Category Archives: Personal Growth

Should I Go to Grad School? Start by Asking the Right Questions

Today’s post – Should I Go to Grad School? – is contributed by Paul Andrews over at The Code to Riches, a website dedicated to making personal finance as interesting/funny as possible.

Should I go to grad school? The answer to this question may be more complex than you think, as it involves a number of factors.

Your 20’s are/will be littered with an insufferable amount of annoying questions that society will rain down upon you like a storm of toads.  “When are you going to settle down?”, “Why haven’t you found a nice guy/girl?”, “Why haven’t you proposed yet?”, “You’re going to take a year off and do WHAT?!”, “You really should do X because I know of someone who did that and apparently a singular anecdote is enough to constitute valid advice…” and the list goes on.  And of those societal pressures, there’s one that actually has some merit.  You will, at some point, ask yourself the question, “Should I go to grad school?”

After all, you’ve heard all about the statistics about how much more money you’ll make.  You’re still a relatively young grasshopper, and should be able to reap the benefits for another 30 years during your career.  And you’re not ashamed to admit that you’d feel like a cool ass muthuh fuckin’ baller with a J.D., MBA, or PhD at the end of your name.  But with the tons of different degrees you can get at the literally THOUSANDS of schools around this country, how exactly do you go about answering, “Should I go to grad school?”

That’s where I come in, my darlings.

Today is all about giving you a solid framework so you know exactly how to evaluate your options when it comes to grad school.  By the end of this epic anthology article you will be able to answer

  • What degrees make sense financially?
  • Is now a good time for me to pursue another degree?
  • Will this degree help give me what I want out of life?

The Basic Framework


Let’s figure this out…

In light of the fact that I’m a personal finance blogger, I’m going to make this framework very similar to any other investment that I would make.  Here are the three things we need to make sure that our educational investment is sound?

  • What resources are being put in? – You need to be 110% aware of ALL the resources you’re putting into getting your degree. Like you should obsess over this more than a troop of 16 year-old girls obsessing over pumpkin-spiced anything’s, more than the gym-douchebag who’s more focused on looking at himself than actually working out, more than Quagmire about… well, I think you get the point.
  • What resources will be put out? – What exactly will you get out of your degree? Will you attend Yale and become part of the Skull and Bones Society?  Will you attend your local state school in order to not dive into an Olympic-sized swimming pool of debt?
  • Soft Factors – We can all sit here and pretend like this shit doesn’t matter, but I don’t write for robots; I write for peeps. Will job you get with your degree make you happy? Will you be fulfilled by the track your degree sets you on? Will it allow you to jettison all over the world and be a veritable mac-daddy?  Will it give you the “wow” factors from others you’ve so desperately craved ever since your parents didn’t attend your 6th grade graduation…

Should I go to grad school? The answer to this question may be more complex than you think, as it involves a number of factors.

Sorry, that was a little harsh.

Passive-aggressive comments aside, these are the overarching themes we’ll be using to evaluate whether you should move on in your academic life…

Resources Put In

Half of the profitability of any investment is made when you buy.  Or in our case, apply for loans or write a check to the university.  But there is lot more that goes into obtaining a graduate degree than just “money”:

  • TIME – This bad boy is first because it is, without a doubt, the most important resource you will put into your degree. Before attending grad school, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I really willing to give up 1-4 years of my life to do this?” Bear in mind, these are not just some random years out of your life.  These are the years when you can run up and down Las Vegas Blvd half-naked and have it almost be acceptable.  The years that you can sleep around, drink, travel, get terrible tattoos in terrible places, and submit yourself to general debauchery and generally have it written off as “youthful exuberance”.  Are you willing to give up a solid chunk of that time for grad school?
    1. Remember, you’re not only giving up those years of fun while you toil away at papers/labs/case studies, but you’re also giving up a TON of salary while you’re in school. That $50,000 you give up per year while in law school? That counts as $150,000 that you DON’T have.
    2. If you’re answer is anything but an over-enthusiastic YES, then you have no right cutting out some of the best years of your life because mom/dad/family/friends/society says you HAVE to go grad school.  Fuck the haters, y’all.
  • TUITION – This one is pretty obvious. You have to know how much the tuition is going to be for each year that you’re going to be attending.  If you don’t know how much tuition is going to increase, look at the last five years of tuition.  Take the average percent increase, and forecast that into the future.  This could easily be $5,000-$20,000, so it’s an important number to know.
  • LIVING EXPENSES – Again, somewhat obvious, as you’re going to have to know how much it costs to live wherever your school is. And most schools will post an estimate of how much it costs to live in their given city.  My suggestion is to do your own research.  Why? Because the school’s website’s job is to convince you to apply.  But if you’re going to be dropping a few extra thousand a year just to live/eat somewhere, that’s information that you need to be specific, not just an estimate.
  • UNFORESEEN EXPENSES – There are TONS of expenses that you might not even see coming while you’re in grad school, but here are a few that come to mind:
    1. Engagement/wedding – This is a tough one, because most marriages occur around the same age as when most people are in grad school. Guys, what if you need to buy a ring while in grad school?  Money can dry up real quick when it comes to getting married.
    2. Pregnancy – I think the only thing scarier than dropping $60k on business school, or law school, is dropping that amount for a year or two and not finishing… might be worth keeping your promiscuity on the DL while in grad school…
    3. Failing a class – What if you fail a class and need to retake it? What if you don’t pass the bar, or your qualifying exams while doing a PhD? This needs to be budgeted/planned for, just in case.
    4. Tech failure – Drop your phone? Computer gets stolen? Get rear-ended by a stupid, albeit cute and charming, driver? Have you budgeted for these unforeseen instances?  If you didn’t, you’ll wish you did when they hit you out of nowhere like your 5th grade bully.


It might start to feel like this…

Ok, so now we have some idea as to what’s going to go into your degree.  Obviously, it’s going to take a little bit more than your blood, sweat, and tears.  But that’s the not fun part.  Let’s look at what’s going to happen once you graduate…


For the other half of the article, head on over to TheCodeToRiches !

How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life

This article, “How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life,” is the fourth installment in the Lessons From the Gridiron Series. You can read previous installments by following the links below:

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part One

The Truth About Money and Happiness

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part Two


How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life

The batter confidently and calmly strode to the batters box. He dug his cleats into the dirt, settled into his stance, and awaited the first pitch. The pitcher delivered a pitch down the heart of the plate, and moments later, the ball sailed over the fence just left of dead-center field.

One at bat. One pitch. One home run.

Life is not always kind. When adversity - stress, debt, pressure, or a bad job - slams the door in your face, you can give up or choose to reinvent yourself and improve your life. Don't give up! These tips will help you find your strengths, reinvent yourself, and be happy!The small crowd cheered as the batter rounded the base paths and pumped his fist. The rest of the team poured out from the dugout and mobbed the batter.

