If you even remotely entertain the idea that one day, you might be rich, I want you to answer this question right now:
If you don’t have a clear answer sitting in your gut or can’t even look at the question with a straight face, I’m telling you right now: Find that spark deep down and extinguish it, because you’re lying to yourself.
I had no idea this is what it’d come down to when I started, but now I know. If you’re not willing to give up almost everything else for at least ten years, you mustn’t expect to be rewarded with a bank balance only 1% of people have. For what? Getting all your ducks in a row, like everyone else? Yeah, right.
All my life I was told I was special. Smart. That I’d one day make a ton of money because of my intelligence. I think that’s why I was always a dreamer with great visions. When I was 23, I finally realized that dreams without work are nothing but delusions. So I sat down and got started. It is only now, four years later, that I can see that back then, I made a deal with myself.
And it’s time to make my peace with it.
Yin, But No Yang
You see, I was raised a big believer in balance. If I played outside all day one day, I’d spend the next mastering video games. If I visited friends, I’d go home and do something alone. If I ate cereal in the morning, I’d have bread for dinner. All aspects of life function that way. With balance, you can maintain everything. But that’s the problem. Function is all they do. You can’t excel.
If you go to the gym three times a week, you don’t make Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leg day. You switch. Your legs need rest, but you can use that time to work out your arms. If you eat pasta seven times in a row, your body will likely send you some signal that it’s time for something other than carbs. Even if she’s your best friend, hanging out just with her will eventually become annoying.
The list goes on and on. Balance works wonders in the micro. The human brain and body aren’t wired to repeat the same experience, activity, or memory over and over again. It will drive you insane. But if you zoom out…
What do you remember about Einstein? Science. Why do you know Michael Phelps? Sports. Justin Bieber? Music. You might think it’s sad, but life is binary like that. And the world’s money is spread accordingly.
There’s this wonderful four burners theory of life: you have family, friends, work, and health. Whether you choose or not, all your time and energy are somehow allocated between those. Here’s how this allocation progresses for most people:
- As a kid, you’re mostly around family. When school starts, you get some work and a lot of friends. Everything’s easy to balance.
- Once you graduate high school, you choose college or a career. This is when most people think it’s their time to make a big push.
- Eventually, however, we get sucked into focusing on health or our friends, sometimes even back to family. That’s why you see most students hit the gym six times a week or party every other night.
- In their late 20s or early 30s, people realize it’s “now or never,” which is when they either start a second, proper attempt at an amazing career, or, without really admitting it, settle.
After four years of working harder and more than ever, I feel like I can’t go back. I don’t want to go back. I don’t know why or how it happened, but I’ve decided to put my head down at 23 and look back up when I’m 33.
All around me, people are graduating, starting their first proper jobs, and they’re looking to work hard, yet still find time for sports, dating, and friends. A lot of them will make good money, but I think many more expect to be filthy rich than actually ever will be. Because they’ve already settled without admitting it. They don’t feel they’ll sacrifice their 30s or 40s, just like they haven’t sacrificed their 20s either. Because here’s the thing:
Being upset about “only” working out twice a week isn’t a sacrifice. It’s the natural result of a compromise. I am painfully aware of the fact that I’m out of shape. Or that my dating life is as exciting as an IKEA manual. I think about these things. A lot. And it hurts. But that’s how I know it works.
The Biggest Misconception in the Western World
The reason I think the four burners theory is wonderful is that it’s a genuine solution. You can set all burners to 25% and live a long, happy life. But it’ll be an average life. Not wrong, just average. For some reason, some people, like me, get anxiety when they picture that life. Way more anxiety than any job could ever induce. Those people have to swallow the bitter pill, look at the big four of life, and choose: If you want to be a top 1% success, pick one.
I don’t like this. Again, it hurts. But I’m sick of lying to myself and I don’t want you to lie to yourself either. All this sugarcoating is bullshit. I think it’s the biggest misconception in the Western world:
That’s not true. If you live a balanced life, you will never be rich. You will never raise three superstar children, become world-famous, or win the Ironman. Because all these things lie opposite of one another. You can have one, even do well with some of the others, but you can never — NEVER — have all of them.
I don’t know which one it’ll be for you. The average? The money? The family? The fame? But I know that if you’re kinda like me, it’s the choice itself that will make you happy. Because even if it hurts, it’ll allow you to sleep in peace.
At the end of the day, even I think that’s more important than being rich.