He had looked so tired that last time I had seen him, 4 years ago. His characteristic joy and “make it look easy” attitude were swept away by responsibilities; deep bags under the eyes, stress and lack of sleep showing in.
But now, here he was – joyful, free, relaxed, burdens gone, as if the past 5 years had been erased. His startup bet – many years of hard work, sleepless nights, transatlantic flights and countless meetings – had finally paid up. He was now one of the elite few, the top 1% in Romania. Over a morning croissant, among talking about his exit, gadgets, living abroad, holidays and life in general, he shared some of the habits and lifestyle tricks that had contributed his success.
I did my best to extract reusable life lessons from our chat, taking words out of context and trying to enrich them with my own thoughts and personal interpretation, hoping they’ll help others as well:
* Don’t change your lifestyle too much. Stay frugal.
When cashing out, people are tempted to treat themselves to the kinds of luxuries only seen in the movies.
But that bank account’s purpose is to give out a blanket for the future, taking away some of the stress of your daily bread; making major lifestyle changes will consume it quicker than anything. There’s the reason why most lottery winners usually end up poorer than they’ve been before their winning.
Steve Jobs had been a billionaire for years but he still slept on a mattress on the floor with no furniture other than a lamp; and no food other than raw fruit. That’s the lifestyle he wanted and being rich didn’t have to change it.
* Invest only in projects that attract you
With money available for investing, you’ll be tempted to diversify investments, as soon as new opportunities arise. But each investment comes with extra costs, in addition to money: time, attention and focus. So, don’t over spread it, or you’ll risk losing that money simply because you haven’t been able to pay attention to its needs. Instead, invest either into projects that really interest you, or into ones that you’re sure are in good hands not needing your constant attention.
* Always negotiate, on principle.
The common trait of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Donald Trump and other successful business magnates? Negotiating everything – not spending a dime over what they felt the real price was and trying to get the best deals possible from everything. Even when they could afford to pay the full price.
My friend is a car geek; but even when he afforded a $80000 semi-luxury car, he got the same model used, for half the price. And he always negotiated. Why pay more for the same product, if you can pay less?
* Don’t collect. Replace
Declutter – don’t keep things around after you’re done with them; even stuff that you’re passionate about.
Like many others, when my friend gets bored of his car(which he does pretty often), he’ll dream about the next one. But he makes a point in not keeping the previous, reselling them for as high a price as possible. Plus, as long as you’ve purchased them used, expensive items such as cars or gadgets no longer depreciate as strongly and keep a lot of their reselling value.
Not only does this save more money and creates cash flow, but it is also more fun, and gives more value to the new purchases.
* Always have projects going
Even if you’re already set up for life. Even just for fun, even if for free – always have a project or more going on.
Opportunities arise only from projects and interacting with others. Nobody got richer, wiser or better by staying at home and watching movies all day. Personal projects, vanity or just learning ones might grow into something more. And, if they don’t, they’ve at least helped you meet new people and make new connections.
* Always be learning
Don’t stay in the same place for years. Learn new skills or completely new fields. If you’re a business guy but interested in technology, learn programming. If you’re a developer interested in management, learn about it. Life is a journey, and growing as a person is its goal. Don’t waste time and keep at it.
* Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Pay the price when it matters
Frugality is important as a general rule. But be ready to make exceptions when they really matter. Make the small treat that you need in order to be happy. And, when your health, success or projects depend on paying up the asked price, do so without hesitation. For instance, transatlantic airplane business class is a luxury that you can and probably should skip if you care about money; except when you absolutely need to be rested when you get to the destination, because it might be the business deal of your lifetime. Don’t hesitate, when it matters.
* Remember why you’re in the game for
Everyone has different goals, different lifestyles, wishes and personalities. If your friends are on the track doing the marathon but you’re in only to win the 5k race, don’t get burned out trying to run the same race as they.
Know thyself, your strengths, weaknesses, life goals and ideal lifestyle. Don’t get caught in the rat race playing games that you’re not enjoying; remember what’s important for yourself and for those you care for, and be prepared to radically change the pace and direction should you decide that you want different things from life.
* Always make friends
I am guilty of not really following any of the above advice, but this is the one that I feel most guilty about. I enjoy having fewer – but higher quality – friends, rather than hundreds and thousands of acquaintances; plus, I’m not great at remembering names and trivia about others. Yet, success is so much related to people skills that making friends and keeping in touch with them is a must in today’s world.
So, always make friends; or try to meet up with old ones. Because, even over a single cup of coffee, you can learn valuable things from each. All you have to do is pay attention and listen.