12 Rules to Break on Your Path to Wealth AND Happiness

12 Society Norms to Break if You Want to Build Wealth AND a Live a Happy Life

I retired at 36.

Yet, I never worked over 40 hours a week, rarely traveled for business, and changed careers multiple times.

I ignored society’s rules.

Society’s norms are expected behaviors to help us all get along in a respectful way.

But norms are meant to be modified…and you can break society’s rules without bothering anyone at all.

If you want to build wealth and/or retire early, you need to see many of the norms for what they are. False constraints.

Society as a whole wants predictability, but I ignored some of society’s status quo’s and you can too!

12 Society Norms to Break

If you want to build wealth AND a happy life at the same time, it is time to ditch many of these norms:

Norm #1: You have to work long hours to succeed

I can say without a doubt that you do not need to work long hours to succeed.

Hours worked doesn’t translate into wealth.

The more hours you work, the more likely it is you are wasting your time. You may be literally “filling” the time with things to do, rather than focusing on what you actually need to get done.

Instead of hours worked, you should focus on your effectiveness.

The most effective among us have the same number of hours as everyone else, yet they deploy them better, often much better than people with far greater raw talent.

– Peter F. Drucker, The Effective Executive

When your emphasis is less on how busy you are and how many hours you are working, and more on how effective and productive you are, the hours you work truly do not matter.

Norm #2: You need to be glued to a device 24/7

First it was email.

Then it was instant messaging.

Now it there are apps that are specifically designed to pull us back into them at a moments notice.

But here is the thing…this is a new “norm” that isn’t working. In fact, those who are most successful are doing the opposite -> they are leaning into deep and meaningful work.

So what do you do?

  1. Ruthlessly cut down on email
  2. Practice taking 24 hours or more away from your device
  3. Turn off all unnecessary push notifications
  4. Only use social media at specific times of the day
  5. Schedule time blocks for uninterrupted quiet time and deep work

Distractions are preventing you from being your most productive self. So do everything you can to prevent these distractions!

Norm #3: Failure means you aren’t successful

I have had many failures. But guess what? They all led to my success.

My first business failure pivoted me into becoming a software engineer.

Then my new coding skills prepared me for the next phase of my career when I combined my business and technical background.

Failure leads to learning and growth.

All of the lessons that I learned from my failures, drove me to my eventual success.

Norm #4: If you win, someone else has to lose

Just false! I choose to “expand the pie,” rather than holding it all for myself.

Putting together win-win deals is the best way to drive forward in business and in life.

Win-win deals stay put a lot longer than deals that were win-lose.

And in most industries, there is room for many players.

Your competitors are actually your friends, your employee recruiting pool, and your motivation all wrapped into one.

Norm #5: You NEED to travel to network and make sales

Nope! In fact, I didn’t meet one of my business partners IN PERSON, until after we sold our company.

It didn’t matter.

We spoke on the phone or via video chat nearly every day. We kept in touch via instant messaging and email.

We trusted each other, and yet we never met.

Sometimes travel is necessary, but most of the time it is not.

The pandemic and Zoom has helped to make this more of a norm, but I suspect that people will forget how much you can truly get done without travel.

When I did travel, I chose to try to kill two birds with one stone: I would take multiple meetings in one trip, or travel to key events where I could take all of my meetings for the ENTIRE year.

Norm #6: Money buys happiness

This one truly has been shoved into us by our culture in every single nook and cranny.

But MORE money does not equal more happiness.

While there is a correlation between income and happiness, it begins to top out at around $75,000 per year.

Money doesn’t make your problems go away…No, it creates new ones.

Once you are making a certain amount, your happiness plateaus.

Happiness isn’t something that can be improved overnight. You have to work at it, day after day.

Money can give you the time to work at it, but you still have to work at it.

Norm #7: Wealthy people own fancy cars and big houses


Most wealthy people, in fact, do not own a fancy car or a big house. Those are people who want to look rich.

You can’t tell how much wealth a person has from the car they drive, the clothes they wear, the vacations they take, or the house they own.

