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How to Achieve It All by mastering these simple economic hacks

We’re all looking for secrets.


How do we get to the Promised Land? You know, that place where we’re productive doing what we love. Sustaining ourselves through engaging our passions.

The good news is these hacks are all around you. They are in the machinery, the nuts-and-bolts, of our economic life.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to recognize them. Simply employing basic economic principles (and sticking with them) will lead you to that personal Promised Land.

Your goals don’t care how you feel.

Everyone needs incentives.

There are tons of books, columns, workshops out there on how to become more productive.

How to write a novel in a year or less. How to start up a tech business. How to get a top score on the SAT.

It all comes down to incentives.

What is awaiting you at the end of these projects? What is the real-world outcome of altering your behavior in such a way that will produce a novel, a business, a 1600?

Why are you doing it?

Sure, you want to be rich, famous and happy. So does everybody else.

Get specific.

What is driving you to succeed.

That’s an important word — driving.

People who succeed aren’t merely dreamers. They aren’t simply educated or talented. They’re driven.

What drives them is the reward, the pay-off, the expected outcome of their labor. That specific incentive.

Wanting to be rich won’t drive you to succeed. But wanting to buy your elderly father a car might.

Or wanting to move your children into a bigger house.

Or wanting to develop new treatments for the cancer that took your best friend.

These are drivers. They are incentives.

What are yours?

Learn to accept trade-offs.

American culture insists that we can have it all.

You, too, can have a big family (and be intimately involved in every detail of your children’s lives) while reaching the pinnacle of your career and surrounding yourself with luxuries.

The truth is that all of those desires require time. Lots of time.

Dreams come at a cost. The value of your dream is what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to manifest it.

Want an enriching, successful career? Plan on investing a lot of time into it. That’s time not spent with your family, on vacation, watching Netflix, etc.

Want a full and happy family life? Plan on spending less time at the office. Less time out with friends.

These are trade-offs.

What trade-offs will you need to make in order to realize your vision for success and joy? Are you willing to make them?

If not, maybe you need to re-define what it is that will make you happy.

Constructive change happens in increments.

A few years ago, I ran a marathon. Participating in the race was . . . interesting (read: painful). Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I did it. I consider myself a member of an elite club. And my time was good (3 hours, 28 minutes).

Looking back, the race itself didn’t matter. It was ceremonial. A celebration of all that had come before it.

What mattered was the training.

It took months. And you don’t start out trying to run 26.2 miles around your neighborhood (unless you enjoy trips to the ER).

You start out modest. Maybe 20–25 miles the first week (with one long day, 8–10 miles).

You move up from there.


In increments.

A couple weeks before the race, you might peek at 60, 70, even 80 miles per week.

It takes patience and a commitment to a long game.

There are very few overnight successes and, often times, those instant successes are short-lived. And their success is a product of luck, being in the right place at the right time, rather than making some life altering change.

Everybody harbors the fantasy of flipping off the boss and walking out of a hated job. But that’s not constructive.

Rather, treat your situation as a marathon. A long game.

Change bit by bit over time. Work at new opportunities and let them flower before making that change.

If you do it right, your life, like your body, will become conditioned, and change will naturally occur over time.


Free trade gets a bad rap these days. Politicians love to score points with certain constituencies by telling them this policy cost them their jobs (more often, it’s automation and consumer demand that ended these jobs, but I digress).

The concept of free trade is to give each nation a role in the global economy; allowing each nation to play to its strength and trade freely with other nations. This way, we encourage specialization inside each nation (guaranteeing efficiency) and a free flow of cheap goods across borders.

In short, free trade gets the whole world to collaborate.

If, in pursuit of success, you agree to collaborate with others who can assist you and, thereby, reap their own success, you will arrive quickly at your Promised Land.

I’m a teacher. Working with other members in my department — sharing methods, assignments, advice — makes all of our classes more fruitful for teachers and students alike.

I’m also a stage actor. The worst actors are those who “take stage” and act as if they’re in a one-person show. The best actors work with their scene partners in a give-and-take, action/reaction dance that makes the story real for the audience member.

I’m also a writer. Think of life here on Medium. Writers post their content in hopes of reader recommendations, highlights and comments. That’s how you boost views.

And if someone does it for you, well, you should probably do it for them, too.

Collaboration (trade).

All boats rise together.

You can’t rely on the Authority to do it for you.

Most economists will tell you there is a place for government — the authority. Often times, though, the government’s presence is a negative contribution.

Those in government attempt to fix problems, fulfill needs. Unfortunately, in pursuing these noble ends, they often destroy the above principles (incentives, trade, etc.) to the detriment of everyone.

They produce unintended consequences (and waste a hell of a lot of money in the process).

Our economy is based on personal ingenuity. Innovation.

Trust yourself. Your God-given talents.

Don’t let someone in authority — bureaucrat, professor, parent — tell you how to do what you’re doing, or question why you’re doing it.

Yes, it’s good to solicit advice, especially from those who’ve traveled the road you’re currently on.

But employ a critical eye.

Understand that your experience is entirely your own. You’re the one making decisions, spending your time and resources, plotting your future.

Don’t let someone swoop in and “show you how it’s done”, usually at great cost to you.

Trust your path.

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

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