So you’ve started your own journey towards financial freedom or even early retirement, but progress is slow and your motivation is dropping day after day. Reading tons of blog posts from your favourite personal finance writers has definitely taught you a lot, but putting theory into practice yourself turns out to be more difficult than previously imagined. You feel like a fish out of water.
And you’re not alone. We’ve all been there at some point in time, even the best of the best. If you believe that progenitors like Mr. Money Mustache and the Dividend Growth Investor booked much of their success overnight, you’re mistaken. They too faced some uphill battles, especially in the beginning. By simply looking at the graveyard of abandoned dividend investing blogs on the internet alone, it’s safe to say there are as many failed early attempts as there are success stories.
That’s all right, though. Even though many people love the idea of having enough money to cover their basic living needs, few believe it feasible. Even fewer have the willpower and especially the fortitude to undergo and complete a long-term project like financial independence.
I admit that I too sometimes felt like I was splashing about, unable to get things moving fast enough. Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t easy after all. Ironically, one little fish in a Japanse anime always reminds me that feeling like a fish out of water might be just what it takes to make it to financial independence.
For those of us who enjoyed a great childhood, we experienced the early Pokémon games on the Nintendo Game Boy – yes, having played Pokémon Red or Blue is an official SI measurement to determine childhood happiness. If you’ve played the game, you quite possibly remember the most useless Pokémon you could catch after receiving the old rod: Magikarp. Often being a level 5 catch, all the stupid fish could do was splash about.
At least, that was everyone’s first opinion of poor Magikarp. It’s true that he was like a fish out of water when forced into battle against other Pokémon trainers, but that’s just because it requires dedication and long-term care from his owner to grow him into a tsunami of powerful abilities.
Just like training a Magikarp, financial independence requires that you give it your all now and reap the potentially huge rewards later on. However, it’s important that your current level 5 splashes don’t amount to flopping this way, then that way, without any apparent strategy.
When I started my own financial independence journey, I made exactly that mistake. My overarching goal of early retirement by 40 sounded pretty concrete at first, but soon it dawned on me that long-term objectives are hard to keep up with. What I needed was a roadmap in the form of quick wins that gave me the feeling I was actually propelling myself forward.
I decided tot define a set of objectives that took into account my one major goal, the resources at my disposal, my own capabilities, and the external environment. While other bloggers already helped me find the dots, they couldn’t possibly connect the dots for me. It was up to me to synthesize all the insight they provided into a strategic, long-term plan of action.
If you look at the recap of my goals for 2014, you can see how my small and rather meaningless individual splashes slowly amounted to tangible results. Even though I didn’t achieve every single item on my to-do list, I still took big strides to achieve financial freedom in the near future. You see, having a game plan is ultimately more important than fully carrying it out.
It’s also not really surprising to see that once I had put these short-term goals in place, I no longer felt like a fish out of water. There was no more random splashing and flopping about on dry land, merely swimming with the other financial independence fishes. It felt the same way as training Magikarp until he finally turns into the magnificent and unstoppable Gyarados at level 20.
Just like Magikarp has 15 levels to grow, I have another 15 years to go until I want to reach financial independence, slowly splashing my way there. You can get there too by simply coordinating your splashes into a large wave you can ride until that wave starts to grow all on its own, thus pushing you forward faster and faster. Before long you’ll turn into a magestical, unstoppable Gyarados.
Do you still feel like a fish out of water sometimes? Or have you already found a way to turn your splashes into a coordinated force towards financial independence?