To improve and grow as a person, we need to continually immerse ourselves in discomfort. As a person striving for early financial independence, there was a point in time, naturally, when I knew absolutely NOTHING about the subject. Since the topics of early FI and investing were so obscure to me, they not only felt uncomfortable, but also intimidating. Looking back, there were a lot of struggles and barriers I had to overcome to get to where I am today.
The Story So Far
In late 2011, I decided to get serious about making a concentrated effort towards building wealth for a better future. I browsed the web, read forums, purchased books, and basically did everything I could to learn more about dividend growth investing. I started officially investing in dividend stocks in 2012. By mid-2012, I decided that I wanted to diversify my portfolio, so I added Rental Property #1 into the mix. It really wasn’t long before I had reached my first month of earning $300/month in passive income, which was an awesome feeling! About six month’s after that, the dividend portfolio had grown to about $70,000, which provided me the capital needed to close Rental Property #2.
So, within just a little over a year of starting the journey to early FI, I had gained experience as both a dividend growth investor and real estate investor. The forward march continued, and at present day, I’ve now also closed deals for Rental Property #3, Rental Property #4, and Rental Property #5. Rental Properties #3-5 are all out-of-state investments.
Self Doubt and Fear
I am not going to lie — investing in dividend stocks was initially nerve-racking and scary. Ditto for buying my first two local real estate investments. And the out-of-state rentals? Those were terrifying beyond measure… which is why I insisted on flying out there to see EVERYTHING for myself, the first time around.
I used to second guess everything! I would always allow myself to get caught up in analysis paralysis because I didn’t have the experience to feel confident in my judgement… I even missed out on a few killer property deals early on because self doubt and fear just kept creeping in…
Live and learn. Now that I have some experience, buying stocks and rental properties are no longer a scary proposition to me. Whether the markets go up or down, I feel like I have the requisite knowledge to know how to deal with it. By no means am I done learning (far from it!), but you can only ever really overcome the fear by DOING.
And I’m so grateful that I did take action when I did… Otherwise, I would have missed out on the most opportune buying window of a lifetime.
The focus of this blog is early financial independence. However, I feel like early FI is just a means to an end — it should NOT be the main objective in life. As has been stated on numerous occasions, I feel like the journey to early FI begins for most people when they realize that time, energy, and life are finite. It is when we come to the stark realization that one day we will die, do we really sit down and realize how precious our time on this planet really is.
Thus, early FI is needed to help maximize life… But it’s just a starting point.
My own personal belief is that we should all aspire to LIVE as much as possible. For myself, this means working diligently at becoming a polymath, over time. I feel like if I can’t continue to learn and grow as a person, I might as well be dead…
Learn and Grow!
So, how does one go about learning and growing? Simple…
Immerse yourself in discomfort.
Take a good hard look at your life. Give yourself an honest assessment and figure out what skills you are lacking. Prioritize what you want to get better at, and then make a conscious effort towards improving in that area.
If you only stick with the tried and true, or comfortable, then you will only ever know what you already know. It’s impossible to progress by leaps and bounds if you refuse to undertake any new challenges. And anything that falls outside our realm of competence is foreign by nature, which means that it will probably feel extremely uncomfortable at first.
I for one am not ashamed or embarrassed to admit my own shortcomings and limitations. It does me absolutely no good to play it off, or to put up a front for others to try and mask my own deficiencies. So, let’s keep things real!
Here are the things that I am absolutely terrible at right now, but am working towards improving (both current and future goals):
- Talking and socializing with women.
- Public Speaking.
- Leadership Skills.
By nature I am analytical and introverted… I guess this is why I was a good candidate for engineering? Nevertheless, just because I don’t have a natural talent for the above mentioned items, it does not mean that I can’t improve upon my existing skillset.
In the future, I believe I will want to get into the real estate profession. I may elect to try my luck as a sales agent, so I had better improve my social (people) skills!
We don’t get to pick and choose the hand we are dealt with in life. However, if we sit there and elect to do NOTHING to improve our own situation, then we deserve to fail.
So, this past weekend, I decided to put my foot down and finally do something about fixing my first problem (socializing with women). I went out with a group of friends to a nightclub (which is totally not my scene) and subjected myself to all kinds of awkward situations…
Just like with early FI and investing, it was initially scary and nerve-racking. I’m at Stage 1 right now, so almost everything seems overwhelming… But I’m willing to put in the time and effort needed to improve myself because I know the end results will be worth it; I will become a better person for it. Also, just like with investing, and basically anything else in life, the learning curve can be reduced drastically if you can find the right teachers/mentors (thanks friends!). Networking is key to helping you reach your goals without having to re-invent the wheel. Leverage off of somebody else’s knowledge, experience, and mistakes, whenever possible.
In many ways, this most recent experience takes me back to the time when I first decided to learn how to play guitar in college. I still vividly remember my first guitar lesson with my teacher… He had to take a step back in his teaching methods because I was so bad! I’ll never forget when he gave me a frustrated look and muttered out, “If you can’t find the beat of the song, you’ll never be able to play guitar…”
Harsh, but true… Still, I kept at it, and eventually things started to slow down and make sense. Today, I am so grateful that I stuck with it and didn’t give up… There were so many occasions when I wanted to just chuck my guitar out the window, I was so frustrated…
It Gets Better
As the night came to a close, I started to feel a little more comfortable. Now, I’m not expecting to learn a new skill or craft in just one night, but I do take solace in knowing that the mind (body) is starting to assimilate to the new type of environment.
I’m taking baby steps… but will keep trying! These type of experiences make me feel ALIVE, which is a far cry from how I feel after a day’s work in the rat race game. Next month, I will put myself in even more hot water by flying out to Tokyo, Japan… SOLO! My very first international trip… should be a real eye-opener.
So, bring on the discomfort! One day very soon, I will learn how to defeat you! Then we can start the process all over again for the next set of challenges in life… 🙂
Do you have your own fears and doubts? What are you working towards improving in your own life?