How it Feels to Live on Your Own Terms
Lone wolf. Self-made man. A free agent. How beautiful do these sound to you?
Even before motorbikes, girls and cars entered my thoughts, these were the things that excited me most. I desperately wanted to live on my terms; to blaze my own trail.
From as early as eight, I set about becoming an entrepreneur. I made things in my dad's shed and sold them to neighbours. At the local golf course, I liberated balls from the rough along the 7th fairway and sold them to the pro shop, and I cleaned toilets at the local fitness club for three bucks an hour. I was tireless.
In school, I hammered my teachers with questions, and I excelled in every class. I was hungry to learn and to build my base for the future.
And then life got in the way.
Girlfriends, jobs, wives and kids. Bills, debts and materialism. All of them conspired to keep me imprisoned and keep me working. I flirted with business, and I dabbled in speculative ‘investments'. At one point in my thirties, I even came close to having it all – three houses, two apartments, two Benzes and a partridge in a pear tree. Then, of course, I lost it all.
What did I learn? I learned that none of the shit I was doing worked.
And I learned that what seemed like the slow path was actually the shortcut. Had I gone just a little slower, had I not bet the farm at every turn, and had I done only what I could afford and left a buffer for the occasional downturn, I'd have been fine. In fact, I'd be wealthy by now.
Most of all, I learned that living on your own terms – being a free agent – wasn't nearly as expensive as I'd believed. All it required was an adjustment in a few key areas:
- How I worked
- How I spent money
- How I invested money
You'll notice I didn't include an item for ‘how much money I had'. That's because it's irrelevant, and I'll tell you why.
If you're moderately ambitious, you'll already know that sitting on your arse and doing nothing for the rest of your life isn't very appealing. Likewise, you'll probably accept that indulging your whims and consuming without limits is a bit like chocolate or fine whisky – wonderful on occasion, but not something you want to have every day. More than likely, you'll want to keep working in some capacity, either directly for an employer, or through a gig of your own.
So the question of how much money you have is largely irrelevant because you'll always create it from somewhere, doing something.
How I Work
I like working. I enjoy being useful and I get a lot of satisfaction from solving problems and creating new ideas. That's why I work for more than one company and I do more than one thing.
Years ago, I was a salaried employee like most people, but I knew this wasn't ideal for me or my employer. So we agreed to a new arrangement. I would come off their payroll and work from home. In exchange for freedom and autonomy, I'd commit to a minimum number of hours a month and a fixed income, whether I exceeded those hours or not.
In essence, I made a conscious choice to join the gig economy before it was thrust upon me and in return, my employer freed up a cubicle, some insurance and red tape.
Sometimes I start work at 6:30 am, and other times at 2:00 pm – it's largely up to me. When it's required, I'll work till midnight or on a weekend. And I'm fine with that. After all, I don't have to commute, there's no need to shave, and I can fart whenever I want.
Another huge benefit is that I'm free to pursue other interests. I can hone my skills (or explore new ones) with a few additional clients. I can write a book or learn the piano, and I can piss off for a few days in the country without seeking permission. Basically, I have enough freedom to feel free, but still some structure so I can feel relevant and useful, too.
So how I work, as opposed to how much I work, has had a big impact on how free I feel.
How I Spend Money
I've already chronicled my spending habits of the past but suffice to say, I don't waste money on stupid shit anymore. I don't watch TV, and I don't read the junk mail, so triggers to temptation are low for me.
Even when I want something, I think about it for weeks or months before I act. Often that's long enough to realise the object of my desire won't give me what I want, and so I drop it. For me to spend money these days, I have to be convinced it'll remove a negative from my life or deliver sufficient value that, two years from now, I'll still be happy I committed to it.
How I Invest Money
For many years, this was a constant source of anxiety for me. I knew that to be wealthy I had to invest. But I was impatient and paid the price accordingly.
Buffett says the stock market exists to move money from the impatient to the patient. That principle applies to most things.
So today, I live in one of our investments (our home), a tenant lives in another, and I deposit a regular amount each fortnight into a Vanguard index fund. The result is, I can sleep at night. I know that no matter what else I do, those three things will continue to grow, and when the time is right, I can pull some equity from one of our properties and do whatever I like.
One day we might redevelop one of our properties and multiply its value, but for now, I'm happy doing my work, exploring other ideas and letting them grow on their own.
The Dream Realised
So am I a lone wolf? Not really. Without my hard-working, frugal wife, I wouldn't be as comfortable as I am. Without the advice of experts and the daily inspiration of mentors, I wouldn't be half as excited about life and what the future might bring. And without the love and support of my kids and my parents, I certainly wouldn't appreciate the present quite like I do.
But to the question, am I living on my own terms? Absolutely, yes.
However, it's nothing like I dreamed when I was a kid. It's actually much, much better.
*I've written a book about killing off your debts, called The Debt Cure. In it, I explain exactly how I got myself out of debt and how you can do it, too. Fully illustrated and only 40-pages long, you'll knock it over in less than 45 minutes. Download your copy now.
Blog Posts That Might Help
What would your 10-year-old self say about your life?
You’re Already a Millionaire
Quitting Your Job is the Wrong Move
The Number One Rule From my 74yo Mum
How to Invest Well and Sleep at Night
Finding Time to Reinvent Yourself
Create a Side-Business From What you Know
The Tools I Use and Recommend
Books for Entrepreneurs in the New Economy
Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I respond to all emails. If this was beneficial to you, please consider subscribing and sharing with someone you think would also benefit.
Disclaimer & Disclosure: I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not a financial advisor's elbow. This material doesn't constitute financial advice but rather a collection of personal opinions, based on my own experiences. Some of the links on my site are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I provide links to services or products I have used and liked or researched and recommend. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you believe they will be beneficial to you.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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