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Setting The Bar

May 11, 2009

Yesterday, while eating dinner with my family, my Mom said something to me which I found particularly interesting, and worth commenting on.

After I had finished my first plate of food, I was offered more food, as well as cheesecake.  I thought to myself, “No more calories.  This is too much.”  When I refused, I was told, “Oh Jason.  Look at you.  You don’t have worry about your weight.”

This silly mindset causes so many people problems in life.  You don’t wait until you have a problem to start preparing for it, and taking precautions.  You don’t wait until you’re fat, and then say, “Uh oh, I have a problem.”

I don’t understand why people always feel they’re an exception to the rules of life, as long as they currently do not suffer from the problem.  In fact, when you’re young and healthy, that’s the VERY TIME to be taking care of yourself.

But most people lack all foresight, and do not use their brains at all.  They act like the only thing which exists is that which is right in front of their eyes.  “I’m skinny and good looking now.  No problem. I’ll just eat whatever, and do whatever.”  Then one day they look in the mirror, “Uh oh. Problem. I’m fat. I guess I better take care of this now.”

People do the same thing with money.  When they have an extra $1000 in the bank, they think, “Oh I have money.  I don’t have to worry about spending.”  Then they spend it, become broke, and one minor financial calamity wipes them out completely.  Every little minor problem casues a catastrophe.

But they think, for some strange reason, that they’re an exception to the rules.  Bad things happen to some people, but it won’t happen to them!  But no one is an exception to the rules.  Bad things happen to everybody.

Greg and I are always told, “Nothing bad ever happens to you guys.”  We laugh when we hear that, because it’s not that nothing bad happens to us.  We’re just always prepared, and it SEEMS like nothing bad happens to us.

Let’s say something goes wrong with the car.  Those who operate paycheck to paycheck, this sort of thing causes an uproar and panic.  How are they going to come up with the few hundred dollars for the whizbang dealie their car needs.  They’re frantic.  How will they get to work if they don’t have a car.  Oh no!!!!!  They start making all these phone calls, freaking out.

How does it happen with me and Greg?  We have money saved up.  We drop the car off at the dealer, take a cab to the office, or rent a car, and that’s that.  There’s no problem.  And our life continues on like normal, and nobody even notices that we HAD a problem.

And even though Greg and I make more money than most people NOW, does not mean we did in the past.  But even then, when we made much LESS than most people, our lives were just as seamless and peaceful.  It’s because we always had money saved up, and were prepared.  And in fact, you’ll never be financially successful in life unless you learn to save money.

Here’s another example.  Greg was telling me over the phone about someone commenting on the fact that he never gets sick.  They were telling him, “Greg’s you’re so lucky!”  There’s no “luck” to this.  He takes 3000 mg of Vitamin C every day.  That’s why he doesn’t catch all the normal cold and flus most people catch.  And because he’s never sick, he never misses work.  And once again, that’s just one less problem to worry about.

What most people consider “luck” has little to do with luck.  What they really don’t understand is what Greg and I call “the bar”.

Most people set their financial bar at 0 dollars in the bank.  But what you want to do is set it to some number, which is your cushion.  Say $5000 or $10,000.  Now when you look at your bank account, if you see $5100 in the bank, you do not have $5100 in the bank.  You have $100 in the bank.  You don’t touch the $5000.  That’s allocated for a set purpose — your cushion.  You don’t spend your cushion.  That’s for emergencies and buffer money.

And when you’re saving for something, say your home, a new car, or whatever, when you see that money in your account, that money is not there.

To apply this same “setting the bar” mindset to my body, when I’m at the ideal body weight, and fat levels, I don’t have any abundance to “spend”.  I can’t eat whatever I want.  If I eat more than I burn, I’m going to get fat!  There’s no weird exception which exists, just because I’m in shape now.

Now if I was super skinny, and needed to GAIN weight, then yeah, I could eat a lot.  But I don’t have that problem.  So therefore, I don’t have any extra calories to “spend”, and do not eat more than I should.  Just because I’m in good shape now, does not make me an exception.

