Category Archives: Personal Growth

Buying More Stuff Won’t Make You Happy

Do more. Work harder. Jump higher. Go faster. Phrases like these illustrate just how obsessed with increase our culture has become. Holiday spending, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and overall consumption in general prove that we are a culture primarily focused on material possessions. If you’ve bought into the hype and spend your time and money striving to accumulate more and more, you need to know the truth: Buying more stuff won’t make you happy.

I’ll be the first to admit that happiness is one of the greatest mysterious of life. It comes and goes seemingly as it pleases, often without any obvious reason. And when it inevitably goes, human nature leads me to medicate the pain with stuff. But I’ll also be quick to admit that my human nature has led me down the wrong path many times in life, so it probably shouldn’t be trusted.

In a culture obsessed with increase, everyone wants more and thinks it will make them happier. But the truth is buying more stuff won't make you happy. Real happiness and contentment is deeper and lasting. When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

Take a moment and think back on some of the birthday gifts you desperately wanted as a kid. I’m talking about the gifts that you truly thought would change your life forever, like a new bike, video game system, or special toy.

Do you still have that item today? I didn’t think so.

Logically, it follows that your happiness wasn’t really dependent on that one special thing after all.

So why do we buy more and more even though stuff won’t us happy?

The short answer: we’re looking for the quick fix of adrenaline that buying things provides.

The long answer: we don’t understand the true nature of what makes us happy.

When you buy that new car, trendy pair of imported shoes, or new house, it is often for the wrong reasons: making a statement, impressing others, trying to fill an emotional void, or suppressing other feelings.

On the other hand, if you’ve planned ahead, spent within your budget and means, and truly value the items you’ve purchased, then that is a wise purchase. The difference lies in self-understanding and developing an accurate picture of what you value most.

Why Buying More Stuff Won’t Make You Happy

The bottom line is that more often than not buying more stuff won’t make you happy. Check out the following reasons to see for yourself why this is true.

More stuff leads to more responsibility

Sometimes my wife and I like to walk our dogs along a trail near some of the largest homes in our neighborhood. It usually leads to a discussion about what it must be like to live in such a large home.

Not everyone will share our viewpoint, but it is undeniable that living in a larger home and having more possessions leads to more responsibility. Psychology shows us that people thrive when their responsibilities provide them with purpose in life, but the opposite is true when too many responsibilities make people overwhelmed.

Buying more stuff can lead to debt

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m so happy to be drowning in so much credit card and student loan debt! At least I’ve got this sweet pair of Jimmy Choos!”?

No? I haven’t either.

The truth is that many people buy stuff they can’t afford to buy and end up deep in debt. Once the adrenaline rush of that new purchases feds, stress and regret move in quickly.

I like to think that it’s not a coincidence that debt and regret rhyme so nicely.

You are not your possessions

My wife and I watch Friends re-runs now and then, and one of my favorite show moments involves a conversation between Monica and Roger, a psychiatrist. After a long conversation, Roger leaves Monica and Ross, who are sitting at the table eating cookies.

“Mon, um, easy on those cookies, okay? Remember they’ re just food. They’re not love,” Roger says.

We laugh, but the same can be said of the stuff we buy. Remember, they’re just things.

They’re not happiness.

And they certainly don’t define you in any way.

Your stuff won’t make you happy because happiness is deeper.

Your stuff is costly

While a lot of items we buy are expensive, that’s not what I mean by the heading above. Your stuff is truly costing you in more ways than you realize.

For example, if you bought a boat and financed the purchase, the cost goes beyond just the principle and interest payments you make each month. Your time spent earning money to make the payments, missed opportunities to do other things because you have a boat that needs to be used every weekend, and lost time and money to maintenance and repairs are additional costs.

Stuff ties us down

The above example of the boat also illustrates another way stuff won’t make you happy: it leads to obligations and limitations on your life.

I’ve watched friends and family buy campers, motor homes, recreational vehicles, bigger houses, new cars, and yes, boats, only to see the initial euphoria replaced by the sinking feeling of a boat anchor firmly resting at the bottom of a lake.

Put simply, if you buy the wrong stuff, your still will have you.

Emotions change

It is true even for the most-stoic of people – emotions change.

All. The. Time.

This is precisely why it is dangerous to allow your emotions to be dependent on the presence of physical items. Every time the initial rush of a new purchase wears off, you’ll be desperate to replace that feeling.

Too many possessions are not healthy

When you have too many possessions, you cannot possibly use them all. Even if you’re not a hoarder, keeping too many things around starts to affect their utilitarian value.

Many experts recommend getting rid of one or two items for every new item purchased. My wife and I follow this guideline when buying new clothing. We also clean out our closets a few times each year and purge clothes that we haven’t worn in over a year. This decision has made both laundry and planning our clothing choices much easier.

Focusing on possessions leads us to miss out on what is most important

At the end your life, do you think you’ll rest in your final moments and recall the experiences you had with your favorite possessions? Or will you cling to your loved ones, recall special memories with them, and cherish your relationships?

Personally, I don’t fear death, but I do fear reaching the finish line of life and realizing that I lived by the wrong values and priorities. Living a life that worships stuff is a sure-fire way to one day end up old, tired, and full of regret.

If you take away one thing from this article, it should be this: stuff won’t make you happy. 

Please don’t wait until your deathbed to discover that this is true.

What choice will you make?

When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

In a culture obsessed with increase, everyone wants more and thinks it will make them happier. But the truth is buying more stuff won't make you happy. Real happiness and contentment is deeper and lasting. When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

20 Budget-Friendly Whole30 Tips to Save Money

Starting Whole30 for the first or fiftieth time? It can be expensive! We'll show you 20 tips to eat Whole30 on a budget and save money at the same time!Do you ever feel frustrated by how expensive it is to eat a healthy diet? Are you waging a constant battle between your desires to eat well and also be frugal? My wife and I can sympathize. We have tried a number of different diets, and though each one was different, one thing seemed to remain consistent: eating healthy food and eliminating or reducing junk food was incredibly expensive! When we started the Whole30 program for the first time, I braced myself for a big hit to our budget. To my surprise, we were able to eat Whole30 and save money instead of spending more.

Whole30 is a powerful program capable of changing not only your relationship with food but also the relationship between food and money.Whether you’ve tried Whole30 many times or don’t even know what it is yet, I hope that the tips and tricks below will help you and your family try Whole30 without spending your whole paycheck on food.

What is Whole30?

If you are familiar with Whole30, please skip this section – otherwise, read on.

