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3 Commonly Overlooked Skills For Turning Around Your Financial Life

in Do What You Love, Money Basics, Pay Off Your Debt

Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

Understanding the numbers of your financial life is an important principle in helping you take back control. However, just studying the math of your situation has its limits.

Many financial experts choose to focus all their time and energy on tangible formulas, benchmarks, and percentage-based rules of thumb. In doing so, they completely ignore the most essential skills!

TRUTH: There are several skills far more important than just “knowing the numbers” of your situation.

TRUTH: You do not have to be good at math to break-free from the burden of a stress-filled financial life.

All these formulas and percentages are useful, but only when properly put in their place in the pecking order. Here are 3 skills you should focus on before getting a grasp on what the numbers of your situation are…

#1 – Developing A Blessed Attitude…

It may sound cliche, but in every successful turn-around I’ve seen or studied – a positive, blessed attitude was at the very core.

What the heck is a “blessed attitude,” you ask?

A blessed attitude is a life-long learned skill. It’s the ability to break-free of everyday ruts and negative attitude by constantly reminding yourself with all the reasons you are truly blessed.

A recent statistic I read stated that a far majority of the world (close to 70%) lives on less than $2.00 per day.

If you are reading this post, chances are you are already ahead of 95% of the world’s population in terms of possibility and freedom.

Don’t get me wrong here, this isn’t about the token hippie dude screaming “Just be positive and it’ll all be okay, man.”  I don’t believe positive thinking alone manifests anything for you long-term.

However, I’m utterly convinced that a constant negative, entitled attitude will drag you down and keep you trapped.

It’s something that we all battle with on a daily basis (trust me, I’m in the same boat!).

If you let an attitude of entitlement win, you’ll complain, procrastinate, idle, blame, and wallow. We all do it, it’s our entitled attitude rearing its ugly head.

But if you defeat this negativity with a blessed attitude, you’ll thank, praise, hustle, capitalize, and plow forward.

Remember the last time you felt that blessed?

Like absolutely nothing could stop you?

I love that feeling, when I’m in those unstoppable moments.

My goal is to get to around 80% blessed / 20% entitled. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I am convinced that this trait is far more important to turning long-term, lasting financial change than any formula.

[Your Challenge - 5 min]: Make a simple list of everything you’re thankful for. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving, do it right now.

Be honest with yourself. Don’t put answers just because “they should be on your list,” put the answers you really feel blessed to have in your life.

Now, stick it in a place you’ll regularly see. Maybe the bathroom mirror, next to your computer screen, or on the wall next to your bed.

Further Reading: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

#2 – Honest, Humble Communication…

This isn’t just an essential financial skill, it’s a life skill.

Don’t believe it’s that important for lasting change? Think again.

Honest, humble communication will help you:

  • Establish passionate, motivating goals with your loved ones
  • Ask for a raise
  • Get concrete answers for specific questions you have
  • Get more money when selling your crap
  • Add more value at your job (think promotion!)
  • Go into business for yourself
  • Negotiate a discount on your next major purchase
  • Establish an investment plan with an advisor
  • Overcome any obstacle that blocks your turn around

Anything worth doing in life is worth doing with other people. And anytime you’re around another person, honest, humble communication will reward you every time.

As you may notice, a few of these benefits include learning how to negotiate. Let me tell you a little secret about that:

Negotiation is simply the convergence of Communication and Problem-Solving.

Some of you may view negotiating as a scary word or skill – it’s not. It’s simply what we call honest, humble communication when a problem needs to be solved.

We all negotiate and communicate every single day of our lives. It’s time we recognize The #1 biggest tip: stop trying to be right.

It’s part of our culture to enter into any type of communication, even casually, with the intent to be right, correct, or justified.

Master communicators that I have studied and learned from have one skill in common. They understand that the goal of the communication is not to be seen as the “one who is right.”

Even more importantly, most of the time being “right” will be counterproductive to the real goal of your communication in the first place!

Let me say that again. More often than not, you’ll have to sacrifice part of the real goal of your communication in order for others to view you as being right in the discussion or argument.

What’s more important to you – being right or being effective?

Most of the time you’ll be choosing one or the other. Choose wisely. :)

[Your Challenge - 20 min]: Pick one of the following three options for practicing and crafting the art of honest, humble communication.

