Despite being both a Drake song from eight years ago and an overused cliche, it’s not a bad idea to take the phrase YOLO (aka you only live once) seriously. It speaks volumes.
Some might consider it a green light to live life to the fullest by being wild and reckless. Yet other interpretations simply acknowledge the shortness of life. Knowing that life is short, we need to make the most of our time here and the greatest impact possible.
Our time on earth is finite, but many of us treat each day like we have an unlimited supply. With this mindset, it’s no wonder so many of us play it safe or settle for less in our careers, our relationships, and expectations for ourselves.
Think about it—most of us spend our entire lives working a job we hate to make someone else rich and complain when the raise we get isn’t big enough. In our personal lives, we try to model what society views as “normal” by doing what everyone else is doing so that we don’t stand out. The best hours of life are spent in pursuit of nothing. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.
Is this really how you want to live your entire life?
After asking myself this question, I decided to make some big changes in my life. This summer, I quit my stable job as a teacher to start a business. You probably think I’m crazy doing this amidst a pandemic and high unemployment—my family certainly thought so. The truth is, if I hadn’t taken this calculated risk, I would’ve wondered “what if” for my entire life.
You owe it to yourself to live life on your terms.
Each of us has one life to live, it’s entirely up to us how we use it. In this article, I’m going to walk through my logic and decisions along the way to show you that pursuing whatever you view as freedom is possible.
People who make drastic changes in their lives often experience some sort of epiphany. This can come in the form of a specific event or a culmination of different factors.
My point of self-realization came after several events that finally pushed me to make a change. For the majority of my adult life, I’ve been a teacher. Summers off, a pension, and the chance to shape the minds of America’s youth made it a pretty good gig.
Although I was good at it and love working with youth, I realized that my income potential was limited. Every year I got a 3% raise, which never felt like enough (ask any teacher, they’re severely underpaid in proportion to their value to society). No matter how much I saved from my salary, I wasn’t even making dents in my financial goals.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when my pre-approval wasn’t even enough for a fixer-upper in a Boston suburb. At this point, I knew I needed to make a drastic change in my life if I wanted to retire early. There are great episodes on BiggerPockets that feature teacher-investor success stories, but for me, having a W-2 job felt like an impediment and a burden.
After much deliberation, I decided to flip the script and go full-blown entrepreneur.
Scott Trench’s book Set for Life taught me a valuable lesson that helped me make my decision. This book is filled with great insight on financial freedom via a combination of living below your means (without giving up things you enjoy) and maximizing your income. One way that he suggests maximizing income is to leverage the most productive hours of the workday.
Jobs such as sales or technology-leveraged positions stood out as opportunities to increase my income potential during the typical workday. As life would have it, I partnered with a successful technology recruiting entrepreneur. In exchange for an equity stake and commission-based pay, I was able to elevate my income potential.
It’s up to you to be the catalyst for change in your life; you have complete control of the decisions you make and the situation you find yourself in. Think about your current situation and decide if that’s what you want in life. If something frustrates you or seems unfair, take charge and make moves that will put you in a position to live a better life, financially or otherwise.
Change starts with the realization that you can do better. Why not start now?
Facing Your Fears
Many people quit before they even get started. Whether it’s pursuing entrepreneurship, real estate investing, or just going to the gym for the first time in months, most of us fear something. Before giving something a try, we ask ourselves, “What if it doesn’t work out?” That’s usually enough to come up with an excuse not to do something.
To overcome any fear, you need to meet it head-on with logic. There are two questions you should ask yourself before making any change.
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
In Tim Ferriss’s bestseller The 4-Hour Work Week, he famously ponders this question. He concludes that most of our worst-case scenarios that seem irreversible are actually not as bad as we make them out to be.
When I decided to leave teaching, a fear I had was losing guaranteed income. My first inclination was to say “What if I go broke and my business fails?” After all, everything is variable in business—I could make $0 one month and $10,000 in the next.
As I reflected on this, I realized that it was highly unlikely this would happen. I’d saved enough money to maintain my same lifestyle for an entire year. On top of that, I decided to do freelance writing to cover all of my basic expenses. If this income stopped, I could also work at Amazon—they’re always hiring. So, even if I made $0 from recruiting I would at worst be in the same position I was already in teaching.
Our worst fears are there to protect us, but also keep us from growing outside of our comfort zones. When making any major decision, make sure to consider the worst-case scenario and play it out. More often than not, you’ll find that you could bounce back. On the flip side, your upside could be limitless.
Am I content with being average?
We all have untapped potential to do great things with our given skill sets. The word “average” in this context means you aren’t living up to what you are capable of.
When I thought about this question, I was referring to my finances. I felt that I had skills that were worth more than I was getting paid and that really motivated me because my income was financially average. To be clear, money isn’t everything, but I view it as something that will enable me to live without worrying about money and have a greater impact on the world.
In your life, are you average?
There’s something you’re great at that hasn’t been fully realized. Knowing this, you need to decide if that’s what you want your whole life to be. Nothing ventured is nothing gained.
Making the Leap
Making a leap into something new shouldn’t be done blindly. The final step before pursuing your version of freedom is to come up with a plan. Any major decision requires thought and effective systems to execute. There’s one simple question you need to ask that will reveal your plan step by step.
What’s my next move?
Lao Tzu famously said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In order to get where you want to be, you need to consider the action that, if taken today, would have the highest impact in pursuit of your goal.
Focusing on right now rather than too far into the future makes it less likely to get analysis paralysis. You need to have an action bias in order to move forward—even if this is massive action, break it down into smaller steps asking the same question.
There’s also an element of playing chess when mapping out your next steps— one move often leads to subsequent moves. With that in mind, you should consider how your first move creates the next three moves. In this way, you have a vision for your future while remaining focused on action in the present.
You only live once. It’s time to unleash your potential by pursuing your dream of freedom in one form or another. Follow these steps to start your path towards the life you want to have.
How do you try to work the pursuit of your dreams into your daily life?
Share your tips in the comments.