In 2016, I retired early at 35. At the time, I had $900,000 saved, and within a few years was able to accumulate a $1 million net worth.
I wasn’t born rich. I worked nothing but 9-to-5 jobs. I didn’t receive an inheritance or win the lottery. And I was never the smartest person in the room.
Instead, I lived frugally, invested wisely and built a strong career. Most important of all, I didn’t follow conventional wisdom.
Here are six society rules I broke to become a millionaire at 38:
1. Don’t be selfish.
I call it “healthy selfishness.” Putting yourself first means prioritizing your mental and physical health. You become better equipped to give back in a meaningful way.
It also means saying “no.” For example, because I’m an introvert, I’ll decline social invitations or even step away from meetings when I need time to myself. Or I’ll ignore phone calls if I’m not in the right headspace to talk.
Working out is a form of meditation for me, so I go to the gym every day without fail — even if it means pushing other priorities back. I leave the gym feeling more energetic and productive.
2. Follow your passion.
Our passions don’t always pay the bills — our strengths do. Most people’s passions are creative, and it can be more challenging to earn a high salary in a creative field.
My passion is photography, but I chose a career in computer science because I’m good at it, and technology professions tend to pay more.
I reserve photography for nights and weekends, and I’ve never had to experience the pressure of using it to earn a full-time salary. Because of that, it’s still my passion.
3. Don’t rock the boat.
I was always quick to voice my opinions, especially when I thought a business move was wrong. Pointing out improvements that my team could make got me my first leadership position as a director.
Had I sat through meetings quietly, I would not have advanced into leadership positions — or higher salaries — as quickly.
Rocking the boat isn’t about being abusive or even the loudest person in the room. It’s about speaking up when you need to and proactively setting a new course.
4. Hustle 24/7.
Working too much and burning out will not help you become more successful. It’s okay to use entertainment and other outlets to help you decompress and relax after a job well done.
You will be much more productive during the day because of the time you take for yourself.
I watch Netflix almost every evening to unwind. I’m also a big sports fan and play in multiple fantasy football leagues. I wake up at 7 a.m. so I can have control of my day and make time for these relaxing hobbies.
5. Stick to your job description.
A decade ago, I got the opportunity to jump two levels of management with a big promotion. I didn’t feel ready for the job, but I took it anyway. I learned as I went.
Taking that leap set a new high-paying trajectory for the rest of my career. It helped me become more confident in my abilities.
If there’s a chance take on more responsibility than you think you might be prepared for, my best advice is be brave and give it a try. It could put you in a position for raises, promotions and other opportunities to make more money down the line.
6. Nice people don’t win.
Kindness opens doors. A big part of my success came from my personality and demeanor in the office. I gained a reputation as someone who was easy to work.
This made management more inclined to ask me to work with them on big projects.
I’ve found that having a strong ethical code and being a great teammate can lead to better opportunities over time. Don’t lead with fear or aggression when you have the chance to lead with compassion.
Steve Adcock is a personal finance expert who blogs about how to achieve financial independence. A former software developer, Steve retired early at the age of 35. Follow him on Twitter @SteveOnSpeed.