Original question from Quora:

What should I learn in my 20s that will help me to financially retire at 35 and travel the world for the rest of my life?

  • Skills to Learn.
  • Habits to Develop.
  • Mistakes not to be made.
  • Books to Read
  • Person to Follow
  • Places to Visit
  • Courses to Undertake
  • Or Anything that would help me to achive this goal in anyway.

My Answer:

There is one one thing you need to learn and one skill you must master before you can get what you truly desire out of life…

You see, once upon a time there was a young man who wanted to play the guitar. He was in high school at the time and he thought that learning to play the guitar would help him meet girls.

This young man looked up to musicians like Elvis and The Beatles and remembered Beatlemania and how girls just threw themselves at rock stars.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a rockstar right?

So, as with many young men in high school, he worked at the local burger joint flipping burgers, waiting tables, and scrubbing floors for minimum wage. It took a few months, and one summer he saved up enough money to buy a beautiful Gibson guitar.

It was the guitar he always wanted.

And he took the guitar home and put his fingers on the fretboard and plucked the strings and….

IT SOUNDED AWFUL!

It was the worst sound he ever heard.

He kept on playing a little longer and it just didn’t sound good. So, he set the guitar down in the corner on the stand he bought and went about the rest of his day.

Over the next months and months he never got around to picking up the guitar again. It started to collect dust. After a while his mother put it in its case in the closet so it wasn’t going to get scratched.

Now, our young hero went off to college, made a lot of cool friends, and was just fine. Yet, every once in a while he would get the itch to play that guitar. Sometimes, he might even take it out of the case, strum a few notes, and put it away.

Eventually, after quite a few years the young man got married, had a good career as a railroad man, and had a wonderful little family.

Years and decades passed and he still has the guitar. It’s in fantastic shape and sounds incredible when you play it. From time to time when a friend or family member sees it, he lets them tune it up and play.

It makes beautiful music.

But our hero doesn’t make beautiful music with it. He’s never gained the skill. Over the years he spent hundreds of dollars on books, videos, cases, amplifiers, effects pedals, and all kinds of things to make the guitar even more amazing.

Yet, he never really plays it and he never really got good.

At this point in the story, you might expect me to have a heroic ending where the guy finds a secret new training DVD or something that makes it so overnight he gains tremendous skill at guitar.

Well, that’s not what happened. No, what happened is the man never quite learned to play the guitar because he never practiced enough to gain the skill. He never put the time in to get good.

And for the rest of his life he had some regrets about never learning to play the guitar.

You see, he had all kinds of books and learning about the guitar. He listened to a bunch of his favorite rock and roll guitar players. In fact, he had a giant music collection of Metallica, AC/DC, Led Zepplin, The Doors, etc. albums. He had books of sheet music he could barely decipher. He even picked up some music theory understanding along the way.

But all his learning and education didn’t build the thing that he really wanted - the skill of playing the guitar like a rockstar.

And there is only one thing that could have given him that skill…

-Brian

P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius.