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What Chefs, Soldiers, and Early Retirees Know About Productivity organized knives kitchen wonder learn invest philosophy investment make your bed philosophy

Chefs, soldiers, and early retirees share a core philosophy that is partially responsible for their extremely high levels of productivity. We call it the make your bed philosophy. Chefs call it mise en place. Soldiers call it their job and early retirees call it freedom.


Some time ago, a video went viral featuring a Navy SEAL passionately encouraging his audience of shiny new college graduates to make their beds every morning. His logic is simple. Making your bed each morning is the first accomplishment of the day. That one little step forward ideally creates a snowball effect, leading to several more productive choices.


If you somehow manage to have an awful day with no achievements following the bed-making, you still get to come home to a made bed. No matter what, you are rewarded by your action. Future-You, whom we love to talk about here at WLI, is happy when arriving home to those cozy, perfectly layered sheets.


We know your question…


What does this have to do with my money?


It’s about more than making a bed. The idea represents a lifestyle. While soldiers are known for being meticulous in their preparatory routines- packing bags, shining boots, cleaning guns- other highly effective people embrace similar practices. Let’s use chefs as a quick example.


One thing that is immediately and obviously observable in any restaurant’s kitchen is the communally-embraced routine of starting with clean utensils and a clean work surface. A good chef takes mise en place very seriously; some even have the three words tattooed on their bodies. The French phrase, which roughly means ‘everything in its place,’ is essential to the workflow of a kitchen. Starting with all ingredients prepped and put in their proper place, knives cleaned, stovetop scoured, floor mopped, apron washed, hands scrubbed, inventory taken, etc. sets the foundation for a chef to work efficiently and without unnecessary constraints. Like with the bed, it isn’t so much a smart workplace habit as it is a religion, an embrace of the importance of starting from the right foundation. 


So that’s the chef and the soldier. They prepare seriously and with great care, but enjoy enormous gains in efficiency and productivity. Early retirees? Investors? The good ones are no different. Early retirees, who are more aptly described as financially independent, tend to be individuals who saved aggressively in their twenties/thirties and ‘retired’ in their thirties/forties. Usually, however, they still continue working plenty hard, but only for passion and never for need of money. These smart investors, whom you can read about here, here, or here, took care when laying their foundations and now reap the benefits far earlier in life than most people would ever dream.


Making your actual bed can lead to a happier mental state, more efficient actions, and the delayed gratification achieved upon coming home and falling asleep in a well-made bed. Similarly, being smart enough to refrain from spending a portion of your income each month and invest it long-term sets you up for a more efficient financial life, the opportunity to develop your value system independently of money-related concerns, and the delayed gratification of being desk-free, debt-free, and nine-to-five-free decades before your peers.


After all, if you invest 15% of your income, you can retire in 43 years. 50%? Get ready to be financially independent (a.k.a free) in 17 years. Sock away 70%? Quit your office job in 8.5 years, and pursue whatever you love. Don’t know how to invest? That’s what this site is for! Click Wonder (at the top of every page), and you’ll know all you need to know by the end of the Invest! section, one hour later.


Moving forward…


It’s a philosophy that is simple and widely prevalent in highly effective professions and people. Financially making your bed doesn’t just make you wealthy; it makes you free. WLI stays philosophically bound to Mr. Money Mustache, one of the world’s most intelligent early-retirees-turned-financial-philosophers. Living on less than you earn buys your freedom from money-based decisions: Why take a miserable job for the higher paycheck? Why work until 5:00 when your kids get out of school at 3:00? Why work in the city when you live in the ‘burbs and why live in the suburbs if you want to work downtown?


If you’re anything like the 87% of workers worldwide who, as Gallup puts it, ‘are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive’ (a.k.a unhappy at work), start thinking about living with less. And financial independence, when you achieve it, won’t entail freewheeling, frugality-be-damned, luxury-embracing spending. Not even close! The act of financially making your bed and building wealth at an early age fundamentally changes your values. Your blindness to the consumerist circus we all live in recedes, and you begin to prioritize things that don’t cost very much money.


You start to understand that a new car won’t make you happier than a used one, that a watch won’t make you happier than an extra day spent with a special lady-friend, that a morning coffee at Starbucks doesn’t beat the hundreds of thousands of dollars that you could earn by simply investing that daily money instead. And even the money won’t make you happier: the freedom it buys to pursue wholesome goals will. The insanely luxurious lifestyle that you, unlike virtually every human that ever came before you on this planet, is excessive. And will still be insanely luxurious when you cut it in half.


When you fund your future before indulging your day-to-day whims, you realize that this material shit (and yes, it’s shit) that most people embrace doesn’t make you a happier or better person. When you put to good use the money that you’re frivolously and pointlessly wasting, you’ll reach financial independence much more quickly than you would have guessed. Along the way, you’ll a person who doesn’t rely on expensive social norms and material goods to get temporary, artificial boosts in happiness.


Be more like chefs and soldiers: prep your finances like they prep their workspaces. The life-wide mise en place attitude will fundamentally change you for the better. You’ll learn the real value of your money and, more importantly, the real value of your time. Make your financial bed and, through the frugal, wholesome values you will develop, maximize the happiness you get from every coming day by making choices not based on their financial qualities but on their alignment with your real values.


Convinced? Let us know in the comments section.


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*we stole the image from We aren’t thieves, just people without cameras! Pay them a visit, show some love, and/or use their awesome tool to find your dream apartment 😉 

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