Want Success? Then Choose to Work for It

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I want to talk a little bit today about, I guess, what it takes to reach a goal.  Our oldest, the author, is also a talented artist, as you can see from some of her work that I’ve shared here.  Somebody said to me the other day about “how nice it must be, how lucky you are, to have such a talented child” and about how some people get all the “luck”.  At first I was pretty ticked off at this comment.  Why?  Because “luck” has very little to do with it.  Maddie has been drawing for 3-6 hours a day, nearly every single day, since she was three or four years old. She started with horses.  Her first horses were pretty much like any other 3-year-old’s horse drawings.  It bothered her that it didn’t look like a “real” horse, and thus began this never-ending journey to draw well.  If you estimate the number of hours Maddie is put into art alone, you’re looking at a staggering 10,000-25,000 hours of work.  She may have a passion for art, but the talent she has was born out of a crap load of work.   Scan0292

And so it is with a journey to debt freedom and financial independence.  So many times, people, when they hear about our journey out of debt, walk away from us, shaking their heads.  “I could NEVER do that” they say of our sacrifices.  Do people really think it’s all about luck or talent to become wealthy, or healthy, or knowledgeable in an area?  When I think about all of the people out there who are working for or have achieved debt freedom or financial independence, it’s not because they won the lottery or inherited cash, it’s because they made the sacrifices necessary to reach their goal. 

Maddie doesn’t play video games, at least not very often: she chooses to spend time perfecting her art or writing books instead.  People working toward debt freedom also make sacrifices and different choices: they cut cable, they stop – or at the very least, minimize – spending money on take out and restaurants.  They spend their time budgeting and spend-tracking instead of shopping and spending.  They stop buying pop, chips and other garbage at the grocery store in hopes of lowering their grocery bill.

The same goes for people with health goals.  Those who want to lose weight, feel better, look better or be healthier choose to walk/run/bike/swim or whatever instead of sitting on their duff watching TV.  They choose to eat a salad instead of a bag of chips and a pop.  They skip dessert and go for a walk instead.

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Are choices like these difficult?  YES!  At first.  And then, if you’re willing to stick with it, you get to feel the glorious feeling of success that comes with consistently making those choices.  You see your debt numbers going down and your savings numbers going UP.    You see your weight go down and your energy, strength and drive go UP.  You see your art improve, or your knowledge of science improve, or whatever it is that you have for a goal!!!!

This is not necessarily hard to do but it does take a willingness to assess and make changes that line up with your goals.  It means that, if you have a financial goal for instance,  instead of going to Dairy Queen you buy the family a half gallon of ice cream.  Instead of going out for pizza you pick up a couple of $5 pizzas at Domino’s.  Instead of paying for cable you use Netflix instead.  You decide which purchases you make bring you value, and which don’t, and you choose to spend your money on the things that are most important to you instead of buying whatever you want, whenever you want, in search of instant gratification.  You choose big picture success instead of short-term happiness by making little, consistent changes.

If you have a weight loss goal, you use the same techniques.  It may be too hot to walk outside, but instead of sitting on your tail you clean the house.  Instead of having a giant slice of pie you have a thin sliver.  It’s the smallest amount of extra effort that separates failure from success – it just has to be consistent effort.

Friends, if you’re not satisfied with how life is going, choose to change things up.  Those first days of living differently and not giving in to your every whim may be difficult, but the satisfaction that comes with having control over the human natural bent toward doing whatever feels good at the time is unmatched in both peace and in success.

61 comments

  1. Brit says:

    From personal experience growing up. Nothing against my parents but it seemed we did things because others did it. I hated dance class. I hated wearing the costumes when I was growing up. But my mom kept me in this group because everyone in our town did it. I wanted to do other things but wasn’t heard. My point is that you have listened, observed your child and have supported her. Many parents still don’t get that each child has their own talent and special something. My own daughter doesn’t like FB, loves to read a book (no tablets) and rather go on walks than do other things that are popular among teenagers this day. And that is OK with me. I get the comments and disapproval from some family members too because we do things that are not “normal” to them but if we stop and start analyzing the way we live it seems that most people live their lives to other people expectations. You have to work hard for what you want and you have to be supportive of one another. Some people don’t want to work hard at all and living life expecting that lottery win instead of working for it.
    Sorry about the long comment. Have a great weekend! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      We deal with the same stuff, Brit, and it amazes me!!! I would SO rather have my children do what they love than follow the crowd. Living a “keep up with the Joneses'” life cannot help but lead to discontentment.

