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What do you get when you combine a FIREd up ultra-frugal millennial with a 30-40% savings rate and a master martial artist who got his black belt when he was just 18?
The answer is Millionaire Dojo.
Nathan Clarke is the owner and founder of this aptly named site which chronicles his plan to reach FIRE and become a millionaire. How does he plan on making this happen? A deadly combination of the discipline of Mr. Miyagi and the frugality and creativity of Mr. Money Moustache.
And this isn’t just some pie in the sky dream. He and his wife are putting their money where their mouths are. Not only has he worked his butt off to go from pumping gas and mopping floors to being a computer systems analyst (admittedly, I don’t know what a systems analyst does, but it sounds far more impressive than gas jockey), but he’s grown his net worth to close to $100,000 already at the age of 25.
One of the things I love about Nathan’s story is that it is chock FULL of grit. If you’ve read Band of Bloggers for any length of time, you know how I love featuring bloggers who have faced adversity and punched it in the face.
As you check out Nathan’s story, I trust that you’ll be inspired by the way he took life’s obstacles and used them as opportunities for growth. These types of lessons are ones you don’t learn overnight. They often times take years of repeated experiences to finally sink in. Nathan is just in the middle of his journey but everything I’ve seen and heard tells me he’s not going anywhere until he gets what he wants out of life!
Tim Ferris says that “Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.” What is one vague wish you were punished by or one specific ask you were rewarded for?
I had a pretty funny vague wish. A while before I started blogging, I decided I wanted to try to build a famous cat page on Instagram. I spent hours posting pictures of cats and thought I was going to somehow turn it into a money making project. Definitely had no idea how to be successful on Instagram and wouldn’t have known how to monetize it if I did get a lot of followers.
Me (in Red). Ok, this is seriously funny. I love how honest Nathan is in sharing this failure with us. Not that people don’t share their failures. They do.
But most of the ones I’ve seen only start to share their failures AFTER they’ve become successful. I’ve read TONS of posts from people about how they struggled in the first year or two of their blogs only to find success in the following years. Most people try to hide their failures until their success makes it safe to be transparent.
Nathan’s not like that. He’s sharing his failures AS he’s working to find success. And I for one find that incredibly courageous and refreshing.
What is the one book (or books) that you have given to your friends? Or What are one to three books that have greatly impacted your life (money related or not)
Well, I am a Christian, so the Bible has been the most important book in my life. I don’t read as much as I’d like, but I listen to a ton of podcasts. Although I have to say I really liked 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson.
It isn’t a book, but I’ve read all of the 490+ articles on Mr. Money Mustache’s blog so that’s a lot more reading than the average book. And that’s what I’d tell people to go read if I were making a suggestion.
It’s free too so that’s a plus!
A couple of things I’d echo from Nathan. As a follower of Jesus myself, I have to say the Bible is far and away the book that has most guided my thinking and brought me comfort and hope over the years. I can’t tell you how many times I open it up only to find new nuggets of insight and wisdom.
Second, I started listening to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life on Audible but got bogged down in the first chapter on lobsters. I just found it very academic and I was tired after listening to it.
Maybe that says something about my mental rigor, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve had several conversations with my wife and friends about the book and I think I should give it another go. Maybe on my next road trip, I’ll settle in and get after it.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last year (or in recent memory)? The more specific details the better!
Probably my $10 Panasonic earbuds. They’ve outlasted more expensive earbuds and the amount of knowledge I’ve gained listening to podcasts has been invaluable.
I’m a MASSIVE fan of podcasts. And I have to say, I love audiobooks too. Whether I’m listening on Audible or to a free download from the library, I can’t believe the wealth of knowledge that is at our fingertips. It really is staggering.
If you’re not already taking advantage of the wisdom of others that’s all around you, stop what you’re doing right now and make it happen!
How has a failure or apparent failure, set you up for success later? Do you have a favorite success?
I got fired from my first job at Chick-fil-A and I’d say that set me up to be a better employee. One of my favorite successes is when I got my current job. I didn’t have much on my resume but the company took a chance on me and now I’m set up to have a good career in IT. I get to work from home and it’s awesome.
Ah yes, the restaurant industry.
Little known fact about me: I’ve worked for a total of 6 weeks in restaurants.
I lasted in my first job, at McDonald’s, for 3 weeks. It took me that long to realize that being screamed at for my 3-hour shift and going home with $13.50 in my pocket wasn’t worth it. (I wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree).
After I quit, I swore I’d never work in the restaurant business again…that was until I returned home after traveling Europe and was desperate for a job. I applied to work at a higher-end local restaurant and was excited when I got the job. That was until I realized I’d be spending an indefinite amount of time as the sole dishwasher for the establishment.
