Quit Stalling and Get Past the Fear

Here are two great blog posts you must read today.

The first is from Seth Godin, in its entirety because he has magical powers that allow him to say so much with so few words:

Quick shortcuts (in search of)

There aren’t many actual shortcuts.

There are merely direct paths…

Most people don’t take them, because they frighten us–too direct, I guess. It’s easy to avoid the things that frighten us if we wander around for a while. Stalling takes many forms, and one of them looks like a shortcut.

Things that look like shortcuts are actually detours (disguised as less work).

Wow, what are you doing to stall right now? Are you still studying the problem and its many possible solutions when what you really need is to DO something? Is fear stopping you?

Next, from Jon Acuff in his serious Wednesday post, The 1 question I ask when I’m afraid, comes help in overcoming the fear that Seth mentions.

Jon says, “If you ever doubt you’re creative, just look at the exquisite colors and words you give your fears”

How true, I don’t think myself a very creative person. You won’t find me in the craft store; no one would ever guess my word on Draw Something and I can’t think of one thing to create out of an empty oatmeal canister, but I too can create a fantastical story of the awful things that will happen if I take the direct path.

Jon says he often feels he is one mistake from being a hobo.

I don’t fear just writing the wrong book.

I imagine losing my job in some sort of spectacular way that prevents me from ever finding gainful employment again. I don’t just get blacklisted in one industry; I manage to get barred from every industry on the planet. My family would leave me too, because I’d be a hobo, and they wouldn’t want to be part of my new drifter lifestyle.

Riding the rails and what not. I’d kick around the Pacific Northwest and try to become a glassblower or something, but that wouldn’t work either. Ultimately, I’d fall apart and people would use me as a cautionary tale of extreme potential gone to extreme waste.

Cue mournful trumpet sound.

So how does he get past it? He asks one question.

“Where is God in this fear?”

Every time I ask that question, the answer is always the same, “Nowhere.”

You’d be surprised how very few things get out of control when they are in his hands. Never is the word that comes to mind. You’d be surprised how many situations are beyond his ability to redeem. None is the word that comes to mind. You’d be surprised how many monsters are bigger than him. Zero is the word that comes to mind.

What are you going to do today to push back your fears and get on the direct path?

It’s A Shame

Recently I read a post a financial blogger wrote describing the shame she felt while in debt.  Jana over at Enemy of Debt told how her debt made her feel in Ashamed of your debt? Me, too Here’s why.

Jana said:

Debt meant I couldn’t control myself.

Debt meant I couldn’t meet my basic needs.

Debt meant I couldn’t manage my money.

Debt meant I wasn’t making enough money.

Debt meant I was just like everyone else

If you feel like Jana does about your debt, or your weight or grades or anything else that would you like to change, we need to talk.

Shame is not a useful emotion. Feeling shame and listening to the constant critical self-talk that accompanies it, makes it much more difficult to change.

Jana needs to practice separating her Who from her Do.

Shame attacks the person, not the behavior and the two are NOT the same.

When we tell a child that we are surprised that such a generous person would act so selfishly, we are reinforcing their belief that they are a good person while discouraging acts of selfishness. If instead, we call them selfish, we reinforce that they are indeed a bad selfish person and that their behavior is not within their control.

If you are feeling shame about a behavior you are struggling to change, I challenge you to re-think its usefulness.

If you’ve had your Who and your Do bundled together for many years, it will take some time and effort to separate them.

Here are some actions you can try do unbundle your Who and your Do.

