I’m in the midst of looking for a job right now. It’s a process I’ve been through several times in the last 6 years. As I pursue this work, I’ve had to supplement a small income from my business with part-time work or full-time work depending where I am financially. Through each iteration of this process I’ve learned more about the problem I’m trying to solve. Essentially, what causes a person to have the heart and determination to fight through challenges to get to where they want to be in life. In my mind, that’s character development. I am incredibly passionate about helping people grow on a personal level and as someone who has experienced massive transitions in his own life, I can understand that the task of taking a long hard look at ourselves can be daunting. It can also be very sobering to realize just how difficult change will actually be.
In the last 2-3 years I have mentored people through the process of debt repayment. I’ve talked to many individuals and groups about my own experience paying off $60,000 dollars of debt. I’ve realized that I can’t dive right into this topic. Mountains always seem smaller when you’ve climbed them. The looks that I get from people when I even mention student loans or car debt are some of the most ‘deer in headlights’ looks I have ever seen. It’s the look of fear. Without saying a word, I can see that people are terrified about their financial futures. People tear up. People listen but purposely avoid eye contact. People completely glaze over and tune me out. Why?
To openly admit that you are thousands of dollars in debt, though common, is embarrassing. Also, it’s scary as hell! If you are a thirty something making $30K a year, the idea of trying to figure out how you are going to pay off your $60K of consumer debt can be massively intimidating. I know. I was 23 years old when I had to face the mountain. It’s not just the number. It’s the fact that we have gotten used to a certain standard of material comfort. It’s the fact that we have never had to be really disciplined for a really long period of time with anything. It’s the fact that everybody else around us is able to buy nice things and go on vacation when they feel like it and we’ll be stuck at home for the next 3-4 years depending on how much hustle we can muster and for how long.
And what about all of those people living comfortably as we go into spartan mode trying to reclaim our financial health? Are they really comfortable or have they just gotten comfortable with debt? Or, are they comfortable hiding from the truth? When I was paying off debt it was during my first 3 years in the military. I was going through the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). That process is difficult. Very difficult. My sister passed away suddenly, just before I had to go off to the most demanding part of the SFQC. I was a 27 year old man who had worked for two Fortune 500 companies as an Engineer and I was living in the barracks on Fort Bragg with guys in their early 20’s who were going out and getting drunk on the weekend and driving big trucks they had bought with sign on bonuses. When they asked me why I was living so frugally, I explained my debts. Would you believe that some of these young, drunk, spendthrifts had the nerve to say I had been irresponsible? Sadly, they were absolutely correct! I had been foolish with money! I had to grin and bear it. I had to grin and bear it when I was cleaning up the community shower on the weekend while everyone else was out having fun. Cleaning all manner of I don’t even know what, behind 19 and 20 year olds who never had to clean up after themselves at home. Cleaning just so I could have a decent place to shave and shower so I could go right back to my room that didn’t have AC in the summertime. In North Carolina. In the Summer. Hot. Sweat. Pissed. Sometimes. All this while vying to become one of America’s most elite military service members. Spartan.
I’m trying to help people understand that it’s not that they don’t understand the math of personal finance. It’s the fact that they have been irresponsible. It’s the fact that they have been keeping up with the Joneses. It’s the fact that they are mentally weak. When people push back with stuff like, “I have to give up internet!” “We can’t go on vacation this year!” “But we always eat organic!” Yada Yada… If you’ve ever seen the movie 300, there’s the scene in the beginning where King Leonidas yells, “This is SPARTA!” He then kicks the Persian Ambassador square in the chest into a giant hole in the ground! That’s what I want to do to people when they come at me with those weak excuses about not being able to cut back financially. Leonidas kicked the guy because he was threatening the Spartan People with death and enslavement. In my mind, that’s what debt does to people. It inslaves potential and kills dreams. Quietly, because nobody wants to talk about it.
I’ve realized that in face-to-face settings, I have to temper my words in relation to this topic. People are scared and I get it. However, understand two things:
1 – I’m a BEAST! You want my help. You read this blog. You watch my videos. You are listening to former Green Beret and Combat Veteran. Meet me halfway. TOUGHEN UP!
2 – Time is ticking. We die eventually. We don’t have time for whining but we do have time for EXECUTION!
The shifts in work that I mentioned at the beginning of this post have been challenging. At times, I’ve thought that I was crazy for trying to help people. Finding work you are passionate about is an absolute dog fight! One saving grace in all of the transitions has been realizing, “Wait, I don’t owe anybody any money! I’ll be fine.” Add to that, being an Engineering Graduate and a Former Green Beret, I’m pretty marketable in job hunts. Yes, I’m free to experiment. However, that also means I’m free to engage all the difficulties that come with pursuing work I am uniquely passionate about. All the uncertainty. All the sacrifices. All the loneliness. People think I harp on health and finances because I’m a cyborg. Not true. I like to be comfortable just like anyone else. But I understand that I have to have discipline in those areas in order to endure the crucible of hitting my full potential. One’s mind has to be sharp enough to understand that discipline is freedom. In the Army there was a saying, “A Green Beret’s strongest weapon is his mind.” I am strong enough to understand that having my personal freedom does not mean comfort and it inherently means that almost all of my behaviors (to include how I spend money) will look vastly different from most people. Why? Most people never get their personal freedom because they aren’t willing to develop the mental fortitude it takes to get it. That’s the hard truth.
I Love You! Be Blessed and Be Different!