I come from a working class background. I was raised by a single mom and, at times, money was very tight. My story is not uncommon; there are millions of kids born into this situation every day. Where the stories start to diverge is when kids grow up and begin to make their own decisions.
For me, that was in high school. I was in a class that required me to get a part time job to get credit for the course. I applied at retail stores and restaurants all over the city, but no one was hiring. I had classmates with uncles or cousins who owned businesses, and they were able to find jobs through those connections. I did not have that luxury. I was discouraged, but I had a revelation that, I believe, set me down a path responsible for many of my successes in college: I had to get creative. I went to Target, walked right up to the receptionist in the break room, and told her that I had applied for a job and not heard anything back. Before she could interject, I told her that I really needed a job to pass my class, and that I would literally do anything, even push carts (a job typically filled by guys). She took down my name and number, and the next week I had a job.
This story was formative to my development because I learned a very important lesson. I learned that in interactions with most people, connections and money do not matter. Perseverance does matter. I could have chosen to spend my time sulking after hearing nothing back from job applications, but I used the time to get creative about alternate ways to get what I wanted.
I continued to use time as a competitive advantage in college. I was a student athlete involved numerous campus organizations. Despite my crazy schedule, I was still able to excel academically. People used to ask me all the time how I did it. That was always such a weird question to me, because it seemed obvious. I put in the time. When other students were scrolling through Instagram or partying, I was studying and training. I understood that you may not get to pick which family you are born into or how much money your parents have, but you do get to choose how you spend your time. I focused on what I cared about. I made my time work for me, both in getting a scholarship to go to college and in making the most of college.
The same can be said for money. I completely believe that we are born wired a certain way – some people are naturally better at math, others at writing (I know some people debate this). Taking into account those skills/interests, certain career paths will emerge, and certain people will make more money at face value. But even within seemingly better fitted career options, there are ranges of ways to earn more money. I know successful journalists who live very comfortable lives because they manage their money well and have side hustles. An investment banker who blows through his or her money on fancy cars and vacations can live paycheck to paycheck. How we spend our time and money is defined by tradeoffs, and only you can decide what is worth giving up.
I care because we have the say in how we spend our time and money. Just think about how powerful that is. Those two items alone can literally transform our lives. I am not rich, nor do I have more time in the day than anyone else, but I live a good life. I spend my time and money on things that matter to me instead of passively wasting them. My wish is that everyone can find the discipline to do the same.