Friday Gratitude with Coach Carson

Today’s edition of Friday Gratitude comes from Coach Carson. I added some happy photos from a recent trip to Wisconsin.

When Mr. 1500 wrote his first Friday Mindfulness post, I was impressed. He said he wanted to regularly share the good things in his life in order to make himself happier. Here were his words:

In an effort to be happier, I’m working at being mindful of all of the great things going on in my life and beyond. It isn’t easy, but these post help me ignore the crap and focus on all that is good.

When I saw the post I quickly messaged Mr. 1500 and said: “I want in on this!” After all, plenty of scientific research shows that regular practices of gratitude boost your happiness and well-being (check out this summary at Harvard Health Publications). I didn’t want to let Mr. 1500 hog all the happiness to himself!

So, here are some random Friday Gratitude/Mindfulness notes of my own, primarily related to money and the FIRE community.

Lake Michigan shore at dawn

Winning the Ovarian Lottery

Like Mr. 1500, I follow Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger regularly. Buffett has a habit of telling people how fortunate he was to be born in this particular time and place. He calls it “winning the ovarian lottery.”

I couldn’t agree more. And I’m very thankful for this in my own life.

In his biography, The Snowball, Buffett explained it this way:

I’ve had it so good in this world, you know. The odds were fifty-to-one against me being born in the United States in 1930. I won the lottery the day I emerged from the womb by being in the United States instead of in some other country where my chances would have been way different.

Imagine there are two identical twins in the womb, both equally bright and energetic. And the genie says to them, “One of you is going to be born in the United States, and one of you is going to be born in Bangladesh. And if you wind up in Bangladesh, you will pay no taxes. What percentage of your income would you bid to be the one that is born in the United States?” It says something about the fact that society has something to do with your fate and not just your innate qualities. The people who say, “I did it all myself,” and think of themselves as Horatio Alger – believe me, they’d bid more to be in the United States than in Bangladesh. That’s the Ovarian Lottery.” [bolding was from me for emphasis]

For better or worse, the society you were born in sets your limits to some extent.

My good friend Erion Shehaj at was born and grew up in the formerly communist country of Albania. He wrote an incredible post on called An Immigrant’s Impressions on Opportunity and Real Estate Investing in America. About opportunities, Erion said this:

When “what’s possible” has always been so, it’s hard to truly appreciate the magnitude of that opportunity. That’s where my perspective as an immigrant who grew up in an isolated communist country can provide some much needed contrast to identify the often underutilized opportunities that are available in the United States.”

Erion gave the example of a house painter born in many other countries in the world. No matter how skilled, this painter would have an upper limit on income and wealth. But in the U.S or similar economic/political systems, this painter could create a 7-figure business and amass incredible wealth in one lifetime!

Erion gives a reality check to all of us living in the US with this comment about the wealthy U.S. painter:

The fact that this scenario is possible for everyone that is willing to do what it takes to achieve it, blows my mind every day. Especially when on the same breath, I hear people (who were born in this environment) complain about the economy, the government, high taxes, the recession, job availability and all the rest.

Complaining or being thankful. That is a daily choice you and I can make. And the positive (or negative) energy of those choices makes a difference in our wealth building and in our lives.

Undeserved & Unrequested Gifts

Along the same lines, it struck me recently that we all receive gifts. Many of these gifts are from our parents or others who influenced us early on. We neither requested these gifts or deserved them.

These gifts are things like our name, our language, our beliefs about right/wrong, and our core life experiences. We receive and absorb these gifts into our lives before we’re even young enough to say thank you (or NO thank you).

But here’s the crazy thing about these gifts. Some of them are wonderful. And some of them SUCK!

I’m thankful that most of my gifts were amazing and wrapped in shiny paper. Specifically, with money, my parents were both entrepreneurs. I was able to absorb their habits, their ideas, and their work ethic before I even knew what those were.

But Mr. 1500 and I discussed in the past that he DIDN’T receive those same gifts. His early money experiences had a lot of the opposite messages. Yet, I think we’d all agree he has become an impressive human being!

Here’s the key point – as adults we get to DECIDE what to do with our gifts.

We can take sucky gifts and use them as lessons what NOT to do. Or we can complain about them and use them as an excuse and an anchor for our possibilities.

At the same time, we can also take amazing gifts and squander them. It happens all the time.

In my best moments (which admittedly are not all the time!), I’m trying to appreciate and use my own gifts for good. How about you?

Wisconsin State Capitol

FIRE Community – Online and Offline

Communities are amazing. I am really thankful to be part of so many great FIRE communities, both online and offline.

