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When Mrs. Accountant and I got married we had a bucket list. Most items on the list are private and irrelevant to the story at hand. The one item on the list I will share is our desire to have foster kids early in our marriage.
The goal was to help foster kids at a higher level than the average foster home. We also wanted to have foster children early in our marriage out of concern for having foster children after we had our own children.
Mrs. Accountant and I realized our goal. Several foster kids were placed in our home over three years. Rather than collect a stipend (the county paid us $1,000 per child per month tax free!) and ram as many kids through as possible for some quick squid, we planned on helping these kids get the start they deserved in life.
After they settled into their temporary home I started a daily routine with them. Back then Tony Robbins had recently released his first version of his Personal Power program. This 30 day course took you from where you were at to accelerated growth in areas of personal development and even issues relating to money.
Monday through Friday I would sit with the foster child (we only took one child at a time) as we listened to another episode of Tony. The program strongly recommended keeping a success journal and completing each day’s tasks to move a step closer to your goals.
The kids were all reluctant at first, but the enthusiasm and promises Tony made on those tapes quickly drew them in. Some kept a journal, many only scribbled a few notes or had no journal at all. Most gave at least minimal effort to the assignments given at the end of each tape.
Foster care in an unforgiving environment even in a loving home. Too many of these young people (we took the hardest cases of junior high and high school kids) struggled and then it was time to leave for a group home or a new foster home. Some of these kids went back home to live with a parent. In at least one instance the parent got her child hooked on drugs shortly after leaving our home. It was heartbreaking.
Twenty years later one of our foster kids stopped by the office. It was such a long time I didn’t recognize him. He introduced me to his girlfriend and was so excited about his job. He grew up and was doing well. He told me about his many trials after he left our home. He mentioned our time together listening to Tony was the only thing that prevented him from taking his own life. He knew if he fought hard enough long enough things would work out.
Then he reminded me of one lesson Tony taught that shaped his life. And he came this close to getting into the NFL.
Turn Up the Heat
The concept our foster child clung to so tenaciously involved an internal thermometer which determines success and failure. According to Tony, when things go south your subconscious turns up this internal thermostat to get you back to where you used to be.
Your mind has powerful beliefs on where you should be in life based upon your values and experiences. If you view yourself as a married woman and find yourself widowed, the mental heater is turned on to remedy the situation. Once back in a relationship the heater is turned down as normalcy is returned, according to your subconscious.
The internal thermometer doesn’t always serve you well. The above example explains why everyone is familiar with the rebound relationship. This thermometer doesn’t guarantee you a nurturing and fulfilling relationship. The heater likes to force the issue to get back to the comfort zone as soon as possible. Sometimes faster isn’t better. (Usually faster is NOT better!) When you are below a perceived value in any area of your life the heater comes on. If you are seriously below the expected range the heater roars!
The opposite is true too. When things start going great your subconscious turns on the air conditioner to slow things down and even caused bad luck to knock you back into your subconscious normal zone.
This happens with money all the time. The plight of lottery winners is legend. Sports stars and successful entertainers also have a disproportionate number of bankruptcies. When things go too good too fast or for too long the air conditioner comes on. This internal AC has caused more fortunes to be lost than any other entity.
In my office an employee has been enjoying a good bit of luck. A difficult childhood followed by adulthood filled with more pain than anyone should endure has broken into vast opportunities. She is doing awesome at work and her income is rising fast. She is good and I let her know it. I want my talented team to also possess a positive attitude.
She recently said one sentence which brings the whole mental thermometer into clear focus. She said, “When thing go this good something happens that causes me to lose my job.” Oh, my God, woman! Things are going great for you and all you can think of is how you self sabotaged in the past? Tony might have been wrong! This isn’t always a subconscious thermometer going into action; it can also be front brain.
That kind of self talk will butcher anyone. I sat my employee down and explained to her why this time WILL be different. She had to change her thinking from ‘here we go again’ to ‘I deserve this’. The crux of the problem is just that. She did not believe she deserved things so good. A lifetime of pain and regrets all too often gives us the BS we need to continue the same destructive patterns.
Breaking the Thermometer
The heater and the AC exist in all of us. Both are equally destructive.
Breaking the thermometer is difficult, but necessary before you can move forward. Breaking up with someone you love isn’t fixed with a rebound relationship. Losing money in a market decline might encourage you to regain lost ground by taking unwarranted risks that destroy your remaining wealth.
The AC is worse than the heater. Over the years I have watched employees with massive talent self destruct after getting a raise or praise. I see it more often when a new employee comes from the poor side of town. Opportunity for them is lost because they can’t accept the gift of an improving life.
Regular readers know I come from a poor farming family. Life wasn’t easy and the AC was running full tilt more often than the heater. Since the family financial position was so low from a young age there was less need for the internal thermometer to trigger the heater to bring things back up to where they were expected to be.
I struggled those early years. I always thought I’d shovel manure for a living only to watch the family farm lost to bankruptcy less than six month after I graduated high school. My expectations were low and my brain was determined to keep me there.
Over the next four years I managed to add to my small stack I saved in high school. Excessive frugality and a kind stock market jacked my net worth into the six figures. This wasn’t enough to retire even in the mid 1980s, but it was enough to allow me a chance to slide for a while.
For a year I immersed myself in books, learning everything I could. Then the best thing ever happened to me; I met Mrs. Accountant. We talked a lot and built a dream we soon put into action.
I kept reading, but fewer novels were in the mix as I devoured anything that would help me grow internally. I didn’t know it back then, but I was resetting my internal thermometer. Good thing, too. All I was to become is a result of this massive indoctrination.
Before long I met a real estate agent who sold me on investment property ownership. He also introduced me to Tony Robbins and invited me to see Zig Ziglar live. (I have a picture on my office wall shaking hands with Zig.) I bought the books, I bought the tapes, and listened and read and listened and read.
I was a poor kid from the wrong side of the hill (the rural version of the wrong side of town). There was no chance I would be anything. Ever! I saw myself as poor and I was going out of my way to screw up what was a darn good start to my financial success.
Well, you know how it turned out. I bought a cassette player (remember those) with ear buds and listened to those tapes whenever I was working. If I wasn’t reading I was listening. I changed the thermometer; I changed the functioning of the heater and AC. No longer was I a slave to some subconscious voice keeping me in my place.
After all these years I still read voraciously. I listen to tapes less often. But now and again I give Tony or Zig my attention as I drive to the office or work around the house or barn. More often I read Warren Buffett or books recommended by Bill Gates today.
If you think about where you are at today financially, emotionally, in your faith, in your relationships, I think you will find the heater and the AC has been treating you with disrespect. Deep down you know where you belong and that is exactly where you will stay, adjusted for inflation.
You must reprogram yourself if you are to break free of this harsh taskmaster destroying your dreams. It’s possible, but you have to do it. No one can do it for you. You have to change the picture of how you see yourself before you can break the thermometer forever.
An old country boy from the backwoods of Wisconsin with no training happened to chance across a real estate agent who admired Zig and Tony. If not for that chance encounter I probably would not be here. My brain, my subconscious, needed reprogramming, programming for success.
And now you met me.