Tag Archives: Success

Know Your Competition

We start competing the moment we are born.  Competition is everywhere.  Completion is natural.  It is the cycle of life.  Eat or be eaten.  We must compete every day.  Only the strong survive.

When I was a boy, our dog had a litter of puppies.  They too were competing from their earliest days.  They would compete to get to the bottom of their basket to stay warm.  The puppies would compete with their brothers and sisters to get closer to mom to eat.  When I would watch and care for this litter, it did not take long to establish who the alpha of the litter was.  He always ate first and would not roll over when playing with the other pups.  How could such a young and tiny dog have established such will?

You might not see yourself as an alpha or even a competitive person.  If you are working on reaching financial independence, odds are you are more completive than you might think.  I would guess that you are very competitive.

Before I really gave it much thought, I never saw myself as a competitive person.  For the most part, I am a laid-back guy.  Growing up, I played baseball but was not very good.  The only football that I have ever enjoyed playing was when I played Madden.  The chess club or the debating team were also not for me.  I always saw myself as a Type B personality.

The first time that I realized how competitive I truly was when I read about capitalism.  I realized that I was competitive when I read that capitalism as an economic system where trade and industry are controlled by private owners who compete for profit.  I have been competing for a buck since I started earning a paycheck.

Even though I have only won a few trophies and awards in my life, I am hyper-competitive.  My whole adult life has been focused on competing.  I am not referring to being in competition with my neighbors.  What they have is not my concern.  The type of competition I am referring to is competition with myself and society to reach my goal.

I set a lofty goal.  My goal was to become financially independent.  For anyone to reach financial independence, there will be a great deal of competition.  On the road to that level of success, a person will have to face off against and defeat internal and external competing forces.

Postponing gratification is a form of competition.  The ability to save money is always at odds with the desire to spend money.  It is like there is an angel on one shoulder saying to save as much as possible.  On the other shoulder, there is the temptation to spend and waste money.  Temptation says if you want to be happy, buy that new car, house, or boat. You can afford it and you deserve it.

It is easy to give in to temptation.  Who wants to work hard and sacrifice to get ahead?  How can anyone sacrifice for decades to become financially independent?

Spending and having a good time is much easier than saving and investing for the future.  Internal competition is fierce.  At times, It is an internal fist fight.  It certainly felt that way for me.  As the saying goes, it is harder to conquer yourself than to conquer a city.  in order to conquer self, a person needs to develop emotional intelligence.

While it might be harder to conquer yourself, the external competition is also not exactly easy.  Most resources are limited.  Everyone is fighting to get ahead.

If you own a business, you are competing with other businesses and market forces to be successful.  Even if it is a side gig, there is still competition.  To survive, a business owner must provide the best products or services at the lowest price.

While it might appear that being an employee is easier than being an entrepreneur.  Being an employee is far from being easy.  An employee must compete to land a job.  There is competition to keep the position.  There is competition with peers to advance in the organization.  If your boss is a jerk, dealing with them brings on a level of competition.

The competition does not end after you earn the money.  There are competing forces who want to take your money.  Marketers are out to sell you stuff that you do not need.  They don’t care if you land in debt.  They are just competing to sell you something and to take your money.

You might have to compete at home to keep your money.  You might have your emotions under control, but your family has their own needs and desires that need to be considered.  It is not easy to keep a family on a budget.  It takes creativity to keep a family satisfied and not bored.

They might be the most difficult completion that you have to face.  You should not play a zero-sum game at home unless you want to have your family resent you.  It is wise to approach this level of competition with good faith and to negotiate.

Competition truly is all around us.  We face competition daily.  It does not mean that you are not competitive just because you were not the captain of the basketball team in high school.  For some people, it takes longer for their competitive drive to develop.

If you have decided that you want to be successful in this world, that thought alone requires a competitive nature.  If you are taking the required steps to get ahead in life, you are more competitive than you give yourself credit for.  If you are working on reaching financial independence by paying off debt, saving, sacrificing, and investing, you are extremely competitive.

Do you see yourself as being competitive?

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My Uncle Xavier: Veteran, Millionaire, Mentor

I have been thinking about writing this post since I started my blog.  As you will read, Veterans Day might be the most fitting day to publish it.  This post is about my Uncle Xavier.  As the title suggests, Xavier was a veteran, millionaire, and mentor to me.  Below is his story and a little bit about our relationship.