  2. Great post Laurie. I agree with everything you’ve written. Success is a by-product of hard work and sacrifices. I always turn to my parents as an example. They’re in their early 50s with 3 (almostish) financially independent children (my younger sister is still in school), have their mortgage paid off and generally live a life of comfort and leisure. A lot of people think it’s because my dad comes from a wealthy family, but in reality, my dad has been financially independent of his family since he was in his teens. Both him and my mum worked hard, and continue to work hard, at their goals. My mum spent the evening with me yesterday and my dad was to get go dinner himself. She gave him a $8 eating budget, which he later called and asked her to increase it. She was generous and upped the budget to $10. Haha.

    I also can’t agree more with any effort is good effort. Some people may be able to go all in and make drastic changes- good for them- but it’s also important to acknowledge the “little” efforts. For all we know, if may take someone more self control to eat the small sliver of pie than the person who avoids sugar altogether!

    • Laurie says:

      Emily, that is an amazing success story and proof positive of what I’m talking about. I’d love to have you write a guest post about your family some time. It always makes me smile when people think that those who are financially independent must have gotten their money some other way than from hard work. We know the truth, and that truth will catapult us to success.

  3. Even Steven says:

    Interesting article, it pushes towards the Malcolm Gladwell Outliers theory, of basically you have to work for it and put in the hours to master your craft.

    I couldn’t agree more, while it’s great to get your debt conquered in a month, those who know the pain of debt and get out has that in the back of their mind for life.

  4. Love this Laurie. I may have to hire Maddie one day for art updates on my site! 🙂 I couldn’t color inside a square if I tried-and like you said I never got better because art was never my thing. 🙂 I do a pretty good job on most levels except finding work. I’m pretty unhappy with the client I do most of my work for, and need to utilize any downtime I have to find new projects/clients/full time work. But sometimes like a stressful week this week, it’s hard to motivate. But I need to keep my eyes on the prize if I ever want to get out of my current situation. OK, now off to the gym I go. Have a great weekend!

    • Laurie says:

      I so agree about it being hard to get motivated sometimes. It’s during those times that I do something little toward my goal, like find a website with good info, or make a list of the steps I need to take. I may not be emotionally able to make big strides one day, but I know I can force myself to do something small. 🙂

  5. Great post Laurie! It’s so true, I think very few people are born with talent. But the reason there are so many talented people in the world is because they have chosen to work their butts off for it! They have a dream and are willing to make sacrifices to achieve them. Good for Maddie!

  6. Aaron says:

    I can attest to this work ethic. I think she was drawing the whole time we were visiting you guys! (3hrs+) She is a very gifted too – and will interesting to see where God leads her in this.

  7. Wow Maddie is tallented, but like you said, she put a lot of work in that. It’s so interesting to me how everyone wants to be successful at whatever they do. However, few take the time to become the greats, thanks for keeping this in perspective!

    • Laurie says:

      Great comment, Joshua, and you’re right: it does take a ton of time. It’s up to the individual to decide whether or not they’re willing to put in the work.

  8. Great post Laurie…I also thought about the Outliers book like Even Steven when you mentioned the amount of hours Maddie has dedicated to drawing. She’s a great artist by the way. I’m with you about “luck.” It frustrates me when people just chalk successes up to luck, when for the most part you make your own luck: through hard-work and dedication.

  9. debt debs says:

    Little bonuses alongside hard work are sweet. Progress from hard work is sweeter. Anything other than that, has no taste.

    She is talented, but no doubt she works at it and it shows. 😀

    • Laurie says:

      Love that, Deb!! Yeah, the kid works her tail off. I’m thrilled that she has something career-wise that she’s so passionate about.

  10. Great post Laurie! I still struggle with some of these at times (eating out, buying the newest clothes/accessories) but it is getting easier. I made a return to a store yesterday and got the money put back on my card, it was a good feeling of relief to know that my debt on that card went down by about $100 by my returning an impulse purchase I made in April. (I talked about how I needed to return the pants on my post about Shopping Tally.) I can’t wait to make more progress and get my “mistakes” paid off once and for all.

    • Laurie says:

      Isn’t it amazing how it starts to feel so good to not spend money? I never thought that day would come, and now that it’s here, I’m SO glad we started this journey to debt freedom. 🙂

  11. First of all, Maddie is truly talented! Thank you for sharing her work! And I agree with you that it has nothing to do with luck. Hard work and commitment are at the core of all of our successes. We may be given basic talents; however, it’s up to us to develop them. I feel fortunate that I have never been afraid of hard work, because I know that’s what it takes to be successful at anything you want to accomplish. I feel for people who are afraid of it or don’t know how to put in that kind of energy.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Shannon. 🙂 “We may be given basic talents; however, it’s up to us to develop them.” Well said, my friend!! Your business is a great example of what can come through hard work and perseverance.

