This damn blog…
Just under 2 months ago I decided to give blogging another chance. I first tried blogging a few years ago focusing on the topic of men’s style. Not that I thought of myself as someone who was very stylish or who knew everything about style. Rather, my mom taught me a few foundations of style as a young man and I carried those with me through the years. At one point a few different people were complimenting me on how I dressed and asked me if I could give them tips. Instead of giving one-off tips here and there I figured I would leverage the little knowledge I had to create a blog and try and help anyone in the world that may be struggling and just wanted basic, foundational tips. I worked hard on creating my first blog post and am pretty proud with how my first blog post turned out. The problem was after the first post I lacked both the discipline to continue writing and the interest to want to share my thoughts. So, after the first post that blog died…
“You are not supposed to optimize for money; you’re supposed to optimize for happiness.” – Mr. Money Mustache (Pete Adeney)
Then, this past October I decided to give blogging another try. I discovered the world of financial freedom and made the decision to write about my journey towards achieving it. The difference here is I have a long-term goal I am determined to achieve, and this long-term goal is the driver of this blog. Additionally, following the advice of Gary Vaynerchuk, rather than creating new content I am just documenting my journey; which for me is much easier.
What I am slowly learning though is financial freedom is really just a means to an end, and not an end in itself. In other words, I’m realizing my real journey is not to achieve financial freedom, it’s to maximize happiness. The irony is, even though I had already put Mr. Money Mustache’s quote “You are not supposed to optimize for money; you’re supposed to optimize for happiness” on one of my earlier posts, it wasn’t until this blog post that the words were internalized.
My aha moment
The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision
The way I came to this realization is through the creation of my ideal, 5-year vision. As I am a fanatic of self-improvement books and blogs, I have heard the idea of creating a vision statement or vision board multiple times. The truth is I never really gave it much thought though. In listening to a business-to-business (B2B) sales book earlier this week the vision statement idea was brought up again. Something about hearing it this time really resonated with me.
There are probably many different ways to explain what a vision is, however, in this case, the ideal 5-year vision is just an answer to the question: “5 years from now, what does your ideal life look like?” The idea is to help yourself fully understand what your long-term, ideal-future looks like so you can align your actions today to where you eventually want to be. In the book I was reading the author suggests focusing on 3-key areas, really going into detail about your ideal life, and not worrying about how you will get there.
So, I woke up super early on Saturday morning, went to Philz Coffee, and got to work on my vision. It took a few hours to really figure out both what I wanted and why I wanted these things. However, in the end, I was happy with the result. With that being said, I wanted to share the ideal, 5-year vision I created.
My ideal, 5-year vision
After doing a lot of thinking, the 3-key areas of my vision are money, time, and health. I imagine these will be different for each person based on their age, wants, and life experiences but for me, these were the 3 most important areas.
As far as money goes, in 5 years I see myself as being completely financially free. I heard an analogy that simplifies 3 types of financial freedom:
- Not having to worry about how to cover your living expenses
- Not having to worry about how much a fancy dinner costs
- Not having to worry about how much a fancy vacation costs.
I see myself in the 3rd section, essentially making enough income through my side-hustles, and at the same time being smart enough with my money, that I won’t have to think too much about the costs of taking a fancy vacation if I really wanted to. Additionally, I plan on having my living expenses consume only about 30% of my actual income which will allow me to devote the remaining 70% of my income to savings, investments, helping my family out, helping my friends out, and then donating some money as well.
Going into more detail, my financial situation will be broken down in the following ways. First, I will have a strong foundation set up which will include the following things:
- Having 12 months of expenses in an emergency fund I can access at any time
- Maxing out my Roth IRA contributions
- Keeping all high-interest debt below a total of $1,500 across all my credit cards
Beyond this financial foundation, my income will be coming in from multiple streams. 30%-40% of my income will be coming in from rental properties I will own both in California and in Texas. I will also be generating 20%-30% of my income from my personal brand. The rest of my income will come from my investments in the stock market.
Why is achieving this money goal important to me?
The biggest reason I want to achieve my financial goals doesn’t actually have anything to do with the money itself. The real reason has more to do with the most important thing the money can give me back, time. Time is the one resource in life you can never get more of, once it is gone, it is gone. It took a few different books and podcasts to really drive the point home, but now I finally understand it.