Now I don’t mind washing dishes. It’s actually kind of my thing in our house. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I look at a sparkling clean kitchen. But spending 8 consecutive hours plowing through a never-ending parade of pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery was just painful. And not just metaphorically so.
After your hands have been soaking in hot water for that long, they become very soft. So soft, in fact, that every little nick of a cup or poke from a fork causes chunks of skin to go missing or be punctured.
It wasn’t pretty.
After 3 weeks, I realized I should’ve stuck to my original anti-restaurant oath. And I’ve never gone back.
What is a quote(s) that you live your life by or that you find yourself repeating to yourself?
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” -Bruce Lee
I try to keep this in mind with anything I do. I’m never done learning and improving. No matter what it is.
Love this attitude from Nathan. In my world, it’s referred to as Growth Mindset. Every obstacle is an opportunity to learn. And if you’re always learning, you’re constantly growing and improving. Clearly, just like his martial arts, Bruce Lee’s mindset was also ahead of his time
What’s one of the best or more worthwhile investments you’ve made (money, time, energy, etc.)
Investing the time to learn how to be smart with money. It’s really going to pay off in the long run and I know my future family life is going to be awesome.
I’m not going to have to worry about working a job eventually and that’s going to open so many opportunities.
Again, what Nathan is talking about here is an investment in his own learning and growth. When we invest in ourselves and have a Growth Mindset knowing that learning is not a destination but a process, we always come out ahead. Truly, investing in yourself is the only investment that is guaranteed to always increase in value.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
I just came across the idea of FIRE early this year so that was pretty life-changing. Once I got a plan together to pursue FI, I decided to start writing about it on my blog.
Writing has definitely improved my thinking process and communication skills. I’d never really written before I started my blog and I had no idea how much of a positive impact it would have on my life.
Writing is a fantastic way to give organization and structure to your thoughts, especially when you’re dealing with complex or abstract concepts. As you write, it’s much easier to see gaps in your thinking or areas where you’re not communicating clearly.
I’ve also found writing to be AMAZING when it comes to stimulating my creativity. I’ll often start writing on one topic only to have several ideas quickly start popping into my mind. And so that they don’t evaporate into the ether, I try to be quick to write them down so I can revisit them later.
What advice would you give to a smart, industrious, newbie blogger as they start out?
If you’re going to be writing about common topics, be sure to put your own perspective into each post. Nobody has time to read things they already know and your story is unique, so stick to it. I don’t have a lot of experience blogging, but I know each person is very complex and if you can tell your story well, success will come.
This is so true. You need to write what you want to write about.
Yes, there is a place for keywords, SEO and the like. Traffic does matter, especially if you’re trying to build your blog into a legit side hustle. And yes, you do need to write what your audience wants, otherwise, no one will show up to read your stuff.
But what your audience wants, really wants, is you.
If you’re a blogger with any type of following, your audience is following you because of your unique take on a topic. Sure, maybe they want to know the best way to get out of debt, but if all they were looking for were different techniques to pay off debt, there are subreddits devoid of any personality but with all the answers they desire.
No, if they’re following you, they’re here for you. You are your brand. And you’re the reason they keep coming back to read your posts week after week.
What common advice should they ignore?
I’ve seen plenty of people promise that blogging is a great way to make money. What people usually don’t say though is that it’s going to take a ton of work and time. The only people I’ve seen in the money blogger niche that have seen quick success are people that were nearly, or already FI when they started their blog. And I’m sure those people still put a lot of work into their blogs.
If you’re only blogging for money, you might want to rethink it.
What are 1-3 apps/programs/plugins that have allowed you to maximize your time/energy?
It’s the most common app in the personal finance space: Personal Capital. Being able to have all of my accounts in one place saves me a lot of time when I’m going through my numbers each month.
I also recently started using a task list app called SplenDO. I think it’s going to be very useful and I’ll be able to stay on top of tasks much better.
Hmmm, SplenDO I’ve never heard of. I’ll have to check it out!! Thanks, Nathan!!
What one thing has been most effective for increasing traffic on your blog?
I haven’t had much traffic so far, but Reddit has been the biggest source so far. You will surely get roasted a couple of times, but if you’ve got thick skin, you can get hundreds of clicks on your posts if you go about it the right way.
Roasted you will get. I can’t figure out Reddit and honestly, I feel like I’ve got too many other areas that need my time and attention for me to invest in it at this point. I know it’s been good for some and I’ve had some positive traffic from it too but it’s very fickle. And for me, I don’t have the patience for it, at least right now.
What does resilience mean to you? When have you had to be resilient?
I’d say that I’ve been pretty resilient when it comes to blogging. They say the average blogger does it for about 6 months and then quits. I’m 8 months in and don’t see myself quitting anytime soon. That’s what resilience means to me. Being able to continue when most people give up.
I haven’t seen a lot of success with my blog, but I’m not giving up.
