The Three P’s – Patience, Persistence, Perseverance

I’m doing something very different in an otherwise ordinary world. I’m trying to become financially independent and retire early in life – before my 40th birthday, to be exact. This journey to early retirement started just before my 28th birthday, making this a road about 12 years long. Keep in mind that I started with $5,000. Oh, and I make a very middle class salary (currently in the mid-$50k range). Is it all possible?

Well, I believe that it’s not only possible but also quite easy if you focus on three innate qualities that all of us are born with. We’re all individual people. We all have unique goals, aspirations and dreams. But what allows some people to excel in life and make their wildest dreams come true, while others languish in their own misery? I think it comes down to The Three P’s:

Patience.

Definition: the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Persistence.

Definition: to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action, or the like, especially in spite of opposition, remonstrance, etc. (from persist)

Perseverance.

Definition: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties,obstacles, or discouragement.

 
I view all three as critical for anyone who wants to achieve financial success, or success of any kind in life. Critical. As in absolutely necessary.

Before I started my journey, I exhibited exactly zero amounts of the above three characteristics. I changed my major multiple times in college, unsure what exactly I wanted out of life. I couldn’t stick with a course load. Whenever I encountered difficulty back then (like learning Spanish), I viewed that resistance as something that could not be overcome and often chose to give up. 

My mother died from a drug overdose during my junior year of college and that’s when I finally threw in the towel. I moved out of state and drifted for a solid year as I’ve discussed before. That was a difficult time in my life, as I was failing in college, lost my mother and felt like I was aimlessly floating. I inherited money at that time, which just so happened to be the worst possible time in my life to stumble upon a large sum of cash. You already know how that story ended.

I certainly had no clue about money back then, and even less clue about the innate qualities that lived and breathed inside me waiting for a chance to show me how powerful they really are. You can see how I had no perseverance back then as I was ready and willing to give up at the slightest ounce of difficulty. I also had no patience. Instead of sticking to a plan and seeing it through I would bounce from idea to idea because I felt like everything was taking too long. And obviously I had zero persistence. I didn’t stay steadfast in anything but giving up. 

But, a few years ago I woke up. My 27-year nightmare was coming to an end and the light was right in front of me. I knew that the path I was on – one filled with mindless change for fear of failure at something I gave an honest try was unsustainable. If I ever wanted success of any substance in life I would have to wake up and realize what characteristics are necessary to bring my dreams into reality. 

And, so with that I’ve learned that Patience, Persistence and Perseverance are the true keys to success. 

How so?

Patience is absolutely necessary if you want to achieve anything. Almost nothing in life is instant, unless you go out and win the lottery. You have to know that the best things in life are worth working hard and waiting for. Great achievements often take years to attain. My journey to early retirement is a 12-year path. That’s a significant portion of my life. I don’t know how long I’m going to live, but at an average lifespan this journey is a good 15%+ of my entire life. This isn’t instant success, but rather the long, grueling kind that makes it so much sweeter when I actually get there. And so you also must need to have patience. Any great goal you have in life likely requires a long period of sustained effort. If you lack patience, you’ll likely burn out and give up before you reach the promised land. Don’t give up!

Persistence is also key. You need to stick to the plan! I’ve been investing fresh capital from my day job into high quality dividend growth stocks on a monthly basis since I started back in March of 2010. The market goes up? I continue to invest in attractively valued equities. The market goes down? I do the same. I persist because I know that when the dust settles I’ll be collecting enough dividend income to fund my living expenses.  Persist. Stick to your plan. Ignore the noise. Keep a spreadsheet on your computer, a picture on your wall, a scale in the bathroom, a checklist on your refrigerator. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you need to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing whatever you’re doing and keep persisting.