I came to the realization that with my current life trajectory, if I work hard and am lucky, maybe I’ll move up the ladder and get a management position in a company where I make a decent salary, have 2-5 weeks of vacation a year, and have a pretty good schedule where I work from 8AM-6PM most days.
I think the reality is for most people, this may be enough for them to have a happy and fulfilled life. I should also note that I acknowledge I am from the United States and live a privileged life where I have been given many more opportunities than most people in this world, and I am grateful for that.
The problem is, I got a taste of the financially free world, the world where people no longer work because they “have to,” instead, they spend their time doing things they want to do. Now that I have this perspective, I cannot, and will not, be content with the “normal” way of living. I am determined to free my time up and spend it the way I want to spend it.
As far as time goes, in 5 years I will be spending much more of it with my family, with my friends, doing hobbies, giving back to people less fortunate than me, being in nature, and learning new skills.
I will be seeing my sisters for a minimum of 2 weeks each year. 1 of these weeks will most likely be during a holiday season, probably Thanksgiving or Christmas where we will either visit a new country/location together or spend time with our extended family in either Texas, California, Florida, or possibly even Iran. The other week will be spent either volunteering our time in an underserved country or city, working on a creative project together, or learning something new together.
I will also be spending a large part of my time on hobbies and learning new skills. My hobbies will be acting, skiing and snowboarding, trekking, cooking, learning how to social dance (primarily salsa, bachata, and hip-hop) and learning Mandarin and Farsi.
Of course, I will also dedicate some of my time to creative work. I will be sharing the stories of people I find interesting around the world. Stories of who they are, what makes them tick, and what led them to become the person they are today.
I also want to dedicate time to my extended family: my uncles, aunts, and cousins. As storytelling is something I’m internally interested in, I want to get to know my own family better and really learn their stories of who they are and what their hopes and dreams are.
Lastly, I want to dedicate a portion of my time giving back to people less fortunate than I. Whether this is teaching them basic things such as speaking English or how to have self-confidence or more advanced things like being an “A” player at work, creating your own business, or macro skills such as marketing or sales.
Why is achieving this time goal important to me?
The answer to this question relates to the answer to why I want to achieve my financial goals. The answer is simple, I get joy through experiences. Experiences like immersing myself in new cultures, learning new skills, spending time with my family, and reading good books. Knowing there is a lifestyle where I can do more of the things I love drives me to achieve this lifestyle even more.
In 5 years, maintaining my health will be something that is more of a habit than anything else. By that time my workout routine will be ingrained in me and I will work closely with a trainer to perfect small flaws in my technique and to help me tweak my body as I see fit. I will be proud and confident with my appearance. Additionally, my diet will be high in fruits, vegetables, and grains with only a little bit of meat every now and then.
Why is achieving this health goal important to me?
There are two main reasons I currently, and will continue to, keep myself in shape and those reasons are:
- For me, going to the gym, keeping up the intensity in my workouts when I need to, and staying consistent to help myself get stronger is maybe 20% physical and 80% mental . With this in mind, staying consistent at the gym routinely keeps my mind strong as it teaches me to:
- Do what I need to do, even when I may not feel like doing it
- Learn how to turn on the intensity and focus when I need to
- The second reason I go to, and will continue to go to, the gym and keep myself in shape is the confidence I gain from seeing the results. A friend of mine posted a quote on instagram that said : “A well-built physique is a status symbol. It reflects the hard work you’ve put in…You can’t steal it, you can’t borrow it, and cannot hold on to it without constant work. It’s from dedication, discipline, self-respect, and dignity.” – Ashley Horner. Knowing that my physique is something I built through waking up and getting to the gym, repeatedly, over a long span of time reminds me that if I work as hard as I can in the moment, while at the same time having patience in the macro view, I can achieve anything I want to.
There you have it. My ideal, 5-year vision of where I plan to be. I am going to keep this vision in a place where I will look at it from time to time to make sure my actions are in line with where I plan on going. I’m looking forward to looking back on this moment in 5 years to see where I am!
To finish the sentence I started this blog with. This damn blog…what started as a way to document my path to financial freedom has evolved into both:
- My personal principles on how I am trying to optimize happiness
- A form of therapy where I am forced to write out my thoughts in a clear manner and then reflect on them
The truth is I am really enjoying the process. I hope if nothing else this blog provides another perspective on life to compare to your own.
Have you thought about your ideal future and what you want your life to look like in 5 years? If so, I would love to hear about how things are going in the comments below! If not, are you willing to leave things up to chance?