The Whole30 Program has been used by millions of people since 2009. Over the course of 30 days, participants eat only real food and follow only a few fairly common sense restrictions. The payoff? At the end of 30 days you’ll feel much better, and as you slowly reintegrate foods back into your diet, you can find your trigger foods. The Whole30 website describes the program well:

Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.

Participants may NOT eat any of the following items:

  • Added sugar of any kind, real or artificial (honey, agave, Stevia, etc.)
  • Alcohol of any kind, even if used for cooking
  • Grains of any kind
  • Legumes (includes peanut butter)
  • Dairy products of any kind
  • Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
  • Imitation baked goods, sweets, or junk foods, even if they are made with 100% approved Whole30 ingredients (i.e. you can’t make pancakes or pizza with approved ingredients)

There are notable exceptions:

  • Natural fruit juice is allowed
  • The following legumes are allowed – Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas
  • Salt (technically, most salt contains sugar, but this is allowed)

If you’ve never experienced Whole30, I get it – it sounds like the worst idea of all time. But if you’re willing to push yourself and make big changes, you can completely change your relationship with food and make major improvements to your health. I’m by no means a doctor or an expert on Whole30 – so take what I have to say at face value and with a grain of salt – but I have seen the program have a great impact on dozens of friends. It worked well for me and my wife, and we still follow many of the guiding principles of the program.

Put simply: Whole30 works.

Frugal Whole30 Tips and Tricks

If you’re ready to eat Whole30 and commit to 30 days of change – great! I’m confident the experience will teach you a lot. My hope is that the following tips and tricks will help you to eat Whole30 while still maintaining frugal habits. They helped us avoid raising our food budget, so I’m confident they can work for you, too.

1. Stay Out of Restaurants

Confession time: I love eating out, so staying out of restaurants was impossible for me. I was able to find Whole30 approved options at a few places, namely Chipotle, but staying out of restaurants and cooking at home is your best bet. You’ll save money and enjoy better meals.

2. Plan Meals At Least One Week in Advance

This principle applies to anyone trying to save money on groceries, so it definitely applies to Whole30 participants – if you don’t have a plan, plan to fail.

Plan all of your meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – one week at a time. Make a chart similar to this one and list everything you will need on your shopping list.

3. Buy Diverse Ingredients

This is also a universal meal planning principle. Maintaining stock of diverse, Whole30-approved ingredients will help you in a pinch if, for example, a meal is ruined or you don’t make it out for your next shopping trip. You’ll avoid an unexpected run to Chipotle.

4. Buy Meat in Bulk

Likewise, buying meat in bulk is a majorly frugal way to eat Whole30 without destroying your budget. This is a great time to put your Costco membership to good use.

Eat Whole30 on a budget and save moneyYou can also shop locally when buying meat in bulk and save a ton of money through a free program called Zaycon Fresh.

Zaycon Fresh provides high-quality, farm fresh meat directly from local farmers to your table – and their prices typically beat even Aldi and Wal-Mart!

When you sign-up for FREE, Zaycon will leverage the buying power of several local families on your behalf and help you save money on food by purchasing items in bulk. They send you daily e-mail alerts on local sales events, and when you place your order, they take care of the rest. When your order is ready, you bring your receipt to a designated pick-up location near your home and collect your fresh, inexpensive meat without even leaving your car.

Zaycon Fresh is currently available in 1,200 communities nationwide, and you can sign-up for FREE to save money on food today.

5. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are a life saver on Whole30. You can often find buy one, get one free sales on many frozen vegetables at your local grocer. Keep a healthy stock of green beans (technically a legume, but Whole30 approved), carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables that can be used in a variety of meals or eaten as a snack.

6. Freeze Nuts

Credit goes to my friend Mrs. Picky Pincher for this tip. If you freeze your Whole30-approved nuts, they will stay fresh for much longer. Nuts are expensive, so don’t waste them!

7. Shop at Aldi

I know it isn’t as cool or trendy as Whole Foods, but if you haven’t visited Aldi recently, you might be pleasantly surprised if you give it another chance. The growing grocer has expanded its offerings, including organic and Whole30-approved options, to help shoppers save money on food and live a healthier life.

Aldi is currently investing $1.6 billion to remodel 1,300 of its 1,600 stores by 2020. Low prices won’t be affected by these changes, the company insists.

8. Plate Portions For Your Family

Have you ever prepared enough food to last for two meals only to have hungry family members take seconds or thirds, leaving you with you no meal for the next day? Apparently I do this to my wife all the time.

You can stretch Whole30 meals further by plating meals yourself rather than allowing family members to serve themselves family style. Controlled portions will ensure that your kids don’t waste half of their dinner, and as a bonus, everyone will avoid overeating.

9. Eat Salads for Lunch

Eat Whole30 on a budget and save moneyI’m about as close to a carnivore as a person can get, but I started to look forward to my salad at lunch while on Whole30. If you add in a few pieces of grilled chicken, approved nuts, fruits, and even a few dates, you’ll have a satisfying and frugal lunch.

10. Carry a Water Bottle With You Everywhere

Did you know that people often confuse signs of thirst with signs of hunger? Especially while you are trying to eat Whole30, carry a water bottle everywhere. Staying hydrated will help you limit snacks between meals.

11. Eat Lots of Eggs

If you’re like me and don’t care for eggs, this won’t work for you. But my wife ate eggs nearly every day on Whole30. Per serving, eggs are one of the most economical breakfast foods, especially if you buy them in bulk.

12. Buy Whole Chickens

Buying a whole chicken is not as convenient as buying packaged chicken breasts or thighs, but it can save you a lot of money while you eat Whole30.

13. Cook with Olive Oil

Especially when you start to eat Whole30, your body will crave the fats you used to feed it. Olive oil is a healthy fat that also happens to be very budget friendly, so don’t be afraid to use it!

14. Use Spices to Achieve Bold Flavors

If you eat baked chicken, potatoes, and broccoli every day, you’re going to lose your mind. Experiment with new spices to add new twists to every day meals. A few changes here and there can help you create totally different meals to satisfy your food urges and keep you from running out to Chipotle.

Here are a few of our favorites:

15. Bake Your Own Plantain Chips

If you’re a fan of plantain chips, you probably know that they are often expensive at your local grocery store. We used plantain chips to add crunch to Mexican dishes like tacos and pork carnitas, but we didn’t make our own. Next time around we will follow this simple recipe (and omit the sugar).

16. Eat Larabars for Breakfast or Lunch

Not all Larabars are Whole30 approved – so be careful – but I grew to love having a Lemon Bar Larabar for breakfast or lunch most days. Amazon has great prices on Larabars, so set-up a price alert and wait for good deals.

Here is a helpful list of approved Larabars.

