There are many great books that are recommended reads for someone who has discovered the financial independence movement and wants to learn more. For myself, Reset: How To Restart Your Life is up there as one of the better books whereas the 4-hour work week was only so-so. I guess it all depends on where you're at in your journey and what you're truly looking for out of financial independence. But in this article I wanted to cover some other books that I have read, not involved in financial independence, yet still influenced the way I saw my own journey.
Financial independence is a topic that involves more than just money. It involves self identity, purpose, strategy, and much more. Therefore it's possible to read different types of books and gain a little more knowledge, or a slightly different perspective, on the topic. The Infinite Game, The Mom Test, and The Middle Finger Project are three such books that don't talk about personal finance yet inspired me to think deeply about my underlying reasons for working towards financial independence.
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
I am a massive fan of Simon Sinek's works, be it his motivational talks or his writing in general. As a product manager by profession I read his first book, Start with Why, and was immediately absorbed by the way he cast a different lens on one's purpose for doing things.
Eventually he released his latest book, The Infinite Game, which I managed to finish reading in just a few short days.
From the book I learned that there were two types of mindsets that could be applied, one is finite while the other is infinite.
With a finite mindset, one plays in order to win. A football match, a video game, or a pub quiz for example. For all of these examples there are a set of rules with clear conditions on what determines a winner. A score or the first to meet a set of standards for instance.
However with an infinite mindset, one does not play in order to win, but in order to keep playing. You're not competing against other people, but rather you're working towards a purpose that you believe in.
A strong example of an infinite mindset is the company Apple.
Rather than focusing on making the most profit, have the highest sales, or release a product that's more advanced than everyone else's in the next financial year, they focus on challenging the status quo and creating the most innovative and user-friendly products.
While they may release new versions of their products, and need to sell those products in order to make the money to stay in business, they are simply stepping stones towards the greater purpose that they're trying to work towards.
This is in stark contrast to many of their competitors who play with a finite mindset by trying to compete against the next iPhone or iPad, using various methods such as implementing a faster chip or making their product even slimmer or lighter.
Sometimes they're successful and sometimes they're not. But eventually these competitors with a finite mindset, and lacking any deeper purpose, lose the will to keep trying and drop out of the game. It's only the infinite players who are left standing in the long run.
In the realm of financial independence I believe we can also think of it in both finite and infinite terms.
If we're focused only on reaching a particular net worth that theoretically makes us independent, or hit a particular savings rate each month, or buying a particular item (house, car, lifestyle etc), then we're approaching the game with a finite mindset.
However if we find a strong purpose on why we want to reach financial independence, for example building a better life for your family so that you know they will be safe and secure, then we'll start approaching it with an infinite mindset.
The reason why I think this is important is because the road towards financial independence is often long and arduous, with many difficult patches along the way.
Under such circumstances it can be easy to give up, even if it's just momentarily, on our finite aims. It's ok to not hit that savings rate for the month, or wait a little longer before hitting the target net worth, or give up on the nice house that we were hoping for.
But when we start thinking about giving up on the better life that's safer and more secure for our family, we're much less likely to throw in the towel. The purpose driving us forward is far greater than our materialistic wants and is worth continuing to persevere for.
When you're trying to build a better life for your family - using my example of a strong purpose - you're not specifically aiming for financial independence. But it just so happens that getting closer towards financial independence is one of the benefits you'll likely get when reaching for that greater purpose.
The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
This was another product management book that I read, with the intention of making myself better at my job, yet triggered some thoughts around my journey towards financial independence.
The premise of The Mom Test is that when you ask people questions about certain ideas, they are often too nice to tell you the truth or show that they aren't actually interested. Or, they may think they're interested and go along with the conversation, and even make promises of becoming a future customer once the idea has been turned into a product.
What you therefore end up with is a bunch of false information that makes you feel like you're on to something, but really you're not.
The problem is that, as a product manager, you use this false information to spend a whole bunch of effort in creating something that nobody actually needs, even though lots of people actually liked the idea of it.
