It Has Little To Do with Math

Personal finances is a stressful topic for most. It is the number one source of arguments in the home for many families.

When the money runs out before the month is over the tension rises. For many this is a way of life. A stress that never seems to go away even as they make more money.

What is interesting to me is how little personal finance has to do with math. You would think it is all about math since it is just dollars and cents, but when it comes to our personal finances math has almost nothing to do with it.

We do often use the math to justify our actions some how even if it is funny math. But the math has little to with the decisions we make.

If it was just about math we would never carry high interest debt or have the gigantic car payment that we can’t really afford. If it was just about math we wouldn’t spend more than we make. That doesn’t make mathematical sense, but we do it.

The answer: make more. Mathematically that makes sense looking at our current spending. A little math would tell us that adding some more money will fix the problem and it would if it was just about math. The challenge is with the added money comes the same set of decisions we have to make. They may be dressed up in fancier clothes and look a little different, but we are still left making decisions that require much more than math.

I’m not here suggesting how anyone should spend their money. Only pointing out that we should look deeper than the math when it comes to our personal finances.

I Hit It Worse

Golf is a funny game. Perhaps no other game is more challenging to master. There are so many similarities between golf and life. The lessons we learn on the golf course we can take off the course as well.

One lesson is that positive adjustments do not always give us positive results in the short-term. Often times we can decide to make a small adjustment in our golf swing. It could be a positive adjustment to our grip, our setup or our swing itself. Maybe it was instruction given by a professional that we paid to help us get better. While it may be a positive change to make us better, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels awkward. It feels uncomfortable. This results in us hitting the ball even worse. We feel like we are going backwards not forward.

I have experienced this more times than I can count on my golf journey. But I have also experienced it off the course even more. So often the changes we make to get better in the long run bring short term discomfort. We make adjustments to give us a better future, but it makes us more uncomfortable today.

This is the choice we are all given in life. We can stick with what is comfortable or we can risk making an adjustment. It may be uncomfortable. It could even make things worse. But it has the potential to make things so much better.

This why mastering anything is hard. It is a never-ending journey of risking being uncomfortable to breakthrough to a new level.

Because I Said I Would

Be a man of your word. That is old fashion advice that leads to better living. We should honor our word and do what we say we are going to do.

When Coach John Wooden was still early in his coaching career, he thought he had gotten the coaching job offer at the college that he wanted to coach basketball. There was a scheduled call to confirm the job. They didn’t call on time. In the meantime, UCLA called and offered him the job and he verbally committed because he hadn’t heard from the other. It turns out there was a huge snow storm and the phone lines were down so they couldn’t call on time. But they did end up calling later that day to offer him the job. It was the job he wanted. The one he had been waiting for, but he declined. Not because he had signed any contract but simply because he had already given his word to UCLA.

Keep in mind UCLA was not the school it is today. The facility was terrible. It was not the better place to coach, but it was where he committed to. His word was as good as any contract.

Even though it wasn’t what he wanted, he honored his word first. Then he made the best of it. He went on to build one of the best college basketball programs in the country and become one of the greatest coaches of all time.

I’m not sure many people would make the same decision he made today. But I’m not sure many people would have back then either. Coach Wooden serves as a great example to us all.

How good is your word?

Helping People Get What They Want

Zig Ziglar was one of the most well known motivational speakers. He inspired millions through his simple communication style. There are many of Zig’s quotes that people often share but I think one that he was most famous for.

“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

Like most sound advice, it is easy to say, but more difficult to actually follow. What if the goals and desires of my team don’t match up with mine? What if what I want for them is different than what they want?

We may not actually be that articulate or even voice it, but our selfishness can come in to play. Some people may try to first manipulate people in to what their desires should be so they are aligned.

That is not what Zig meant. He meant we should serve others and help them get what THEY want even when it may not align with what we want for them. Some times we may help people and not get anything tangible from it. Other times we will. I believe he was right. It is a better way to live and a better way to lead. Just help people get what they want. If we help enough people, we will be just fine and we will be happier in the process.

If You Could Go Back in Time…

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a time machine? Going back in time to experience the world or be a part of famous historical events would be fascinating, but I’m not even talking about that. What if we could just back to when we were younger? What things would we love to tell ourselves? What mistakes would we tell ourselves to avoid? What opportunities would we tell ourselves to take advantage of?

Wouldn’t we all want a do-over or at least have some sound advice to give ourselves? Unfortunately, we can’t go back to the 20 years younger version of us. That doesn’t mean we can’t still think about it. If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself? It is a worthy question that requires reflection and self-awareness.

Then I think there is another question that we can ask that is a bit more difficult. What about the 20 year older version of yourself? If your 20 year older version had a time machine and could back and give you advice about your life right now, what do you think it would be?

This is a more challenging question, but worth consideration. It has the potential to give us more clarity today.

What advice do you think the future you would give you today?

How Much Longer?

We can’t go on a road trip with kids without hearing the classic question, “how much longer?” If the trip is any where near an hour or more we will hear it and probably over and over.

We asked the question as kids too because all kids want to get to the destination faster. Waiting is hard. The interesting thing is we grow up, but we still have these same feelings and emotions of wanting to “arrive” sooner. We may not outload in our whiny voice ask the question like we did as kids, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking it.

Only now it isn’t about asking how much longer until we get to the hotel. As adults the questions we ask are more like:

“How much longer until I lose this weight?”

“How much longer until I’m out of debt?”

“How much longer until I can get my new car?”

