Humans are social creatures craving to belong to a group they feel is like them and will accept them. Our heroes and mentors come from this group. People big into sports find heroes among athletes and try to find life lessons from the most successful sports figures. My heroes tend to be more literary or historical because I love reading, researching, and studying.
Several years ago I started reading Mr. Money Mustache and thought Pete was the neatest guy alive. He made frugal cool and fun. I found a mentor and the mentor was never informed. We all do it. We find people who seem to exude what we want to become and latch on. Pete had it all figured out and I liked that.
When I write this blog I work hard to show my soft underbelly. It is too easy to make it look effortless or like my life is all a bed of roses, free from any problems or worries. Life isn’t that neat and clean for anyone. No amount of money or fame removes all problems from life. Deep down we all know this to be true, but it feels better when we wear rose-colored glasses. We want this perfect solution to make life all better.
As we get closer to our heroes by following everything they write or do in public we start to see the warts. OMG! Keith and Pete both had business failures in life! Say it ain’t so! But it is so. People who achieve worthwhile goals go through the same process as anyone else. There is no secret formula to success without bumps along the way.
It is so disheartening when we discover our role model puts his pants on one leg at a time. What the fuck is up with that? You mean when so-and-so farts it doesn’t smell like mint? Who would have thought? In the beginning we build up our new-found role model to a level not possible. Then reality sets in and we feel disappointed.
As regular readers know I advise Pete on tax matters and prepare his tax documents. I am lucky because I not only got to meet my role model, I also got to know him in a more intimate way than most people can. The greatest feeling in the world is discovering my role model really walked the talk. What you see is what you get.
After a cooling off period we begin to cool to our role model. They have many traits we want to possess or build upon, but now they are more human and just as vulnerable. But they also do things we do not always agree with. When the gloss comes off we can see our role model for who they really are. It is at this moment when we can really learn something of value from our hero. What originally attracted us to our role model is the end product. The process is the only way you can achieve some of those same end results.
Role models show up unannounced. They may walk into your life or may show up as a blog writer. Now that The Wealthy Accountant is growing steadily and people are following, watching, and I suspect a few, admiring me. The area I get the most rose-colored comments on is my marriage. As I approach 29 years of wedded bliss I have heard people say things like, “We can’t all have a marriage as good as Keith’s.” I’m not sure how to take the comment because you can have an awesome marriage. It isn’t easy, but it is doable.
As readers look closer and start following my life and speaking engagements they will start to see me outside the published words of this blog. Then the warts start to pop out and there are plenty. My perfect marriage is not perfect. It is awesome, for sure, but awesome for a reason. Mrs. A and I really work on it. We continually examine our relationship with each other and dissect what makes our marriage stronger. Some discussions get intense and deep.
People hear “28 years of marriage. Wow!” and forget how it really happened. People see a successful accounting practice and say the same words. (Yes, I am married to my work.) There are days that were not pretty in my business or personal life. It is so much more fun bragging about the successes, but the real lessons learned come from an honest dissection of the major fuck-ups that took place over the years.
Healthy Role Models
We all need role models. Reinventing the wheel every step of the way is not an intelligent move. Learning from the successes and failures of people who have character is a powerful learning method. I don’t have to agree with everything Pete does in life to find valuable habits I can apply in my life. Pete is a hell of a lot more frugal than I am and a lot smarter too. I also disagree with some things he does. They are wrong for me, not him. That is the moment the role model relationship turns healthy.
When the relationship starts you want to have it all rapid fire. In my marriage I always tell people when I met Mrs. A it was lust. Even when I married her it was more lust than love. Hormones ruled the day and we were more wont to go at it like banshee chickens than have a deep and meaningful relationship. Over the years I discovered I am more in love with Mrs. A each year than the last. The love is growing! Age settled us down and the chicken behavior eased, fortunately; I wore two and half inches off the top already.
That isn’t to say it is all perfect. It never is. Love is growing and so are we as we evolve. You didn’t think I was the same man I was 28 years ago, did you? I changed. Some things for the better, some for the worse. Growing and evolving with someone for a long period of time, for a lifetime, takes a special kind of dance and commitment. Over the years there will be more than a few toes stepped on. How you handle a stepped on toe determines the outcomes.
I have had many role models in my life. Online bloggers have been part of that crowd for a while now. I only met a few personally. I still hunger for Pete’s wisdom and secretly wish his writing productivity were higher. I understand why he does what he does, but I can still hanker for powerful knowledge. J.D. Roth gets “cooler” by the day the more I read his stuff. I recently discovered another blog he writes. Stupid me. Leo at Zen Habits and Brandon at Mad Fientist are fun to read and learn from. Paula Pant is someone I never read before and am starting to warm up to.
Bloggers appeal to me (and you) for a reason. Their stories are more personal than any other media outlet. Their stories and lessons help us become the people we want to be. I have bitched for years about traveling, but admire those who can travel for long periods of time without bouncing off walls. I don’t think these people live perfect lives for one second, but have every intention of learning what qualities they possess that would make me a better person in my own eyes.
I read more blogs than ever. Once upon a time I did not even consider blogs a literary form. The quality and quantity of material has exploded over the years. I am glad it did. Bloggers offer a glimpse into living the life we want to live without a corporate editorial board censoring the content.
Do As I Do
You can learn a lot from a guy like me. I want you to have an “accountant” mindset in your personal life when it comes to money matters. I don’t expect you to open an accounting practice. And certainly don’t do so because I did! I did it because it is what lit my fire. If it did not, it would have been easy to drop anchor twenty years ago and start the real retirement thingie.
I write a lot because I think I have something important to say (what an ego) and I like talking. I really like sharing ideas and helping people. When you read things that make sense to you, feel free to emulate me. When stuff seems a bit off, call bullshit. WYSIWYG. There are warts. I promise. I will focus on the positive and the successes because that is the kind of person I am, an optimist. As often as I can honestly show my underbelly, I will, as a realist.
Rather than trying to live the way I live (or like any role model for that matter) focus on results. You don’t want to do and act exactly as I do in my marriage; you want a long-term fulfilling and nurturing relationship. You can strive for my results, but you have to get there your way. I have ideas and examples to share that will help along the journey. But please, don’t try to be me. The world has a hard enough time dealing with one of me as it is.