Ultimately when you start to look for real customers for your new product, not that many people are willing to put their hand in their pocket. Even the ones who made promises to do so before.
The issue is that the questions being asked were the wrong types of questions, which easily led to false positives. What you actually needed to do was think about the right types of questions to ask, and how they should be framed, in order to get to the "real truth" that helps you verify if you're solving a real problem or not.
So why and how did this influence my thinking around financial independence?
Very simply, it's because I think it's also easy to ask the wrong questions on why we want to reach financial independence.
Often, when asking people why, you hear the typical answers around having the time freedom to do "whatever they want". But, more often than not, the things they want to do can be done without being financially independent.
You can travel, pursue hobbies, get in really good shape, learn a new language, explore new things in life, give back to your community, and spend time with your kids, while still having a job.
So why wait until you've reached financial independence before doing it?
And sure, maybe you can do more of it after you retire early. But is your dependence on working the real problem here?
Sometimes I feel as though the idea of financial independence is too attractive, so most people want it. They may even end up convincing themselves that they need it, when in reality they do not.
And sadly, this often takes the joy away from present life where one enjoys their work and finds meaning to it all, as they've shifted all their focus to a future where they no longer need to "suffer".
Snapping out of that gloomy little thought, the point is this...
We should all try to think deeply about why we truly want financial independence, and figure out whether or not it's actually necessary for our lives.
And the only way we can do that is by asking the right questions, just like the Mom Test.
The Middle Finger Project by Ash Ambirge
After reading this book I bought a copy for my sister, because I felt it would give her a much needed boost in confidence when it comes to facing a world full of challenges, setbacks, and unfairness. Especially for women.
The book follows the life of the author, Ash, who as a child simply wanted to grow up to be "middle class" where she would have a house, a stable job, a car, and a decent work life balance. Basically, she wanted a stable life and be seen as normal by everyone else.
You can't blame her, since she grew up in a trailer park.
But through life's twists and turns, and a couple of jobs that led to nowhere for her life, she eventually found herself hitting rock bottom. She had next to nothing left to her name and was homeless in a K-mart parking lot.
However it was in this low moment that Ash was able to come up with the strength to pick herself back up, and within the next few years she went from sleeping in her car to running her own successful online company.
Through her journey she learned to have greater confidence in her own value, to stand up for herself, and demand a level of respect from others by adopting a no-BS attitude.
Most important of all, she learned to abandon her imposter syndrome and put herself out there without succumbing to the fear of what terrible things other people may think or say.
Although The Middle Finger project does talk about entrepreneurship, negotiating, and selling, it doesn't specifically talk about personal finance. It's a book about having self-belief and confidence after all.
But I felt there was much to gain for my journey towards financial independence by reading it.
Firstly, I read this book not long after starting this blog. So I felt, to some level, all of the doubt and feelings of imposter syndrome that come alongside putting one's self out there. But the book gave me the motivation to simply go after it and ignore my fears because at the end of the day, what's the worst that could really happen?
Secondly, Ash's story about her life is really inspiring and a strong reminder that life will always have its up and downs. But it is your own decisions and choices that have the greatest impacts and effects on where your life will ultimately end up.
She could have decided to give up in that parking lot, yet she didn't. And while the outcome is never guaranteed, I'm certain we can all agree that her choice to keep going is what ultimately led to her improved life a few years later.
Working towards financial independence is no different.
The ability to reach financial independence is a result of us making choices for ourselves, with an underlying belief and confidence that those choices are for our own good.
The results may not come quickly and there may even be setbacks, but as long as we keep pulling ourselves back up and working towards the life we feel we deserve, we will eventually get there.
I've written this article in a way to show how the books mentioned have influenced me, rather than as a summary or synopsis of the book. While I cover the main points that I personally extracted from each book, I do recommend you get your own copy and read the full thing as each of them contain a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
To finish off, I'll clarify that I am not in any way affiliated with these books and will gain nothing if you decide to go and purchase a copy for yourself.
Ultimately I just wanted to share a little bit of what I personally gained by reading them, in the hopes that you can gain something too.