Following smart people

There are a few things we learn from our parents while growing up. One thing my parents were preaching to me (which I really wouldn’t follow) was to stay close with smart people. Even better: People who would be smarter than me.

That’s a great advise. But one needs to be ready to truly understand it. As a young, arrogant smart-ass I certainly wouldn’t know many people who I would consider smarter than me. And if I knew some, I would make sure to be more fit or popular, or in any other way superior. I wanted to be better than anyone else and didn’t even consider learning from others.

However, this edge for competition gave me another source of energy: The humiliation of defeat. If I wouldn’t succeed in my endeavour, I would do what I can to become better on my own and try to make sure to not experience the same failure again.

Things changed when I grew older.

When I got older, something interesting happened. I kept my edge for competition, but I learned to use it in a more constructive manner. I started to hang out with stronger and smarter people.

If I wanted to become good in something, I would specifically search for people who were much better than me. I wouldn’t say that I became friends with them, but I would respect them and stay close. Observe. Trying to find their edge, their unique point that made them better than others, their weakness. Then I would spend hours to gather ideas and practicing, brushing up my own skills. In between, I would challenge them, over and over, until the day that I would become better in whatever that challenge would have been. Playing chess, martial arts, mathematics, languages, yes, even video games and computers.

With some of those people I have a bond even until today. My biggest and strongest competitors became my best friends, and interestingly no foes remained. While I made some enemies along the way, they all disappeared at some point into a non-existence of my world. My former competitors, masters and teachers remained.

We need to be thankful to those who help us to move forward

It was always those people who were better, smarter or stronger than me who were adding the most to my knowledge, passion for my job and my personal aspiration to grow. Therefore it is no surprise, that competitors became friends and that the bond behind this relation is stronger than any regular friendship.

I would like to say thank you to all those who helped me along the way. My friends from martial arts, who would beat me up occasionally to show me that I needed indeed a few more training hours. My supervisors at work, who would prove to me over and over that I wasn’t the smartest person in the room. My professors at university who appreciated my thirst for knowledge and, of course, my parents, for reminding me patiently that being arrogant is not a good thing…. and for sticking with me in good and bad times.

Why I want to retire early

As I mentioned previously, a crucial thing to consider when planning for financial independence is to think about the things we want to do once we reach our goal. Most people spend their lives by working relentlessly, to ensure they can have a roof over their heads, food in the fridge and their children dressed and in school. And this is perfectly fine.

For me however, this is not enough. I want to contribute to others and to this world in a more meaningful way and I just can’t do that if I have a limitation on my time and if I am restrained by financial responsibilities.

Money rules the world. It certainly does. But money alone is only 50 % of the equation. All the money is useless without the people, who channel this money into a certain direction.

Knowing this, I am an admirer of Bill Gates, who is doing probably more than any other human being on this planet to address planetary issues in order to improve life for everyone. I salut to Elon Musk, who might not be the best business person, but who managed to push an entire industry away from oil towards a more sustainable future. There are many more visionaries out there and people who do their best on even much smaller scale to tackle problems that concern us all.

I hope one day to travel more, and to meet those people. Small business owners who work on new solutions to old problems. Entrepreneurs with hope and ambition, and who might just need a little support to push their idea forward to the next level.

If we don’t help each other, don’t learn from each other and don’t collect our knowledge, what is the point of being alive? Why do we wake up in the morning and get out of bed? What is our goal?

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