  1. Research and enroll in an affordable or free community college speech/communication class. There are options available in almost every community.
  2. Research local Toastmasters club and attend one meeting. It’s scary at first, but one of the most rewarding leaps of faith I’ve ever made. Find local clubs in most communities here: http://www.toastmasters.org/
  3. Visit a local flea market or weekend farmer’s market and enter friendly negotiations on several small items. Don’t buy a bunch of crap, but flea or farmer’s markets are great places to enter into friendly negotiations in small increments.

Further Reading: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (trust me, it’s one of the best books on humble communication for anyone – even singles).

#3 – Studying Habit Change…

The longer I live, the more I realize the value of studying the basic principle of psychology and habit change.

Far too many people jump head first into a change, without even realizing what really motivates or drives them to lasting results.

“I’m never eating fast food again!”

“I’m going to workout every day!”

“I’m not spending any more money on entertainment/fun!”

We’ve all been in mindsets where we’ve shouted these proclamations from the rooftops! Unfortunately, most of us end up right back where we started after the initial honeymoon motivation burns out.

In order to stretch out this period – and fuel long-term, lasting change – we have to have a better understanding of what really motivates us. This comes in two parts:

  1. What motivates us as humans.
  2. What drives you personally.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that most people simply try to make habit change a logic problem. They think they can out educate, out learn, or out read their problems.

It’s not that easy, folks.

Lasting change requires much more than just additional information.

In their amazing book Switch, Chip and Dan Health map out the following key elements to change habits:

  • Directing your logical mind with clear, concrete directions
  • Motivating your emotional mind – the part most people leave out!
  • Shaping your environment to support and make your path to change easier

In other words, most of us totally ignore the fact that our emotional minds need to be fed, motivated, and inspired. And we rarely take steps to change our environment (a topic we’ll dive into much deeper in the next video post).

It’s not just about logic, people. It’s a multi-headed beast that requires efforts on multiple fronts.

But the great news is that it’s doable. By studying some of these basic elements of habit change and psychology you can drastically increase the chance of your change sticking.

[Your Challenge - 10 min]:  Think back to the last time you successfully changed a habit (and it stuck). We’ve all made positive habit changes in our past. Make a list of the TOP 3 reasons you believe you were able to stick to that change.

Be detailed and specific. Why were you able to make this change stick? What was different about that time than other attempts to change habits in your life?

This could be a long list, but I want you to focus on picking out your top 3 core reasons why you were so successful. Do it!

Further Reading: Switch by Chip and Dan Health

My Challenge To You!…

My challenge to you is to actually apply this stuff.

We’ve talked about how this is not just a logic problem, so reading this article alone IS NOT ENOUGH.

You need to actually do something.

You may think these challenges are too simple or too hard. Maybe you think they are silly or cliche.

I don’t care…do them anyway.

If you do them and they don’t help you – you’ve wasted a few minutes of your life – and you never have to read anything I write again.

But on the flip side…what if they work?

What if they spark the beginning of action-based change in your life?

Your Challenges…complete these tonight:

  1. Make a simple list of everything you’re thankful for
  2. Enroll in an affordable community college speech class, attend one local Toastmaster’s meeting, or practice negotiating at a flea/farmer’s market
  3. List the TOP 3 reasons you were successful at changing a habit in the past. Pick one time you knocked it out of the park and dissect why

The approach to tackling financial issues that I’ve outlined in this post is really important to me. I believe it’s so essential that I’ve created an entire course around the principle that taking back control of your financial life is about more than just knowing the numbers.

We talk numbers and formulas just like anyone else, but the difference is we choose to focus the bulk of our time and energy on mindset, environment, motivation, psychology, and community support from like-minded members.

These are the oft-ignored principles that lead to long-term, lasting change!

Ready for more action steps to change your financial life? Get several awesome resources to “kickstart your money,”join the Man Vs. Debt community list by clicking here!

· Unautomate Your Finances ebook
· You Vs Debt Sample Lesson
· What to Sell Where Flow Chart
· Debt Payoff Tracker
· 10 Tips for an Effective Craigslist Ad

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a bit more of my core philosophy – as well as some sample video lessons, worksheets, and daily challenges. I know you’ll be super impressed at what we’ve put together, all of which is summed up in the name of our new class – You Vs. Debt.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Shane September 6, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Adam,

Awesome post. And I love the “blessed” analogy. Had not thought of it that way at all, but I’m with you on the 80%. Oddly enough, and I just wrote about this yesterday, there are so many things we do each day to get to our point of living on our own terms and the white elephant in the room is often one things: finances. It hits people like a ton of bricks…and stops them from moving forward with their dreams.

