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Every experience in your life until this moment was a dress rehearsal for now. Comfort is your worst enemy. Change is the only path to a brighter future. And fear and doubt follow in step.
Mediocrity is what we get when we say “life is good enough” when a new opportunity knocks. It happens in all areas of life: business, investing, job, family and relationships. A chance to improve is delayed or denied because we say, “I’m okay with where I am.”
The real truth is we are afraid; we have doubts. What if I marry this person and they stop loving me? If I leave an abusive relationship, where will I go? How can I possibly save more of my income? Index funds aren’t guaranteed and can lose money! What if I fail at this business or side gig?
When we get comfortable we begin to settle for what we have. That is why so many opt for early retirement when they have so much to share and such great skills at creating and building wealth. It’s much easier to travel, painful as traveling can be, than to expose yourself to failure before your peers. Anything, but that.
We must break through our doubts and fears to reach the next level of enlightenment. Every religion and philosophy teaches this on some level. That is what we will do today. We will break through the debilitating fears and doubts that suck the enjoyment and excitement out of life.
A Personal Journey
Sometimes change is thrust upon us. Other times it sneaks up and is dug in deep before we realize what has happened.
You fall in love and you have few choices. You can move the relationship forward and live together or get married. You can break free of the relationship. You can tread water and hope for the best. Each choice is fraught with danger.
Your fear is not about rejection or failure. Your fear is that it will end with pain. Humans, nearly all life forms, will expend massive quantities of energy to avoid pain. Doubt is a close cousin to fear. The doubt you feel is less about the relationship than about the pain the relationship will inevitably cause. In many cases pain is possible in any direction you choose. We can choose guaranteed pain now to avoid an unknown pain later. So many relationships have suffered as a result and the other partner thinks she is at fault when she did nothing wrong at all.
Saving and investing also contains plenty of opportunity for pain. If I sacrifice something I want today and invest, the market could go down and I am out the money and the item I wanted. It takes a lot of faith to delay gratification. But it is the only way to wealth. The more gratification you delay the more wealth you are likely to have.
Businesses and side gigs are the worst. Nine out of ten businesses fail in the first five years. It is a damning statistic. Yet, it is a half truth.
Many businesses fail because they were never given a real chance. In my office I see people set up an LLC and then never even do a thing to run the business. These aren’t real businesses in my mind. Keeping yourself busy doesn’t mean you are working on your business or side gig. You’re screwing around and should call it what it is.
Real businesses have a much higher success rate. Over the years I have run numerous businesses, many times connected to my practice. The latest idea is this blog. This post is number 284. The Wealthy Accountant is only slightly older than a year and a half. That is a half million words and I write other blogs and business letters and emails, et cetera. Looked at another way, I am writing and publishing the equivalent of four to five full length novels every year on this blog alone. For the record I have over three millions words published in all venues combined to date.
Starting a blog is riddled with fears and doubts. Exposing your deepest thoughts and events of your life is nerve wracking at times. What if people think I am a fraud? Some subscribers unsubscribe, you know. Talk about doubt.
Fear is rampant even for a seasoned old accountant. What if I fail? Worse, what if it takes off?
That is where the story really begins. This blog. Traffic started with a bang and settled in for a normal grind higher as I published more and people noticed.
Eventually a critical mass is reached and a decision needs to be made. Do I quit and bury my head in the sand? If I don’t this thing will take on a life of its own?
The alternative is to expose myself to cruel ridicule as more people, many from outside the demographic and less forgiving, discover my work. Think your favorite accountant is exempt from fears and doubts? Think again.
My greatest fear is I might make a mistake. My greatest doubt revolves around my lack of a formal education. What if I am wrong? rattles around in my brain incessantly. People could be hurt, lose money. In something as complex as taxes or investing, mistakes are bound to happen. Heck, even different branches of the Tax Court disagree on areas of tax code at times. It’s not if you’ll be wrong, it’s when and how often.
Talk about fear. And don’t get me started on doubts.
But the emotional intensity gets worse. This blog has been around long enough to have caught the eye of a few influential people.
I have numerous offers to guest post on successful blogs within the genre. One individual stated he would see to it my guest post on his site was front and center before national media outlets. I’m a country boy from the backwoods of Wisconsin and I take a deep gulp when I hear this. Time to put up or shut up.
