In a recent email, a reader of this blog asked me how I became so successful. He read in one of my posts about how I moved to Japan on one week’s notice with no job, no work visa and only $1000 to my name and later became a jet-setting global rock star celebrity. (Okay, I added the ‘jet-setting global rock star celebrity part ‘ for added effect. )
Here is the Secret to my Success
The short answer is … I am not successful. Most people, myself included, tend to glamorize or even exaggerate successes and hide set backs or negative aspects of their lives. Don’t believe everything you read or hear because you are only getting the positive side of the story.
I am not rich. I am not famous. I am not particularly smart or talented either. I am just an ordinary person that is not afraid of hard work. When I arrived in Japan more than 13 years I worked a lot to save money and pay down debt. I worked two English teaching jobs and a bar job.
A couple of years later I started teaching private students in my apartment. A year after that, I took those students and opened up my own English school. My wife and I worked 50 to 60 hour weeks for close to 10 years. For several of those years we lived in the same building as our school. We were able to save 50 to 80 percent of our gross income. Our secret was work lots of hours and don’t spend much money.
After several years of frugality, we started to grow tired of working so many hours and started working less. We hired other employees, bought a new car and house. Spent lots of money on furniture and started traveling several times a year. We were just burnt out from working so many hours for so long and we thought buying all the things we wanted would make us happy. Well it didn’t. The happiest times of my life have always been when I had no money and was working insane hours to build a business or work on a project of my choosing. The struggle to achieve is far more rewarding than the actual achievement. More money and more things are nice when you have nothing, but after a certain point they become a burden.
Get Out When the Getting is Good
As you can probably tell, my wife and I should have sold our school several years ago when sales peaked and our expenses were minimal. If we did sell at that time, we would definitely have had a lot of extra money in the bank. We both knew about 4 years ago that it was time to move on to something else but we kept procrastinating and making excuses.. We told ourselves that we had a great lifestyle with a good income and lots of vacation time. Why change when everything was so comfortable?
Finally, enough was enough and last spring I made a public declaration on this blog that we were going to leave Japan and change our careers within one year. It was that deadline and announcement that gave me the fortitude to actually follow through on the plans. I can honestly say that blogging has changed my life.
Three years ago we were spending about $5000 per month on living expenses, now we can get by anywhere on about $2000 and much less in cheaper countries. We are getting back in shape and starting to eat healthy again. I am running regularly and playing a lot more guitar. We are also just starting to get back to work on our other business projects. We aren’t making much money and we don’t expect to for a while yet, but it is nice to see new projects slowly come to fruition.
The Future is Bright but a little Scary Too
We have our fears and worries as well. We have enough savings to last for many years, but we don’t want to blow all of our cash either. We will need to work again, but we want to do it on projects that we are excited about.
We don’t have fat corporate pensions so we are thinking about our retirement and also worried about what will happen if one or both of us has a major accident or illness. Our biggest fears are not finding rewarding ways to spend the rest of our lives. We want to do interesting things but we are afraid that we are getting too old or we don’t have the right experience. (We are 40 and 41 years old.)
Overall, we are extremely happy about where we are in our lives but we also have a lot of regrets about all the things we could have and should have done. We can’t change the past so all we can do is make sure that we are putting in 100% effort everyday into everything we find important in life. I just want to end each day knowing that I lived as much as I could have.
Am I successful?
I don’t have a house in the suburbs with two SUVs parked in the garage. My essential possessions can fit in two bags on an airplane. I don’t have a prestigious career or major accomplishments behind me. I am not successful by any of the popular metrics of society. However, I am happy. I now know that material possessions will never satisfy me so I don’t want them anymore. My wife and I are both healthy and we were fortunate enough to be born in rich countries with good parents. Everything else has been a fantastic bonus. I want to be fully alive each and every day and I am doing that now. Life is good. We live in amazing times.
Are you successful? Please share some of your accomplishments in the comments.