Perseverance is the final piece to the puzzle. You think I don’t get strange looks when I ride the bus? Or how about when a grown man (all 190 pounds of me) zips around on a 16-year old 49cc scooter? People often question why I would live in a small, modest apartment when I could easily go out and buy a decent house (in cash, mind you). But I don’t listen to the naysayers. If you want something different out of life, you need to act and be different. If you want the same, if you want the 9-5 till’ 65 then you can act the same as everyone else. Trust me, that’s much easier. It’s easy to swim with the school. It’s much more difficult to swim upstream and go against the grain. But you have to persevere and be more than the average. You need to ask yourself what you want out of life. Is it worth persevering for? Is it worth ignoring the peanut gallery and continuing forth when everyone is trying to force you to give up? I think early retirement is most certainly worth persevering for and I plan on doing so for as long as it takes. 

So, let’s continue to focus on the three P’s as we continue down our individual journeys to whatever successes we are striving for!

How about you? Do you find these characteristics keys to success? 

Thanks for reading. 

Photo Credit: satit_srihin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Comments

  1. says

    I completely agree with you about the importance of the three P’s. Sometimes I struggle with patience, but only in the sense of being eager to buy more stocks as soon as I have new capital. Persistence and perseverance are helped by having a sensible, well-defined investing strategy. Once I stumbled upon dividend growth investing and realized how well it fit my goals, risk tolerance, time horizon, etc., it was very easy to stay committed to the strategy.

    • says

      DGM,

      I hear you on the struggle to buy stocks as soon as capital is available. I always remind myself that 10 years from now $40 for Coca-Cola and $75 for JNJ will probably be looking pretty good. It’s that kind of perspective that keeps me going. Of course, the market showing little value across the board certainly makes it a bit easier to be patient. It was much more difficult to remain patient back in 2010 when everything was cheaper and I was buying as soon as I had cash.

      Best wishes!

  2. says

    Powerful DM! I admire you for sharing such deeply personal experiences in your past. If you don’t mind me prying what was your trigger for changing? What finally pushed you over the edge and say enough is enough?

    For me it was the divorce, bankruptcy, and despair that followed that made me wake up and realize I needed to change. Even then it took me a full year of being overseas and spending like I had all my life to realize I had to do something.

    Another question: Do you ever feel like something is missing in your life? Since I made the shift from consumerism there are times that I feel like the same old hardware, but with different software. Like I’ve rewritten the the script for my behavior, but that there is still some kind of void that exists. Not sure if you or your readers have ever experienced this feeling…

    • says

      I have the feeling that something is missing in my life. I can’t really explain it. I don’t know if I should be buying something different, or working at a different job, or living at a different place, or what I’m supposed to do. But yes, I get that feeling way more often than I would like to admit.

    • Anonymous says

      Do you know Christ?

      That deep longing for something more was placed there for you to find him…

      “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full…”

    • says

      Stoic,

      Thanks for stopping by. Great questions there!

      What finally pushed me over the edge? I think lack of control and a natural distaste for working so hard and having so little to show for it. I just felt I wanted more out of life than working hard and buying stuff. I knew that in order to have control I had to have money. Money is time. And so the journey to accumulate it so that I could have more time began. Life is too short to focus on the money side of the money = time equation.

      What am I missing?

      I think the only thing I would change is what I do for a living. I’m actually planning to write an article in the very near future about the trade-off of working for a decent enough living (say over $40k) which allows you early retirement but some misery in the process against working for less money (say $20k or so), which makes early retirement difficult but you’re happier at. It’s something I ponder on almost daily basis.

      I think the void is happiness on a daily basis. The journey to FI is certainly very exciting in the beginning, but then the doldrums can set in after a few years. I’m in that stage right now. It’s difficult to remain patient, but then I think about how far I’ve already come. Once I’m FI I’d like to seek out a small amount of happiness every single day through seeing family and friends more often, helping fellow man and making the world a better place.

      Best regards!

    • Steve says

      I’ve known the feeling you describe. For a lot of my life I felt like something was missing. I wanted to be happy but never seemed to find it. I avoid discussing religion on forums like these because it can be so controversial and many don’t care for it but if you don’t mind me just sharing a friendly thought. I became a Christian (Baptist) about twenty years ago and I mean it when I say that coming to God changed my life. I have never been happier or more fulfilled. My life has real meaning and knowing God in a personal way is not just a bunch of nonsense (as some people think) it is real. I’m not a “Bible Beater.” I’m just a regular guy like you trying to figure life out. Before becoming a Christian I looked everywhere to find meaning and happiness in life and never found it. I have finally found it in a relationship with God. I encourage you to at least consider it. Please understand that I don’t wish to offend. I know everyone has to make their own choices as to what they are going to believe. I just wanted to respond to your question based on my own experience.