For example, Mr. 1500 and I were both on the Choose FI podcast recently. The hosts Brad and Jonathan are doing an amazing job of building a community dedicated to FIRE enthusiasts. I can’t believe they actually interviewed me after seeing all the other amazing guests they’re bringing on!

I’m also occasionally active on the BiggerPockets forums and blog, the Rockstar Finance Forums, and lately the MrMoneyMustache Forums. There are so many brilliant, interesting people who interact in these places. I’m really thankful just to let some of that goodness rub off on me!

But many of these FIRE communities are spilling over offline, too.

Here in Cuenca, Ecuador where I’m living with my family this year, I’ve randomly become friends with a couple of early retirees who read this blog and others. We’re everywhere!

And at the urging of Mr. 1500, Jim Collins, MadFientist, and others, I can’t wait to attend my first Chautauqua retreat this year! It helps that I currently live a short 45-minute flight away on the other side of Ecuador.

I’ll also be flying back from Ecuador to attend FinCon in Dallas. If you’re a financial blogger or online entrepreneur, this community is awesome. The conference itself is an intense, amazing, and exhausting week. But I also regularly benefit from the private FinCon Facebook Group. Just this week I had an email list issue on my blog, and two top-notch bloggers (Jim Wang from and Steve Chou from responded to my question with brilliant, specific answers within hours!

With these kinds of communities in existence, there has never been a better time to be pursuing FIRE or to be a blogger!

What About You?

Enough about me! What are you thankful for? Have you won the ovarian lottery? Or did you have bad gifts that you’ve had to overcome? And what communities are you excited to be a part of?

Thanks so much Coach!

If you’d like to write your own Friday Gratitude post, shoot me a note!

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21 Responses to Friday Gratitude with Coach Carson

  1. Awesome Friday gratitude!!! I often take for granted how lucky I am to have been born in the US. I feel like I first heard the quote from Buffet when I was in college it definitely didn’t absorb at first. But over time I realize how lucky we truly are and the opportunities that we are afforded. As much as people complain the US is a tremendous society 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Is Your Heuristic Showing?My Profile

  2. Awesome post! I think it is easy to start taking things for granted, particularly if you live in America. I’ve began the practice of appreciation with my boys. Each morning before school we sit down and come up with one thing we are appreciative of. They’re young, so it is offer something silly, but occasionally they come up with something more meaningful. Either way, it’s been a great exercise and I’ve seen a difference in their attitude since we started doing it.

    I’m not sure they’d understand the intricacies of the ovarian lottery, but I’ll definitely be discussing the cliffs notes version this morning with them. Great stuff!

    • Chad Carson says:

      I love that idea of practicing gratitude with your kids! Planting that habit in their head has to be one of the best gifts you could give them as a parent.

      We’re doing something similar with our kids during our pre-bedtime routine. We do “roses” – what went well today, “thorns” – what didn’t go so well, and “buds” – what we’re looking forward to tomorrow. Some days they don’t say much, but others they overload on roses (or thorns!). It’s been a nice tradition.
      Chad Carson recently posted…The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. CoveyMy Profile

  3. Great Friday gratitude. You know, positive or negative, we are a product of our life to date. I’m happy with where I’m at so by nature I’m happy with what came before regardless of good or bad. Being alive, relatively healthy, having a great family, living in the US, and having choices… those are all fantastic advantages many would be happy to have.
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  4. In many ways I think we’re all lucky to be alive. I don’t think there’s necessarily a “bad” time or unlucky time to live. We all get dealt different hands that come with different opportunities.

    Today I’m grateful for being able to take a week off of work for some much-needed rest and time for passion projects. Ahhh.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…How much should you have in an emergency fund?My Profile

  5. JohannaP says:

    Great post, I always enjoy the positive frame of mind the Friday posts leave me with. Also, as a Midwest expatriate (from NW Indiana) the pictures made me nostalgic (in a good way). Happy Friday to all.

  6. Brian says:

    Often life is what we make of it. Do you wallow in your problem or do you seek solutions to your problems. Just simply starting your day thinking to yourself “today is going to be a great day” put you in the right frame of mind. Positive thinking is a powerful thing.
    Brian recently posted…Work is a BurdenMy Profile

  7. I thank the powers that be I was born in the US on a regular basis. With all the craziness I see around the world, let alone the opportunity, I’m thankful to be in a nation that is stable regardless of which political party is in power. I am thankful even more for the relatively affluent upbringing I had and the act that my parents instilled in me the importance of saving and that it was something that honestly came naturally to me because I’m the rare person that finds it fun. Awesome post about the differences culturally and differences in opportunities available to people across the globe.

