Positive Vibes — An Inside Job
John: Sandy, I read a very interesting piece on the Simple Dollar blog, recently, titled,Seven Personal Finance Lessons from the Government Shutdown. The government shutdown is over. Government workers have returned to their jobs and back pay should be arriving soon (if it hasn’t already). Things are back to normal… for now.
However, it’s the “for now” part that should leave many people concerned going forward. In truth, the government shutdown has been an incredibly valuable moment for learning for all of us. It’s exposed some difficult truths about our government, but more than that, it’s also exposed the fragile nature of the financial and professional lives of many, many Americans. Hundreds of thousands of government employees and many more contractors have seen their lives thrown into chaos when they previously perceived their employment as incredibly stable.
This experience has provided all of us with a great opportunity to step back and look at the reality of our own financial and professional worlds. It’s pointed at a few things we should all keep in mind as we move forward.
My biggest takeaway was that there is nothing that is truly “stable,” much less a job, but financial readiness should be. You talk a great deal about success is an inside job – heck, isn’t that the principle that your company was founded upon, I believe – but what was your biggest lesson that you took away from the shutdown and what is your biggest piece of advice that you would tell someone who perceived something to be more stable than it actually is?
Think about this for a second – what many people do not do is save enough for an emergency fund if something were to happen, do you think people do enough pre-saving in case this happened to them, either financially, professional networking or other? And what would you tell people who this did happen to, how they can bounce back quickly, instead of feeling sorry for themselves? It should always be about being the victor and not the victim, no?
I think we’re talking about a couple of different things. Your first point about “nothing is truly stable”, is absolutely true, and applies to everything in life. As I’ve said before, life is about change, and although we all love being in our cozy comfort zones, the reality is that it is temporary. It might be long-term temporary (if there is such a term), but at some point, things will change. People lose their jobs, the company goes out of business, somebody gets sick, the relationship ends either voluntarily or involuntarily, your house burns down, etc. On the brighter side, positive things happen that also require changes. You graduate and get a terrific job, your kids grow up and leave home, you move to a new location, find your perfect partner, get married, have a child, win the lottery, etc. All of these shifts, both wanted and unwanted, require adaptation. To work with these shifts we need to be aware they might happen and have some kind of plan on how to deal with the change.
Keeping that in mind, we go to your second point about saving in case the unwanted change happens. Saving can refer to money, or making sure you have friends and/or colleagues to back you up, making sure you have enough supplies or money to meet your basic needs in case disaster strikes, etc.
Often when we are in a good place we’re lulled into believing it will always be that way, so we don’t put aside extra money or supplies, buy the insurance, or create an emergency plan. So when something unexpected happens we are blindsided and totally unprepared.
I believe that’s what happened during the Shutdown. People assumed that the government is stable, so if they had a government job they would always be taken care of. Following that line of thought, they didn’t see a need to prepare for the unexpected by setting aside money, food, etc.
The reality is that it’s up to each of us to take responsibility for where we are in our lives. Not only emotionally, but also financially, physically, professionally, in relationships, and everywhere. As you said, it’s about being the victor, not the victim.
Victims think they have no control, and refuse to claim power and responsibility for their situation, thoughts and actions. They blame others and feel sorry for themselves, which keeps them stuck. Victors assess the situation, make a plan and move ahead. They also learn the lesson and take steps to insure that this particular thing won’t happen to them again.
Please comment so others can benefit from your wisdom and experience.
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