It was a moment that occurs with regularity during a baseball game, yet this home run was different, monumental even.

It had been launched by Heisman Trophy winner and former-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.

Reinvention: From the Gridiron to the Diamond

Set aside any personal feelings of ambivalence you may have for Tim Tebow for a moment and appreciate the facts of the previously described sequence of events. Tebow, a polarizing athlete, broadcaster, and public figure, had just homered in his first professional baseball at-bat.

Yes, he is playing an instructional league. Yes, the competition is non-elite. But to reinvent yourself in the manner that Tebow did in that moment is a remarkable example.

reinvent-yourself-tebowTebow last played competitive baseball approximately twelve years ago as a high school junior. Ever since hanging up the baseball mitt at that time, his life has been focused on football. He achieved tremendous success during his collegiate career at Florida, where his performance on the gridiron indicated that he was destined for a long career in the NFL.

Yet, aside from a handful of special moments, Tebow struggled to live up to expectations as an NFL quarterback. Though he displayed unquestioned grit and toughness, questions about his passing ability loomed large. After being traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets, Tebow struggled to fit. Over the next few seasons, he bounced from the New England Patriots to the Philadelphia Eagles.

To his credit, Tim Tebow never stopped trying to succeed as a football player. Though he is now pursuing a baseball career, we may not have seen the last of Tim Tebow under center on the gridiron.

When Adversity Strikes, Reinvent Yourself

Despite our best efforts and intentions, life will not always be kind to us. When adversity rears its ugly head and slams doors in our faces, we can give up or choose to pursue a new path. The following steps can put you on the path to reinvent yourself.

1. Identify and apply transferable skills. Each person is unique and possesses abilities and skills which are transferable in nature. Tebow is attempting to transfer his strength and overall advanced athletic abilities from the gridiron to the diamond. Likewise, a downsized IT sales team leader may attempt to utilize his charm, emotional intelligence, and negotiation skills to reinvent herself as a real estate broker. Or perhaps a teacher who is an expert communicator and problem solver may seek to reinvent himself as a life coach.

2. Determine your values and passions. While transferable skills make indicate your values and passions, it is possible that your former career was holding you back from your best contributions. When life gives you lemons, don’t instantly look to make lemonade. Pause and take stock of the situation. Ask yourself how you arrived at this current place. Examine your options. This is an opportunity to do what excites you! Perhaps you will choose to make lemon meringue instead.

3. Find a mentor. Learning from a mentor is one of the best ways to reinvent yourself. If you are sincere, hard-working, teachable, and dedicated, you will find a mentor who is willing to invest in you. Later, you can pay it forward by mentoring someone else in their journey.

4. Tap into your network. While a mentor will be integral to your successful transition, one person is not sufficient. Reach out to everyone you know and share your plans with them. Articulating your position, hopes, and dreams will not only open up opportunities, but it will also help you clarify the path ahead of you.

5. Be patient and resilient. Times of transition can often be the most trying times. Success is not often something to be found overnight. When Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, he initially struggled to find success despite his undeniable skill and brilliance. In 1986, he funded the The Graphics Group, which later became known as Pixar. This group eventually created the hit feature Toy Story and was later purchased by Disney, in turn making Jobs the largest Disney shareholder. This is just one example of the power of patience and resilience in attempting to reinvent yourself.

6. Stop at nothing to reinvent yourself until you succeed. Tebow kept trying and kept searching even when things didn’t go his way on the football field. He played alternate positions, stayed ready, and made the most of his opportunities. When this didn’t work out, he pursued other paths such as broadcasting. Now he is giving baseball a try, playing for the New York Mets instructional team.

7. Embrace past failures and learn from them. Failure need not lead to embarrassment . We all fail. Take your lumps, learn from the experience, and move on.

8. Project confidence. When trying to reinvent yourself, you will experience doubt and hardship. Sometimes, you may have to fake it until you make it. But if you display a lack of confidence, it will show. Create a list of your skills and best qualities and review it on a daily basis. Keep a copy in several places around your home, office, or maintain a digital copy on your phone.

Winning Time

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step in the right direction. That direction may change over time. When it does, remain bold and view hardship as an opportunity.

In what ways have you had to reinvent yourself? Personally? Professionally? Financially? How did you do it? 

Entrepreneur or Employee – Find Your Best Career Path

What factors determine whether YOU are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee?

For more than four decades, my Grandpa awoke at the crack of dawn each morning and headed to work. He was an employee of Continental Motors, one of the largest producers of engines in the first half of the 20th century. After his hours of service as an employee, Grandpa underwent a daily transformation into an entrepreneur in a matter of minutes. While many of his co-workers went fishing or retired to their homes for the day, Grandpa could be found painting, flipping vehicles or utility trailers which needed repair, or even helping operate the family market. Grandpa likely never paid any thought to whether he should be an employee or entrepreneur; why choose just one role when he could pursue both?

I think of Grandpa’s example often when contemplating life as an entrepreneur or employee. He was a rare individual who could successfully manage both pursuits while remaining the ultimate father and husband.

The world was different in the 20th century. Yet today, as it did in the past, life as an entrepreneur or employee offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. This is especially true in today’s competitive, rapidly  changing marketplace.

Many factors determine whether you are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee. Your mindset, goals, personality, and habits are good indicators.

Personal Perspective

What qualifies me to write about the advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur or employee? I’ve lived both lives in the past, and I’m currently living them now. I am a public school teacher by day, a real estate agent in the afternoon, and I run FinanceSuperhero at night. I have experienced the joys and sorrows of being “the boss,” being an employee, and being my own boss.

What does all this mean?

You’re going to get straight, no frills insight.

The Entrepreneur Advantage

As an entrepreneur, you are in the driver’s seat 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Your business depends solely upon you, your vision, and your leadership. You are in full control.

An entrepreneur rarely faces the same slate of challenges day in and day out. In the role of entrepreneur, you will be the lead agent of change and growth of your business. Each day is unique. 

Furthermore, you possess the ultimate freedom to do as you please with your business. You are the lead creative genius. You may set your own agenda, work hours, and timelines. The world is your office, in many cases, so you can work anywhere!

Lastly, your profitability and earnings are largely determined by the success of your business. If you’re business thrives, there is often a direct correlation in growth of your income. Hard work typically pays off.

Employee Perks

As an employee, you find yourself in a world which is much more defined. Your job description, responsibilities, work hours, salary, insurance benefits, and retirement plans are all established when you are hired. These benefits are typically stable.

As a result of such definition, each day often follows a routine structure. Meetings, projects, and other tasks are assigned to you. Work is more predictable.

Additionally, the life of an employee often offers increased opportunities for collaboration and the development of relationships. Over time, you and your colleagues may develop strong working relationships. You may even be able to depend upon them in times of need.

