I rang in my 30th with a big trip to Cancun, Mexico last weekend. The culmination of the trip – of being able to pack-up-and-go and curry my influence into an epic sponsored trip + stay, “live your best life” – all of it – made me feel really, really lucky.
“But, wait.” I thought, “I don't want to say that I'm “lucky.”
Because, it doesn't tell the whole story. The one of all the hard work and frustration and yes, even desperation that comes with being a blogger.
Saying I'm simply “lucky” to be doing what I do further feeds into the whole self-guilt/self-doubt cycle I've been trying to beat as part of my new year's resolution for this year.
I'll say this instead – I've worked very hard over the last five years to architect my “best life.” This weekend was just the tip of the iceberg, so-to-speak…the first time I really felt it all coming together: the money, the ability to be creative, and the privilege to be truly flexible while doing something I love.
“I feel like you've been basically eat-pray-loving your way through life for the last two years.” ~ My friend, Jesica.
And if any of that sounds/looks good to you, I want to tell you two important things about achieving your own “best life”:
- First, is that living your best life is very attainable for anyone.
- Second, is that in order to get there you have to commit the time and do the work.
Upon further reflection, I boiled down my own financial journey (and subsequent content on this site) into four game-changing steps. I know for me, these have made all the difference in enabling me to get to where I am today.
In order to achieve your financial best life, here's what needs to happen:
Step #1 – Master the Money Basics
Spend time figuring out what your own best life looks like, and then create a plan for how you're going to afford it.
“Affording it” doesn't mean you have to get rich and make a million dollars. It just means you have to learn how to manage your money well.
In fact, it's one of my core money beliefs that you don't have to be an expert (or hire an expert) to manage your everyday finances.
Steps include: learning how to build a budget, save some money, figuring out how to save more money, establishing some type of emergency fund, discovering how your personality wants to manage your money, working to create a healthy relationship with credit, and finding the financial tools you'll love to use along the way.
The important thing isn't to get it right, but to simply start spending time with your money each day if you're new to it.
Pro Tip: There are also some great free resources and worksheets you can access in our “Best Life Vault” – from budgeting to saving up for a home.
Step #2 – Pay off debt.
While debt can be a tool to be leveraged for whatever you want to do, in most cases debt is just another thing that holds you back.
Steps include: This is why it's very important to pay off debt as fast as you can, create a debt master plan for tackling the rest, and put things in place to help you stay motivated while paying off debt. It can take a long time, sure, but in the grand scheme of things a little pain now (in terms of debt payoff) is worth a lot down the road. I never would've been able to leave my full time job if I hadn't gotten serious about paying off my debt. (See 8k in 90 day challenge.)
Step #3 – EARN MORE
Investing doesn't always have to mean in the markets. Once you've paid off debt, you're now free to really invest in what makes you happy, ideally ways that can help you earn more money than you would've by just following the status quo. Investing in things such as yourself, your education, a blog, your kid's education, a future business, or a home for your family. (Even if that family is just you and a little dog!)
You want to be investing in things that will make your money grow for the long term. If you take only one thing away from this post, it's this: EARN MORE MONEY. Figure it out.
My life only looks the way it does now because I started my blog and then realized it could make revenue. And then I figured out how to grow that revenue. Because I invested in myself and my “blogger education” early on, I was able to market myself as someone with a skill and I got my full time jobs in marketing this way.
Basically, because I focused on how to earn more than what an actor or administrative assistant could make...I changed my entire life (and my future!)
Step #4 Develop Tenacity
I was on a podcast the other day and someone asked…
“What was the biggest challenge you faced when you first started blogging?”
The biggest? Finding the strength/courage/motivation to keep going when things weren't exactly going well. Sure, you can look and see slick graphics, corporate sponsorships, coaching services and that I now work for myself full time, but I like to always remind folks and clients that these things have come after three and a half years of hard work.
3.5 years ago it was just me, a computer, my terrible grammar and a handful of new friends I'd made on Twitter.
I can't tell you how many days it felt like I was spinning my wheels, trying to say something but unsure of my voice, if I was explaining my sentiments correctly, frustrated if anyone cared or would come back to read. More than that, I struggled for several years with combating burnout; writing 8 hours at my day job and then coming home to blog and side hustle was really, really tough and took a lot of the joy out of it for me a lot of the time.
There were definitely days and weeks when I seriously entertained taking a break or giving up entirely.
Which is part of my pattern, or former pattern at least. In my youth I jumped from ballet to softball to cheerleading to the theater, only minimally applying myself and slacking off when things didn't go my way, or as was usually the case, when I lost interest. I've never been the kid that “stuck” with anything.
Trust me, with a background like that, no one was more surprised than I when somehow, someway with this blog I was able to keep going and commit to my vision even when others didn't see it; even when I had doubts about if I could succeed.
Did any of it happen overnight?
Say you want to save up for a house, you have to commit for over a year to setting aside money for that goal. It takes persistence, and it's harder than it looks. Especially if you have several wants competing for your attention at the same time.
Another example: having tenacity can play well when you're investing in the stock market; often investors make the most money holding onto stocks or positions for the long term. The best investors don't change up their strategy every time the market turns. Even for novice investors, it takes a certain amount of tenacity to commit to saving for retirement. It's hard enough to save for short term goals, let alone for a future so far down the road you can barely envision or articulate what it looks like.
Nothing in life: money, relationships, career, ever fully blossoms without day-after-day commitment and diligence. Sure, you may have been born a money miser or stock market whiz, but without tenacity, you're likely to accomplish little. That's why I think it's the most important character trait for wealth building (and being an all around bad ass.)
And the best part about tenacity? You don't have to be born with it. You can practice and get better at it over time.
If you don't commit to building wealth or at least managing your money well, you'll never break the paycheck to paycheck cycle and start experiencing things beyond day-to-day existence. Here's our guide to goal setting.
Maybe you're not the most frugal person, maybe you don't like risk. But you can set your financial goals for the year ahead and practice tenacity day in and day out. Instead of committing to a goal, flip your perspective and commit to seeing the goal through.
Start small so you don't get overwhelmed.
And then show up every, single, freaking day until it's done.
Step #5 – Live Your Best Life
You have to do what, ultimately, makes you happy. Everyone preaches this, but it's hard to do in practice. We have so many things/people/advertisements/24 hour news cycles in our heads all day long. It's exhausting to zero in on what really sounds good; the one thing that matters that you should be doing.
I'm not sure if I have any advice on how to make this happen (I'm still very much a work in progress), but I do know it gets easier as you get older, if you really commit to listening to yourself daily.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy. It took me a really long time to get over this, and I'm not perfect, but my happiness has vastly improved once I stopped giving a f*ck about what others thought of me or what I was “supposed” to be doing.
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