Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What You Can't Do Doesn't Matter!

Over the last few years, I have discovered one of the secrets that will help overcome any difficulty in your life. In trying to help people improve their financial situation, I discovered that they wanted to argue with me. They wanted to tell me all the reasons they could not improve their situation. They didn’t have the right education. They couldn’t find a job. They just had to keep spending money on cigarettes. Sometimes powers beyond our control seemed to be targeting them as individuals. It was the fault of evil rich people or the Government. Blaming everything on the banks is very popular. There is no more point in blaming the banks for being banks than there is in blaming a raccoon for making a mess of your yard because you left the lid loose on the garbage can. Bankers and raccoons will both act in consistency with their nature.

Sometimes I have wanted to grab people by their ears and shake their heads until their brains rattled. Then when I had their attention, I wanted to tell them, “What you can’t do doesn’t matter. Tell me what you can do.”

I’m no better. While, primarily as a result of my upbringing, I have been blessed with a reasonable measure of financial discipline my approach to diet and exercise has been pretty bad over the two decade period preceding my retirement. I told myself I couldn’t jog because I had bad knees. I told myself I couldn’t swim because I wasn’t anywhere near a pool. I couldn’t ride a bicycle because I had a bad back. I couldn’t change my diet because it would require time and skills I just didn’t possess. Besides that, I needed that beer when I came home from work.

A little over a year ago, I quit listening to my self talk. I told myself just what I am telling you, “What you can’t do doesn’t matter. Tell me what you can do.”

I told myself, “Well, I can walk?” I started with two turns around my block, a distance approximately 1.1 miles. I could have walked further than that, but I choose that distance because that was all I could do it on a regular basis. In approximately 14 months, I have worked that number up to 4.5 miles on most days. I have even done 5 miles a few times. Have there been problems and missteps? Of course. I attempted to take a yoga class, bad idea. My diet is still nothing to brag about although it is not as bad as it was a year ago. I have lost 30 pounds. You still don’t want to take diet and exercise advice from me, but most days I tell myself what I can do and then I do at least some part of it.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been listening to Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, interviewing Tim Ferris, a best selling non-fiction author. In the course of their discussions, Ramit tells his sister’s weight loss story. After the birth of her child, she lost a lot of weigh with a changed diet. Now she weighs 20 pounds less than her pre-pregnancy weight. Ramit says she looks great. All her friends want to know the secret. She started by explaining her entire dietary program. Her friends would then latch on to one aspect of the plan saying, “Oh! I could never do that.” Then they would do nothing.

Her friends would say, “Just give me the recipe,” for whatever low fat Indian connection she was feeding them on that particular day. She would give them the recipe. Later she discovered that none of her friends ever actually tried out the recipes.

Finally she decided not to give them the recipe when asked. Instead she would give them some words of encouragement with a simple tip, like scramble your eggs in coconut oil instead of butter. They would actually implement these simple tips. Then when they discovered what they could do, they would return asking for more information.

So—If you are looking at any immovable mountain in your life tell yourself, “What you can’t do doesn’t matter. Tell me what you can do.”

Then, just do it.

Or at least some part of it.

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