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The Power of Ambition

You may be a college freshmen, entering the exciting new world of higher education, away from mom and dad for the first time and ready to spend the next 4 years exploring, soaking up as many experiences as you can before you throw on that cap and gown. Perhaps you just graduated this past year and feel like the economy has been curb stomping you for the last few months, wishing you could go back to the days when class didn’t start ’till 1 p.m. and staying up and drinking on a Wednesday night wasn’t such a bad idea. Regardless of where you are right now, since chances are the majority of the people around you are struggling to find direction or employment in today’s miserable economy, it’s important to step outside of yourself and create some goals either for the next few hours or the next few years.

In Michael Masterson’s book titled “Automatic Wealth for Grads,” the author explains the importance of identifying your ultimate goals in life, the things that will most likely lead to personal success and happiness. Everyone has a different opinion on what it means to be “successful,” but more often than not, money takes center stage in enabling people to do the things they want with their time, energy and resources.

The biggest source of anxiety that most college grads and recent grads have is finding a way to spend the next 50 years of their life doing something that they enjoy (or atleast tolerate), that they are good at and that they can make a decent living off of. After all, when you add up the number of hours that a typical full-time (40 hour/week) employee works over the course of the year, you end up with 80 24/hour days of work

So where do you start? It’s pretty simple. Follow those 3 steps in order:

  • Find something you enjoy: What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your spare time?When you watch TV, what shows do you find to be the most interesting? Asking yourself these types of questions may help you identify a particular area of interest that you might want to pursue or possible get an internship/job in.
  • Find something you are good at: This one is pretty simple. Have you found yourself to be particularly talented in certain classes in school? When you compare yourself to your peers, are you above average in a certain area? Looking at the people around you can be helpful in gauging your personal progress towards your ultimate success if you don’t get too caught up.
  • Find a way to make money doing – that thing: In an ideal world, people would make all of their decisions based on their passions. Unfortunately, most people can’t afford to do something that they are particularly passionate about when they first start out, so it’s important to look into the future when you are deciding what you want to do to see if this entry-level/low level career could potentially lead to a more exciting/sexy career down the road.

While Masterson’s book focuses more on personal finance techniques to becoming wealthy (like the power of compound interest), he makes a powerful point when he talks about how having a good ambition is more important than having a good job. In the following passage from Automatic Wealth for Grads, Masterson uses his son’s to illustrate this message, saying:

My first son has a great job. At least, it seems like a great job to me. He works in computer engineering. Just two years out of college, he is already earning more than $80,000 a year. That’s pretty good money. Not enough to live like a king in Los Angeles – but enough to pay the rent and put 10 percent to 20 percent on the side for savings. Yet despite the creative challenge of developing new ideas and languages, getting great fringe benefits and making lots of money…he’s thinking about quitting. Why? Because he doesn’t feel like this is what he wants to do.”

Some of you might be thinking what I first thought when I read this passage; “$80,000 a year and he wants to quit?! Give that money to me.” But how much money would you need to spend 160 hours a month doing something you hated?

Masterson’s book is a practical guide to attaining the freedom that everyone strives to have in life, whether it’s the freedom of a flexible schedule or the freedom to think creatively in a job and contribute in a unique way. I’d highly recommend that you swing by the library or a bookstore and pick up a copy, asap!

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