So I like how you broke this down because it might just help those that get stuck, invest in their future selves a little more.

http://www.rewirebusiness.com/entrepreneurship/they-dont-talk-about-this-very-often-but-you-will-have-to-face-it/

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Tracerz September 6, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Great post! Very down-to-earth and relate-able. I’d say you’ve totally succeeded at #2, Baker! :P I seriously love what you are doing though. What an awesome way to bring positive change to the world. :D

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Sarah Russell September 6, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Great stuff, although if I took the time to write down everything I feel blessed to have, I’d probably still be going this time tomorrow and I’ve got too much other stuff to get done before then :)

I definitely agree with your second point – I think we could all stand to communicate more open and more humble-ly (humbly? sp?) about personal finance. A lot of the problems people get into regarding debt could probably be avoided if we were all more open about what we can and can’t afford.

Thanks for sharing, and great action items! I’m going to work on them later tonight :)

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Brenda September 6, 2011 at 3:17 PM

Just an awesome all around mini class on building a foundation to become financially/prosperity aware and savvy. I can’t wait to read the read the rest to come. I practice the gratitude part every day. I’m going to check out speech classes in NYC.

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager September 6, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Love the challenges! I got into the habit of A.C.T.S. prayer during really long distance swim practices. I’d pray adoration, confession, THANKSGIVING, supplication on everything and anything I could think of. It was a great way to keep grounded. Toastmaster’s is amazing! I started at the first of the year and have made it through three speeches and slowly improving.

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Christine September 6, 2011 at 7:58 PM

An insightful post as usual! I want to second your recommendation of Toastmasters — I joined Toastmasters about a year ago and it has been an incredible tool for growth. It was scary at first like you mention — but feeling afraid and facing those fears is a sign that you’re growing in new directions! :)

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Jennifer Skelly September 6, 2011 at 8:57 PM

Thanks Adam – great post! I’ve been enjoying many of your posts lately as my husband and I have also been on a journey to get out of debt, which we have just achieved! Thanks for the inspiration… looking forward to future posts!

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Nick September 7, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Now I’m beginning to feel blessed of finding this :) I thought I’m to read something about investing, or other sorts of stuffs about money management. Here you are, showing the human side of this economic tool.

Thank you :)

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MoneyforCollegePro September 7, 2011 at 8:00 AM

I completely agree that living with a blessed attitude is an excellent way to turn your financial life around. We truly are a blessed people, and when we sit back to soak this in, it becomes very apparent that we need to be much more thankful for what we do have, than what we don’t.

I think this approach will also help us be better stewards of the blessings that we have already received, and in turn, use these gifts and blessings to be more productive and more effective.

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Gwyn Michael September 7, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Excellent post Adam!
A blessed attitude, good communication, and a willingness to change for the better are the skills for a full life on all levels.
Thanks.

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MK September 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

I think a lot of it comes down to pure self control and following good principles such as never spending more than you bring in for too long a period. Without self control and eliminating the sense of entitlement many people have when it comes to things true improvement is just a wish vs. a realistic plan.

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ITIN Andy September 7, 2011 at 11:31 AM

I have to say, this is a very inspiring post. Excellent – even beyond the financial lessons there are life applications here that can be helpful and yield positive results. Looking forward to more!

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Jerry September 7, 2011 at 2:11 PM

“Remember the last time you felt that blessed?
Like absolutely nothing could stop you?”

That definitely resonated with me. Every time something good happens the first thing I think about is how blessed I am for it. Awesome post that I’ll make sure to share =)

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The Financial Blogger September 7, 2011 at 2:52 PM

I really like your post!

For the past 5 years, I spend some times on a weekly basis to be thankful for what I have (a marvelous wife, 2 incredible kids, a job that I like and an online company that is growing!).

I often use the expression: “I feel like a million bucks”. This means that I feel invincible, that I know that everything I try, I have good chance to succeed. And some days, I don’t feel like a million bucks, I feel like 2 million bucks! Building on your most previous and reliable asset (yourself!) is primordial if you want to get out of any rough financial situation.

