10 Seemingly Harmless Habits That Sabotage Ambitious Millennials

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As a generation, millennials (myself included) have had more access to opportunity than any other generation in human history. There is an unlimited amount of productive ways toward which we can direct our intelligence, passion, and attentiveness — and an equally unlimited amount of distractions pulling us away from those things that actually matter.
This article will list out ten everyday problems that most millennials encounter and how they hold them back from success, both in business and the pursuit of their passions.
Keep in mind that almost all of us, myself included, indulge in the behaviors on this list at least periodically. There is absolutely nothing wrong with partaking in these activities on occasion.
The problem is in habitually doing these activities, every day, as part of your routine.
With that, here are the ten barriers to success that many millennials allow as distractions every single day.

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10 Seemingly Harmless Habits That Sabotage Ambitious Millennials

1. TV/Netflix

Unless you are a better person than me, you’ve gotten home from work and plopped yourself in front of the TV or computer to watch a few hours of Netflix, TV, or movies. I was actually so good at denial once that I even managed to convince myself that this was productive. I’d think that whatever I was watching was ok because it was some documentary or series that expanded my mind or put me more in tune with the shows that “everybody should watch.”
Literally thousands of hours of my life have been wasted on this. My goals do not include being the top contributor to a conversation surrounding Friends or The Big Bang Theory. Netflix has almost nothing to contribute to my day, and the off chance that some of the content could actually benefit me is just that — pure chance.
No thanks.
Netflix and 99.9 percent of television programming have absolutely nothing to offer me in terms of furthering me towards the things I really want in life. They are a distraction, a waste of time, and worst of all, an opportunity cost. I could be doing something better with almost every second. This is especially true in selecting a TV show or movie to watch. I have in the past been known to spend up to an hour just trying to pick one non-productive movie or TV show over another!
I care about my goals, and while I still watch a very minimal amount of television from time to time, it is no longer a part of my day to day life. I believe that I am way more productive, happy, and progress towards my goals more rapidly with this change.
TV and Netflix have no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life.
financial_failure_lack_motivation-702x336

2. Sports Entertainment

Professional, college, and amateur sports are a distraction. You could be doing something better with that time in almost every situation.
Now, the trap that most people fall into is the mindset that sports don’t hurt us. Unlike other activities on this list, watching sports isn’t actively taking us farther from our goals, especially when we deceive ourselves into believing that they periodically produce connections and conversations with others. However, when we factor in opportunity cost, sports become a huge and obvious anchor, slowing our progress toward our goals.
This is not to say that you should cut sports out of your life entirely, but it does mean that being a rabid fan of the local NFL team or watching every game in the NCAA tournament is costing you. Big time. For an example from my personal life, we can look back to the year the Phillies won the world series (2008). I remember skipping class; missing social events; getting happy, angry, or sad about things well outside of my control; spending money on merchandise; and ignoring most of the other things that were important to me at the time.

Related: 3 Negatively Cashflowing “Assets” That Devastate 20-Somethings’ Finances

After that year, I decided to let sports go as a part of my everyday life, and I’m amazed at how I ever cared so much. Don’t get me wrong; I still like sports and don’t mind going to a game every now and then, especially when I can get free tickets. But at the end of the day, making the Phillies a big part of your day to day life will make you… a great Phillies fan.
Is that really who you want to be?
Sports entertainment has no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life.

3. A Luxury Residence Far From Work

This is a fun one that many folks can’t seem to wrap their heads around. The luxury residence (read: house in the suburbs or apartment in the happening part of town) can be a massive detractor from most Americans’ wealth, health, and happiness.
It bleeds them dry in the form of rent/mortgage payments that preclude them from building wealth, force them to spend large amounts of unproductive time commuting to and from work, and incentivize them to stay at home — often alone, bored, or at best, tired from a long day or week working and commuting.
Luxury living is often expensive to maintain and furnish and encourages other behaviors that further detract from goals. Many folks who choose such living situations also purchase an expensive automobile to compensate for their long commute, divert significant resources in the form of time and money into decorating and maintaining their household, and worst yet, feel compelled to spend time “enjoying” (read: lazing around in or watching #1 Netflix or #2 Sports) their home.
Many folks who feel stuck and frustrated with their lives compound that frustration daily on the way to and from work in their luxury car (which is stuck in traffic because of their poor choice in the location of their residence). They are also forced to allocate time to maintaining their home, which they fail to see is a distraction to their higher objectives, misguidedly believing that their home is an “asset” to their social status or in the case of the suburban homeowners, a “wealth building” investment.
“Sacrificing” your luxury residence (at least in the short-term) for a downgrade closer to work might just be the single most powerful thing you can do in the pursuit of your dreams, both in freeing up your time AND your money.
A luxury apartment and a long commute have no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life.
10-unit-apartment

4. Eating Out

There are occasions during which meeting someone for lunch can be extremely productive. Catching up with a friend or family member, potential business associate, or coworker over lunch or a beer can be extremely productive. Using reasonable restaurants in the way I describe here is not a bad use of time.
But habitually eating out as a default option in your day-to-day life is killing your dreams.
Eating out regularly has the following drawbacks:
  • Eating out is expensive. I know folks who buy lunch almost every single day, and god knows how much they order for dinner. I even know people who order breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a typical workday. That’s $30 most workdays, if we’re feeling very conservative.
  • Eating out is time consuming. You are wasting time in line, at the register, commuting to and from the restaurant, and in the usual lazing around after the meal.
  • Eating out is unhealthy. Sure, there are a few places where you can get a healthy meal out, but let’s be honest — that’s not the norm.
Eating out is acceptable when you are invited to an event or when it’s the best way to meet critical people — people who can help you get where you want to be. This situation is far more rare than we like to admit, unless we deliberately attempt to meet new key people as often as possible (if that’s you, then keep up the good work!). Far too often, we fool ourselves into thinking that a lunch was “productive,” when it was really a net loss to our wallets, productivity, and health. Don’t fall into that trap. Make your own food, and default to a healthy, efficient, delicious, and self-prepared meal.
Eating out has no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life.

