I’ve spent the better part of my life on this planet in the driver seat on a reckless collision course. With nearly 30 years behind the wheel, I’ve added countless miles to the odometer. And until just a few years ago, I never had an actual destination in mind. The worst part about this aimless, wasteful driving is that I spent most of my valuable time and energy on this planet traveling down the Easy Road.
The Easy Road is the place where MOST other drivers are. It’s convenient. It’s popular. It’s well traveled. It feels normal.
It’s lined with SUVs and strip malls, as well as people who are coming or going from work. No one ever thinks twice about changing course, because the familiar landscapes provide a natural — almost hypnotic — path toward our collective destinations.
But the Easy Road is intrinsically flawed.
The Easy Road.
You can think about the Easy Road like the freeway. It has a high speed limit, is stoplight free, and under optimal conditions can get you from point A to B very quickly.
But it’s not all cherry gumdrops and rainbows. On the Easy Road drivers are prone to accidents. And road work should always be expected.
What happens when too many people are traveling down the same freeway? They end up in miserable lines of endless brake lights. Thus, decreasing its convenience level and reducing its dependability.
We can think of these Easy Roads in terms of our finances. We can think of choosing the Easy Road as choosing to live the “normal” consumer lifestyle. We can think about the Easy Road as a magnet for a herd mentality.
The more we make decisions based on their popularity and convenience, the less likely we will be able to break free from the poor financial habits that are commonplace on the Easy Road.
Think about the average person for a second. The person whose life is stuck on Easy Mode who spends their entire life on the Easy Road.
Does that person have a vast, endless fortune? Do they have an ever increasing Net Worth? Do they think about their financial future at all? Do they have the freedom to change professions at their discretion, or to leave the workforce altogether?
No, because all of that stuff takes a lot of Hard work.
It should be pretty obvious by now that Hard Road is the far less popular option.
The Hard Road.
This is the less advertised path. The one that Google Maps would have you avoid.
The Hard Road is a more scenic route. It’s very slow-going, but is always traffic free. It’s best to turn off the GPS, turn up the Spotify streaming radio and allow yourself to travel carefree while drinking a delicious cup of homemade coffee.
The Hard Road isn’t paved for your convenience, but is alive with endless choices and opportunity; with optimism and relaxation. The other travelers you encounter will become your lifelong friends. The experiences you have along the way will be genuine and relatively inexpensive.
This isn’t a mythical place, idea or concept. This is the difference between those who optimize their expenses and plan for the future and those who don’t.
It’s Hard to save money. It’s Hard to invest money. It’s Hard to cut back on monthly expenses. It’s Hard to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. And it’s super Hard to see other people constantly buying new high-quality devices and inflating their lifestyles, while you live below your means.
The average person is going to steer clear of the Hard Road. They’d rather stick to Easy decisions like “what cable package to sign up for” or “what big name store to buy brand new appliances at”.
Taking the Exit for the Hard Road
There are hundreds of off-ramps to the Hard Road — which is essentially why I write this blog — but I’m only going to list a few.
First, you need to stop letting yourself be advertised to unless the products will actually SAVE you money. Those are the only type of products that I endorse. My advertising range goes from awesome budgeting software like You Need A Budget to smart and awesome investment services like Betterment. AKA, stuff that will save you money.
Two ways to avoid being advertised to are to stop watching broadcast television, and to stop listening to broadcast radio. Thankfully, there exist various options to replace both of these outdated forms of media.
Start choosing Hard decisions over Easy ones. It’s easy to go grab a greasy cheeseburger and fries on your lunch break. It’s harder to bring food from home to eat.
It’s easy to shop aimlessly at the mall. It’s hard to budget for the things you want, and save up enough to buy them.
It’s easy to buy brand name products that you know and love. It’s hard to figure out what the good, cheap alternatives to these things are.
Other hard decisions include:
- Paring down the crap that you own.
- Clearing out and getting rid of storage units.
- Choosing less expensive entertainment options.
- Avoiding extremely tourist-centric vacation destinations (Disney, cruises, etc).
- Learning how to utilize credit cards to your benefit.
- Choosing to KEEP money from every paycheck for the future.
- Eliminating excuses and complaints from your life.
- Getting in shape and maintaining a healthy diet.
This is an extremely condensed list, because almost every decision in life has a hard option.
Why should a harder life appeal to you?
The Hard Road requires that you become more resourceful. It requires learning. It requires a great deal of mental focus. And it requires it’s travelers to use advanced thinking skills. Sometimes life on the Hard Road is absolutely shitty.
No one would purposely choose to live a harder life for no reason.
But the Hard Road doesn’t exist for no reason. It provides a path for us to escape the mundane. It allows us to save money for the future, so we can have the choice and freedom to decide what to do with our lives.
Our hard decisions have the ability to make our lives EASIER in the long run.
Reducing or eliminating expenses from our lives have a permanent financial impact. It frees up money in the present day. That money can then be invested so it can grow over time, and the original expense will never appear again in your life.
I gave up drinking soda 4 months ago. It was a hard decision, and initially it was an extremely hard transition for me. But it will have a permanent impact on my life, both physically and financially.
I NEVER HAVE TO BUY ANOTHER SOFT DRINK FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!
Think about that for a second. 4 months ago I reduced an expense that would have occurred tens of thousands of times over the course of my existence.
I’d like you to think about yourself and your life for a few minutes. Think about all of the shortcuts you take. Think about all of the ways that you allow yourself to take the financial or mental Easy Road.
Now that you know what’s keeping you on the Easy Road, you can start to change course. Make a Hard decision this week, and don’t look back on it. Think about how much of a badass you are for making a decision like that and for sticking to it.
Once you understand how easy it is to live on the Hard Road, you’ll never go back to the traffic on the freeway.
**This article is mostly metaphorical. While I would definitely encourage people to drive less, I wouldn’t encourage ANYONE to take longer, or less efficient path toward their destination.