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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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.

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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.

 

Managing Burn Out in a 21st Century World

“A study released in April of 500 IT administrators from various firms by Opinion Matters revealed that 72% of respondents were stressed, 67% considered switching careers, 85% said their job intruded on their personal life, and 42% lost sleep over work. Can burnout be far behind?” Fortune Magazine April 2012.

That 2012 Fortune Magazine article marked the beginning of a trend that has escalated to an astounding 40% of Americans today, reportedly experiencing symptoms of burnout. Many of us sacrifice a lot in our chase for cheese in the rat race. Not least on the “corporate altar” is our health and wellness. The Christian church has not been immune to this, with three of five pastors leaving the ministry for reasons associated with burnout.

As a pastor, wife and mom, my experience with burnout came on the heels of the birth of my micro-preemie twins. At 4 a.m. on April 16, my water broke. I screamed and argued with the nurses because it was 14 weeks too soon. It’s hard to put into words the absolute fear and the depth of guilt that goes through a mother who experiences this. In my book Under Qualified and Overwhelmed I share my journey but more importantly, I share the lessons I learned about coping with feeling stretched beyond your limits.

“When you find yourself in that position; you have to reach within yourself for something that you never thought you had. When you are stretched beyond your ability to hold on, where do you find the faith, the strength and courage to face one more day?”

It was a difficult road, and after spending three months in the neo-natal intensive care unit, my husband Tim and I were finally able to bring our children home. Until the twins were eight months old, I would spend my nights sleeping on the floor between their cribs because they still had major issues that sometimes required giving them infant CPR to save their lives.

Coming out of our experience, my husband nominated her to be honoured as a Super Mom on the Steve Harvey Show. In an interview with CBS 6 of Richmond, I emphasized that all moms of premature babies are Super Moms “because what else are you going to do when your child needs you?” More than that, the complexities of our 21st century world makes every one of us feel we need super human strength to cope sometimes.

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Two things I learned from my experience with feeling Under Qualified and Overwhelmed are:

1. We all need a village to help us cope with times of extreme stress. Stress in and of itself won’t kill us. It is our inability to recover from stress that kills us. Surrounding ourselves with a supportive community will give us opportunities to recover. Supportive friends and family can ensure we don’t neglect self care like eating, sleeping and exercising. They can even step in to help create opportunities to do that. For me, that came in the form of having someone come over to watch the twins so I could have a few hours to sleep. No matter how strong and resourceful you are, facing stress without support is a certain path to burnout.

2. An attitude of gratitude makes a world of difference. When you’re frustrated and worn out, it is easy to complain. The problem with complaining is it keeps us focused on the problem. It becomes easy to overthink the negative and make a bad situation worse. By being deliberate about finding reasons to be thankful, we change our perspective and in turn create the positive energies that lead to problem solving. (check out this post on Breaking Free)

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Taneshia Kerr is an Adventist Pastor, Wife, Christian Counselor and NICU Mom. The title of her book Under Qualified and Overwhelmed, reflects the feelings she had navigating her experience with the high stress life of being a NICU Mom. The growing needs of the twins have recently pulled her away from full-time ministry. She now dedicates her time to being a mom, writing and occasional speaking. For more information on the book, visit http://www.underqualifiedandoverwhelmed.org, email taskbds@gmail.com or find it at Amazon.