  • Tell someone or lots of someone’s. Keeping your challenge secret just increases the power it has over you and helps justify the shame you feel. Find a group of people that you can safely share with. Post your progress on the refrigerator door. Be as public as you can about your challenge. Chances are someone you share with faces the same obstacle.
  • Counter your negative thoughts and self talk with positive thoughts. Change “I can’t” to “I will”. Here’s what I’ve been doing to work on this  I Can’t
  • Try this exercise. List the top 5 reasons you are in debt, over weight, failing to achieve or whatever your challenge is. Now carefully examine each of those reasons separating the Who from the Do.  If any of the reasons have the phase “I can’t” in it, cross it out. Maybe you don’t but that doesn’t mean you can’t.  If any of the reasons speaks to a behavior, think about some   other areas of your life where that behavior is not a problem. For example, many of us face challenges with self-control. We may find it difficult to maintain self-control in the face of chocolate cake, the latest electronic gadget or a shoe sale; yet we have no problem refraining from saying hurtful things to others, pushing to the front of the line or cheating. The “I can’t control” reason you gave needs to be reworded in writing and spoken out loud. The new reason should be “while I successfully maintain self-control in most areas of my life, I have difficulty resisting eating too many sweets.” Perfect; now we have a mature intelligent person that wants to change a behavior. Another reason for lack of progress towards a goal is “I’m lazy”. This almost always comes from the mouth of those that work incredibly hard and are phenomenally successful at some other aspect of their lives. Change this shame induced reason to “although I am generally a focused and hard working person, I am finding it difficult to tackle this problem.”

Now that we have eliminated shame and separated the Who from the Do, we have a good chance for success.

Embrace the Rain

I woke up this morning determined to sneak in a bike ride before church. I did not have a large window of time and the skies were already overcast, but I wanted to ride. Just as I was nearing my turn-around point, the inevitable downpour started and I got drenched. After about 5 miles of pedaling though a soaking rain I came to an intersection where another rider was tucked under an overhang keeping himself and his very cool bike dry.

“You are not going let a little rain ruin your ride, are you?” I called out. “I was just asking myself the same thing,” he replied.
Now this is Florida, in late May; there is virtually no chance of getting too cold even if you are soaking wet. The biggest inconveniences of riding in the rain at this temperature are the needle pricks on your exposed skin and the necessity to wash and dry your bike when you are done.

I rode away, water spraying off my wheels, feeling bit sorry for the guy.

Many years ago, when preparing for the birth of my son, I read an impassioned plea to mothers-to-be to birth their children without drugs. The author argued that the birth of your child was something that you really want to experience wholly and completely. As it happens, physical pain is part of that experience, as it is part of life, but if you can be open and accepting,  you can get through it while being completely present. I have no idea where I read it and I’m sure the author said it much better than I have paraphrased but it has stuck with me all this time.

So often our fear of discomfort, inconvenience or pain keeps us from doing what we want to do. Instead of leaning in, we close ourselves off to our experiences. It seems once we start avoiding, we just can’t stop. It’s too cold, too hot, too wet, too crowded, too late, too early, too risky, too something to really fully live our lives.

If you are struggling today, take off the blinders, ignore your fear and take in the whole situation. Whatever your feelings are, they are part of the experience.

When faced with a choice to leave ourselves open to possible or even probable discomfort or failure, our objective should not be to avoid pain, but to experience the whole of our lives. You are so much stronger and more resilient than you think.

“And when you get the chance – I hope you’ll dance!”


Do Something Quick, Your Money is on Fire

If you are doing any of these boneheaded, irresponsible things with your money – STOP! Someday there will be a need that you cannot meet. Maybe it will be your need or maybe it will be the need of someone you care about. Either way you are going wish you had back all that money you pissed away on _________.

ATM Fees, Overdraft Fees, Late Charges

Just hold that $20 bill up and set the corner on fire. You get no joy, no thing to hold in your hand, no future value from these stupid expenditures. You are a smart person, you can figure out which ATM’s are fee free, you can balance your checkbook and you can pay your bills on time. There is absolutely no excuse for wasting money like this. Get angry right now and vow never to just hand your hard earned money over to the banking fat cats again.

Rent to Own, Pay Day loans, Tote the Note Used Car Lots, Cash Advances

Dumb, dumb, dumb. You cannot do these things and win with your money. Follow these two simple rules always and forever:

1)      If you can’t pay for it, you can’t have it

2)      Spend less then you make

Can’t pay cash for that couch, TV or washer? Then you cannot have it; look to craigslist.com or freecycle.org for a short-term solution and save your pennies for what you really want.