Pushing my work in front of a large mainstream audience means a lot of people, very intelligent people, will read what I have written and some are bound to disagree, vehemently. My ego is small, but it exists and feels pain as well as the next guy’s.
The guest posts are certain to be written (at least three are open offers at good sources with good traffic). I even know what I am going to write. It’s my creative process. I think about it for a while and formulate a storyline involving something personal and then write. Or procrastinate because I am afraid of what the post will do.
Guest posts have a way of generating excellent traffic. If you resonate with the new audience you end up with a nice bump in new regular readers. Then you have the “Oh, my God!” moment.
The Wealthy Accountant would then move well within the critical mass range and people will be watching—and waiting—looking for an opportunity to pounce. Fear. Plenty of fear. And no shortage of doubt either.
The Worst Fear
Growing my practice has always been easy for me. Working a local audience only, I had control over the growth and ultimate size of the business.
The blog is a different animal. Much more traffic and a larger footprint are needed to create a viable venue. And control is less a part of the process.
With that in mind I am headed to FinCon in Dallas this October. It’s getting close and I don’t envy the travel or the assault I will face. My dislike of travel is legend. What people don’t always know about me is my fear of larger groups.
Don’t get me wrong. I love talking to groups of any size. But FinCon will be different. I have so many offers to buy me a beer when I get there I could easily go on the biggest bender of my life. I will not have time to talk with everyone I should—or can help—and that is what bothers me about larger groups.
Then the fear sets in: Do that many people really know of me? Then the doubts: What do they think of me?
I reviewed the list of people active in decision-making at FinCon. I know a fair number of these folks and I like them all. I think most like me at least a little. One in particular has taken a fond liking of me.
In the back of my mind I start thinking about the Plutus Awards. This guy is an insider of FinCon and the Plutus Awards. He recently told me my work is better than 99% of what he sees and he sees a lot (his words).
Could I be nominated for an award? Could I *gulp* win? What an honor! What a boatload of fear and doubt. How do I live up to that?
This is why I wrote all those hours. Fear and doubt are part of the process. I want to be nominated; it would be a massive honor. To win would send my mind reeling, but, oh, so worth it. (If you see me vomiting in the corner know this: all things end.)
If you haven’t voted for your favorite blog, do so here. I humbly submit you vote for a certain accounting blog with a semi-crazy writer. Regardless, vote your conscious. I’ll never know you tossed me under the bus.
A Good Pain
The naked mole rat doesn’t feel certain kinds of pain. The rodent lacks a neuropeptide called Substance P which is critical in the transmission of pain. As a result the naked mole rat is frequently used as a laboratory animal.
Life without pain is a life unlived. Doubt is normal; pain will happen.
There is a rare disease called CIPA where those who have it feel no physical pain. Your first thought might be, awesome! But, it isn’t. Here is a story of how bad life is when you feel no pain.
People with CIPA get hurt frequently because they have no feedback from the body to the brain and injury results, often times serious injury. Pain helps us change to a safer way of doing things. Without pain we risk serious injury or early death. A pain-free life isn’t an injury-free life!
As hard as it is, welcome pain. Without pain you become a lab rat in your own mind and risk serious injury. Feeling pain means your system is working! Pain is good.
What It Means to be Real
There is a story from my childhood I always enjoyed. My mother would read me The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real and I’d beg to hear the story again when she finished.
The story begins with a Christmas present of a velveteen rabbit given to a young boy. The rabbit was fat with all his whiskers. In the rush of all the other presents the rabbit was soon tossed to the side and forgotten.
The rabbit was tossed in a box with many other toys. He lived there a long time watching other toys come and go. Some were shiny; some were fancy windup toys. All the other toys were played with until they broke or were heavily worn, except the velveteen rabbit.
The only toy who would even acknowledge the rabbit was an old Skin Horse. The Skin Horse was the oldest of the toys. His hair was missing in patches and his seams were opening. The rabbit wanted to feel nursery magic so he could be like the loved Skin Horse. One day he talked with the Skin Horse:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
I lift my glass to all those with doubts and fears: doubts about loving the woman or man of your dreams intensely with a promise of forever; for bringing a child into this world to love and teach about the beauty of life; to the business owners who follow their dreams; to the people who delay gratification for a better life tomorrow; to the bloggers who expose their soul to the world for review and ridicule.
For you are Real. Always.