17. Don’t Buy Organic Everything

The Whole30 website suggests that organic is the best way to go while on the program, but I don’t believe it is worth blowing up your budget to buy everything organic. If the non-organic alternatives are significantly cheaper, take advantage of the opportunity as long as it doesn’t bother you.

18. Use a Crockpot

If you don’t have a Crockpot, getting one and using it is crucial to Whole30 survival. A Crockpot can make even inexpensive cuts of meat melt in your mouth like butter.

If you already have one, I recommend buying a second. We often used both of ours to cook multiple meals for the week on Sundays. I also highly recommend purchasing a model with a timer function – the few extra dollars are definitely worth it!

19. Use Clarified Ghee

If you’re missing dairy while you eat Whole30, ghee can help cure your urges. We used ghee available at Trader Joe’s a few times each week to help limit our cravings.

20. Chipotle is Your Last Resort

As I’ve hinted at above, Chipotle can be your life-saving line of defense if you’re in a pinch during Whole30. A salad bowl with pork carnitas is 100% Whole30-approved, delicious, and comes in under $10 – which is much less expensive than many other Whole30 options! Just be careful to avoid other meats, as they are cooked in oils which are not Whole30 compliant.

You CAN Eat Whole30 AND Stay on Budget!

Making a decision to take on the Whole30 Program doesn’t have to be a commitment to spend your whole paycheck on food. If you do it the right way, you can improve your health and save money on Whole30.

Whole30 is a powerful program capable of changing not only your relationship with food but also the relationship between food and money. Whether you’re about to try Whole30 for the first or fiftieth time,  I hope that the tips and tricks above will help you stay frugal at the same time. 

Have you tried the Whole30 Program? Did you enjoy it?

I’ve you’ve tried Whole30, did you spend more money on food? What tips and tricks helped you save money?

Starting Whole30 for the first or fiftieth time? It can be expensive! We'll show you 20 tips to eat Whole30 on a budget and save money at the same time!

Improve Your Health – Financially, Physically, and Mentally – With These 9 Tips

Financially-minded people – like me – spend a lot of investing in their finances, and with good reason; breaking away from the rat race requires daily diligence. But what use is good financial health if you lack good physical and mental health? Money is important, but it is only one piece of the pie. Even if you have one area under control, you can improve your health by taking steps to grow grow in all three areas.

Most financial experts attest to the value of also maintaining physical and mental health. You only live once and you deserve to be happy. Make new habits and improve your health - financially, physically, and mentally - by following these 9 tips to live your best life.Pete Adeney, better known as Mr. Money Mustache, swears by regular weight lifting and almost constant movement to maintain his physical health. Sam Dogen, the mastermind behind Financial Samurai, is a 5.0 rated tennis player. Even the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, though largely driven by data and logic, carefully monitors his rational self for any signs of irrationality. The three have different backgrounds and experiences, but they similarly demonstrate the importance of healthy balance – financially, physically, and mentally.

Improving your health doesn’t require an expensive gym, a psychiatrist, or an investment broker. These can be great places to start, but you can improve your health by taking conscious stops to cut bad habits, replace them with healthy practices, and make those changes a permanent part of a healthy lifestyle.


We all have to start somewhere; the key is to start now! These 9 tips will help you improve your health – financially, physically, and mentally – and live a happy life.

1. Drink lots of water

Did you know that the average human body is 65% water? Your body needs water, and drinking lots of it is the quickest way to improve your health.

I love coffee and an occasional soda, but nothing primes my mind, body, and soul like water. Dehydration occurs anytime you take in less water than you use, and performance suffers even due to mild-dehydration. On the flip side, proper hydration increases energy, aids in healthy weight loss, and reduces stress.

So pour yourself a glass and keep reading.

2. Start Running

Humans have been running since the beginning of creation. In a sense, we were born to run. Children instinctively know how to run and start running shortly after learning to walk. So why do people begin to see running as a chore as they age?

After a long day of teaching, showing houses, and writing, I look forward to running. It is the best medicine for clearing my mind, reducing stress, and thinking creatively. In fact, I have written many of the posts on this blog while out on a run.

All you need to get started with running is a decent pair of running shoes, headphones, and athletic shorts/shirts. Later, if you want to get fancy, you can use a FitBit or Garmin GPS watch to track statistics like mileage, heart rate, calories burned, and split times. I’ve used the Garmin 405 CX for five years and it still meets all of my needs; it has even survived -30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, monsoon-like rains, and a few unfortunate falls on icy trails.

3. Eat Healthy Food

You’ve heard all the complaints about healthy eating.

  • It’s too expensive to eat healthy food.
  • Healthy food is boring!
  • I can’t give up my (insert junk here). . .

Bad habits and good marketing have made sure that these ideas stick in our brains. Healthy food can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. And if you know how to cook effectively and use basic spices, you can turn perform stove top miracles with only lean chicken, broccoli, and potatoes. Say goodbye to junk food cravings!

This year, my wife and I have completed one round of the Whole 30 diet. (Super fans have now thrown an apple through their computer screen, because Whole 30 isn’t a DIET. It’s a LIFESTYLE!) We ate chicken, lean beef, pork, potatoes, eggs, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. I use even learned to drink black coffee like an adult. We lost weight, improved our moods and concentration, and saved money by staying away from restaurants.

Recently, we started using Zaycon Fresh, a program that has made our healthy eating efforts even easier and cheaper. Zaycon partners with local farmers to provide high-quality, farm-fresh food at prices which beat your local grocers. Their online ordering system is easy to use, and your local economy benefits because you are shopping locally.

When a local sale begins, Zaycon will send you an e-mail with all the details – this week they sent deals on bacon straight to my heart inbox! Because they focus on a select number of meats and eliminate middle men, we’ve saved a lot of money and still managed to eat well.

If you are a blogger and would like to join the Zaycon Fresh referral program, it is easy! It only takes a few minutes to get started.

4. Automate Your Financial Life

Most of friends are always stressed out about money. If you’ve ever been surprised by forgotten bills, late payment notices, or overdraft fees, you need to automate your finances as much as possible. I automate any payments which can be automated, from utilities and savings to my mortgage payment and investing.

You only live once and you deserve to be happy. Make new habits and improve your health - financially, physically, and mentally - by following these 9 tips to live your best life.My favorite automated savings tool is Digit. It is so effective that my wife and I were able to use our Digit savings to pay for a trip to Las Vegas last fall. The secure mobile app links with your checking account and uses sophisticated algorithms to help you save money only when you can afford it by moving funds to an external savings account. You can pause savings and transfer money back to your checking account at any time with quick text commands. Digit is FREE to use, currently pays bonuses every 3 months, and ensures that you save money each month. And if you refer a friend who signs up, you’ll receive a $5 bonus when they complete their first transfer!