5. Social Media

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever else we are using these days are now part of everyday business vernacular. It’s actually totally acceptable, even mandatory in some cases, for many of us to be on these networks as a normal part of our jobs — and there is a merit behind them. They help us reach more people, share our content, achievements, and milestones with others, and create business.
The problem with these tools is that they are designed to distract us. They are designed to keep our attention for as long as possible and to suck us back in as frequently as possible. That’s their job. That’s how they make money — HUGE money. And they are very, very good at it.
If you are serious about success and achieving some big goals, then social media is not something that you spend all day on. Social media is something that you use efficiently, effectively, and succinctly to share, access, and collaborate on those issues that are relevant to your goals.
If you want to see how your friends are doing and keep up with their lives, check in once per week with the feeds of just those you care about. That hot girl from history class back in middle school? Her job in Seattle doesn’t matter. Her stuff shouldn’t appear in any of your feeds and shouldn’t command one second of your time. It’s preventing you from focusing on something better. If something cool happens with that guy who always smelled funky in math class, you’ll hear about it through the grapevine either way, and you don’t benefit from being first out the gate with that information.
Aimlessly trolling social media feeds has no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life.
social-media-strategy

6. Music

Ah, I can hear the shouts of disapproval already as I write this.
Music in and of itself is a wonderful thing and has many proven health benefits when applied appropriately. If you need a few minutes of your favorite song in the morning or like classical music while you work or need a few amped up songs to get pumped for your workout, obviously it would be a mistake to cut that out.
But let’s be real — we are NOT routinely using music to reduce pain, relieve depression, or to compete more intensely at the gym. The best excuse that I can come up with to defend my old music listening habits is that it helps me to “elevate mood.”
Give me a break.
Music is NOT helping you achieve your goals when you are listening to your favorite rap, country, rock, pop, or typically popular music. That country station on the way to work can and should be swapped out for a book on tape or podcast on real estate, business, personal development, or something similarly productive.
Music distracts you. Period. This has been scientifically proven — with the possible exception of listening to music within a narrow band of acceptable listening.
Free time and mindless, repetitive chores can be put to far more productive use when you listen to content that helps you grow in business, personal life, or develop new skills. If you are listening to your favorite music artist, you must acknowledge that you are at that point prioritizing the recreational pursuit of listening to that song over your career, personal development, or other life goals. You could be doing better.
Unlike some of the other things on this list, music doesn’t directly take away from your ability to do other things, but it could be replaced with something that will actually help move you towards your goals and it is a distraction. Over a long time period, such as a year, the person who forgoes music for self-education and development audio will have a massive advantage over the music listener.
Typically popular music has no place in the workplace, commute, or mindless activity of an ambitious millennial’s day to day life.

Related: Not Too Late: A 20-Something’s Plea to Generation Yers for Financial Change

7. Nightlife

I’ll be the umpteenth person to cite this ridiculous article from Elite Daily as a guide for rapid self-destruction, mediocrity, and financial dependence. To quote one particularly hilarious brain fart:
“$200 a month [in savings]isn’t going to make the dent that a $60,000 pay raise will after spending all those nights out networking.”
If you believe in this approach, you are full of it. I wish you well, and hope that one day you will be my opposition in a struggle for something that I really want. I will beat you 100 percent of the time and by exponentially increasing margins with every passing day (or night?). Good luck to you.
I’m not going to say that I haven’t enjoyed my share of nightlife, but I also don’t kid myself that this was productive to my higher goals. They were fun, plain and simple. But the people that I’ve met out on the town, at the bar, are not likely to help me proceed towards my goals. Like the rest of these distractions, indulging occasionally is not going to devastate your progress, but it is going to slow you down. Recognize that, and temper yourself appropriately.
Nightlife has no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life.

8. Shopping

There are some items in your life that can make a serious difference in your productivity, and there are some items that will last much longer than others. For example, I might spend a large amount of time selecting a new mattress, property, computer, or insurance policy, as that might significantly improve my quality of life, my ability to produce effectively on a day to day basis, my peace of mind, and my financial position.
On the other hand, I and many of my peers have been known to spend far too much time comparing options between things that really don’t matter. Examples of this include the Netflix movie selection process described earlier, wandering around stores at the mall, or browsing the internet lackadaisically. I truly don’t understand this concept. Like many others on this list, it’s a waste of time and money, for items that are obviously not of benefit for more than a brief snapshot in time.
Shopping should only take as long as it takes to understand what you need and the tradeoffs between price and quality. Decisions only need to be brooded over when the stakes are high.
Shopping has no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life.

9. The Snooze Button

The snooze button is the ambitious person’s greatest ally. It keeps the competition in bed, where they can’t compete! Better yet, it makes them groggy, unproductive, and way worse off than if they had just gotten out of bed in the first place.
When that snooze button goes off and you have to awaken to hit it, that’s it. It’s over. You aren’t going to get any more productive rest, you aren’t going to be better off in 15 minutes, 30, minutes, or an hour while your alarm keeps going off every 10 minutes. In fact, you are actually making yourself way worse off than if you just got out of bed the first time the alarm goes off — at least from the standpoint of benefitting from sleep.
The snooze button is costing you more than the few extra minutes of time that you spend unproductively in bed. It’s costing you the next several hours of productivity, mental sharpness, and production.
Waking up is a mindset. When that alarm goes off, get up quickly and be grateful for whatever sleep you did get. Snoozing for more won’t help you.
The snooze button has no place in the ambitious millennial’s mornings.
investor-habit-morning

10. The “I Want to Try and Do EVERYTHING” Mentality

Millennials have been widely documented as valuing “experiences” over pretty much everything else. I too value awesome experiences more highly than possessions and also hope to see as much of the world as possible. However, I feel that many of my peers and those in our generation take this mindset to an extreme where they arrive at this inevitable outcome:
They have a ton of shallow experiences in a large number of areas, thus becoming fairly lousy at a lot of different things. This can come at the expense of becoming excellent in just a few areas that they truly enjoy.
If the desire to experience new cities, lifestyles, and experiences is too strong, then it holds you back from self-development and mastery of any of these locations, hobbies, or passions. You can’t commit to any projects or visions that will help you make an impact on the world or that lead to success if you are too preoccupied with experiencing everything the world has to offer.
Millennials seem to prioritize having as wide as possible a breadth of life experiences, but fail to prioritize having a deep level of expertise or passion about hobbies in a more narrow range.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have hobbies, passions, or pursuits that you genuinely love. It’s to say that instead of trying to do everything, pick a few that you truly love and develop an intimate level of expertise and knowledge in those areas, instead of trying to overextend into too many new areas of life.
By all means, develop new interests outside your comfort zone. Just don’t forget that the bulk of your focus should be on your core strengths and those weaknesses that you need to overcome to achieve what you truly want.
Being a “jack of all trades and a master of none” has no merits for the ambitious millennial.