If a spending is compulsive, you need to find a way to STOP. Meals out, coffee, purses, the latest electronic gadget and even books are extremely unhealthy when you continue to purchase them despite a stated desire to cut back. Sometimes it is helpful to:

Change your route so that you don’t drive past the place you spend

Don’t carry money or credit cards or debit cards if you have proven you can’t stop buying. Carry just enough cash to pay for what you need for the day

Replace your shopping with something pleasant. Take a walk in the park instead of stopping for coffee after work.

If you have a physically as well as financially destructive addiction, like cigarettes, alcohol or drugs seek help. Not only will the spending on these substances wreak havoc on your chances for financial independence, they will undermine your health.

Ignore your Health

Sadly, health insurance is a huge limiting factor in many people’s lives. I know people who want to retire or quit their job and start their own business and the only thing standing in their way is affordable health insurance. At a normal weight and without often avoidable conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure or a habit like smoking, insurance can be affordable. But if find yourself with a height & weight outside the insurance companies’ parameters or with a chronic condition and premiums for both your life and health insurance skyrocket.

I am in no way inferring that all cases of high blood pressure or Type II diabetes or any other chronic conditions are avoidable. In addition, I know that it is not equally easy for everyone to maintain a healthy weight or avoid addictions; but most of us, through exercise, addiction avoidance and healthy eating, can either avoid, postpone or control many diseases and conditions.

We’ve all done stupid things with our money, the secret to winning is to recognize when we are doing something dumb and find a way to quit doing it.


A Weight Weenies Approach to your Budget

In biking or hiking, those enthusiasts that are obsessed with the weight of their gear often refer to themselves as “Weight Weenies”.  I’m not one (mostly because I could never stand to spend that much money on gear; generally, the less it weighs, the more it costs) but in both sports, I love to read of their latest methods to shave a few ounces or even grams off their load. Occasionally there is a takeaway that I can afford; but always there is some entertainment and maybe an enlightenment to be found reading of the lengths they go to save a half a gram.

If you are currently in a season of your life that screams for you to reduce expenses either to pay off debt, live on a smaller salary or save like crazy for something you really want; adopting a “Budget Weenie” mentality will help you achieve you goal faster.

Just remember, “Weight Weenies” do not live like this every day. They may live this stripped down life for a long 5 months on the trail but once they achieve their goal, they head back to their queen sized bed in a real house with running water. Similarly, I don’t want you to be a “Budget Weenie” forever – just until you hit your goal.

These guys are fanatical. Here is an example so you will understand how far they will go to save weight.

Lots of these guys cut the handle of their toothbrush down to a stub exactly the length they need to reach their back teeth and then they drill holes in what’s left.

Or, “I sawed off just the top of my toothbrush and hot glued it into a carbon fiber arrow shaft. The handle was full length and it weighed .1 oz.”

Or this one: (that other piece is a firesteel used for starting fires).This last one demonstrates this hiker’s understanding of the important principle of multi-use.

Let’s examine the principles of ultra light backpacking:

Choose the smallest lightest gear suited to the purpose  And then ruthlessly remove every part that is not functional, like the tags, any inch of unnecessary drawstring, extra straps etc.

Choose gear that serves multiple purposes-as seen in the toothbrush example above

Eliminate un-needed gear-you must learn the difference between a want and a need. These guys will carry luxury (anything that does not meet a real need) items but only after they openly and honestly label it as such.

Take only the amount you need – you Sam’s club shoppers need to remember this one

The more you can reduce the weight; the more you can reduce the weight – this is a very important concept. If you reduce the weight of the stuff you are carrying, you can reduce the weight of the pack you put it in.

The Hiking “Weight Weenies” always start with the big 3, the backpack, the sleeping bag and the tent. Since these are likely the three heaviest essentials, big gains can be made by paying very careful attention here. The trick is to making sure to allow just enough weight to get the level of comfort and protection for your satisfaction. Some will be miserable without a real live tent on the trail while others can be quite satisfied with a very lightweight tarp. It’s your pack and you are carrying it so you get to make the choices.