This lack of foresight is what creates these massive problems for people.  What they do is let a problem build up over a long period of time, then they try to “BOOM” it.  They wait until they get fat, then hope to spend 5 hours a day in the gym, and burn it all off in a month.  They bury themselves in debt, then frantically rush to the financial planner when they can’t juggle the money anymore.  They wait until the entire economy implodes, and then the politicians finally do something about the problems.

This lifestyle doesn’t come without its consequences.  Taking the fat example — first you start gaining weight, but do nothing about it.  So you look bad, your self confidence drops, and your sex life goes downhill as well.  Your blood pressure rises, you get diabetes, your heart is working double time, your joints are put under heavy stress, you have less energy… and on and on.  The preventive lifestyle, vs waiting until the problem is huge, then trying to fix it, are not equal.

Really, some of those diseases you suffer from are incurable.  There is no cure for diabetes once you get it.  Also, that whole time you were overweight, and your heart was working overtime, you were taxing your lifespan.  When you abuse your heart and body, you’re not going to live as long.  Even if you get your act together later, when you’re in your 50s, you’ve still done all sorts of irreparable damage to yourself.

My parents suffer from this mindset in other areas as well.  Take their basement for instance.  Whenever they buy new stuff for the house, or have various things they’re not sure what to do with, instead of pitching it, and taking care of it right then, it gets stuffed into the basement.  So over a period of years the basement accumulates piles and piles of junk.  It eventually gets so packed with junk that you can’t even walk around down there.  Even the walkways are crammed with junk.

Then one day I’ll be sleeping, and there’ll be a frantic fire alarm go off.  My brothers and I all get phone calls.  Mom and Dad are cleaning out the basement.  I answer my phone and am like, “What’s the rush?”  The house is being reappraised, and they need to clean out the basement before the appraiser arrives.  So the entire basement MUST be cleaned out over the weekend.

So I’m supposed to get up out of bed, put on clothes, slide down the fire poll as fast as possible, and head over to my parents house right then and there.

The SAME thing applies to the church.  My parents are the pastors, and there’s a back room to the church.  How it started was they kept cramming junk in this back room of the church.  But then they needed to expand, and wanted to put classrooms back there.  So they cleaned it out, and what to do with the junk?  Well, they rented a storage room, and hauled all the junk there.  Eventually church finances get tight, and they’re struggling to pay for the storage room.  Uh oh.  Fire alarm goes off.  I get a phone call.  “We have to get this storage cleaned out, now!”  So here I go, down the fire poll, to save the day.

I helped clean out the basement, but did not help clean out the storage room.  I told my parents that I was not going to keep bailing them out of their bad habits.  They’re going to have to change, and not let these problems build up to such a degree, then expect all of us to just drop everything we’re doing, and jump to their rescue.

But I was considered “selfish”.  I was the bad one here.  But really, the selfish and lazy ones are my parents.  How many people have donated money to the church, only to have it literally thrown away on a stupid storage room, which does nothing for anybody?  $100 a month doesn’t seem like that much money, when it’s paid for once a month.  But after two years, that’s $2400.  That could have bought new sound equipment, or new carpet for the back area.  But it doesn’t.  It’s just wasted.  All because of bad habits.

Our country has no conception of this principle either.  Pretty much every state is operating under a deficit, and so is the federal government.  Just spend spend spend.  Don’t save.  No surplus.  Spend.  Spend. Spend.  But you know, every time you borrow, you have to pay it back with interest.  What’s happening is our taxes keep being raised higher and higher, but we get nothing out of it.  All of it goes to pay interest to international bankers, who lend us all this money.  That’s the tax of being stupid.

Learn from this lesson.  Just because you have some empty space in your home, don’t cram junk there, just because you can.  Keep it cleaned out!  Just because you have money in the bank, don’t go out and spend it.  Always have some money saved, in case something happens.  And don’t think you can eat anything you want, just because you look good now.  Take care of yourself right now, starting today.

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