At age 19, Anthony O’Neal was drowning in debt. He was homeless. He felt directionless.
Fast forward to today, where he’s a No. 1 national best-selling author and financial freedom guru. O’Neal’s story is far from over, but what happened between those early days of financial struggle and his breakthrough successes is a saga in its own right.
O’Neal joined Erin King for a recent episode of On Your Terms to discuss that saga, as well as what it takes to adjust your money mindset and build a life that leads to financial freedom.
A critical lack of financial information
Money matters have not been at the forefront of O’Neal’s mind for his entire life. In fact, money was a subject that rarely—if ever—came up during his childhood.
He grew up in a deeply religious family. That meant church seven days a week—and not routinely discussing money or other similarly important matters.
“The only thing we talked about was, when you get paid money, just give 10% to the church,” he said. “You do whatever you want with the other 90%.”
For O’Neal, the issue wasn’t with giving money to the church. It was doing “whatever you want” with the rest.
In other words, he didn’t have the information he needed to avoid some bad financial choices in college. Those choices left him drowning in around $25,000 in debt by the young age of 19.
The money mindset turning point
O’Neal wasn’t content to stay in the situation he found himself in at 19. He wanted more. He wanted better. So, he started doing some research.
He came across someone who would change his life: Dave Ramsey.
To be fair, Ramsey has changed quite a few lives. But O’Neal felt Ramsey’s message resonating with his desire for financial freedom so deeply that he would go on to partner with him professionally.
What to do when financial times are tight
There’s little doubt that we’re headed for a recession, but what is in doubt is how we should react to it.
O’Neal is not one of the people suffering from doubt about what should be done. He offered some advice to keep in mind as a possible recession sets in.
It starts with acknowledging where we are—in a tough financial time—and not trying “beat around the bush,” he said.
“And then focus on the things that you can control, and do not focus on the things that you cannot control,” O’Neal said. “You can’t control what the market is going to do. But you can control what your house is going to do.”
What your house should do is up to you, but O’Neal suggested looking for ways to take advantage of a downturn as if it is a financial opportunity, not an obstacle. To illustrate his advice, he invoked the pandemic.
“The internet made more millionaires during COVID than it did pre-COVID,” he said. “So, for me, I’m looking at what opportunities are available. It may be low today, but it’s a roller coaster—some go down, some go up, but you don’t jump off. You stay on it until it just comes to an end.”
The parable of the frog
O’Neal recalled a time in his school days when science classrooms would boil the frogs they were going to dissect. He pointed out that this method is no longer legal, but it’s how it was done at that time.
His teacher told him not to go fast, but to boil the frog gradually. They put the frog in the pot and turned the burner on at low heat. In small increments, they turned up the heat, and the frog remained calm. Soon, the frog was sleeping. Soon after that, it was dead.
O’Neal was upset, and he asked his teacher what had just happened—why didn’t the frog try to jump out? The teacher explained that frogs get comfortable in heat, so gradually turning up the heat makes them sleepy instead of frantic.
Later, during what he called a “rough season” of his life, O’Neal realized something.
“The frog didn’t actually die in its sleep,” he said. “The frog died in his comfort zone. So, what I want to tell people during this season is don’t allow your comfort zone to become the very same thing that kills your dreams. Don’t allow your comfort zone to become your kill zone.”
In other words, when tough financial times roll around, don’t get too comfortable or complacent just getting by. Don’t let a new financial normal destroy your dreams of success.
An easy way to make sure you’re prepared for the next season? Remember O’Neal’s six Ps: “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.”
Breaking away and believing
What convinced O’Neal to break away from a new level of success working alongside financial guru Ramsey? It was a realization that he already had what it takes to reach new levels of success.
“What I’ve had to do is realize that I don’t have to have 12 million followers like him,” O’Neal said. “I only really need a good 2,000 people to spend about $500 on me to make a million dollars in one year. And I was like, ‘I have 2,000 people; I can inspire 2,000 people.’”
And inspiring even one person starts with character.
“Because if I serve, love, and empower and impact your life, then you’re going to go and spread my message,” O’Neal said. “I have a few ‘simple Cs’ that I follow: Character builds your content, your content builds the community and community will build your career.”
It’s more than a logical progression; It’s a mindset shift. And so far, it’s working pretty well for O’Neal.
Hear the full conversation between Erin King and Anthony O’Neal on the On Your Terms podcast episode.