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The root

For the last couple of months I have had bit of a rough time, everything I went through is not the topic of this post, just the root cause, but I feel I need to introduce a little back story for you to understand why I’m writing.
I didn’t get fired, thankfully, but due to the economic situation in the country I did have to go a number of months without a pay check.

This made me realize exactly how unprepared I was. I had been living hand in mouth and didn’t have anything stashed away; and I had pretty expensive tastes. At first the pay started coming in late; by 2 to 4 days, not so scary but it shook my whole world apart, I suddenly found out that all those people who liked me because I was a good tenant/ client/ bill payer/ etc really didn’t like me that much. They loved the fact that I was always punctual with my payments but they never actually liked me.

Then one day my pay just didn’t come.

A week went by and then two weeks yet still no sign of pay.

Now the problem in this scenario is that I was used to it coming, I built my life around its arrival, so even if it was late I was very dependent on it. My life ground to a halt and now for the first time in my adult life I was in full panic mode. I had people shouting at me because of what I owed, services where disconnected and I got some nasty letters, some even threatening to take me to court. What made the situation worse, I think, was that my company just flat out ignored us, the employees. We didn’t get even an email to alert us to the situation or tell us when to expect the money or if it was ever coming at all. And here is the kicker, they still expected us to show up to work and work our buns off.

A month went by, no pay.

I was forced to move out of my flat because I couldn’t afford to continue living there, the landlady, very nice woman by the way, did actually care that I hadn’t been paid. She said she was dependant on the rentals and if I couldn’t pay I needed to move.

I moved to the suburbs, to a house I would be sharing with a small family. Not ideal, but it was cheaper than the flat. Actually it costs roughly 20% what I paid for the flat. At this point I did a stupid thing. I got me a huge loan, I know it was dumb.

The loan allowed me to survive, pay of a lot of my bills etc. The only issue was the loan is salary based; the repayments are taken from my salary before I even touch it. This meant that for the rest of the year my salary was effectively cut. So while I reduced the cost of rent, I didn’t actually change much in the overall scheme of things since for a year my salary was going to be deducted more.

Another month went by, no pay.

Three months in I’m starting to adjust to the life of no cash, which was amazing to me. I had grown accustomed to my lifestyle and in my mind I thought I couldn’t survive any other way. The only thing I really hated was my job, because it’s supposed to be supporting me, not the other way around. We had a few huge projects and our clients were not paying for one reason or another and in turn we were not getting paid too.

The bosses wanted to get projects completed quicker in hopes to get paid quicker so they started demanding more from us. We were asked to work longer hours and the weekends were turned into work days. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the result of those actions. A large number of people simply left the organization; anyone who got a job offer elsewhere took it no matter how much of a drop it was from the current job.

End result is that a lot of the more experienced people left leaving less experienced and highly unmotivated people on the projects resulting in the total time required to complete those projects actually increasing.

Yet another month went by, no pay.

Employees started not showing up to work, don’t get me wrong they didn’t resign, they just didn’t show up. Most were using this time to find alternative income streams, doing odd jobs etc. I was lucky and usually found someone who need a website or a custom development job done and that gave me a few hundred bucks here and there, so combined with my new thrift life style I was coping better than most.

Then they cut of medical aid, or rather the provider cut us off for nonpayment. This didn’t seat well with a lot of people and more left.

Now the thing about people leaving is that those who stay tend to get promoted faster. At the time I had just switched departments so I was starting at the bottom, but after three months of people leaving, I suddenly found myself as team lead of my division in a project.

You guessed it, another month and no pay.

I honestly don’t know why I kept going to work. Because now I was doing side jobs in what little free time I had in order to feed myself and afford to come to work. The working hours and conditions did not improve, they got worse. I think I was more afraid of change than anything else; I would have stuck with that job than not have a job at all. Like those people in bad relationships who stay because they are afraid of being alone. Up till now I had been trying to be the model employee, arriving earlier than most, leaving later than most. I was new and I didn’t know as much as my predecessors but I applied myself and learned as fast as a I could, and it’s true the more you learn the more you realize how much you don’t know. At this point I started getting disillusioned with the company. I blamed the company for my situation, after all if they paid me like they promised I wouldn’t be in it. I mean I was holding up my end of the deal by working, they were supposed to handle their end however they did it was not my business, I just wanted my money.

Story of the year, another month and still no pay.

There is nothing quite as depressing as a penniless Christmas.

Then my sister got me a kindle for Christmas, thanks Shaggy, this was the turning point for me. I started reading again, at first I read the Wheel of Time books followed by Harry Potter. Great books but ultimately didn’t add value in my life. I was looking for my next read when I saw a post online about a book called How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. I was a little curious about it considering the overly enthusiastic reviews so I got the book and read it.

Dale changed my life.

The book made sense; it was so practical I just started following its advice almost instinctually. While it did not solve my money problem, it made my interactions with people more rewarding and more importantly it opened up my mind. If this one book could improve my life in one area didn’t it stand to reason that another could improve my life in other areas?

So I started looking for other books to read, I removed all the fiction off the kindle and filled it with self help books, a lot were drivel that bored me to sleep and didn’t add value to me but there were a few gems in the garbage and the first one that made me pause was The richest man in Babylon by George S. Clason.

Catchy title, the use of old century English was a bit annoying but the message was sound.

The second was Think and grow rich by Napoleon Hill.

The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

Albert Einstein

I realized I there was too much to learn and not enough time to learn it all, I needed more time. I stopped playing video games and started reading during those times, I spent almost two hours in traffic daily and instead of blaring music as usual I started listening to the audio books, Brian Tracy was my turn out to be my car buddy.

At the end of the day I learnt the most important lesson I wish I had learnt a long time ago.

I and I alone am responsible for my financial situation. Up till now I had been blaming my company, the economy, etc, but I never blamed myself. I always viewed myself as an innocent victim. But these books opened up my eyes, if I had been a little smarter when things were better, then right now I wouldn’t be in this situation regardless of the economy.

My current life is the sum total of all the decisions I have made up till this point. If I changed my decisions from now then my future will also change accordingly.

So I sat down and really thought about what I want out of life. I realized that I don’t ever want to be dependent on a salary again and that I want to be a better person in general, I want to be healthier, happier and richer. That’s my decision and that’s my ultimate goal. The books I read opened my eyes to endless opportunity and I plan on getting the most out of life.

The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

This is going to be a fun ride and I am going to put it all down on this site. Watch this space and when I buy my BMW 7 Series you will be the first to know.

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About Michael

Michael ‘phoexer’ Musangeya is a certified SAP ABAP Developer who has a creepy fascination with photography, video games and books.

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