  8. Lottery winner here. Born into a great situation in a loving home in the most prosperous nation there is.

    I’m grateful for the abundance of opportunities I’ve had (and will have) and all the people who have played some small or large part in allowing me to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m grateful to have healthy, happy children who could also be considered lottery winners.

    Coac – Have a great time at the Chautauqua (so hard to spell!) and I look forward to meeting you and hearing bout your Ecuadorean adventures at FinCon.


    • Chad Carson says:

      Thanks PofF! I always think I misspell Chautauqua every time I write it. Lol. But I can’t wait to go. And hanging out at FinCon will be awesome. I look forward to it.

  9. My great grandpa, being a wise man, used to tell me, “Always be thankful of what you have, because it always could be worse. But at the same time strive for the best”
    He was born in Poland and after 1929 invasion ended up in a Soviet Political prison for 15 years.

    I was born in USSR, grew up in Russia, and now live in the beautiful United States. I am so thankful for this chance, almost every morning when I wake up I think about how lucky I am to wake up in this country, with my family, plans for future and, an ability to achieve them.

    Thanks for this post!
    Friendly Russian recently posted…April 2017 Net Worth Report – $102,337My Profile

  10. Jason says:

    I do agree that you can decide what to do with your gifts. I was born into a blue-collar middle class household with two alcoholic parents. I should be at the bottom of a bottle, but I am not and fairly well off financially. That said, it is easy for me to say that because I do have gifts that others didn’t have. I wasn’t born into poverty. I wasn’t born brown or black (which like it or not is an impediment in our society). I wasn’t born into a family that didn’t devalue education. So I am certainly lucky, but sometimes just deciding what to do with our gifts is not just enough when there are other impediments that are outside someone’s control.

    That said, I do celebrate and believe that if you can get a head start or be shown a good path in life that you can achieve the proverbial American dream.

  11. Divnomics says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I was born (and still living) in The Netherlands, and have also won the lottery ticket in that sense. People are adapting to the circumstances that they are living in. It’s easier and what you’re used to. Some give you endless possibilities to grow and learn and others not so much.

    Still, if you’re grateful for the things you do have, thinking positively and from there on start creating your own future… You are far better of than many others, no matter where you live.

  12. CoMtnAdventure says:

    I didn’t win the ovarian lottery at least not in the Buffett sense, but I think I won it in a different way in that my parents managed to instill in me that I was capable of anything if I set my mind to it. Here I am decades later from arriving in this country with $103.35 cents and getting closer to that FI goal with each day.

    I make it a point to travel to a new country with my son (who did win the ovarian lottery) to a country where he can see first hand what life can be like when you don’t win the lottery he did.

    I firmly believe it is ENTIRELY about what YOU do with the gifts that you DO receive. We are all given some set of gifts even if they aren’t obvious to us because we are often too busy looking at the ‘other’ person’s gifts and wishing we had them that we fail to capitalize on what we do have.

    I try to remind myself of that every time I catch myself doing that. The older I get the easier it seems to become. It has been counter intuitive, but tougher my own situation was, the easier it actually was to stop looking elsewhere and try to fix my own crap.

  13. Bill says:

    Excellent post. The house painter example illustrates a very important lesson. It is not enough just to win the ovarian lottery. That is something outside our control of course. But for those who are fortunate enough to be born into a society that makes it possible, then it is necessary to do the work and exhibit the discipline and determination needed to take full advantage of that win. As Erion says, “this scenario is possible for everyone that is willing to do what it takes to achieve it.” Such an important lesson I think. Thanks for sharing this great message.

  14. Amazing post. I definitely know the “luckiness” to be born into this country as an immigrant myself.

    When I find myself complaining of taxes, I remind myself, I rather pay taxes and be able to own property as a woman, have the right to vote as a woman, etc. As a female, there are places in this world, where my fate would be much worse.
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  15. So true! It’s so easy for me to look around and think ‘complainy’ things about how I could have been better prepared for things by my family…but in the end, I was born in a great place. And, truly, whether or not I end up retiring early, I’m glad to be learning and growing and have the freedom to do so without limits! Not just in the financial arena, but in the fitness, and religion, and work areas too. =)

  16. I’m grateful for knowing I have a choice between complaining about the bad things in life and being grateful about the good things in my life.

    It’s probably obvious to everyone here but there are lots of people who haven’t grasped that concept all the while taking all the good things in their life for granted and spending way too much time complaining about the bad things.
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