Conclusion 

I make some pretty bold claims here and criticize behavior that I observe as being both widespread and detracting from peers’ success. I believe that the activities listed above do little to impact day to day happiness and in many cases are simply bad habits that take away from more meaningfulness in our lives.
We can attempt to deny this list and argue that there actually are some merits to each of these habits (well, except for the snooze button). But if we are honest with ourselves, these things aren’t helping us to grow in our personal lives, with our finances, or with our passions. They need to go.
I also fully understand that many of us indulge in these behaviors at least some of the time. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in moderation, these activities can be fun and enjoyable. Just recognize when too much becomes too much and when it’s time to cut back and get truly serious about whatever it is that you want to do with your life.
It’s then that you’ll see that these things have no place in your day to day life, and with that understanding, they’ll gradually start to fade out of your life.
Millennials (and non-Millennials!): Do you agree or disagree with this list? What would you add?
Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Scott Trench

A longtime fan of BiggerPockets and a Real Estate Investor managing his first property, Scott is the company’s Director of Operations. BiggerPockets is a BIG website, and Scott’s background in finance and big data analysis will be instrumental in the next phases of company growth and in helping to bring the resources of BiggerPockets to more investors worldwide. Scott is passionate about helping others build wealth and serving his community in whatever ways he can. In his spare time, Scott enjoys skiing, biking, and cooking, and he is a lifelong rugger.

99 Comments

    • John Maxwell, very popular author, sold millions dollars of books, life coach pastor said today for his daily word that you can subscribe for free wisdom and inspiration daily, ” success is defined by how you choose, decide and do spend your day in your daily activities if you want to achieve your goals”
      I will add, ” your choice today of your activities dictates your success in your future”

  1. But how do we get the millennial’s to overcome their biggest obstacle? LAZINESS! In school, they were passed on to the next grade, no matter how poor their grades were. Their parents gave them everything they wanted, video games, cars, computers, cell phones etc…. and they had to work for nothing. For example, when was the last time some kid knocked on your door and asked to mow the lawn or shovel the snow for a few dollars? I did that many, many days in the summers of the 1960s and 1970s. These millennial’s want to do just enough, but are always trying to find ways to do less

    • Brandon Hall

      Mike – I read something that described Millennials as being the most entrepreneurial generation yet. Entrepreneurs work crazy hard and long hours. In school, I would have fallen into the category you are describing above, but mainly because I couldn’t figure out why the heck I had to learn about the cells that make up plants and European history in the 1800s when I absolutely loved numbers.

      It’s the same in the workforce. Many companies don’t know how to inspire their millennial employees and as a result call them “lazy” however, I think that’s ironic. I’d consider the company itself “lazy” in it’s pursuit to figure out what makes millennials tick.

      From my personal experience and that of my friends and colleagues, we want to understand exactly how our work is contributing to the overall goals of the company. We want to know how we are adding value. Most companies have no idea how to communicate this to their millennials, even after spending thousands of dollars in research.

      So we strike out on our own and form our own companies. I’m a CPA and started a practice this year. I now have around 100 clients, all of which I can specifically quantify the value I have added to their lives which is a HUGE motivator. I work roughly 12 hour days but I love every second of it.

      We aren’t lazy, we just think differently than our predecessors 🙂

      • Mike McKinzie

        Brandon, anecdotal evidence can always be used to refute any argument. Studies show that most companies have a difficult time finding qualified candidates to fill positions. Every generation will have a group of entrepreneurs that excel and my hats off to them. But I stand by my ascertation, and statistics prove, that millenials, as a whole, want more for doing less. I can give thousands of examples in my every day life to prove my point. I think the author of this article wrote this because of the very thing I am saying. The richest person in your generation, Zuckerberg, got rich by making sure other millenials sit for hours a day staring at stories of other millenials.

        • Brandon Hall

          Mike – I respectfully disagree. The problem with your statements comes with how you define laziness. “More for less” can be parallel to innovation and if history proves anything, innovation is an excellent thing.

          We aren’t “lazy,” we just think and work differently. We’ve been left with an economy in shambles thanks to older generations. I’d also argue that we aren’t nearly as entitled as you may think we are. I know when I retire, I can count on receiving $0 in social security, even though I will have spent my working life funding my predecessor’s retirements.

          There is plenty of data to show that we volunteer more, and that we work harder, longer (thanks to student debt), and smarter. I can go on about how we have closed the generational gap, we are more open minded, accept less at face value, have created a more inclusive world, etc. etc. but I won’t because I’m jumping on the lazy train.

          When I see company execs and managers complain about millennials, it’s generally because their practices are decades out of date. It’s rarely a millennial problem, it’s more so a management problem.

          We don’t want to be stuck working for an inflexible company or an inflexible manager. And that’s not entitled thinking, that’s brilliant thinking. We saw our parents put in decades of hard work and build long lasting loyalty with their companies only to be cut down in light of an economic recession. Why on earth would we want to suffer the same fate?

          I suppose the real question is: who are actually the lazy ones? The millennials, or the people who resort to stereotyping because they don’t care enough to put in the time to figure us out?

      • Scott Trench

        Brandon – thank you for defending our generation here. I think that the word “laziness” is too broad stroke and seems intended to get a rise out of us ;). I think that there are plenty of people in every generation that are lazy, and millennials are no exception.

        What frustrates me is that it seems like a lot of otherwise productive and hardworking millennials are sidetracked because the distractions today are so good at commanding our attention and sidetracking us.

