The world’s most liberating word.

Would it help you to know one specific word that can inject freedom into every day of your life? When potential retirement funding clients approach me about coming aboard my intentionally small financial planning practice, I begin my vetting process with an exploratory meeting. I ask about their lives, dreams, aspirations and goals.

People with written goals that are properly formulated are much more likely to succeed in life. Intriguingly, there’s a cerebral driver responsible for this. You see, deep in the human brainstem, situated above the spinal cord, is a network of neurons. (If biology is not your strong suit, just know that neurons are special cells which transmit chemical and electrical signals.) That network of neurons is called the RAS (pronounced ‘raz’): reticular activating system.

Our RAS functions as a sifter and filter to ensure the deluge of sensory inputs we receive through our five physical senses — hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching — doesn’t cause a cascading overload.

Once we set a huge, major goal concerning something we passionately care for, such as having a baby, buying a sports car or investing wisely, our RAS kicks in and might highlight, respectively, books on pregnancy, crimson Ferraris on the road, and enlightening articles on personal finance! We notice what matters to us and ignore most other things.

Since we all want to succeed and none of us craves to fail, we should manage our time and money in a manner that helps us reach our key life goals. That’s why I believe the world’s most liberating word is... No.

As important as our ‘yes-es’ are to our powerful RAS, we can only narrow into laser-sharp focus the vital goals of our lives when we say ‘no’ widely and wisely to mere distractions.

We need to practise saying ‘no’ to the countless calls upon our time and money that do not move us closer to our core life goals. Only then can our well-considered, focused ‘yes-es’ turbo-boost us

towards goal achievement.


Most people say they want huge success, yet too few of us are willing to pay its steep price. Consider what author Andrew Hallam recounts in his book Millionaire Teacher — The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School concerning his intense, odd approach to life, money and borrowings after he graduated:

“I’m not recommending that a young person who seeks early retirement should live the way I did in my early 20s. But thinking of debt as a life-threatening, contagious disease served me pretty well.”

Hallam’s is not a commonplace view amongst most young adults, yet that idiosyncratic worldview propelled him to financial strength and security. In 2014, he and his wife retired as millionaires from their teaching jobs.

Hallam was just 44.

You probably know that many tertiary students in the developed world spend decades after college repaying their student loans. It’s an epidemic of debt that curses young adults in the world’s wealthiest countries. They waste money and years of their lives paying interest instead of utilising the most valuable God-given resource for compounding wealth: time.

Hallam, a Brit who built a career as an expatriate teacher, did not follow the path well-travelled by most graduates. (Correction: In last week’s column I referred to Hallam as an American. I was wrong. Sorry! Admittedly, if you watch his interviews on YouTube, you might think he sounds American.)

After graduation, Hallam chose to say ‘no’ to immediate gratification and exercised an iron will. Eccentrically, he even resorted, in his earliest working years, to collecting clams from the beach to provide his body with free protein!

“Dinner for less than a dollar. It doesn’t matter how well you can initially tolerate a bland meal. Keeping that diet up day after day is about as enticing as eating dog food. But my debt burden lessened as I lived on just 30 per cent of my teacher’s salary ―allowing me to allocate 70 per cent of my salary towards debt reduction.”

For years after graduation, Hallam said ‘no’ to the usual niceties and comforts of life. What he accomplished through intense, significant personal sacrifice is not commonplace: early millionaire status on a teacher’s salary.


Like him, we each have a choice: Do we live our lives in this consumer-focused world buying depreciating ‘baubles’, as financial guru Robert Kiyosaki often describes them, or do we swim against the tide of consumerism to purchase appreciating assets that will propel us to the heights of career, life and economic success?

The choice, as always, is ours.

Once we decide what’s massively important to us, we can and should engage our unique, specific RAS — by daily writing and rewriting our goals — to focus on life elements that constitute our version of success. (For more guidance on goal-setting read my online article Set Those BIG Goals Today at

Please understand that to make room for a few core ‘yes-es’ in our lives, we must become adept at saying ‘no’; naturally, fixedly, repeatedly. If you stop to mull it over, you might agree it’s magnificently ironic that the simple key to an uncommon scaling of great heights in life might be the appropriate unsheathing and wielding of a common, scary, potent two-letter word we all used so effectively as toddlers.

© 2018 Rajen Devadason

Read his free articles at; he may be connected with on LinkedIn at, and Twitter @RajenDevadason

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