  12. Maddie is an amazing artist. I knew she was writer but I didn’t know she could draw! Those pictures were an amazing!! And I agree wholeheartedly – Maddie may have had a natural talent for drawing but she only got to be so good because she worked hard to cultivate her craft. Success just doesn’t happen – you do have to work and plan for it. We always hear those overnight success stories, but if you dig deeper, they have been working their tails off to become overnight success. You do have to work for it and make choices that support your efforts. Thank for the mention too. 🙂 Have a great long weekend with your family!

    • Laurie says:

      Shannon, you’re SO right: you do have to work for and plan for success – in any area!! But the success that comes from years of hard work is SO sweet, isn’t it? You guys have a great weekend as well. Enjoy! 🙂

  13. E.M. says:

    Thanks for sharing some of Maddie’s work! She is very talented, and it’s amazing that she has dedicated so many hours to honing the craft. That’s what it takes, though. If we don’t have the motivation to improve, we won’t. Almost everyone has to work for something in their life; it doesn’t get handed to them. Luck rarely has anything to do with it.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, E.M. Looking back at every success I’ve ever had, it’s taken true dedication and tons of hard work on my part, and I think it’s the same for nearly everyone.

  14. First, hats off to you and your daughter for working hard and encouraging her to follow her passion!! I don’t like to hear people make those comments either where they blame their life and circumstances! We choose our outcomes, we don’t get lucky. Even those born into money, need to learn how to manage their money or it will quickly be gone! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Excellent point, Stephanie!! Look at how so many celebrities have done just that. A terrific argument for the “work vs. luck” theory.

  15. Ah, I can totally relate on both the kid front and the personal finance front. Those “you’re so lucky” comments are the worst. My oldest son is gifted and some things do come relatively easy to him, but he does work very hard (coincidentally, he is an aspiring author/illustrator, too). It’s very difficult for my husband and me to know how to deal with him at times, too. People assume it’s easy, but it’s not.

    I wrote a similar post a while back after someone told me “you don’t know how lucky you are” because I dared to share a little financial accomplishment that I was proud of. I have a few people in my life who seem determined to cut me down to size. It’s sad. I would love to see them get the same things, and do what I can to help. When I share my little triumphs, it’s not from a place of bragging, it’s saying “Wow, I can’t believe I managed to do that!”

    Maddie’s illustrations are very good! That passion and dedication will take her far in life.

    • Laurie says:

      So exciting to hear that your son is on that same track, Jen! If you have questions about that (we’ve published 3 of Maddie’s books) let me know. Personal responsibility is a huge part of success, but so many times, people just don’t want to go there. Stand strong, my friend – you know that you are on the right track, and that’s what matters.

  16. Wow Laurie, so inspiring to see what your daughter has been able to achieve! I’m sure you’ve set a great example for her with your own work ethic and persistence.

    It is frustrating how people tend to only see ‘events’, and not think about the process that lead to the event. Whether spending years drawing, building businesses and failing a few times, reading thousands of financial reports to learn about investing – there is usually a huge amount of hard work, persistence and dedication that leads to the ‘event’ that people see. And then, as you said, people just think “oh how lucky that [insert event here] happened for you!”.

    Everyone wants a short cut, an instant ‘event’, but life doesn’t really work that way.

    • Laurie says:

      “Everyone wants a short cut, an instant event, but life doesn’t really work that way.” AWESOME quote, Jason. Thank you for sharing, and thanks so much for your kind words. 🙂

  17. Kathy says:

    WORK? Are you insane, Laurie? That’s not the American way any more. Now you are supposed to whine about how awful corporate America is and how “the man” is holding you back. And you don’t go to school to get educated or trained in a employable skill. Then you stick your hand out for the government to remedy whatever ails you,or else you go protest on Wall Street and try to keep people who are working from getting to their jobs. That’s the way its done now, isn’t it?

    Seriously, I totally agree with your article and congratulations to Maddie for not only having talent, but having the work ethic as well to practice her craft. I bet she got some of both from her parents!

