Change is something for some reason, we fear. But it something we must embrace. No matter how you slice it and how cliche this sounds, it’s an inevitable truth: the first step to making positive change is admitting there is a problem. The reason? Without admitting there is a problem, what do we need to change?
By nature, all living things want to follow the path of least resistance. In doing so, we often end up becoming complacent and dig ourselves into a hole. This is what happened to me.
There is a concept called ownership. In order to make changes, we must first learn how to take ownership of our actions because at the end of the day, the root cause of our problems is us. Now, I’m not saying that there are no external factors contributing to our problems. But the reason we continue to experience our problems, is because we fail to recognize the cause and to make the change within ourselves. By doing so, we can remove ourselves from the situations that put us in the way of our problems and they will slowly start to resolve themselves. Remember, with every failure comes a seed for success. It’s just a matter of recognizing it.
I found myself consistently blaming everything around me. The perfect example of this may be my career: the nature of my career is no ordinary one. Mariners typically work an average of 4 months at a time and have multiple months off. Our time off is technically unpaid, it’s prorated in a sense. While actively on the ship, depending on the contract, we can earn anywhere from 15-20 days of paid time off for every 30 days on board at a fraction of our daily wages sometimes it’s the equivalent; some contracts are a day for day exchange but, as you could imagine, they are few and far between. When we sign off the ship, we have an option to receive a lump sum of cash for our vacation check or we can choose to have it divided up into bi-weekly or monthly payments. But often times, when we are ready to go back to sea, there is very limited work. Regardless, instead of accounting for this and budgeting as if work would not be available, I was irresponsible and was spending way too much money but blamed it on my inconsistent work schedule and the fact that the vacation rates on the contracts weren’t day for day.
To further illustrate my point, I am going to discuss the things I spent my money on in hopes it may help those struggling identify similar habits. The first thing I bought was a car. I thought I was being responsible buying something certified pre-owned. I didn’t put anything down, financing it 100%. Why not? I was making more money than I knew what to do with and a $565 a month car payment still left me with a ton of cash (it was a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee in case you were wondering, nothing too fancy but still relatively expensive).
The next thing I did was get a credit card. The bank did me no favors here, they saw my salary and gave me a $23,000 dollar limit. I’m pretty sure you guessed where this is going. I ran that S.O.B. through the roof. I was buying all kinds of things. Camping/hiking gear, dinners for my fiancé and I, alcohol at the bar, gas, tolls, the best MacBook Pro you could buy, a MacBook Pro for my wife, guns and the list continues. If I wanted it, I swiped it. I did that 3 more times, on 3 other cards, ending up with a total credit card debt of roughly $40,000. The way I saw it was a very dangerous way of looking at it. I reasoned that I’d be able to pay off the cards on my next hitch. Which I did, but I repeated the same process. Not only was I spending money on a credit card I didn’t have but I was spending money I didn’t even make yet. It was addicting. I felt great. I could literally do anything I wanted. Hey, I was disciplined and paid them off, right?
Fast forward a little bit, I had the great idea of leaving that job to work for a ferry company out of New York. I took a 50% pay cut but was still going to make decent money. I did the same thing, ran them up but this time… I couldn’t pay them off. I suffered through this for a year until I finally decided I had no choice except to go back out to sea and make better money. I crawled back to the union but had no clue how to fix my situation because I found myself right back where I started. Making more money and falling into the same vicious cycle as before.
So, how did I change it?
As I mentioned in my previous post, life has a strange way of showing us signs. I came across a book called Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink (I also read his other: Leadership Strategy & Tactics). Seeing that he was a SEAL I decided to buy it. Not because I wanted to change my money spending habits (it was still not my fault) but because I wanted to make myself a stronger leader as an Officer aboard the ships I sailed on. Not only did I grow as a leader from reading his book, I grew as an individual. I got a message out of it that I was completely blindsided by. I realized I was failing to look at myself.
I began to analyze my habits. Every time I caught myself blaming something else for my actions I wrote it down. By writing it down, seeing it visually, I started to see patterns in my thoughts and therefore my actions. I continued to notice my impulsive behavior and carefree attitude. It became apparent that – I personally – had no self control, and that I did not want to take sound advice when it was given to me because I thought I knew everything. I began to rapidly change.
I found myself beginning to recognize when just the thought of blaming something else was about to surface. As this evolution continued, I was stopping myself mid thought and forcing myself to admit that I was the problem. But what about me was the problem? I had everything I wanted; a high paying job, a beautiful fiancé, every material thing I could think of. I truly believed I was “rich.” I was living exactly how life was portrayed on social media. I was completely missing something.
After tons of deep exploration within myself I couldn’t find an answer. But the answer was in front of me: “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” I had heard this a thousand times before and never understood what it meant until then. I decided it was time to start reading my old journals. I came across an entry about standing in line at the Apple store when I was 19 to buy the new iPhone. I was talking to someone standing on line behind me and told him about my ambitions, that I refused to be poor, wanted to find a high paying job, etc. He told me I had a great mindset and highly recommended I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I put off reading that book from 2009 until the summer of 2020.
I decided to take a different approach to reading. I was going to take notes. I bought myself a composition notebook and looked up some different note taking methods (I’ll write another post about this) and got to work. The book was all about mindset and pursuing your dreams at all costs. There is a lot of self evaluation that it goes into and how some of the richest people in the world use these psychological techniques to get what they want. It was strongly evident that the laws of attraction are very real. We receive the energy we put out. But I still didn’t quite know what I was looking for. After reading this book is became very clear. Time.
I wanted to make a lot of money and “refused to be poor” because I wanted to enjoy my time. Napoleon Hill says in Think and Grow Rich:
“Tell me how you use your spare time, and how you spend your money, and I will tell you where and what you will be in ten years from now.”
I was going about it all wrong. Instead of devoting my time to someone else to make them rich. I needed to devote my money to buying me time. In order to be free, you must make your money work for you. Money cannot buy us happiness but it can buy us time and our time is worth much, much more than anyone is willing to pay us…
The inferno inside of me had just been reignited. As Napoleon Hill instructs: “Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.”
This is exactly what I did. I began to reprogram my thought process throwing out anything negativety that crossed my mind and forced myself to think the exact opposite. This constant, conscious desire for change, eventually took hold of my subconscious mind. Now, it is no longer something I think about. I was suddenly on my new road to success.
It was one small step for myself…one giant leap for my life.