Lessons Learned - insights from others
In any endeavor, it's always good to recognize lessons learned so you can build on these for greater success next time. Let's look at lessons that others have learned over the years. Many of these insights have been captured in "old sayings" and yet many of us ignore these lessons because we didn't learn them ourselves.
Anyone can learn from their own mistakes, but many don't. It's a smart person that learns from the mistakes of others, and a brilliant individual that learns from the experiences of others.
Let's learn from others and see what people have been talking about for so many years. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if we understand it's already been invented. Remember, there is a kernel of truth in just about everything that anyone says. The key is to look for it.
Here are age-old sayings and my perspective on the truth that is within them. Let's explore these lessons learned and see how they might apply in our lives. I'll provide an example or discussion for each of the lessons learned so they get a little more traction with us.
And, I'll focus on ideas that are central to frugal living, self-sufficiency and personal finance.
Follow the money - a good indicator of why people do what they do. You can usually track people's behavior simply by following where money goes.
I was at a party once where I knew my friend's son was attending because he was back home living with his father. Let's call the son Greg. Anyway, Greg was a "ne'er do well" and living with his father because of it.
He was asking what people did for a living, apparently looking for a financial edge somewhere. When he came to me, I told him a great big fib. I told him that I was retired at age 22. I told him that I had taken $7,000 and put it in the stock market and turned it into $7,000,000 in a few years.
Greg proceeded to follow me around at the party and pitched different failed ideas that his father had previously funded. It was funny. Greg was following the money like a bloodhound, and he was ready to latch onto it like a leech.
What are the lessons learned here? If you have some money, be quiet about it or you might just find all kinds of people hounding you for a handout.
A fool and his money are soon parted - it's not just a clever saying, but pure truth staring us in the face. I am reminded of a man standing outside of a bank in the City of New York with the news media taking a picture of a shoebox filled with money. Supposedly he had withdrawn his money from the bank and kept it in a shoebox under his bed for fear of bank collapse.
If you're flashing a shoebox full of money on the streets of New York, you're a fool, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if you and your money part ways quickly and unexpectedly, especially if your picture in the paper is recognized by your "friends" who are following the money.
In another example, late in 1999, a couple took half of their savings out of the bank and sealed it in a bucket and buried it in the backyard under the dog house one night. They weren't trusting the banks, what with Y2K approaching. The next day, they found that someone had dug it up and made off with it during the night. The couple lost at least $10,000 because of their foolish act.
Lessons learned here? Fools and their money are soon parted - it's clear. We need to be careful not to do foolish things with our money.
Everyone acts in their own best interest - it's only natural behavior.
Perhaps you saw the scene in the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou where the cousin of one of the escapees turned in the whole bunch to the law for the reward money. As the convicts try to escape the situation, the cousin explains his actions by saying "you know, they got this depression on." That was his way of saying he was acting in his best interest by getting the reward money as a form of income.
Why is gambling illegal, except if the state engages in gambling through a lottery? Answer: there isn't any money for the state in gambling unless the state is running the game.
Lessons learned? We need to examine people's interests because that's what motivates them, and money is a big motivator.
Actions speak louder than words - only if you're listening.
An acquaintance of mine in California (let's call him Rick) was always out of work and never looking for work, except to talk with the head man down at the union hall. He was always told that his name is at the top of the list for upcoming jobs.
Despite what the head union man said, others were consistently getting called out for work, and Rick wasn't. This didn't go unnoticed by Rick, and he complained about the lack of work. And, he was told each time that he was at the top of the list.
Let's look at some lessons learned here:
- If Rick really was interested in getting work, he'd be looking somewhere beside just the union hall. His actions showed just how limited his interest was in working.
- The union leader matched Rick's demonstrated limited interest with limited opportunities for work. It was clear to the union leader that Rick wasn't really all that interested in work. His actions spoke plenty loud.
- If Rick really was at the top of the list, he would have gotten called for work with some regularity, but he got called to do a job perhaps once or twice a year, so that showed what the truth really was about where his name was on the list.
