion. It pays to be able to bend to reach for that $100 bill you so fortuitously find while running in the morning. Yoga and the stretching exercises are options. Be sure to stretch before and in between exercises.

Sleep and rest

 

sleep

Our bodies like our minds were not meant to do continuos work without breaks. Do not forget one of the most important sessions in Kindergarten, Nap Time… It is when we are asleep that our bodies rejuvenate; replacing cells and repairing damage from the previous day. Without adequate sleep (recommended 8 hours per day) we run the risk of ill health and premature aging. Be kind to your self. Allow your body to mend itself. Similarly, rest days should be strategically interspersed amongst work out days to allow for recovery. This will ensure you are in optimal form and will prevent injury during your workout program. It is also recommended that you take one full week off from exercise every 90 days. This prevents your results from plateauing as your body adjusts to accommodate its new routine.

Stress Management

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Stress is really our body’s way of responding to and coping with pressure or unusual circumstances. Just as we have an adrenaline rush when facing imminent danger, so too do our bodies react to the seeming threats and distress of daily life. That approaching deadline, mounting financial woes, relationship challenges, big presentation to the board and impromptu challenge from your coworker as you pitch your big idea to the boss all are read as threats to which our bodies respond. Some amount of stress is healthy and dare I say required. How else would you know to skedaddle and remove yourself from the path of an approaching car. That is stress playing the role of a physicist and reminding you of the impossibility of two objects to occupy the same space at once. The harm occurs when there is no release. After narrowly escaping a hit, your adrenalines subside and you go back to normalcy. However, many of us are walking around in a constant state of fight or flight mode. Though initially unnoticed; over time the effects can be detrimental. Insomnia, physical illness, nervous breakdowns and poor cognition are all attributable to too much stress. Find an outlet… Pick up a hobby (knit grandma a sweater for a change), take that long earned vacation (They will survive without you), take up meditation or yoga (shalom!) or seek professional help to cope (this is 2015, it is the new normal, no need to be superwoman/man).

In summary, it should now be apparent to each of you that when it comes to your physical well-being the following are relevant:

  • Consult a physician before you start- ensure you are capable of undertaking your planned routine. Get a check up if necessary to prevent any possible issues/ injuries
  • There is no silver bullet- Nothing replaces hard work. (sure the latest water and lettuce diet may cause you to lose weight rapidly, but it is not only unsustainable; it isn’t worth the trip to the ER! Be wary of quick fix solutions. No one element discussed above supersedes the other. All are necessary to be healthy.
  • Your physical wellness plan, like your financial independence plan is personal– Ensure your program addresses your specific needs. Whatever form of physical activity you select should be to your liking so it can be sustained. Tailor your routine to meet your needs. A personal trainer can help.

Where are you in your personal quest for physical fitness? Would like to share any tip or advice for those of us on our journey? Do you have a question on this topic? Please leave your comment or question below.

Quitting the Rat Race- The chase for cheese

Since birth we have been told that the path to success is to study hard, do well in school and get good grades so you can get a good job. So we joined the race of our lives, running hard toward the promised prize of a meaningful existence and prosperity. Many of us stayed on track long enough to clear the many hurdles on track, with some earning our degrees.

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You are guaranteed success, huh? How’s that going for you? If you’re like me you have now realized that this is not the full story. The brief fleeting moment of success we tasted was not enough to quell our hunger nor did we “arrive”.

So everyday we continue hit the pavement, in the rat race; chasing cheese…

rat_race

We all are trying to make it big. We want to be rich. To be wealthy. Some for different reasons:

  • to be in a position to repay those who sacrificed greatly for us (the years of “magical free food”, those books we tried desperately to evade reading, and clothes didn’t pay for themselves)
  • to live like the true kings and queens we are (mommy and daddy’s lil princes and princesses all grown up)
  • or the more modest amongst us “just want to be comfortable” (whatever that is.. 2015 comfort comes with a slightly higher price tag than the good old days.)

Whatever your view point on the wealthy the fact remains we are in some way on our own personal quest for cheese. Even the perfectly altruistic amongst us will admit that it is a helluva lot easier to give when you have something from which to give in the first place. But what is really considered wealthy? How much is enough? What if we could quit the race?

