“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”
My great-great grandfather wrote this passage! Just kidding, I found it on the internet somewhere. (But since I’ve searched for hours and still can’t find the true source, you can’t say for certain that it wasn’t an old relative of mine back in the day 😜.) Many sites credit this passage to “the Unknown Monk.”
Regardless of who wrote it first, what a cool reminder that big changes begin with self-improvement and small personal habits. Things naturally pick up steam from there and compound over the years to a much larger scale.
Pay Yourself First, Even If It’s Starting Small
A friend of mine here in Los Angeles said something similar to the passage above. But his context was about money and personal finance.
My friend is in his 50s and is the classic case of “income rich / asset poor.” He earns an admirable annual income — more than $350k per year! — but hasn’t accumulated very many assets in life. He is only now realizing he will have trouble retiring without making some pretty drastic lifestyle changes.
He started out with big ideas and goals… As a young college grad he dreamed of building a successful business and selling it for millions of dollars. He wanted to have a big house, vacation homes, and provide a rich life for his family.
When his dreamy business plan didn’t work out, he focused on trying to get a job with a massive salary. He thought that with a huge annual income, he’d certainly become a millionaire. But while his salary grew and grew, so did his cost of living. His kids adopted expensive tastes and were (and still are) large financial liabilities.
My friend realizes now that if he had learned some basic saving techniques at a young age, he could have built extreme wealth throughout his life. Paying himself first — just a small amount from each paycheck — would have compounded over time, and he certainly would have been the multi-millionaire he set out to be. His kids might have even been, too.
Being a millionaire starts with learning how to make, save, and invest $1. Then repeat that process a million times.
Donations and Volunteering: Start Small
I think the majority of humans want to be as generous as possible. Sure, there are takers out there, but I believe the majority of people in the world are givers — or at least desire to be.
One thing I’ve noticed though is that people tend to hold back their giving, until they can give in larger ways…
- Can you spare 100 bucks to give to charity? —> “I could, but I’d rather wait until I’m a millionaire and give a $10k donation. A larger donation later will have more impact.”
- Can you volunteer at a vaccine site next Saturday for a few hours? —> “Well, my few hours probably wouldn’t make much of a difference… But once I’m retired I’ll have lots of free time up my sleeve, so I plan to volunteer a bunch!”
I’m not writing this to guilt people into giving more. I’ve had this type of mindset, too! Just like the unknown monk story, I think many people have grand dreams to save the world, but instead should start small and locally. Giving has a ripple effect!
Big Changes Start From Within!
As you’re going about your day today, working toward your lofty goals in life… keep in mind that massive changes begin with personal development.
What small steps are you taking to change yourself today?
Happy Friday my friends,