I would also add to not be scared to ask for help. Partnering up with one of your friend or family can help you going through though moments! Leave pride at the door ;-)

Cheers,

Mike

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Living the Balanced Life September 7, 2011 at 3:21 PM

I have studied human behavior and what will cause us to make lasting changes in our lives. I have found that if we know our WHY and fully grasp it and connect with it, it becomes an anchor for us to hold on to when times get tough or the winds of life want to blow us off course.
Great post that has nothing, yet everything, to do with finances!
Bernice

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Dilanka September 8, 2011 at 3:43 AM

Adam:

The “Studying Habit Change” is obviously the most difficult part. Heck, “studying” itself is a habit!
Thanks for the post.
Dilanka

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Outright September 8, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Wonderful post! Fully agree with keeping everything in perspective – going without a Starbucks for a week pales in comparison to barely surviving off of rice, so realize what you really have. Plus, the other two points here may fall in line once you adopt this attitude.
However, MK is right – attitude adjustment is one thing, but make sure you have a numbers based plan to put in action. Combine the two and you’ll be unstoppable!

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Vic Magary September 8, 2011 at 2:45 PM

For a while, I was in the habit of making a list of things that I was thankful for daily. I did this as part of my morning routine but have fallen out of the habit as of late. Time to get back into the swing of things! Thanks.

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Robert September 9, 2011 at 7:12 AM

You won’t believe how many times honest and clear communication has saved the day for a lot of venture capitalists and investors! Cheers for the post! :)

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Matthew September 9, 2011 at 11:41 AM

I wonder what your thoughts are on accountability as they relate to the motivation of the “emotional mind”. I published a post this morning about the difficulty of keeping promises to ourselves, and I think that your section here on studying habit change is completely relevant to that issue. Your perspective is certainly well reasoned, so perhaps a link in my comments is in order!

Thanks for the great post!

Til next time,
-M

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Matt Tanguay September 11, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Hey Adam,
I heard research has demonstrated fear and gratitude cannot exist at the same time in the brain – they use the same neuro-pathways.

So indeed, by feeling blessed and grateful, fear dissipates!

Great article

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Jane Schmidt September 11, 2011 at 10:54 PM

This is such a great post, Adam and I can relate to all of these. Just wanted to co-sign your comment on The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I have the audiobook and its fantastic.

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Nina Bicknell September 12, 2011 at 6:23 AM

First of all, hats off to Adam for the remarkable post. This article certainly casts things in a different light. The presentation of financial guidelines with a psychological introspection is truly commendable. I would specially like to mention the points like ‘Honest, Humble Communication” and ”My Challenge To You!”. They truly appear simple but one needs a lot of willpower, determination and stamina to follow them. Keeping in mind that U.S. consumer debt rising to $2.43 trillion, (Source:Federal Reserve’s G.19 report on consumer credit, released July 2011), this is truly a relevant post.

Last but not the least, beyond doubt the post not only teaches us about the essential ‘financial skill’, but also few of the ‘life skills’.

Nina Bicknell

Financial writer

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@impulsesave September 12, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Very good post. I love the relationship between spending and personal mindset. People often overlook the correlation but how we think and feel has an enormous impact on where our money goes. Good stuff!

@impulsesave
http://blog.impulsesave.com

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BigDumbDebt.com September 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Adam,
Great post! Having the right attitude and mindset is probably the single-most necessary ‘skill’ to have when a person decides to take control of their finances. It is too often overlooked or under-emphasized…

Being smart financially cannot happen until a person is truly in the right mindset to apply their knowledge. Very well said…

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Dan September 16, 2011 at 5:51 AM

Pure awesome! Appreciating the smallest stuff there is works great for me. It’s one invaluable thing I picked up from Tom Kenyon’s workshop. It helped tweak my conditioned consumerist mindset, which is why I’m glad you mentioned this often overlooked (yet simple and accessible!) skill.

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Daniel February 21, 2014 at 12:24 AM

Adam: Thank you for this post, i enjoy reading that. I agree that these 3 points are essential skills. Habit change is the most difficult part for me, because habits shape my comfort zone. I´d like to recommend everyone to study on this book: “Thinking fast and slow” by Daniel Kahneman. It`s the most interesting book i ever read on the subject of psychology and economics. Hoping this is useful for everyone. Peace, D.

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