Why Being Poor Is like Being Fat (And What to Do about It)

Being broke is a lot like being fat (I’ve been both).

If you’re 50 pounds overweight, you know you have a problem. Chances are, you also have plenty of ideas about how to do better, such as exercising more, going on a diet, or reducing your stress.

Yet you don’t do anything about it. Why? Because it’s easier to go on eating, pretending you don’t have a problem and comforting yourself with the food.

You might even shy away from anything that would remind you. For instance, you might start avoiding looking at yourself in the mirror, or put your scale in the closet so you don’t have to look at it every day.

It’s not because you’re in denial, necessarily. You’re just ashamed. You know you should be doing better, but you can’t bring yourself to face the situation. You’re just too weak.

Do you recognize the thought process?

It’s exactly the same for being broke or in debt. It can cause you to spend the rest of your life going through the same old pattern, never making the kind of money you deserve to make.

The good news is you can break it. Let me show you how.

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Madonna Madness – Making Money By Staying Relevant – and Remarkably Untalented!

Madonna, Queen of Pop

Can she sing? Debatable. Can she dance? Perhaps. Can she act? LOL. Could these attributes explain the real reason behind Madonna’s status as a 25-year long, money-making icon? No! As Madonna had proven to the world, an abundance of real talent isn’t necessary for acquiring substantial wealth. It all comes down to how you market what you have.

For example, you might have the best, most brilliant ideas at work, but if you can’t convince your colleagues that this is so — if you don’t excite and move them into action –you might as well remain silent in your cubicle. So, the key to success then can be defined as: Make people interested in you. It doesn’t matter how you win them over, just get there!

“Like a virgin, touched for the very first time.” — Madonna, Like a Virgin

The first big break for making significant cash is the most important one, and hardest to obtain. Don’t spend your entire life waiting for it, make it happen. Bare your cone-shaped bra to the world (yes ladies, you too 🙂  ) and usher in the excitement. Therefore, at work, you need to make your purpose known. Inform your boss of your goals, ask for his/her advice on how to get there, and overdeliver by never getting trapped in the status quo.

“Some girls they like candy and others they like to grind. I’ll settle for the back of your hand somewhere on my behind.” — Madonna, Hanky Panky

Excuse me? Tell me that didn’t get your attention. Unfortunately, the default position for people is to be mundane and, relatedly, a few monthly salaries away from homelessness. Therefore, don’t be generic. You have to open up to being more of a risk-taker in order for opportunities and money to come your way.

I don’t know about you, but plugging away at the 9-5 doing robotic tasks, so I can retire in my 60’s and in mediocre health is not for me. Take a risk, such as leading an ambitious project in the office, going back to school for the career that you actually love, or launching a start-up business from your basement and beyond, are all possible examples. Of course, before taking such a step, it is essential to conduct basic market research, which is relatively easy to do for anyone with a home computer or, at most, access to a library.

“Do I have to change my name, will it get me far? Should I lose some weight, am I gonna be a star?” — Madonna, American Life

Constant reevaluation and reinvention is also a must, or you will become equivalent to yesterday’s news, and people will lose interest. The same old thing over and over again rarely works. Ask yourself? How can I improve this? How can I make my product more innovative? How can I appeal to a broader demographic? When I look at the really successful people I’ve encountered in my life, they all have one thing in common: they’re never truly satisfied with a final goal. They’re always striving forward. You can do the same and your rewards will keep growing.

“Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, strike a pose there’s nothing to it” — Madonna, Vogue

Maybe you’re the humble type, but it’s time to push yourself and take credit for your successes. Perhaps you re-organized the way email is handled at your company, and it makes everyone’s workday significantly easier. That’s great, but the boss can’t recommend you for that big promotion if your name isn’t embedded in their memory. No need to brag or be super provocative, the equivalent of burning a cross in a music video, but do be proactive, for instance by requesting feedback: What did you think of the way I managed this task? Is there anything you’d recommend for the future? etc’

“Freedom comes when you learn to let go.” — Madonna, Power of Goodbye

What’s another key to success? Be aware, not afraid. You have to go out on a limb, and you have to do it confidently if you want others to follow you out there. It is undoubtedly a hard thing for people to overcome the feelings of self doubt, which can creep up when bigger tasks are at hand. However, remind yourself that you are absolutely capable and can go as high as your aspirations take you, and this can only be achieved by keeping a positive spirit and a healthy work-life balance.