      Steve

  3. says

    That was a really moving post.

    My wakeup call was sitting around as a post-doc post Lehman crash never knowing whether I would still have my current position and getting rejection after rejection for every real job that I applied for. Then I would read the news and people in my industry were getting laid off by the tens of thousands.

    You could call it career despair. Then I decided to build my own insurance policy of financial independence so that I could shield myself from all of this.

    • says

      Journey,

      Thanks for the comment! Much appreciated.

      I like how you call it an insurance policy. That’s certainly what it is. Many people think anyone seeking FI automatically hates their job and plans to sit around all day doing nothing. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about insurance against uncertainty or against employment you no longer choose to engage in. It’s all about flexibility. That insurance allows for flexibility.

      I’m glad to see you also woke up and you’re actively seeking your own insurance policy against whatever may come to pass.

      Take care!

  4. says

    Wow, what a great story of where you have been and what it takes to get to where you are now. Like you I have struggled with direction, focus, and life changing events. But given all of that, I now fight on with a renewed focus on my goals, and long-term priorities. Living the three P’s will absolutely help me get to where I want to go.

    Best wishes in your continued path towards financial independence!

    • says

      writing2reality,

      Thanks so much!

      I hear you on the struggles. It’s hard to figure out where you’re going if you don’t know exactly where you want to go. Once I found the idea of early retirement/financial independence I knew I found the destination I was always looking for. My map is no longer fuzzy.

      Best wishes to you as well on your continued path towards financial independence!

      Best regards.

    • says

      RO,

      Thanks for continuing to follow along! There would be no need to be vulnerable and continue to mutually inspire if there was no readership…especially a loyal one like yours.

      I hope all is well with your own journey. Maybe you’ll even start a ERE/FI blog one day? Hint, hint. ;)

      Best wishes!

  5. says

    DM,

    Those are all required if you want to make any change for the better. It’s a great story and sorry to hear about your mom. I’m sure that made college and everything else seem even less important at the time. I also struggled in college due to feeling lost, but finally got on the right path and finished up strong. Keep up the good work and sticking with the P’s.

    • says

      Pursuit,

      I’m glad to hear you finished up strong! You’re clearly reaping those rewards now as you’re killing it in terms of income, savings rate and progress.

      I couldn’t figure out what I wanted out of life back then. It wasn’t until I started studying accounting right at the end that I found something I enjoyed. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.

      Keep up the great work on your end as well!

      Best wishes.

  6. says

    Hi DM,
    I regularly read your blog and follow your journey to reaching financial independence. Your posts are always helpful and sometimes even inspiring. The philosophical thoughts you share in this entry is great and makes me identify even more as a loyal reader.
    I wish you all the best, both for your financial and personal goals in life.

    Andreas

    • says

      wdthe,

      Thanks for following the blog and the journey. It’s very much appreciated, I assure you.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the thoughts behind this post. I try to always remind everyone here that I’m a regular Joe at a regular job. If I can do it, anyone can. I struggled for many years in life, yet I’m actually on pace to become financially independent before 40 years old on a very middle class salary. I just hope to continue to inspire others to do the same.

      I wish you the best with your goals as well. Please stay in touch!

      Take care!

  7. says

    DM,

    Incredible story. I too have learned the lessons that my failures had to teach me. I’ve been through long periods where I thought I was a failure as well. I had a C minus GPA in high school. My dad questioned how I would get into college. I was to the point where I felt like I wasn’t the college type.

    But then I turned it around, made up all my learning during college and became quite smart.

    But now after 6 years of my career, I too am saving all I can to get out of this trap. I know that I can accomplish big things when I put my mind to it, because I have. I know that those 3 qualities live within me because I’ve seen them in action.

