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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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.