Let’s examine our big 3, housing, transportation and food through some of the “Weight Weenies” principles:

As a “Budget Weenie”, preparing your food from scratch at home is the least expensive option that serves the purpose. Eating out or buying preprocessed packaged foods is way too expensive, not to mention unhealthy.  Beans and Rice is not just a saying; it really is a very inexpensive way to eat.

In this season, you don’t need a guest room or a garage, the kids can bunk up, and you all can share one bath.  Get a roommate.

If you are a single, fresh from college with a big bag of student loans, you need to take whatever you are thinking in terms of housing and cut it in half or maybe less. You need to be one-step up from the homeless guy living in the box.

Pay very close attention to the where when choosing housing.  This line of thinking is much like the “Weight Weenies” principle, “the more you can reduce the weight; the more you can reduce the weight”. If you choose an inexpensive place very close to where you work, not only to do save on housing costs, you can save a ton on transportation.

If you want to be a real “Budget Weenie”, you need to bike, walk or bus your way to work. If you’re a two-car family, become a one-car family for this season. If you can bike or walk to work or at least to your errands, you’ve conquered the exercise bit without paying for a gym membership while saving gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. Wow, multiple budget cuts with one action.

Eliminate the un-needed.  Is this a want or a need?

Luxuries are allowed, but only if you consciously and honestly acknowledge that you are willing choose to postpone your goal in order to have them.

Remember, we are ruthlessly removing every single expense that is not absolutely necessary.

To successfully adopt the “Weight Weenies” principles to your budget we must:

Measure -“Weight Weenies” must have a scale and a spreadsheet. If you are going to be a successful “Budget Weenie” you must have a spreadsheet of your income and expenses and a graph showing your progress toward your goal (debt reduction, savings, net worth).


Enjoy It – “Weight Weenies” take great personal satisfaction in every teeny tiny reduction. You need to make this a game, every cent you free up to throw at your target is a win.

Happy cutting!

I Can’t

If you were a very lucky child, every time you said, “I can’t” or “I’ll never be able to”, there was someone standing nearby to kindly and patiently insist that you could. When you were finally motivated by that persistent encouragement and did try but ultimately failed, they were still standing near, nudging you to try again. Those perfect parents or parent substitutes were constantly challenging you to try new things, to reach higher, to make your best better. They carried for you the confidence that you did not yet have. That is, if you were very, very lucky.

Most people I meet were not that lucky, they grew up with at best, real parents who inconsistently and often less then patiently rebutted their “I can’t”. Worse, parents that reinforced the belief that there would be many things their children would never be able to do.

Even if you had “perfect” (ha!) parents in this regard, you will still need to learn to conquer the, “I Can’t” s as an adult. Finding real joy in your life absolutely depends on you pushing past the things that you do not think you can do.

I think a lot about how people become open to change. We often, for the longest time, ignore the reality of our money, health and relationship problems until something happens to help open that window. That feeling of hopelessness, the nagging fear that the problem is too big to be solved, the ugly thought that “I truly can’t” are some of the reasons the window stays closed.

I listen to Joyce Meyer podcasts from time to time and recently she taught me some things that have helped me and that might help you:

  • You believe what you hear
  • You believe more of what YOU say than what anyone else says
  • You can and must STOP right this minute saying (in your head or aloud) anything negative about yourself.

Here is how this works:

To counter act the “I can’t’s” Joyce taught me to say, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. If you are not Christain then substitute whatever higher power you believe in.

Say it aloud at least several times a day. I know you feel like a fool but as Joyce says, it is better to feel like a fool for a little while than to live like one forever.  I do my aloud self-talk in the car.

Every time you start to say or think, “I can’t” say instead, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Sure, at first you will miss some but keep working on it.

I been working and thinking about this for about ten days or so. It has not come naturally at all. I often re-think the full and complete I can’t thought and then it takes me several minutes before I remember to erase and replace it.