Lessons learned? The actions of both Rick and his union leader were speaking volumes, despite what either of them had to say about the situation.
You made your bed, now lie down in it - another old saying that teaches that our actions and decisions help create our own reality.
A friend of mine is known for speeding, yet it seems that she never gets caught speeding. One day she was late for an appointment with me. Her delay was caused by a well deserved speeding ticket. She created her own reality of a speeding ticket by constantly ignoring the warnings of those around her.
Lessons learned? We create our own reality in many respects by what we say and do, and we deserve what we get.
Easy come, easy go - isn't so easy for many of us to understand.
How well do you suppose the government spends the money they collect? They don't really work to earn it, they just tax others to get it. Our elected officials spend hundreds of millions of dollars without batting an eye, mainly because it's someone else's money that they're spending.
Lessons learned? If you just hand someone money, don't be a bit surprised if they blow through it in a heart beat. If we don't work hard and earn something, it has less meaning and it will be less well cared for.
Everyone needs skin in the game - or they should just sit on the sidelines and stay out. If there isn't any risk or investment, people just aren't going to pay attention and be as careful as those that do.
I know a man that funded a business operation with his wife. He put all the money in, and she didn't put in a dime. She had no "skin" in the game. She ran the business into the ground and lost the man's fortune. She only lost a little pride.
Lessons learned here? Make certain that everyone has something to lose, and it's commensurate with the control they exert on the situation and the potential benefits to be gained. That way, everyone pays attention and watches over their interests and investment.
He got what he had coming to him - another version of "you create your own reality." I like to say: "With rare exception, we all get what we deserve."
I know a woman that has always lived on the financial edge with no money in the bank, no real assets, and just barely living check to check. She never built a safety net in the form of an emergency fund, and she has always rented and made car payments.
In short, she has always left herself wide open.
Now she's unemployed (again) and she's at a loss as to what to do. Did she get what she deserved? Absolutely! To think that living on the edge will never result in slipping off the edge, is to believe that your job, your health, your income, your expenses and your relationships will always be the same - nothing will ever change. That's completely unrealistic.
Lessons learned? The future is coming, and like Yogi Berra once said: "It ain't what it used to be."
To the victor goes the spoils This is a phrase from the days of Andrew Jackson. The idea is that if you win, you can do as you please with your victory. We've seen this so many times with governors, presidents and other leaders that make it "to the top" only to mess up because of the power they enjoy.
Lesson learned here? If you plan, work hard, save and build a successful life for yourself, you get to call the shots in your life. You don't need to listen to anyone telling you that you have to "part with some bucks." Those are your bucks, you earned them, and so you get to decide.
Consider the source - this is a reference to who is telling you things. I was on the phone once with a cell phone company and they noted that I had a Time Port phone. The gal on the other end said in a disapproving tone: "That's an oooold phone." Well, what do you expect her to say? She wants me to buy another phone and sign up for another cell phone plan.
That's her job, and she gets paid according to how successful she is at convincing others to keep spending money.
Lessons learned? It was in her best interest to sell me a phone, so with her as "the source," I should expect a sales pitch that involves parting with my money. After all, she was just playing the money game - she knew that I had some and she was trying to get some for herself.
Some people operate on entirely different levels - and sometimes we're talking about levels that we can't appreciate or even imagine.
How could one man in Nazi Germany promote thinking and action that threw the entire world into a war that would cost millions of lives? The answer is simply that he was operating on a different level than most everyone else.
Lessons learned? People operate very differently. Keep in mind that what's unthinkable to you and me might be very possible for others. Likewise, what you don't think you can accomplish may be quite achievable if only you were thinking and operating on a different level.
Part of successful frugal living requires us to keep our eye on the ball, our financial "ball" and our success "ball." We need to be aware that decisions we make and things that we do directly and indirectly related to things that happen to us. These are the consequences of our decisions and actions.
Lessons learned? Decisions have consequences. Make good decisions so you enjoy favorable consequences. Leave the poor decision-making to others.
Done with Lessons Learned, take me back to Individual Responsibility
Done with Lessons Learned, take me back to Managing Money