“I never realized that financial independence was possible until I began reading more about it,” he told me. “Once I understood it was possible, it became my new mission.”
On our tour through Michigan, my wife and I had the honor of crashing a ChooseFI meetup organized by Amy of Life Zemplified. About 20 minutes in, a single guy walked in, introduced himself, and we started talking about money.
Because that’s what money bloggers do.
But, this guy wasn’t a money blogger. He was an immigrant who was adopted by an American family in Michigan years ago and, now in his mid to late 20s, is on the path to financial independence. It was an awesome story.
He told us that once he understood what is possible, his mind was able to accept that financial independence is within his grasp even though he might not look or act like the rest of us.
Though I always try to focus on what’s possible, this encounter has further convinced me that we do the personal finance community (outside of the blogosphere) a disservice when we focus on those things that we can’t control rather than the things that we can. Negativity rarely helps anybody.
Focus on what’s possible
This guy could have easily told himself that he wasn’t one of the “privileged“. He wasn’t born into a white picket fence neighborhood. In fact, he wasn’t even born in this country.
There are a ton of reasons to give up, but he didn’t. And, I’m finding that his story is one of the many from around the country – people who refuse to accept the things that they cannot control and instead hone in on the things that they can.
For example, we cannot control:
- where we were born
- the family that we were born in
- our upbringing and childhood
- what we are taught and things we see
We cannot control every facet of our lives. But, the large majority of us can control how we react to situations. Our attitude toward life and whether we choose to accept the shackles of constraint or the freedom of choice is ours to make.
I’m as Pro-Choice as they come.
And the more we use our very natural freedom to choose, the more control we have over our lives and our reaction to those things that happen to us.
We have a few decisions to make
We can choose to assume that since we don’t look or act like everybody else, that we are somehow different and less worthy than everybody else.
We can choose to lament our upbringing or culture and give up.
We can choose to always focus on the negatives, and when they don’t exist, proceed to create them in an attempt to make life easier by rationalizing our inability to get ahead and succeed in life.
We can choose to search for what’s possible and accept the fact that while it may not always be easy, few things in life that are worth doing are easy.
We can choose to focus on how we react to the world rather than letting the world get us down (a complacent society is what the world wants).
We can choose to refuse. Refuse to accept that we weren’t born into the right family, or didn’t have a perfect upbringing, or didn’t get that college scholarship.
But Steve, that’s easy for you to say
You’re right, it is.
I had a very positive and uplifting childhood. I didn’t struggle all that much. I was never the brightest bulb on the tree, but I also wasn’t the dimmest.
But, here’s the thing: This isn’t about me. My upbringing has nothing to do with yours, and it also doesn’t negate the fact that when we focus our minds on positive pursuits, rather than the much-more-easy assumption that we just “aren’t the chosen ones”, amazing things happen.
That guy at the ChooseFI meetup is a perfect example of what can happen when we accept that while things aren’t perfect, there’s still a LOT out there that’s available to us. More than a lot of us care to accept.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Financial Independence (and Early Retirement) is available to way more people than we realize.
I stand behind those words.
That doesn’t mean it’ll always be easy. It also doesn’t mean the world is fair or that everyone will get an equal part in this journey. But if you live in the first world like the United States, Canada and most of Europe, our acceptance of reality has a profound impact on our ability to get ahead.
And, to achieve some pretty damn amazing goals.
What path will you choose?
In life, we have a very simple choice to make that will have a profound effect on our lives every single day:
- Assume that you might as well not even try to achieve financial independence or early retirement unless you’re a white male, or
- Refuse to wear those shackles of restraint and instead focus on what’s possible and the things that you can do to improve your life.
Path 1 or 2. It’s your choice. Make your pick.
And, I’d like to thank the ChooseFI community for the positive impact they directly have in our society. It’s more clear than ever that bringing the concept of financial independence into mainstream society, and offering it up as something that’s possible, is making a positive difference.
People are beginning to realize that achieving big money goals is within the grasp of so many of us, and putting our minds to something positive and refusing to believe that we “weren’t born a certain way” is life-changing.
We do everyone a service by focusing on what’s possible.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.