Entrepreneurial Annoyances

While life as an entrepreneur has its benefits, the disadvantages are also plentiful. When you are in control of your business, the only throat to choke when something goes awry is your own. For some, this responsibility is a heavy burden to bear.

Many factors determine whether you are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee. Your mindset, goals, personality, and habits are good indicators.The entrepreneur also faces a bevy of additional challenges:

*Remaining competitive in a changing marketplace

*Building and maintaining a client base

*Marketing and branding the business with sensitivity to return on investment

*Maintaining focus and direction while being pulled and stretched at all times

*Maintaining personal relationships and boundaries

Employee Blues

Of course, life as an employee is not always full of rainbows and butterflies. You may be forced to deal with the insufferable demands of a clueless boss. Inefficiency in your department may create more work for you at every turn. Perhaps there is little motivation or financial incentive for you to work harder or increase your production.

Entrepreneur or Employee – Which is right for you?

I am a firm believer that your initial reactions to the above advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur or employee, respectively, may be a great indicator of which role is right for you. For example, if the thought of being in full control scares you more than it excites you, perhaps the role of entrepreneur is not right for you. Similarly, if the idea of predictable, structured work sounds like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, perhaps the role of employee is not right for you.

With a few exceptions, the following personality characteristics, mindsets, habits, goals, and preferences may help you find the role which is best for you.

Entrepreneur Characteristics

*Highly-motivated to start new endeavors (A “Go-Getter”)


*Self-driven and motivated

*Mindset which asks “What’s next” and “What is it time for now?”

*Willing to make mistakes and learn from them (An entrepreneur always embraces failure!)

*Recognized by yourself or others as a “Jack of All Trades,” or a generalist

*More likely to have friends in all walks of life and professions

Employee Characteristics

*Enjoys following directions and orders to complete tasks

*Patient and accepting in the face of occasional mistreatment (your job depends on staying in line and doing what you’re told in most cases, yet this does not bother you)

*Values the safety of a guaranteed hourly rate or salary

*Fears mistakes and strives to maintain the status quo

*Tendency to be a specialist vs. a generalist (highly-trained in a specific niche)

*More likely to associate with people similar to them in lifestyle and professions

Entrepreneur or Employee – The Final Decision

Lee Eclov, pastor, author, and one of the wisest teachers I have ever known, is fond of reminding people to paint with the colors they are given. This metaphor is not only applicable in the context of ministry or other public service – it is equally valid in the business world. We should all strive to recognize our natural talents and abilities and seek to maximize them, whether we are an an entrepreneur or employee.

Ultimately, the choice to be an entrepreneur or employee – or both – comes down to knowing and honoring yourself and your abilities. Seize the opportunity that fits you best and aligns best with you, your values, and your goals. As Dave Matthews wrote,

Make the most of what you’ve got
Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not
Fill up your head & fill up your heart, take your shot
Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not

Are you an entrepreneur, employee, or both? Do you feel you are in the role which best suits you? If money were not a consideration, what would be your ideal role?

If you are interested in quitting your job as an employee to become an entrepreneur, don’t quit – engineer your layoff by following the tried-and-true advice of FinancialSamurai. 

The Link Between Money and Behavior

The suggestion that money and behavior are forever linked is likely to elicit some very strong opinions on both sides of the debate. A majority of people base their position upon personal experience, as is the case with many debates.

Many people argue that wealthy people lack compassion and therefore do not behave charitably. Others protest that wealthy people make the vast majority of charitable contributions. The trouble is that both arguments are equally valid depending upon one’s perspective and specific circumstances.

Is there a link between money and behavior? The answer may surprise you.

Money Augments Existing Character

In 1940, during the early stages of WWII, a businessman acquired a company nicknamed “Emalia.” The company produced enamel cookware for the nation’s military. This businessman initially sought the cheapest labor available in an effort to maximize his profit margins. An already wealthy man appeared to grow even wealthier in the process.

When the violence and destruction of war threatened the well-being of his operation, the businessman sought government support to move his factory to another location. Many of his cheap laborers were rerouted to alternate locations, which caused the businessman to endure great financial loss to regain his labor force.

Following the factory relocation, Emalia ceased production of enamelware and began producing artillery shells to support the war effort. When the military questioned the factory’s low output of useful artillery, the businessman began purchasing finished inventory on the black market and reselling it as his own.

When government appointees caught on to this businessman’s deception, he sought their silence and secrecy through bribery. By the end of the war, this businessman had spent his entire fortune – reportedly in excess of $1 million – on relocation, bribes, maintaining his “cheap” workforce, and the purchase of black market goods.

Who was this man?

Oskar Schindler.

Schindler exemplified a positive connection between money and behavior.
Oskar Schindler (Credit: )

To Nazi sympathizers, Schindler was a traitor and war criminal who used his wealth to defy his political party and commit despicable acts of cowardice. To the rest of the world, he was a noble hero who, despite his flaws, used his position of wealth to save the lives of an estimated 1,200 persecuted Jews.

Despite living a life of drunkenness and adultery, Oskar Schindler’s vast wealth amplified his character and led him to risk his entire fortune, even his life, to save the lives of Jews. In his case, we may observe that money changes behavior for the better by bringing out a person’s true colors. After all, Schindler did what he was best at – lying, swindling, cheating, and bribing – while nobly sacrificing his wealth to save lives.


In the end, neither Oskar Schindler’s money nor behavior alone would have been enough. It was his money and behavior which saved the lives of Jews.

Admittedly, this is perhaps an extreme example, yet it provides a memorable illustration of an important truth: money augments existing character.

Money Does Not Change Everyone

For many people, money and behavior are linked, and often with negative consequences. However, money does not change everyone. Most of us learned this lesson at a very young age through literature and film. I learned it through a reading of Roald Dahl’s timeless book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the 1971 Gene Wilder film Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.

As you may recall, the film version takes liberty with the character of Arthur Slugworth, a candy-making rival of Wonka. Slugworth attempts to bribe all of the children who find Golden Tickets into providing him an Everlasting Gobstopper so he can uncover the secret formula and ruin Wonka forever. When Slugworth encounters our protagonist, Charlie Bucket, in a dark alley, he provides Charlie’s first test of character.

“Now listen very carefully because I’m going to make you very rich indeed… So all I want you to do is get a hold of one Everlasting Gobstopper. . . Think it over, will you? A new house for your family. Good food and comfort for the rest of their lives.”

Charlie and Grandpa Joe enjoy a fanciful visit to Wonka’s chocolate factory, and at the end, Willy Wonka probes Charlie for a link between money and behavior. After being informed that Charlie has lost his right to a lifetime supply of chocolate due to stealing fizzy lifting drinks, an incredulous Grandpa Joe shows his true colors.