For the purpose of this discussion, I will define  “wealthy” as having enough free cashflow from your investments and assets to cover your desired standard of living. Therefore “enough” is really whatever you define it be. In order to quit the rat race, one only need create enough free cash flow to provide enough cheese to sustain himself, whether it be a small morsel  or a big block of gouda. You decide…

Taking the whole matter into consideration, it becomes apparent that we can all take various steps to influence our time on the track. Below, are outlined a few:

  • Have an end in mindKnow what is your desired standard of living. I mean sit and pencil out what your expenses are and as a consequence what your desired income would be to make you happy. Interestingly studies in the USA have indicated that increments above a certain level of income generate no increased feelings of happiness and satisfaction. This number is unique for each person. Eg: If you can live on $5000/ month, with an earned rate of return of 8% per annum, you need a nest egg of $750,000 (However, it is advised that you plan to withdraw no more than 4% per annum from your nest-egg).
  • Develop a budgettrack all your spending, every last $1. This will be your financial blueprint. After all, you are constructing your financial future. Much like any other plan, this is meant to keep you on track. By monitoring your expenditure you will be shocked at what you spend on different categories and you can make the required changes.
  • Spend Less than you Earn– This bit of advice will win no award for originality, but sometimes simple is best. You cannot invest what you do not have. With the advent of consumer credit, we have effectively found a way to eat tomorrow’s cheese today. This overeating will inevitably lead to financial ill-health and certain ruin. Trim budget of all non-essentials and discretionary items, just to the point of discomfort. Nothing worth having comes easy. Do you really need a 10th pair of blue jeans or that super fast, 100MP, dual processor cell phone with the accompanying teleportation pad? Consider toting the old brick a little bit longer (Keep on silent and answer in private if necessary. Talking a lot takes up call time/ credit anyway!!).
  • Pay yourself first– you avoided the temptation of that phone upgrade, now you have this mythical thing called savings. It is recommended that you save at least 10% of your gross income. This should be taken first (use automated withdrawal at the source of payment if you struggle with the discipline).
  • Ignore Windfalls- Your parents gave you $10,000 just for being an amazing kid (not yet time to upgrade your car), that annual bonus check (This is not your Big Pimpin starter kit), that annual salary increase (you do not need more clothes, a fancier watch or more dining out). Consider ignoring these windfalls. What would have happened if these did not come your way? I know what… you would have found a way to continue inhaling and exhaling. When you discover the power of compound interest you will never view money the same.
  • Pay down debt starting with most expensive- With these savings, begin to pay down debt starting with most expensive loans first. Retire that 40+% credit card before that 12% car loan (unless you want the motivation of checking off smaller loan amounts first).
  • Develop an Emergency Fund-It is recommended that you develop an emergency fund of at least 6 months worth of expenses. This will cushion you, should life throw a curveball as it so often does. This guarantees recovery, should the worst come.
  • Explore Investment Options– once debts have been cleared and you have your cushion, you now have the opportunity to begin exploring investments. Consult a certified financial planner. Options include: stocks– pieces of ownership in publicly traded companies, bonds– loans to governments  or companies usually with the agreement to pay an agreed rate of interest (coupon) and return your principal on a particular date (maturity), Mutual Funds- Allows you to buy a portion of a portfolio of stocks and other instruments in a pooled manner with other investors, real estate– invest in a house, a rental property or commercial real estate, Open a business- research a need, meet it better than the competition, take a profit. As Jim Rohn stated “profits are better than wages, wages make you a living, profits make you a fortune”. Businesses have tax advantages over earned income. The key is to always treat customers right or get left. Note that each investment type comes with its own set of risks and exposures. Explore each with a financial planner/ advisor.
  • Develop a passive income streamR.I.C.H.- Residual Income Creates Happiness. Either from your pool of investments, an online business, network marketing, peer-to-peer lending. Do you have some skill/ talent which you can market? Can you teach a math class (time to dust off that college degree and put it to use)? Think long and hard, the beautiful part of this is you are under no real pressure, no boss to answer to but numero uno.

When all is said and done, whilst money isn’t all, it is a major necessity in affording us and our  loved ones the quality of life we want and deserve. With a little planning and discipline over time, we will afford ourselves the luxury of being able to “quit the rat race” . This would then free up time or allow us to do that which we are truly passionate about. Maybe focusing a bit more on our health.

cheese

Do you have any other recommendations for those of us on our quest to financial freedom? Please leave your comment or question below.

 

Customers: treat them right or get left

I recently started my quest for physical fitness and that seemingly elusive washboard stomach with 6 pack abs (vain..maybe, but if I’m gonna be healthy, I may as well go for the perks as well). All my research and consultations pointed to the fact that “abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym”. Being a busy young professional with several projects and pursuits, I  very seldom have the time to make a home cooked meal (I have justified many years of spend on eating out by the diseconomies of scale of cooking for one). This led to me scouring the local food service landscape for a decent quality, good tasting and affordable restaurant (I need value for money, savings are important)with healthy food offerings. This proved to be a fun and exhilarating process for a self professed foodie. My weeks of painstaking testing (I take culinary research seriously) paid off and I hit pay dirt; or so I thought then. I found a family operated little grill and sports bar which specializes in grilled meats, roasted organic ground provisions, farm fresh garden salads and other healthy eats.

