Shoveling Snow

I live in Boston. Between Friday and Saturday, we got about two feet of snow dumped on us.  Besides snow forts and sledding, this means shoveling.

So on Saturday morning I put on my snowpants, my boots and my hat and gloves, grabbed the shovel, and waded out into the almost waist-deep snow towards our cars. Now, I not only had my and my wife’s cars, but I also had our friend’s car. He had quite opportunistically skipped town for the weekend to enjoy the Florida sunshine, so his shoveling job fell on me. Three cars, buried under feet of snow, in the middle of the city.

The prospect of moving all of this snow was both intimidating and confusing. Not only was it going to be a lot of work, but I truly wasn’t sure where I was going to put it all. There’s very little free space in the city, and the sidewalks have to stay clear, so this was a real concern.

So what did I do? I just started. I didn’t try to figure everything out beforehand. I didn’t know the most efficient way to go about it, or where I was going to put it all. I just started. One shovel full of snow at a time.

I started with my wife’s car, piling up snow in the narrow space between the start of the curb and the cleared sidewalk. When I ran out of space there, I made the longer trek to our backyard. I switched between shoveling my car and my wife’s car. Again, no real plan, just trying to make progress.

When I got to my friend’s car, it was too far to carry to the yard so I tried using the space between the curb and the sidewalk again. But there was a lot of snow already piled up there and some of what I was shoveling was falling into the sidewalk. Rather than let this imperfection stop me, I decided to keep going, knowing that I would get most of the job accomplished this way and that I could go back at the end and clear up the sidewalk. Again, it didn’t need to be perfect, it just needed to get done.

Finally, after about 6 hours spread over Saturday and Sunday, all three cars were shoveled out. I had also managed to clear a long stretch of sidewalk and the path to the trashcans behind our building. Success!

So what’s the point? When we start down the path of getting our finances in order, or even getting just a particular aspect in order, the end goal can seem far away and the path can be intimidating. We often feel unsure about the steps needed to get there, and we may even doubt whether it’s possible. We don’t have all the answers. Many times we let these fears and uncertainties stop us in our tracks, and we end up never doing anything.

Improving our financial situation is just like this snow shoveling problem. Sometimes the best solution is just to start. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You don’t have to have the perfect plan. It’s ok to make some mistakes and to clean them up later. That’s a part of life and it helps you learn.

The most important step is the first one. If you have a particular aspect of your finances that you know needs some improvement, don’t worry too much about knowing exactly how to fix it. Just get started. Once you start, you’ll figure out what questions you need to ask and what some of the next steps are. If you get stuck, ask for help. But keep taking steps. That’s the real key to making progress.

I wasn’t going to shovel all that snow by sitting around trying to figure out how to do it. I was going to do it by simply handling the first shovel-full, and then handling the next, until it was done.

Just get started. You’ll figure it out as you go.

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