“How could you do something like this, build up a little boy’s hopes and then smash all his dreams to pieces? You’re an inhuman monster. . . Come on, Charlie. Let’s get out of here. I’ll get even with him if it’s the last thing I ever do. If Slugworth wants a Gobstopper, he’ll get one.”

In a shining moment in film, Charlie Bucket displays an uncommon display of youthful character and returns the Gobstopper. Willy Wonka drops his act and whispers, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” After apologizing to Charlie for putting him through a trying ordeal, Wonka reveals that “Slugworth” is really Mr. Wilkinson, a Wonka employee.

Yes, perhaps I have gone to the opposite extreme now in pulling an example from film, but Charlie Bucket’s example reveals that money and behavior are not linked in all people.

Three Steps to Build Positive Connections Between Money and Behavior

In light of the previous analyses, it appears to be reasonable to conclude that people should strive to maximize the positive connections between money and behavior while minimizing or eliminating altogether the negative connections.  Of course, this requires tremendous personal discipline, but I believe it can be done by actively seeking to apply the following three action steps to build positive connections between money and behavior:

1. Do not withhold money from those in need

While I won’t advocate that you give away your entire nest egg a la Oskar Schindler, I will challenge you to increase your charitable giving right away. Furthermore, when your income increases, increase your giving in corresponding fashion. For example, if you currently contribute 2% of your annual earnings to charity, be sure that you continue to contribute that same percentage after receiving a raise.

2. Do not find your happiness in money

Despite our human instincts which seek to convince us otherwise, there is not a linear relationship between money and happiness. Researchers have not yet established solid proof that money can or cannot buy happiness; in fact, research over the past ten years reveals that behavioral psychologists may be more divided on this issue than ever before.

Perhaps the link between money and happiness does not lie within how much money or how many possessions one possesses, but instead lies in purposefully managing the money  and possessions which pass through his hands.

3. Do not allow yourself to be defined by money

If you allow money to define you, you are constructing a fragile glass house. Instead, live a life of introspection and view any excess money as a means to make a contribution to society.


Ultimately, whether you allow yourself to develop negative links between money and behavior is a personal matter. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, from rags to riches or somewhere in between, money will always seek to bring out the best and worst in you. By allowing money to augment but not change your existing character, you will be well on your way toward cultivating the positive connections between money and behavior.

What have your personal experiences taught you regarding the connection between money and behavior? What challenges do you face in cultivating positive connections between money and behavior?

From Zero to Hero: Skills to Advance Your Life

Happy Friday, readers! The fact that you are reading this post means I have survived the first few days of school. The first few weeks are always a whirlwind of excitement and chaos for students and teachers, but they are fun, as well.

While I ease back into the school year and keep a pretty full slate with my side hustles, I am happy to host yet another excellent guest post.  Today’s piece comes from the one and only Mr. AE at Apathy Ends. If you haven’t checked out his site, I recommend you do so today. You can also follow Apathy Ends on Twitter and Pinterest.

The ApathyEnds logo
The Apathy Ends logo

Take it away, Mr. AE!

As you wade through life you move from the bottom of the ladder to the top. The kicker is, you are only on top long enough to enjoy the move for a brief spell before tumbling back to earth and starting from the bottom again.

The typical cycle looks something like this:

Freshman -> Senior ->Freshman -> Senior -> Entry Level Job -> Senior -> New Title -> Senior New Title

Rinse. Repeat.

The last two iterations can go on for 40-45 years; that sounds exhausting.

We have decided to break the above cycle and are pushing our way to the top of ladder, but plan on staying there for the majority of our adult life. Putting job titles, income, awards and acknowledgments in a bin labeled “crap I don’t care about” is the dream.

I don’t plan on looking back and saying “I was the Senior Master VP of Made Up Job at POS Corporation for 15 years.” I want to say “From this day forward, we will make our own decisions.”

To do this effectively, we need to be Financially Independent. Those words may mean different things to every one, but to me, they mean – Money does not dictate our decisions, we are not dependent on work to fund our lifestyle.

The irony is to accomplish this feat you need to be on your A game in many different areas, and unfortunately a traditional job is the vehicle of choice for most of us. Even though I do not enjoy my job, making more money is the fastest way for us to accomplish our goals. I am going to outline some skills that have increased our salary, cut our spending and paved the way for happiness.

Some Skills to Help you on Your Path

Solve problems

Be a problem solver, not a problem avoider, or worse a problem creator.

Remember that the easiest solution/method might be the right one. Organizations tend to overthink simple procedures and processes and make them way more difficult than they need to be. Install simplicity whenever possible.

Bring a solution to every problem you identify. I can’t emphasize enough how huge this is for your career and personal relationships. Employers don’t promote people that point out issues and don’t think about potential solutions. Effort will not got unnoticed and it is OK to be dead wrong occasionally.

Think Critically

The majority of my peers are Millennials, and critical thinking is not a widely used skill in our generation. Its not that we don’t posses the intelligence, it’s that we want to be told the answer now. This is a downside of the information age, we don’t take time to set out our options and weigh them against each other or potential outcomes.

Use fact or probability based evidence to support your outcomes whenever possible.

Learn To Live With Less

I know first hand how much “stuff” can start to clutter up a home. We went through a Decluttering Challenge and got rid of over 231 items that we simply did not need.

  • Hobby Equipment – Is there a pile of sports equipment in the garage going unused?
  • Square Footage – Have 3 of your 5 bedrooms turned into a glorified storage container?

An interesting thing happens when you rid your house of a bunch of stuff that cost money at one time. Whenever you go to buy something, your brain visualizes everything you got rid of and you second guess your purchases.

Seek Happiness – Destroy Stress

Money is a contributor to stress, the longer it goes unmanaged the deeper the hole you have to eventually dig out of.

One of the most ironic things I have observed is people will spend money on things that don’t make them happy and compound money stress by having less of it.

Try flipping the equation to only spending money on things that TRULY make you happy. It can be anything, I like craft beer, good food and a day on the lake. That means I cut out fast food lunches at work to eat 2-3 good meals at a new restaurant and a 12 pack of craft beer in the fridge at all times.

Don’t Care What Other People Think

Excluding your significant other and family/friends (I go back and forth on them some days) don’t waste time caring what other people think of your decisions. It is not a productive use of your time, energy or brain power.

Do what makes sense for your family and your goals. Don’t feel pressure to spend time or money on anything you are not interested in.

Take Away

There are a lot of things working against you and you may be working against yourself just as hard. You need to manage your money, time and resources effectively to get on top of the ladder for the long haul.

Take some time to separate what brings you joy and strategically cut out the rest. I don’t like Big Bang events, avoid cutting everything in one day. Spread it out over a few months and make sure your changes take hold.

Thanks for hosting today Mr. Superhero!

