In our last week as Fiscally Savage, let’s look back at our roots, at where it all started. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy. But what a journey it’s been indeed – defined by life-altering choices, pivotal moments of realization, love and support from family and friends, and an unwavering willingness to grow.
Join us as we reminisce how the savage mindset came to be, and the discovery of what life offers beyond just survival.
- [01:16] The end of a teaching career
- [07:27] The beginning of the savage mindset
- [12:53] Shifting towards an accounting career
- [17:50] Figuring out the rest of the missing pieces
- [20:16] Succeeding beyond the comfort zone
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage podcast.
[00:00:16] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. Welcome to the last week of Fiscally Savage. We’re going to be rebranding a week from today into Intuitive Finance with Dylan Bain. And this is going to be a big shift for both the podcast and for my coaching practice. And I’m really excited about it. And I’m just going to take a moment here today to talk about my ideas around savagery and really just tell the story of how we got to where we are.
[00:00:47] It really begins in 2014. I’m a teacher at a local high school in Flagstaff, Arizona, and things are pretty good. I wanted to be a teacher. I really loved working with my students. I had founded a wrestling team and had started brand new classes for the school. My students — well, maybe they didn’t all like me, but most of them respected me and I thought it was going quite well.
[00:01:16] And then one day, my principal comes to me and says that she wants a moment of my time. And I walk down her office wondering if this is going to make me late for my third job, when she brings me into her office and starts yammering on about metrics, and KPIs, and state standards and blah blah blah, then I’m beginning to realize how many of my students probably fell to my math classes. And then suddenly she says, “And Dylan, that’s why we need you to change these grades.”
[00:01:45] And my whole world stopped. It was like the record scratch in one of those shows. I didn’t know what to do, because in the state of Arizona only teachers were allowed to assign grades, and I had already assigned my grades and she was telling me we would have to change them in order to meet graduation requirements because my class was required for graduation. This is fraud. She was asking me to commit fraud so the school could keep its 100% graduation rate. And I told her that I didn’t want to do it, I told her that I wasn’t going to be bullied into this and that it wasn’t the right thing to do. And she looked me right in the eye and said, “Dylan, maybe you should go home tonight, play with your daughter, and think about what type of man she needs you to be right now.”
[00:02:36] Ladies and gentlemen, that was the day the music died for me when it comes to teaching. I knew in that moment that I wouldn’t be a teacher anymore, and I knew in that moment that I was being put into a situation I did not want to be in because I had to decide what my integrity was worth.
[00:02:52] And I did go home. I called in sick to my third job, which was bouncing at a local music venue. And I played with my daughter and I put her down to sleep, and my wife got in the car and went to her school where she was a graduate student and was studying, and I opened up a bottle of whiskey and proceeded to try to find the bottom of it. I got really drunk. I got really drunk in my small three-bedroom apartment in Flagstaff, the cheapest I could possibly find, that backed up to a drainage ditch that served as my backyard, while my beautiful baby daughter was asleep upstairs.
[00:03:26] I was a teacher, and while I loved teaching — while I loved everything about it — I was only making about $2,100 a month, all in, and rent was half that. We were not making ends meet. My wife, as a graduate student, was making more money than I was as a teacher, and I was working two additional jobs. And they were odd jobs. They were never really steady. I worked in a tax office, and that only works for tax season. I drove trucks. I bounced at local music venues. I took maintenance jobs. Anything I could. Any dollar that I could possibly get I had to get, and even with all that we were still going further and further in debt every single month. I didn’t have a health insurance for my kids. I had health insurance for me, but not for my kids.
[00:04:12] And I’m now caught in this moment in my life trying to decide what to do, because on the one hand I just want to give in. I just want to give my principal what she wants and then she’ll go away, but I also know that I could never look myself in the eye again, that this is one of those seminal moments in a man’s life. I have to decide who I really am and what I’m really made out of.
[00:04:38] And on the other side of it is telling my principal how far up her ass she can stick this, knowing that will be the end of the job. They will not give me a contract for next year. She’s already made it very clear that I need to make, in her words, good decisions for the sake of my child, my daughter.
