Millionaire by 30

News clip from my old life.
A moment in my old life: Spreading the word about our brick & mortar business (Bucks4Books) in Salt Lake City, Utah

Last week I turned 28 years old and like many people, my birthday was met with a lot of reflection and evaluation about life.

I was talking with my cousin who called to wish me a happy birthday and during our conversation, he helped me put things into perspective.

Out of the blue he says, “well, it doesn’t look like you’re going to reach your goal anytime soon does it?”

I had no idea what he was talking about. He continued… “Wasn’t it always your goal to become a millionaire by 30?

I was amazed that he remembered. I sat speechless; thinking about what he said as old emotions came flooding back. Somewhat embarrassed and thrown off, I laughed and said “You’re right, that was the goal and no, it doesn’t look like it at this point…

Since I was a sophomore in college I’ve had one primary goal in life: To become a millionaire by the age of 30. I know it sounds like an outlandish aim, but honestly it’s all I wanted.

I thought that money was the ticket to happiness.

Once this goal was set, I had given up playing collegiate basketball, surrounded myself with pro-active students and changed my major from Liberal Arts to a double major in Finance and Economics.

By my senior year, I started a new organization on campus called the Entrepreneur’s Club, I was trading stocks and stock options on a weekly basis, bartending three nights a week, co-running the off-campus bookstore and writing a 250-page senior thesis on the strategic management of the casino industry. It kicked my ass but I convinced myself I was “training for success.”

As I became more and more infatuated with my goal, I discounted my friends, neglected a girlfriend and sacrificed my social life . I believed these were necessary steps to become successful and in turn, to become happy.

I thought I could make it up to those I neglected once the money came.

After graduation the goal seemed more like an in-due-time reality than a far-fetched dream. I took the position of marketing director with the textbook start-up I’d been working with since my sophomore year and the potential seemed unlimited. There were Seven of us with an “us vs. the world” attitude and we worked tirelessly to build the business.

Over the next 3 years we established 11 bookstore locations across Upstate New York, Utah and California and our online presence grew to become the third largest textbook marketplace (behind Amazon and Half). Everything was moving fast and the goal continued to drive me.

In the process, I was traveling across the States, visiting new cities, meeting new people and living a life few 24 year olds have the opportunity to experience. The only problem was, I was a prisoner of the pursuit. I didn’t have the ability to step back and appreciate my surroundings. My life had no balance.

I thought I could only enjoy life after I reached a certain level of success.

As we grew and the pie got bigger, I began to notice how the relationship between money and happiness wasn’t as co-dependent as I thought. I could see how having more on the table influenced both the team and myself. We were so consumed by our own equity that happiness became impossible. Not the sun, sand or surf surrounding our new offices in San Diego could change my frame of mind.

We all gathered for a meeting one night on the beach to discuss the future of the company. It was written across everyone’s face that we were drained and uninspired. In that moment, I realized that I could only go so far with money as my only motivation. It finally hit me, I had lost touch with what was important to me and it was time to move on.

Fast-forward two and a half years later to the birthday conversation with my cousin.

“Is that still your goal?” He asked, pressing the issue.

I collected all these thoughts and emotions and with a reaffirmed sense of direction, I responded confidently,

If the opportunity presents itself, there’s no doubt I’ll go for it. However, that goal has a lot more stipulations now.

I want to be a part of something I believe in. I want to be a part of something that truly makes me happy.

I was wrong about needing great wealth to enjoy life. I’ve learned how money and happiness aren’t directly correlated.

I understand now that happiness comes from within and that friends and family are the ones who make you successful. This isn’t to say that I’m slowing down by any means. I trust that my ambition will never allow me to be content with anything I do. However, I now have a mindset that allows me to be happy while I’m doing it.

At this moment, I’m experiencing all of the things I thought I could only do once I reached my goal. I’m exploring foreign places, meeting interesting people and devouring new adventures. I am able do all this without lacking a thing, financially or otherwise. My life is in balance and I’m in the pursuit of happiness.

I haven’t stopped chasing my dreams, but now I’m enjoying every minute along the way.

My cousin paused for a minute and responded, “That’s cool, so how are the women down there?”

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


    1. A film degree would have come in handy for what I’m doing now, haha. I agree, quality of life since making the “leap” has been incredible… Now I just need to pair that with financial freedom and I’ll be all set.

  1. The wisest man and wealthy beyond measure left us some great wisdom.
    Ecclesiastes, 2
    I made for myself pools of water from which to water the forest and make the trees bud.
    I bought menservants and maidservants and had servants born in my house. Also I had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem.
    I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces. I got for myself men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men–[a]concubines very many.

    So I became great and increased more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me and stood by me.
    And whatever my eyes desired I kept not from them; I withheld not my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor, and this was my portion and reward for all my toil.

    Then I looked on all that my hands had done and the labor I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after the wind and a feeding on it, and there was no profit under the sun.

  2. Very interesting how you have just written this as I have just done something similar about achieving goals at certain stages in my life.

    My goal for hitting 30 was not to be a millionaire like you but to simply not work for anyone else.
    My wife and I got married and started our first company in the same month, a couple of weeks after I turned 30 so you could say I managed to do that.

    My next goal was to retire at 40. I turned that last month and yes, I am now semi-retired, just waiting to finish up some loose ends.
    No, I’m far from being a millionaire, but we have sorted ourselves out to have a passive income stream.

    What I like about your post, and which is SO TRUE is:
    “I was wrong about needing great wealth to enjoy life. I’ve learned money and happiness aren’t correlated.

    Now I understand that happiness comes from within and that friends and family are the ones who make you successful. ”

    What you say is so true. People worry and fret about gathering more and more money and when they get to a certain point, it STILL isn’t enough and they keep going (until they burn out).

    We made a lifestyle choice to spend more time as a family and for ourselves. And as I said, we aren’t millionaires though are very happy to be retired at 40. Living and enjoying the moment now.
    Rob, A Kiwi in Chile recently posted..10 years and big newsMy Profile

    1. That’s awesome Rob, thank you for sharing your story! Sounds like you have found success and happiness. And you’re right, some people will never be satisfied financially. I just hope to never be satisfied creatively.

  3. Reminds me of one of my favorite short stories:

    There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.
    As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.
    The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
    The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
    “Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
    “This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
    The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
    The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

    The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
    “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

    The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
    The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
    The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
    The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
    The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

  4. I’m with you Gareth! I’ve chased money since I was 16 and while it’s allowed me to travel and experience some incredible things, there is nothing more valuable than focusing on life and family verus focusing on making that next few bucks. I now have a totally different outlook on life since I started traveling. Don’t get me wrong, if I come across a large sum of money at some point in my life, I’ll certainly take it and use it wisely. For now, I’m just enjoying every single minute of my life and living like there’s no tomorrow.
    Ryan @ recently posted..Cruising Along the Coast of the Cape PeninsulaMy Profile

    1. Ryan, I couldn’t agree more. The ultimate goal is to get to the point of financial freedom while still enjoying every minute… It’s a work-in-progress.

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  6. I have just hit 28 and am in a very similar situation you were in. I have a masters in Economics and have had fulfilling jobs in finance since I graduated. My contract is ending soon and job wise I have no idea what is going to happen next so I have decided to make a break for or it and travel to South America. : )

  7. How can I get paid by anyone to travel and have cash to get started I have always wanted to travel and help people

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