        • Mike McKinzie

          Brandon, I just went back to work after five years of retirement! I am the manager of an accounting department and I have four millenials under me. They have already told me I am the best manager they have ever had BECAUSE I UNDERSTAND THEM! I have six children who are millenials! And all of their friends love us. I am so well liked and respected I was invited to my sons Bachelor Party in Las Vegas. I know how hard working and wonderful some millenials are. But none of that negates the fact that not a single person has knocked on my door in thirty years and ask to mow the yard. Or the poor service I received in a restaurant or at a retail store or the cashier at a fast food store who had no idea why I handed him a twenty and a one when my tab was $10.75! And don’t even get me started on calling a Help Desk. So defend all you want, I know what I see and experience in the real world. And I really have to laugh when you call the economy being in a shambles. Millenials have no clue what a shambles economy looks like. Try 1930’s America or late 1940’s Germany. I appreciate you defending your generation, and I respect your hard work and attitude. But fifty years from now, the generation being born today will be ruling over the millenials!

    • Tyler Chartrand

      Im a millenial with an MBA and work experience for a Global 50 company. I realized that work itself is a waste of time and now am a full time investor. Baby Boomers work way too hard and the sad reality is that many of us born in the 80s grew up with very limited parenting. Work is obsolete and a salary/mortgage is just another way to hold people down. I bought a home for 329K in 2014 and am now renting it out via Air BnB for 4500-6000 per month which pays the mortgage and the rent on my new apartment. I drive lyft at the airport if I need spare cash and run my own wholesaling business. I am looking to start rehabbing small multifamily units to add to my portfolio once I have my own cash in the bank (hundreds of thousands of dollars) So please don’t generalize a whole generation of people it just makes you look ignorant and angry.

  2. Jarred Sleeth

    Scott,

    This is a great post. I think it’s important to note also that making sacrifices and putting in hard work now will allow you to reap huge benefits later. Want a nice house in the suburbs? Crush your goals and you can have any house you want. This goes for other things. Being frugal NOW and saving that money from a big house, nightlife, or whatever other vice you might have means you can just have more in the FUTURE.

    • Scott Trench

      I think that the mindset that you tout here is absolutely critical to the achievement of any long term goal – that of long term thinking and giving up some small things in the present that don’t significantly impact your health or happiness today.

  3. Oh my god, I’m a millenial too… and I can relate to one too many of the things you pointed out in this post! And here I was thinking I was so original and cool in my ways… Thanks for this, great food for thought 😉

  4. Tiffany Alexy

    Fantastic post, Scott! I agree on all of them except maybe the eating out part, though I know I need to cut my spending on that down… but I enjoy it, so it’s one of my guilty pleasures 🙂

    I see so many of my peers wasting time/money on bars, shopping, etc. SO. MUCH. MONEY. I’m glad I don’t like alcohol and was never into the bar scene. I do enough great networking over early morning coffee and lunch that late nights are not necessary. One of my favorite memes is the one that shows Kermit the Frog drinking tea, with the words, “They say: I didn’t see you at the club. I say: I didn’t see you at the bank.”

    Great stuff 🙂

  5. Very impressed with this piece. It says the things that millennials don’t want to hear, but need to hear. I would have moved the travel one up a bit because I think that travel experience is being over emphasized more than creating a career. Extended travel is a huge ambition blocker because you can’t settle into a career if you are always taking months off to travel. Theres a point where you need to look in the mirror and start creating a future for yourself. I’m all for traveling while young and expanding your mind (I lived in Africa 4 months right out of college), but within reason. I think many millennials have a flawed understanding of the within reason part while continually going on 6 month plus travel trips and quitting jobs in order to do so.

    Secondly, I think you under ranked the social media aspect. As it stands now, the millennial generation will be characterized in part by lack of work efficiency due to social media distractions. Snapchat, Instagram and the like are a daily issue that inhibits millennials while watching sports is maybe a weekly issue. For this reason, I would have had social media number 2.

    • Scott Trench

      Hunter – Thanks for this comment I appreciate it. I totally agree with your comments on changing the order. I didn’t really think of this as a ranking in order from most to least detracting from your goals, but if I were to re-order on that basis, I’m sure that I would move them around in the way that you suggest here!

  6. Joel Florek

    As a millennial I would have to agree to your points above. Yes there are the arguments on the particulars of each item but overall I would say you have a very true article. Although I would love to try and defend a few of these that are my dirty habits, I know deep down that I need to continue to make some changes to constantly improve.

    Thanks for the reality check and for helping to defend some of the life choices I make that others criticize so often!

  7. Bill Briscoe

    Half of this list isn’t specific to millennials or our current era: Sports, Snooze Button, Shopping, Eating out – all of those diversions and more have been around for decades.

    Furthermore, some of the items you list you seem to be advocating sacrifice to reach the ultimate goal, when they are part of the ultimate goal. What is the point of “wealth building” if you never slow down to enjoy it? True, a few people do get off on the power trip of owning a limited commodity, like an NFL team, or a trophy piece or real estate, but for the rest of us, we just want to build a reasonable level of wealth to support an enjoyable lifestyle.

    So for those of us who are beyond the age of millennials, and have a little wealth built – what is the harm in eating out, or living in that dream home with the nice backyard and pool while you still have kids to enjoy it with? Always have balance and don’t over extend yourself, but I see more harm in the idea of perpetual sacrifice – because age is inevitable, and time is the only thing you can never recover.

    • Scott Trench

      Bill – I think that the funny thing is that as I’ve broken out of habitually doing some of these things, I’ve realized that it is NOT a sacrifice, at least for me, to give up almost all of them. I never look back and wish that I had spent more time watching sports, Netflix, staying up to date on facebook, or eating at every restaurant in town.

      I personally think that these habits are neither enjoyable nor productive and that they detract from my overall progress, with the lone exception possibly of eating out – which can be fun in meeting more people more frequently.

  8. eric p.

    Moving away from work was the best move we ever made. Renting near NYC just bleeds you dry. The commute into the city even from a few train stops away was $500 a month between tickets and parking. A new job outside of the city for the wife, and a slightly longer commute for me gave us about a $950 a month swing along with the pay increase. We now own a home that is just a tick higher than what we were paying in rent but twice the size (shoebox to an actual house). Its a forever home we can grow a family into and not have to move in 3 years losing all our equity to realtor fees. We’re finally building some equity, and the tax breaks will actually put us ahead of what we were renting for. It all depends on your particular situation. For us, moving away was totally the right move and put us in a much nicer area.

    • Bill Briscoe

      Good point Eric. Not the mention the fact that in many non-bubble markets, the newer suburban neighborhoods appreciate much faster than older ones in the city centers. They also may enjoy lower taxes and lower insurance rates (due to lower suburban crime rates), all else equal.

