Borrowing from Tomorrow
"Drinking is borrowing happiness from tomorrow."
I racked up nearly 100k in credit card debt in my twenties.
It wasn't a lack of knowledge. I have an economics degree and read multiple personal finance books as I was digging my debt hole.
Admitting I was insanely irresponsible is obvious and oversimplified. There are several circumstantial factors that play their part in the disaster, but those can come off as excuses.
The thing is, my whole mentality towards life was geared towards accumulating debt. I was always borrowing from tomorrow and I don't just mean in the context of money.
If getting drunk is borrowing happiness from tomorrow, I borrowed half a decade.
In my twenties, I just wanted to have fun and live in the moment, and I wasn't all that concerned about the debts that I was creating for my future self. Not just the financial debt, but also the health debt and social debt.
Retirement? My sixties were unfathomably far away. I wanted to live big now, deferring the good life to later seemed backwards.
Sleep? I'll sleep when I'm dead, I would often say.
I was filled with energy and passion and urgency and I was creating deficits all over my life.
Live Each Day
"When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: 'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.' It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." ~Steve Jobs
Life is short, you only live once, seize the day. I dangerously mis-implemented these cliches.
They aren't permission slips to be reckless and inconsiderate of future consequences for the sake of good times. Rather, they mean that you should consider the type of person you want to be, what's important to you, and live a life according to that.
When the stoics said to live each day as if it were our last, they meant we should appreciate life, not take it for granted. Not change our activities as much as change our state of mind.
Life is short, so be grateful for the time you're given and use it wisely. You only live once, so build a life you're proud of. Seize the day and make decisions that your future self would be proud of.
Present Self vs Future Self
"With bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad. With good habits, it's the reverse: the immediate outcome is unenjoyable, but the ultimate outcome feels good. Put another way, the cost of your good habits are in the present. The cost of your bad habits are in the future." ~James Clear
As I was accumulating debt, I was focused entirely on present me. I was working hard and playing harder, all in the name of immediate gratification.
Burning the candle at both ends feels like progress, but it's really just borrowing. You can borrow from the future to improve the present, but your future self will have to pay interest.
The costs of my bad habits racked up and eventually I had to end the cycle. Future me became present me, and present me looked back at past me and said, "what the f^ck?"
If the compound interest of good habits is happiness, the compound interest of bad habits is regret.
Regret comes from present me and being disappointed with past me. Eventually there was enough regret built up and it was finally time to change.
Long-Term Thinking is a Superpower
“The strongest of all warriors are these two: Time and Patience.” ~Leo Tolstoy
It took over 4 years to get out of debt. It required a big change in lifestyle and perspective.
My life was forced to slow down, but I learned to play the long game.
Slowing down taught me patience. Slowing down allowed me to think more long-term, which allowed me build a better relationship with my future self.
Imagine trail running downhill, you're going so fast that you can only focus on the next step, literally 5 ft in front of you. Then imagine running uphill, the pace is slow and it's hard, but you can look up and enjoy the scenery.
Slowing down is hard, patience is hard, but being able to see and think long-term was like a new superpower.
Short-term habits aligned with long-term goals. Having present me and future me on the same team feels unstoppable.
Debt creates instability which creates stress and anxiety. Instability makes it harder to make decisions and take action.
Slow, stable, sustainable creates a foundation. A foundation allows you to invest and build.
"You wouldn’t plant a seed and then dig it up every few minutes to see if it has grown. So why do you keep questioning yourself, your hard work and your decisions? Have patience, stop overthinking, and keep watering your seeds."
Investing is the opposite of accumulating debt.
Enjoy now, pay later with interest.
Pay now, enjoy later with interest.
The whole idea is that you need to give up things now, for later. You need to take away from your present self, and give to your future self. Anything where you get an immediate reward isn't investing.
I used to think that investing meant buying stocks. But I wasn't investing, I was doing some version of day trading. Checking the stock market everyday, worrying and fiddling in hopes of an immediate reward.
Day trading is urgent and involved and fast and short-term. Investing is more of a negative art: automatic deposits, mindless dollar-cost averaging, avoiding disruption in the compound interest machine by doing nothing for a long period of time.
Seth Godin says, "Just as it’s almost impossible to make a profit as a day trader, it’s difficult to be happy when you day trade emotions. But there’s an alternative: Buy and hold. Stand for something. Stick with it. Long-term contributions matter. Today ends tonight and tomorrow starts again, but we only get one long-term life."
Investing is a Mindset
"When most people say they want to be a millionaire, what they really mean is “I want to spend a million dollars,” which is literally the opposite of being a millionaire."
Investing is patient, slow and long-term.
I wasn't ever going to get good at investing in anything, no matter how many books on investing I ever read, because what I needed was to slow down and learn some patience and long-term thinking.
I needed to learn how to do things today that will make me happy tomorrow. You can't learn that from a book.
You can show twenty-five-year-old Jarric a compound interest chart, and sure, I get it. Start investing now and by 65 I'll have multiples more than if I start years later. I'll be a multi-millionaire.
Logically, it makes perfect sense. But I didn't need logical, I needed a deep psychological fix. Why do I care about being a millionaire when I'm 65 when I can live the millionaire-lifestyle now?
But it's not at all about ignoring the short-term. The long run is just a collection of short runs.
Morgan Housel says, "Long-term thinking is often viewed as what’s left over when you ignore the short term. But it’s not. It’s what’s left over when you’ve nursed the short term so well that the rewards compound into something great – after a long time."
There is a finesse to it, living fully in the short-term but holding back a little bit for the long-term.
Self-care is a great example of investing, you hope that healthy habits like eating clean and exercising and sleep keeps you energized and well for the long-term.
I can invest in relationships, giving love and not seeking any immediate return but believing that my family and friends will be a long-term source of happiness.
I can invest in myself, learning new skills which require failure and incompetence in the short-term but will be useful down the road.
We Get One Long-Term Life, Invest Wisely
"Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested." ~Seneca
Lessons that last rarely come cheap. Taking 4 years to get out of debt is one of the best things that happened to me because it changed my time horizon.
It's empowering being able to work towards multi-year goals.
Ironman was multiple years in the making. The goal came about organically, I didn't force it.
Buying a house for my family is a couple years away, but that's okay, I'm not in a hurry, just focused on making a little bit of progress every month.
The most worthwhile goals are the ones that usually take the longest to accomplish.
Everything has a cost and a payoff. Immediate payoffs are typically small, and long-term payoffs can be pretty big.
Ashley's due date is tomorrow, I'm days away from having a baby girl. How much money, time, energy will we invest over the next 18+ years, but is there any bigger long-term payoff than raising a good kid?
You can't build a life with a debt mentality, wanting what you can't yet afford, trapped in the tyranny of urgent and more. You build a life with an investing mentality, slowly working towards what you want with consistency and patience and persistence.
We get one long-term life. Invest wisely.
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