Thanks again to Mr. AE for his willingness to share a guest post, and be sure to check out Apathy Ends!

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1

Today begins a multi-part series titled Lessons From the Gridiron. Today’s installment, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1, is a character study of one of the most eccentric and competitive men to every play the game of football, James Joseph Harbaugh. Please check back next week for the continuation of this series.

It initially struck me as an unremarkable tweet:

Harbaugh Tweet

Yet the above image featuring the wise words of University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh has been the desktop background on my PC for over a year. Every time I consider changing the display, I reconsider, as the message has guided me well – at work, at home, on the run, with this blog, and, of course, in my finances.

If you’ve been reading FinanceSuperhero for a while, you may recall that I strive to live by the question, “What is it time for now?” Though Harbaugh didn’t inspire this question, he is certainly a master of making the most of the present at all times.

Coach Harbaugh undoubtedly has his detractors and critics. He is quite possibly equal parts genius and simpleton, open-book and enigma, competitor and friend.

Despite the apparent string of contradictions, one thing is abundantly clear:

Jim Harbaugh stops at nothing in the pursuit of success.

The Young Milk Boy

At an August 2015 media day, a young boy asked Coach Harbaugh how much milk he would need to drink in order to grow up to be a quarterback. Not surprisingly, Harbaugh offered the boy a bear hug and advised him to “drink as much as your little belly can hold.”

In January 2015 HBO feature and Detroit Free Press article, Harbaugh shared the similar plan that ultimately helped him grow to become a 6-3 quarterback.

I prayed about it a lot – ‘I want to be 6-2, I want to be 6-2. So we started delivering milk everyday [in school] and we got one free milk for delivering all the milk. But every kid that was absent, every kid that was sick, every kid that didn’t show up or didn’t want their milk, that tray would go back to the little milk room and I would just drink as much milk as my belly could hold. I drank a lot of milk. Whole milk. Not the candy-ass 2%. . . I finally got to 6-3.

Without question, Harbaugh possessed relentless intensity and desire to excel even as a grade school milk boy. He grasped at an early age what many never will understand: each moment offers a singular opportunity to grow.

What if more of us treated every dollar with the same care and intensity?

A Unique Drive

From the ages of 10 to 16, Jim Harbaugh lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while his dad worked as an assistant football coach for the Wolverines. He reportedly still gets his hair cut today at the same barbershop, State Street Barbershop, where he received haircuts back in the 1970s. He knows the streets of Ann Arbor like the back of his hand.

Though Harbaugh is a man of precision and direction, those characteristics do not stop him from pausing to learn important lessons. A Bleacher Report article details the following illustrative story:

As [Harbaugh] explained it, he was on his way to the office when he noticed a traffic light wasn’t working; a cop was standing in the middle of a busy intersection, directing cars this way and that way. The female officer displayed such command of the intersection that Harbaugh pulled over to the side of the road, mesmerized.

For half an hour, Harbaugh sat in his car and studied the scene. He was nearly late for practice because he was so enthralled with the skill and the savvy of the traffic cop. “I like to watch people doing their job at the highest level,” he said. “I really do.”

On the surface, this behavior seems wasteful, at best, and insane at worst. Yet, to Harbaugh, a devoted maximizer, it was an opportunity to learn something new and apply it to his own craft.

What if more of us sought to learn at all times and applied newfound knowledge to become a wiser budgeter, investor, and employee?

Unparalleled Persistence

For a man who was once observed doing push-ups with a walrus at a zoo and maintains a healthy affinity for climbing trees, Jim Harbaugh defies convention at every turn.

Most notably, while others are quick to give up multiple times over, Harbaugh persists.

When the khaki-wearing coach saw the woman of his dreams at a restaurant, he promptly approached her to introduce himself. Says Harbaugh

Sarah was there getting take-out . . . I saw her leaving. I went up to her and asked if I could meet her. She said, “Sure, you can meet me.” I didn’t believe her, at first. I thought it was one of those fake numbers she was giving me.

But I called her. Multiple times. Like, nine times before she returned my call. I could tell she was a winner. All the way.

What if more of us sought to act with even a fraction of the persistence which Harbaugh exhibits on a regular basis?

Say what you will, but Jim Harbaugh has a knack for getting what he wants. He has a profound ability to visualize where he wants to get and enact a plan to get there. And he possesses an uncanny ability to learn extraordinary lessons in the midst of ordinary experiences.

Oh, and he and his wife Sarah recently announced that she is pregnant with their seventh child.

True to form, Harbaugh said he will be “attacking this pregnancy with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

Do the above stories and themes resonate with you? Are they applicable to your pursuit of financial excellence?

Embrace the Grind – Win in Life and Money

One afternoon, after months of studying, I sat for my state of Illinois/national real estate broker test. I signed-up to take the 140 question multiple choice assessment at a rather inconspicuous H&R Block location in the Chicago suburbs. The good news: I passed the test and am all squared away to meet with my sponsoring managing broker on Monday morning.

The most remarkable aspect of my testing experience, believe it or not, had nothing to do with the test. As I waited in the lobby to check in and be wanded by the test proctor (yes, apparently that is a thing now), I struck up a conversation with a friendly young woman waiting to take a nursing exam.

In only a matter of five minutes, she shared that she was a newer mother and was taking her assessment in an effort to advance her career options. Surprisingly, she didn’t appear to be weary in any sense of the word. In fact, I sensed an uncommon aura of determination and resolve in her voice. Any lingering doubts I may have had about this young woman’s resolve were wiped away when she shared that she had literally stepped in human feces while in the parking lot, of course requiring her to clean off her sandal in the rest room.

In that moment, a thought occurred to me:

$HIT HAPPENS; how you respond is everything.

I’ll never know with certainty whether this young mother passed her test, as I completed my assessment before anyone else did, but I believe I know the answer.

Life is hard and things won't always go your way. Your response to hardship is important. Choose well and you can crush adversity, embrace the grind, and win big with money and in life!While most people in her situation would have been exhausted, irritated, or downright angry, this woman took everything in stride with a healthy balance of optimism and stoicism. Clearly, she was prepared to fight through any and all adverse circumstances in order to achieve her goals.


In contrast, the average person gives up far too easily. We are conditioned by our culture to seek and accept the path of least resistance. Furthermore, we whine and complain that life is so difficult and trying even in the absence of real difficulty, discomfort, or strife.

I am guilty of it from time to time, and chances are, you are, too.


­If you want to overcome adversity and achieve success, begin by changing your attitude. Stop whining and take action to get ahead. Envision what you want your circumstances to look like and figure out how you will make that vision a reality. This will require V-SMART Goals, a plan to achieve the goals, and accountability. Ask a friend to call you out every time look to give up and let adversity beat you down.