“I’m not sorry, it’s human nature.” — Madonna, Human Nature

Okay, maybe I’m a little bit sorry. People are intrinsically compassionate, and we do want to see others do well. But if you always put everyone else first, where does that leave you? Last. Last, and a really nice person. The goal is to be a star at a certain task, be at the top of your field, work at accumulating your wealth but also give back some goodies to the less fortunate. So I’m not saying you need to be a cutthroat b– person, but you will have to develop a fighting spirit to stand out and succeed.

“Until I learned to love myself, I was never ever lovin’ nobody else.” — Madonna, Secret

Lastly, while they can be a valuable resource, try not to rely solely on the opinions of others to tell you if you’ve selected the right path. Sometimes to reach your ambitions, financial and otherwise, you have to go with your own gut feeling. Certainly such an approach may sometimes be controversial and be as effective as Madonna’s role in the B-movie “Swept Away”, but to a greater degree, standing out from the crowd will ultimately produce the joyful “Holiday”-type experiences we all crave. The key is always to think how to reach that conspicuous level in your niche and prevail.

The Charles Dickens Guide to Becoming a Self-Made Millionaire

12 years old.

That’s when Charles Dickens started working. Not just light work, mind you, like sweeping the floors at his uncle’s bar; he toiled at a shoe polish factory, spending 10 hours a day pasting labels on jars.

Why? A pair of rotten parents.

His father was vain, holding extravagant parties and purchasing all sorts of finery, in every way possible living beyond his means. Eventually, he was thrown into debtor’s prison.

His mother was just cruel. Despite receiving some money from her husband’s family, she sent her children to work. Dickens never forgave her for it.

But did he whine? No, he transformed that experience into some of the greatest novels to ever grace the English language.

A Christmas Carol, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield all address aspects of wealth, especially the relationship between the rich and the poor. You could say it’s the defining theme of Dickens’s work.

And it made him rich.

Unlike so many other authors, Charles Dickens became a legend during his own lifetime. His books sold in droves, both in Britain and the US. They were turned into plays, and he traveled around the world doing readings and lectures.

He also left behind some of my favorite personal finance quotes. I’ve put together a small collection of them here, along with a brief commentary on each.

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Asshole Envy and the Value of Extreme Focus

What do Simon Cowell, Steve Jobs, Dr. House, Bill Belichick, and Donald Trump have in common?

They’re all assholes… but lots of people (including me) love them anyway. Why is that?

Maybe its envy. Deep down, we would all like to be able to say anything to anyone, cause trouble without consequence, and act without caring what others think.

But we don’t do it.

We can’t bear the shame of becoming an asshole. We’ve been conditioned by centuries of faithful mothers teaching us to mind our manners. We are proud of being polite.

Except… could that be the problem?

I know about a dozen people that make over $1 million per year, and I’d imagine all of them are called assholes on a regular basis. The two seem to go hand in hand, and I think there are reasons why.

Extreme Success Requires Extreme Focus

If you want to be successful, you have to focus. We all know that, but I don’t think many of us understand it.

Focusing means giving one objective all of your attention and ignoring everything else. Dr. House from the House M.D. TV show focuses on saving people’s lives, and nothing else matters to him. He’s willing to cheat, lie, steal, manipulate, and coarse in the pursuit of that end. And it works.

The wealthiest people in the world use the same approach with their finances. Frequently, they’ll:

  • Leave behind a trail of broken marriages and forgotten children
  • Lose the life savings of their friends and relatives on an ingenious but doomed business
  • Refuse to lend anyone money or give to charity
  • Avoid unnecessary expenses to the point of miserliness
  • Treat everyone that can’t help them as if they’re expendable

We hold up cases like those as “how not to be successful,” but really, I think it’s exactly the opposite. The amount of wealth you’ll accumulate in this lifetime depends on how willing you are to put money ahead of everything else.

Frugal investors become millionaires because they’re willing to give up immediate gratification and luxury for a few decades. Successful entrepreneurs become billionaires because they invest every ounce of their life in the business and convince others to do the same. In each case, someone will inevitably labeled them as a miser, workaholic, or asshole, but they don’t care.

