Author Robert Heinlein once wrote that “…a thousand reasoned opinions are never equal to one case of diving in and finding out…” The importance of personal experience, as opposed to the advice and help other people can offer based on their own specific experiences, can be a crucial factor in determining whether or not you will achieve your financial goals, whether your particular goal is financial independence, or something else entirely.
It’s not just the end result of having the experience that is important, however, nor the specific steps that you took to get there. It’s actually having worked at it, having done the work, that is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing altogether.
As you work at gaining your goal of financial success, all the little things that you do slowly add up, so that in the end, you will have gained mental habits that allow you to make better financial decisions. In other words, all the work that you’ve done along the way has also slowly added up, giving you the wherewithal to make better decisions as you get closer to retirement.
Take Warren Buffet, for example. This self-made entrepreneur recently made the number three spot on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $44 billion. Most people reading that sentence sort of gloss over the entire “self-made” part, and the only thing that sticks in their minds is the “$44 billion”. What they don’t realize is just what that “self-made” part entailed: Buffet started out by investing in the stock market at the age of 11, all the while working a paper route.
While it certainly helps to be able to draw from others’ experiences, it’s the personal facet of experience that is really important. Just knowing what it’s going to take to succeed is not enough. Rather, it’s knowing what to do, and then actually getting out there and doing it that’s going to make a difference in whether or not you succeed in your financial goals.
Moreover, it’s not just the effort you put in that’s important, the very scale of that effort is important, too. More on this in Part Two.