If you’re looking to finally start investing for your future, you can automate that, too! Betterment is a sophisticated platform designed specifically for busy  people who don’t have time to research individual stocks or mutual funds. Their advanced algorithms and Smart Rebalancing methods can help anyone develop a portfolio designed to meet their investment goals and minimize tax losses. You can open an IRA, taxable brokerage account, or even roller over an existing account and receive one month FREE if you deposit more than $10,000.

Perhaps you’ve already been saving and investing diligently for several years but have grown tired of managing and monitoring a variety of investments in your IRA, 401k, and taxable accounts. Personal Capital is a FREE tool that can help you monitor all of your investments in one place. If you need personalized guidance, they will even provide more affordable advice tailored to meet your personal goals.

Personal Capital is the only tool I trust to monitor all of my financial assets in one central location. Start your free account today!

5. Read Every Day

Did you know the average millionaire reads at least two non-fiction books per month? This statistic has remained my motivation to read daily and commit to my personal growth. At any given time, I have a stack of books on my nightstand, with topics ranging from leadership to entrepreneurship, money, running, and spiritual development. I know my ability to grow on my own is limited, but learning from others and emulating their success can lead to unlimited growth.

Daily reading stimulates healthy thought and ensures that you maintain an ability to look outside yourself. If you know the names of the last few people who were eliminated on reality TV but can’t name three ideas you’ve read and implemented this month, that needs to change if you want to improve your health.

6. Be Mindful During Mindless Activities

You probably spend several hours each week performing tedious, mindless tasks like laundry, dishes, yard work, and house cleaning. Are you using time to improve your health?

When I do laundry, dishes, and yard work, I often to podcasts. I used to dread these tasks but now find myself looking forward to them because I learn something new that I can apply to better myself.

My wife and I also have mastered efficient meal preparation. We prep for the entire week on Sunday afternoon after church. By working as a team and using Crock Pots for many meals, we are able to free up several hours during the work week. Our budget benefits as well because we aren’t making frequent runs out for fast meals out of convenience.

7. Adopt a Dog

There are countless dogs in your local community shelter just waiting to find their forever home and humans to love. My wife and I bought our two dogs because she is allergic to all but a few select breeds, otherwise we would have adopted dogs in need. Adoption is affordable and easy, and what you invest in vet bills and bags of dog food will be regained ten fold in improvements to your physical and mental health.

8. Practice Silence and Solitude

Silence and solitude seem counter-intuitive to people who aim for efficiency in everything, but they are crucial. The truth is that rest and relaxation help us to recharge.

Many people wear busyness as a badge of honor – you know the type I’m talking about. I find these people usually end up burned out and unhappy. A few of my close friends seem to be unable to rest unless they are on vacation. A planned getaway can be a great time to rest and see the world. But a staycation is often just what I need to recharge and avoid burnout – and it is financially smart.

I’ll be vulnerable for a moment – between teaching full time, my real estate business, and this blog, I appear to be the poster child for busyness. But I rarely feel stressed because I set boundaries to protect my mental and physical health; planned solitude keeps me revved up for whatever is next.

9. Limit TV Time

There is a strong correlation between success and low TV consumption, as countless studies show. Most of the time I am disciplined enough to limit TV time, and sometimes my subconscious lures me into watching three hours of Breaking Bad re-runs – yeah science!

Literally unplugging your TV is a simple way to improve your health. By making it a bit tougher to mindlessly run to Stars Hollow every time you feel stressed, you will begin to form better habits which help you to unwind, accomplish more, and keep moving. You can always plug in the TV later!


The best time to improve your health is NOW! You can put yourself on the path toward improving your physical, mental, and emotional health today if you’re willing to build even a single new habit. What are you waiting for?

And a friendly reminder – Don’t forget to check out two FREE and easy tools to improve your health fast, Digit and Zaycon Fresh

Achieve Success in Everything Through C.A.S.E.

I spend a lot of time thinking about success. It is one of the most fascinating topics we can encounter in life because everyone values and desires success to a certain degree. How we define success, respond to success, measure success, and seek to achieve success can vary significantly from person to person. However we choose to shape the model of success, one thing is clear: we all look to others in varying degrees as we shape our own success paradigms.

When I was a kid, I shot hoops in the driveway and envisioned what it would be like to be Michael Jordan. Though I wasn’t a Chicago Bulls fan, I was an MJ admirer. I watched his games, checked box scores, and read his interviews. I learned that Jordan often spent many hours practicing his skills outside on the family hoop, even if meant practicing in the dark and rain. This seemed like a smart idea to me, so I began began doing additional shooting drills in the dark and rain. That year, I became a starter on the school basketball team.

Around the same time, I began playing competitive chess and was drawn to Frank Brady’s Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy, which outlined the noteworthy, up-and-down life of the genius chess champion. I became enamored with the work ethic, drive, and determination exhibited by Fischer, and once again, I patterned some of my study habits after Fischer. I played over hundreds, if not thousands, of games of masters like Capablanca, Morphy, and Lasker, often taking detailed notes while being careful not to tip off my parents that I was still awake and studying into the early morning hours. Later that year, I won my division in the Michigan Amateur Chess Championship.

I had no idea at the time that my method of seeking success – emulation – was common. A kid acting on intuition doesn’t think about these things in this way. But over time, I found that my practice of following the paths of the greats was paying off handsomely.

Somewhere along the way growing up, I lost my way and stopped doing many of the things that had made me successful. I sought my own path, which was primarily built upon hard work. When others grew tired or decided to quit, I dug a little deeper and worked a little longer.

Sometimes it worked out, and sometimes it did not. Now, at the comparatively-ripe age of 30, experience has reminded me that there is a smarter way to achieve success in everything: C.A.S.E.

Goals can be elusive, but you can achieve success if you are in touch with your dreams and willing to emulate others using C.A.S.E.

Achieve Success and Build Momentum Using C.A.S.E. (Copy and Steal Everything)

In the last year, I have become increasingly interested in returning to my intuitive childhood roots and studying the lives and habits of all sorts of top performers like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and even Jordan and Fischer. In Outliers: The Story of Success author Malcolm Gladwell consistently attributes the success of top performers to what he calls the 10,000 Hour Rule. Through countless examples, he reasons that most successes can be attributed to practicing a skill the correct way over and over and over. Finding that “correct” way is best achieved by examining others’ habits and practices.