Like many members of the Greatest Generation, my Uncle Xavier had humble roots.  He grew up in West Scranton, Pa during the Great Depression.  His Father owned a small corner grocery store.  His mother was home-bound because she went blind at an early age from diabetes.

After high school, there was not much opportunity for Xavier.  He lived with his parents when he was in his early 20’s.  Jobs were hard to come by in those days.  He used to tell me about taking the Laurel Line Train from Scranton to Pittston to work at McCrory’s Department Store.  He described the scenery as “the outskirts of hell” as the train would pass by the stripping pits where coal was once mined.

When Xavier was age 26, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.  It was the early 1940’s and the world was at war.  While in the Army, he served on 2 major theaters in Northern Africa and in Europe during World War II.  Even though he saw horrific fighting, he spoke highly of his time in the service.

After the war ended, he returned home to Scranton, Pa.  While the economy was booming for most of the country, the good times skipped Scranton as they always seem to do.  He could not find a decent paying job.  He decided to take advantage of the newly created G.I. Bill and went to The University of Scranton where he earned a BS Degree in Economics. He then moved to New York City and went to graduate school at NYU.

My Uncle was a straight-laced guy.  He did not enjoy living in Greenwich Village all that much.  He said the bohemian crowd was not for him.

Following graduate school in New York, he decided to move to the Washington D.C. area.  He said that there was a tremendous amount of job opportunity there.  He had an easy time landing a government job because he was a veteran.

While in Washington D.C., he met and married my Aunt Ann.  They both worked for the State Department.  They settled into a townhouse in Arlington, Virginia.  He said it was a great investment because it was near a new Metro Station.  They also bought a weekend house at Bethany Beach in Delaware.

My Aunt loved to travel.  She made my Uncle Xavier join a travel club.  They took many trips to Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America.  They were truly jet-setters.

Even though they lived the high life, my uncle was a great saver and investor.  This was many years before index funds were available to individual investors.  My Uncle invested his money in blue-chip stocks.  He was a big believer in the consumer staples sector.

My dad would talk about Uncle Xavier from time to time, but I do not remember meeting him until 1998 when I was age 21. He moved back to the Scranton area because he had to move his wife into a nursing home and wanted to be closer to the family.  One Saturday evening, he called my dad and said that he wanted him to come to his apartment to talk about money.  He brought me with him for the visit.

It was a surreal meeting.  My Dad was an Accountant and he wanted him to be the executor of his will.  He also needed help picking out a PC because he wanted to track his investments online.

When we were at his apartment, he showed my dad his investment portfolio.  He had $1.8 million dollars invested in stocks with Merrill Lynch, tax-free bonds with Fidelity, and mutual funds with Vanguard.  I think my dad almost had a heart attack when he found out he was worth so much money.

I never met a millionaire before.  I was taken aback.  It felt surreal.  I thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn more about the markets.

Moving forward, my dad felt obligated to spend time with Xavier.  It was truly a pleasure to hang out with him.  We went out to the local diner for breakfast almost every Saturday for many years.  We took him to see a Notre Dame football game at FedEx Field in Washington D.C. and my parents took him to Las Vegas twice.

I was already saving and investing for over one year when Xavier came into my life.  Meeting him enhanced my desire to become financially independent.  He taught me so much about living below your means and investing.  He was worth almost two million dollars and lived in a one-bedroom apartment.  He spent his days reading the Wall Street Journal, watching CNBC, and taking two trips per day to the nursing home to have lunch and dinner with his wife.

Uncle Xavier was in my life for seven years.  I spent a great amount of time with him.  Other than going out to eat, I would take him to his appointments as he was getting older.  I was in college, so I had some free time to do so.  My Aunt passed away in 2001 and he passed away in 2004.

I have experienced death before, but never mourned anyone the way I mourned when he died.  It hurt.  I felt like I was punched in my chest.  I remember crying for a good 10 minutes when he passed away from a heart attack.

I miss him.  It has been a while since I gave him this much thought.  He was my Uncle, but also my friend.

While other 21-year old kids were out messing around, I was learning how to live and be a man from a guy who truly was the millionaire next door.  Spending time with Xavier has shaped my life.  I am truly grateful for the time that we spent together.

I hope you enjoyed this special veteran’s day post.  It is a tribute to my uncle, my father, as well to all the men and women who served in the armed forces.  Thank you all for your service.

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