Facing Criticism? You’re Likely On The Right Track!

It happened again. Someone did something very cool (two someones, actually), and the news started to spread online. As it did, the judgments started to fly.

When 20-somethings Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung realized what little their carefully saved half-million dollars would buy in the heated Toronto housing market, they stepped back and re-evaluated their plan. “What do we really want?” they asked themselves.

One thing they knew for certain was that they were not interested in having a big, burdensome mortgage. Their solution? Nix the home ownership idea (at least for now), live modestly, and invest every spare penny.

Now in their 30’s, Kristy and Bryce have quit their jobs and spend most of their time travelling and living on the $30,000 to $40,000 a year that their investment portfolio generates.

While I’ve always been a fan of real estate and it’s served me well over the years, I applaud their introspection and thoughtful approach. Rather than give in to social and family pressure they questioned their paradigms and carved out their own track. (“If you’re a renter,” Kristy’s parents insisted, “you’re a loser.”)

Is this scenario for everyone? Not at all. But it does demonstrate one lifestyle and a way to get there that would appeal to some.

Sean Cooper, on the other hand, had something quite different in mind. For him, home ownership was at the very top of his goal list, but with a twist – as soon as possible, he wanted to be mortgage-free. As soon as possible.

After scrimping and saving his down payment, Sean bought a house in 2012 for $425,000 with a $225,000 mortgage. Then, for just over 3 years, he lived in the basement of his new home while renting the upstairs, he worked full-time as a pension analyst as well as part-time as a freelance writer and as a supermarket clerk, rode his bike everywhere, brown-bagged his lunch, ate dinner at home… you get the picture.

Last November, at the age of 30 and after three years and two months of living frugally while laser focused on his goal, he celebrated having paid off his home debt by burning his mortgage in front of cheering friends.

Not everyone who heard the news was cheering. I read a lot of negative comments after his story was featured that likely arose from jealously and resentment. This one comment I found particularly sad:

“People who achieve extreme do it to bring people down. Why is this even a news story? To make people feel bad. You do this to elevate yourself to make yourself feel better by demeaning others… Telling people about this does not help anyone, because it is done to hurt people.”

Seriously? Sean Cooper made huge sacrifices for more than three years and then shared his story to “make people feel bad”? That sounds flat out ridiculous. Maybe, just maybe, his story instead serves as an example of one path to debt-free home ownership.

Here’s the thing. When it comes to living an incredibly fulfilling life, thankfully, one size does not fit all. What worked for Sean was not the answer for Kristy and Bryce.

Some people aspire to head to post-secondary education and they thrive in that environment. In The Way Success Works: How to Decide, Believe, and Begin to Live Your Best Life, I write about a group of students from the University of Waterloo who dreamed up an innovative product and launched their company, Suncayr, with great success. For them, pursuing a degree provided a inspiring environment and an exciting future.

For others, it’s simply not their calling.

Take for example, 20-year-old Jake Heilbrunn. After an unfulfilling first semester of college that left him feeling stressed, anxious, and unhappy, he knew he had to make a change. Pushing his fears aside and diving into the unknown, he left school for a four month backpacking adventure through Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. His soon to be released book, Off the Beaten Trail, chronicles his adventures and is destined to be a bestseller. His life has completely changed since he made the decision to follow an unconventional path.

Has he faced criticism? Sure. Just like Kristy, Bryce, Sean, the Suncayr team, and anyone else who has followed their heart as opposed to the crowd, Jake met with plenty of resistance. But deep down, they all knew they were on the right track, and you will too. Ultimately… that’s what really matters.

Often it’s the most important people in your life — think good friends and family — who are the sharpest critics. They love you and don’t want to see you fail! But remember… you have a unique combination of talents, abilities, interests, and passion that no one else possesses. You’re set up for success! Dream big, dream outside-the-box, and let the stories you hear of others’ unique accomplishments inspire you to live your best life!

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