If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’re trying to do something to improve your financial situation.
Maybe you’re just starting out, really thinking purposefully about money for the first time.
Or maybe you’ve been trying to make things better for a while, but you’ve hit some roadblocks and you’re not sure what to do next.
In either case, you have questions and doubts. And in those moments, it’s easy to look around and find people who already are where you want to be. You look at them and think something along the lines of: “Man, if only I could be like them. Life would be good.”
And you feel something. Guilt. Jealousy. Lack of self worth. Maybe even a little bit of dismissal. Like they have special circumstances or special talents you don’t have. Or maybe they’re just lucky.
We all have those moments. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone. I see a blog with a bigger, more engaged audience than I have. Or I see a parent who looks totally, 100% at ease with their kids. Or I see a financial planner who seems to be everywhere, know everything and have this business totally figured out.
It’s a normal reaction. But it also completely misses the point.
You didn’t see the process
Those people you see who have all the money stuff figured out? They didn’t just appear in the world exactly as they are today. They didn’t start out with a big emergency fund, a retirement plan in place, the right investments chosen, the perfect house. They didn’t have it all figured out right from the start.
No. There was a process. A long process. You just never saw it.
You didn’t see the first few attempts at budgeting that failed miserably. The ones where they wildly guessed at numbers, blew through their spending goals and had to tear things up and start all over.
You didn’t see the arguments with their spouse over how much to spend on travel vs. saving for retirement.
You didn’t see the other spouse’s reaction to those spreadsheets, which was basically “Oh, nice” before turning back to whatever it was they were doing before you interrupted them.
You didn’t see the weekly meetings spent reviewing the latest average spending numbers.
You didn’t see the plans that changed, the efforts that failed, or all the small little wins along the way.
You didn’t see the time spent making lunch every morning to save money on eating out.
You didn’t see the choice to take the kids to a play area in the mall rather than pay 10 bucks for a fancier play area in a dedicated building.
You didn’t see the effort made to cook dinner every single night.
You didn’t see the hours spent Googling and searching through online forums for the specific answer to their specific question so they could get that one thing right.
You didn’t see the times they couldn’t figure something out and had to ask for help.
You didn’t see gift money and tax refunds and raises being put in savings instead of being spent.
You didn’t see the decision to cut cable, or downgrade to an older cell phone.
You didn’t see the day after day repetition of making these same decisions over and over again, year after year.
You didn’t see the process. You only see the result.
This is all really hard. For everyone.
The point is this: none of this is easy for anyone, no matter what it looks like from the outside. Those people whose success you want? It wasn’t easy for them to get where they are. It wasn’t glamorous or magical or quick.
It was a process. A long process filled with confusion, frustration, success, failure, understanding, disagreement, re-thinking, happy moments, sad moments, and everything in between.
And the reality is that no matter how easy it looks for them now on the outside, they’re actually just like you: still struggling, still doubting, still looking for better ways to do things.
They’re still going through the process.
But that’s actually the really hopeful part. If you can accept the fact that there is no secret, no magic formula or special skill that’s needed, you can know that no matter how far behind you feel right now, in this moment, you can get where you want to go if you’re willing to go through the process.
You’ll have to learn new things that at first feel unfamiliar, intimidating and overwhelming.
You’ll have to admit to weaknesses.
You’ll have to ask for help in dealing with those weaknesses.
You’ll have to mess up, repeatedly.
You’ll have to use those failures as a way to learn and do it better the next time.
And if you’re doing this all with someone else, you’ll have to be honest with each other, disagree with each other, and eventually compromise.
That’s all hard. But that’s the process.
It’s the thing that no one wants to see but everyone has to go through if they want to get someplace better.
Are you ready for the process?
You can be the person who “has it all figured out”. (Even though you never really will. No one does.)
But you have to be willing to go through the process.
It’s not glamorous. It’s definitely not easy. But it’s the way to something better.
Are you ready?
Big shout out to my wife for the inspiration behind this post.
Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army