There are 24 hours in one day and 168 hours in one week. This gives you plenty of time get to work to change your circumstances. Time is the great equalizer.  It is an asset everyone possesses equally. However, for a variety of reasons, a quick look at the average person’s life reveals a troubling trend of laziness and wasted time (click the table for an enlarged view).

2015 Time Use Study








Highlights from the above table and overall study from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • The average person spent 2.78 hours per day watching television
  • For persons who engaged in watching television (nearly 80 percent of those surveyed), that average was higher at 3.48 hours per day
  • Only 43.9 percent of those surveyed participated in work and work-related activities on a per day basis
  • According to Table 11, the average male spent only .26 and .31 hours per day reading on weekdays and weekends/holiday, respectively; for women, those figures weren’t much better, at .37 and .38 hours, respectively.

Volumes could be written about the above study, but even a cursory glance at the statistics reveals that Americans value their leisure time. To be clear, I am not criticizing leisurely pursuits. I have many hobbies myself and enjoy pursuing them as a means of relaxation and rejuvenation.

Over time, however, it seems that a cultural shift has occurred. Mindless leisure time, such as watching television, has become a replacement for the grind-it-out mentality adopted and embraced by previous generations.

My grandfather’s habits and work ethic provide a stark contrast to today’s average person. While other retirees spent mornings on the golf course and afternoons poolside and sipping an Arnold Palmer, Grandpa worked to keep himself busy, sharp, and boost his income. In his youth, Grandpa built his first home from the ground up; in retirement, he used these skills to build and rehabilitate small and mid-size utility trailers and sell them for large profit. It was not uncommon for Grandpa to unexpectedly come home with a newly-purchased, dilapidated trailer, even when he had two or three other projects in progress. He could not bear the thought of time gone to waste. Grandpa was focused on constant maximization. He embraced the grind!

In order to strike a reasonable balance between grinding out work and enjoying leisure pursuits, I recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is most important to me?

  • What do I value most?

  • What is the purpose of my work?

  • What is the purpose of leisure activities in my life?

  • And my personal favorite question – What is it time for now?

With any luck, these questions and the subsequent answers will help you to be a bit more like my new nurse friend. Keep persevering in the face of adversity, care for yourself, and learn to embrace the grind.

How do you balance time spent on work and leisure pursuits? What motivates you to keep grinding on?

Checking Up On My Goals

One month ago, I turned 30. Much to my surprise, I didn’t wake up the next day feeling like a stiff old man. In fact, I didn’t feel a day older than 20.

A day prior to this milestone birthday, I published a list of 30 goals I hope to achieve in the next year. Yesterday on Twitter, Staci – @Streamline365 – checked-in and inquired about my progress, which made me very happy. As I have written in the past, I have a strong desire to both help others with my blog while also seeking accountability for my actions and pursuit of my goals. So, thank you, Staci, for calling me out!

With that said, I offer a quick check-in on the progress toward goal achievement one month into my 30s.

1 – Max out both of our IRAs for 2016. $11,000 total investment.
PROGRESS: None to report, but that will change in September.
2 – Invest a minimum of $2,000 with Fundrise.
PROGRESS: I am going back and forth on which Fundrise option I wish to pursue, the Income or Growth eREIT. Both options, though different, are enticing. I had planned to dive in during the month of July, but a few unexpected medical and personal expenses proved to set us back in this regard. The current plan is to make a decision and pull the trigger in late August or early September.

Related Post: The Fundrise eREIT: Accessible Real Estate Investing for the Average Investor

3 – Grow my overall account value with Betterment.
PROGRESS: None to report.
4 – Increase our overall net worth by 50%.
PROGRESS: I have begun tracking our net worth on a more regular basis, so that counts as progress, I suppose. According to Personal Capital, our net worth rose by 1% in the past 30 days. Ho hum.
5 – Set a target date for early retirement and formulate a plan to get there.
PROGRESS: Mrs. Superhero and I have had several discussions about our retirement options and plans. More specifically, we have defined our vision of what early retirement will look like for us. I intend to write about this in the future. With any luck, we may be able to narrow down a specific target date in the next few months.

7- Lose 10 pounds by September 1, 2016.
PROGRESS: In the midst of birthday and anniversary celebrations, I gained 4 pounds. Oops!
8- Run at least four times per week.
PROGRESS: I’ve been consistently running twice per week. Time to step it up!
9- Weight lift at least twice per week.
PROGRESS: None to report.
10- Implement Meatless Mondays on a regular basis. This will represent a health goal as well as a budgetary goal (decreasing our grocery budget).
PROGRESS: Success! I miss meat every Monday, but this goal has been a good one.

11 – Run an unsanctioned half marathon in the month of July. This will help me to have a target for getting myself back in excellent running shape after a year of inconsistent training.
PROGRESS: I have one more week to achieve this one. Chicagoland has been an inferno lately, so I might not be able to squeeze this one in.
12 – Run a sanctioned or unsanctioned marathon in August.
PROGRESS: This remains a big stretch goal. Time will tell
13 – Run a sanctioned marathon in October.
PROGRESS: I have looked into a few options and am narrowing them down based on my calendar.
14 – Begin training for and compete in the Artic Frog 50K scheduled for December 2016; definitely a stretch goal!
PROGRESS: Remains a big stretch goal.
15 – Run a 5:30 mile. I haven’t been able to do this since I was 18; my best has been hovering around 6:05 for  while now. Nothing like jumping in the time machine to prove I’ve still got it!
PROGRESS: Also a stretch goal.
16 – Shoot hoops in the driveway at least three times per week. Mrs. Superhero surprised me by taking me out to pick out a basketball hoop for our driveway as my birthday gift a few weeks ago. I intend to put it to great use.
PROGRESS: The basketball hoop has been my favorite birthday gift in years. I love getting out and shooting around, even if for a few minutes, as a break and a means to clear my head.

17 – Reach 15,000 Twitter followers prior to turning 31.
PROGRESS: As of today, I have 4,177 followers.
18 – Boost my Alexa ranking into the top 200,000 globally. This is part of the Yakezie Challenge.
PROGRESS: As of 7/24/2016 – Global: 628,956. US: 80,587. I’m thrilled with this progress!
19 – Break into the top 100 on the Modest Money Top Finance Blogs List prior to turning 31.
PROGRESS: Currently sitting at 271.
20 – Continue to publish 2-3 new articles per week while also pursuing additional guest posting opportunities.
PROGRESS: Success. In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to guest post on Budgets Are Sexy and Distilled Dollar, and I have another guest post slated on Millennial Moola this week. Thank you to J. Money, Matt, and Travis for these great opportunities!

21 – Decide what I want to do with the next chapter in my life.
PROGRESS: I anticipate completion of my real estate licensure very soon, and the new school year kicks off mid-August.
22 – Join a real estate brokerage and close my first real estate transaction in 2016.
PROGRESS: See above.
23 – Reach my commission goals for my current consulting role.
PROGRESS: None to report.
24 – Begin laying the groundwork for writing my first book.
PROGRESS: I’ve jotted down some foundational ideas.