In other words, we should copy and steal everything if we want to put ourselves on the path toward success. If it is true that we are what we repeatedly do, then success can often be as simple as repeatedly doing what the top performers do enough times that it becomes who we are at our cores.

Am I advocating that we need to become a version of someone else before we can become the best version of ourselves? Not necessarily. But it might not be a bad path to getting there. Maybe the way to achieve brilliant success is not to blaze an entirely unique trail, but to spend some time on the trail blazed by others first. Consider this a sort of internship in success, if you will.

If you have goals and feel that you aren’t successful at this time, consider utilizing the C.A.S.E. method to jump start your progress. I recommend considering the following points before you start, as they will support your efforts to achieve success.

Craft Your Own Definition of Success

Following a blueprint to achieve success without actually pausing to consider what it is you wish to achieve is a major stumbling block for many ambitious people. They are heading completely in the wrong direction, but they’re just happy to be making excellent time! Be sure that you fully consider what success looks like to you before you take specific action.

If you don’t chart a path to achieve success as you see it, you will find yourself copying the life and values of another person. This approach has severe limitations, most notably that you are not exactly the same as others. The skills you possess will influence the path you take to achieve success.

For anyone who lacks understanding of his skills,  StrengthsFinder 2.0 remains my most treasured guide for discovering them. For mere pizza money, the book has had a profound impact on the direction of my life.

Copy and Steal From the Right People

Once you’ve defined your goal, it is important that you copy and steal from the right person. You must identify someone who has taken steps to achieve success in an area that is at least similar to your vision.

While you’re at it, do not limit yourself to emulating only one high achiever. We all stand to learn at least one piece of actionable knowledge from virtually any top performer.

Compare Yourself to the High Performers You Select

I’m a firm believer in the notion that comparison is the thief of joy, but I also believe this idea has its limitations. We can compare ourselves to others in a manner that brings us down, or we can identify strengths that we see in ourselves which are also manifested in the lives of others.

Before you identify a top performer to emulate, it is important that you first find common ground with that person. Fortunately, finding shared attributes with high performers is not highly difficult in most cases, but if overlapping strengths are not readily apparent to you, it may be time to look elsewhere.

For example, if you’re a writer who works best after a day’s worth of thought, movement, and exercise have taken the edge off, emulating a writer like Hemingway (who famously rose early to write each day) won’t likely work for you.

Don’t Rely on C.A.S.E. to Solve Everything

Personal growth guru Tony Robbins said, “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.” Actress Judy Garland reportedly said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” The key to successful implementation of the C.A.S.E. method lies at the intersection of these two quotes – we should seek to emulate top performers who have achieved the success we desire while also remaining true to ourselves.

By starting with an understanding of your own values and what you hope to achieve, it is possible to copy others without becoming them. Surely copying others has its limitations, but human intuition cannot be entirely wrong. C.A.S.E. alone won’t solve all of your problems – whether they’re tied to your career, marriage, spending, or investments – but when utilized properly, it can jump start the pursuit of your dreams and help you to achieve success.

Readers, do you implement aspects of the C.A.S.E. method? If not, what is your primary method for seeking to achieve success?

The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

If you're about to quit the pursuit of a goal, don't stop now! Keep going and you can cross over the fine line between success and failure.Each new month brings change. As many turn the page toward a new month, this is often the time that goals, resolutions, and dreams are abandoned. This is prime time for rationalization and excuses. This is the time when many people just give up and return to their old habits.

The act of quitting is a puzzling phenomenon. Do quitters simply run out of steam? Did they set an unrealistic or unreachable goal at the outset? Did they choose a goal that they truly wanted to achieve?

Ultimately, we have a ready-made list of reasons for quitting before we even begin striving toward a new goal. Among the many standout excuses, the following are typical:

*Fear of possible failure

*Lack of noticeable progress


*Lack of support from loved ones and friends

*Goal does not align with true desires

*Too little time to devote toward the goal


*Reward does not appear to be worth the effort

*Inability to change current habits

If we are honest, most of us have probably fallen prey to most, if not all, of these excuses. When we give up, excuses provide comfort and relief, especially if others affirm and support those excuses. 

Yet at our cores, quitting is unsettling because it carries a weight of finality. When we quit, we close a door behind us. We eliminate the possibility of success, no matter how unlikely it may have appeared in the first place.

You Can Choose Your Side on the Fine Line Between Success and Failure

fine line between success and failure
Which miner will you be?

I often wonder, “What monumental achievements and advancements has civilization missed out on because someone decided to quit when they were unknowingly on the verge of a breakthrough?”

This is a tough question to answer. Perhaps it is best that we don’t have answers. But I can’t help wondering how many people have quit, like the man in the adjacent image, when they were on the cusp of success.

The fine line between success and failure varies greatly for each of us, but one element is a consistent factor in nearly all scenarios:


No, effort alone is not enough. I have put forth strong efforts and failed at times. I have also put forth minimal effort and still achieved moderate success, much to my surprise. But more often than not, effort has been a difference maker.

The relationship between quitting and effort is as straightforward as they come; the act of quitting is a conscious decision to cease all efforts. As Sophocles said, “Success is dependent on effort.”

Don’t Quit on Yourself and Your Goals

If you’re currently considering easing up on a goal or even abandoning it altogether, scroll back up and look at the second miner. A few more reps in the gym, one more phone call, or even a few more dollars saved could be all that remains; you may be walking away from a fine line between success and failure which is just waiting to topple. Don’t quit now!

If you’re afraid to fail, remember this: What we fear rarely, if ever, comes to pass; at the same time, it is better to try and fail than to quit.

If you’re afraid that failure is permanent, remember that your past mistakes do not define your future unless you allow them to do so. Even the miner who threw in the towel can turn things around with one step in the right direction.

If you’re afraid of the ridicule and embarrassment which my arise out of failure, remind yourself of the convictions which led you to begin the pursuit of the current goal. And do not forget that no actions, no matter how flawless they may appear to you, will make sense to everyone else.

And finally, if you’re afraid of ongoing struggle and how it may impact your happiness, remember that you always have the choice to embrace the struggles inherent in challenges as opportunities to grow. You may even realize that you feel most alive when you face and conquer obstacles without succumbing to the desire to quit.

Don’t retreat – ADVANCE!

In his famous 1933 inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt reminded the world about the nature of fear:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Historians and students alike focus primarily upon the first half of this timeless quote. They say, “Just don’t be afraid and you’ll be able to keep going!”

I, on the other, believe the careful application of the latter words to be far more important. Fear all you want. Fear can’t defeat you. Fear will not cause you to fail. Only retreat can cause you to fail. So, advance, even if you feel like quitting.