I admire this attitude from Nathan.
Blogging is really tough. It’s a real roller-coaster. You’ll be featured on a large site and get some nice traffic for a few days, only for it to dry up as fast as it spiked. You’ll form great relationships with some bloggers and writers only to be ignored and dissed by others. It’s definitely an exercise in perseverance.
But what causes people like Nathan to succeed is their stubborn refusal to give up. When you refuse to accept failure and instead take every obstacle as an opportunity to learn, you can’t help but succeed in whatever you do.
What’s the most important thing about money kids should know and how would you teach it to them?
A penny saved is much more than a penny earned. If you put your money in investments, over time, it’s going to keep growing indefinitely. If I had some snow, I’d teach them by rolling a snowball on the ground until it became huge. Your money does the same thing when you invest it in index funds.
This is a great lesson to teach kids, and for that matter, adults. And I love how Nathan tied in the object lesson as well. When teaching kids about money, you have to use something that is hands-on and tangible. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about the upcoming release of my Family Money Course to help parents teach their kiddos about money.
Which is better? A goal that is smaller and you achieve it, or one that is too big and you don’t? Why?
This is a tough one, but I’d go with the smaller goal that you achieve. Little wins keep you motivated and it’s the continuous little things you do that produce long-term success.
Spoiler alert: there really isn’t a right answer to this question. At least not that I’ve found. I just find it so interesting hearing the differing perspectives that people have when it comes to goal-setting.
In the end, it’s kind of a chicken and egg question. Without the big goal, how do you know where your ultimate destination is? And without the smaller ones, you’ll never reach that destination.
Tell us about a time when you were REALLY scared to do something. How did you handle it?
I was scared to tell people in my life about my blog. A big reason for this is that I’m sharing my net worth. I just went for it though and now I don’t worry about it. Most people don’t seem to care anyway so it’s no big deal.
How has generosity been a part of your life (someone generous to you or vice versa)? What impact did it make?
I’d say the current company I work for was really generous when they hired me. I didn’t have any previous experience or a college degree and they still hired me. I’ve also met some really cool bloggers who have been generous with their time and given me advice.
Sometimes the difference between finding success or dealing with setbacks are the breaks you receive. Now that’s not to say success or failure just happens by chance. Not at all. People who are successful no doubt get breaks and have good fortune. But so does everyone.
The difference is that successful people are prepared to take advantage of their good luck.
Nathan is a perfect example of this. Despite not having the credentials or experience, he had intangible assets that his current employer found intriguing enough to give him a job. And this gets back to investing in yourself. If you consistently invest in your personal growth, you’ll find yourself in positions to take advantage when good fortune comes your way.
What are the top 3 most common money problems you’ve seen people consistently fighting to overcome?
Probably student loans, not knowing what to do with their money, and breaking away from all of the marketing we’re hit with every day. It’s hard to reprogram your mind to not buy whatever you want whenever you want.
Amen to this Nathan.
It’s INSANE how much marketing we’re hit with every day. I’ve heard some estimates in the neighborhood of 3000 ads a day. And as if that weren’t enough, retailers employ various forms of psychological warfare in order to part us from our money.
Now it’s one thing to target grown adults.. But where I get really concerned is when these ads and tactics are directed towards our kids.
In our own family I’ve seen how seemingly innocent videos on Youtube are nothing more than glorified infomercials for things kids didn’t even know they wanted.
It’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about teaching our kids about money in order to prepare them to be financially successful adults. And it’s why I’m PUMPED to be launching my signature Family Money Course in the next month.
What is one thing you have an abundance of and one thing you’re working on building an abundance of?
I’d say I’ve got an abundance of drive and I’m working on building an abundance of money. 🙂
Hmmm, an abundance of drive really is critical to finding success in life. Because having drive won’t just pay off financially. No, having a consistent desire to improve will pay dividends in your relationships, health, spiritual wellness, and in countless other areas. In fact, you could say that having an abundance of drive really is priceless.
Bringing It All Together
I’d like to thank Nathan for taking the time to join us this week on Band of Bloggers. His down to earth attitude and every-man mentality make his perspective incredibly relatable for the average person.
The crazy thing is, he’s not average. Not at all.
He’s a part of a small minority of people who have decided to take life by the horns and are striving to reach financial independence at ever younger ages.
At 25, with a net worth of close to $100,000, he’s well on his way to reaching FI LONG before many people even start to contemplate retirement. His story is one which many young parents would do well to pay attention to. Because as a parent, if you can give your kids the solid financial foundation they need to be money rockstars, you’ll set them up to be the masters not only of their money but more importantly, of their time and freedom.
Nathan is a personal finance blogger on a mission to become a millionaire and show others how they can do the same. He shares his monthly numbers and details what works for him on his blog Millionaire Dojo.