[00:04:56] But I’m also thinking about my wife. We had gotten married when we both were working overseas in Taiwan, and we had come back to the United States so that she could pursue her graduate studies because she wanted to work with the electric power grid in the United States and she needed additional schooling to do that. And I had promised her as her husband that I was going to help support her all the way through graduate school. And we decided we were going to have kids. And we had one beautiful baby daughter and we were getting ready to start trying for our second.
[00:05:31] And I’m sitting here questioning myself as to what my integrity is worth. Is it better to just, for the sake of the stability of the family, say no, I don’t want to do this, and just give in to my principal’s demand? And I was brought back in that moment to a conversation with my grandfather, who I’ve admired greatly, who I love deeply. And he told me once, he said, “Tiger, you’re going to think differently when you have kids. You’re young now, and you’re brash, and you’re intense, and you’re all hard edges. But those balls of yours will shrivel right up when your kids are on the line.”
[00:06:09] And that conversation with my grandfather was haunting me in this moment, because I was tempted to follow the path he told me I would follow. But the question was, what kind of man did my daughter need me to be? And looking at myself back at that moment, at that point in time, I was what I would call now, a nothing man. A null. I was negated. I didn’t really exist, and I didn’t really exist because I had done exactly what everyone told me was the right path forward.
[00:06:44] I had done the civilized thing. I’d gone to school, I’d gotten good grades, I kept my nose clean, I got a good job. I had a full time job as a teacher, and that full time job was supposed to pay everything for me. I was supposed to have benefits. And if I just continued to work at that teaching job, my salary would ratchet up every year and pretty soon I’d be able to afford a house. But at the current rate in which I was getting a raise, which was on good years 2%, but mostly about 1.5, that was never gonna happen. I was nothing. I was what everyone else had defined me to be. I had lived my life based upon the terms that they had set out for me.
[00:07:27] And that had brought me to my kitchen table, drunk as fuck all, wondering what the hell I’m going to do. Because being a nothing man, being a null, being negated, meant that they could define how I was supposed to act. And in this case, my principal was making a play to redefine Dylan from a man of integrity to the person who just follows orders. And in that moment, I had a vision in my life.
[00:07:57] It was with a house in a yard where I heard two beautiful children playing with a ball — it was green — while I’m on my back porch grilling steaks on the grill, food we couldn’t possibly have hoped to afford, as my wife hugs me from behind and says, “Honey, I love what we built.” It was just a moment, it was just a momentary flash, a little dream, and it changed everything. It changed everything because in that moment I promised myself that I was done being defined by the civilized thing. I was done being the person everyone told me I should be. I was done following the approved past. I was done with all of that.
[00:08:41] No more time was going to be wasted following that path. It was time to start breaking things. This was going to be about me, because I was Dylan, goddammit. I was meant for something more than to be sniveling at the feet of my principal, hoping beyond hope that somehow, maybe, the state legislature will grant me some more money so that I can afford things like swimming lessons for my children. No. I was meant for more.
[00:09:14] I was meant to have a house with a yard, with kids playing, with steaks on the grill, and receiving a wonderful compliment from my wife. I was meant to be in the room where it happened. I was meant to be a decision maker, a leader. Somebody looked up to, somebody that you would want to mentor you. I was finally done waiting to be selected for that and I was going to go get it.
[00:09:37] I was not going to shoot for the moon and hope to land among the stars. I was going to walk into the room and demand the entire night sky, and we will negotiate from there. I’m abandoning the civilized path. I’m going to go feral, I’m going to go savage. I’m rejecting every nicety that I was taught. To keep my head down, to keep my nose clean. I was going to define my life now on my terms. Because I wanted that house with a yard, with the kids in the backyard playing with a green ball, while I’m grilling steaks, and my wife is expressing how much she loves what we built. I’m going to define that on my terms.
[00:10:15] And so the next day, ladies and gentlemen, I walked into my principal’s office and I told her that I wasn’t going to do it. And she tss-ed at me and told me that I was making bad decisions, and that she was very disappointed in me, and my daughter would be very disappointed in me. And then there were words that came out of my mouth that forever sealed the deal. It was, and furthermore, you can go fuck yourself.