Yesterday my sister and I took a long walk as part of our preparation for an upcoming hike. At about mile 9, we were getting hot and tired and griping good-naturedly to one another about our aches and pains. The thought of building up to carrying a loaded pack while doing these hikes came into my mind but before I could complete the thought, “I’ll never be able to do this while carrying 30 lbs” the thought was stopped and replaced with – I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Wow, too cool! This happened without conscience effort and in real time.

If you are struggling with the thought of tackling your big problem, is it because you talked yourself into believing it cannot be fixed or that you are not strong enough or smart enough to fix it?

I know it can be better for you and I’m willing to walk with you while you go through it; but right this minute, YOU must stop telling yourself that you can’t, and  start telling YOU what I’ve been telling you.





All You Need To Be Is Better Than Me

When I struggle with a self-discipline issue, I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing myself to others.

You know how this is done; you start thinking about how you should really get serious about getting out of debt or losing a few pounds or finding a better job. “I really mean it this time”, you tell yourself, “It’s time get motivated and get it done”.

And then, you see or talk to a friend that who owes more, weighs more or has a suckier job.

Boom! Just like that, there goes the rest of your already faltering resolve.  No need to be bothered about failing to accomplish the things you set out to do; lots of people, maybe even most people are worse off than you.

As you might guess, this is not a helpful strategy for moving forward.

If you find yourself using this pitiful rationalization to justify your decision to continue being a slug, try these tactics:

  • Find and spend time with people that are working on the same thing you are or that have done what you are trying to do.
  • Keep a written copy of your goal and the why you want to achieve it on your mirror, your monitor, your refrigerator.
  • Graph your progress, by hand daily or weekly.

Often times, those that love us the most fail to understand or support our goals. Even after you painfully reveal to your best friend that you are seriously in debt, they may continue to encourage you to shop or go out. Chances are Grandma will keep putting that pie under your nose no matter how many times you tell her you need to lose weight. And well-meaning family and friends will encourage you to stay in that sucky job.

You don’t need to dump your old friends or avoid your family but you do need to recognize when they are helping you to avoid the responsibility you have to yourself.

The truth is, if you want to win, all you need to be is better then you were yesterday.

Struggling against the Tithe

One of my goals in our Be, Do and Have More Challenge is to grow my faith. I’m making progress in this area and this week marks my second consecutive month of giving the first 10% of our income to our church rather than whatever is left at the end of the month.

I really love Jon Acuff ‘s four part video series  directed at high school kids  (what does that say about the maturity of my faith?) In one of these videos, Jon talks about how in high school he didn’t feel he needed God in a lot of areas of his life. I get that; for a long time I thought I didn’t need or want God in my business life or my money life or even in my relationships. In my old way of thinking, God is who you call on when it looks like things are gonna go to crap, when someone you care about is about to be hurt or death is knocking at your door. Back then, I thought I just don’t need God day to day.

My faith has grown from that pinhead sized faith in the past couple of years but I still have a long way to go.

One of the struggles I’ve had along the way was with the tithe. I knew that some Christians with a church home regularly give 10% of their gross income to the church but I didn’t know very many of these people. When I started doing financial coaching, I met several of them. Some of them have great income, some not so much. Often that 10% looked to me like money that would be better used paying down debt. I struggled to understand how some of these families, who had very little disposable income, could happily give away the first 10%.

On one hand, I think many people have been bullied into tithing by pastors that promise a curse if they don’t or a reward if they do. That kind of thinking does not fit with my understanding of grace and I want no part of it. On the other hand, winning with your money is all about learning some self-discipline and a tithe or at least a regular scheduled donation is an excellent place for many people to practice some discipline with their money.

When I would hear “give God 10%”, my immediate thought is God doesn’t need my money and besides I understand who deposits this check and it sure isn’t God. I now hear it as “give 10% for God’s work” even if the pastor fails to say it that way.

