I like connecting with people. Particularly people who are successful (and financially free) and willing to mentor me. I love learning everything about my customers, most of whom are extremely well off. I love reading biographies about successful people – as noted by my reading list which I’m continuing to update every day (it’s a lot of work to do in one day).
Over the years, I’ve noticed that a lot of successful people have the same traits. It likely isn’t a coincidence that the same traits keep showing up in these people.
These are timeless traits for success that were relevant in the past, are relevant today, and will be relevant in the future.
All of the financially free people I know work extremely hard. Even though they’re financially free, they continue to work hard even when they don’t have to. It’s ingrained in them. It’s how they got to where they are. For example, one of my high net-worth customers is usually firing me emails early in the morning (when I’m sleeping) and late at night (when I’m sleeping). He has no reason to do this and no reason to continue working but he does it because he’s formed that work ethic in him like a habit.
Having a great work ethic is paramount to achieving financial freedom. Hard work will put you above and beyond those that are smarter than you but are unwilling to put in the work.
Working hard also makes down time more rewarding. The best vacations are those that I take after working long hours or finishing up a complex project.
Hard work keeps you sharp and in front of your competition. If you don’t work hard, eventually your competition will get you or you’ll be replaced by someone who works harder. Harsh but it happens so best to take it head on.
It’s hard to flip a switch and say “Okay, I’m going to work harder now.” I find it easier to set a goal and then start to chip away at it. For example, one of my goals is to start waking up early. So I’ve been waking up a few minutes earlier every day. I also wanted to improve my fitness so I’ve been increasing the time I run and the amount of weights I do every week. Baby steps. This technique builds will power as well which goes hand in hand with hard work.
Surprisingly, most of the financially free people I know show great humility and are extremely humble. I guess this makes sense in a way since many of them are self-made and came from very little. But still, with the success and wealth that they’ve accumulated, they have nothing to be humble about, yet they still are.
For example, one of the top people at my company says he tries to practice humility more than anything else. He says this keeps him grounded and allows him to focus on the big picture without being consumed in himself.
Warren Buffett is also a huge proponent of being humble. He never flaunts his wealth. He still lives in the same home that he purchased in Omaha, Nebraska in the late 50’s for $31,500. A clear show of modesty from the third richest man in the world.
I think the key lessons here are to never take yourself too seriously. Be modest when it comes to material things. Continue to practice humility so you can continue to improve yourself. Being humble and practicing humility will also make those around you like you more.
All of the successful people I know or read about have confidence. They don’t have confidence for the sake of having confidence. Rather, they have confidence because they’ve prepared for whatever they’re doing or they know what they’re talking about.
Some of the most successful speakers I know prepare at length for speeches and presentations. Some I know don’t have to prepare at length because they know the material they’re presenting like the back of their hand. Rarely do they ever “wing” it.
I sit in on customer meetings with superiors and they show extreme confidence because they’ve been doing their job for 30 years and can anticipate everything the customer is going to ask. Their technical expertise is outstanding so rarely ever does a question stump them.
So the key is to master whatever it is you’re trying to pursue. Whether it’s a profession, sales, school, investing, a sport, etc… When you’ve prepared for it, your confidence will increase, and then naturally your performance will improve. This is especially great career advice because customers love to see confidence. They’ll take the confident guy over the other guy any day. The confident guy knows what he’s talking about. The confident guy who pretends like he knows what he’s talking about is well…a fraud.
Desire to Learn
The financially free people I know love to learn. They never shut their brains off. They soak things up like sponges. They ask questions. They always ask why, why, why – this shows that they’re listening and wanting to know more.
There’s no need for these people to learn more. They’re already financially free. But yet they still do. Learning for them keeps life interesting. It also improves their well-being.
Learning is all about keeping your mind open to new information and ideas. Never close your mind to thoughts that my be contrary to your opinions or initial conclusions. Always seek out contradictory evidence. For example, when I invest in stocks, I always look for holes in my investment ideas. I want to know why I shouldn’t make the investment so I don’t lose money.
Learning can be done in various forms. My favorite is reading. But you can do it through talking with people, formal education, watching TV (e.g., documentaries), and probably the most practical way – actually doing the thing you want to learn. Nothing beats practice and repetition
Ability to Change
The ability to change goes hand in hand with the desire to learn. We live in an era of rapid technological change. Just think about what’s happened in the last 10 years:
- Nearly everyone has smartphones as powerful as laptops (think Apple)
- Full-blown electric cars (think Tesla)
- Self-driving cars and trucks
- Banking that can be done 100% online
In a rapidly changing world, we need to learn how to change. The ability to change is a trait that I’ve seen in successful people. They’re willing to start new products, cut out products that don’t work, learn new law or regulations, adapt new technology for their business, etc… They do this because if they don’t they may get left behind. Change can be stressful and annoying because our brains naturally don’t like to change – especially when we have a set routine. We want things to remain as they have always been. However, change can be stimulating and can keep us engaged. It’s important to change or practice change as we get older because our brains become less elastic as we age (i.e., we get “slacker” brains). Try to mix up your daily routine, try out different exercises, learn about a new technology, pick up a different hobby, change jobs, start a business, etc…
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric once said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” In other words, change or die.