For me, 2017 has been a year full of change. It has also been a year packed with growth. I finished graduate school, changed jobs, and moved out of my parent’s house all in a span of a few months. In the midst of all this change I spent more time reading, writing, and thinking than ever before.
Here are a few personal and financial lessons I’ve learned this year that have added value to my life.
1. Grit matters infinitely more than talent. I have noticed a trend in the lives of successful people: they’re relentless in their pursuit of what they want. They’re not necessarily talented, they just stick with the process longer than most people are willing to. They’re gritty. I want to be known as a gritty person. I might not be as gifted as you, but I’ll outwork you. I’ll persist long after you quit.
2. Often there are no shortcuts to get what you want, you simply must put in the work. I used to believe in “life hacks” and shortcuts. I believe there are techniques and methods to be more efficient in life, but generally to get what you want just requires work. If you want money, get a job. If you want to be healthy, work out. If you want a life that others don’t have, do the work that other aren’t willing to do.
3. Buying a car upon graduation is not rewarding yourself for hard work, it’s setting yourself up for more hard work. I used to be jealous when I saw my peers posting pictures of new cars they bought after college graduation. Not anymore. I realized that the excitement of a new car slowly fades away over time. The monthly bills do not.
4. Less is almost always more. In writing, it’s best to communicate a message in as few words as possible. In conversations, I don’t always need to be heard. It’s best to say less and listen more. In buying stuff, there’s only a few things that add value to my life. The rest is superfluous.
5. Short-term hustle and long-term patience is a beautiful recipe for success. As much as possible, I try to become .01% better each day, knowing that the results of hard work don’t show up after weeks or months, but after years of work. I’m learning to be content with that. I don’t need $1 million today or 1 million page views per month. I’m better off pushing for $100k and 100,000 page views in the short-term. Tiny short-term victories lead to massive long-term wins.
6. Saving money is not about avoiding spending, but rather only spending on things that bring a ridiculous amount of joy. I’m not a penny pincher. I’ll spend on things that bring me joy. It just so happens that I need very few things. For me, that means more chipotle and less new clothing.
7. The best way to save more money and gain more happiness is to exit the comparison game. For 20-somethings, Facebook and Instagram rule the world. Everyone is constantly competing to look good, whether or not they feel good. I find that the less I compare my life and my accomplishments to my peers, the better I feel and the less I desire to go out and spend money to make my life look good.
8. The people who care about you as a person, don’t care about the stuff you own. A huge reason people buy stuff is to impress those around them. But the people who actually matter in your life don’t actually care about what you own. The people that do care about what you own aren’t worth keeping around.
9. Motivation is overrated, habits are everything. The positive habits I have in my life – waking up early, writing each morning, taking cold showers, automating 401(k) deductions – are what incrementally improve my life. I don’t look for motivation, I just set up habits and let the benefits compound over time.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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