    • Laurie says:

      Kathy, I wish I could say your comment is incorrect, but there is SO much of that these days. People simply don’t think they should have to work anymore for what they want, but instead expect things to be handed to them!! When I was a kid, we were expected to do for ourselves what we had the physical capability of doing, or LEARN it. Unless it was a physical or legal impossibility, we were expected to do it ourselves, and I”m SO thankful our parents instilled that expectation in us.

  18. I’ve heard this many times too. People who say, “Oh I wish this or I wish that” but rarely do they want to put in the work. Then they wonder why they can’t be debt free or go on vacation. You have to do the work! Plain and Simple.

    Congrats to your daughter on putting in the work to really polish her talent.

  19. Maddie is such a very talented child, I know you must be very proud of her. I have a seven year old daughter, she just started her violin class and she always finds time to practice every day. Her ambition is to be a well-know violinist like her idol Hillary Hahn.

    • Laurie says:

      Love that, Marie! It seems that so many kids these days have their idols, yet aren’t willing to put in the work to emulate them, and your daughter knows that serious work is required to accomplish that goal.

  20. anna says:

    I *love* the Star Trek picture!! She is very talented, and her many hours of dedication and hard work sure does show!! I agree incremental steps are really useful for lifelong habits. I’m used to working out first thing in the morning, but it took many years and sometimes I can only muster a half hour. But hey, it’s better than nothing in my book!

    • Laurie says:

      Isn’t it great? 🙂 I work a lot like you do, Anna, and I think the key, as you mentioned, is to simply do something – anything – just so you’re not doing nothing.

  21. It is absolutely the little choices that we make that add up to big directional changes. You have to make those chooses consistently, day in and day out. When done long enough, they add up. It is good that you pointed this out.

    • Laurie says:

      Consistency is a big one, Brad, and I love what you say about “when done long enough, they add up”. I think this is where most people fail: they don’t do the work consistently long enough. A roadblock comes, a setback, or they get bored, and that’s the end of the consistency, when, if they’d stuck it out a little longer, they’d have made it to the finish line!

    • Laurie says:

      You, being a runner and having just paid off over 100k in debt, know ALL about this Travis. I can imagine there were many times, both when you were training for your first marathon and when you and Vonnie were paying off debt, that you just wanted to quit, but you trudged on through, and now you’ve made it to the finish line. Great job. Thanks for being a great role model, in both areas. 🙂

  22. You must get so much satisfaction out of your daughter’s art work and her commitment to it! She has a great role model for the pursuit of goals. For me, the “first days of living differently and not giving in to your every whim” are not the tough ones. At the start of any resolution I have, I’m filled with enthusiasm. It’s the days after that initial energy rush is gone that I find difficult. You’re so right about the need for consistency. When it’s a daily thing, small changes accumulate to make a big difference.

    • Laurie says:

      We struggled lots with this same thing when we first started our journey out of debt. After a few months, we got bored and found it difficult to be motivated, but now that we’ve made it through that very long bump in the road, frugality is starting to become second nature. 🙂 Thanks for your kind words about Maddie too – we are indeed very proud of her work ethic. Thanks, Prudence!:-)

  23. Mike Collins says:

    Really great lesson here. Most people see someone who is great at something and are jealous of their overnight success, but they have no idea how much work it took to get there. That “natural talent” probably took years of focus and determination, not to mention sacrifices (practicing instead of playing video games or just hanging out).

  24. Taylor says:

    What an inspiring story!

    I needed this today as I’m feeling a little stressed about income and pressured by friends and family who are looking up to me to succeed. Eeeek. It can be a heavy load to bare, but to be successful I have to get my fingers back to ticking away.

  25. Phroogal Jason says:

    I really think that even if we are satisfied with how life is going we should spice things up. There is always something we’ve wanted to do and fear of rocking the boat. Once we’ve attained an ideal situation it’s always good to constantly work on improving ourselves. People will see this as having the best of luck but they don’t see that these successes are progressions.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, Jason, contentment definitely can have a down side if you allow it to lull you into not growing in life. Good to keep things exciting and moving forward. 🙂

  26. Sassy Mamaw says:

    This is so true! I lost 100 lbs years ago. People would ask how I did it. Eat less, exercise more, drink water. I’ve kept most of it off these past 12 years. I am seeing the same patterns in my journey out of debt. Spend less, earn more. But there’s a saying, “Anything worth having is worth fighting for”. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Laurie says:

      Awesome work, Sassy Mamaw!!!! That’s no small accomplishment, but as you said, you simply ate less, exercised more, and drank water. It’s continuing to take those small steps, over and over, that will, eventually, lead to success. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your story.

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