This Sunday, June 14, my daughter, Kelly, graduates from Portland State University.
Many of you know Kelly. Not personally, maybe, but you’ve literally followed her life from when she was born, through grade school, middle school, and high school…all the way through her quest to receive a golf scholarship, and playing for Portland State University for the last four years!
It’s been an amazing ride!
And now she’s graduating…from college. Wow.
Like any parent, I suppose, I want to give Kelly some good advice before she heads out into the world as an independent adult. I know, I know, my job raising her is pretty much in the past now, but I feel compelled to say something intelligent! And don’t tell me those of you with adult kids didn’t try to do the same thing!
So I’ve come up with three simple recommendations, each of which I personally learned the hard way and wish someone had taught me years earlier. It would have saved me a lot of headaches, anxiety, and money.
Recommendation #1: Live 20% Below Your Income
The best thing about being 22, like Kelly is she has TIME on her side for saving for the future. If she puts only $50 a month away starting now and gets an average of a 5% annual return, she will have $85,796 when she turns 65! And that’s if she never increases her monthly number. Compound interest is truly one of the great wonders of the world.
Notice I don’t say stuff like, “Save 20%,” or “Pay yourself first.” I say “Live 20% below your income.” It took me a long time to understand the difference in thinking. I knew I should “save,” but there always seemed to be something I had to buy or credit card bills that needed to be paid.
It really made a huge difference when I came up with the idea of simply living below my income. When we earn more money, our typical attitude is, “Hey, I’ve got more money to spend!” I fell into the same trap as many people and just spent what I had.
But one day, it hit me to think about living below my means. When I started earning $50,000 a year, I reasoned it made more sense to live as though I earned $40,000 and adjusted my spending accordingly. When my earning power climbed, I made the same adjustments. But to be completely honest, I didn’t come to this realization until after I was in my early 30’s. I lost at least ten years of taking advantage of compound interest. The time factor is huge. If Kelly waits ten years to start saving $50/month, she’ll only have $45,179.
Recommendation #2: Don’t Sweat Your First Job(s)
I actually got this advice from Mark Cuban. Well, no, he didn’t actually give it to me in person. I read it in his excellent book, How to Win at the Sport of Business. OMG, I wish I’d had this book when I got out of the school. It’s short, a very easy read, and chock full of great advice.
But the best advice Cuban offers comes right in the first chapter when he says:
I worked jobs I didn’t like. I worked jobs I loved but that had no chance of becoming a career. I worked jobs that barely paid the rent. I had so many jobs my parents wondered if I would ever be stable.
In every job, I would justify it in my mind, whether I loved it or hated it, that I was getting paid to learn and every experience would be of value when I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up.
This is fantastic advice. Go get a job, Kelly, but don’t think it has to be your career. Try something, then try something different. Learn from every opportunity. Just look at it like you’re getting paid to go to school.
Recommendation #3: Be Viciously Productive
I’ve always been amazed at how many people live life to the minimum. Actually, amazed isn’t the right word. Annoyed is the word.
I’m annoyed by people who make minimal effort in their jobs. I’m annoyed by people who try to get away with things at work – taking two-hour lunches on the company’s time…parking in handicap spaces long past needing them…leaving ten minutes early…crap like that.
And I’m especially annoyed by people who want to drag me down with them. Annoyed when someone stops by, and asks, “Have you got a minute?” They never mean one minute and it doesn’t bother them one teeny tiny bit that they’re sucking up MY time with their blather. Annoyed I tell you.
That’s one of the big reasons I work alone…so people can’t suck my time. And it’s one of the reasons I became well known many years for being vicious with my time. People would call me and say stuff like, “Hey Steve, I’d really like to learn how you built your business! How about we get together for a cup of coffee?”
Uh, that would be NO.
To be fair, I also used to get very annoyed at myself. Back many years ago, when I had my last real job, I fell into what is known as the Busyness Trap. I’d dutifully write out my To-Do list every morning, checking them off one by one, feeling very good about how much work I got down each day.
Later, after starting my own business, I found myself falling into the same daily routine. But here was one big problem. Most of the items on my To-Do list had little or no impact on actual, meaningful results. Or in clearer terms, they didn’t add to my wallet. In fact, every day I spent being BUSY actually cost me money.
So I started being VICIOUS with my time. I became relentless in tying the items on my To-Do list with actual results. I made sure every day I tackled the highest earning activities FIRST and if anything didn’t get done by the end of the day, it was the low-value stuff.
So those are the three pieces of advice I’m going to share with Kelly. Look, I understand there’s a good chance she won’t follow them to the letter, but if I can just pivot her thinking a little bit, she’ll have a great head start over how I handled being a grown up with a job.
What other advice would you give? Leave your comment below.
Interestingly enough, a few years ago I did get a request from a long-time client to share my philosophy about personal productivity. Which I did. And I was paid handsomely for it. Very way cool.
You can be more productive using my product, The Power Of Vicious Productivity. Click the link for more information.
Better yet, give it as a gift to your favorite graduate.
Both of my children, when they graduated college, received much of your same advice but with these two additions that I received from my father and grandfather (whom I started in the family business with after college). They were:
1. Tell us the truth always–you may only tell the version of the truth that needs to be told, but don’t lie. It’s so much easier to remember the truth instead of what story you told when you lied. And 2. Obey the golden rule and always remember to treat other people the way you want and expect to be treated. I have told many friends and customers those words of advice over the years and it has served myself and my family very well.
Congrats, Kelly! What a great accomplishment. The best advice I have for someone starting in the real world is:
1. Say a prayer every morning. A prayer of thanks no matter how bad/hard the circumstance and a prayer to make you a blesseing today. Never think you are too busy to pray – you will find that these simple daily prayers will make you more productive and much happier and at peace during the day. You don’t have time to NOT pray.
2. Always own up to your mistakes – no matter the consequence. There will be many times you will mess up – and that’s ok. You can’t learn how to be great unless you mess up pretty big. However, never deny your mistakes. You will be more respected if you own up to them – and your conscientious will be clear. More importantly, you can walk with your head high knowing you were brave enough to tell the truth.
3. Being great doesn’t mean being perfect. Early in your career, you will be fair – maybe even good. As you grow and build your career – you want to strive for greatness. However – do not think this means perfection. Perfection isn’t possible – we are only human. Great is good enough.
Best of luck to you! It’s a tough world out there. If you listen to advice from those who have walked in yours shoes – and then add your spin to them – you are a step ahead of many others – myself included.