Thursday, February 26, 2015

How Bad do You Want It?

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Do you want it? I mean, do you really—really want it? Do you want it so badly that you would be willing to sacrifice anything to reach your goal? Is quitting an option? Is failure an option? If you can quit or accept failure, you don’t really want it.

I’ll be honest. There have not been many times in my life when I wasn’t willing to quit or accept failure. Most of what I have wanted in life, I have sort of wanted. Sometimes I would get whatever it was I was after, sometimes not. Life went on. I was raised and trained not to take risks. I was told, go to college then find and keep a good job. I was told that living this kind of life requires a reliable trustworthy person with a reasonable amount of intelligence and self discipline. If you show up on time, do what it is that you are suppose to do, and avoid annoying management, you will earn a good living and after 30 years receive the proverbial gold watch.

I was not encouraged to put it all on the line, burn my bridges, and refuse to quit or compromise.

Still there have been a few times in my life when I could not or would not quit. Not surprisingly these are the times that changed and defined my life.

In 1969 I decided that I was going to marry the woman who became my wife. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. It took over five years, but we have been married now for over 40 years.

I decided I was going to engineering school so that I could leave the American factory forever. I didn’t have any money and I was told I would be a C+ student. That didn’t matter. School became my job. If 50 hours a week wasn’t enough, I would work 60. I distinctly remember standing behind the university coliseum in tears, because after hours of focused effort I was unable to understand a calculus proof. I didn’t give up. I memorized the steps of these derivations just like I would memorize a page from a Chinese phone directory. Every time I wanted to quit I reminded myself about life in a saw chain factory. I graduated with a 3.8. I found a job in Research & Development.

I have enjoyed two major financial breakthroughs in my life. They both took about ten years of focused, conscious effort. I paid off the 30 year mortgage on our first house in a little less than ten years. During those years, I was earning a good living, but I choose to drive a 1966 Volkswagen without air conditioning so I could make those extra payments to principal. Losing that mortgage payment gave me the biggest raise of my entire life. All of a sudden I had an extra $1,100 for real after tax dollars in my pocket—every month--for the rest of my working life. All of a sudden I could pay cash for a sports car and take my wife to Hawaii for our vacations.

Then I started the final run to retirement when I was about 50 years old. Don’t make the mistake of starting that late. However, I went after that goal with a ferocity and passion that matched anything in my life. Losing 20%-25% of my money in 2008 only served as motivation to increase my efforts. I continued to invest all the way down. Then the market came back. In one year, through savings and capital gains, I increased my net worth by more than my total pretax income from my full time job. I was able to safely retire at age 62.

I don’t know what it will take to reach breakthrough. I wasn’t put on this planet to figure out how to live your life for you. You will have to ask yourself those questions and find the answers. How bad do you want it? What price are you willing to pay? What is so important to you that failure or surrender is simply not possible? When you find the answer to those questions, you will begin to change your life. I don’t know the secrets of success in your chosen field of endeavor, but if anybody is succeeding, you can learn those secrets. Unfortunately, one of the secrets is never, ever let anybody outwork you. Mediocre talent combined with fanatical effort will beat superior but lazy talent every time. Combine superior talent with a fanatical work ethic and you have Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. You have greatness.

I have just survived another one of those times when failure was not an option. I have finished all the heavy lifting I can perform that was required by our recent family emergency. It took about seven months of extremely serious effort complicated by a lot of very painful emotions. This experience thoroughly disrupted my life. I didn’t spend a lot of time working on this blog. I quit working on my book. Now it is time for me to determine how badly I want it. Will I return to making the kind of effort and expending the kind of time required to produce a quality blog? Will I finish my book or will I come up with a convenient excuse or two and quit?

What will be the story of my life? What will be the story your life.

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