• Zach

Why you need to be OBSESSED with Financial Independence


New Stories Require Obsession

For years I was an ogler of cars. I had a mind for Mercedes, I blushed for BMW, I was riveted to Rolls Royce. I saw a shiny car, and my eyes would track it, taking in every detail and curve. I coveted. I had created a story that a fancy car would show the world I was successful. I had another story I believed that owning the car of my dreams would improve my life until it was like something out of a hip-hop music video. These stories were reinforced in a thousand ways by the media I consumed.

Like most strong beliefs, this one I held about cars and their value wasn't held up by a single supporting column, it had instead a web of support, some strands going back decades in my life. Confirmation bias, where we seek out information that confirms our previously held beliefs, helped cement old supporting strands and make new ones as well.

It wasn't until I got obsessed with personal finance and Financial Independence that those strands of my car belief web started to fray, and eventually enough of them broke that I was able to get out of these various supporting delusions about cars and value. It wasn't one article, or one podcast, or one documentary, though. When I get obsessed with a topic, like I did about personal finance, I go all in. I read every blog I can find and listen to every podcast episode for months at a time. And it's not like I was seeking out a way to change my perception of cars. That was simply a by-product of immersing myself in a world that had different values. Instead of seeing cars as objects of veneration, I started to see them as drains on my bank account, costing me thousands of hours of work, stress, and environmental destruction. When I saw a Ferrari on the road, no longer did I envy the owner, instead, I thought of it as a big shiny chain, forcing the owner to work a high stress job forever just to be able to afford the maintenance budget.

This took time though, it wasn't immediate. Every thread of the web of my old belief had to be cut or weakened to the point of uselessness. I had to build a new set of beliefs that was more in line with my values of financial freedom and environmental balance.

I imagine that I am not alone in this process. If you look at your deeply held beliefs, some so deep that you don't even know that they are just beliefs, they're simply what you've always known to be true, you will find that they are supported by this same style of web. Maybe for you it's an idea around money that is holding you back. Perhaps that money is a corrupting influence or that the rich are evil, or that you're not smart enough to learn how to invest on your own. Those sorts of stories can dramatically guide our actions and have generational consequences. The good news is that you can change those beliefs. You can build a new story for yourself. All it takes is curiosity and interest, which if given the right circumstances, can lead to obsession.

Obsession is the key. Obsession is what gives us the motivation to consume content that cuts the ties of old belief. Each piece of content is like one snip of the scissors, so it requires a great many snips to destroy a long held belief. Sometimes obsession can be intentional, we can look at those we admire around us and see what they are doing to get an outcome we also want, then start learning the principles of that field. It can be based on a pastime we've had for most of our lives but never given the space to really explore. It can come from a YouTube hole we fall down and start watching all the recommended videos about a topic.

Changing our habits and actions is hard. If you want to change your life, you have to change your actions in a sustained and meaningful way. For me, when I look back at my life, the things that have caused that sort of action are all based around things I was obsessed with. Things I was passionate about and curious about and learned about on my own for an hour, two hours, three hours a day because I just HAD to know more. It's gotten me my career as an International School teacher, it's gotten me this column, it allowed me to build a photography business and play in bands and orchestras all around the world. It's gotten me healthy and increased my net worth multiple times.

COVID and quarantine gave people space and time to really dig into their obsessions, because they couldn't do much else for a long time. Job losses can also be a traumatic way to free up long blocks of time that can allow obsession to flourish. Tumult doesn't have to be all negative. If you examine your own beliefs about money, you may find some that are keeping you from values you now hold, because those stories came from long before your current goals. Find a blog, find a group to ask questions, look at YouTube, find a friend. Everyone learns differently, and often the most varied sources of good information can help cut the bonds of previous beliefs most efficiently.

If you want to change your life, get obsessed.


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