Never apologise for hard work

One endlessly fascinating thing about doing financial coaching is that people open up their deepest darkest financial secrets to me.

It’s good to talk and people are often opening up about money for the first time.

Often people struggle to acknowledge just how far they have come.

They started off poor and now they are rich. They lived through it and yet still they can’t quite believe it themselves.

I’m unshockable in this regard. I’ve met a lot of rich people and am just as unfazed by people with a net worth of £30m and upwards as I am with people just starting out with £1,000 of savings.

I always remember that this is a position of trust and my clients get the highest standards of confidentiality. So I never discuss individual cases with anyone.

But my financial coaching practice does reveal some common themes that may different people share.  And I do draw lessons from these.

One blindspot that I see over and over again is people who are somewhat apologetic for their money. People who, when they reveal their net worth, feel guilt on some level and feel obliged to emphasise how how lucky they’ve been or how they feel bad in a world where lots of people struggle with money.

Lazy people never apologise for being idle, so why should you apologise for hard work?

My suggestion is as follows: 

Never apologise for hard work or for your talents…not ever, not to anyone

You should be proud of what you have achieved. Sure, there are good reasons to keep your head down. Envy is a powerful emotion. Mobs and journalists look for tall poppies to cut down. But, the way I see it, there is no honour in fitting in with dysfunctional people.

The current climate for wealth accumulation is poor. The SJW privilege narrative is bullshit but it holds sway in the media and this is putting hard-working middle class people (e.g. dentists, doctors, lawyers, people with small businesses) on the defensive.

Some low paid people work long hours because they have to and they deserve our respect. Some high paid people work long hours and they also deserve our respect.

There is nothing inherently wrong with long hours or hard work. To be honest, I would rather a consultant in the NHS worked extra shifts and earned £200,000 per year if that’s what they want rather than working 3 days a week and earning £90,000 per year to fit in with societal norms about not standing out and not making “too much” money.

Society wins when people with scarce and valuable skills work harder. This also applies in tech right now. High salaries for software engineers, data analysts and IT consultants etc are a signal that more young people should do computer science degrees / learn to code. High salaries are how society gets more of the scarce and valuable skills that are in short supply.

The media is not helping. The media fawn over pop stars, footballers and celebrities (who are, in many cases, awful people) and yet are strangely anti-success when it comes to professionals, businesspeople and ordinary hard-working people.

Journalists sometimes prattle on about long hours and”hustle culture”. But Britain is not America (and it sure isn’t Manhattan). There is no hustle culture in the UK other than a few bullshit influencers on social media. In real life, I see precious little evidence of a culture of working long hours for the sake of long hours.

There are high profile exceptions of course. For example, law firms, consulting firms and investment banks have traditionally glorified long hours. The old joke was that you kept 2 jackets in the office: one to wear home and the other to display on the back of your chair so people thought you were still in the office.

I got caught up in this myself so I understand how those worlds work. But I did it knowingly and we were all over 18. I did what I had to do to make money and then quit the game.

Writing a blog I’ve noticed that there is a bunch of people that want to read about frugality and downsizing. There is another bunch that want to read about career success and self-development etc. Then there are people that just want to read about investing.

You could label these tribes 1. The Dreamers 2. The Hustlers and 3. The Investors. These are not natural bedfellows.

But here’s the thing: financial independence is achieved in the overlap. You need all three to achieve financial freedom.

Hard work is part of the process. Earning more is not cheating. The maths of compounding rewards you for working hard, saving and investing when young. It is pointless to argue with the laws of mathematics. As I may have mentioned before, frugality is necessary but not sufficient.

I’ve had enough contact with journalists over the years to know that most of them are financially illiterate with poor mental models when it comes to hard work, success and wealth accumulation. Do not allow your money blueprint to be influenced by these people.

Respect to the hard workers!


Blog update

As people who are on my email list already know, I got downranked by the Google algorithm last year for having the temerity to write about lockdown.

This is not about me and my middle-of-the-road opinions. Big Tech are manipulating what people see right across the board. If you want to learn more about this, you can watch the documentary The Social Dilemma and read this and this and make up your own mind.

So what do you do when Google pisses on your barbeque?

I want to move to a situation where I can’t be shut down overnight by any one media platform. As a small independent writer or creator, you need to avoid a “single point of failure” where Big Tech can just flick a switch and take away most of your audience or even close you down.

Going forward I am going to invest more time writing via my (free) email list which I have moved to Mailchimp. I am going to write about 3 or 4 emails for each new blogpost. In other words, if you are on the email list you will get more new content than will appear on this website.

The beauty of having an email list is that you can always reach your audience…especially the core: those interested enough to sign up to an email list.

As a side benefit, the email format also feels more personal and encourages the writer to be more open than in the “public square” of social media which is now dysfunctional. Email is probably better for investigating non-conformist opinions. It better allows me to explore ideas and write for grownups.

My experience has been that people behave better when giving comments and feedback via email under their real name rather than leaving anonymous comments on the internet. The emails that I get are thoughtful, more open and an absolute joy to read.

So if in future you are wondering why my blogpost production has slowed down or even stopped, the answer is that it hasn’t, it’s moved onto my email list (it’s free and you can sign up below 👇).


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4 comments

  1. scruffysteve · · Reply

    Hi Barney,

    Interesting reasoning regarding moving your communicating more to your e-mail list.

    I’m an amateur musician and have friends who are in the industry. The model historically has been that a record company has ‘managed’ musicians but taken a large portion of the profits (via ‘oblique’ contract wordings). However, promotion and production can now be taken into the artist’s own hands due to the way technology has evolved – you can get by now with just a phone!

    In a similar fashion ‘monopolies’ have appeared on the distribution side (Apple, Spotify, etc.,) who pay peanuts to the artists in royalties. My view with this is that the music should be accessed directly from the artists websites, bypassing the distribution companies entirely.

    This would produce a similar model to your direct contact – no middle man. Unfortunately, there is not yet an industry standard format (that I am aware of) to enable artists to provide direct access to devices but I think it is only a question of time. Your blog update put me in mind of this.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. Always informative and often inspiring. Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,

    Steve

    >

  2. Thanks for an interesting read Barney.

    As a dentist I often find myself cringing a little and trying to not disclose what I do for a living for reasons that you’ve outlined and also just because the perceived public view of us seems to be that we are money grabbing, self-serving pain monsters by people who have no idea what the real cost of healthcare is in a model propped up by the NHS (which is going to fast disappear of course). They don’t see that people in our middle class professions have spent our youth studying and training hard (ok having fun too) to get to this stage and made our own sacrifices and have huge ongoing financial and mental health costs due to litigation risks and unscrupulous regulators. I don’t need the validation that your article offered but I’m grateful that you’ve brought up these points. It makes me feel a little less guilty over that fact that I’ve saved hard to pay for my 4 years of formal postgraduate training, bought a house with my husband and saved up money to pay myself a year’s worth of salary as the government won’t support me as I work privately. I’ve created a life for myself where I can work part time due to the planning I’ve taken time to do, and I think I should acknowledge that rather than brushing it under the carpet and saying “oh well I just got lucky”. I put the work in too.

    Thanks again,
    Sonia

  3. Interesting piece. In my experience long hours ≠ productivity. But a culture of long hours is often expected in the higher echelons of the corporate world, and so it is too often the case that long hours = high remuneration.

    I would suggest that someone working 80 hour weeks for £80k is probably doing a poor job when compared with the efforts of 2 full time staff on £40k.

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