I have a story for you. Like the best stories, it’s not all happy. In fact, it’s got some downright sad parts. You’re about to get a glimpse into my younger years. And, well, you’ll see.
I worked all through college. My school offered a work-study, but the place I worked had only a limited number of hours available. So, I also took on a part time job at a local restaurant.
Now it’s time to introduce a buddy of mine. Let’s call him Jimmy. Jimmy was a funny guy, and a party guy. To give you a taste of what he was like, on graduation day, he looked at us all and said, “Guys, tomorrow, we’ll no longer be college students. We’ll be alcoholics!”
Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash
And that pretty well sums up Jimmy. Every single week, at every party, Jimmy would be there having a great time, and always with a beer in hand.
How, I wondered, does he always have beer? I work a lot more than him. How does he afford all of that? Maybe his parents are giving him a really good allowance?
I was dying to know. So I asked him.
“You don’t get it, Henry,” Jimmy told me. “I just always make sure I have beer. At the end of the week when I’m looking at how I’m spending money, I just make sure that I have beer.”
And that was it.
He ate the cheapest possible food, never splurged on anything else, and just made sure he had beer.
Now, some of you might be picking up on an inherent sadness to this lifestyle, but let’s do what I did at the time and ignore all warning signs and red flags.
I had my answer. And then I forgot it for five years.
Five years later…
I went through a bad break up.
Don’t worry, the story will get happier. But before that, I have to admit that during that summer I went to bars pretty much every night.
I still shared the same apartment with my ex, and I was trying to escape that environment, and spending time – and money – with friends helped me feel better.
No matter the reason, though, it was a dark season for me. And I didn’t even notice until tax season the following year.
I was an actor, and I was living barely better than paycheck to paycheck. I expected to see a very small number when I looked at my “Total Income” line in my tax return.
Instead, I saw a much larger number. Which was annoying because I had to pay taxes on all that money. And it was also annoying because I had to stop and ask myself “Wait… Where did it all go?!”
So I sat down and I realized that I’d spent thousands of dollars at bars during that dark year. Thousands.
I was no longer simply annoyed, I was scared. Terrified. What had I done to myself?
But then I remembered Jimmy from college, and I had probably the cockiest moment of my life, but it helped me turn everything around.
My best cocky moment
See, back in college, when Jimmy told me “I just make sure I always have beer,” I had a fleeting thought: What if he substituted another noun in place of beer?
“I always make sure I have savings.”
“I always make sure I have healthy food.”
“I always make sure I have a safe place to live.”
We wouldn’t have felt worried about him, we’d have been downright inspired!
Let’s look at it from a new perspective. Most people would say he was spending money. And it’s true, he was. But he was also actively saving money each and every week for this one goal. And with an incredible amount of discipline. Unfortunately, all that discipline was channeled towards this one bad habit.
And here’s where I got cocky. I created a mantra for myself, “If Jimmy could be that disciplined, I can be even more disciplined.”
Let me take a moment to clarify: You shouldn’t take inspiration by comparing yourself to others. Do as I say, not as I do.
That moment was the beginning of a transformation. And ultimately, it worked because buried in my cocky little mantra was a belief in my capacity to face the unknown, to level up, and to accomplish my goal.
And this is the amazing bittersweet lesson of this article: People have an amazing capacity to accomplish their goals. So much more than we typically believe. Marianne Williams wrote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
That was true for me, and also true for Jimmy – after all, in his own way he managed to achieve his goals!
And it is also true for you. I carry with me the unshakeable faith that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
As we start the new year, this is a great opportunity to reset your own goals. Answer this question by looking at your current habits: “I always make sure I _____.” Do you always make sure you eat out? Buy nice clothes? Go traveling?
Is that thing serving you a 10/10 on the happiness scale?
Or, is it possible that you’re in the same boat I was in, and don’t even know where your money has gone?
Answering these questions is exactly where a financial advisor can help you. If you’re ready to realize the full potential of your finances, we would love to meet you for a complimentary strategy session. Click here to schedule a meeting with a licensed advisor.
Oh, and Jimmy’s story has a happy ending too! He’s recently gotten married and is living his absolute best life.