This is the true way to cross over the fine line between success and failure.

Change is Hard

January is a month for hope and optimism. You wouldn’t know it based upon the doom and gloom floating around in the newspapers and social media this year, but most folks are as optimistic as ever during the first month of a new year. They know change is hard, but emotions fly high.

The distance between change and complacency is small - a single step in the right direction. Change is hard because complacency is easier. But you can win!Many people hit the gym and begin a new diet with dogged determination that they will finally lose that extra weight. Others pledge to finally start saving for their dream purchase or investing for their retirement. Some people pledge to reestablish their priorities with regard to work, family, friends, and leisure.

The month of January represents new beginnings. A clean slate. A chance to start afresh and anew.

It is an opportunity to implement changes big and small. Yet January also brings about a sobering reminder each and every year:

Change is hard.

Figuratively speaking, the distance between change and complacency is very short. The difference is a single step in the direction of our goals. But taking that single step is often challenging.

Change is hard, complacency is easier

The human search for homeostasis has led us to really enjoy our comforts. I know that is why I love dining out, even if at McDonald’s. It is why I love sports, TV, and movies. It is why men love their recliners. These things provide comfort.

In order to change, you and I have to exit that comfort zone. On purpose. Repeatedly. We have to force ourselves to live on the edge of discomfort. Sometimes we may have to face our fears.

To lose a few pounds, I need to stay away from the comforts of restaurants and overindulgence in dairy, fried foods, and beer, and increase my intake of lean protein, vegetables, and fruits.

If saving money is my goal, I need to take a long, hard look at my spending habits and trim away waste. Psychologically, this type of self-correction is very necessary yet incredibly difficult to achieve with honesty and integrity.

Improving the performance of my investments is a difficult change to enact. It reveals that simple human desire and motivation are not always enough if we seek complex change. Sometimes we can do everything right and still fall short of our goals. This leads us to fear failure and avoid change.

Even our goals change from time to time. For example, a few months ago on my 30th birthday, I set five primary investment goals for the next year:

1 – Max out both of our IRAs for 2016. $11,000 total investment.
2 – Invest a minimum of $2,000 with Fundrise.
3 – Grow my overall account value with Betterment.
4 – Increase our overall net worth by 50%.
5 – Set a target date for early retirement and formulate a plan to get there.

Related Post: The Fundrise eREIT: Accessible Real Estate Investing for the Average Investor

As I write, we are most likely to fail at goals 1 and 3. Instead, due to changing circumstances, we opted to invest funds earmarked to achieve these goals in finishing our basement. These circumstances even led us to make a surprising decision – we borrowed money to complete this project. Gasp, I know. But the extremely low interest rate combined with maintaining liquidity were just too significant to pass up.

Even the decision to change our investment goals and instead invest in our home was not an easy one. My wife and I went back and forth on it many times, even though we knew that completing the project would instantly increase the value of our home by an additional 40-50% beyond the initial investment.

We hemmed on and hawed over a decision that would increase our net worth? Yup.

Change is hard because the act of change admits that are wrong in the present. Sometimes this hefty dose of humility can be too much to accept.

Change is hard because it is an act of giving up something to gain something else. And we don’t know if we all we hope to gain will be better than that which we are giving up.

Change is hard because we are often left swimming upstream, fighting against the currents of life. Two or three steps forward followed by one step backward only feels like progress for so long to our instant-gratification-seeking hearts.

Change is hard because it requires renewed commitment on a daily basis. As my father-in-law often says, there is no glory in yesterday’s victory.

Change is hard because we do not always instantly see the fruits of our labor. This is why your local gym is full in January and half empty again by the end of February.

So how can you and I change?

Change Comes From Within

I’m reminded of a vivid training scene in Rocky III, in which an over-the-hill Apollo Creed is training Rocky Balboa for his rematch with Clubber Lang. Creed pummels Rocky with a steady stream of right hooks, and Rocky’s lifeless approach to improving his technique leads Creed to question, “What’s the matter with you?!”

Rocky responds, “Tomorrow. We’ll do it tomorrow.”

A fired up Creed denounces this attitude, stating repeatedly, “There is no tomorrow!”

Rocky continues to go through the motions in training until he hits the ultimate low point. Creed deserts him and states, “It’s over.” Rocky is really on the ropes this time.

When he needs it the most, Rocky’s wife, Adrian, provides a dose of wisdom.

“Apollo thinks you can do it. So do I. But you gotta wanna do it for the right reasons. . . Not for the people, not for the title, not for the money, or me – but for you.”

“And if I lose?”

“Then you lose. But at least you lose with no excuses. No fear. And I know you could live with that.”

I think I could live with that, too. Can you?

How are you striving to change in 2017? How will you sacrifice to make it happen?

Are You Destined to Follow in Your Parents’ Footsteps?

In life, we receive so much from our parents; overall looks, hair color, height, and a host of other genetically-driven predispositions are largely hereditary. Sometimes, we follow in our parents’ footsteps, and sometimes we do not. With some notable exceptions, we get what we get, and life keeps rolling on – for better or for worse.

Recently, I read an article in The AtlanticRich People Raise Rich Kids – which caused me to ponder the financial impact our parents have upon our life trajectory. The issues explored and conclusions drawn in the article are thought-provoking, to say the least.

If “Rich People Raise Rich Kids,” does that imply that the corollary, i.e. “Poor People Raise Poor Kids,” is often true?

We receive much from our parents: overall looks, hair color, etc. But are we destined to follow in our parents' footsteps in other ways? Of course, life experience shows us the impact our parents can play in financial futures. Plenty of people are born into money, but countless folks create their own wealth. Many of us will learn to manage money, for better or worse, in the same manner demonstrated by our parents. Others will seek their own path, if they bother to pay attention at all.

And all of this says nothing of the fact that our trajectories may change over time, though change can be hard to set into motion. The poor can become rich, and the rich can lose it all, sometimes in shocking fashion. This is America, after all. *Cues chants* USA! USA! USA!

The power and importance of environment is one point which I tend to agree with wholeheartedly from the aforementioned article. My life story bears out this truth every step of the way.

My Story

I grew up in a typical middle class home in West Michigan. My mom worked as a departmental secretary for a reputable regional bank, and my dad worked in manufacturing for one of the largest aerospace engineering companies in the country. Mom earned her Associates degree, while dad entered the work force after completing high school.

We lived in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom ranch home which was conveniently located within a few miles of everything: school, work, shopping, and my grandparents. Our family was solidly middle-class, though I had no idea or even any understanding of what that meant at the time.

