Are You Afraid of Failing?

As I was watching the USA basketball team on their way to a gold medal in the Olympics yesterday, the commentators said something that stuck out to me.  I don’t remember it verbatim, but it went something like this: Is it joy on their faces, or relief?  The commentator went on to say maybe it was a bit of both, after all, this was a team that wasn’t supposed to lose.  So, yes, in a way, there was some relief in the fact that they didn’t lose when they weren’t expected to. - You're great at pretending to be successfulWhich got me to thinking.  Are we afraid of failing?  And the answer is, of course we are.  We’re afraid of failing at lots of things.  It’s another of those learned fears that we aren’t born with.  Watch any young child trying something, and you’ll notice that they fail several times before they finally get it right.  Sometimes they just learn that something just doesn’t work that way, and find the way that it does work.  If that square peg doesn’t fit in the round hole, they’ll eventually find the square hole that it goes in.

But, somewhere along the way, many of us gain a fear of failing.  So much pressure and expectation is laid upon us to succeed, both by our parents and by society at large.  No longer is it something where we’re learning something new (even though we usually are), but expected to get that new thing right on the first try.  And, like the USA basketball team, when we do get it right, we are just as full of relief that we didn’t fail as we are full of joy that we succeeded.

Do or do not.  There is no try. ~Yoda

That quote is probably one of the most quoted lines of dialogue in the entire Star Wars series of movies.  David Brin, a sci-fi author thinks that and many of the other actions of Yoda make him “about the most evil character that I’ve ever seen in the history of literature“. Why does Brin hate Yoda so much?  It’s better if I let him say it:

unable to name for me one scene in which Yoda is ever helpful to anybody, or says anything that’s genuinely wise. “Do or do not, there is no try.” Up yours, you horrible little oven mitt! “Try” is how human beings get better. That’s how people learn, they try some of their muscles, or their Force mechanism heads in the right direction, that part gets reinforced and rewarded with positive feedback, which you never give.

I’ll repeat it for you.  Trying is how people learn.  When we try, and succeed, that’s positive feedback and that success is reinforced.  When we try and fail, that’s negative feedback.  We learn that the action we performed and failed is the wrong way to go about it, and then go about trying to find a new way to go about that action.

There’s also a very nice commercial that features Michael Jordan talking about how many times he’s missed shots, lost games, and been counted on to make the game winning shot and missed.  He goes on to say that it’s because he failed all those times that he was as good as he was.

So.  Why are you afraid of failing?  Failure is a part of the learning process.  It’s how we learn how things work, what methods will succeed, and how we make ourselves better.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Be afraid of not trying.

Get an Amazon Kindle for Under $20

If you’re anything like me, and like to read, the surge in ebooks and ebook readers has left you wanting your own reader.  If you’re also like me and hesitate when you see the price of an ebook reader, then this deal might be for you.

For a limited time (looks like it expires on 8/15/12), Reward Visa card holders can get an extra 40% off of a few select Kindle e-readers.  It only includes the original style kindles (3rd generation) and not the Kindle Touch or the Kindle Fire.  The Kindle with special offers is normally $79.  The Kindle without special offers is normally $109.  After the 40% discount code, the Kindle with special offers is about $48, and the one without special offers is about $66.  That’s a ridiculously good price on the Kindle readers.

But, I said under $20 in the title didn’t I?  Well, I wasn’t lying, if that’s what you mean. :)  If you’re one of the people who doesn’t have an Rewards Visa card, they offer a bonus gift card when you sign up and are accepted for a new account.  When I signed up last week, and bought my Kindle, the bonus offered was $50.  Today, when I look, it’s offering a $30 gift card.  So, depending on what it shows for you, you might get either a $30 card or a $50 card.  Or, maybe the $50 card was only for a day or two.  I don’t know.  Even so.  If you sign up and get the $30 gift card, and buy the Kindle with special offers, that brings the price of the reader down to about $18.  That exceeds ridiculous, and borders on a crazy good price.  Even if you opt for the Kindle without the special offers, it’s still only about $36.  Again with the crazy prices!

