Similar to many epic journeys, one of the greatest dividends in the journey to financial independence is the building of character. Like scaling a great mountain range, crossing a continent, birthing a nation, creating a movement or building an enduring company, the journey to financial independence takes grit, self-awareness, resourcefulness, purpose and a strong support system.
To walk this journey effectively, one would benefit from universal principles that give birth to daily habits.
Stephen Covey wrote his epic book, “The 7 habits of highly effective people” and dedicated his life to teaching these habits. The first set of three habits are personal and build character and the second habits are interpersonal and build community.
In this blog, we will look at the first two habits that build your character.
FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE IS (NOT) JUST ABOUT MONEY
At the beginning of our journey towards financial independence 13 years ago, my wife Emily had the great fortune to attend a seminar on the 7 habits of highly effective people. She came home with manuals and DVDs and we have become ardent students of these habits; learning, teaching and applying them over the years with amazing results. I, for one, am innately indisciplined so these habits are of inestimable value to me.
The benefit has been to our marriage, parenting, leadership, relationships, and of course in our journey of self-awareness and financial independence.
The habits are:
- Be proactive – The habit of choice
- Start with the end in mind – The habit of vision
- Put first things first – The habit of integrity and execution
- Think win-win – The habit of mutual benefit
- Seek first to understand, then be understood – The habit of mutual understanding
- Synergize – The habit of creative cooperation
- Sharpen the saw – The habit of renewal
The first three habits are foundational (they work together to build your character and move you from the point of dependence to independence. Dependence is the state where you blame other people and circumstances for your lot in life, while independence is the state where you achieve private victory and take full responsibility for everything that happens in your life – the realization that things don’t happen to you, they happen because of you.
The next three habits build on the first and work together to build personality and team; they move you from independence to interdependence – a state where you achieve public victory and your focus moves from ‘I’ to ‘we’ – I can only win if you also win.
The last habit sharpens the same, is the habit of rejuvenation. In this walk we call life, your body, mind, and spirit need rejuvenating and refreshing.
It is to the first two habits that we turn our attention to.
HABIT 1:BE PROACTIVE – The habit of choice
This is the habit of self-mastery. This habit introduces us to a powerful principle, “I am free to choose and am responsible for my choices”. Guided by this principle, your paradigm changes from the reactive, “ I am a product of my circumstances” to the proactive “I am a product of my choices”.
This is the mother habit. It is very difficult (may be all-together impossible) to move on to the other habits if you don’t apply yourself to this habit. Regardless of your DNA, parent’s, marriage, political and economic environment, IQ – you are free to choose and be responsible for your choices. One of the most powerful lessons in this habit is to learn to ignore all the things that concern you but you can’t control and focus on the things that are in your control. When you focus on what is in your control, you will slowly and steadily begin to control the other things as well.
On learning this as a 29-year-old, earning a whooping KES 15,000 with my wife of 24 years earning somewhat more, we knew that we had the power to choose financial independence – whereas we earned little, we had time on our hands and the power to dream, save and compound our investments.
Who or what do you blame for your lot in life?
What do you need to do to change your paradigm?
How do your daily choices affect you?
HABIT 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND – The Habit Of Vision
This is the habit of self-leadership.
This habit reveals a powerful universal principle, “mental creation precedes physical creation.” Everything is created twice – first in the mind through a purpose, a vision a mission then in the physical exhibited in processes, products, and services.
At the core of all you do must be why you do it! This why, this purpose, this core becomes the beacon that leads your how (strategies and practices) and your what (products and services). Too many times, we go about this the wrong way, starting with what then struggle to figure out how. This is ineffective. When you begin with the end in mind, you start with why; the never-changing core which, like the sun in the solar system, guides all the other actions.
At the onset of our journey in 2004, we decided on our “why”. To be financially independent by 2019. Our ‘how’ followed – ‘to have assets that will generate sufficient cash flows to take our sons to Harvard and when they are done, turn the cash flows into our retirement fund. Finally, our “what” – this for us was real estate, not for capital gains but for cash flow generation.
At this point, I must thank heavens for two things we had in abundance. One was youth, which means we had time. Two was just enough intelligence to understand the concept but not too much to argue with it- we just followed what the manual said.
Self-mastery through the habit of choice, “Be proactive” and self-leadership through the habit of vision – “start with the end in mind” will get you started on your journey and once you start, you need the habit of execution, “put first things first” which helps you in self-management. As you keep on, you’ll realize you can’t be effective alone, you need people and so the second set of habits kick in: Think win-win, seek first to understand then be understood and synergize, and to maintain your sanity rejuvenate, you need to sharpen your body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
These habits are a key companion in the journey to your financial independence but more important, they make you a better human being and give you that most important of gifts – CHARACTER!
Here’s to your financial independence!