25 – Reduce discretionary spending by 10%. We can learn to be happy with less. This will be a primary key to achieving our investment goals.
PROGRESS: We reduced our restaurant allotment for the month of July.
26 – Include Mrs. Superhero more in the formulation of our goals. To her credit, Mrs. Superhero is great at supporting my dreams when they are wise and shooting them down when they are stupid. I would like to be careful to involve her more when strategizing.
PROGRESS: Mrs. Superhero and I have scheduled more frequent budgeting sessions recently.

27 – Visit Nashville, TN for vacation and do our “Debt Free Scream” on the Dave Ramsey Show.
PROGRESS: Tentatively planned for March 2017.
28 – Go on three vacations – one in the fall (hopefully Las Vegas), one in the spring of 2017 (see Goal 27), and one in the summer of 2017 – and plan them utilizing travel hacks and deal hunting techniques.
PROGRESS: Aiming for Las Vegas in October!

29 – Take Mrs. Superhero on one date each week. Sometimes this will be simple, and other times it will be more elaborate.
PROGRESS: Success. It has been the highlight of each week to spend dedicated time with Mrs. Superhero.
30 – Spend more quality time with my two nephews and new niece. Also, call my siblings to catch up on a monthly basis.
PROGRESS: Success. I’ve especially enjoyed bonding with my niece, who has to be the most adorable 4 month-old in the world!

Uncle FinanceSuperhero and Charlotte
Uncle FinanceSuperhero and Charlotte

How has your July progressed? Are you on track to meet your goals?

Address to the Class of 2016

This post was inspired by several writers in the personal finance blogging community. I have intended to write it for the past three weeks, but recently, I have felt inspired to write on other topics. After attending a graduation open house honoring my cousins last weekend, I was reminded of my drafted notes for this address.

My address represents the thoughts and advice I would share if asked to offer a commencement address to graduating high school seniors.

To the Class of 2016:

Today is a day for celebration! Congratulations on your noteworthy achievement!

At this time, you may be experiencing mixed emotions: you may be proud, excited and joyful; nervous, wide-eyed, and nostalgic. Perhaps you are nervous, even fearful.

Your generation saw one of the most robust economic periods in our nation’s history come to a crashing halt in 2009. Though you likely did not understand it at the time, the first two months of that year saw the S&P500 plummet by nearly 19 percent. Many of you watched your parents lose their jobs, their homes, and roughly half of their retirement savings in a relatively short period of time. The time period that followed was certainly strange; while talking heads on the television and elderly family members compared economic conditions to the Great Depression, you probably barely noticed a change. Yet, in subtle ways, the world around you was changing, a digital culture rapidly emerging.

Though just beyond a decade older than most of you today, my childhood was wildly different than yours. While I collected Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, played baseball and hockey with a crew of neighborhood friends, and stayed outside until the street lights came on, your generation primarily played games designed presumably to develop the dexterity of your opposable thumbs, had arranged play dates, and spent time outside only when forced to do so.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man at the ripe age of 29, I feel it is a shame that your generation missed out on the natural lessons of my childhood: the proper utilization of imagination, collaboration with others, and age-appropriate independence.

Your upbringing was not without its advantages, however. Yours is the most tech-savvy generation to date; that is, until your younger brothers and sisters, who played with iPads moments after exiting the womb, prove themselves more capable. When you were born, telephones were still attached to the walls in many homes, or at the very least, were cordless phones that required charging on a base. Today, phones are miniature computers that fit in your pockets — barely. You can check e-mail on your Apple Watch, order pizza delivery without actually speaking to a human being, and buy just about anything with Amazon Prime. And texting will likely soon replace voice calls as the universally-preferred method of social communication, even for adults. What a wild world compared to the late 1990s!

As you commence onward and into a time of career preparation, technology will continue to progress at even more rapid rate. Careers which are not yet possible will emerge in no time. You would be wise to embrace change and develop a diverse array of talents. Jobs will come and go, but skills are transferable.

Speaking of careers: those you once thought were noble and distinguished are now anything but in the public eye. Teachers face constant public ridicule, law enforcement professionals are now the enemy, and financial professionals are viewed with unabashed skepticism.

When finding your niche and choosing a career path, I urge you to ignore the detractors and naysayers. Yes, consider your skills and interests, and by all means, consider factors like employment outlook, salary, benefits, opportunities for advancement, and recent hiring statistics. But do not do so without also examining your values and considering what provides you with a sense of fulfillment and purpose.  If you do not yet possess this level of self-understanding, you would be wise to learn about yourself quickly.

The college experience is a costly one, and you should strive to get it right the first time around. Despite what others will tell you, there is no shame in attending a community college to save money or explore areas of interest for your first two years. Furthermore, when evaluating recent graduates, most employers care far more about things like work ethic, internship experience, and volunteer work than they do about your college’s reputation and your grade point average. You have been misled if taught anything to the contrary.

So, if you attend college, focus upon what matters the most in the next four years: develop relationships and learn to work with other people; make mistakes and learn from them; experience new things while remaining true to yourself and what you value most; embrace change every step of the way.

If you are not attending college, no matter the reason, do not let that hold you back. Success is no more a logical outcome of college than it is other career training paths, whether they are trade-based or entrepreneurial in nature. Rather, success stems from innovation and valuable contribution to society.

Consider the example of Matt Mullenweg. Matt is not a household name, by any means. In 2004, the Political Science major dropped out of the University of Houston to accept a job at CNET. The early developer of WordPress and founder of parent company Automattic is a shining example of just how valuable innovation can be, even without a college degree. Today, Mullenweg’s company powers a significant percentage of the world wide web and was valued at $1.16 billion as recently as 2014.

Amidst the focus on your career path, I would be remiss to fail to remind you that there is much more to life than a job. Most of you will make your greatest contributions to the world outside of the daily grind of work. If forced to choose between work and money or people and relationships, choose the latter. Every time.

In my experience, the two greatest forces in this world are love and compound interest. Strive to learn all you can about both and seek to honor their related principles in all you do.

In conclusion, while others will tell you to chase your dreams, shoot for the stars, and a host of other clichés, I urge you to think responsibly and discuss your dreams with a seasoned, trusted mentor. Be realistic, temper your dreams, and evaluate how hard and how long you are willing to work to achieve them. After all, as John Maxwell said, “Dreams don’t work unless you do.”

Readers, what advice would you give to this year’s graduating class?

How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

If you, dear reader, will grant me a moment, I would like to be very blunt at the outset of this article:

I hate the above quote.

I understand that it is a commonly-uttered phrase intended to inspire and motivate people to dream big, take risks, shoot for the stars, and a whole host of additional clichés.