    • Scott Trench

      I generally receive these types of arguments when I talk about the luxury residence far from work, especially from the friends in LA, San Fran, and New York.

      I think that these cities are extreme exceptions, and that the financial independence equation is often sacrificed for the luxury of living there. I think that while there are the rare exceptions of the jobs that just pay so much more money than the same type of work anywhere else, once taxes, commutes (valued not just at the expense rate, but also at the value of your time that you could apply to other pursuits), and cost of living are factored in, that the increased salary advantages become very negligible.

      That said there are always exceptions!

  9. Ben Donahower

    Adding that balance is important here. I became an incredibly productive person over the years, but it really affected my health and overall well being. In the last year, I have become less productive, spend more time with family, music, and even watching a little TV here and there. The sky hasn’t fallen, I still do pretty well for myself financially, and I’m a lot happier.

    • Scott Trench

      Ben – I think that you are absolutely right, and I don’t suggest that people cut these things out of their lives entirely by any means – I simply state that if any of this is a day to day habit, then it is likely that you are sacrificing your higher goals for something potentially more superficial on a regular basis.

  10. So it’s all about the subverting of every other aspect of life in favor of accumulating more wealth. Mr Trench, you must be the life of every party–oh wait, you would never let yourself be seen at such an unproductive gathering.

    I’m surprised you don’t also list “utilities” as time-wasters and money suckers.

    • Brandon Hall

      Mr. (Ms.?) Gwynne – Did you even read the article? It focuses on success, not wealth. If you define success as accumulating wealth, that’s not Scott’s problem, is it?

      Wealth is mentioned in this article a few times under item number three. That’s it unless I missed one.

      People define success differently, and regardless of how you define success, these items all play a role in distracting you from reaching your goals.

    • Scott Trench

      Brandon – I truly appreciate the support. It means a ton.

      Mr/Ms. Gwynne, I think it unlikely that I will look back on my life and lament a lack of socializing and fun times. I think that I will wish that I had begun writing and working on big world problems sooner.

      I don’t think that I’ll wish I had watched more football, TV, shopped more, eaten more fast food, known who the heck Adele is, or been a lousy scuba diver. Instead, I’ll try to solve as many big problems as possible, write as much as I can, and be a great skier and rugby player/coach.

      Oh, and who says I’m not the life of the party???

  11. David Goossens

    Great post, Scott! I was beginning to think I was one of the only Millennials forgoing many of the distractions and stumbling blocks that you talked about. It’s refreshing to see that someone else is thinking along the same line as I am. I find it hard to talk with most of my friends about anything real estate related. Not many people our age seem that interested…What’s been your experience?

    • Scott Trench

      Thanks David – It may not surprise you that in addition to writing about real estate, entrepreneurial endeavors, and success, I discuss these topics in person quite frequently.

      This annoys or is dismissed by most people. I’m sure you’ve discovered that.

      I think that most of the otherwise talented and competitive young professionals we meet are people that are rapidly losing any real reason to compete and don’t have any goals beyond vague “I’m going to go back and get my MBA at some point”.

      (This, in my opinion, is total crap, by the way. I’m still looking to meet the person that wants to go back and get their MBA “because that will propel me forward in my ambition to reduce Income Inequality and the credentials from HBS will be inarguably supportie to y higher objective as I look to establish my ability to enact policy change as a future Chairman of the Federal Reserve.” Instead, it’s usually people with mediocre tolerable jobs, looking for a change of scenery)

      I digress.. I think that the problem you encounter and point out here is the fact that the only people that will happily discuss real estate with you are those that a) Have clear passionate objectives and b) See real estate as a means to support their progress towards those objectives.

      I make absolutely sure to get to know those people very very well.

  12. Anne-Marie McCormick

    Scott, this is a great advice for how to become successful by eradicating bad habits and sty focused on what is important. It really applies to all age groups and I’ll share your post with my teenager. Reminds me of book The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy; how making small changes will eventually have big payoffs. Nice article!

    • Scott Trench

      Anne-Marie – The Compound Effect is in my opinion, the best book I’ve read this year (also liked “EntreLeadership” by Dave Ramsey if you haven’t checked that one out yet).

      I absolutely think that it has had a massive affect on my thinking and that these are great things to shave out of your day, with the big payoff coming in the form of real progress towards bigger goals.

  13. Christian Carson

    Thanks for writing this, Scott. Every one of your points is spot-on. A goal-driven mentality is extremely important for success. Remember, though, that not only are we doing this for self-improvement, but also to leave a legacy for our descendants (and by association, society). There’s a movement that’s been afoot for decades that teaches us that marriage, family, productive work and wealth accumulation are bad things — and our peers are just the latest generation to buy into this false promise of experiential wealth through decadence. Anyone who has been on both sides of the fence can tell you which one is more psychologically rewarding.

    P.S. I try to schedule appointments as early as I can stand so I will be motivated to plan my evening well. I won’t drink on a work night if I know I have to be up at 6 to meet a client at 7:30.

    • Scott Trench

      haha gaming, in my opinion is extremely destructive to productivity and a huge opportunity cost. I think it could have been a great addition to the list.

      Recreational drug use, however doesn’t even need to be discussed. It’s not “seemingly harmless” to anyone that has even a little bit of ambition.

  14. Isaac Rothermel

    Thanks for a really thought-provoking article, Scott! Numbers 9 and 10 really hit home with me…I’ve been unemployed for the last several months while finishing college, and I have a tendency to sleep in when I should be hustling more with my schoolwork, REI, and job search! As for trying to do a little bit of everything…that was me! I’ve decided that my entire career is going to be in real estate, one way or another, and that really helps me focus on eliminating any tasks, jobs, etc that don’t further my real estate knowledge.

    • Brad Blickenstaff

      Mike you’re completely out of touch. Enough with the anti-millennial BS. Sorry the world isn’t what it used to be and no one is knocking on your door to mow your lawn. That’s not how we make money anymore. Why knock on grumpy old man Mike’s door so he can flip me a nickel and tell me how hard he had it…If mowing yards was my plan, I’d start an internet company that could tackle 10-15 yards a day and leave me worrying about how to grow my business rather than hearing about the trials and tribulations of generations past.

