People can be incredible cautionary tales.  We need to learn from people that have been fabulously successful in areas of their lives.  And on the converse, we need to learn where it has gone wrong.  Find the person that has messed it all up, ask to interview them and write down everything they did so we can do the opposite!

There is gold in their failures.  There are lessons that can save you decades.  Learn from other people’s mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself.


You can learn so much from failure and we often spend more time learning from success.  For the next 6 minutes as you read the article maybe you will learn some things you can avoid.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

An exciting adventure

Imagine you are just setting out on your career.  You start to earn money, you are saving some of that money and keeping your spending down. You get rewarded as the money you invest grows and you feel wealthier.

You focus on looking good at work, doing what the company needs and building your status.  You get promoted and with the better job, you save and invest even more.  You work up to to a 50% savings rate and your investments are growing nicely.  The more you focus on looking good (status) at work, the more you save and invest, the more you feel like you are really successful.

Your enthusiasm builds as you get rewarded in work and life.  Your status at the company grows with promotion and your finances improve month by month.  You have avoided the life style inflation trap that kills so many people’s finances.  You are feeling smug and succesful.

You buy a nice place to live, you find a human being to marry and you feel like you have made it in life.  At work you focus on calling people out on their shit, firing them if they don’t perform and get a reputation as a hard ass / trouble shooter.  You save the company money with your scrimping and saving.  You get promoted again and get even more success in your career.

You become tighter and tighter with money as you are rewarded for these behaviours both at work and in your private life as your investments and savings grow.  You start to prioritise money and status over everything because that’s what your culture and the people around you do.

You get promoted, you save and invest and become fabulously wealthy.  You focus on status and feeling significant at work.  You focus on saving at all costs.   You reach the pinnacle of you career and feel on top of the world.

As you focus exclusively on these things you don’t notice the creeping cost of your focus over the years.

The cost of focus

You have made it to the stage where you never have to work again, you have more money than you know what to do with. BUT there has been a cost and that cost is continuing.

You didn’t notice the 1 or 2 extra pounds on your waistline as your weight crept up every single year.  You didn’t notice the cost on your health and energy as you worked the hours needed with a singular focus.  You just didn’t notice how bad things had gotten until you wake up nearing retirement and you are 100lbs (40kgs) overweight and struggling to move.

You didn’t notice that your focus on work, calling people out and being combative had cost you your friends.  You didn’t notice as you became grumpier and angrier and just wanted to sit alone at family gatherings and Christmas.  You isolated yourself until there was no one left around you that would actually speak up to you. Your ego drove anyone that cared away.

You have all the money in the world but you can’t walk, your ankles ache moving, you have no muscle left from inactivity and atrophy.  You could travel anywhere, see anyone and do anything but you have no health left.  You aren’t even that old, you have only just retired but you can’t enjoy what you have built.

Still, nothing changes. The behaviours you were so strongly rewarded for early in your career persist even though they are no longer needed.  You focus on saving money at all costs, you focus on status and filling the hole in your ego that has appeared since you left work.

You could at any point:

  • Spend some of your many millions on a personal trainer: but why would you as if you stopped working out the weight would just come back ?
  • Spend some of your many millions on a dietician: but why would you, there is no sustainable way to lose weight and you would have to “deprive” yourself?
  • Spend some of your many millions on a personal chef: but why would you have someone cook healthy food for you when you can eat rich restaurant food and takeaway for the same price?
  • Spend some of your many millions to have a beautiful place to live in retirement so you could enjoy your last years: but why would you when it is £50,000 extra to have an nicer place?
  • Let go of your ego and let people back into your life: but why would you when you are right and better than everyone else?

Why would you change anything as this is what made you successful in the first place?

It is literally killing you

In your third act of life the behaviours that you were rewarded for in your working career are literally killing you.   You don’t believe it is possible to lose weight, you won’t spend the money to improve your life and your need to be right means you have fewer and fewer people in your life.

You are just into retirement and instead of having many healthy years left to enjoy you are thinking about your death, becoming more and more immobile and driving the people around you away.

You sit in a house that is crumbling around you too tight to spend money to improve it.  Your wealth compounding up as your health and life fall off a cliff in the opposite direction.

You are wealthy.  People look up to your success.  You have all the things you prized so highly in your early years.  You have status, wealth and accolades.

​But you are alone, immobile and dying quickly.

You complain about your problems but are unwilling to do anything to change as those things got you here.  You hold onto the principles, strategies and ideas that created your success for dear life.

What got you here; won’t get you there

In business, in finances, in life it is quite often true that the things you did to achieve success in something won’t necessarily get you to the next level in life.

  • Being fugal, saving and investing helped you amass a fortune and become wealthy, but it won’t help you enjoy it.
  • A singular focus on work, business lunches, working late and making money has helped you get huge accolades, get promoted and make money, but it won’t help you enjoy retirement or be healthy.
  • Focusing on being right, proving points and fixing bad staff got you promoted and noticed at work, but killed all your personal relationships.

In my own world I have noticed:

  • The skills that helped me launch a global movement and build a successful company are not the same ones that are needed to go from 12-50 staff.
  • The things that helped me be successful in business when I was younger, now, in mid-life actively damage my health.
  • The frugality that helped me become a millionaire stops me from enjoying life in retirement.

What got you here, won’t get you to the next level.

What are you holding on to that used to produce results that now holds you back?

I would love to know what you got out of this cautionary tale.  What struck you?  What made you think?  What are you going to change based on this article?

Remember What got you here; won’t get you there

The Donegan’s blog and more….

Katie and I are writing a lot at the moment.  We have new courses coming for you, new financial tools and calculators and more.  We have so much to give and having built up our wealth to a point where we don’t have to work, we have the time to give it.

If you would like to be informed of our courses, of our new articles then please make sure you join our mailing list.

​Thanks for joining us on this journey.  We hope to meet you around the world as we travel or at one of our courses in the future.

The picture to the write is one of our favourites from our time in Chiang Mai, Thailand early this year.

​If you want to find us on our travels then read our travelling with purpose blog. 

Please send us a message or write us a note.  We LOVE hearing from you.   You can contact us here

Sending you love

​Katie and Alan

Katie and Alan Donegan Temple Chiang Mai Thailand

Alan and Katie Donegan outside one of the temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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