Reality: The Value of Accurate Thinking

Isla mujeres beach

“I need to talk to you,” he said.

I teach one college class each semester. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do. The department head was thumbing through his note pad when I stepped back into his office.

This can’t be good, I thought.

“You can accept reality, or be an idiot,” he read with a tone of question in his voice.

It sounded familiar, but I could not remember where I had heard it.

“It was written on the board when I walked in the class this morning,” he said.

Each class, the students write an inspirational quote on the board. I hadn’t been in the classroom yet to see it.

“Sounds funny,” I responded. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this.

“The kids attributed the quote to you,” he explained.

I must have said that during a lecture, I thought. I bet they were trying to be funny by quoting me. It was funny, but did my boss agree?

“What does it mean?” he asked.

***

The answer is complicated, but it can be the difference between poverty and affluence.

I wrote this article long ago, but something was missing until my recent discussion with an elementary school teacher.

She was frustrated by the economy, and like a lot of people, she felt trapped.

“When teachers can’t afford to feed their families, the richest nation in the world has a problem,” she said.

There is nothing wrong with her salary. There is something wrong with her.

That’s a bit harsh, but ACCURATE THINKING is important. In fact, Napoleon Hill said it was the most important of his Sixteen Laws of Success.

Let me explain.

In the U.S. you can earn $275 million playing a game—baseball. You can earn $150,000 an hour going to parties (the Paris Hilton sex tape helps). If you are the Navy SEAL who killed the most wanted terrorist in world, you can end up broke. You can be a grammar school teacher—guide and mentor our future—and earn poverty wages.

Your contribution does not matter. Your significance does not matter. Nor does it matter “what’s right.”

Our priorities are misaligned, but what I think is irrelevant.

You can accept this reality, or be an idiot.

The idiot is the idealist.

It’s you and I. We’ve all been the idiot at times—passionate about our cause.

Idealists feel we are doing what’s right. We are fixated on making a difference and believe we should be rewarded for it.

This is the poverty mindset.

Feelings and income don’t mix.

The only feelings that matter are those of the market.

Economics determine wages, but you can control your income.

Whether we like it or not, consumers vote the value of your contribution with their wallets.

Let’s return to the frustrated teacher–but it doesn’t have to be the teacher. It could be the auto worker whose job is moving overseas. Maybe it’s the employee stuck in a union—ignorant how the free market works. And don’t forget the small business owner battling the big-box stores.

Here is reality.

Society does not need to change; nor does the greedy boss, the evil corporations, or even the workers in China.

YOU are the only one that needs to change.

People feel trapped as politics shift, jobs move, and technology improves. They feel helpless, trapped in a bad system—a wrong that needs to made right.

That is the poverty mindset.

If you relate to any of these feelings—you have options—they begin with looking at life through a different lens.

Success and happiness requires that you focus on what you can control and ignore the rest.

Here are your three options:

  1. Accept your fate: wages will continue to decline. You may be unemployed, etc.
  2. Fight for change: The world is a better place with people like Martin Luther King. We need champions for justice—just be sure you have the stamina for a long battle.
  3. Become more valuable: learn a skill where you can add more value to the market.

The third is the only option that will result in significantly more income and usually greater happiness.

That is ACCURATE THINKING.

Accurate thinking is easier said than done, because emotions get in the way.

To make the best choices, you must see the world through the lens of reality, not as you want or feel it should be.

The last sentence is very important, so please read it again.

To make the best choices, you must see the world through the lens of reality, not as you want or feel it should be.

Accurate thinking is not easy, but here are some things that have served me well in becoming more objective and have helped improve my decision making

  1. Stay open minded: We are programmed with a powerful desire to be right. That’s why we resist anything new. By accepting a new way of thinking, by default we are admitting we were wrong. That is why people hang on to old ideas. 

     

  2. Focus on facts, not feelings: Instead of seeking reality, we stick with what feels right, which is usually the first idea we were exposed to growing up. Religion is a good example. Rarely do people carefully exam all faiths before locking into an ideology, yet wars are fought over which religion is “right.” 

     

  3. Question everything: Ask why often. Challenge “authority.” Dig for the real motive of information sources—often there is a hidden agenda. 

     

  4. Be the life-long student: Never stop learning. Put yourself in new environments outside your comfort zone. Having more knowledge always leads to better decisions.

There are certainly more, and hopefully you will include yours in the comments, but those four have helped me immensely.

I’ve held back publishing this article for a long time because I’m not certain I’ve been able to articulate my point as well as I wanted.