      You’ve pointed out the same jobs that have had the same issues for years in restaurants and retail locations. Tell me the same things didn’t happen when you were “walking a mile through the snow barefoot to school everyday.” Look around. Marketing firms, tech startups, travel and destination innovations… All Millennials. Just because your worlds of accounting and numbers are the same does not mean the rest of the world is.

      Stick to your balance sheets and old school mentality and leave the forward, open thinking to us.

  15. Matthew Maggy

    I disagree with a point that you seem to make (and feel free to correct me if this was not your intent). I am also including what I have heard from others:

    Everyone talks about being frugal, sacrificing now, denying oneself nice meals out, or experiences, or what not in favor of a future pay off. I subscribe to sort of a step up theory. Before your first or second property, extreme frugality is very Merritted. Once you start increasing your income with these properties, you should treat yourself to an increase in standard of living. Isn’t that why we invest?

    For example, I was super frugal before. Never ate out. Never bought anything nice.

    Now that we are house hacking a duplex and having our tenant pay the PITI, we have bought more beef to eat than we had before (rather than chicken thighs and porkchops). We can spend $200 on a weekend trip. We can go out and treat our friends to a decent meal not for networking, just for fun. The next property we get, we may up our X-Mas budget $50. Etc. We still put away a good amount of money, but we also are allowing ourselves more freedom to enjoy life.

    So, I posit that for every step up in income, step up your standard of living a bit. You won’t be as wealthy as quick, but you’ll enjoy the climb up the mountain much more.

  16. George Wines

    Loved this post. As a millennial, I have had to fight these distractions as well…but knowing that so many millenials fail at escaping these although sad means there will be less competition out there.

    @Mike McKenzie I think you are using a correct steroetype but come to the wrong conclusion. I believe the rare hardworking millenials will rise to the top

  17. Duc Ong

    Scott,
    Great points! I completely agree with this list, as I’ve come to some of these conclusions independently. The hardest thing for me is to replace social media with more productive reading/studying on real estate. I find that my mind only has so much endurance for work/study before I feel the urge to be entertained. I also agree with you on the fact that a lot of my peers fall into the trap of these time/money wasters, and that by limiting them, they would be a lot better off.
    Thanks for putting this out there!

  18. Katie Rogers

    “I couldn’t figure out why the heck I had to learn about the cells that make up plants and European history…” Hopefully, you have figured out by now the usefulness of such knowledge. It is never a waste of time to understand the world we live in, both the natural aspects like plant cells, and the man-made aspects like European history.

  19. Erik Trefzger

    I’m late to the party here, but I couldn’t disagree more with Music at #6. Your other points are good, but I can’t stress enough how important listening to good music is. In fact, if I charted my days listening to music vs days without listening, my productivity and general mood would be about double on the days I have the tunes cranking.
    The fact is that most things that we do as RE Investors don’t require focused brainwork and turning up the music helps me power through things like paperwork and bookkeeping. Furthermore, I use Spotify so I don’t waste time finding new music to listen to.
    To sum it up, I don’t understand why you’d put a potentially productivity-boosting activity (that admittedly varies based on the person) in a list with other obvious time wasters. I’ve noticed that is a general trend in your articles overall- 90% solid info and 10% opinion presented as fact.

  20. Nazimcan Suvag

    Scott, your article has incredibly accurate points. Where attention goes, energy flows. Now, I know to make a strong case in your article you have a “this is fact” kind of a tone going on. Which is cool but let’s remember, you are a man and it is your opinion. I agree with most of your points. I’m the guy who won’t buy coffee out until I get to the office and have run a script on my computer to deactivate my Facebook newsfeed 🙂

    However, I think there is a slight unhealthy attitude with some of your points. Beyond all, we are human beings. Something such as music, is a spiritual essential for many, I know for me, absolutely. Also, attacking habits ferociously is bound to backfire, believe me your subconscious strikes back. It is more of subtle art and the key word is moderation.

    Overall great article. My biggest vice had been “the snooze button”. I did a 40 day Miracle Morning marathon. It made me feel so much better. I relapsed during the holidays but getting ready to jump back.

    • Wes Truett

      This ^ is almost exactly what I’ve wanted to say to Scott in response to his previous articles and the same goes for this. I’ll say it a little stronger. He’s way too categorical in his assertions, which I have found to be a little insulting at times. It suggests a level of immaturity. The music part is the only reason I bothered to chime in. I’m not going to get started on that one

  21. Allen C.

    Preachhh! This article is on point, Scott. I’ve long disabled social media and all that hype. Whenever we join people for dinner, all they talk about is catching up on show ‘x’ and show ‘y’ on netflix… I’m just sitting there asking myself, what am I getting out of this? No one seems to be talking about how to make their money work for them or finding the next emerging real estate market. How does one cut themselves off and find like minded millennials that have a focus on the long term? But after college it seems more difficult to find time to make new friends…Lifehacker came out with an article about how its more difficult to make friends after college – http://lifehacker.com/why-its-so-hard-to-make-friends-after-college-and-wha-488975744. What do you all think?

    • Brandon Hall

      Right on Allen. I have (had?) the same problem. I find many of the conversations with friends/colleagues to be mediocre at best. When I stopped hanging out with a particular friend group, they thought I had a problem with being social – hah!

      Since I left particular friends and bar scenes behind, I’ve focused on building a business. Through that, I’ve connected with really solid people who have the same mindset. Now the conversations we share over happy hour are about where we are allocating funds, how to hire VAs, and new strategies we can use to exploit certain products/markets. Much more rewarding.

      BP is a great place to make these connections. Keep in mind that friends you regularly meet with don’t need to be in your same city.

  22. Eric Bate

    Scott, I’ll have to disagree on #4, Eating Out. Here’s why…

    First, you say it’s time-consuming. The alternative to eating out is to prepare the food yourself. Let’s say the ingredients just magically appear in your fridge — you just have to cook them. With three meals a day, this would still take up a significant portion of your time.

    On the other hand, the time spent sitting at a cafe or restaurant can be spent networking, reading, or doing work. Time spent chopping vegetables and working a frying pan, however, is dedicated to cooking. Does food prep move you toward your goals? Doubtful. It’s a treadmill task — one that takes up time and energy without moving your forward.