For days I was in bliss, trying different elements of the menu. Within a week I had selected my favorite combination: BBQ-Jerked chicken breast and roasted sweet potatoes; but my kicker was the fresh garden salad (I couldn’t figure out how they kept the lettuce so crisp, got the tomatoes such bright red and the carrots so sweet). Having started calling in to order, I developed a rapport and could have my order recited and fulfilled upon just the sound of my voice and hearing my name. I was happy. I was also very proud to be supporting a local business providing a quality product.

By week two, my new found romance began to unravel, as having now gone through the process of wooing me into this gastric love affair, my once attentive Belle had begun to show her true colors. My calls to preorder my meals were now greeted with a cavalier demeanor and worse the engagement of the much dreaded “Negatory Mode”. You know that mode once it has been activated by the easily discernible proclivity for saying things like: “No, I don’t think so”, “I’m not sure that’s possible”, “Maybe not”. Employees at some businesses apparently believe that its is your job as a paying patron to make their jobs easier. “How dare you interrupt my day’s flow?”. I called to order my heaven-sent, yet premium priced salad only to hear that “I’m not sure you can get that today, I’d have to check”. This of course was followed by a notably lengthy pause almost implying that I should understand her plight with having to make the impossible 3 feet trek to check with the chef to validate the salad’s availability. This pause was broken and she was spurned to action only after I exclaimed quizzically “ok, can you check for me please?”. Resignedly the call was placed on hold so the check could be made. Upon resumption, I was informed that I “should be able to get it”. Not wanting to cause further distress, I decided to visit in person to place my order. Maybe after seeing that it was me, their newest, biggest fan, waiting to spread the news of my new found love I might be regarded with better treatment. This was not to be. Upon arriving, and querying about the salad I could now see that “Negatory Mode” had not only been engaged but was turned up to max power. “I don’t think you can get that you know”. In stoic disbelief, I looked on and listened as I was told of all the plights of working in a restaurant. Due to all the orders the chef had churned out earlier, he would not be able to tend to my order, though the restaurant was now close to empty. Upon advising that I would be ok with waiting, I was told that “it would be best if you order something else or come back later”. That was enough for me, my years of dating had taught me to read the early warning signs. This romance had met an untimely end.

stick_man_confused

I left my once new favorite restaurant that evening feeling dejected and dare I say pissed. I had referred several friends and had been touting them about the health benefits of the offerings on the menu and why it pays to eat organic. This was a major let down. I wanted to now start a campaign against them. My campaign would have to wait though, hunger was calling me by name. After doing a couple rounds around nearby malls, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that a nearby fast food restaurant with a very attractively packaged salad comprised of all the ingredients of the salad from my now ex-favourite new restaurant. Whilst, I could not vouch for whether the veggies were organic, it was tasty, came with options for toppings and was half the price to boot (See actual pic attached). With that I had made the switch. I guess my most recent belle wasn’t as special as I thought.

salad

 

Looking back at this simple yet resounding situation I decided to note the key learnings. Here are a few which resonated:

  • The customer comes first– they seldom care if you are having a bad day, handled a 100 before, each exchange is a new one and should be regarded with the utmost respect and attention.
  • Disengage “Negatory Mode”– kick start that general can do attitude. Resolve in your mind that you will take a request as far as is possible to meet a customer need. Very often people will value the effort even if the answer ultimately comes back a no. “No” should never be the default/ initial disposition and response. This is how loyal customers are created.
  • Consistency is key– fickle creatures we are; thanks to recency you are as good as your last interaction with humans. Save for family, people are not tolerant of inconsistent behavior and certainly not inconsistent service levels when spending our hard earned dollars.
  • Keep your customers’ blinders on– the minute you send them looking to your competitor, you stand a good chance of losing them forever. Do your best to ensure that you are all they see.

Building a profitable business is a difficult pursuit. 95% of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years and 95% of those left fail within the following 5 years. Many companies spend millions attracting new customers. Due care should be taken to ensure that those budding new romances mature into loyal customer relationships. Customers are a needy bunch, “Treat us right, or get left”.

Can you relate? Have you had a similar experience? Leave a comment or question below..