One of the biggest things that keep young people from getting out of debt and reaching financial freedom is the inability to learn from the generation before them.
And don’t think I’m picking on millennials here.
This isn’t just my generation’s problem. This is a human problem.
It’s why almost all teenagers, from every generation, think their parents are complete idiots, only to realize how smart they actually are by their late twenties.
It’s the way my grandparents thought, my parents thought, and how I think.
We all naturally criticize the previous generation and don’t want to learn from them. We want to find our own way, a new way, a better way.
But that type of thinking causes us to fumble around far too long. We end up spending years trying to find the answers when they were right in front of our eyes the whole time.
So how do we change this?
Strap On Your Night Vision Binoculars
Ever heard the song Night Vision Binoculars by Passenger?
It’s pretty standard stalker-esque type stuff.
It starts off with a dude crushing on a girl, following her around, brushing her hand at the coffee machine, wishing he could be with her, but she doesn’t even notice him.
But the second verse quickly escalates:
I see you nearly every night.
I see you when you’re down in your house.
With my night vision binoculars
I creep quiet as a mouse.
A little weird… I know.
But here’s the thing. That guy knows her. He knows who she is, what she likes, where she’ll be, what she does, how she does it, what makes her unique etc…
Forget about his reasoning, just focus on what he’s doing.
He’s observing and learning.
And that’s what I want you to do. That’s what the night vision binoculars technique teaches you to do.
Observe and learn.
Let’s dive in.
The Night Vision Binoculars Technique (A systematic approach on how to learn from others)
Now when I tell you to learn from others, I’m not saying that you should listen to their advice.
Definitely, don’t do that unless you really trust them.
People are always going to give you their opinion and sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong. This technique isn’t focused on what people tell you. Instead, it focuses on what you observe.
Remember, Passenger uses binoculars to observe the girl. He doesn’t use a cellphone to call her up in the middle of the night.
Same thing here.
This technique focuses on observation and learning from what people do rather than what people say.
Here are the five steps:
Step 1: Find 3 People That You Want To Be Like
The quickest path to wealth is to learn from the people ahead of you. Use their mistakes and successes to short cut your own path.
I want you to think of three people who you want to be like.
Specifically, I want you to relate this to money (this technique can be used for other areas too, but we’ll focus on finances for now).
These people could be your family members, such as parents and grandparents. They could be friends, co-workers, or parents of friends. Or they could be famous people who you admire and want to be like.
It doesn’t matter who they are, as long as you want to be like them and can reasonably observe them.
To help you with this, I’ll go through this exercise as an example.
Here are three people that I want to be like (as it relates to finance):
So that’s the first step: name three people you want to be like and why you want to be like them.
You don’t have to be like them in every single way possible, just find one way you want to be like them and go with that.
Step 2: Find 3 People That You Don’t Want To Be Like
Now I want you to think about where you don’t want to be 30 years from now. Do you have family members who live in ways that make you cringe? Do you have co-workers who are forced to do things that you would die before doing?
Think about the people that you don’t want to be like and why.
Obviously, I’m not going to name names because it’s a terrible thing to call someone out as an example of who you don’t want to be.
But this is exactly what you need to do if you want to avoid their mistakes. We all know these people. We all have people in our lives who we don’t want to end up like and it’s okay to admit that.
They exist and we need to pay attention to them. There’s no reason to waste a ton of time making the same exact mistakes they did.
So write down your three people, the reasons you don’t want to be like them, and then let’s move one.
Step 3: Identify One Method or Action From Each Person
Here’s where the binoculars come in.
I want you to think about your 6 people and identify one thing that got them where they are today. What’s something that they did that either made them successful with money or a failure with money? What did they do (or not do) that you can emulate?
In order to do this, you’ve got to be a little stalker-esque.
Get out your binoculars and start paying attention.
What do they do on a daily basis? What habits do they have? What did they do when they were your age? How do they think about money? Where do they go? What do they buy?
These are the questions you’ve got to ask if you want to end up like them.
Here’s the thing, people didn’t get to where they are overnight.
You don’t wake up one day and automatically become 60 lbs overweight. And you don’t wake up and miraculous have 6-pack abs either.
It’s the same way with your money.
You won’t wake up one day and be wealthy all of a sudden. And these 6 people didn’t either.
So take a good hard look at their life and figure out what one thing they did that got them to where they are now.
(If you’d like to see where I observed Jay Leno, check out this article here)
Step 4: Write Down the Lessons and Identify the Overlap
Here’s what we’ve identified so far:
- The people you want to be like or don’t want to be like
- The reason you do or don’t want to be like them
- The actions they took that got them there
Now it’s time to boil these actions down into bite sized chunks and identify the parts that overlap.
For instance, my grandfather has been able to live comfortably in retirement because he saved a lot of money. On the other hand, my coworkers aren’t able to retire because they didn’t save a lot of money.
So that’s the overlap.
Ultimately the action I have learned is that I need to save a lot of money. I learned it from observing both success and failure.
The overlap is important because it shows you the things that have made the most impact. If the same lesson can be learned from observing failure and success, you know it’s extremely important.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned:
You can see that numbers 1, 4, and 6 all overlap. The funny thing is that my grandfather actually made less money throughout a lot of his life than my coworkers do now. Yet he has been able to retire and they haven’t.
The big takeaway for me is that the amount I save is much more important than how much income I have.
Step 5: Choose 1 to 3 Things You Can Learn and Take Action On
Now that you’ve identified the actions that people took to get where they are now, it’s time to decide what you will actually take away.
Using your night vision binoculars is completely pointless if you don’t actually do anything with what you’ve learned. You can stand there all day long, looking and observing, but if you don’t take action you’ll never get where you want to be.
Just like the guy in the song who never actually does anything. He just sits around wishing and hoping.
Don’t be that guy.
Choose 1 to 3 things that you’ve learned and then actually take action. If you know that you won’t do three, then just choose one.
Actually doing one is better than trying three and failing at all of them.
For me, I’m choosing:
- To live below my means and save a large percentage of my income
- Start learning how to work with my hands so that I can do things for myself
- Find multiple streams of income so that I can live off of one and save the others
What about you? What will you choose?