[00:10:40] It was the first time in my life that I had actually stood up to an authority figure and said, no, I’m not doing that. We’re moving on. This is about me now. And furthermore, you can go fuck yourself.
[00:10:54] And I walked out of her office, knowing that I had for all intents and purposes, just quit my job. With no backup plan, with nothing up my sleeve to help me out here. I had just functionally quit my job, and I went down the hall, to the bathroom, and I locked myself in, and I cried. Because I was scared. Because I didn’t know what to do or how to get there. And when I went home that evening, I thought real long and hard about what was I going to do? Because I didn’t have a plan. I had a vision. I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know how to get there.
[00:11:31] And so I went back to the question my principal had asked me of what type of man does my daughter need me to be, and I didn’t know. I didn’t know what that was going to look like in the end, but I did know that man had a clean car. And so I went out to my ’97 Honda Civic, with the felt coming down off the ceiling. This little shitbox of a car that I had purchased with my pocket change when I got back from Taiwan. And I took it down to the car wash, and I washed it, and I detailed it. I made sure that car was spic and span.
[00:12:01] And then I started making my bed in the morning, because the man that I needed to become, he made his bed in the morning. Then I started dressing nicer. I started taking myself more seriously. I started demanding to be in the room where it happens. Because I was going to get that house with the yard.
[00:12:17] This, ladies and gentlemen, is the moment in time in my life where I can say, this is where the savage became a reality. I was no longer a nothing man, a null, a negated. I was somebody who lived and breathed, who would howl at the moon, who would smash and grab and take what was mine. I was done begging, I was never going to live life on my knees ever again. I would sooner die on my feet. I was going to live by a rule that I mattered. And I was going to define myself based upon that, and I wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
[00:12:53] Eventually I focused on accounting, because if I went into accounting — well, accounting in the business world can be really boring, but it’s also like a superpower because there are a class of accountants. They’re mostly CPAs that can look at financial statements and read them like a book, and like a fortune teller, guide companies with them. These were the auditors. These were the guys who would take this entire company apart on an atomic level. And they would be in the meetings with the board members. They would present to the audit committee and the board of directors. Interfacing with the highest levels of authority within the company. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the room where it happens.
[00:13:34] And so that’s what I did. I was going to go into accounting. Okay, cool. I know what I need to do now. I got my clean car, I’ve got my made bed, and now I’m going to go and do something I’ve never done before, which is be a good student. Because I graduated from my undergrad with a 2.7, because I had gone to college not because I had some grand plan, but because I was told that’s what I was supposed to do. And that everything was going to work out if I did that. And newsflash, that’s what had led me to sitting in my principal’s office and her explaining to me to commit fraud or else.
[00:14:06] And so I dedicated myself to accounting, to being in that room where it happens. I was going to be the top student. And I was. And I was going to get offers from all of the Big Four accounting firms, and I did. But it was not without detractors. My first day, I sat down with a professor, who has been a professor of accounting for 35 years at that point, and he asked me what my play here was.
[00:14:32] And I looked at him and I said I’m going to be a Big Four accountant. And he literally laughed out loud. He said, Dylan, just take the Big Four off the table here, because they’re never going to want you. You’re too old. They want young people that they can mold, and you’re too old. And again, I found myself in the bathroom, crying. And I walked out saying no, I’m defining this on my terms.
[00:15:00] There are no rules here because I’m going to break all the rules. I’m going to go get those jobs and I did. When I signed up for mock interviews I interviewed with a large multi trillion dollar financial management firm and I thought I crushed the interview. I asked the guy behind the table, hey would you hire me? And he said no. I wouldn’t even consider you. And I was crushed because I thought I’d done a great job. He said no, your interview was trash.
[00:15:28] And then I had a moment, not dissimilar to the moment of telling my principal to go fuck herself, where I just said, how do I get to yes? The words came right out of my mouth before I could even process what they were. I heard them at the same time this man heard them. And he said, oh, I’ll tell you. And then took the next half an hour explaining to me where all the problems were.
