I recently had two separate conversations with two guys who got their PhD in Mathematics. One of them was once a millionaire, in dollars, not long ago. Today, he’s almost a million dollars in debt. He went backwards!
The other only completed his degree recently. He had been working on it for seven years and that set him back thousands of dollars in student loans. And to my surprise, he still makes financially-senseless decisions like taking an expensive cab to work every morning and eating out everyday, instead of packing a lunch box to work. He keeps going backwards in his finances everyday with little thought about getting out of debt.
This made me wonder; how could such highly educated people, especially in the field of mathematics, be so terrible with money. They certainly don’t find additions and subtractions of income and expenses difficult. As we know, poor money decisions eventually lead to poor life decisions. So why are these PhD holders not winning in life? Why can’t they make the shift from mathematics to ‘life-matics’?
This contemplation drove me to search for answers, and I came upon one recently while listening to an instructional audio.
Schools, nowadays, hardly prepare you for life. MBA programs now teach you how to land a good job rather than how to start a business. No one teaches you about personal finances and life skills to help you out there. You are just equipped to trade your time for money in the job market, and hope for the best out of life.
Mark Twain got it right when he said “I never let my schooling interfere with my education”. Schools teach you lessons (in your classrooms) and then give you a test thereafter. Life, on the other hand, throws you lots of tests and then you learn lessons from those tests. And if you decide not to learn, you will keep on doing those tests over and over again until you finally learn the lesson. That, to me, is education. You are educated when you finally learn how the world really works; when you finally start to put that knowledge into practice –when you are finally wise!
In order to win in life –in business, relationships, finances and beliefs –we ought to be educated. We ought to obtain our PHD in life; a very different one than that obtained in schools. Let’s see how:
This is one key needed to live life. It is the ability to manage expectations. We all have goals. We know where we currently are and where we want to be. The question is do we have the patience to get there? Or are we constantly looking for shortcuts.
We have to develop patience. Many breakthroughs are missed because people expect them to have happened yesterday. Many people quit the gym too soon, stop a diet, or close down their shops… because they have not started seeing (instant) results. They cannot manage their expectations.
Developing patience takes time –not surprisingly. The next time you are in traffic, can you not honk your horn when the light turns yellow? Can you wait your turn and not ‘shunt’ line-ups? Can you save money monthly towards a vacation or retirement without dipping your hands into it? All these little things help to develop patience, and it would be good to try them out every day.
As we all know, this is the most important element to success. Nigerians respect it a lot. You often hear prayers such as “God bless my hustle”. For those who lack patience, hustling can help you out. But you have to hustle right. Hustle while waiting for your breakthrough.
Are you waiting for that promotion at your job? Then keep on hustling; take on more productive ad-hoc tasks and keep on building and sharpening the skills that make you more marketable. While you wait for your new business to turn a profit, keep on hustling –keep on making those sales calls, keep on working on all the projects involved. The actions you take by hustling will keep you occupied while you wait for results. This way, you don’t get easily discouraged and you can patiently wait and manage your expectations without even realizing.
There’s something known as the “shiny-object syndrome”. It is jumping from one thing to another, without completion, in pursuit of the next ‘hot’ thing.
Successful entrepreneurs are typically known for staying put in one industry and working their way up to success. They usually only diversify after they have achieved success in that industry. They are committed! This is the way we should live our lives. Don’t jump from one gym to another, from one diet plan to another, from a job in one industry to another industry without achieving a considerable milestone first.
When there’s traffic on your way back from work, can you try to stick to one lane and not constantly switch lanes? Can you do this the whole ride home? I know many Lagos drivers will hate me for this suggestion, but it is a very subtle and effective way to train yourself in commitment and dedication.
Life is a learning ground and unfortunately, the most vital lessons are learnt outside the school grounds. Babies are not formally taught how to walk. They just know that they should, and so they have a goal to walk –someday. They don’t know when, but they are willing to be patient until that ‘someday’ comes. While being patient, they try and fall, and try and fall again; hustling with dedication to the task until they finally start to walk steadily someday.
This is exactly how we should view life. Have your goals and plans set out, start from wherever you are today and know that it will take you some time reach your goal. While patiently reaching, keep on hustling –fine-tuning your talents and working on what needs to be worked on. Finally, stay dedicated to that one plan; that goal, and focus hard on achieving it.
My mother told me that I first attempted to walk at 9 months old. Then people gathered and were excitedly praising me and I refused to walk again. I didn’t give it another shot until really late –about 11 months old. I was very afraid of falling down (in front of everybody). That was all I mumbled about as I sat my small body on the large sofa, watching and studying how everyone else walked. I wanted to obtain my ‘PhD’ in walking first, before trying again. Of course when I finally decided to walk, I had my own fair share of falling numerous times before becoming decent. I was like the PhD mathematicians that made poor life choices even after studying for so long.
All I needed to do was to ignore everyone else and do the important things in life. I should have known that it was okay to fall flat on my face as long as I was willing to get back up again and keep on trying until I succeeded.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Attack life, start that business, write that blog, sing that song, apply for that job and don’t wait till you get your masters and PhD first. The only PHD you need is: patience, hustle and dedication. These are the key elements to a successful life.
Photo Credit: Candace Beckwith | Dreamstime.com