What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

When I graduated from college, my sister bought me a metal paperweight with that saying. While recovering from cancer, I found it in a drawer and really started to think about what it said. There are often times when life changes you and when opportunity knocks on your door. Do you hear it?

Many people are worried about the security of their jobs or have already lost their jobs. Do you hear the knocking at the door? I often ask my clients, “if you weren’t doing this, what would you do?” Most of them tell me they don’t know. Most of the time when I ask my students “what do you want to do when you get out of college?” they say “make a lot of money”. They don’t know how to get there but they have that dream. At least that’s a start, right?

Recessions are a great time to start dreaming and figuring out where you want to take your life. Stop letting your life take you. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Would you go back to school? Change careers? Move to another state? Start a business? Have you ever looked into any of these possibilities or have you dismissed them because you just know it is not possible? Again, I ask what would you do if you knew you could not fail? Don’t look at possible or impossible. Just make a list. Start there. Here was my list a few years ago:

Start my own business
Help people
Get my PhD and teach

I’ve got my own business. I started this blog to help people save money. This summer I start studying for the GMAT so I can apply to schools this fall. I’ve been teaching since last fall. When I made this list in 2002 or 2003, this all seemed impossible. I was studying for the CPA exam and I didn’t even have my graduate degree. Hadn’t started it. It was not until I got sick and found that paper weight that I stopped letting impossible limit me.

I then started to research how to get where I wanted to go. I talked to some business owners I knew who encouraged me to start my business. It was my knitting group that encouraged me to start the blog after sharing tips with them (I think they just wanted me to shut-up already about the coupons). I decided one day that I would just start looking for part-time teaching positions. I sent my resume out to a bunch of schools and got a phone call.

Don’t get me wrong. The fear of failure does hit me. I think that’s why I’ve waited so long to apply to a PhD program. I see the statistics. Over 130 people applied to the college I want to go to and 12 (that’s right twelve) were accepted. That’s less than 10 percent. I might get rejected but I decided this week that I won’t know if I’ll get rejected if I don’t freakin’ apply. I might just get accepted. If I get rejected, I’ll try again next year. It doesn’t mean I won’t get accepted some day. But I don’t know because I haven’t tried.

I start studying for the GMAT tomorrow.

If you could do anything, what would you do? Start there. Don’t tell me why you can’t do it. What would YOU do if you knew you could not fail? Make a list and soon we’ll start discussing how to get you there.

Time vs. Money

Life is a balancing act, just like your budget. Most of us have to make a choice between time and money at some point in our lives. I was forced to make that choice a few years ago.

In July of 2006, my husband and I were just getting back on our feet after  he changed career paths. He was making good money again after nine months of living mostly off of my income. I was working a lot of hours plus I had just finished my master of science in accounting and taxation two months earlier. I am a whirlwind kind of person. Ask my friends; I’m always moving in 800 different directions. I was starting to contemplate what I would start next. I had been feeling kinda crappy but pushed through most of it to finish my degree. At one point, I was working full-time plus taking classes full-time. I was never home and missed my husband tremendously. We spent a lot of money on groceries and eating out because we always needed a quick dinner solution every night. I was burnt out and I was miserable.

Then I got a kick in the pants, telling me to slow down. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I went from speed of light to complete stop in one afternoon. I started treatment immediately and stopped working. I was lucky to have a disability plan at work, even if it wasn’t much for the first 13 weeks. It was enough to pay for our health insurance with a little left over. We got into some serious debt during this whole thing. We tried to sell out house but couldn’t. I sat at home, sick and worried about money.

Then, I started to do something. I started clipping coupons again, something I hadn’t done since we bought the house.  I started planning meals. I started to enjoy cooking again. I looked for other ways to cut our budget. When my treatment was over, my husband and I sat down to discuss what was next. My doctor really did not want me going back to work as a full-time tax accountant. It was too stressful for my Type A personality. He was concerned about the risk of reoccurance. Jeff and I looked at our budget. I knew I could start up a small tax and consulting practice, but doing so would mean a serious cut in pay. We decided that we could make it. My husband works for the state now and we have great health insurance.

I work more than I planned when I first started this venture. I have my accounting practice, plus I teach a few classes a semester at a local college. I’m doing the blog. While I still whirlwind around, I now have time to get dinner on the table almost every night. I have time to do little errands during the day so that Jeff and I have more time together. I also have more time to help us save money. We still have approximately the same lifestyle while I make a lot less money and have a lot less stress. I really enjoy what I’m doing now and I think our marriage is better than it’s ever been.

In the last few years, the frugality debate has been about my time and my health. I chose time over money. Being frugal gives me more “me” time and more “us” time. It allows me to pursue things that I never thought possible, like teaching. Getting cancer really opened my eyes to what is important.

My husband worked with a man who worked so hard his entire life. He worked long hours and sacrificed his family life to make a living and build retirement savings so he and his wife could have the time of their lives. He was planning to retire when he was 55. That would give them plenty of time to make up for all those lost years. A week before he was scheduled to retire, his wife died unexpectedly. He spent all those years building a wonderful life for them and never got to enjoy it with her.

You never think it could happen to you. I hope it never does. I hope it doesn’t take an illness or some other catastrophe to get you to start thinking about the possibilities in your life. One of my favorite quotes is from a paper weight my sister gave me when I graduated from college. It states “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I started my own business, cut back my hours, started doing something I love, got a little more frugal and spend more time with Jeff and the cats.

What would you do? Are you balancing time and money right now? How is it going for you? Do you find yourself stressed with all the daily obligations of your life? How can you change things? Have you already made the change? Tell us about your story.