Sunday, December 31, 2006

How do you eat an Elephant?

I first have to start out by saying that my life is in no way a model life. I have been married twice and divorced twice. I have been financially down, financially up and now currently financially down again. I have faced repossession of a vehicle, home foreclosures, and credit card delinquency. But I survived and am surviving.

However I find many people asking themselves how they can get ahead or how to get out of a rut they have found themselves in. And believe it or not, the answer is not what most people want to hear. There is no easy way out. There is no quick fix. Change is never easy. But change is possible. If you take it one step at a time. Small baby steps.

I'm sure this sounds so cliche but it is the truth. If someone asked you if you could eat an elephant you would probably say NO! But if you took that huge animal to a butcher and made steaks and roasts out of him, you would be able to eat that elephant. It would take a long time but you could do it. How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time. And that's how you solve most of life's problems. One bite at a time, one step at a time. And it helps to start with a plan.

I have a friend who is always saying he needs to get on his feet. I've heard him say this at least a dozen times since I have known him. I have seen him get very good jobs but would throw it all away because he wanted to go out with a girl or go to a party. He is constantly living in the "now" and destroying his future. He never has any money and continues to be a burden on his family and friends. My friend is 34 years old and is living with his Mom. He has abandoned both of his children, they are with his ex-wife. His Dad has just about given up on him and will not enable his behavior by giving him more money. His sisters no longer respect him and he has burned just about every bridge he has come upon. But he is still my friend and I still try to help him by listening and giving advice, however I do not give him money!

The funny thing is, my friend does not have to live like this. He feels overwhelmed with everything in his life and doesn't know where to start. So, I will say it again here what I have said to my friend and hopefully this may help someone find their way to a stable path in life.

  1. First things first. Stop looking at the big picture for a moment! We all can get overwhelmed with the complexities of life. Don't try to solve for everything at once. break things down into little pieces first.
  2. Make a list. Just stop and take a deep breath and make a list. It is the most simple tasks but this is where most people will fail. You don't need a computer, cell phone, or Internet. Just a pencil and paper. Make a list of every issue in your life. Write them all down.
  3. Prioritize. Now look at your list and see which problems you can fix easily. Some are going to be easy and most will be hard. But even if you can fix the easy ones it will give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that you are on your way.
  4. Money. Many people will say that they lack loney to solve their issues. And yes a lot of our problems are money related. But money wont solve it all. Be creative, resourceful and frugal. Find simple ways to cut back on your spending. One easy way is to not use your debit card! Figure out how you need for a week. Take that money out in cash and leave the plastic at home. You may be amazed and how much the little stuff really adds up.
  5. Get a job. Another tough one. But even if you have a job, always be on the look out for a better one. Don't settle. Most people are worth more than they give themselves credit for. My friend used to work at the hospital. I saw his resume once and was amazed that he did not list neither of the hospitals he used to work for! I asked him why and he said he didn't want to work in the hospital anymore. Instead he touted himself as a self employed business owner. Now you may think this sounds good, but unless you have the DBA and the paperwork to back it up, a future employer has no way to know if you are telling the truth. Also, you may not like the skills you may have. Whether its hospital work or construction work, a skill is a skill and worth money! If you need to get out of where you are in life, use what you know. Be honest with yourself and sell yourself right!
  6. Take care of the future you. Or to use a new buzz phrase "Pay it forward". Put money into retirement. Pay off bills. Pay back debts. Pay your parents and friends back. And help others who need the help. You're future you will thank you.
  7. Dont' get ahead of yourself and stay on track. By the time you get to this step you may find yourself with some breathing room. Don't slip up. Stay steady and stable. Don't be tempted to by a new car or house, or TV or XBOX or whatever. If you want something new, save for it. Do you realize how much you really pay in interest?!?! Its distgusting! Dont do it. Keep your money dont give it to the bankers.
Well I hope my friend reads this someday. If not I hope someone benefits from it. Heck, if anythingI know I will. This helps me stay on track!


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