My parents made the very best of the overall environment in which I was raised. When I was four, they sold our house and moved to the other side of town so I could attend the best schools in the area. I didn’t know at the time, but my mom often remarks today that this move was a financial sacrifice in may respects.

For reasons which I still do not fully understand, I was born with a sharp edge to achieve, and this desire only strengthened itself as I grew up. I didn’t want to just do something – I wanted to win, to be the best, to get a share of the spotlight. Of course, it didn’t work out every single time, but that internal motivation was sometimes a difference-maker.

Equally important, my internal motivation was complimented by external factors. My grandfather always pushed me toward the improbable and believed so much in me that I began to believe in myself.

My self-belief and confidence was shaken many times, but I survived and grew stronger because my parents were not of the helicopter variety. They allowed me to be independent, solve my own problems, and experience difficulty. I learned to bend without breaking.

My parents supported all of my far flung endeavors – competing in chess tournaments all across the country, basketball leagues and camps, and music lessons – and encouraged me to do my best. I was strong-willed and in hindsight demanded a lot. I was lucky to have good parents who provided opportunities.

The rest of the story is simple. I went to college, got a job, and moved out of state, like countless other people before and since. I am not special, and my life is not remarkable. My parents, extended family, and the environment they cultivated for me, on the other hand, are special and remarkable.

Foster a Great Environment For Your Kids

So how can today’s parents foster a positive environment for children and put them in a position to become successful? The following solutions offer a good starting point:

Get to know your children. A one-size-fits-all approach will never work. In the interest of transparency, I am not yet a parent, but my experience as a teacher illustrates the importance of knowing children as individuals. Spending time with them is the best way to get to know them.

Model a balanced, prioritized lifestyle. Kids are impressionable and form a surprisingly-high number of conclusions at young ages. As adults, they will remember how you spent your time and model their own priorities after yours in many ways, whether consciously or not.

Teach them how to save money. For most children today, spending will come easily and saving will not; our instant-gratification culture is to blame. If you show your kids how to save, they will experience a valuable lesson.

Allow your children to fail and encourage them to persevere when they do. They will learn important lessons as a result. They will become resilient, strong, and unafraid to fail, all of which are characteristics which will help them to succeed.

Related: How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

These practices are not perfect, but they will help you to create a growth-inspired environment for your children. They just may follow in or even exceed your footsteps as a result.

In what ways have you followed in your parents’ footsteps? What did they specifically do to help you in that regard? For parents – how are you helping your children to follow in your footsteps?

A True Parable of Patience

Over the past two weeks, I have taken my proverbial foot off of the accelerator a bit. This has been hard. For as long as I can remember, happiness has always been linked to progress in my mind. As you may imagine, I was naturally reluctant to ease up a bit out of fear. I thought, “Things are going really well right now? Will I remain this happy and content if I slow down?”

I realized some things in the midst of this self-imposed siesta:

  1. Progress is not necessarily halted when you take your foot off the gas; momentum has a way of keeping things moving.
  2. In times of relative stillness, we invite room for reflection. In this instance, it dawned on me that I have been very impatient with myself in a number of areas: growth of my real estate business, refinement of my writing process, and of course, overall growth of this blog. When I paused to slow down a bit, it became clear that I need to be patient with myself.

The Value of Patience

I’ve never been a patient person. Mrs. Superhero can attest to that. I have worked hard to become increasingly mindful of this tendency over the past few years, as impatience seems to be a genetic tendency within my family tree.

The notion that hard work solves problems fails to account for all of the other important variables inherent in life. Patience is a key to winning!When I was young, my uncle and Superhero Grandpa were avid boaters and fishermen. One foggy morning, they started out for an early morning to cast their lines in Lake Michigan. In their haste, they forgot to check the weather report. As they approached the big lake via the channel, it became clear that the present conditions were very poor. Turning around in the channel was impossible, so they did what had to be done — they pressed onward into the crashing waves in an attempt to turn around navigate back into calmer waters.

My uncle is an expert boater, but he knew the writing was on the wall: this wasn’t going to end well. Superhero Grandpa knew this, too, and in one swift, knee-jerk reaction that he would fortunately live to regret, he dove into the choppy water and began to swim to shore. In his impatience, he forgot to don a life vest.

Grandpa was able-bodied and very strong at this stage of his life, yet he has little match for the waves. He fought and fought, harder and harder, yet he realized that his efforts were wasteful. Moments later, my uncle also abandoned the boat and came to Grandpa’s rescue with a second life vest just as exhaustion was about to set in.

I think of this story often, but it is especially poignant when I am struggling to be patient. Like most people, I am a product of the drive-thru generation. I want it now, and I have been told that I deserve everything I could ever want. Fail once, and work harder and longer the next time and you’ll surely get what you seek, I’ve been told. If you work harder, you can speed up normal timelines and reach the finish line faster, says the world. These ideas stand in direct contrast to my Grandpa’s story, and personal experience paints a different picture, as well.

The notion that hard work solves problems fails to account for all of the other important variables inherent in a specific endeavor. For the single father working an extra job to rebuild emergency savings, hard work and hustle aren’t always the solution. Shifting money into a hot mutual fund or single stock may not be the answer for the middle-aged person grasping for an earlier retirement. And for myself, hard work as a realtor and blogger is only one piece of the pie. Shortcuts rarely work, a truth which underscores the importance of patience.

So each day I am going to remind myself to exercise patience. I am going to remind myself that is OK to let up on the gas, coast a bit, and ride the wave (How is THAT for a mixed metaphor?). I have already discovered that happiness and contentment may be found in moments of patience. I look forward to experiencing further lessons in patience in the days ahead.

The Benefits of Giving and Generosity

As the past few weeks and months have shown, the United States currently run rampant with problems. Racism, violence, misogyny, and bigotry are impossible to ignore, easy to diagnose, and difficult to cure. I believe these problems, though significant and important on their own, may be traced back to a larger problem: selfishness. And I believe there is a cure for selfishness: outrageous giving and generosity.

Undeniably, selfishness is woven deeply into the fabric of America. It may even be part of our human core, though the jury is still out on the nature of human genetics. Perhaps long-standing capitalism has sewn and grown its fair share of selfishness over several decades. It is what leads us to work harder and harder to amass more for ourselves. The problem is that many people have bought into the lie which trumpets “more for me equals less for you.”

No matter what financial hurdles we may face, growing in giving and generosity will always help us improve our financial outlooks.
U.S. Giving Adjusted for Inflation (Source: Philanthropy Round Table)

Yet, our internal selfishness is often no match for our hearts’ desires to show empathy toward others. This is evident in the small things, like holding doors for others, and the big things, like the collective $358 billion in charitable giving by Americans in 2014.

