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** DO YOU FEEL PAINTED INTO A CORNER?  by Graham White**
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In the game Cashflow created by Robert Kiyosaki, each player starts off with a profession.  It is always interesting to see the new players who begin as doctors or lawyers get excited by the huge difference in their income from the players who begin as truck drivers.  Their excitement fades quickly when the game begins and the cost of their high profile lifestyle consumes almost all of their income.  My own lawyer believes he will be working until he is close to 70 before he retires in order to save enough to be able to retire in the style he is accustomed to.

When I worked as a business consultant, I saw many people with small businesses work hundred hour weeks and not take a holiday for five, ten, sometimes twenty years!  Is that really the freedom they were looking for?  Having seen that scenario so many times, I decided to walk away from my own business investment and start over rather than spending 20 years miserable years getting myself out of a corner I'd painted myself into.

Maybe you've spent a lot of time in a certain field, maybe you've invested a lot into education in a particular area, maybe you're just following the expectations of your family or maybe you feel stuck doing something you're good at, but don't really have a passion for.  Do you really want to spend your life doing something just because it pays the bills, or do you want to be involved in something that gets you excited every time you think about doing it?

Have you painted yourself into an employment or business corner?  Have you limited your freedom and options by establishing habits and a lifestyle that prevent you from being able to take advantage of, or even notice other opportunities?  Do you determine your lifestyle, or are you defined by it?

 

For those of you who are just starting out and aren't sure about what you should be doing or don't have something you feel like throwing yourself into yet, let me make some recommendations:

  1. Talk to someone who is in the field you're considering going into.  Don't start studying or start working in the field until you've talked to someone who has been doing it for at least 10 years.  Spend the day shadowing them and get a good sense for what it is that's involved.  A lot of what anyone does in any profession is learned after they're on the job.

  2. Determine an exit strategy.  What's an exit strategy?  An exit strategy is your plan for retirement.  It may seem absurd to plan what type of retirement you want even before you've begun, but how do you know what you're working towards if you don't?  If you decide you want to retire at 55, or 35, or 25, then what do you need to have done in order to make this happen?  

  3. Take some time and really consider what's important to you in life.  Is it freedom?  Do you want to be able to travel?  Do you want to be able to stay at home, or work from home while you have a family?  Do you want to be married, or do you prefer to be single?  Do you want to live in the country, a big city or somewhere in between?  Are you ok with a long commute or do you hate being stuck in traffic?

The more detailed you are about what is really important to you, the better you will be able to design the perfect work environment.

 

For those who have a lifestyle that feels like it's painted you into a corner, I have these recommendations:

  1. The first part of your freedom will come through gradually replacing the expenses that don't have true value in order to take the burden off of your income.  The reality for everyone is that we can do anything we want, we just can't do everything we want.  Determine the five most critical things that you must have in your life and then begin eliminating the expenses that don't fall into this critical category.  Start with the smallest or easiest things you can do without, and work your way gradually through the list of things that don't contribute to your core principles of joy and fulfillment.  Replace the things that medicate you with things that fulfill you.

  2. If you've finding it difficult to determine what you can do without, consider that you've just been told that you have a one to two years left to live.  What is it you really would want to do or experience in those next two years?  What things don't even make the list?  Talk with your family and begin cutting those things out.

  3. The number one expense I always find with people who don't really monitor their spending is meals out.  Many are surprised to find that the amount their spending eating out for dinner because they're too tired or don't enjoy cooking - would pay for someone to do it in their home for them!  Imagine telling the people you know that you have a chef do all the cooking for you - essentially that's what you're doing if you're eating out 8 or more meals per week!

  4. Instead of going on multiple vacations or to multiple entertainment or sporting events, choose one or two that you really enjoy and look forward to them.  The rest of the time, find things that are meaningful to you that have little or no expense (read the synopsis of Millionaire Mind if you've never done this).

 

"What do you do?"

  1. I enjoy simple pleasures.  I love getting together with friends and family, talking, playing games, reading, going out to the park, playing basketball, roller-blading, tobogganing, swimming, the occasional movie and a few TV shows, and I LOVE skiing.  I go out and do one of these things almost every day.  I bought my skis at the end of the season for 70% off and buy my seasons pass early for a 25% discount.  Instead of spending $2000 on a week skiing in Utah or British Columbia, I spend $1000 skiing 6 months any time it snows in the Rockies 90 minutes away.

  2. I spent time designing my life.  I determined that I wanted to be home with my children while they were young, so I knew that I would either work while they were asleep, or find a way of working from home.  Once investments and business enabled me to be at home full-time, it completed the design.

  3. I invest in things I enjoy, not necessarily in things that are recommended.  I spend time reading and studying different types of investments and invest only what I can afford to lose into ventures that I have expertise in.  

  4. I focus on enjoying what I have rather than dreaming about what I want.  I am patient about making personal purchases, usually waiting for exceptional deals before I buy.  I like to make money when I spend it, purchasing quality items at bargain prices, particularly ones that will appreciate in value.  I don't pressure myself into "keeping up with the Jones" because I know there will always be someone with a bigger house, newer car and a better decorator than me.  

  5. I have taught my self to delay gratification.  I plan for the long-term and am willing to make do with a little less in the short-term.  I swim with my family once or twice a week - for $4.  I generally wait for movies to hit the cheap theatre and go to the ones that I think I'll really enjoy once or twice a month with friends or family - for $2.  I am active with one of my outdoor activities almost every day - virtually free.  I plan trips to coincide with business so that I can write them off or absorb much of the cost.  I RARELY eat out or order out, but I will purchase high end prepared meals for occasions where we don't want to go to the trouble of cooking a meal.  Instead of going to restaurants with friends and family, we prefer to have gourmet (or not-so-gourmet) gatherings at each others homes.

  6. We plan ahead.  I wait until the end of the season to make purchases for the following year, saving as much as 80% and purchase quality used goods like cars and designer baby clothes second-hand.

  7. I have a rule that I wait 24 hours before purchasing anything that wasn't on my list of items to purchase before I left home (or turned on the computer).

By doing these things, we are able to take advantage of MORE things that have real value to us.  It is seldom that we feel we have to pass on something we really would have enjoyed, and even then it is usually based more on logistics and scheduling than because we would feel irresponsible spending the money.

 

Are you living your life by design?  Are you getting the greatest amount of joy from your life because you have determined not to just fill your life with good things, but to wait for GREAT things and have the freedom and resources to take advantage of those opportunities?

 

DESIGN YOUR LIFE - BEGIN WORKING YOURSELF OUT OF THE CORNER.

DRAW A CLEAR LINE BETWEEN NEEDS AND WANTS...AND PASS UP GOOD FOR GREAT!

Graham White