Five Ways I’ve Failed Myself (And What I’m Going to Do About it)

January 19, 2009

Our country is in transition, out with the old and in with the new.  As our nation’s leadership prepares to change, President Bush has been reflecting on the legacy he’s left during his tenure in the White House.  Last week I saw part of his press conference where President Bush talked about his biggest disappointments and I realized that I’ve made some mistakes over the last eight years that I need to correct.

Here are five ways I’ve failed myself during Bush’s terms and how I plan to change them during the upcoming Obama era.

Working Hard, Not Smart

One of my old boss’s favorite sayings was that he was never the smartest guy in the room but he’d outwork anyone else.  He would stay at work all night long to get the job done, sometimes working day after day with little sleep, and many times I was there right beside him.

I’m afraid I’ve had a similar mindset for most of my adult life; what I’ve lacked in experience or intelligence, I’ve tried to make up for with hard work.

I’ve put myself through a lot of unnecessary stress and missed out on some neat opportunities because I was convinced that I had to work that hard to be successful.

New Policy – Starting a new job at the end of last year made me realize that I always have alternatives to my current situation and that it’s in my best interest to identify and evaluate them. In the future I will be more dilligent with being aware of my best options.

A big part of working smart is setting goals and aligning my actions with those goals, if something I’m doing either doesn’t acheive those goals or seems a roundabout way to get there, I’ll re-evaluate those tasks.

Failure to Start

I shared a quote on Twitter the other day that really hit home for me:

“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

If I don’t take the risk of starting something and failing, I will be no closer to success.  My problem is that sometimes I overthink things and spend far too long deciding whether to start a project and then how to implement it.  This site is a good example, I should have started it two years before I did but I was so busy researching which type of website to start that time just slipped away.

New Policy – If something fits with my strategy that I create while “working smart”, I won’t hesitate to start the project.  If I don’t have time to do it myself, I will find someone else to do it for me.

Lack of Focus

This has probably been my biggest failure over the last several years.  I tend to spread myself too thin and then spend so much time multi-tasking that nothing gets done. 

I find myself having so much to do that I get frustrated and overwhelmed.  I try staying up all night just to get everything done but I can’t keep that up forever, so instead I will focus in on the projects that fit my strategic goals.

New Policy – The action plan I set out in my New Year’s Resolution will help me focus on only a few projects at a time.  I have to be careful with my aboe policy on starting new projects.  I can’t commit to them until I have the resources lined up to carry them out.

Thinking Small

Since I’m the long-haul, hard worker type, I’m good at taking regular small tasks and just plugging away at them day after day. Of course this is a great way to build something over time, it’s probably why I’m such a good money saver, consistent and regular.

However, without a big picture I could be working in circles for the rest of my life.  It’s easy for me to keep doing the same thing over and over and optimizing it for success because that’s what I know.  BUT, in order to grow I need to push myself this year.

New Policy – Set some goals that scare me and seem unattainable, then figure out how to reach them.

Not Diversifying

Thank goodness for my wife.  When we first got married, I wanted to live in the smallest apartment we could find and plow all our money into the stock market for ten years.  I quickly learned that you don’t always get what you want in marriage and we ended up buying a house.

Let me say it again, thank goodness for my wife!  If we would have followed my path we’d be seriously weeping in our beer right now thanks to the recent stock market performance.  The real estate market certainly isn’t great but our home has held it’s value much better than our stock market investments would have.

The money we did invest was pretty diversified across industries and asset classes but it’s not just our investments that I need to diversify.

New Policy – Evaluate and pursue forms of investment in addition to the stock market, such as running our own business and owning rental property.

Those are the five ways I’ve failed myself during the terms of President Bush, with my new plans I will turn around my shortcomings during the Obama era.  What changes are you going to make?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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12 Responses to Five Ways I’ve Failed Myself (And What I’m Going to Do About it)

  • Ben

    real helpful comment, next time why not offer up at least a little constructive criticism?

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry, but…
    Those are the stupidest ideas I have ever heard. Ever.

  • marci

    1. To remember that my time is worth more than money.
    2. To remember friends and family also come before money.
    3. To learn to say NO and stick with it when asked to do projects that will
    rob me of my valuable time without adequate time compensation.
    4. To live more in the moment and take advantage of the opportunities as they
    present themselves. To be adaptable and flexible if it fits my life goals.
    5. To expand the edible landscaping for my yard and to expand the garden, now that I’ve had such successes with it this past year. To put in more winter crops.
    6. To live more in tune with nature and its cycles: again take advantage of the natural opportunities that present themselves… as in this weekend is clam tides, last weekend was gorgeous perfect weather for firewood cutting. Others would be planting season, growing season, harvest, hunting seasons, etc. To exist in harmony with mother nature’s cycles and not fight against them.

    Obviously, from the above goals, I am older than most of your readers, and my finances are ok and debt free. Now my focus is on precious time 🙂 And on living frugally 🙂

  • TStrump

    I think focus has been tough for me.
    I’m big on goals but I actually used to have TOO many goals which kept me from accomplishing many of them.

  • Grant Baldwin

    Great post…I totally resonate with several of these items. I think we both share some form of adult ADD, so a little extra structure always helps! Thanks for your writing…

  • Steve @ brip blap

    One of the greatest advantages of getting married is actually having someone to (a) put a brake on some of your worst ideas and (b) suggest things to you that you wouldn’t have thought of before.

    I’d also say you were a lot more comprehensive with your disappointments than our soon-to-be-ex-president was; too bad everyone can’t be so honest with themselves about their regrets.

  • the weakonomist

    I’m getting married this fall and am reminded every day that my future wife has some great ideas about money.

    For the most part we have a great set-up, I’m really good at making and investing money. She’s really good at making sure we enjoy it.


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