    I’m running this marathon with you my friend.

    Kraig

    • says

      Kraig,

      It feels good to have a friend like you running beside me! I hope this marathon is shorter than we signed up for. :)

      Great job turning things around. You’ve done well, and your blog and financial success is a testament to that. Keep it up!

      I hear you on getting out of the trap. I’m running the hamster wheel for now, but only because I know that I’ll actually get some cheese at the end.

      Great job putting these three qualities to work for you. You’ll never know how powerful they are unless you see them in action.

      Best regards!

  8. Steve says

    DM,

    Great thoughts! Just wanted to say that I think you’ll hit FI long before 40 years old. Seeing you hit $100,000 in three years is just amazing. When you run the compounding numbers you should be approaching $1 million plus by 40.

    Thanks for keeping the blog going. You help me stay focused in my own pursuit of FI.

    Steve

    • says

      Steve,

      Man, I hope you’re right about those numbers! That would be truly amazing. I’d be throwing off about $35,000/yr in passive income or so at those levels. I guess we’ll see. :)

      Thanks for stopping by. The blog means nothing without readers. I’m glad you are inspired here, and remain focused on all of your aspirations. I equally draw inspiration and focus from this blog and you readers.

      Keep it up!

      Best wishes.

    • Steve says

      DM

      Just for fun I ran the numbers through a compounding calculator. Starting with $100,000 and assuming your average $30,000 per year contributions (which would not remain constant because of increasing dividend income but for this I assume that it does) and assuming an average 20% return per year (the average 10% stock market gain + 5% average dividend yield + 5% average dividend growth) in 8 years ( I think you said you’re 32) you will have $1,023,948 by age 40.

      Considering your frugal lifestyle, I recalculated for 5 years and got $516,729. So I think it’s realistic to say that you could retire in five years at age 37. Personally, I like to have a margin of safety so my goal is $1 mil before retirement. However, considering your situation, it’s very realistic to anticipate that in five years you could quit your job and look for something you enjoy to supplement your income and eventually reach the $1 mil mark, say by the time you’re 50.

      The possibilities are exciting. I’m 43 and have only just begun aggressively investing in dividend stocks. With my other assets, my net worth is currently at $300,000. I hope to be at $500K by age 50 and $1 mil by age 60. We’ll see. A lot depends on the ability to make a decent income at a stable job. In this economy, one never knows.

      Take care.

      Steve

    • says

      Steve,

      Thanks so much for putting those calculations together. I’m 30 currently, so I have a couple extra years to allow the power of compounding to work for me.

      However, I would caution you a bit on those return numbers, not only for the illustration used here but also for any future forecasts you use for yourself. I tend to be conservative and use 7% returns for most of my projections, which is a little under the long-term historical stock market average return rate. Trying to achieve a 20% rate of return for a decade would put you in leagues with Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett.

      Typically, using a dividend yield combined with the EPS growth rate will give you an idea of what kind of returns you’ll be seeing, assuming the valuation of your holding stays relatively static. So, if you’re invested in a company whose common stock yields 3% and the growth is at 7%, you’ll likely be looking at 10% returns, or somewhere around there. To get to 20% returns you’d have to have a stock yielding 10% and growing at 10%…which is obviously not possible, but would rather more likely and realistically require a vastly undervalued security with very high growth prospects as well as P/E expansion.

      I do hope to hit somewhere around $500k before I hit 40, which would likely be throwing off about $17,500 in dividend income assuming a 3.5% portfolio yield. That would be more than enough to pay my expenses now, especially assuming I’ll have my student loans paid off by then and I’ll no longer be commuting to work.

      Congratulations on having such a great net worth at 43. Having a $300k net worth at 43 is most certainly well above average. Keep up the great work there. I certainly hope you hit $1 million by age 60. That would be phenomenal. To start saving/investing relatively late in life and become a millionaire would be a true testament to living below one’s means and dividend growth investing. Good luck! :)

      Keep in touch.

      Best wishes!