“How much longer until my business is profitable?”

We all ask these types of questions of ourselves. We can even start asking them in the annoying, whiny voice like when we were kids. That is not a good sign.

All worthwhile things take time. Patience is so important in life. It may be boring. It may not sound like the million dollar solution, but it just might be. Patience is a sign of maturity. Unfortunately, many of us never seem to grow up. We are stuck asking those whiny questions like a 5 year old. We may dress it up to sound more sophisticated but it is the same basic question.

Why does it matter? Because impatience ultimately leads us to make a stupid decision. It leads us to get the car payment we shouldn’t get. It leads us to make the investment gamble we should have never made. It leads us to try the craziest fad diet ultimately causing our weight to yo-yo even more.

The irony in it all is that our impatience ultimately adds times or sometimes keeps us from ever getting there!

With a little more patience, we tend to make wiser decisions that are better for us in the long run.

How patient are you?

Don’t Let It Distract You

It doesn’t matter if you are the sales professional, the small business owner or the mom (and maybe all 3!), life can throw lots of distractions our way!

None of us our immune to it. You mix our professional lives with our personal lives and the instant access technology that we have on us all the time and it is a recipe for distraction.

This is one of the main reasons that certain people excel over the rest.  I’ve observed this working with sales professionals.  The top producers are not just the best “sales people,” but they maintain their focus more consistently.  They keep the main thing, the main thing.

This isn’t always easy to do, especially when we feel we have several “main things.” Afterall, our family is certainly a main thing.  Of course, we have to allocate enough time to a given task, but then the key is to be fully present.

I’m very serious about my office worspace.  Both my physical desk as well as my online workspace like email and apps that I use.  I wasn’t always this way. I used to have stacks of things (distractions) all over. These are things that I didn’t want to deal with, but I was always looking at them.  I learned it not only distracted me, but also drained my energy to look at it all the time.  For me, I learned I don’t want all these things to create even more negative energy by thinking about them all the time.

I created systems for myself.  When a distraction pops up, I have to ask myself is this both important and urgent? Rarely is it both. If not, I put it away to be dealt with in the appropriate time.  This allows me to focus my energy on the main thing and be more present.  That is the thing that if I do it, I’ve been productive.  If I allow the other stuff to crowd my space, it is so easy to be worn out at the end of the day, but totally drop the ball on the main thing.

I don’t always do this well.  It is much easier said than done.  But it is a secret among the most productive.

What is your main thing?  What distracts you from it? What can you do to better eliminate those distractions so you can focus on your main thing?

That Was My Idea!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a suggestion or come up with a brilliant plan only for my wife to remind me that she has suggested it multiple times to me!

I’m just like the rest of the world. The idea didn’t become a great idea until it was MY idea! I’m not sure why, but we tend to reject new ideas or plans that didn’t come from us. It is human nature. Often times as we hear something a few times and possibly from multiple sources, we begin to process it and make it our own.  Suddenly, we have ownership in the idea and we love it!

Understanding this is important when dealing with people.  Great leaders get it.   Their mission is drive the business or cause forward.  They realize the best way to get people to buy in is to have some ownership in the new strategy.

There is a lot to be said about how great leaders do this, but it is worth remembering that people buy in when they have ownership in the idea.

What can you do to help others have ownership in the idea, plan or strategy?

That Was Mean

Have you ever had someone be very hurtful to you when you didn’t feel you did anything to deserve it?

It can be a total stranger or close friend or even a loved one.  More than likely we have all experienced this at some point. Our natural response is to feel anger.  We don’t understand how someone can be mean when we didn’t do anything to deserve it. Often this feeling causes us to respond in a similar fashion:  with meanness

We all know this only makes the situation worse and has the potential to escalate in a negative way often times killing relationships.

John Maxwell in one of his books teaches a principle that helps us in these situations.  He says, “hurting people, hurt people.”  Often times when people are hurtful towards us, it is because they are hurting themselves.

This is an important principle for us to remember.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t feel hurt when people are hurtful towards us. But it can help us to slow down and have a little empathy.  Maybe the person is hurting and we have no idea about it.  Maybe that stranger has been dealing with some major stress in their life and filled with pain.  We don’t know, but it helps to remember the principle that hurting people hurt people.

Let’s not forget that this applies to us as well. Are we hurting others because we are hurting?

Chip on the Shoulder

I often contemplate what drives someone.  Where does motivation come from in certain people? Drive is important. We don’t act to change our circumstances or create positive change in the world around us without drive.

Where does it come from?  There is a lot to be said on the topic. Entire books have been written about it, but let’s look at one source of drive for so many.

I heard a CEO say that he likes the people who have a chip on their shoulder.  The people who have something to prove.  It was just one quality that he mentioned, but his point was that people who have a chip on their shoulder are often hungry to succeed to prove something.

It is true.  Imagine how much progress has been made in the world by people driven to achieve something because of the chip they were carrying on their shoulder.  It is a driving force for some of the most driven, successful people. To take something negative and use the energy to achieve something positive is a much better alternative than using it to do something destructive.

We all probably have some type of chip on our shoulder.  We can use it for drive and motivation, but here are my questions.

Should we still deal with the chip?

Will a certain amount of success get rid of the chip or will we still be carrying it around even after succeeding?

Even if the chip creates positive drive, does it have potential to harm other areas of our life?

If we lose the chip would we lose the drive to succeed or would we find a healthier alternative?

Is our drive simply a band-aid to an injury that needs much more to be healed?

Those are my questions.

What drives you?