Last weekend I re-read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This is not a book review and there are too many pearls of wisdom in that book for just one post. But one chapter in particular sticks in my mind, reminding me of a similar episode of my own.
The Power of the Mind
Hill tells the story of his son – born with no physical sign of ears and expected by doctors to be deaf and mute for life. Hill refused to accept the diagnosis and “decided” that his son would hear and speak. Through persistence and sheer burning desire that his son see his affliction not as a liability but an asset, the young man was brought up ambitious and self reliant and indeed became hugely successful in his field.
The story is used to demonstrate the power of the human mind in achieving the objects of your greatest desire, and powerful indeed it is. But I like it for another reason.
“When his older brother wanted something, he would lie down on the floor, kick his feet in the air, cry for it – and get it. When the “little deaf boy” wanted something, he would plan a way to earn the money, then buy it for himself.”
I see something of myself in that paragraph. I have no disabilities and had no great barriers to overcome in my privileged life. But even as a child I was an independent soul and always wanted to look after myself.
Paper Rounds and Pocket Money
I was the middle child of three and when I was about 13, I looked with great envy on my sister’s radio cassette player. It was in constant use in her room, “taping” the Top 40 every Sunday night to play back constantly for the rest of the week. It didn’t occur to me to ask to borrow it (not that I’m sure she would have let me) or to ask for one of my own. Hers had been a Christmas gift and the easy option would have been to wait for a birthday or for the next Christmas. Instead, I started to save. I had a paper round which paid the princely sum of £2.70 a week and I received another 30p pocket money from my grandparents. A tape recorder cost around £120. I worked out how long it would take to save the money and set about doing it. I had an old sweets tin kept under my bed and I would add my wages to it every week and slowly and surely, my little pot grew.
I didn’t spend much, if anything on myself, but I did have a few expenses – mostly family birthday gifts to buy and so it took around a year altogether to save what I needed. My parents took me to the store and I distinctly remember the feeling of accomplishment and of a job well done as I brought my new stereo home.
Tantrums and Tiaras
My older sister, on seeing my bigger and better version of her now battered radio cassette player, promptly burst into tears. I remember this happening but didn’t really take any notice, retreating to my room to study my new “toy”. I could hear her crying but turned up the volume, the better to drown her out.
By the time I emerged a couple of hours later, it was to a smug and self satisfied sister – our parents taking pity on her for being so upset had taken her to the store and gifted her the exact same stereo I had worked so hard to buy.
It’s been over thirty years since this happened. It must have bothered me, else why did it stick in my memory? Sibling rivalry is such a powerful emotion destroying families since time began and providing a rich tapestry of tales for our novels and movies and plays. For me though, I remember thinking “I did this. I bought this myself. I don’t need anybody else.” Would it have been easier to kick and scream to get what I wanted? Of course. Was that how I wanted to do things? No way.
I Did This
I’m now 46 years old and a few years away from achieving financial independence. It has taken many years of planning and saving to get here. It has taken determination, persistence and sheer burning desire to get to my goal. When I get there, I anticipate that same feeling, “I did this.”
And my sister? She doesn’t know about my early retirement plans and it wouldn’t matter anyway even if she did. As far as I’m aware, she hasn’t chosen the same path. No amount of kicking and screaming will bring her financial independence. But she’s married and could inherit from that side of her family. Or she could win the lottery. It wouldn’t matter; I would be happy for her. There’s a lot of “could’s” and “maybe’s” in her future. I prefer some certainty in mine.
And I would have done this for myself.
I’d love to hear what you think. Were there episodes in your childhood that helped shape your journey to Financial Independence? Were there lessons your parents taught you that you would repeat with your own children? What makes some of us kick and scream and others just get on with it? Let me know in the comments…