  9. says

    Great post, great lesson, DM. I admire your way of facing realities of life. You give us all courage to stick to a plan, facing adversity. Your are not the only one that people look at in a strange way when you ride the bus. Many look at me strangely too when they see my old car, but I have no debts, while most of these well-to-do people are showing off. It is typical for broken Spaniards to depreciate people that look poor. They are under a big debt-load just to ride a better car than yours. You are also a fine psychologue. Keep on this nice blog. thanks again

    • says

      Aspenhawk,

      Thanks for the kind words there.

      You and I are cut from the same cloth. It’s funny how people who show off wealth are truly poor, while us outwardly poor are truly wealthy. A funny world we live in. Fueling social status by way of debt is a truly poor way to live.

      Keep on driving that old car and living debt free, while enriching your life in all possible facets.

      Best regards!

    • Anonymous says

      I personally live below my means and been increasing my money in DIVIDEND (and increasing) stocks. DM I admire your lifestyle and investing.

      GOOD LUCK!

    • says

      Anonymous,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I admire what you’re doing as well. Living below your means and investing those savings in appreciating assets that produce income is most certainly a wonderful path to build your long-term wealth. Keep up the great work and your future self will thank you!

      Take care.

  10. says

    Good post,

    I don’t know if you recognize this, I myself have a problem with the patience thing. Whenever I have cash sitting in my account, I immediately feel a “pressure” to buy stocks with it.

    For example, I had around $7,000 in cash beginning in January to allocate in stocks, I blew through it all mid February. ( In chronically order, I bought MA, AFL (and here is were I started my blog: ) WFC, WMT and again WFC since mid january)

    Within a week, I’ll have a nice amount of cash to buy stocks with, I already know now, that all of it will be gone before the end of April, probably buying MSFT, LMT and some Canadian banks with it.

    I guess it’s a first world problem, so too much cash on hands to invest, buying stocks at an insane clip, while other people are struggling to pay rent.

    I just wish I would not pull the trigger super fast whenever I have cash on hand, to wait for REAL opportunities. I just wanna push that dividend income number up UP UPPP as fast as I can!! =)

    I applaud your writing skills, take care, you are an inspiration.

    • says

      Exponential Dividends,

      Well, I think you can look at patience in a number of different ways. The way I was looking at patience in regards to the article was the long period of time that using a dividend growth investment strategy takes to really build your wealth/passive income to the point where you can choose whether or not to work (become financially independent).

      As far as patience in regards to investing fresh capital, I don’t necessarily think investing cash as soon as you have it is a bad idea. Rather, it all depends on the opportunities at hand. If my available cash at hand just so happens to coincide with some fantastic opportunities, then so be it and I’ll immediately part ways with my capital. On the other hand, if I receive my big commission check from work and I don’t see anything that appears like a great long-term opportunity, then I’ll hold.

      So, I don’t think you should look at as whether or not you’re letting your cash go too quickly, but rather or not there are attractive opportunities (based on your due diligence) and whether or not you have the capital for said opportunities. I hope that made sense?

      Let’s say you got a $50,000 inheritance back in 2009, just as the stock market was hitting all-time lows. Would it have been stupid to immediately spend all $50k on great opportunities? Obviously not.

      Besides, I think cash should be invested at a rather rapid pace when one is in the early stages of building their portfolio. The more passive income/dividend income you can build early on, the more capital you’ll have later on to maneuver with.

      Best wishes!

  11. says

    I enjoyed reading this post DM, about how you have gotten to where you are today. I think one of the things thats been most enjoyable to me about blogging is to come across a lot of different stories and read about how folks are achieving their goals and have a focus on getting out of the rat race, and your story is definitely one of the most inspiring.

    The thing I realized sometime back is that each year that passes i’m able to see the fruits of my work in the early days more and more on my dividend income That keeps me motivated to keep going.

    Keep pushing yourself and keep the focus. With your determination, I’m pretty sure you’ll hit your goal.

    • says

      Integrator,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I agree with you about blogging and getting to know other bloggers. It’s really interesting to see where other people are coming from, and their unique life experiences impacting their perspectives and where they want to go.

