I Made It To My Paradise. Now It’s Your Turn
My poor dad believed in living below his means. Our family lived frugally, constantly trying to save money. As children of the Great Depression, my mom and dad saved everything—even already-used aluminum foil—and they bought everything on the cheap, including food.
My rich dad, on the other hand, did not believe in living below his means. Instead, he encouraged his son and me to go for our dreams. This does not mean he was wasteful or a spendthrift. He was not flashy, nor did he flaunt his wealth. He simply thought that advising people to live below their means was psychologically and spiritually damaging financial advice. He believed that financial education would give people more choices and more freedom to decide how they wanted to live their life.
Rich dad believed dreams were important. He often said, “Dreams are personal gifts from God, our personal stars in the sky, guiding us along our path through life.” Were it not for his dreams, my rich dad would never have become a rich man. He often said, “Take away a person’s dreams, and you take away their life.”
Rich dad also said, “You may never reach the stars, but they will guide you on your path through life.” When I was 10 years old, I dreamed of sailing the world as Columbus and Magellan did. I have no idea why I had that dream. I just did.
At the age of 13, rather than carve salad bowls in wood shop, I spent the year building an eight-foot sailboat. I was sailing on the ocean in my mind as soon as I built my little boat, dreaming of sailing it to faraway lands.
At the age of 16, my high school guidance counselor asked me, “What do you want to do when you graduate from high school?”
“I want to sail to Tahiti, drink beer at Quinn’s Bar [an infamous Tahitian landmark], and meet beautiful Tahitian women,” I replied.
With a smile, she handed me a brochure on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. “This is the school for you,” she said, and in 1965 I became one of two students from my school selected by the U.S. Congress to attend the federal military academy that trained ships’ officers for the U.S. Merchant Marine, one of the most selective schools in the United States. Without my dream of sailing to Tahiti, I would never have gotten into the academy. It was my dream that empowered me. Like Jiminy Cricket sang in “When You Wish Upon a Star,” If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme…
In 1968, as a student at the academy, I sailed to Tahiti on a Standard Oil tanker. I nearly cried as the tanker’s bow cut softly through the crystal-clear waters of some of the most beautiful islands in the world. And yes, I did go to Quinn’s Bar—and I did meet some very beautiful Tahitian women. Four days later, as my tanker sailed back to Hawaii, I felt the satisfaction that came from fulfilling my childhood dream. It was time to move on to a new dream.
Rather than live below my means, rich dad reminded me constantly to push the boundaries of my life. Even when I was short on money, I still drove a nice car and lived in a beachfront condo on Diamond Head Beach. Rich dad’s advice was never to think, look, or act like a poor person. He constantly reminded me that “the world treats you as you treat yourself.”
This does not mean I was reckless with my money. My personal demand for a higher standard of living required me to always push my mind to determine how I could afford the luxuries of life, even though I had very little money.
In rich dad’s eyes, I was training my brain to think like a rich person by battling the poor person in me. He often said, “When you don’t have money, think and use your head. Never give in to the poor person inside you.”
I attained the things I wanted by using my head. I drove a Mercedes convertible by trading consulting work for the use of the car. I lived in a beautiful condo on the beach by doing marketing work for a family who lived on another Hawaiian island. In exchange for the work I did for them, they let me live in their condo located in one of the most beautiful waterfront hotels at Diamond Head for about $300 a month—the price most people paid for a single night’s stay. Rather than live below my means, I stretched my brain to find ways to live a life of elegance without blowing my finances to shreds. I use the same skills in business today. If I don’t have money for something I want, I use my head to figure out how to get it. I do not let the amount of money in my bank account dictate the boundaries of my life.
Whenever I hear financial advisors saying “live below your means,” I cringe. What I hear is a “financial expert” saying, “I am smarter than you. Let me tell you how to live your life. The first step is to give me your money, and I’ll manage it for you.” Millions of people follow this advice like sheep, living below their means and turning their money over to the “financial expert,” who turns it over to Wall Street.
Rather than hand our money over to “experts,” rich dad encouraged his son and me to become our own experts by studying money, business, and investing. Living below your means might be good advice for some people, but not for me. Why live below your means when an abundant and full life is within your reach?
If you want to change your life, begin by changing your words. Start speaking the words of your dreams, of who you want to become, not the words of fear and failure.
Look at a financial crisis as a blessing rather than a curse, an opportunity rather than a problem, a challenge rather than an obstacle, a time to win rather than a time to lose, and a time to be brave rather than to be afraid.
And be glad when things are difficult because hardship is the dividing line between winners and losers. Think of difficulty and struggle as the training ground of champions.
Rather than live below your means, dream big and start small. Start with tiny steps. Be smart, get financially educated, create a plan, find a coach, and go for your dreams. As a young man playing Monopoly, rich dad saw his dreams on the game board—the plan for his life and his plan out of poverty. He started with little green houses on the Monopoly board and dreamed of his big hotel on Waikiki Beach. It took him about 20 years, but his dream did come true. Thanks to rich dad, my mentor and my coach, once I got serious, I achieved my dream of financial freedom after 10 years of perseverance. It wasn’t easy. I made many mistakes. I was scolded more often than I was praised. I lost money and made money. I met many good people, a few great people, and some very, very bad people. From each person I gained wisdom not taught in school or learned from books. My journey was not so much about the money, but who I became in the process. I became a rich person who does not let money, or the lack of it, dictate the boundaries of my life.
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily