Updated on 07.31.14

Needing More Than Ourselves to Be Ourselves

Trent Hamm

My friend Heidi recently sent me a link to a fascinating article over at Mark Vernon’s blog (a philosophy-focused blog) entitled AS Byatt, who we are, and maps again. One sentence really jumped out at me in the middle of the article, and I’ve been turning it over and over again in my head for a while.

It’s an insight that I keep noticing at the moment, the sense that our own lives are too small for us, and we need something more than ourselves to be ourselves.

“We need something more than ourselves to be ourselves.”

That’s a brilliant way of describing how I’ve felt quite often in my life.

When I was younger, I often felt that who I really was inside was not clear to the people around me, that my external appearance was somehow much less than who I actually was. My response to that was to spend. I took on what I called “Superman syndrome,” something I discussed in a 2008 post and revisited earlier this year.

I spent out of a sense that I was inadequate, at least in the eyes of others. Alone, who I was was not enough to please them, so I used material possessions as one crutch and over-the-top spending on others as a second crutch.

After a while, as I mentioned in my follow-up post, I began to realize that people saw through the bluster:

It took me a long time to realize that I often wasn’t fulfilled when I was alone – and that, underneath the bravado, the shiny things I owned, and my material generosity, others knew it, too. Their opinions of me weren’t made of the things I bought (for myself or for them), but from my personal character.

Realizing this, I began to really focus energy on not impressing other people – and it worked. Focusing my spending on myself rather than others made it possible for me to cut back greatly on my expenses – and it opened the door to this site.

In the ensuing years, I’ve still had that sense of needing more than myself to be myself, but in a different way. I’ve come to feel that every choice I make is some sort of compromise.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that it’s two in the afternoon. My son and daughter are standing at my office door saying, “Dad! Please come outside with us and play soccer!” At the same time, there’s a post in front of me that I’ve spent two hours researching and drafting, let along the additional thought I’ve put into it. I’m happy with the ideas and the flow of it (this has always been the important part to me), but it ought to have a grammar check before being posted – and it needs to go up this afternoon.

What do I do? Do I just go ahead, post the article, and go play soccer? Or do I tell the kids, “Sorry, not today, I’ve got to proofread this,” and turn back to my computer?

My usual choice is to just post the article and go outside with my children. My entire reason for choosing to work full time on The Simple Dollar was because of them, so that my work would never come in the way of spending time with them when they needed me. And, yes, an afternoon in the yard playing soccer is something that they need.

That choice, though, is a compromise. It’s a compromise in that it produces a post with grammatical errors in it, or a mis-pasted sentence somewhere. It means that by sometimes giving what energy and time I have to my children, I do not give that energy and time to you, the reader. That has a negative impact on the site as a whole and, over the long run, reduces my earning capacity.

I want to do both, but I am not capable of doing both.

“We need something more than ourselves to be ourselves” is what Vernon said in that post, and it rings true with every choice I make – and probably with every choice you make, too.

When I’m at the grocery store, I recognize that I have only so many dollars to spend there. I have to choose what goes into my cart, and each choice is a compromise. Do I buy this bag of goldfish crackers that my kids love? If I do, what am I not buying? Do I put back the salmon? Do I take the road that makes my kids smile in the short run – or do I spend my limited resources to expand their palate and put some omega 3s in their diet, even if they have a good chance of not liking the salmon? What’s the best use of that dollar?

How do I know what the right decision is?

“We need something more than ourselves to be ourselves.” Believing in that means I could just fall into the trap of busting out the plastic and buying both the salmon and the goldfish. Doing that, though, sacrifices other things in my life. More becomes less.

“We need something more than ourselves to be ourselves” feels like a rebuke of everyday choices. We can never be perfect. We’re always compromising something.

The only answer that I’ve found in my life is simply deciding what’s really important to you and following that, straight and true. Spend money on what’s important to you and cut back on everything else. Devote your time to the things that most matter and scale back on the other commitments. Use up your energy on what you value the most.

Guess what, my friends? There’s probably a grammatical error or a word I’ve used too often in this post. I did a quick check of it, but I can hear my children downstairs getting ready for their soccer game.

Personal finance success – or success in any avenue of life – isn’t about being all things to all people. It’s about being the important things to the truly important people. It’s about choosing your battles and focusing on winning those, rather than trying to fight every possible battle. It’s about accepting that you’re going to mess up sometimes, but recognizing that those situations are simply part of the equation and that the only route for improvement lies in the future. It’s about hoping and preparing for the best, making the best choices you can, and not looking back with regret.

I wouldn’t miss that soccer game for the world.