For them, it’s worth the trade-off. So ask yourself: how much are you willing to trade?

Are you willing to let some people think you’re an asshole?

Stop Planning: 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances Today

I only have one resolution for 2008: action.

You can set all the right goals, have all the right intentions, and know all the right stuff, but if you don’t act, none of it means anything. I learned that when I was a teenager, and it’s the only resolution I’ve made ever since.

If you want to achieve your financial goals, I think you should make it your only resolution too. Most people spend their entire lives intending to get rich but never make it, and it’s almost always because they never actually do anything

So take action. Here’s how:

First, forget about planning for 2008. A year is too long of a timeline. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time remembering what I’m supposed to be doing for 15 minutes, much less an entire year.

Second, focus on today. Figure out just one thing you can do today to move yourself closer to the finances you’ve always wanted. Then do it.

Third, pick one thing the next day, and the next day, and the next day, until you wake up six months from now and realize you’ve already achieved all of your goals for 2008, and you have to set new ones.

If you’re having trouble coming up with one thing to do, I’ve put together a list of 50 ideas to get you started.

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Why I Worked This Christmas (and Always Will)

I worked almost all day this Christmas. And I’m unashamed.

Why? Because, to me, Christmas is no different than any other day.

If I want to buy someone a gift, I buy it and give it to them. If I want to enjoy my family, I visit or call them. If I want to celebrate Jesus, I close my eyes and pray.

I don’t need a special day. The opposite is also true.

If no one I know needs anything, I don’t buy them stupid junk. If I’m sick of my family, I stay away from them. If I don’t like your church for most of the year, don’t expect me to attend on Christmas.

Why? Because it’s my life, and I can do whatever I want with it.

To some, this might sound selfish or weird. Although if you really think about it, I think you’ll find it makes sense.

Each morning, you make a choice: are you going to seize the day or not? Are you going to take charge of your life, or are you going to let others tell you what to do?

Personally, I’ve found the first choice leads to happiness. The second leads to misery. It’s even true on Christmas.

My mother spent all morning preparing Christmas dinner. She hates to cook, and by mid-afternoon, she was highly agitated and regretted the whole thing. Another friend went to see all of her relatives, but after the initial “holiday cheer,” they spent several hours talking about their problems and she went home depressed.

As for me, I worked all day, and I’m happy as a clam.

It’s not because I’m a workaholic. It’s because my work means something to me.

Right now, researchers need somewhere around $30 million to have a good shot at finding a treatment for my disease. If I had it, I would give it to them, but I don’t. So I’ll keep working until I do.

My real estate portfolio is hurting like everyone else’s right now. If nothing changes, it may not be able to provide for me next year. So I’m working on diversifying my income.

A nurse that’s been with me for 14 years is thinking about retiring next year. He deserves a six-figure retirement bonus, but I can’t afford it right now. So I’ll work until I can.

Could I ignore all of these things for a day? Sure… but why?

Finding a treatment for my fatal disease, protecting my income, and rewarding the best nurse in the world for 14 years of service just seems more important than buying gifts for people that don’t need them, spending time with family that I have nothing in common with, and celebrating the birth of Jesus on the wrong day of the year.

To me, a day spent in the pursuit of money is infinitely more meaningful than any of the stuff that happens on Christmas.

But then again, maybe I’m just weird.

Why Many Smart People Hate Money (Plus: Crucial Distinctions)

Bird money.jpg

Have you ever noticed that lots of smart people have contempt for money? Not all of them, of course, but enough for the destitute genius to become a stereotype.

I used to be one of them, I suppose. Indoctrinated with four years of English Literature and Philosophy, I regarded it with a kind of smoldering resentment, not just because I was broke (and I was), but because I hated how the necessity of it could trump a life of intellectual rigor. It seemed an awful waste.

No one else seemed to understand, either. I resented that too. Talking about it now, it sounds foolish, but if you were ever labeled as the “smart kid,” you know what I’m talking about.

You’ve been told over and over again that someone of your intelligence should find it easy to make money. Silently (or not), everyone thinks you’re wasting your God-given talents by not applying them for personal gain.

But they don’t get it, do they? To you, life is not an exercise in how much money you can accumulate. There are so many things that are more interesting, more important, and more relevant to you.

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