I’ve always preferred to do my giving as directly as possible. I would rather buy a kid a book then donate to a reading foundation. I feel better knowing exactly how my money is spent. If I give the church (not God) 10% of my money, how do I know that they are spending it responsibly? The answer to this is I don’t. I have finally figured out, it’s up to me to choose a church I trust and then demonstrate that trust with my time and my money. That, to me, is the difference between being the church that I attend and being my church.

It’s taken me a while to really get that the tithe (or regular giving) isn’t for God or the Church, it’s for me. It reminds me of my commitments, it helps me become an unselfish person and it makes me a contributing member of our church family.

Nail your Shoes to the Floor-Week 4 of the Be, Do and Have More Challenge

I have really struggled this week with one of my goals. I told you last week despite lots of activity, I have made no forward progress on my get my life uncomplicated goal. With great optimism, I announced it was time to back up and try a new approach. I’m here to report this week that optimism is over-rated. I did try a new approach and again I hit a brick wall. So, I did what I always do next for this particular problem. I spent a great deal of energy convincing myself that it really isn’t worth it. I assured myself that the probable result of any continued effort would be to make things worse. I decided to just leave it alone.

Have you ever done this? You decide what you want and then six steps into the walk you wimp out. Not only do you wimp out, you have 54 great reasons why quitting is the only smart thing to do.

Fortunately, as I was constructing my list of great reasons for quitting,  I went back to the beginning of our workbook.  Remember how we carefully explored why we wanted to achieve this goal?  When I first chose this goal, I told you, It has often stood between who I am and who I want to be. And yet, here I am ready to give it up.  On further reflection, I will turn back around and try again.

So what made me want to run? The same thing that makes you run: fear. Fear of confrontation, fear of the unknown, fear of being misunderstood, and finally fear of rejection.

Many of us have been taught to avoid confrontation at all costs. We refuse to confront the people, problems or situations that are holding us back.  Like Phineas J. Whoopee, from the cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo, we keep stuffing our problems into our already overflowing closet and slamming the door.

A confrontation doesn’t have to mean a fight; it should not be something you categorically avoid and it is often necessary in order to step forward.

Many people work very hard to avoid listing their debts or accounting for their spending. We know we have a problem but we are afraid to measure it. So, we stuff it in the closet and slam the door shut.

The unknown scares us. We can see the ship is going down, but at least it’s familiar. Jumping into that little lifeboat scares us. So we turn our backs and ignore the situation.

Sometimes what scares us is our own possible reaction. I like to think that I am very slow to real anger, but once I get there, I have a hard time reeling it back in. Like the time some slimy guy tried to jerk my newly widowed mother around in a real estate deal. Had my sister not been there to pull me off, that guy’s head might have ended up skewered on the For Sale sign.

It’s OK to be scared, but it’s not OK to run. If you continue to flat out ignore the problem, you’re running. If you acknowledge the problems in your life, but blame them on circumstance or others, you’re running. Turn around, throw open the closet door and let all that stuff spill out. Confront the problem now, today or run live in the desert for 40 years; it’s OK the problem will wait for you.

Week 3 UPDATE – Be, Do and Have More (of what you want) Goals Challenge

When we started our Pick Four Goal Challenge, we said writing down our efforts every day and reviewing them once a week would be how we ensure progress. So, here is my weekly review.

This past week:

Lose 12 lbs goal – Yippee! Progress. After my friend called me on not scheduling my workout for first thing in the morning, I have successfully completed every one of my scheduled runs. That doesn’t by itself lead to losing 12 lbs. but it’s a definite start down the right path.

Get my life uncomplicated goal – Lots of churning here but no forward progress. The good thing about  recording my efforts each day is that it is very clear that what I’m doing here isn’t working. Time to back up and try a new approach.

I am making progress on my grow my faith goal even though I haven’t devoted a lot of time to it. Just having this in front of me everyday has been enough to cause me to question my actions and motivation.

Finally, I have located and started a course to help me learn to attract and serve the clients I need to have a sustainable coaching business. So far, so good.

How was your week?