      I grew up in an impoverished home where my father left my three sisters and I at a young age and my mother was not capable of raising us. If not for my aunt and uncle adopting us and getting us out of there I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. I hope to one day be in the position where I can help others in a similar way.

      Keep pushing yourself as well. You’ve done amazing so far, as receiving $25k in dividend income is pretty rare…even for people who professionally blog about investing. That’s pretty amazing stuff!

      Best regards!

  12. says

    Hey kind of off topic but wondering if you’ve looked at cat or oxy at all recently, they have both had very healthy corrections in the last couple of weeks. I know I’ve mentioned them both to you before but in my opinion they both look very good in current market conditions. I’ll be buying some of both today

    • says

      Took2Summit,

      I’m actually looking at OXY right now. There’s a lot I like there. The dividend growth has been impressive, and I like oil/energy stocks in general. The only thing that I’m wondering is why I wouldn’t just buy more COP? I’m correct in that OXY has no downstream operations, right? So, they have a higher price and lower yield than COP and neither is fully integrated. That’s the thing I’m hung up on.

      If CAT were to fall further to that $80 level I’d probably buy.

      Interested in your thoughts on OXY vs. COP.

      Best wishes!

  13. says

    Great story Dividend Mantra. I think you are an inspiration to all of us who want to succeed through investing. Patience is a big one for me especially when starting out with dividend growth investing. I know it’s a good plan and will pay off down the road but it takes a lot of patience before those tiny dividend checks become large enough to reach financial independence.

    • says

      Dan Mac,

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

      I hear you on the patience thing. It takes a little while to get the dividend growth investing machine up and running. But, I view anything that promises instantaneous wealth as bogus. Through all the research I did before engaging in this strategy, I realized that it would take time and I had to ask myself if I was going to give it the proper amount of time. I knew it would take a decade or more, and I was truly okay with that. It’s the progress I’ve made so far that should show anyone else out there that it may take a few years, but the success does come.

      Keep up the great work on your end and stay on the good journey to FI!

      Best wishes.

  14. Anonymous says

    Work is a primary driver to our existence, no matter if your superiors are unpleasant or you don’t “like” your job. Your thinking will change as you get older . Hang onto your “job” when this retirement “target” gets hit. The discipline and resolve that you put into this program and “security” of the dividend cushion ( and middle age) will probably “soften you up” and you will enjoy working more …. I made the “mistake” of retiring early … to each his own ?

    • says

      Anonymous,

      I certainly have nothing against people who decide to keep working after financial independence is attained. For some, they love their job. For others, it’s a calling or something that they would do even if they weren’t paid.

      But, I still think FI has many merits. The flexibility is huge. Even if you love your job today, that could change tomorrow. Or, something could change in your life. FI allows you flexibility to change as your life requires.

      I don’t plan on sitting around all day and watching television once I’m financially independent. However, all the same I also do not plan on working 55 hours per week for the rest of my life either. I think there is definitely a happy medium to that, as anything else in life. Moderation with anything is key. Some type of philanthropy by way of giving away my time is probably in my cards once I’m actually able to spend my time as I please.

      Best wishes!

  15. says

    Right on the money with these characteristics. Now, I do not know if you will retire at 40 but if that is your goal the process itself will get you in a good spot financially regardless. I am 62 and have always valued and followed the 3 Ps but I love my work as a tax and estates attorney so I have no reason to retire. In any event, clearly you are on the right path and you have found the secrets for financial success. Best to you!

    • says

      Steven J Fromm,

      I agree with you. Whether or not I actually retire at 40, or whether or not I’m financially able to or not, I’ll still be much better off financially than I am today. And the process of it all – learning how to be patient, becoming happier with less, growing as an investor – will make me a better person for the rest of my life.

      I’m glad to hear you do something that you love. You know, I’ve said many times on this blog before that reaching FI or retiring early is not necessarily for everyone, and neither should it be. I still think that being flexible and able to break free at any time is important, but some people find incredible value in what they do. That’s fantastic that you’re clearly in that category. I don’t know where the future will take me, but I’d really like to find personal value and growth in whatever endeavors I decide to take on throughout my life.

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Best wishes.

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