Call me an optimist, but I believe that selfishness and empathy can co-exist when applied in healthy doses. Most of us, myself included, tend to be naturally good at looking out for own best interests. Thinking outside ourselves requires deliberation and conscious effort; actually acting on behalf of others requires a steady dose of humility to boot.

Self-Benefits of Giving and Generosity

No matter what financial hurdles you face, giving and generosity will always help you improve your financial outlooks. Read on to learn why we give 10% of our income. You can start small and help others!For the person of even average ambition, striking a balance between ambition and contentment is an ongoing challenge. I face this battle every day, and I lose more often than I win. I know that more prestige, money, and belongings will not provide the lasting happiness which I seek, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to attain it in this manner anyway. 

In The Legacy Journey, Dave Ramsey writes, “Giving is the antidote for selfishness. It’s the hallmark character quality of those who win with money.” I believe Ramsey is correct, as giving leads to humility and contentment. In the act of giving, the giver admits that she has enough, that the time or resources being given are needed more by someone else. It is empowering to realize this truth because it supports action. When we give to others and realize that we no longer miss what has been generously given, we are one step closer to contentment. With contentment comes the ability to manage finances with wisdom and restraint.

Contentment is not the only self-benefit of giving. In my experience, giving and generosity ultimately help us grow to be better receivers. As Arthur Miller wrote,

A closed hand cannot receive. The phrase has a Biblical ring, and a Biblical wisdom that applies profoundly to everyday human affairs. The man who will not share himself with his neighbors receives little friendship in return. . .

. . . To be sower of seeds, a man must open his hand. He must do this, clearly, before he can reap. And the process doesn’t stop there. To possess knowledge or wisdom, he must open his mind. If he wants to receive love, he must offer it – and to do this he will need an open heart.

Look around and you will see the truth of these five words shining everywhere. A closed hand cannot receive – partly because it is shut, and nothing can get in. But mostly because it has nothing to give.

While giving requires humility, receiving may require even more. I naturally prefer giving to others rather than receiving, but as I have reflected on the reasons why this is so, pride is the only answer.

Giving and generosity are good not only for mental health but also physical well-being. According to several studies, they also can lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem, decrease stress, and boost life expectancy.

Giving Benefits Others

It seems so obvious that giving generously to others directly benefits others, but this is often the last benefit we consider when choosing to give.

Giving to others goes far beyond financial benefits. Hope and faith in others have a more lasting impact, in many cases, even after the money has been spent. The emotions which result from acts of giving, for both the giver and the receiver, are valuable in ways which cannot be measured in isolation. The following video is a poignant reminder.

A Call to Give

During this fragile time, in which holiday spirit and cheer may fail to counterbalance a climate of fear and worry, humble yourself and demonstrate giving and generosity to your fellow man. Increase your annual holiday donations. Volunteer your time and talents to serve those who are less fortunate. Foster goodwill by paying for the coffee for the driver behind you in the Starbucks line. At our cores, we are not much different from one another. When you give, you better yourself, improve your financial management, and close the gaps which divide us all.

How do you give to others? How will you be generous this holiday season? How do you feel your giving and generosity benefit others?

How Much Hustle Is Too Much?

These days, it seems there is a widening gap in our country. No, I’m not talking about the gap between Hillary and Donald supporters, though that gap may continue to grow even as the country attempts to unite under a Trump presidency. The gap I am referring to is the gap between those who hustle and those who do not; those who work multiple jobs and those who barely work at all; those who apply some elbow grease and those who dally; those who apply themselves to the fullest and those who lead a lackadaisical life of leisure.

Let’s call them The Hustlers and The Spectators.

These two groups are what we might label diametrically opposed; one values pushing oneself to the limits in search of accomplishment, while the other seeks to avoid so at all costs.

I’ve found myself in both camps at distinct times in my life. While it’s worth noting that we all go through natural seasons in life, sometimes the life of a Hustler or Spectator is a conscious choice. We weigh the benefits of both paths and choose to reap what appears to be the most enticing rewards. Sometimes life decides for us.

For the sake of discussion, let us simply define a Hustler as one who engages in one or more of the following:

*Works more than 40 hours per week

*Holds more than one job

*Actively seeks side jobs and extra gigs to earn additional money

For the most part, I am surrounded by Hustlers. Teachers seem to be routinely bashed as glorified babysitters by those on the outside, but they are among the hardest-working and most-underpaid professionals. Most bloggers manage to squeeze out time to remain dedicated to their craft despite other full-time work, family demands, and the ever-present call to rest. And let us not forget the hardest workers of all, mothers, who are always on the clock.

This saturation of hustle all around me has provoked a great deal of thought over the past several weeks. It has led me to ask an important question:

How much hustle is too much?

When it comes to a side hustle, we weigh the benefits and choose the most rewarding path. But how much hustle is too much?

The Benefits of Extreme Hustle

Last week, from Thursday morning until Sunday evening, I found myself in either work mode or sleep mode. My time was used very efficiently: work at the day job, real estate showings, phone calls, scheduling, and a charity event. Much to my disappointment, I didn’t have time to devote to the blog.

Some may consider this use of time to be a bit extreme, but I see many benefits of this brand of extreme hustle:

*Less time to blow money on stupid things

*Increased opportunities for fulfillment

*The chance to make a difference for others

*Remain mentally sharp even as you age

The Downsides of Extreme Hustle

On the other hand, to be transparent, I was running on fumes by the time Sunday evening rolled around. All of the hustle and bustle had finally caught up with me. Fortunately, I have always been able to adapt and recover quickly after burning both ends of the candle. Others may not recover so quickly, leaving them susceptible to the downsides of extreme hustle:

*Too much stress

*Decreased happiness if your hustling does not align with your gifts and interests

*Less time for family, recreation, community engagement

The Answer

As with most questions related to personal finance, the answer is best decided by the person who matters most: you.

I believe everyone should have a side hustle these days, as the benefits outweigh the negatives. But exactly how much time should be devoted to that side hustle is a very personal matter.

Working too much can actually be bad. We all have our limits. It takes a sadistic person to torture himself with never-ending work. It should not be a point of pride to be too busy to do anything other than work, eat, shower, and sleep, in my opinion.

Four Signs You’re Doing Too Much

A) You forget things- a lot.

B) You have lost touch with most of your closest friends.

C) You have rearranged your personal schedule for work multiple times in the past month.

D) Your efficiency severely lags. If you find yourself frequently multi-tasking (which has been shown to be a myth), it might be time to re-evaluate your level of hustle.

Readers, how much hustle is too much? How do you evaluate your use of time?