The power of perseverance and its impact on your success.

There’s power in perseverance!

There are a few fundamental elements for success in life that could be considered common sense, but in reality are not that common. Even common sense itself isn’t very common, but that’s a different story.  The elements that I speak about are:

  • Action 

  • Effort 

  • Perseverance 

  • … and the list goes on 

This list can continue for a long time, but the reality is that even this short list is enough for multiple posts (it probably will be in time). All three items can realistically be related to almost any subject or activity, but in our case we’ll look at it through the lens of this site (personal finance with a hint of life).  

Effort and action are very closely related to each other in that if you are taking action you are in many ways making an effort. Though, the effort that goes into taking action does not mean that when you are doing something you are making an effort. If you decide you’re going to pay down your credit cards and actually make the effort to fully stop using them and you keep making the minimum payments, you’re taking action. You are essentially paying down your credit cards.  While you are taking action initially, beyond the initial step, you really aren’t making any real meaningful effort. If you take the same scenario, but instead of paying the minimum payments you’re putting all your extra money onto the credit card each month, then you are making a significant effort and will likely pay everything down much sooner.  

The part that is often lost in this situation is that both effort and action are in many ways pretty rare commodities; how easy would it be to keep using that credit card, carrying the balance and making a payment now and then? Very easy, most people do that by default. They talk about doing something but never actually do it; they lament about being in a certain job or situation, but literally do nothing about it and just keep floating along. The net result is that nothing changes.  

Another great example that comes to mind is going back to school; many people don’t have the opportunity to go to college after high school for whatever reason and just start working but always wanted to complete college. Then after a few years when their life is in a situation where they can potentially go back to school, how many actually do it compared to those that just talk about it? This requires both action and effort because you actually have to sign up and start attending classes but you also have to make the effort to pass your classes otherwise going back to school is nothing more than an expensive social activity. This also where the third fundamental comes into play, perseverance. 

Perseverance is defined as: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. 

Taking the action of going back to school and even making the effort to pass the class is great but the decision to go back to school is rarely just to take a single class but to get a degree or certificate and or that you need many classes. Unfortunately, life keeps moving along at its steady pace and keeping at a multi-year degree program takes not only effort but also perseverance.  

Knowing that you have to keep picking yourself up when life throws you a curveball is a very challenging lesson to learn and I would say one that too many miss the mark on. Personally, I vacillate between understanding this and ignoring it. At the age of 25 I went back to school and got my degree, while working full time, it took me years and in the process a gave up a fair bit to get it. It was something I wanted to do and it took perseverance to accomplish it. It’s and something I am very proud of.  

On the other hand, I understand the basic principles of personal finance, spend less than you make, don’t carry debt if you don’t have to and save what you can, but yet over the years that I’ve had this site (over 10 at this point) I still struggle with this at times.  

Perseverance means hitting that reset button when you make a mistake and eventually learning from it. That is where I am now, learning from my mistakes, going back to basics and hitting reset as often as I need to. Because like going back to school, getting out of debt, and I’m referring to real debt, the kind that takes time to grow and unfortunately time to clear, does not happen overnight.  

You can achieve truly great things with those three elements; action, effort, and perseverance. It is the third one that really pushes you to a new level and why for me it is so important. I’ll wrap this up with a final example: learning to draw. You take action and start and even make an effort to learn some techniques or find an online course. If those are the only two elements you take on you might be ok at it. But if you persevere and put in the time required, the numerous failures and hurdles that you need to get through to become really good you can really achieve something spectacular. I use drawing as the example because there is a misconception that it is about talent when in reality its not. Natural talent will mean your initial efforts are a bit better, over time anyone can learn to draw and your initial starting point matters a lot less than the effort you put into the task and the perseverance to stick with it. 

Perseverance has a staying power, in anything you do: from drawing to your finances.  

What’s gets measured, gets managed!

power of data

There is an old adage that I heard when I started working, in the late 90’s, and that is: “What gets measured gets managed”. There is a whole lot of truth in that statement that even my 20-year-old self, understood at a basic level. This is now even truer than it was all those many years ago. In today’s day and age, companies are collecting and using data at alarming rates. Why? Because they use it as a tool, a very powerful tool, one that allows them to increase their profits and also one you can use.

If you look at the concept of data it’s just information, impartial numbers, and facts that don’t lie, they just give us a value of a measurement. From temperature to the speed that you’re driving as you pass the little old lady on the highway. This information doesn’t care about anything, it is, simply, what it is. It is merely a representation of a fact in time and by itself is nothing more and nothing less. But put that piece of data into context and you, all of a sudden have a picture. Take for example the temperature, if it’s below freezing you know that you will need a jacket and that it is probably winter.

The world we live in has become one big data collection, from the likes of Facebook and Google all the way to your local grocery store chain. Data collection has permeated almost every area of our lives, especially our digital lives. News stories, talk about data collection and its darker side, at least they have recently when it comes to social media and the reality is that may be true. There is also a positive side to the story and you can take advantage of that.