    Next, you say it’s expensive. I say doing it yourself can be more expensive. I earn around $40/hr as a violin teacher. If I’m eating out, I’m paying somebody to buy the food, prep it, cook it, and then clean up afterwards. How much time would that take me? Let’s conservatively say 2 hours of work for dinner (though I suspect it would take more like 4, especially with time spent shopping). At my hourly rate, that’s $80, but the difference in price between a meal I eat at a restaurant and a meal I cook myself is probably closer to $5-10. By doing all the work myself, I’m hiring myself at way below minimum wage. And I’ll never get that time back.

    Cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, and the like have no place in the ambitious millennial’s day to day life. By hiring out these time consuming tasks we can put more energy into stuff that moves us forward, stuff that only we ourselves can do: exercising, meditating, socializing/networking, and working on our business as well as in our business.


    I also had to scratch my head at #7, Nightlife. Here’s why…

    I’m single. At some point, I’d love to find a girlfriend, maybe a wife. In the meantime, I also like to have sex. Shocking, I know.

    This is important to me, almost on par with my health goals and my financial goals. In order to achieve my goals with the opposite sex, I would need to make a habit of making new friends, expanding my social circle, and talking to women on a regular basis. I also refuse to “shit where I eat” by flirting with or hitting on other people I work with. This cuts down on the number of potential partners I meet in my day-to-day life. To compensate for this, I need to either accept bachelorhood for life, or make time to meet potential partners outside of work hours.

    The main point I’m trying to make is that social goals can be just as important to our happiness and success as financial goals. Friendships and relationships take time and effort, and going out can be a part of this.

  23. Eric mcginn

    I respectfully strongly disagree with the music point and the seeing the world point.

    Yes we are on BiggerPockets, but lets not lose sight of the fact that MANY extremely wealthy individuals die unhappy, unfulfilled and alone. What is the point of it all? If the answer is to attain as much wealth as possible and die, then you are most certainly correct on all accounts.

    You say that music is “scientifically proven” to be a distraction. I would argue that trying to listen to and process an informational podcast would be much more distracting. Maybe you get more knowledge out of the podcast? maybe you get more peace and happiness from the music?

    As for seeing all the world has to offer, I agree it can be a distraction from building wealth. But I would argue that seeing the world and all its peoples and cultures would give you a deeper understanding of people in general and is actually more important than building wealth.

    And lastly, I find it extremely offensive to hear people putting out a blanket statement that millennials are lazy. Really? do you personally know every one of the largest generation yet? Any “evidence” to prove them as lazy is also anecdotal, which is the argument being made to prove otherwise. Its all anecdotal. “having a hard time replacing employees” how about the other generations in the work force? We cannot blame the former youth for going to university, getting degrees and pursuing jobs in there fields just as they were instructed to do in school. repeatedly told that its the “right” thing to do. My school didn’t offer any plumbing or electrical internship programs if these are the types of jobs your talking about. This is more of a systemic failure than a failure of a generation. if anything, we could place blame on the baby boomers for creating these norms and expectations.

    You could swing it any way you want.

    I totally agree with the other 8 distractions though.
    thanks for the read

  24. Jeff Hanson

    I realize that I’m about 6 months late on this one, but at first read for me, had to comment. Would agree with all but #6, and I must say that I strongly disagree (might even go as far as to say that I vehemently disagree). Music has been one of the most influential drivers in my life, and remains #3 on my list of top priorities/goals. You may not be passionate about music, but I would view my life without music as a void, a black hole. What’s the point of working hard if it comes at the expense of ignoring the beautiful things in life? I listen to podcasts (BP in particular) while mowing my lawn or while doing chores around the house, or while driving to/from work, etc, but I also very happily listen to music almost everywhere I go. Give me a break? OK, I’ll cut you some slack on this one, but to think that music has in some way hampered or prevented me from reaching my goals, please….Do you know what fun is? Have you ever danced to a podcast? I can pinpoint memories and stages of my life based on particular songs/albums. I promise you that I don’t feel the same about podcasts or books, regardless of how influential they may be. So while I’m writing this post, and while I’m working or driving or doing chores the rest of this week, I’ll be making it a point to listen solely to music. Cheers, and maybe lighten up a bit?

  25. Alex Wilson

    True, you can maximize productivity by eliminating all areas of your life that do not directly contribute to your real estate business, but this veers into “life deferral” territory. I believe it is important to maintain balance in life. After all, what are we working for?

    I have taken steps in some of the areas you mentioned that mitigated rather than eliminated the activity. For example, I used to religiously read about 10 different Seahawks related blogs amounting to dozens of articles daily, even during the offseason. I’ve since cut out the blogs and newspaper recaps and simply watch the 16+ regular season and post-season games with my wife and my parents. This takes up far less of my time, and that time is quality time shared with my family. As a bonus, I’m no longer an insufferable know-it-all during the games 🙂

    Yes, there is a ton of dead weight in most of our lives that kills our productive potential, but it is possible to be imbalanced the other direction as well, especially if you have a family.

  26. Scott Trench

    Haha – to clarify something folks – the title of this article uses the word HABITS, which is key. Yes, I listen to music, watch netflix, eat out, go out and enjoy nightlife, and try new things. I like to have fun as much as the next guy. I just don’t allow these things to become HABITS.

    As HABITS, these can be really devastating.

    Music, in particular is one that I see time and again as one that is particularly BAD for the workplace. If you look around the office, watch the folks that climb the ranks, that start successful companies, and that move on up in the world. They aren’t sitting there with their headphone jacks in all day. At best, if you are listening to music (OR podcasts, for that matter) you will perform a routine task adequately.

    Furthermore, when you are performing a routine task, it is far better to substitute learning for music as your HABIT, only to listen to music when you will truly enjoy it. A half-assed attempt to listen to music while working or driving is far less effective than swapping that out with a half-assed attempt to listen to relevant material 🙂

    Also – if music is in the list of your goals, then obviously eliminating it’s distracting power from your day is not a good choice for you. My goals do not involve music – I prefer to entertain myself with fitness, outdoor activities, and literature, which admittedly can be just as distracting – I just don’t work out or read literature WHILE WORKING on something else. That would be silly. If you aren’t listening to that narrow range of acceptable background music, I’d argue that you too are being silly.

    Pick your diversion and enjoy it to a moderate degree – anything to excess is problematic. Just don’t kid yourself that your habit of listening to music during your commute both ways, and while cranking out routine chores is helping you. You could be doing it better.

