Sometimes I think back to our story of selling t-shirts and dreaming of it becoming our multi-million dollar baby. It was all about the fairytale of what success looked like.
I grew up on the North coast of NSW near Yamba and the founder of surf giant, Billabong, had just recently built a mansion on 3 blocks right near the world famous point break of Angourie. I imagined his life of surfing, partying and travelling the world with mates (not the work he did and continued to do to get there). The idea of selling t-shirts to everyone and creating the world we wanted to live gave me chicken skin (yep, that’s the emotional side that helps me dream big).
What I’ve learned since 2003 though, is that action beats everything, and dreams alone don’t get you far. In fact, they cloud your judgement if you let them take over. This took me a long time to figure out.
In my early career, I spent a few years grinding it out and learning the ropes. I realised very early on that there was a big difference between those that made it to a management role, over those that settled into the trenches and were destined for 3% pay rises for the rest of their lives. I was straight out of uni and there were people in their 40’s being managed by those in their 20’s.
I knew where I needed to be. Simon Sinek hadn’t yet given his TED talk, Youtube and life-hacking didn’t exist, so we were stuck with “work hard, learn lots, get promoted, earn more”.
Set lofty goals and maintain a strong work ethic
My wife and I had set some fairly lofty income goals when we first moved in together in 2005: 6-figure salaries by 30. It became almost like a competition. Starting out on $35K each after uni, 3% p.a. wasn’t going to cut it. Tash completed a Masters in her field whilst working full time, I was driving up to 100km from home to meet clients, sometimes doing this at 8pm and getting home after midnight, then starting again at 8am the next day.
We started climbing the ladder and both achieved our income goal by age 27. We didn’t see it as a choice… work ethic got us there.
Work smarter AND harder
These days, as my partners and I build our financial services business, I’m looking for all of the shortcuts available to streamline processes and become more efficient. As advisers, our strength is in talking to clients, building relationships with them so they have the confidence to share their dreams and we can then work together with them on their biggest money decisions. This is what we enjoy and we’re good at it.
It’s easy to get bogged down in all the paperwork that is inherent in this type of work. I’ve learned that the best way to avoid this is by practising pseudo-laziness i.e. be someone who is driven but imagine a laziness-mindset. Take the attitude of how can I remove myself from this to make it better.
If my strength is in working with my clients and my priority is growing the business, I need to look at everything else as a complete waste of my time.
As you hack your way to freedom, don’t forget that this isn’t about becoming idle, it’s about creating time and the headspace to double-down on your strengths.
Combining this with hard work will mean you leapfrog those who haven’t figured this out yet, or are too stuck-in-their-ways to act on it, and move swiftly towards the outcomes you seek.
Push the boundaries
Walt Disney said “If you can dream it, you can do it”. Don’t settle. Don’t assume what you were capable of achieving last year is all that you will be able to achieve this year. You need to be prepared to take risks and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Forget everyone else, be the tall poppy; this is about your personal growth.
These ideas are relevant to business owners and employees alike. If you don’t grasp the importance of having a strong work ethic early, you will miss all of the upside of being the right side of 40. This is your time to take risks and push the boundaries of what you think you are capable of, but none of it will pay off without periods of consistent hard work and long hours in pursuit of your dreams.
Get stuck into it.