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How to live like a millionaire without needing all that money

[ 4 ] February 2, 2012 |
The happy life of a lottery winner: a limo in Red Square.

Image by GaryColet on Flickr. Creative Commons License.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

The first time I pondered this question, I was lying in the bathtub, and I decided that I’d go to seminary, learn all I could about God, and devote myself to a life of prayer. (I guess I always was an oddball.)

Seminary is the last thing I’d want to do now, but it was still a useful exercise because it got me thinking about what I really wanted. Our desires and plans for our lives change over time, but as we grow and learn, we can keep building better and better lives for ourselves.

One thing that makes people really miserable is feeling like we have no control over anything. Even as toddlers, we like see our power in the world, even if it’s just our ability to throw something off the high chair a hundred times and watch our parents keep picking it up.

Power comes in many forms, large and small. That’s why when I’m depressed, I clean something or chop some shrubs. It’s a way of proving to myself that I can change the world, even in the tiniest way.

At the other end of the spectrum, some of the greatest ways to be powerful are to help other people and create your ideal life.

Many of us stay stuck for years, thinking we don’t have enough power or control to change our lives. We wait for the lottery or some magical day that, deep down, we know isn’t coming.

Nobody is going to rescue you from meh. You can stop waiting, because it isn’t going to happen.

But that’s good in a way, because we don’t need rescuing, and it’s better if we can do it ourselves anyway.

The lottery is an easy trap because most people don’t think beyond “If I had a million dollars, I’d be rich.” Ok, so you don’t have to eat Kraft dinner any more… now what? What do you eat instead? Who do you have over to share these feasts? Where do you live? What do you do with your days?

It doesn’t take winning the lottery to go to seminary. That’s the realization of the bathtub. I could just go. (I didn’t, in case you’re wondering, but it was because I chose something else that seemed better, not because I thought I couldn’t. There’s a big difference there.)

You don’t have to win the lottery to go fishing, or to paint or write or open a yarn shop. You can surf, teach, learn to fly, travel the world, or join a rock band, all for far less than a million dollars. And it doesn’t matter if your dream turns out not to be your best dream after all and you end up doing something else instead. The point is investing in yourself, believing in yourself, and loving yourself enough to take one step, and later another and another.

For me, the seminary was replaced with teaching, followed by falling in love, living a quiet life, owning a yarn business, and writing. For each of these things, I started with one step, then gradually added more and more of it into my life.

For instance, with writing, I started with fantasies of being a writer, which I’ve had since junior high. Then I started a blog. I expected to get bored and drop it after a few months, but I wanted to start one, so I did. Then I was seized with the desire to write a book, so I wrote How to be Happy (No Fairy Dust or Moonbeams Required). As I felt drawn to it more, I kept investing more time and energy into it, until I quit my job to pursue it full time.

I’m dead serious when I say that if I won the lottery this afternoon, almost nothing would change in my life. I’d buy some stuff, of course–I’d probably start with new tires, fancy cheese, and a whole lot of chocolate. And I’d probably have to hire someone to figure out the taxes and handle the money. But otherwise, I’ve already crafted a really awesome life for myself. I’m doing what I want now, even without the big bucks.

The point of all this is, you can do it, too. Your ideal life doesn’t have to be some far-off dream that never touches your real life. I remember sitting in my office reading about people like Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, and Everett Bogue, thinking how ridiculous and impossible that would be for me–how they must be magical people with trust funds or something to be able to do just go around without a job.

I guess for the person I was, it was impossible in a way. All I had ever known was the shaky security of a normal job and paycheck (and being afraid of getting fired all the time). I couldn’t imagine another kind of life. I had to grow into the kind of person who could take a leap like that and make it work. It was all the tiny steps that transformed me along with my life.

No matter where you are now, you can take tiny steps that get you closer and closer to your millionaire dream life. You don’t even have to have an end goal in mind, other than making your life a little better. If you could take half an hour today to do anything you wanted and really enjoy yourself, what would you do?

Will you make the time and do that?

I hope so. It’s those small steps that add up to a great life over time.

If you happen to be one of the many people whose dream life includes working for yourself doing something you love–what I call a passion business–I want to tell you about something that could help you speed things up. I went from zero to business in about six months by signing up for a coaching program, and it’s the best investment I’ve ever made. I loved writing but had no idea how to create a business or make money. Why do some people seem to just take off immediately, while others can strive for years and never seem to get anywhere? That’s what I hired my coach to find out, so I could be one of the “lucky” ones. It cost $3000 and was worth every penny and more.

The same coach, Jonathan Mead, is offering a course on the exact same strategies and process he taught me, and it’s only $497. Seriously, it’s the best deal I’ve ever seen if you want to figure out how to create a passion business for yourself. Jonathan specializes in helping people nail down their offer to the world, communicate it clearly, and build a business around it. Even though I was really clueless when I started working with him–I wasn’t even sure whether to focus on writing or yarn or computer programming–he helped me figure it out and start making money. Pure and simple, his program works. You might want to check it out: Trailblazer.

About Cara Stein: I'm a writer and dreamer with a PhD in self-reinvention. (Or was that computer science?) Whether you're stuck, lost, or just looking to enjoy your life more, I want to help because I've been there!

Comments (4)

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  1. Ethan says:

    Hey Cara- Great post! I especially liked the part about believing in yourself enough to take the next step. For me, the idea of quitting my job has become a real hurdle. I know that I want to– and that it is not where I want to spend the rest of my life. But I guess I’ve become very attached to the stability of that paycheck. Though it takes up a huge amount of my time and has forced me to give up some of my passions.. it STILL has this strong hold on me. Amazing how that happens, right?

    • Cara Stein says:

      Thanks, Ethan!

      About quitting your job, I think it’s harder than it seems in blogtopia. So much of our identity is tied to what we do in this society, and as much as we intellectually know a job is no guarantee of security, it’s what we know, so it feels safe. Leaving mine was much harder than I expected, as vehemently as I wanted to go. Godspeed!

  2. Clara says:

    I’ve adapted Mother Teresa’s advice about not saving the world just helping one person. I try to do one thing everyday, however small, that moves me toward my goal. Great post!

    • Cara Stein says:

      That is awesome. It’s really inspiring to think that someone as great as Mother Teresa also had to do it one step at a time, which of course she did. Thanks for sharing that, Clara!

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