Cracking the Financial Freedom Code: Lessons We Can Learn from Tiger Woods, @iamdiddy and Lebron James


Note: This was written before Tiger plowed into a tree on his way to hit a bucket….

When I opened my first paycheck as a summer intern for a now extinct electronics company, I will never forget saying that if they are paying me this now without a degree, once I receive my degree, I will be living LARGE.  That thought would get me through Calculus II – not once, but twice and many other difficult courses along the way to an Engineering degree.

Five years later, my dream came to fruition as I received a job offer as a design engineer.  Since I had sucked it up and stayed in school for my Master’s degree, a few additional dollars accompanied offer.  Life was good.

About three months into my “dream” gig, I began to learn about the mutual exclusivity of time and money.  My last year in college was great.  I didn’t have much money, but I had free-time galore.  My first class wasn’t until noon.  Every day I was in the gym by 8:00 a.m.  Afterwards, I would have a nice leisurely breakfast then off to class.  By 4:00 p.m., I was shooting hoops or whatever.

Now as a highly paid worker bee I found that I had money, but no time.  The work day started at 8:30 a.m.  If I wanted to go to the gym beforehand – I would have to be there at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m.; that’s wasn’t happening.  I had to cram all of the fun stuff into the weekend and two measly weeks of vacation time.  I guess my dream left out a few details.

Years later, I would learn of this concept called financial freedom – the ability to do what you want when you want without worrying about money.  That’s what my dreams were really about.  I am not sure how I got confused with this job thing.

Not pleased with many of the commonly accepted definitions of Financial Freedom, I redefined it in my own terms: Financial Freedom is freedom to focus on what is truly important to you and your family without having to trade time for a wage. It is enabled by a portfolio of income producing assets, managed by you, which generates sufficient income to cover your yearly expenses on an ongoing basis. It provides both time and money.

In my research, I learned that the pathway to Financial Freedom starts with a dream. Interestingly, most people who venture down this path are simply devoured during this stage. They quickly realize that the chasm between reality and their goal is so large that it is senseless to pursue.  Many then channel their energy into something more socially acceptable like climbing the corporate ladder.  The few who crack the code and make it from Stage I to Stage II – all have one thing in common: they think differently than the most people.

I was recently watching an episode of The Haney Project on the golf channel.  The show is about Tiger Wood’s golf coach, Hank Haney, attempting the near impossible – to fix Charles Barkley’s golf swing.  Words can’t describe Barkley’s swing.  Train wreck comes to mind, but that’s an understatement.

As I often do, I take ordinary situations and think of how it applies to attaining financial freedom.  As Haney was explaining a typically Tiger day, I was floored with its parallels to someone moving out of the dream stage.

Here is a typical Tiger day:

  • 6 a.m. – lift weights for 90 minutes
  • 7:30 a.m. – breakfast
  • 9-11 a.m. – hit balls on practice range
  • 11-11:30 a.m. – putting
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. – play 9 holes
  • 12:30 -1 p.m. – lunch
  • 1-3 p.m. – hit balls on practice range
  • 3-4 p.m. – work on short game
  • 4-5 p.m. – play 9 holes
  • 5-5:30 p.m. – hit balls on practice range
  • 5:30-6 p.m. – putting

Before Tiger, how many golfers considered golf a sport?  Tiger has taken it to another level by thinking differently than the rest and the rewards have followed.

Many celebrities and athletes have cracked the code.  I recently got sucked into Twitter around the time of the Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) / CNN battle for a million followers.  I was intrigued that one person could have a voice as large as a media giant.  I immediately signed up to be an Ashton follower – to do my little part in seeing “the man” go down in defeat.

shaq2Like many people new to Twitter, not knowing what to do with it, I decided to follow a few celebrities.  Shaq (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) is always good for a few laughs.  I bet if anyone has a golf swing uglier than Barkley’s – Shaq’s the owner.  I have sent a few barbs his way; seeing if it would invoke a response – no luck.

One of my favorite celebrity Twitters is Diddy (@iamdiddy).   That’s a little strange because I am not into hip-hop and can’t tell you what on his latest album.  However, Diddy, a member of the Forbes Celebrity 100, knows what it takes to get past the dreaming to the making stuff happen stage.  He uses Twitter primarily as a motivation tool and is constantly encouraging people to get locked-in a sort of the modern day version of Napoleon Hill’s burning desire concept ( Forest Whitaker Reminded Me of A Key to Success: A Burning Desire).

Here is what getting locked-in is all about:

Head down, eyes trained on his Nikes, Lebron James stormed off the court in Boston last year. No congratulatory handshakes or good-luck hugs. No words.

“We need to get continue to get better, James said. “If that means some personnel changes that need to happen, then so be it.”

James then set out to change himself.  He took two days off and then was right back at it.  If a championship wasn’t in his cards, he was getting a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.

Chris Jent, Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach, remembers a more determined look in James eyes during those workouts.  “He was so locked in.  His concentration was different than anything I had ever seen before.  He was, I don’t know different.”

Tiger, Diddy and Lebron are all in the upper echelon of the upper echelon – top 1%ers in their fields.  Fortunately for us, we only need to get to the upper echelon, top 5%ers, to achieve Financial Freedom.  I often equate achieving financial freedom to getting a sports scholarship to a Division I college.  It is not impossible, but it is not easy either.  In reality, it is probably a little more difficult than attaining the scholarship – because it is not nearly as much fun as dribbling a basketball.

Here are my “5 Not So Easy Steps to Financial Freedom:”

  1. Dream – Why do we spend so much time preparing for when we can do what we want (retirement) instead of doing it now?
  2. Shift – Main Stream Thinking leads to a gold watch for 40 years of service.  Making a mind shift enables you to buy your own watch while fulfilling your dreams.
  3. Learn – Unfortunately there are no short cuts.  Certain knowledge must be acquired.
  4. Act – The fastest way to accomplish a goal is to find someone who has achieved it and do what they do.
  5. Learn Some More – The learning never stops.  Specific knowledge makes freedom possible.

I believe that if you can make the transition to thinking against the grain you are very close to cracking the code and well on your way to achieving financial freedom.

Check me out on the twitter.  I use it mostly to talk about stocks.  You can find me at

Note:  This article was written before Lebron pulled a nutty and walked off the court without shaking any hands after being spanked in the Eastern Conference Finals.  It will be interesting to see how the story plays out.  Maybe there will be another lesson to learn.  The primary objective of this article is to simply highlight the drive of the athletes mentioned.

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