[00:15:52] I, ladies and gentlemen, interviewed with that man in mock interviews seven times in two years, every time asking if he would hire me and every time him telling me no, until the last mock interview, I signed up, I walked into the interview room, I had my suit on, I sat down and he said, let’s just skip the formalities and slid me an offer letter. I hadn’t even applied. That is what savagery brought me.
[00:16:20] Every job application I put in when I finished up graduate school and I had already passed the CPA exams, I was accepted. I filled out nine applications to nine accounting firms and I had nine offers. Including all four of the Big Four. And, on top of it, I had three additional cold offers from people who knew me by reputation but really wanted me to come work for them. Because they knew my reputation, that I was the man who didn’t take hostages. He was the guy who demanded the whole night sky. And they wanted me to go join them so that they could then use me to make a lot of money, and that was okay because they were going to pay me too.
[00:16:55] For four and a half years, ladies and gentlemen, this was my sole focus. To be the best. To be the top. Not like I was in teaching. That was the biggest difference between when I was a teacher versus when I was in my MBA program versus when I was in the Big Four. Because when I was a teacher and I would say, hey, I have these great ideas or I’m going to be ambitious, people would say, hey, Dylan, why not pump the brakes a little bit? Take a step back. You don’t want to stand out.
[00:17:23] When I was at the Big Four, the response would be, what do you need? How can I help? For four and a half years, this was my sole focus. Complete, unbridled savagery. Howling at the moon. Taking no prisoners. No hostages. High speed, low drag, smash and grab. Fight everything. Anytime they told me I couldn’t do it, that was an invitation to try until I was successful. Four and a half years.
[00:17:50] And ladies and gentlemen, at the end of it, I bought the house with the yard. And I grilled the steaks while my kids played in the backyard. And my wife told me she loved what we built.
[00:18:01] But she wasn’t happy. My wife wasn’t happy. My marriage was in absolute shambles. Physically, I had sacrificed my body. I had gained a ton of weight. I had high blood pressure. I had gone through several attacks of gout. A couple of medical scares. I was in really rough shape. But I had accomplished the goal, I had achieved the vision. Everything else was a disaster.
[00:18:25] I had become the best auditor, the best accountant. I was in the room where it happens. And everywhere else my life was happening, I wasn’t there. This is where I learned that taking the savage approach is typically a necessary step on the road to self-improvement.
[00:18:46] Savages are very good at securing the bottom two layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. That is, your physiological needs. That is food, water, shelter, sex, those things. They’re very good at it. And the second layer up is your physical security. Safety and security. No one goes and fucks with the savage. It’s a good way to find yourself in a fight. And so, the savage mentality is absolutely critical to securing those two layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
[00:19:18] The problem is savages have trouble with relationships with other people because, by definition, they’re smash and grab. And what I found myself in was a place where — and I think the best way to express this is, I was talking to a very good friend of mine who also happened to be a therapist.
[00:19:38] And I was talking about the next fight I was gonna line up, the next thing I was gonna conquer, the next window I was gonna smash, and the next stuff I was gonna grab. He looked at me and he said, Dylan, I know other people applaud you, but I gotta tell you this is kinda pathetic. And I was gobsmacked. What do you mean? I was on welfare for fuck’s sake, and I’m not on it anymore. I bought a house. I’ve generated wealth. I’ve sent my kids to good schools. I can conquer anything. I’m the guy who punches a hole in the sky. I demand the whole night sky. Like, how is this pathetic?
[00:20:16] And he looked me right in the eye and he said, Dylan, the fight is your comfort zone. He told me he didn’t respect me because the fight, the battle, the savagery, it was all familiar and safe. It was a place I knew I could be successful. It was my comfort zone.
[00:20:36] And I felt like he punched me in the stomach because he was 100% right. Completely right. It was my comfort zone. I longed for it. It was safe and secure. And I asked him, what do I need to do? He said, you need to learn how to be in a relationship with other people. And I tried my approach with relationships with other people, super intense, going right towards it. I’m going to get that next layer of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Relationships with others. Yes!