The truth is that wealth is what you don’t see.

– Morgan HouselThe Psychology of Money

I can afford a Tesla, but I don’t buy one.

I can afford a vacation home, but I don’t own one

Building wealth requires sacrifice and smart purchasing decisions.

Norm #8: Life shouldn’t be so hard

Live was NEVER meant to be easy.

Too many people want life to be easy.

They don’t want to go above and beyond at their job.

They don’t go above and beyond at home.

Newsflash! If you want a great life, you have to put in the work.

You will get a leg up simply by doing hard things others wont.

Because life should be hard. And it is!

Norm #9: Investing should be left to the professionals

I really believed this one too. But guess what? Professional financial advisors ARE sales people.

At the end of the day, only YOU are responsible for your financial success. Don’t leave it to others!

You can easily read 3-4 books and have a better handle on your finances and investments than 90% of the population.

I recommend:

Norm #10: Only high paying jobs make you wealthy

I’m sorry to break it to you, but you don’t have to be a lawyer, doctor, or banker to become wealthy.

Building wealth isn’t about having a high income (not that it hurts).

No, building wealth is about keeping as much of your high income as you are making.

All that matters is executing on the three factors of wealth:
1. Earning
2. Saving
3. Investing

Career choice doesn’t matter: anyone can become a millionaire!

Norm #11: Relationships are easy

Anyone who tells you that relationships are easy, clearly hasn’t put in the work into their relationships.

They are in fact not easy, but hard!

  1. Relationships take sacrifice
  2. Relationships need constant nurturing
  3. Relationships take work

Anything otherwise is only what you see in a fairytale or movie.

Norm #12: Nice guys finish last


Nice guys finish first.

No one wants to work with a dick.

People want to work with others whom they respect and don’t have to walk on eggshells for.

There are many, many, arrogant assholes who may have built wealth by being an asshole…but there are many more nice guys out there crushing it. It pays to be nice.


Society teaches us so many things that are straight up WRONG.

To build wealth and retire early, you too must break the rules!

Instead of blindly following the norms, flip them on their head.

See them for what they are: false constraints!

You don’t need to work 60 hours a week.

You don’t have to become a lawyer or a doctor.

You don’t have to be a dick.

Just be who YOU are. Work hard. And try not keep up with the Joneses.

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  1. Interesting way of thinking. The content here reinforces a book that I am currently reading. In a world that is driven by social media. Expectation can actually hurt us by accepting others thinking. It is when we done what is best for us that we actually learn to become free. Social norms are meant to be broken then. Even at the cost of not being liked by others. Good content.

  2. Nice summary!
    Becoming a doctor to get rich is not actually a thing. Physicians are well compensated (and rightly so) for giving up 8+ years of the prime of their life to study medicine (med school and residency), then assuming a high degree of debt, responsibility and risk. It’s just to painful of a process to do it for any other reason than wanting to be a doctor, for a variety of reasons that generally do not include money.
    However, a lot of doctors do end up inflating their lifestyle when they go from a poor resident to an attending salary. But more and more blogs and other resources are out there for them to learn how to be financially responsible, such as White Coat Investor, among others. Anyhow, thanks for the great list! I especially liked #1, as I am moving into more of a managerial role.

    1. Thanks SpaceDoc!

      Yeah I have a good friend who became a doctor to do good and make money. Boy was she in for a rude awakening on the money side. I think she falsely assumed the narrative for her entire adolescence that it was the ONLY surefire way to make a great living. But all that said she is really good at her job and works in a hard specialty (mentally) with sick kids. So more power to her and she deserves all that she earns today.

  3. This is a brilliant article.

    Where I live (North in the UK) perception is everything and car/house culture Is a measurement of wealth. I wonder why it’s become such a status symbol/currency or has it always been this way?

    I think you’ve nailed a lot of brilliant points here and I enjoyed reading it.


    1. Thanks Ryan!

      It is the same way here. I couldn’t say exactly WHY, but certain our overall culture from TV programming, to cars, and houses, and the simple human nature to think the grass is always greener has led to this.

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