If How To’s Were Enough…I’d Be Really, Really Rich

by Ouida on April 13, 2010

Some years ago, Brian Klemmer wrote, If How To’s Were Enough, We’d Be Skinny Rich and Happy.  Klemmer said something that few of us want to face: having the instructions, knowing what to do is rarely enough, why because “something” can prevent us from accomplishing even the simple things of life, even if we know what to do.  I am more of a philosophy kind of gal.  Meaning I really want to have a thought  or an understanding about why I do what I do. Truth is, I can tell many people what to do to increase their wealth, save money, live frugally (although some of my more radical friends and acquaintances would say I am a frugal wannabe). Yes, I do reuse aluminum foil.  I am generally happy to share what I have done step by step.  But I have come to realize that knowing the step-by-step is really only part of truly knowing.  I cannot tell you the number of times I tried budgeting and paying off my debts until one day everything just clicked.  If you believe my mother (who has been spilling my dirty laundry on this blog as well) things clicked when I had to borrow her credit card to rent a car.  It wasn’t then.  Something else happened sometime much later.  I am always reading personal finance books.  Why?  Because  I want to keep personal finance ideas at the forefront of my mind. Why?  Because I have the attention span of a gnat.  If I don’t read a personal finance book for a while, I forget and run the risk of slipping back into bad habits.  There is that indefinable something that determines when we take action or not.  And knowing the how to is not that something.  To borrow a phrase from “Three Men and a Little Lady”, you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a “how-to” book or article. How to books and articles sell and make beaucoup (pronounced boo coo) money. I was speaking with a friend of mine who is a recovering alcoholic.  He’s been sober for over a decade.  He knew the steps to sobriety long before he took them.  His something?  Driving home one night, not remembering how he got there and finding brush embedded in his bumper.  He told me that that experience isn’t enough for some people and they continue to drink until something else happens.  For me it was $80,000 dollars in consumer debt and the attendant dramas that went with it.  For others it is $1000.  For others those numbers are chump change and it takes more than a million dollars in consumer debt to spur them into action.  For some people it takes homelessness.  For others homelessness is a temporary inconvenience until they get another credit card.  When I started this blog I was going to write a series of “how to” articles.  Then I thought how can I do that when I understand full well that many will not be able to implement the steps because the time to make a change has not yet come.  It how to’s were enough, I’d be Billy G. because I would have flawlessly implemented what I read. If how to’s were enough I would make a mint writing how-to articles.  This isn’t about having a strong why!  Frankly, I would like to shoot the next person who says, “you just have to have a strong why to make change”  or “if you failed, you just didn’t have a strong why.”  The myth of the strong why simply puts people on the path of making value judgments about themselves and other people and the world is full of value judgments.  Where is all this going?  Well, we don’t suffer and disappoint ourselves for lack of knowledge.  There is that something else.  We could call it a habit of making poor choices, but that too is an oversimplification.  Truth is, lack of knowledge is rarely the problem.  It is that certain something else, that missing ingredient that lies within each of us that triggers action.

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