3 Tips for a Better Life from 2 Presidents

I don’t know how I pulled it off, but I got two of the greatest, most important people in American history to guest blog on JMC.

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Since it’s Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, I invited them to share some of their wisdom with us.

A Conversation:

JMC:  George, since you were the first President, I’ll give you the honor of sharing your first nugget of wisdom.  George, what’s the first thing you want JMC readers to know?

George:  Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.

JMC:  George, you weren’t much of a talker, so who knew you were so witty?  You were also quite the businessman after your Presidency, so you understood how finance can teach us about life.  

Trouble has consequences, and worry is one of them.  In turn, worry takes away life happiness points.  You’ve heard the saying, “don’t worry, be happy.”  That’s reactive and has a place, since worry can’t be eliminated completely.  George’s advice is proactive.  Don’t invite trouble, debt or otherwise, and you minimize worry.  

But what if you’ve borrowed trouble?  Abe, I’ll turn it to you since you’ve overcome a lot of challenges in your life.

Abe:  My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.

JMC:  Abe, thanks for this. We need to hear this, and your life exemplifies what can happen when you’re not content with failure or circumstances.  You grew up poor and mother died when you were 9, so you worked and gave all your working money to help your family.  With only about a year aggregate of formal education you educated yourself through books and became a lawyer before eventually becoming President.    

You not only show us the power of persistence, but the possibilities of searching for, and applying, knowledge.  Knowledge isn’t limited to elite universities or even formal education.

Abe, since JMC is a financial site, what’s one important thing you’ve learned about money from your reading and life experience?

Abe:  Gold is good in its place; but loving, brave, patriotic men are better than gold.

JMC:  So true, Abe.  Many of us sacrifice relationships with people in the pursuit of money.  Then they realize after they’ve accumulated this money that there’s few friends, no spouse, no children left to enjoy this money.  Almost all jobs that pay a high six figure salary require your full attention and time.  

Put it this way, if you’re paying $250,000 to someone, would you be ok with this employee not responding to your 11pm email, refusing to work weekends, and being unavailable to dial into meetings during their vacations?

If you’re honest with yourself, don’t you think that if your employee wants a normal life, they should only get a “normal” salary?  So you understand that, for the most part, more salary is just a reflection of how much sacrifice and hard work you’re willing to put in.

But all this time and effort you give to work comes with a relationship cost.  It’s no wonder that well more than half of the people I’ve met in finance are divorced in their 40s.

Money will help you sustain your life, but relationships give life.  

(Thankfully, there IS an alternative.  Basically, you work hard for a few years to create a passive income stream, then minimize your work on the back end.  For more information, go here.)

George, what do you have to say about relationships?

George:  Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.

JMC:  I can’t disagree with that, George.  

If you want to understand who you are, take a look at the people with whom you choose to spend the most time.  It takes willpower stronger than George’s own legendary might to counteract the forces of relationships.

Want to change your life?  Surround yourself with people who have overcome challenges to achieve their success.

3 Tips for a Better Life:

  1. Understand that decisions, both good and bad, have long tails.  If you want to maximize your chance of benefitting from good consequences, invest your time in learning and applying productive things and hanging out with fellow strivers.  (Want to make better decisions in general?  Go here.)
  2. Expect to fail.  The difference between being a failure and someone who failed is whether or not you’re content in your failure.  If you’re pushing your current abilities, you should expect to fail.  It will sting.  But failure is feedback. If you’re content in your failure, yesterday’s failure is today’s limit. If you see it as feedback, today’s failure is a stepping stone to a successful tomorrow.
  3. Hang out with George, Abe and other greats by reading their biographies.  Before they got together to guest post today, Abe actually hung out with George when he read Weems’s The Life of Washington.  I love these biographies because, you get to know them in full.  I read one a year.  It’s like taking a week-long, intensive life class with the greatest people in history.  You will learn more from them than just their story.  You’ll learn their habits, challenges, and secrets to success.  It’s remarkable to imagine a young, poor Lincoln studying Washington’s leadership before one day continuing his legacy.  Here are 4 that have changed my life.  In fact, they (with the exception of Hamilton, which I started a couple of months ago) gave me the push to start JMC:

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (I learned the power of curiosity and industriousness)

Alexander Hamilton (I learned how hard work and determination can pull you out of poverty and difficult circumstances)

Elon Musk:  Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (I learned the power of a big vision and how the things we do today have a direct correlation on our tomorrow)

The Billionaire Who Wasn’t:  How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune (I learned how Chuck spotted opportunities and used what he learned from a young age to change the world)

Thank you George and Abe, for sharing valuable insight.  We’re all thankful for wise and thoughtful precedent from good Presidents.


  • Tfell February 20, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Where is Hamilton? Was he booked already?

    • JT February 20, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Sadly, he never made it to the highest office in the land, which was my criteria. He was disappointed when I told him that he didn’t make the cut. He then proceeded to give a 6 hour speech on the merits of his inclusion.


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