Reality check – everyone fails. All the time.

What if, instead of the above quote, people asked, “What would you do if you knew you could succeed?”

I prefer the turn of phrase above for two reasons. First, it is a question with an affirming, positive slant. Second, it does not erroneously assert that failure and success are somehow mutually-exclusive, as if failure may not be present on the path toward success; instead, it emphasizes that success is always a possibility, despite one’s past failures.

There is a reason the notion of “failing forward” has stuck around in the past decade since John Maxwell wrote Failing Forward: Turning Stepping Mistakes Into Stepping Stones For Success:

The difference between average people and high-achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.


If society better-prepared us to expect, even embrace failure, and keep pressing on, what fantastic successes might we experience?

A Modern Case Study

Last week, I read an incredible story about Taylor Rosenthal.

Rosenthal isn’t afraid to fail. The 14-year-old from Opelika, Alabama, is too young, optimistic, and busy to be afraid to fail.

A bright student and average baseball player, Rosenthal is the founder of the start-up company RecMed, which specializes in the deployment of medical supply vending machines.

His idea was basic, yet inspired. Explained Rosenthal,

“Every time I’d travel for a baseball tournament in Alabama, I’d notice that kids would get hurt and parents couldn’t find a band-aid,” he said. “I wanted to solve that.”

His initial thought was to set up a pop-up shop at the tournaments to sell first-aid kits. He tried it and quickly realized it wasn’t the best model.

“We noticed that it would cost too much to pay people minimum wage to sit at tournaments for six hours,” he said. Then the vending machine idea struck.

Rosenthal sketched a design and consulted with his parents, both of whom work in the medical industry.

By December, he had a working prototype and had acquired a patent.

Users pick from two options: prepackaged first-aid kits for dealing with issues like sun burns, cuts, blisters and bee stings (they run from $5.99 to $15.95). You can also buy individual supplies like band-aids, rubber gloves, hydrocortisone wipes and gauze pads, which cost $6 to $20.

Rosenthal hopes to start deploying the machines this fall. He said they make sense at “high-traffic areas for kids” like amusement parks, beaches and stadiums.

He already has an order from Six Flags for 100 machines.

RecMed will make money by selling the machines, which cost $5,500 apiece, and through restocking fees for the supplies. Rosenthal said he’s also open to putting advertising on the machines.

Needless to say, Rosenthal’s first business plan appears to be a wild success. Rest assured, he will probably fail majorly at some point in the future. But for now, he is seizing his opportunity, even turning down a $30 million buyout offer, because he isn’t afraid to fail.

Naturally, Rosenthal’s teacher, Clarida Jones, has taken notice of her star student’s fearlessness. Said Jones,

It has been amazing watching Taylor grow over the past year into this confident and amazing business man. Even with all of his success, he remains humble and ready to help others. He’s just 14. Bill Gates should be worried.

I doubt Mr. Gates is worried, but he undoubtedly should be impressed, as Rosenthal’s entrepreneurial pursuit is representative of the kind of educational outcomes that Gates hoped to procure through his educational reform efforts.

Photo credit to CNN Money
Taylor Rosenthal with the RecMed vending machine. Photo credit to CNN Money

It is easy to criticize Rosenthal’s rejection of a $30 million buyout. After all, he could somewhat lavishly off a very modest one percent annual return on his spoils. I suspect the rejected offer was less about the money and more about the thrill of the chase and youthful naiveté.

On the other hand, it is hard to fault Rosenthal. He can afford to take a big risk at this stage in his life. He does not have mortgage, auto, credit card, and student loan bills. He has not yet been jaded by the financial obligations of adulthood.

Perhaps he does not fear failure because he hasn’t yet been programmed to expect it.

Four Roots of the Fear of Failure

Pause for a moment and compare several of your grandest endeavors with that of Rosenthal. If you are like me, your story is probably much different. Perhaps you were programmed to fear failure, and it held you back in the past. Or worse, fear of failure may be holding you back from new pursuits in the present.

I consider the following to be the Four Roots of the Fear of Failure:

1. We fear getting started

Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” It is a shame that Twain did not also share the secret of getting started!

As an entrepreneur, emulation of others is always an effective way to start.

For example, I followed other bloggers’ work extensively for months before beginning FinanceSuperhero. My goal was to observe the writing qualities that kept thousands of daily readers coming back to their websites on a weekly basis. I even studied the guides on how to start a blog written by FinancialSamurai and Mr. Money Mustache before launching my own blog.

Despite a reliable framework to follow, I felt a bit uneasy, at times, throughout the process. However, I was reminded of an important principle in the process: What we fear rarely, if ever, comes to pass; at the same time, if we do not start, we will never know what might have been.

2. We fear that failure is fatal.

It is normal to fear making a mistake, as mistakes will certainly happen. Yet despite that nagging inner dialogue, the repercussions of our mistakes are rarely fatal.

Billionaire Mark Cuban is a great illustration of this principle. In the early 1980s, the soon-to-be-billionaire was fired from his position as a salesperson for Your Business Software, a local Dallas retailer. Why? He was reportedly meeting with a client to develop new business instead of opening the store.

The road that followed was long and winding, but Cuban’s mistake would not define him.

3. We fear what others may think of us if we fail.

I must confess that I am very guilty of this from time to time. However, by simply being mindful of this trend in my own life, I am able to remain focused upon my own values and act on them rather than out of fear of what others may think. Besides, can any of us really purport to know what others think?

At every step of the way, someone will criticize your decisions and urge you to go in a different direction. Courage stems from the conviction to hold fast to your chosen path.

4. We fear the path of struggle and difficulty.

Just as assuredly as you will experience your share of failures, problems will arise. The key to overcoming them is learning to embrace challenges and view them as opportunities.

It is easy for me to say this. My natural personality leads me to chase challenges and run head on into difficulty. I feel most alive when toiling through adversity.

If you are naturally prone to fear difficulties, you’re not alone. But you can begin to ease your fear by taking a series of small steps.

How to Defeat Your Fears

In my experience, fear is like a boisterous middle school bully. It is threatening on the surface, yet it fades quickly when confronted by direct action.

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Afraid you will continue to drown in debt?

Get out of debt as soon possible. If you don’t have the income to do so, look to minimize the impact of monthly interest. If you are struggling with student loan debt, pursue a refinance with SoFi. SoFi also offers competitive terms for personal loans. As an added bonus, you will receive a $100 welcome gift if you refinance with SoFi today.

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No article on overcoming the fear of failure – whether it be personal, career, or financial failure – could be complete without referencing perhaps the best-known quote on fear. In his inaugural address in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke the following immortal words:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

If you fear failure, heed the timeless advice of FDR: advance!

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Readers, how have you learned to overcome fear of failure? Have your past failures been the launching board for your greatest successes?