This is where the power of data really comes, it paints a picture of reality. Scientists use this to come up with and support their theories and ideas. Companies use this information to become more profitable (to sell you more shit). The biggest thing I find with data is the reality of the digital picture it paints. This is incredibly important to you as an individual when it comes to your financial lives, it can show you the reality of your financial lives in an impartial way.

This is a very important distinction because impressions and perceptions within humanity and how we live and work don’t always reflect reality. This is true across the full spectrum of our lives, especially our financial lives which are rooted in numbers and math. Take for example what you spend your money on, for your average person and there will be a discrepancy between the reality of their spending and what they think it is. I know this was the case for me when I first tabulated all of my spending, truthfully, I was a little taken aback by the results.

When I first started this site those many moons ago (one of these days I’ll get the old posts back) I tracked every single penny I spent, from cash to bills all the way down to those really annoying ATM fees. What did this exercise accomplish? Well, it reaffirmed my intense dislike of collecting and tabulating data by hand, but what it also managed to do is allow me to start seeing patterns in my spending that I didn’t realize were there. Since it was so long ago I no longer have the original figures, but I remember a couple things jumping out at me: having a car is REALLY expensive, eating out even at fast food places really starts adding up quickly and the really big one how much of an impact interest makes. Now some of these lessons are ones that I didn’t take to heart as much as I should have but I go back to this exercise whenever I want to make sure to keep a tight rein on my financial life.

One of the things that I’ve started doing with this reboot is tracking all of my spending and income down to the penny again. The whole idea here is to work with the data, using it allows you to track and compare to a baseline of what you were planning. Then you can see what happened and what adjustments need to be made. For me, this is allowing me to keep tabs on our grocery spending, which seems to have been getting a bit out of hand unnecessarily. Course corrections are much easier to make from a financial perspective when you look at the facts.

To come up with a theory you need to have some evidence first, then once you have your theory you can empirically test it, this is what the scientific method is rooted in. It is also how I’m approaching this whole reboot financially and with the site. Data paints a picture of your financial life rooted in reality where the numbers cannot lie and you can’t imagine things away. In the end, what is measured, CAN be managed.

Pressing the reset button!

When your computer, or any electronic device, decides to freeze the easiest way to solve the problem is often to press the reset button. But take this solution out of electronics and, while simple, it applies to a great many things. How does a baby learn to walk? They fall down over and over eventually starting to understand elements of walking and developing strength in their legs. Over time this slowly becomes easier and easier and in time the baby walks – how many times do they have to press the reset button to get it right?

Most things in life are like that – you have to fall down a fuckload of times before you really start to understand what you’re talking about and what the concept is. This iterative process is one of the ways we learn, from our mistakes, getting better at each attempt. Not many of us are great at many things, but those who are, definitely had to reset more than a few times.

Now this site is a blog about personal finance, recently not an incredibly active one, but that’s what it is, so naturally, I should be writing about financial matters. Now here I am pressing the reset button of sorts to get back to that.

We are brought up being taught that talking about money is bad or rude. It’s this crazy taboo topic to the point of silliness. We leave high school knowing essentially nothing about finances or in many cases even the basic math that goes into it. The result is not a pretty one for many people as they muddle through life (myself included at times)

So why the reset?

Well, the reset is being pressed on many accounts from my end and part of that is that I want to be able to have a better grasp on my money and financial situation. I find that while I know a lot of the concepts there are still things that elude me. I can be better at this – this shouldn’t be a hard thing, but there are aspects of psychology here that are even harder to explain. I find that it’s easier to talk about all of this than to actually take action and in part I want this blog to help me take accountability. (Plus the blog also got corrupted and hacked a few times so it was not in a happy place – I’m still working on recovering things)

What does pressing reset entail?

To start off with I’m only going to tackle one topic at once and only one per week – there is no point trying to do too much (at least to start with). It’s one of the adages of trying to change a habit – start small build up from there. In this case, I already have some of the financial basics in place so I’m pushing a little further and going a bit further. The purpose of each post or article will be to give me the opportunity to fully explore the topic. Writing about a topic is my way of showing myself that I understand it and in many ways, it will force me to take some level of action. Articulating my thoughts and refining them will help me solidify this.

The second aspect of this reset is I am going to start with some of the basics again; some of them I understand in principle, but whenever I’m applying them, things don’t always seem to work out. This reset is also to get me take a look at the foundations again and to apply as much as I can (and course correct where necessary). Forcing some action and accountability for myself.

There is a lot of truth to the adage practice makes perfect – the oft-quoted statement is to be world class at something you need to spend 10,000 hours at it. While I’m not sure about the number, its significant either way. How many times do you think they have to press reset to become world class?

So where do you the wonderful readers come in? To be perfectly blunt, I’m not sure at all. I am writing this for me to help myself to dive deeper into topics because I think they’re important. If you the wonderful readers enjoy it. Great! If you learn something from it. Great! But now I’m doing this for me. I hope you can join me on this little writing journey.