Use the things you buy – don’t hoard stuff

You will buy and sell many things in this world. In fact, financial transactions will be one of your most common everyday experiences. I recommend that you buy what you need, not what you can; and use the items that you buy. Avoid buying things, either big or small, that you will not use. I have made this mistake many, many times, and used to own a garage full of stuff to prove it. Many of us do because it is easy to convince yourself that you will use the stuff you buy. We are great at justifying purchases. The cheaper the item, the easier it is to justify.

Modern American culture leads us to believe that more is always better. Look at stores like Costco that sell huge quantities of stuff. Do any of us really need that huge jar of salsa. Wal-mart has built their billion dollar business on cheap purchases. This problem does not end there. Visit an average American restaurant, and order a meal. Normally they serve huge portions. You have already heard me say for many years – don’t order food that you cannot eat. Leftovers are almost never as good. Don’t supersize every meal, just because you can. I have an extra ten pounds on my body that is most likely due to French Fries alone.

Buy what you need, and use what you have. I am not saying that you should live a pious monk like lifestyle. Rather, be smart about how you invest your money, and don’t ever hoard useless stuff. It is a condition you can avoid. Finally – if you do end up with a bunch of stuff you don’t need, then give it away. America has plenty of great charities willing to take donations.

Proverbs 11:26: People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.

You will need money – don’t waste it.

You are going to work hard, and earn enough money to pay your bills. That is a given. You should also tithe and save some of your earnings for retirement. Tithing honors God, and savings prevent you from being poor later in life. Hopefully, you will also make enough money that you have some extra to spend on others things. My main advice is not to waste this extra money. Here are two points to remember when it comes to spending money.

First, it is important to understand the difference between a need and a want. You have everyday needs – all of us do. Food, shelter, and clothes represent a few needs that you have. You will spend money on needs all the days of your life. Many others items are things that you want. For example, an iPhone is an item that you want, but don’t necessarily need. Some items can be a need or a want – it depends on the person. Let’s use a car as an example. I need a car to get to work due to the nature and location of my job. Both of you on the other hand, do not really need a car at this point in your life. Having one will make your life easier, but you will survive without it. Remember this difference when you are determining how to spend your money. Too many of us consider a lot of our wants as needs. Trust me. I know. I have a closet full of sports jerseys to prove the point.

Second, we live in a country that is full of all kinds of extra stuff to buy. Some items are worth it, others are not. I suggest investing your extra money in things that you bring you joy, and are a good value. It is easy to waste your money, and I have done that plenty of times. Nowadays, I try to buy only the stuff that I need, and a good value, even though I may be able to afford more expensive items. Lastly, don’t buy anything to impress others. It is simply foolish.

Proverbs 14:23-24: All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The wealth of the wise is their crown, but the folly of fools yields folly.

Play the cards you are dealt – don’t whine

Life is full of ups and downs. You will have great days, good ones, some bad ones, and a few really awful ones. After many years, and many mistakes, I have learned it is important to play the cards you are dealt. Don’t waste your time whining about why things should be different, or better, or that life is not fair. The reality is that life is not always fair.

You will experience setbacks. You will fail, and others will fail you. It seems like it has become acceptable to whine when things don’t go our way. Social media is littered with a mountain of moans, groans, and complaints about the world. I recommend you avoid adding to the pile. Instead – figure out what adjustments you need to make. Focus on the strategy you will use to make the most of the cards that you have been dealt. Think about your next move, and the move after that one, and the move after that one.

A simple example from my own life may help illustrate the point. Last Friday I injured my back badly. I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. I was supposed to run the Army Ten Miler on Sunday. The reality I faced was that my body needed rest. I needed to heal. Running the ATM would have been a mistake, so I decided not to run. The past few months I put a lot of hours and miles into preparing. I would have been justified in complaining about my injury. Why did it have to happen then? Pondering about that question may have made me feel better, but it would not have helped me determine a new path forward. Instead, I took the week off from running. I went to see my doctor. I adjusted my race schedule for the rest of the year. Tangible steps forward so that I can put this injury behind me, and keep moving towards my goal.

Bottom line – sometimes circumstances and situations will go your way, and sometimes they will not. When they do – make the most of it. When they do not – do you best with what you have. Ask God for guidance and hope for better cards next time.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
– Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

Train hard to succeed – there are no shortcuts

In life there are no shortcuts when it comes to preparation. There are many ways to train your body, mind, and spirit…but it is difficult to achieve great results if you constantly cut corners. I am not saying that it is impossible to accelerate your results, learn from others experience, or find a better path to success. Rather I am saying that hard work pays off in visible ways. I know it has for me.

I offer my results running the Army Ten Miler as evidence of this truth. I have run this race many, many times with varied results. If I look at my finish times, there is a direct correlation between my performance and my training. My best times were earned through hard training and proper preparation. The years that I did not train as hard resulted in slower times. Pretty simple – better training equals better results. For example, I trained well in 2013 and 2015 and had good finish times. In 2014, I was injured from playing soccer, and was not able to train nearly as much. The result – much slower time. Oddly enough, this year I trained well, but ended up getting injured just a few days ago, so I was unable to run the race this morning. I will talk more about dealing with injuries next week.

I encourage you to think about this principle and apply it to your own life. Train and prepare – whether it is for school, to play a sport, or an instrument. The bottom line is that hard work coupled with tough training and proper preparation equals success. At times, failure is our own fault. We must be honest with ourselves. Ask the hard question – did I prepare myself properly? Did I do all that I can to succeed? If the answer is no, then we know what we need to fix for the next time. Our training, and our preparation.

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
– Colin Powell

Ask for help from others

It is impossible for any single person to know how to do everything, or know all the answers. Life is challenging. Each day brings its own obstacles. Some will be small – easy to get over. Some will be familiar to you. You will know the best path forward to overcome these kind of obstacles. Many days you will face situations when you need help from others. Do not be afraid to ask for their assistance. It may be as simple as asking for directions because you do not know where you are. At other times, you may face a daunting challenge and have no idea what to do. Ask people you know and trust for help in these type situations. It is a good thing to have friends who can help you, especially ones who know you well, and are willing to go the extra mile for you. Don’t forget to seek the Lord’s help. He can see paths that we cannot, or do not make sense to us.

It is worth noting that even the Lone Ranger did not ride alone – he had his friend Tonto with him. Having a team you can rely on is an asset. I experienced this recently during a Spartan race. I ran the race with a team. We worked our way through the course together. I found it extremely beneficial to have others around me for encouragement, support, and at times a helping hand. Some obstacles were easy for me while others proved more difficult. The same was true for each member of the team. I could have run the race alone, but I am really glad that I did not. I am convinced that we finished the course faster as a team, than if we had run separately.

Occasionally you may find yourself surrounded by strangers and need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Most people are willing to lend a helping hand, or share a good idea. This situation has happened to me many times. When I was young, I was reluctant to seek help from others. I considered it a sign of weakness. Nowadays I am much more likely to get help from others, rather than waste precious time trying to figure it all out on my own. I know from my own experience that pride can get in the way, so don’t make that mistake. Instead – ask for help from others. You will need it.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.

– Third Stanza of the US Army Ranger Creed