You vs The Marketing Industry

8 ways to customize your environment for financial success

Agatha from The Wealth Tribe
6 min readFeb 6, 2020

Most of my memorable childhood memories get replayed in my mind during my weekday evening runs or when I’m showering. Sometimes when I’m running, painful memories also get replayed, especially when I’m on the first two kilometres. Past two kilometres, my body is usually in too much pain to entertain any more pain from the past. At this point, I give myself pep talks to keep going as I have to keep increasing the threshold of pain my body can take while running. I hope to run my first marathon before the year ends.

The other day when I was in the shower, I remembered my late mum’s love for books and writing. I learned to read books actively from my mother, with a pen and notebook always at hand, she would copy her favourite passages, quotes and scientific stuff she’d never heard of. All for further research. In a year, that woman could fill five or more notebooks. Most of these notes included recipes that she’d get from the many health and nutritional books she owned. Which reminds me that I should hop onto that genre to see if I can get legit information on what to eat to gain some weight.

I often joke that my mother owned more books, notebooks included, than clothes. She often read her notes as she sat on her brown sofa at the corner of our living room, with a leso placed on her laps tacked behind her thighs. When she passed on in January 2014, these notebooks were some of the greatest treasures she left my sisters and I. There’s so much wisdom in there that I’m still soaking in six years later.

I learnt from her that when it comes to learning new content, I shouldn’t trust my brain too much, especially if it’s a topic that I’m not naturally inclined to. One of these topics is money.

If you didn’t grow up with parents or around adults who taught you about good money management, you won’t learn it in one day, through reading one book or watching one or two Youtube videos. Or better still, through reading my money stories. You will need to customize your life in a way that on a daily basis, you’re gaining new insights on money and investing. You will need to read, hear, be told, listen to the words ‘live below your means’ several times before it becomes normal for you.

To get out of debt from the mobile money lending apps;

1. I read personal finance books for a year.

These books include;

  • A Simple Path to Wealth — JL Collins
  • The Richest Man in Babylon- George Samuel Clason
  • The Jewish Phenomenon — Steven Silbige
  • The Financial Diet- Chelsea Fagan & Lauren Ver Hag
  • How Rich People Think- Steve Siebold
  • Atomic Habits- James Clear
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad — Robert Kiyosaki
  • I will Will Teach You To Be Rich — Ramit Sethi

2. Watched and subscribed to YouTube channels. I never missed an episode!

  • The Financial Diet
  • The Dave Ramsey Show
  • Minority Mindset

3. Customized my Twitter feed — I followed people who tweet about money and investing

4. Joined a Telegram channel that posts business news daily

The Kenyan Wallstreet

5. I had a collection of my favourite tweets, book/article highlights on money

This knowledge is an asset to me. It’s one of the things that I have to constantly back up on my phone. I reread them as I commute to and from work.

6. I had money conversations with my friends and mentors.

Having the verbal confidence to speak about money is a superpower; speaking about your biggest financial fears makes them lose power.

7. Listened to podcasts on money

  • The Knowledge Project
  • Women At Work
  • The Naval Podcast

8. I had a money IQ notebook where I wrote all these lessons that I gathered from all the above sources-I still do!

I have a set of questions that I’m using to journal about my money habits on a monthly basis.

I carry this notebook with me in my backpack often. I’m not going to move around without this knowledge. This world is set up to ensure that you forget and become an addicted consumer. Check your social media feed, the ads on your browser, billboards…

I deleted my Instagram and Facebook accounts because I was tired of following people who advertise stuff that I didn’t even know I needed until they told me so.

It’s worse for those of us who live in cities where everyone looks like they’ve just stepped out of a fashion magazine. You step out of your house thinking you’re rocking a classy outfit only to get to the streets and realize that they changed the fashion goal posts overnight. There’s always a heavy cloud living around me whose aim is to ensure I forget the damn budget and just buy myself a new pair of sneakers!

So without customizing your life in a way that financial intelligence becomes a lifestyle, you will not win this war.

Environmental design is powerful not only because it influences how we engage with the world but also because we rarely do it. Most people live in a world others have created for them. But you can alter the spaces where you live and work to increase your exposure to positive cues and reduce your exposure to negative cues. Environment design allows you to take back control and become the architect of your life. Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.

(Excerpt from James Clear’s Atomic Habits)

With time, a customized environment that gives you positive financial IQ cues will change your financial software.

I wouldn’t have become a prolific reader if the environment I grew up in didn’t have reading triggers-my mom had books and magazines all over, in fact, they were not arranged in a bookshelf most of the time. They were everywhere, and she often bought us books and asked us to share what we learnt.

Reading wasn’t presented as a punishment but as a fun activity. Which was different with money in my childhood; it was all about scarcity and arguments.

This life hack became clearer when I read James Clear’s Atomic Habits;

When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.

I have a friend who has never taken alcohol or smoked cigarettes. Not even weed or other drugs that are often used. At first, I was impressed when he told me about it. Then I dug deeper and learnt that at first, it was because he never got to see the fun in it. He had other ways to have fun. Then when he got married, he decided that he’d never get home past 8 pm as he wanted to make sure he spends time with his kids. If he doesn’t hang out in clubs, or with friends who drink, he has no triggers to drink.

Have you ever wondered why drug addicts relapse after rehab? They went back home! To the same environment that enabled the addiction.

Exercising discipline in your spending, summoning your willpower to avoid buying an extra cup of coffee or forcing self-control is a short term strategy. It’s more sustainable in the long term if you create an environment where positive money habits are a normal lifestyle. You can’t switch this mindset on and off.

As Naval says, to write a great book, you must first become the book.

Originally published at on February 6, 2020.