How do you eat an elephant? I’ll tell you at the end if you don’t already know.
In the meantime let’s talk about another elephant – the one in the room – you are in debt. In some way, you’re probably in debt right now. Maybe you owe to student loan or credit card companies. Maybe you said yes to a lot of projects and it seems like they are all due yesterday. Maybe you haven’t paid your tax bill from last year. Maybe you have 5,000 unread e-mails in your inbox. Maybe your SQL Servers have huge lists of problems but you never have the time to address them. You know your application has a lot of work that needs fixing, but new features always win the coveted spot on the roadmap. That’s your elephant. Debt. All sorts of debt.
What would you say if I told you I had an amazing set of miracle tips that are revolutionary and will get you out of this debt?!
I do! Read on.
You ready? Here it comes. The magical advice that will release the chains of bondage to any type of debt you are in…
Okay. Well, it’s not so magical. Or amazing. And it won’t give you infomercial quick results. But it works. Every.Time. I’ll give you a chance to leave if you feel like you’ve been lied to and want to go find the magical quick fix – mostly because if you happen to discover it, I’d love for you to bookmark my blog post and come back and leave a comment so I can try that instead!
If you’re staying, though, I’ll share a few points. I’m reading a really great book called “Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less“. I picked it up at the advice of an old friend and amazingly successful business coach, Jaime Masters, and it’s changed a lot for how I approach things just this first week of listening and reading it. Seriously. While listening to Chapter 19 today again, I started pondering debt and how many of the scheduling and time conflicts and burdens we place on ourselves are a form of debt. I ponder that some more in the video below.
So what’s the trick to eliminating all of this debt? I’m sorry to say, it’s not rocket science, it’s not magical, it’s not revolutionary – but it’s not the first place I’ve gone the first 20 years of my career. I know some of you are wired differently than I am and this will seem so incredibly dumb and simple – but I trust, I bet, that some of you will take something out of this lesson I’m learning as I go. So this is for us. And if you ever discover time travel, please send this post back to Mike Walsh in 1992 – he’ll be in Middle High School still, and force him to follow it.
(I talk about some of these methods in the video if you’d rather listen than read)
Anyway, the steps. Actually the components. I don’t know if there is a precise order to the steps. But these are the things I’m realizing and doing when working on getting out of various forms of debt. And the feeling of little battles won along the way so far? They have been a feeling of freedom and relief I cannot begin to describe. Read the steps. Buy the book I mentioned above or other books like it. Either way – just focus on doing it.
If you take nothing else from this – really think about the importance of today. “I’ll do that tomorrow” rarely works out. “OH CRAP!! Look at what I did to yesterday!!!” is one of the most distracting and self-limiting thoughts you can have. “What if this or that happens tomorrow?!?!!?” doesn’t eliminate debt. Being present today and working on these tips today does. You can’t stop and try and look to the long term future because your debt is so big right now that will scare you out of action. So knock it off. Look at your list today. What can you do from it? Do those things. Sure problems will come up, the list may grow. But consistent “today-mindedness” with these other tips will make the list go down.
Being present today and working on these tips today crushes debt. You can’t stop and try and look to the long-term future because your debt is so big right now that will scare you out of action. So knock it off. Look at your list today. What can you do on it? Do those things. Sure problems will come up, the list may grow. But consistent “today-mindedness” combined with the other tips below will make the list go down. It will happen. That’s a guarantee. But you have to be here and now and take tomorrow and yesterday out of your mind. That sounds easy on paper. It will be hard. It still is for me. But start today. Like right now. Don’t wait for tomorrow (obviously!)
To paraphrase from the Broadway musical, Rent, There is no day but today. There’s only here. There’s only now. Forget regret. You have the (limited) power to control today. So take care of that.
That’s how you eat an elephant – one bite at a time. It’s that easy. You start one bite at a time, eventually it’s gone. With financial debt, some call it a “debt snowball” – you pay off the easiest to pay off first. Not the one with the highest interest. Not the one with the biggest balance. The debt you can pay down the easiest. That will do three things for you:
- Let you visualize paying the rest down. This gets you excited about it. It moves you from anxiety to “WOW! This is possible”
- You get a victory quick. Sure. It’s small. But you are in charge now. You’ve done it once. You’re about to do it again.
- You use that extra money from not paying minimum payments on that debt to pay the next one.
You keep rinsing and repeating. You save an emergency fund. You do small things to change spending. As you do this you gamify it, you look for small ways to cut this or that out and soon, they are all done. Do that with your to-do list. How many big projects can be broken into small tasks? Get the easy ones done, build time, prove you are the boss of your task list, use the spare time when done to get the next ones done. It really does work
I have a colleague who also runs a consultancy. Great guy, SQL Server MVP Tim Mitchell of Tyleris Data Solutions. His business compliments mine and mine his. So we engage in projects together. He’s a solopreneur like me. He’s trying to run a business, serve clients, keep active in this SQL Server community, enjoy his family. He gets it. I get it. We both want to get more stuff done. So we keep each other accountable. Phone calls, quick e-mails, encouragements, weekly check ins on the progress. It’s new. But it’s making a difference.
Be Anxious For Nothing
So this isn’t a Bible-themed post, but that heading comes from a great verse in Phillipians. It’s talking about why a believer doesn’t need to worry or have anxiety. I won’t get into all that here, though happy to talk offline with you about why I find that true and refreshing if you ever want to chat over a cup of coffee. But the point remains – don’t be anxious. This goes with the “Today” tip also. But I call it out because… Well let me paraphrase the Bible and ask you a question about your day job… What will worrying do to solve your problems? What will worrying “oh no.. I forgot to ___ ” or “oh no.. my list of problems after my health check is far to olarge” do to solve the problems you are facing? Nothing. But it’s a nasty trick, anxiety is. We can spend so.much.time worrying and stressing that we end up losing the prize, we stop doing, and we get overwhelmed and before you know it – you are more in debt and further away from the prize. You can eat this elephant. You WILL eat this elephant. But take those lists and worries and turn them into tools. Find the small chunks and bang them out. Feel amazing finally getting x or y done and then move on to the rest. Anxiety is a paralyzing distraction and it isn’t helping.
No. Not all the time. But take care of yourself. Sleep 8 hours. Spend time with your family and friends. Read books. Pray. Study and reflect quietly. The debt took a long time to accumulate. You will not solve it overnight. So don’t push so hard. You’ll wear yourself out. Give yourself grace to mess up. Give yourself rest. You’ll be surprised how much mroe you do to tackle that debt the next day.
I talk a bit more about it in the video. I’m not perfect here either. But I’ll tell you – since starting to think about these things, since trying to be more in today, less anxious and focusing on knocking things off the list in small chunks an amazing thing has happened. I’m more relaxed. I’m more present. The business initiatives I’ve slacked off on (blogging a bit more, trying video content, putting out a newsletter) are getting dusted off and knocked off the list. I dare say I’m excited to get non-billable growth stuff done. I’m working on documenting our processes to make hiring employee number 3 easier. I’m strategizing for the future, but in a “what can I knock out today” kind of way. I have a long way to go. But maybe this will be an encouragement to you. That’s enough words for one post plus the video. Have a great day whenever you are reading this. You can do this.