Winning by Accident?

Some people don’t like him at all. They say he’s too loud and that he asks too many personal questions. Others love him and vow to follow his guidelines to financial freedom. I’m referring to Dave Ramsey, financial guru whose creed is “Be debt free.”

Personally, I like him. At least I like listening to his podcasts. At the moment, I’m not gung-ho enough to take the course or buy the books. I’m happy listening and taking baby steps. For instance, I’m totally into the debt snowball, so I’m paying off my car and then using that $411 per month to add to a house payment.

But the purpose of this post isn’t to convince you to become debt-free. Its purpose is to share Ramsey’s ideas about goal setting. I’ve been reading and teaching about how to set goals for decades, and I’ve practicing a little of what I’ve been teaching too. But Ramsey’s ideas and the way he presented them on a recent podcast really spoke to me. Maybe it’s because I needed a reminder. Or maybe I just like his direct, “pull no punches” personality and style.

Without further ado, here are the seven areas for goal setting:

  1. Financial
  2. Physical
  3. Social
  4. Family
  5. Career
  6. Spiritual
  7. Intellectual

Easy so far, right? I thought so too. For the first one, I decided that I wanted to save more money and that for the physical goal I’d drink more water or something. All was well and good until Ramsey elaborated on the seven areas by telling his listeners about the criteria each goal must meet.

Because of the time element (working on spiritual goals at church soon), I’m merely going to list the criteria and will elaborate later. In the meantime, maybe you can start thinking of some things you want to accomplish.

Each goal must be:

Specific. It’s not enough for me to say that I want to save some money. How much?

Measurable. Saying, “I think I’ll add a few dollars to my car payment each month” is not measurable. How many dollars?

Yours. You own it. Not your mama. I especially like this one. I want to be a more prudent and provident person because I want to, not because others are pushing me to.

Time-based. Saying, “I’m gonna pay this car off as soon as I can,” is a pitiful goal. “I’m going to pay my car off by this summer” gives the goal more punch and certainty.

Written down. Love this one. If you don’t write it down, it’s an idea, a dream. I’ve always known this, but the way Ramsey elaborated on it drove the point home.

Throughout the podcast, Ramsey threw in little extras that are right up my psychological alley. For example, he talked about how some people give up too easily and act like victims. “Don’t be a wussified victim,” he exclaimed.

And then, there’s that part near the end when he told his listeners, “You don’t win by accident.” No one wins a Grammy by accident. No one wins an Olympic medal and wonders, “Gee, how’d that happen?” I know that’s common sense, but as Voltaire reportedly said, “Common sense is not so common.”

I often see people who are spinning their wheels and wondering, “Why can’t I have a decent job, a degree, peace of mind, well-behaved children, or good health?” As Ramsey reiterated a couple of times, those things aren’t accidental. You need a plan. I need a plan too.

What about you? Which one of the seven areas appeals most to you?

Elephants and Plastic Cups

 

That tiny blue cup sitting in the windowsill next to the infant’s picture might look like just another gewgaw to you. It isn’t. It’s fraught with meaning. My grandson Ethan, 20 months old at the time, gave it to me on Thanksgiving morning as I left Lake Lure. I had received word about the passing of my stepson Chris and was battling shock, disbelief, and sadness.

As I prepared to return to Columbia, the precious tot came running up and, with a big smile, held up this miniature plastic chalice. I think he sensed my grief and wanted to cheer me up. I later placed it in a bathroom window beside Ethan’s picture, a reminder of his eagerness in offering it to me at such a low moment. Even in the grimmest of circumstances, there is beauty and love.

Ethan’s father Paul gave me a perfect segue into this post last week when he sent me a link to a Radio Lab podcast about things. I don’t know whether he sent me the link because of the reference to object permanence or because of my proclivity to surround myself with things that have special meaning to me. I have rocks, shells, and jewelry that once belonged to someone dear, were given to me, or were once in a special location.

According to the podcast, things remind us of events, people, locations. They evoke emotions, good and not so good. Some are imbued with the essence and energy of those who touched or owned them, and all could tell a story. Since objects can’t talk, it’s us to us to share their significance.

After listening to the podcast, I walked around my house and snapped these pictures in less than a minute. All are important—to me, that is. You already know about the blue plastic cup. Let’s take a look at the others.

See the sailboat? Paul made it when he was about 10 years old and gave it to my mother. She was delighted with this treasure and displayed it on a bookcase for years. After her death, I claimed it as mine, and I love it for the same reason she did: his little boy hands had created it.

The trio of wooden elephants reminds me of Dr. Peter Ekechukwu, friend and former colleague at Horry Georgetown Technical College. On one of his trips to Nigeria, his homeland, Peter selected the elephants and brought them back to me as a farewell gift. A trustworthy friend, he and I used to commiserate about our many challenges as department chairs, and when I left the college, he and his wife Angela prepared a feast for us, and even now I can smell the delicious bouquet of aromas wafting throughout their home.

The lovely lavender vase belonged to my grandmother, also known as MaMa Padgett. She collected small pitchers and vases and had quite a collection displayed in her china cabinet. A few years ago, her daughter allowed MaMa’s granddaughters to choose a favorite from the collection. I chose this one and two more, one for each of my daughters. Where did this one come from? What was it that caught my grandmother’s eye? I selected it because of its color and shape, and I like thinking that perhaps those were her reasons too. She saw it; she touched it. Now it’s mine to see and touch.

The huge shell belonged to my mother. Although she wasn’t much of a beachcomber, I think she felt a reverence for the sea and its bounty. This huge shell sat atop a bathroom cabinet and held fragment soap balls. I keep it on my dresser and display pearls in it. They’re pretty, and they serve as reminders that friction can create beauty.

What about you? Do you have a special letter? A piece of jewelry that reminds you of a loved one? What about a movie or theatre ticket? Some people even hang on to articles of clothing that they were wearing at a special event or during a time that they enjoyed.