  27. comfort Samuel

    Awesome write up @scotttrench!! Wow I actually cringed when I read some of them like shopping cos boy was I guilty lol. But yes I strongly agree with most of them cos I actually had to cancel my Netflix subscription, deactivated FB at one till but now only sign in once a month!. Same with Twitter, Instagram, etc. social media is a major distraction!! Even the hanging out part was spot on, I had to cut off a friend who thought it was cool for us to hang out every freaking night I had off & then most of the time expects me to pick up the tab cos she was broke and her card kept getting declined so I always end up paying for us out of embarrassment. See?.. So prioritizing your needs and wants & being disciplined can get millennials a long way. . All in all? This was a great read, I have to look for your other posts as well since this was from last year lol

    @Timmo, from all understanding I believe the post didn’t say “deny yourself” it just said minimize it!! if it isn’t adding much value to you then why waste your entire time on it when you would have been doing something productive?! Opportunity cost concept here.

  28. Bonnie Low

    This is a great post: spot on and well written. I like that you got right to the point, didn’t sugar coat it and cut the BS. I just wanted to add that it’s very relevant because many of these items plague Gen Xer’s, Baby Boomers and whatever the generation in between those two that doesn’t seem to have a distinct name (which I happen to belong to). I’ve got a full time job and the first thing I do when I shut off my work computer at night is fire up my personal computer and check my email. That’s where my real estate life is happening. I’ve also started listening to BP podcasts when I travel for work, when I’m folding laundry and even when I’m outside working in the garden on weekends. I constantly find myself asking if I’m using my time wisely. Sure you have to have some down time, but it’s good to be reminded that there are time sucks throughout the day that really add up. Great article!

  29. Scott Marshall

    @Scott Trench I love it. These are spot on, and big discussion points every time they come up.

    For me, I’ve found the compelling vision of your goals has to be bigger, or when you go to say no to all this stuff your brain’s like “but why?” and you relent.

    Gotta have a bigger yes in your head. Usually that comes from pain :). Best way to create the pain you need is to funnel off most of your money into a separate account that you can’t spend.

  30. Julie Marquez

    I wasn’t expecting #10. I want to conquer the whole world, everything about it! Joking, sort of. I do know that becoming a master in one field is the best. I also expected to see a bold headline titled ALCOHOL, but that can go under eating out and nightlife. Such a killer. And shopping, I hate shopping and I’m glad to see it on the list. If people have a hobby of shopping, they need to get a new, more fulfilling life. Interesting about music, I’m not huge into music, but I didn’t know those facts. Great article, thanks!

  31. James Phillips

    Mmm! Good article. I myself am a millennial and these setbacks are so true in my life and the lives of my peers. Somehow (the grace of God maybe) I’ve been able to see the truth in these things and have been able to live a more productive and efficient life. But it is so frustrating to try and reach out to my peers and instruct them in a genuine way that maybe they’re broke because they buy beer and cigs EVERYDAY! Or that they hit Starbucks EVERY morning. Sadly, I even have one friend that seems to have read every motivational book under the sun and know all the “steps to success” yet doesn’t do anything but work a part time job and watch tv. i don’t understand why people like tai Lopez get so much praise. Listening to him won’t get you rich. “Oh yeah just here in my back yard, I got all the steps you need just watch my 45 min video and you’ll get to where I am.” Yeah right! I can tell you this, Lopez didn’t get rich from making and watching videos, every time you click that link, he gets paid not you. Step up your work ethic!

  32. Jeff Shew

    I think what must be asked, as a millennial myself, is do you do these things in moderation? I am guilty of it myself and over indulge in in points 1-10. You need to create budgets and monitor your spending– that is not just a millennial problem that is an entire US’s problem, just ask the baby boomers how much that have saved for retirement. But at the end of the day, while all your points are valid, we need a release for some sort which creates happiness. And while a cost, the benefits which are not always monetizable or easily quantifiable bring you a net positive. I go out to eat with friends that I haven’t seen for sometime and by definition it is a cost to me, period. But the joy and happiness attended far out way the actual dollar costs of doing so. This is life and we must find a balance between financial freedom and happiness.

    I think the wisest words in this post pertain to the idea of not listening to music. I love country music…I love heavy metal…I even love ganster rap…dont judge lol. But these days I find myself listening to the biggerpockets podcast! (insert shameless plug 🙂 ). Podcasts have been out for years, but it wasn’t until I met this community that I started to listen to them. Also started up audible for books. Great way to learn.

    All that said, these wise words nonetheless and a great post keep it up and we will continue to read.

    -Jeff

  33. JL Hut

    Life can be simple, have a goal and filter everything through that goal (time and money)

    Want to save $$ for your goal? Annualize it for bigger impact and motivation. Want to sped $3. a day on coffee? $3 x 365 days a year is over $1000 a year. Does that fit with your goal? Does it hep or hinder?
    Want to spend $30. a day eating out? $30 x 365 day a year is over $10,000. a year. Does that fit within your goal?

    What could you do with a extra $10,000 at the end of the year? I would invest it in real estate because that has been my goal for 36 years. $10,000 invested will earn me $3000 to 5000 a year in income, then compound it and do it over again next year and the next until you have freedom.

    Your goals may be different than mine and that is fine, but you always need a goal for direction in life and to filter you decisions you make every day. Otherwise ten years down the road you will be surprised were you end up and wonder how you got to were you are. Without GPS traveling down the road we will both be surprised where you end up without a plan/map to filter your decisions by. If you want lady luck to plan your life, good for you, but she has never been that good to me. I learned everyday filter my time and spending decisions through the question “How does this fit into my goal and does it help or hinder”

    Simple but effective.
    JL

  34. Phillip Wilson

    Although I agree with this posting, I have personal experience where the exception is the rule.

    TV/Netflix and Sports Entertainment
    “Netflix and 99.9 percent of television programming have absolutely nothing to offer me in terms of furthering me towards the things I really want in life.”

    This for the most part is true however; I have always wanted to be a WWE official and was actually invited to go down to Florida for a tryout. Not only were they looking and critiquing our skills, they also wanted to know about our knowledge of the product. Had I not spent that time watching the product on tv, there is very little chance that I would have known the answers to their questions. So in this instance, watching tv HELPED me achieve my goals.

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