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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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…

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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.

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