Last week, I signed up for the card, got a $50 gift card, and bought the Kindle with special offers.  Once the gift card was applied, that made the Kindle free.  With a little bit of gift card to spare.  Even if you don’t get as good of a deal, it might still be worth it if you’ve been hankering for a Kindle.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the big white elephant in the room here.  You do have to sign up for a credit card to get the discount and the gift card.  It’s an old marketing trick to get you into the card, which, statistically, you won’t use correctly, and will rack up a nice balance that you’ll carry over from month to month and make them tons of money in interest payments.  And, unless you’re smart about it, that’s likely what will happen.  However, if you are disciplined, you can do what I plan to do.  Apply for the card, use the bonus gift card, and the bonus discount to get a crazy good price on a Kindle.  Once that’s done, I’ll either close the account, or set the card aside and never use it again.

So, let me be clear.  Yes it’s a crazy good deal on a Kindle.  But, let’s keep our wits about us.  If you can’t be held responsible (to yourself or anyone else) when you get a new credit card with a big ol’ limit on it, then it’s not a deal for you.  Keep on walking.

If, on the other hand, you have learned to be responsible with credit cards, and you’ve been wanting a Kindle, you aren’t likely to see deals like this again until Black Friday.  If even then.

Quick how-to:

Do you have an Amazon Rewards Visa?  Then you won’t get the gift card, but you’ll still get the 40% off.  Go straight to the discount page and get your Kindle.

If you don’t have the card, you can go to that page, then click on the offer that should be appearing in the upper right hand side of the page.  It should say something about a bonus gift card, or will on the next page.  Obviously, if it’s not giving you the gift card, there’s no point in signing up.  Once you’ve gone through the application process, you can go back to the promo page and buy your Kindle.

Are You a Financial Olympian?

What is a Financial Olympian?  It might first help if we briefly look at what it means to be an Olympian in the more popular sense.  Unless you’ve been under a rock these last few weeks, you can’t help but have heard about the Olympic games going on in London right now.  Athletes from all over the world have converged on London to compete against one another in their sport.  Getting so far as the Olympic games requires a few things.  You’ve got to have some talent, sure, but all the talent in the world won’t get you there by itself.  You’ve got to have dedication, perseverance, and a no-quit attitude.

Financial Olympic Events

img credit: Accounting by 401(k) 2012 on Flickr

Being an Financial Olympian isn’t much different.  Once again, talent only plays a very small part.  You don’t need to know numbers inside and out, but merely how to add, subtract, and maybe multiply and divide.  O.K., that might be an oversimplification, but you really can get away with just those skills, so long as you add in the others to top it off.

Financial Dedication

Like an Olympic athlete, a Financial Olympian must be dedicated to the performing at their peak ability.  Neither takes a day off.  Neither takes it easy.  Each pushes themselves to be the best at their event as they possibly can be.  It’s their dedication that gets them up in the morning to train, and it’s the Financial Olympian’s dedication that gets them to the table to do their budget, pay their bills, and to manage their money as best as they can.

Financial Perseverance

When an Olympic athlete fails, do you know what they do?  They redouble their efforts, get up a bit earlier the next day, and train harder and longer than they have before.  They are driven to continually improve their performance so that they don’t fail again.  When a Financial Olympian fails, they do the same.  They work harder at maintaining their finances.  They get up a bit earlier, find new ways to increase their income through second jobs, better jobs, better positions, and even passive income sources, and they work hard to improve their knowledge of personal finance.

Financial No-Quit Attitude

If you want to be an Olympian, whether it be in the 100m Freestyle or in the realm of number-crunching personal finance, quitting is never an option.  Any Olympian will fail.  Just in the last week, I’ve seen Michael Phelps, the Olympian with the most medals in the history of the Olympics, lose several times.  Does he quit and leave the next race to the other Olympians?  Not a chance.  He has a no-quit attitude.  A Financial Olympian does too! If you break your budget or save less then you intended, you don’t throw your hands up and go on a spending spree.  No, you figure out why you failed, you pull out a little of that dedication, add a bit of perseverance, and move on to the next month’s budget!

Are you a Financial Olympian?  Do you have the dedication, perseverance, and no-quit attitude to make your personal finances the best they can be?