| Real Life Strategies for Building Wealth

cmfort zone

Now that the conversation is about comfort zones, let me tell you about mine.

My comfort zone is about:

  • Staying in nice, clean hotels (usually four star ones).
  • Having privacy.
  • Peace and quiet so I could sleep.
  • Tasty but not spicy food (and chocolate).
  • Moderate physical effort.
  • Reading.
  • Writing.

About a month ago I did something entirely out of character that knocked my comfort zone right on the head. I went to South Korea for a ten day long Soo Bahk Do retreat with my fourteen-year-old son.

You know what? For ten days I:

  • Stayed in a very basic youth hostel.
  • Shared a room with five other women and hardly had any privacy at all.
  • Slept on the hard floor, on a floor mat that was more like a sheet than a mattress.
  • Listened to the night time noises of five other people (in fairness, they listen to mine as well).
  • Had a diet of spicy food and no sugar and coffee at all.
  • Trained from 6.30 in the morning till late evening with breaks for food.
  • Read no more than 8 pages.
  • Wrote nothing.

Different, you see. It may be best to try and give you some idea of how much this challenged my comfort zone through the eyes of other.

I wish you could have seen the puzzled face of my former PhD student over dinner in Seoul when he said:

“So, you are not here to give lectures, key note a conference or advise our government? You are here to do martial arts?”

Or heard the pride in the voice of a colleague when he told me how proud he is that I’d done that.

Now, reactions of people around me aside, I have to say that going to the Soo Bahk Do retreat left me invigorated, rested and much more confident in myself and in the future. It was restful in the way skiing is: when your survival is at stake you have very little time to worry about other things.

More importantly, by completely breaking my routines it made me challenge some long held assumptions, re-examine some of my strong convictions and consider my future actions accordingly.

Most of what I realised is about life; still, you remember that we, at The Money Principle, believe that life is what matters – money is there only to nourish our lives.

Here is what I realised while challenging my comfort zone.

#1: You have to allow people to be responsible

Do you have children?

Then you know how difficult this one is. We wish our children to be responsible and at the same time we coddle them in care and suffocate them with pre-emptive warnings.

“Careful with your drink!”

“Hold your fork properly!”

“Behave! (Say this…Don’t say that…)”

It’s almost impossible for our children to demonstrate (or take) responsibility while we behave like that.

If you want your children to be responsible, you have to let go.

This is what I managed to do during our adventure in South Korea; and my son did rise to the challenge admirably. In ten days, he matured by couple of years.

Why am I telling you this on a money management and wealth building blog?

Because this responsibility thing works in the same way whether it is about your children, your work team, your employees or the freelancers to whom you outsource tasks. If you want your business to blossom you have to learn to trust the people you work with and allow them to take responsibility.

#2: A small act of generosity can break through the darkest despair

comfort zone

Imagine me standing in the middle of a field, bare foot, wearing my training uniform and a face that is about to melt in a stream of tears.

This is where I found myself on the third day of the retreat. We spent two hours practicing side kicks and mine were the most hopeless in the group.

Okay, I was the lowest ranking person there. Still, no good!

By the time we went for a break I was almost crying. Then I heard a little, treacherous voice in my head saying: ‘You know that you should give this whole thing up, don’t you?’

I know this voice; I heard every time I ran a marathon and I was at mile 17. Difference is, I knew I can finish so I just told the voice to b*gger off. Standing in the field in Korea, I was convinced I could never do the kick properly (understand like Bruce Lee).

Then two things happened.

On the way back to the field, for the second instalment of kicks practice, one of the instructors came to me and handing me a little, scratched silver star, said: “You are my star today.” (This is a picture of the star.)

And the world suddenly brightened. I did much better during the second session but my kick was still very low. This stopped bothering me so much when a Forth Dan lady pointed out that there is nothing wrong about not kicking an attacker in the head; it is as efficient to break his/her knee.

I’m not giving up; I came back determined to get as far in this martial art as I could (given my age).

But the take away related to money matters is this:

“Don’t allow the treacherous voice in your head to rule your actions; don’t let it convince you to give up. Remember that you are a star for trying hard and find a way to change your perspective.”

