The last step in the skeletal plan of working towards financial freedom is mainly just about persisting. Everybody can run 100m, but running 42km is a feat accomplished by a few. Even if you can run 100m in 10 seconds, and then stop after that, you will be just very near where you started. But even if it takes you 3 days to run 42km, you will be far away in a place where you cannot see your starting point.
You may have knowledge on how to run properly (earning money), you may have experience on how to pace yourself (saving money), you may have good shoes and water stations along the way (grow your money with money), but running the marathon itself takes a great deal of time, energy and effort. Just like you will get tired, weak, having sore feet and blisters, you will also get exhausted with the daily grind, wondering how much more you have to endure. You will be beaten down at times with unexpected expenses or loss of income. You will see others standing at the side resting and enjoying life, laughing at your futile efforts while you question yourself if running alone is still worth it or not. Of course, it is also good to find others running together with you. Finding like-minded people allows for the sharing of ideas, supporting and encouragement of each other and the companionship of knowing you are not alone. However, that being said, as you attempt to move up the financial ladder, know that the journey is for the most part, a lonely one where most will not understand or agree with you.
You remember the Marshmallow Experiment where the children were given one marshmallow and were told that the adult will leave the room for a while? If the child could wait till the adult came back before eating the marshmallow, he or she would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. If the child ate the marshmallow before the adult came back, there would be no second marshmallow. The researcher left the room for 15 minutes, during which some waited, and some ate the treat during that time. Naturally, those who waited were given a second marshmallow. As adults, we could very clearly see the pros and cons of each action, and understood immediately what is the next logical step to do – that is to wait. As adults we thought, how easy it is to accomplish that? If it were me I would definitely wait till the researchers came back!
But is that really the case? Are we not standing on a higher level as an adult and judging what the little children would do? What would we do if we were given a similar challenge but with a difficulty level appropriate for adults?
For these 4 to 5 years old children, the waiting time was 15 minutes (of course they did not know that), and they knew for certain what would be the end result – a second marshmallow in return for their patience. But as adults, delayed gratification is not as short as 15 minutes. It can easily be 15 years and more of not only waiting, but minimally 15 years of effort and sacrifice, of which you do not know for certain what is the end result. You may end up back to square 1 if shit happens, you may end up in a debt if you make risky moves, you may be slightly above average if all is smooth, or way above average if luck is on your side, or even very successful if the heavens bless you. The whole range of results waiting for you at the end is uncertain. In Chinese they have a phrase for it: 生死有命，富貴在天, which translates to ‘life and death is fated, and prosperity depends on the heavens’.
The sheer length of time in which you have to work harder than the rest and sacrifice more than the rest, all for an uncertain result at the end made many gave up along the way. When I say uncertain results, I meant to say unforeseen circumstances which may not be our fault, such as sickness and pure bad luck such as putting your money in Lehman Brothers. But as we deal with each day and make every effort to work hard, surely we can see ourselves moving forward bit by bit.
Just as you run a marathon, you do not instantly teleport from one place to another. But little by little, we get further away, increasing the gap between us and those who did not work hard for the financial freedom. Year after year, by making logical and correct decisions, we are able to negate off many of the negative things that come our way. For example, if we diversify all our savings into multiple banks, the collapse of Lehman Brothers may wipe out only the portion of investments or savings we have with them, and not everything we have. By not trading recklessly, but invest patiently and wisely, we will be able to reduce the probability of getting burnt in the financial markets.
When you are getting exhausted, turn back and look at what you have achieved so far. It is ok to walk and rest for a bit, nobody said you have to run mindlessly until you reach your goal. Make time for family and friends, to take care of your health and clear your stresses away, but just remember to keep moving forwards. It is ok to stop for a bit to rest and recharge, there is no need to move forward every day. But in the longer term, you should continually and consistently be working for progress.
There will also be times when you work hard, but there seems to be no progress at all, making you wonder if what you are doing is of any use. Just like in building and construction, the laying of foundations of any high-rise building is a very time consuming task, during which there seems to be little progress made at all. But once the foundations are laid, the skeletal frame of the building is quickly built up, and once the main frame is done all the wirings and furnishings are finished in no time. Definitely, while for our case it is also the same, we should also constantly review and reflect in a calm and honest manner to determine if what we are doing is the correct thing forward, or if we are doing everything wrong.
Strengthen your will, persist on even when the whole world does not understand you. Keep moving forwards, and even if in the end you do not reach your intended goal, you will be far away and much better off than your peers.