Every now and then an idea just hits you like a ton of bricks.
Have you ever experienced that?
You’re reading something, or listening to something, or driving to work and thinking about nothing in particular, but then a couple of dots connect in your head and kapow!
As I’m writing this, I’ve got one particular idea in mind that I want to share. Something that connected for me several years ago and has had a profound effect on me ever since.
It’s the idea of living like nobody else.
I first heard this phrase 10 years ago when my wife and I were newlyweds.
We were young and living on a humble missionary salary. I brought several thousand dollars of consumer debt to the marriage because when I was single I’d owned a truck that I didn’t know how to stop buying things for.
During our first six months of marriage, we focused very intently on getting our finances in order. We read Dave Ramsey’s book, and that helped us tremendously with getting a budget and building the courage to tackle our debt.
Something Dave Ramsey says repeatedly in his book is that if you will live like nobody else, later you can live like nobody else.
His point is that it’s time to stop living like a child. Assess your own life and be mature and intentional about how you spend your finances.
He writes about how so many lower- and middle-class Americans try to live as if they were millionaires: driving new and expensive cars, living in large homes, eating at fancy restaurants, etc.
However, most real millionaires actually live like middle-class (this is what the book The Millionaire Next Door is all about). The average millionaire’s annual household much lower than you may think (around $150K). However, since they live far beneath their means, they pay with cash, and they invest early and often, they’ve accumulated enough wealth to be worth $1,000,000 or more.
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This metric of living differently than most people goes far beyond just how you spend your money. It’s also an excellent metric for how to spend your time, energy, and attention.
I love how my friend Aaron Mahnke said it just yesterday in a tweet:
Do as much as you can with as little as you can for as long as you can.— Aaron Mahnke (@amahnke) June 17, 2015
Lifestyle creep and workflow creep put a ceiling on our potential. They rob us of our much-needed resources of time, money, and energy.
Coming back, this is the idea I wanted to share with you today. The idea of living like nobody else. Of being careful of lifestyle and workflow creep (especially when it’s rooted in dissatisfaction).
Did you know…?
- The average American spends 5 hours or more watching television and 2 hours on social media every day.
- The average retiree at age 65 has only enough in savings to pay for less than 2 years worth of living expenses.
- One of the most common regrets of the dying is that they worked too hard and neglected their relationships, values, and even their own happiness.
- And who knows how many men and women have a dream to start a business, write a novel, paint a painting, or build something meaningful, but never try.
Unless our hope is in the lottery, it’s a logical impossibility that we can waste our money and end up wealthy. The same is true for our time and attention.
As I’ve written about before, unfortunately, most of us aren’t surrounded by focused and successful individuals who can set an example for us and remind us to keep on keeping on. We have few examples of intentional and considered living. However, we probably have plenty of examples of how to watch TV, check Facebook, and live above our means.
What then if you lived like nobody else?
- Don’t spend hours each day watching television or scrolling through social networks.
- Don’t let your work life dominate over family time, personal values, or happiness.
- Don’t ignore the importance of investing over the long-run and planning for the future.
- Live as far below your means as is reasonable, and don’t derive your happiness or self-worth by the fanciness of the things you own.
- Don’t let laziness or busywork keep you from building something meaningful.
- Don’t assume you need a better tool in order to do better work.
It’s funny. Simply doing the opposite of what most people do can actually open up many opportunities for you to do meaningful work.
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It’s hard to change. We fear it. We get overwhelmed by all the areas we want to see change in. We get paralyzed by the options for how we could change. Or we’ve been there and done that, and since it didn’t work out that one time we’ve thrown in the towel for good.
Here’s the truth: You can change.
When Anna married me, I was an habitual spender. For years had been living paycheck to paycheck; I had thousands of dollars in consumer debt and no real grasp on how to consistently live within my means. But now we meet with and counsel others who are in debt and struggling to keep their finances under control, and we help them make changes to their spending habits.
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I realize that this all sounds so serious. Like we’re still little kids who don’t know how to behave. Hey, you! Watch less TV. Turn off Facebook. Do your homework.
Yes. It is serious. But that’s because it matters. It’s also awesome and fun. Getting ahold of your life is liberating to say the least.
Of course, the choice is yours to make.
Ask yourself if you would prefer to be up-to-date on all the latest TV shows and summer movies, or if you want to create something every day?
Do you want to stay in the loop with the lives of your Facebook friends, or do you want to help your kids build a fort or do their homework?
Do you want to squeeze in one more thing at the office, or do you want to go on a date with your spouse?
Now, I realize all these options aren’t continually at odds with one another — they’re not mutually exclusive. And it’s not that TV, Facebook, and late nights at the office are always “bad” all of the time.
Life is a messy, zig-and-zag balancing act. Rarely, if ever, is it a state of perfect harmony.
I’m being dramatic to make a point. Because I know that in my own life, and in the lives of my close friends and family, if we aren’t careful and intentional then over time the natural trajectory of life begins to move downward.
Focus, diligence, relationships, wealth, art — anything at all that is worth pursuing — is a moving target.
And we are guaranteed to face resistance when we take that path of doing our best creative work, living a healthy and awesome life, and building meaningful relationships.
In short, if you want to watch more TV, the universe won’t bother you. If you want to do work that matters, it’s going to be a fight.
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Today’s article is the fourth in my countdown to The Focus Course, which launches on June 23.
For me, this one is perhaps one of the most personal yet. To be transparent, I am extremely passionate about keeping that healthy balance where I’m able to do my best creative work while also having thriving relationships with my close friends and family. It’s top-of-mind for me pretty much every single day.
If this article hits home for you as well, then I believe you will love the course.
As I wrote above, you can get breakthrough. You can do work that matters, build momentum in your personal integrity, establish habits that stick, bring a healthy balance between your work and personal life.
And the Focus Course can be the secret weapon to help you get moving in that direction. The course leads you along a path that starts out simple and fun and culminates in deep and lasting impact.
I hope you’ll consider taking a chance on yourself and signing up for the Focus Course this coming Tuesday.
Over the next few days I’ll be sharing some stories and testimonies of those who’ve already taken the course and how it impacted their life.
You can now sign up for The Focus Course right here.