Only you can be the judge, and don’t be shy if I haven’t, but before I sign off, let me say one last thing.

There is room for feelings and emotions in the world. The last thing I want is a cold, heartless world that revolves around business and money.

However, if your goal is to increase your income, time and freedom, focus on ACCURATE THINKING and you will be amazed by the results. 

***

Post script: The teacher I mentioned later emailed me asking for book recommendations about money. She said that after our discussion she was going to use the new year to completely change her relationship with money. How awesome is that? 

Photo: I took this while living on Isla Mujeres

 

This entry was posted in Economics, Entrepreneurship, Inspiration, Lifestyle Design, Personal Finance. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Reality: The Value of Accurate Thinking

  1. Angela says:

    Great article Chuck! To me you didn’t come off heartless, but realistic from what is and not what you want it to be. For some reason I smiled as I read this. Maybe because I feel the same. I’d rather face the issue for what it is and see it outside of myself. Love this post. I’ll be sharing…

  2. Awesome post!!!
    In the face of external changes imposed on us and suddenly finding our world has been shaken up, our first reaction is to blame the external forces. Victimize ourselves, feeling sorry for ourselves. We end up becoming our own worst enemy. So many people have come to me, worried sick, terrified about losing their job to downsizing and cuts at their place of work. Regardless of whether this is good or bad decision for the company, the main reason why most people are terrified, is because they don’t believe in themselves and have low self confidence. They are the only ones who can improve their situation, not the company. Like you said, by continuously increasing our knowledge, we open ourselves to so much more opportunities. Actually, it becomes a blessing if the company lets you go.
    Knowledge=Confidence
    Thanks Chuck!!

    • Chuck Rylant, MBA, CFP says:

      What an excellent contribution Antonia–just like your blog. Thanks for visiting and adding so much to the conversation.

  3. Michael Mc says:

    Awesome post Chuck, I thoroughly agree. I also think as Americans it is time to trim the fat. Some of the most happy families are the ones who have a simple life enjoying life to the fullest. I fell into the trap like others and have really started trimming the fat. I am over owing anyone and understand that the career that I am in, I have no choice in what I am paid but can control what I spend. We can also learn other creative ways to bring in money that we do have control over. Keep it up, great stuff!

  4. Helluva post, Chuck.

    I really enjoy your writing and story telling, and you’ve done a masterful job communicating an important message to those that are willing to listen.

    Each of us individually can choose to be our own biggest hero or our own worst enemy. But the decision lies with us; not with the government, the economy, our employer, our family or any one else.

    Increasingly, it seems like people are willing to give up their freedom and choice in the hope that someone else will take care of them. This is dangerous on several levels.

    Thanks for sharing and spreading the TRUTH

  5. Joshua Dorrell Brewer says:

    Great post! Accurate Thinking for the win.
    I definitely agree with what you have stated. I see many opportunities that are available for individuals and they don’t take advantage. I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you really want something you can get it. My biggest challenge going forward is to continue being a life-long student just as you’ve mentioned. That’s a great way of putting it. There are many resources out there waiting. Thanks.

    • Chuck Rylant, MBA, CFP says:

      The funny thing is Joshua, it is so much easier to see opportunities that others are not taking advantage of than the ones we are missing. I’m not sure why that is but it’s frustrating.

  6. Ben Sandu says:

    Good point, Chuck. I remember being told in my early twenties that I would not impoved my situation until I became “honest with myself,” which is Accurate Thinking.

    In my humble oppinion, it takes a strong heart and guts to tell a friend they need to wisen up.

  7. Christy Farmer says:

    Hi Chuck,

    I love the post and it’s nice to see you on the blog. It all comes down to choices. I cannot change others who resist change but I can change “me” and only hope they find inspiration in my journey.

    Regardless of one’s wages—->No credit card payments=More options available. 😉

    Happy holidays to you and your family.

    • Chuck Rylant, MBA, CFP says:

      Good to hear from you Christy. Love this: “I cannot change others who resist change but I can change “me” and only hope they find inspiration in my journey.” Thanks.

  8. Karri Flatla says:

    Refreshingly honest, Chuck!

    This is an eloquent explanation (perhaps without you intending it to be) of how entitlement can spin out of control into deeply embedded (and ineffective) ideology.

    Doing good in the world doesn’t entitle one to financial reward.

    But if your thinking is accurate, well, you can have both =)

    • Chuck Rylant, MBA, CFP says:

      Thanks Karri for the great contribution. I love your point, “Doing Good in the world doesn’t entitle one to financial reward.”

      Interesting and accurate concise summary of my writing.

      Thanks!

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