#3: People need very little

Do you open your wardrobe and find the sight overwhelming?

I do. All these clothes and shoes staring at me accusingly! Than I turn around and our house is full of stuff. Any attempt to get rid of some of it fails because I inevitable decide that ‘I really need this’ or ‘I may need that’.

Which of course is nonsense.

At their core our needs are very simple: a little space to sleep, enough clothes to be change and keep clean, simple food that keeps hunger at bay and…Well, this is it really.

I know that I lived a very simple life for only ten days but it felt very liberating.

What would happen if I really decide to live a bit more minimalist life? An interesting thought.

#4: I could adapt to anything

We spend a lot time worrying about change. What will happen if I lose my job? What will happen if we have to move house?

Challenging my comfort zone taught me that I could adapt to anything. Sleeping on the floor? Yes, please. It was very painful during the first three nights; by night four my back was hurting less than when I get out of bed at home.

I could adapt to anything and so could you. So stop worrying about the ‘what ifs’ in your life.

#5: Sometimes it’s liberating to ‘go with the flow’

During the first two days at the Soo Bahk Do retreat, I spent some of my time wondering what is happening next and why is the programme so general. I’ll ask some of the ‘old hands’; they would smile and say: “We’ll hear when the time comes.”

And I realised that to enjoy the event and take full advantage of the opportunities it offers I have to relinquish some of the excess control that has become part of my life.

Now, if I had figured this out five years ago when we started paying off our debt, it would have saved me about a ton of stress and many sleepless nights.

#6: Don’t worry about life, live it

This point is related to the previous one.

I’ve got into the habit of worrying about my life even at its very basic. What shall I eat? What shall I feed my son?

Is there a shower?

I know these are very weird concerns and very ‘developed world, middle class’ ones at that.

Still, most people around me worry about this kind of stuff.

During our Korean adventure, I decided that I’m not going to worry about any of it. For two weeks, I led very ‘Forest Gump’ kind of life: I ate when I felt like it, I slept when I was tired and I showered when I had my turn.

Liberating and empowering!

#7: Frugal artists choose comfort

Confession time.

I’m about to scandalise all my frugal friends out there and fess up that my son and I travelled business both ways. We got to do this the frugal way: upgrading at the airport costs about a third of what you may pay if you book business to begin with.

Why this makes me a frugal artist?

First, travelling economy for 15 hours would have meant that we got to South Korea so tired we would have been unable to enjoy the first couple of days of the retreat.

And second, flying economy for 15 hours on the way back would have meant long recovery time. As it is my son went to school and I worked the next day.

Add to this my higher probability for deep vain thrombosis (and this is deadly, you know) and you get the picture.

This is why flying business was a luxurious frugal artistry.

#8: The way people see you is very different from how you see yourself

We all have a self image and this frames our expectations.

I, for instance, have always seen myself as a fairly boring and aloof person; I don’t expect people to like me.

Guess what?

I’ve been receiving messages from some people who were at the retreat (people who were grading and had really hard life) to thank me for being there. They say that my sense of humour and outlook on life made it a tad more bearable for them.

This was nice to hear. It still made me think what else I’m wrong about.

#9: Honesty is the key to success

‘Honesty’ is one of the core values of Soo Bahk Do. Before the retreat I didn’t really know what it means.

Honesty is not about telling the truth; it is about not lying to your-self.

I, for example, always hurry my kicks. This is dishonest – by hurrying them, I am lying to myself that they are okay.

This applies to almost everything we do.

When I told a friend of mine about the value of honesty, he said that a doze of self-deception hasn’t harmed anyone.

You know what?

It hasn’t made anyone great either. So the choice is yours: ‘satisfied self deception’ or ‘honesty and achievement’.

#10: Slow down to get there faster

Honesty demands that you slow down. Analyse your actions and be honest about your faults – this is the only way to correct them.


Our lives are naturally guided by routine, assumptions and long held beliefs. Challenging your comfort zone, as I discovered, is very good when it comes to breaking routines, re-examining beliefs and crystallising important principles of life.

In brief, challenging your comfort zone is the way to invigorating and transforming all aspects of your life; including money.

Have you challenged your comfort zone recently and how? What did you learn?