If you do something consistently for 5 years, you will achieve results beyond your expectations. Don’t quit before giving your effort a chance to produce amazing results.
5 years comes from my experience working in finance from 2015-2020. After 5 years, I believe I finally have a good grasp of how businesses and investing work.
5 years also comes from learning Portuguese. I started in 2015 as a young 21-year-old out of college. Since then, I’ve been to Brazil over 20 times and have even at one point worked part-time for a Brazilian company. Today, I can carry a conversation with any native speaker.
5 years comes from investing in the stock market. Unless you are extremely unlucky, there is a high probability that you would have earned a nice return on your investments over the last 5-years.
Finally, 5 years comes from working a side-business in consulting. I started prepping students for investment banking interviews in early 2017. Nowadays, I do complicated financial consulting and am a part-time CFO for two start-ups. I expected there to be a correlation between effort and earnings, but I did not expect to earn 35% (more than $50K a year) of my income from these side-businesses!
In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts to help you “stick to it” for 5 years.
1. You Don’t Have To Be Special
Regular people like me get ahead all the time.
I came to America when I was 5 years old. My parents had no connections. It was very hard at first because I didn’t speak any English, nor did my parents have any money.
Growing up, I grew up with a stutter because my English fundamentals were simply… not that good. I lacked the ability to think quickly on my feet until I started doing debate in high school. My grades were okay (3.5 / 4.0). And my SAT score was only slightly above average.
The only reason why I got a job in investment banking coming from a small liberal arts college was because I started prepping for interviews two years before recruiting began. The career fair also began at 8 am in September 2013. 30 people signed up, but I was only one of the 3 that actually showed up. 20 interviews later, I finally broke into Wall Street.
There is nothing special about me. My looks are average. My IQ is supposedly only 110. I’m not that witty. My professors described my writing as “underwhelming.” I’m only 5’10 and not that athletic. The only thing I do right is that I keep going.
Over the last 5 years, I learned that grit is by far the most important attribute for achieving your goals. You really don’t need any special “skills” to get ahead…
2. You Will Catch Your Lucky Break
The thing about doing something for 5 years is that you will eventually catch you lucky break. The thing about success is that it is a numbers game.
I am only merely average looking. But I’m constantly on a date with someone a little above my level of attractiveness because I began putting myself out there. Sure, I get rejected 24 out of 25 times, but finding that one person is a numbers game. If your success rate is 5%, you’ve got to ask 25 people to go on one date.
My lucky break came when a start-up food company reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to join on as a financial consultant. They had just raised $2 million in seed funding and needed a finance person to track their KPIs, consolidate their financials, and put together investor presentations. This lucky break was so random.
6-months after I began, other start-ups began noticing me on LinkedIn. From there, things snowballed.
When people see that you plan on sticking around, they give you credibility. The more credibility you have, the more opportunities you have.
3. Be Criticized
If you are getting criticized, you’re not growing. People that don’t care do not criticize. It helps you improve your weakness and shines a spotlight on any blind spots.
I was once criticized for being a terrible writer and speaker. I then got inspired to practice my writing and interviewing skills. After 37 workshops and hundreds of hours of practicing, I finally got traction. I ended up blowing past my investment banking, and eventually, my private equity interviews as well.
4. Be an Optimist
Hurt your back? Be thankful you didn’t break your back!
Got screwed by a client? Be thankful it happened sooner rather than later when the stakes could have been higher.
Get fired by your boss? Use this time to build up multiple sources of income.
Your dog only has 12 months left to live? Think about the times you guys have been happy due to all the time spent together.
If you practice seeing the positives in every situation, you be happier and live a more fulfilling life.
5. Make Sure You Focus On What Matters Most
There are many things that can distract you on your way to your goals. Focus on one or two things at a time.
The one thing that I do is write five times a week without fail. I normally get distracted by social media, client e-mails, backend tech stuff, and money issues.
Print out a list of things you need to do weekly. Do those things before doing anything else. This is the same concept of paying yourself before spending any money, which I wrote about here.
6. Close Social Media!
Social media can be a real time sink. Some people even ruin their careers based on their social media feeds and what they’ve said online. Limit your time on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to 30 minutes a day.
You simply don’t just want to win an argument. You want to win.
Instead of spending time on Facebook arguing politics or trying to convince someone you’re right, spend time learning a new language or how to Latin dance. Focus on your personal relationships 5x more than your online relationships. They are much more important.
7. Some People Will Hate You No Matter What
You cannot be universally loved. As a result, do not try to please everyone. Be true to your own principles instead, and people who share these principles will gravitate towards you.
Every week, someone will tell me through e-mail, in my social media feed, or in the comments that I am fake. If they don’t denigrate my goals, they might say something negative about my race, how much I earn, or my attitude towards money. But I keep going because of my personal and net worth goals.
I have accepted that some people will always hate me. It’s not my problem if they don’t like me. However, you will feel content with yourself knowing that you’re living a life true to your principles.
8. Good Enough Is Good Enough
You do not need to be perfect. There is no such thing as perfect.
The largest, most respected tech companies in the world such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are not perfect. If they were, they wouldn’t need to push out updates every month to fix bugs.
Once you get 80% of the way there, go ship it. Once it is live, work to make your product better.
9. Recognize How Lucky You Are
Appreciate what you have. Work harder so that you never take what you have for granted.
I’ve visited many countries: Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Poland, China, Angola, and so forth. I witnessed a lot of poverty. Living in America is like living in paradise compared to many other countries.
Over last 5 years, some of my peers have made more money than me. But I am thankful for my experiences because it has kept me a well-rounded person, both personally and professionally. I’ve also met plenty of entrepreneurs and interesting people through the path that I’ve chosen to take.
Recognize how lucky you are and be grateful each day.
10. Know That Things Get Easier
The great thing about 5 years of perseverance is that you finally become anti-fragile. Anti-fragility is a thing that thrives when exposed to shocks, volatility, disorder, and stress. Once you’ve lived through working 80 hours a week, 5 months of unemployment, and then personal failures, the next challenge is nothing compared to what you’ve dealt with.
However, make sure to take lots of breaks. Force yourself to decelerate your workload. You want to produce steady streams of output instead of big spikes of nothing.