[00:21:03] But this is where I was like a Viking in a tea shop. I had my armor and I had my battle axe and I kick in the door and I run in. And it’s a tea shop, not a battlefield. The rules here are completely different. Everything I’ve learned to this point is useless in this tea shop. Because in order to be successful in the tea shop, you have to serve good tea. But I don’t know how to serve good tea. I know how to split skulls with my battle axe. I know how to fight. I know how to conquer things. I know how to beat the odds. I know how to be a savage.
[00:21:35] But that’s not what is successful with relationships. Relationships with others, specifically. And so the Viking in the tea shop has basically three options. He can try his normal approach, which is trash the place, which of course is not going to create good relationships. You can turn around and run back to his comfort zone. The fight. And this is where, ladies and gentlemen, if you think about there are a lot of one trick ponies in this world. There’s a lot of men, specifically, who are really good at making money and building empires.
[00:22:05] But when you look at their personal life, you’re like, what are you doing, bro? You’re like, man, this is terrible. They drink, they smoke, they do a lot of maladaptive stuff, but man, they got a million dollars, so they must be right. Right? Well, no. Not right, because that’s their comfort zone. They’ve dedicated themselves to no longer growing, because they don’t need to, because they’ve decided to stay in that comfort zone. They’re the Viking who ran into the tea shop, turned around, scared, and ran back out.
[00:22:36] The third option for the Viking in the tea shop is to put the axe aside, sit down, and learn how to just boil water. That simple. That difficult. Just learn how to boil water because it’s the first step on learning how to make really good tea. And that’s where I found myself. I was the Viking, the savage, in the tea shop learning how to boil water.
[00:22:59] The moral of the story, ladies gentlemen, is that savages survive. And that’s a good thing. We need that. That savage part of ourselves needs to be fostered and grown. It’s good. And it’s a relationship with yourself. When you are struggling for survival, and survival is your victory condition, the savage inside of you is the person you need on your side. You grow that person by learning to define yourself on your terms of who you are and what you want. That is how this works.
[00:23:33] That is what happened to me when I decided I’m no longer going to be the nothing man, the null, the negation. I’m going to be somebody with needs and wants, who demands the entire night sky. That’s the savage. And I moved from just merely surviving to thriving, at least on an economic level.
[00:23:50] But relationships with others, that’s the part that makes life worth living. Because at the end of the day, when I’m in the box, at my funeral, I want my daughter to be able to give my eulogy and say, this man here who we’ve come to mourn, taught me how to love myself and others.
[00:24:14] And ladies and gentlemen, I’m never going to be able to teach you that from a savage position. I’m going to teach you that when I learn how to serve good tea, because I can then be good in relationships. Your relationship with others are what make life worth living. And it’s an order of magnitude harder than just being the savage.
[00:24:31] In this, the last week of Fiscally Savage as a podcast, I’m reflecting on what that means to me.
[00:24:39] One of the things when I started on my relationship journey, and learning from other men how to be in relationship, one of the fears I expressed to my friend and mentor, Dewey Freeman, was what if I forget how to be savage?
[00:24:55] And he looked at me and said, that’s so integral to who you are, you’ll never forget how to battle. You’ll never forget how to fight. That’s not your issue. Your issue is that you don’t know how to love and be in relationship. That is a process. And it’s an order of magnitude harder.
[00:25:14] I think the fear for a lot of men specifically, but this applies to women too, is that they’re worried they’re going to forget how to make lightning strike, how to capture those moments, to get back to it. It’s one thing I hear from a lot of the men that I coach. I want to get back. I want to get back to this place. I always say, brother, your life only moves forward. It’s not about getting back to who you were. It’s about building who you’re becoming. What are you building? And I’ve been working on that building statement for years now.
[00:25:47] And with Fiscally Savage, I had one and it wasn’t great. But I’ve suddenly realized that what I’m building is a financial revolution that puts relationships back at the heart of the conversation. Because it’s time that we reimagine our money stories. It’s all about the relationships at the end of the day, and that’s what I’m looking to foster. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten how to be savage.
[00:26:15] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button, leave us a rating and review, and share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message.
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