Getting Ahead

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We get these questions a lot from the enterprising young. It’s a very intelligent question: You look at some old guy who’s rich and you ask,

“How can I become like you, except faster?”

Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts… Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day, at the end of the day – if you live long enough – most people get what they deserve.

— Charlie Munger, a multi-billionaire fellow, and Warren Buffet’s business partner.


I always teach my students to think one - sometimes two - step(s) ahead of their peers.

One may say: “I want to do such and such. I’ll get good grades, go to a good school, and do what I want.” That’s great! Do you have a plan? 

Everyone is able to get good grades and attend good schools. But few possess the ability to get ahead.

 

You’re 10 years old 

 

While your classmates are studying hard to get good grades and competing for the best middle schools, you’re already interning the profession of your interest. You’ve built a website and put out your work for the world to see. Believe it or not, a website is the new resume. Forget building a C/V. It’s yesterday. You want to put YOUR website on all your college and work applications.

By the time you’re almost finish with high school, you’ve set your direction. And your friends? Well, they’re studying day and night. That is the only thing they do.

While your friends are touring famous colleges, you’ve found a mentor. You’re learning a lot from him. Soon, he offers you a part-time job.


You’re 20 years old


Your friends are out partying every weekend. Not you! You’re busy starting a side project, and slowly turning that into a business.

After college, your friends are scouting for jobs. You don’t need one, because you work for yourself. You’ve earned your independence.

You keep doing what you love and save up most of your income. Meanwhile, your friends are having fun. They share pictures flying first class and lavishing on expensive foods. They drift in their happiness. Not you! Because you remember what your teacher said: “Nothing is permanent.” You understand it is easy to be pleasant when life flows along like a song. But the person worthwhile is the one who can smile when life goes dead wrong.


You’re 30 years old


You keep working. You invest consistently over the years. You DO NOT own depreciating assets, eat at Michelin star restaurants, or fly first class.

Instead, you put your money in undervalued properties across the globe. You build a portfolio of passive income. You travel on a budget. You stay the course, because you love your work.

After working for more than a decade, you want to start planting your legacy so other people will remember you. You decide to write a book. You don’t care whether or not it will be a best-seller, because you’ve already made your fortune.

Oh, did we forget about your friends? Well..they’re still working the same jobs. Some have bigger responsibilities. They’re only motivated by money, so the anxiety over mortgage and kid’s expensive school tuition haunts them every day.

You reach out to one. Sadly, he doesn’t listen. He’s been conditioned to associate money with success since he was young. He believes in climbing this imaginary social hierarchy - more money, more happiness. Little did he know, people who have more money usually have bigger problems than those who have far less. In other words, the two are the same.

You’ve been listening to your teacher. You understand happiness is something you have internally, not from something external. Your friends don’t listen. They think you’re in another world. It doesn’t matter. Because happiness is something you have to understand by your Self.


You’re 40 years old


You finished writing your book. There is a publisher willing to help deliver your message across the world. You receive a small royalty - that’s okay, you’re not worried. You don’t need the money. Don’t forget, you’ve made your fortune somewhere else. You’re not the starving and desperate writer who needs his book to be published.

Finally, you think it’s time to close this chapter of your life and begin a new one. You want to start your own family. You sold your current business and become financially independent.

Your off-shore real estate investments have grown tremendously. You sold some, then bought a small country house in New Zealand. You’re thinking of starting a new career there as a part-time writer.

Your son is getting bigger. It’s time for him to start school. You put him NOT in the best schools, but in diverse schools. You teach him adversity. You spend this decade mentoring your son. You instill ideal, moral, value, wisdom. You help define HIS direction.

Meanwhile, your friends are working hard. They constantly carp about not having any time for themselves and their children. They become ignorant. As a result, their children are neglected.

When it’s winter in New Zealand, you fly back to the United States, and put your son in summer school. You would do the opposite when winter comes in the Northern Hemisphere. Who likes freezing weather and snow anyway? Sometimes you miss the winter feeling, so you stay put until spring arrives. After all, you’re free.


You’re 50 years old


Your son is in college. You finally have more time to do the things you want. Your past experience allows you to start a consulting business. You build a long list of clientele. The business gradually grows.

Your son graduates from college. He started his own company from his dorm room. Like father, like son. He’s independent and starts his own family. You’re the proudest dad in the world.

Many of your son’s friends are jobless. The job market is overly saturated. They have no solution but to keep on competing, because that is the way society conditions their mind. Worse, few have become suicidal.


You’re 60 years old


You’ve been working on your farmhouse. It gets beautiful day by day.

You’re planting your own foods. Sometimes your granddaughter comes to visit. You’d take her out fishing on the lake in your backyard. You’d cook together with her. You’d also go hiking with your son when he’s not so busy with work. You’re healthier than ever.

Your friends just finished paying-off their mortgages. Some are still working. Others are waiting to receive retirement benefits.

The economy enters into a recession. The stock market plunges. Your high school buddy dies of a heart attack because he lost half his investment portfolio. You also lost substantially, but you’ve been listening to your teacher. You stay detached. You go back to doing what you love. You’re not like your friend who spent his entire life not doing what he wanted on the bet he could buy his freedom later.

This is the time to seek higher spirituality in you. It is the perfect moment to find peace and balance with nature.


You’re 70 years old


You spend time mostly cooking, reading, and writing. Sometimes a publisher calls to offer a book deal. You’d take on the job when you still have the sac.

Your granddaughter’s all grown-up. She’d come visit you from time to time. She loves chatting and asking you for advice.

Sometimes you would get bored. You'd reach out to old friends. Unfortunately, most of them are struck with an incurable disease or have passed away. Few of them are still alive, but their health slowly deteriorates.


You’re 80 years old


Your body slows down. You feel a tremendous difference. You become less active. However, you still meditate and practice tai-chi every morning. You’ve gradually become disengaged from your Self. You realize the end is near, but you’re ready to move to the other side. This is the beginning of your journey into death.

 

You’re 90 years old

 

You’re one lucky individual to be able to live this long. Your lifetime investment on health has indeed paid off. Congratulations!

 

I just told you a story that ANYONE can achieve.

You don’t need to be Elon Musk or a trust fund baby.

You can do everything you want to do. You just need the foresight and patience.

Let me make a list.

Here’s what young people need to do if they want to get ahead:

  1. Start very early.
  2. Focus on mastering “LIFE” skills.
  3. Think independently.
  4. Do your work and always invest.
  5. Stay the course.

“At the end of the day - if you live long enough,” Charlie Munger said, “most people get what they deserve.”

Making money is easy as long as you are intelligent enough to know how.

But what do you value more than money?

Life is uncertain. Death is certain.

What’s your number? The amount of money you would need to simply walk away and live. Everybody has a number and it is usually an exact number. So what’s yours? Find it. Achieve it. Live it. Because you’re not going to live forever.