Paying for Tomorrows Pleasure Today
Last week by far the biggest story was the Powerball jackpot that jumped up to $1.6 billion. Everyone I know bought a ticket, including myself. Who wouldn’t want to acquire all that wealth for plunking down $2 and checking some numbers?
Unfortunately, this is not how most people will acquire wealth. Real wealth requires serious discipline.
Discipline produces success even if your definition of success has nothing to do with money.
If your idea of success is to be a great pianist or painter or gardener, then to get there you must postpone immediate trivial pleasure such as watching TV or going out to the bars. Instead you must practice the piano, study painting, or weed the garden ready for the spring. I would submit that even if your definition of success was to be at peace with the world and to be in a blissful connected state with the universe you must first practice the long hours of discipline required for meditation, and practice the minute-by-minute discipline of pushing out the constant chatter of thoughts from your mind. A Zen monk, for example, could be said to be almost perfectly (and excessively) disciplined.
I think unsuccessful people are often that way because they have these two characteristics:
1. They rarely think of the future or plan for it. They live only for today.
Self-development guru Jim Rohn’s secret of happiness is ‘enjoying today while planning for a better tomorrow’.
Living for the moment is only half of the story. You can only enjoy today because of the plans you made or work you did ‘yesterday.’ Similarly you can only enjoy tomorrow because of the plans you make or work you do today. This includes simple pleasures like a day walking, listening to the birds sing. You can only do that because ‘yesterday’ (last year, etc.) you worked hard enough and saved some money so that you could take time off. It is obvious that you can only eat today because of the work you did yesterday, unless you have set up your life to scavenge from others.
2. They spend every single penny they earn (and usually more) on pleasures right now, today, and do not put anything away for the future.
This is similar to being given a week’s worth of candy and eating them all in one sitting!
Disciplined people use their time and talents to create present and future wealth for themselves. This means doing something. This is hard. This takes effort and it takes will-power. Undisciplined people watch soap operas seven days a week, go out all the time (a net outflow of money), buy all the latest toys or generally fritter away their time and talents for thirty of forty years. And then…. huge surprise…they’re broke when they retire!
Look, this hardly needs saying. There’s nothing wrong with watching television sometimes, going out now and then and having the odd meal out. These are pleasures. This is jello now. Then, you turn the TV off and get to work on projects that will make you wealthy. You stay in several nights and work through until midnight on the same thing. This is investing time in your future, and is an identical concept to investing (saving) money for your future.
A disciplined person does not spend all his/her time now, in trivial pleasures, they save some for the future. Time is funny stuff. You can’t put it in a box and save it for a future day, say the end of your life, and then haul it out and get extra days of life. The rule with time is that you have to invest it straight away. It multiplies and produces money in the future. You use this money to buy time from other people. For example, the money releases you from the need to work, and so that gives you a whole lot of time – much more than your original investment of time. Or, you use the money to pay someone to do your garden, and that frees up a whole lot of time for more pleasurable things.
So the analogy is exact. Undisciplined people squander all their free time now on pleasures (eat all the jello) and get, say, 100 units of pleasure. Disciplined people use a little of their time for pleasures (eat a little jello now), then invest their time for the future. This multiplies many fold, and frees up vast amounts of time in the future. The net result is that they get (say) 1,000 units of pleasure in total over the years. This is their reward for being disciplined. I hope this makes sense.
Everyone has a sense of discipline. Heck, without it, you’d never get out of bed in the morning. Discipline is exactly that voice which says to you after the alarm has gone off: “Right, come on, up you get!” Without that, you’d just lie in bed all day. The trick is to start cultivating that sense of discipline – that small voice which nags away at you. You need to make it habitual. Don’t suppress it. Listen to it and follow it. This is the difference between success and failure. The ‘secret magic formula’ of getting rich can be encapsulated in the quality of self-discipline. It’s little more than that.
As an example, if you were disciplined enough to go out cleaning cars on a Saturday (or a few evenings a week) instead of frittering away your time, then after ten years of doing this and investing the money you would have $100,000 in the bank! I mention this not to encourage you to start a car cleaning business, but to prove that you don’t need to start a stock brokerage business, or open a chain of restaurants to make money. A simple piece of self-discipline in a lowly profession makes you a $100K in ten years, $300K in twenty years! Imagine what would happen if you really applied your talents! The only thing which stops people doing this is lack of self-discipline, or laziness by another name.
Your future life is governed by a series of choices which you make. Little choices. Hourly, daily, weekly choices. Most people always choose the ‘jello now’ option. This route leads to failure, I promise you that. Every little choice they make is an ‘instant gratification’ choice – to watch another hour of TV, to sleep late again, to go out, to have some entertainment, to lie in at the weekend, to buy some more goodies, to book a vacation they can’t afford, and so on.
Life, you know, is incredibly short. Those of you over forty will know this already; those between 30 and 40 will be glimpsing the truth of this, and those under 30 probably still think they are immortal. I certainly did!
But, you know, the rewards of life come to the doers, not the talkers. This is so true. You receive riches from life in direct proportion to the amount of effort you put in. True again.
There is no ‘miracle’ short cut to wealth – basically, it’s about getting off one’s ass and actually fighting, daring, and winning against the system.
That’s really it.
It’s a fight now, just as it was a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago, for that matter. The rules have changed, but the game remains the same.
You need a better life and more money? Here’s an important key to wealth:
Life doesn’t respond to needs, wishes or desires. It laughs straight back in your face. Only your disciplined effort right now will plant the seeds of future crop that will meet your needs.
To complain that your needs should be filled right now is effectively to say: “I have needs. Someone else should work and slave so that my needs might be provided for.”
What would the soil say to your statement “I need some corn”? Why, the answer would be “Bring me your seed and your sweat!” The soil would not care a finger snap for your needs. Who cares about your needs? Nobody. Furthermore the seed alone is not enough, is it? You must also plant, tend, water, and hoe it.
These activities can be summed-up by the phrase ‘disciplined effort.’ Effort means the sweat of your brow; discipline means meticulously and regularly applied. A little each day. Gradually. This is how the rewards build up over the years. Not in a rush. You don’t hoe, weed and water all in one day and expect a bumper crop the next. No, it doesn’t work like this. You hoe a little one day, weed the next, water when it’s dry, then go right back to hoeing.
Sounds like hard work? Welcome to the real world!
Plant nothing, and get…nothing.
Spend all your money and save nothing, later in life you have…nothing.
Fritter your time away in trivia instead of learning – then, when you really need a skill or knowledge for that important job, you reach into your bag and pull out…nothing.
Work to the clock and never go the extra mile – when ‘pay rise day’ comes around then expect…nothing.
What’s the magic solution for growing an instant crop? The crop you need now because you are hungry and couldn’t be bothered to plant the seed and do the work?
And he’s right. There is no magic solution. There is a long term solution and that is to learn the habit of discipline and make it your master. It can be done. Start with the small things and build up gradually until you become a powerful, self-disciplined person.
Successful people are disciplined. They choose some pleasure now, but will then choose hard work and effort over further immediate pleasure – this sows the seeds in order that they can reap a richer future harvest. They become successful and wealthy people.