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  1. Kelly says:

    great post Trent!! Have fun playing soccer! The kids are only little for so long and soon enough they won’t WANT to play soccer with Dad anymore.

  2. Alice says:

    So with the salmon. They may be happier in the moment with the goldfish crackers, but the salmon will be better for their health (Omega-3 and all that), and nothing makes a person more unhappy than health problems. Besides, salmon is delicious!

  3. alilz says:

    You don’t have to post everything right away. Your kids want to play soccer – go play soccer. But publishing this now with mistakes or proofing it and missing your kids soccer game are not your only choices.

    You could have put this aside to proof until your kids were asleep tonight, or napping tomorrow, and proofed the piece then.

  4. Kathryn Fenner says:

    I’m newly rededicated to frugal living (after a wake up call from my financial advisor regarding the effects of the market on our retirement savings) and this really hit home. I, too, have been spending to impress , trying to create an image that will incite admiration and an approachable coolness [snort]. Since realizing that I can cut back today or have to go back to crazy working hours or take a chance on an impoverished retirement, I woke up and decided to take care of my financial future and stop worrying about what others thought.

    Instead, today, using the time I now have, I hit Goodwill to buy some pants for my newly slimmer husband and as a bonus scored a nice comfortable gray cashmere cardigan for myself–not fashionable–functional! I spent less for three pairs of pants and a cashmere sweater than I would have even at Target, and I feel so great!

    Keep on writing–it really helps me stay on track and remember why I do it.

  5. I haven’t read the article you mentioned (though I may click over there after writing this) but the quote taken out of context doesn’t lead me to think about money or spending or making a decision in the grocery store.

    What I get out of that statement, personally, is that we do not accept ourselves for who we are at this juncture in life. We long for change and believe that something “else” is the answer to our dissatisfaction with the way things in our lives are.

    If we could lose a few pounds, we’d be pretty. If we had a nice wardrobe, people would be our friends. If we were smarter, faster, prettier, more interesting, a better conversationalist…if only…then our lives would be the way we want them to be. Hence, we need “more than ourselves [right now] to be ourselves [who we *wish* we were.]

    I often feel this way but I try to capitalize on those emotions by pushing myself for improvement. If I don’t like how I look in the mirror, either I can accept myself for who I am OR I can get into the gym and workout to lose a few pounds, get a haircut and a shave and spend a few dollars on a nice outfit. Sure, maybe I spent a few dollars in the process but now I feel much better about myself than I did before.

    If I feel like I’m not smart enough on a certain subject, instead of saying to myself, “Well, Steven, I guess this stuff just isn’t your thing,” I push myself to learn.

    I think that is the point the author was trying to make with that statement…now I’m off the read the article to decide for myself whether I am right or not.

  6. marta says:

    “I want to do both, but I am not capable of doing both.”

    Sorry, but that’s actually a poor example. Now you are justifying your lack of care in editing/proofing by basically saying that it’s a choice between a better post and an afternoon playing soccer with your kids.

    I know that you seem to think *everything* on this world is an either/or situation. That’s not how the real world works — people can do more than one thing. Grown-ups often need to.

    For example, many people can have nine-to-five jobs AND be great parents. Sure, they probably won’t be spending every single afternoon playing in the yard, but that doesn’t diminish them in any way.

  7. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “I know that you seem to think *everything* on this world is an either/or situation. ”

    This entire post is about the grays of the everyday choices we have to make. Do you think I’m making an “either/or” choice between spending time with my kids and working on the site? I spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about ideas for the site, writing enough articles so that two a day appear for people to read and enjoy, and do all of the supplementary work that keeps the site going.

    When it’s a choice between a non-essential detail of that process and spending time with my kids, my kids are going to win, almost always – and that’s a choice that has consequences. Most of the time, I get to do both. But, in your language of “grown-up choices,” we don’t always get to do everything.

    I wish I magically had the ability and time and financial resources to do everything I wanted to do, but as an adult, I recognize that I do not and that means sometimes making choices that I don’t like the consequences of. The key to knowing what to do in those situations is to know where your values lie, and I realized that I value my family an awful lot.

  8. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “You could have put this aside to proof until your kids were asleep tonight, or napping tomorrow, and proofed the piece then.”

    If I do that, then I’m making the choice to reduce the amount of content that I post. I write and publish two articles a day, every day, for your enjoyment. If I added a great deal of additional proofreading time to each article, then I no longer have the ability to post two articles a day.

    I occasionally throw the idea of slowing down out to the readers. Almost always, they don’t want me to. They’d rather have more content with a few grammar or editing errors than less content with almost no such errors. Thus, I devote most of my content time to researching posts, coming up with ideas, and just a couple of drafts per article, because that’s what meets the overall desires of my readers the best.

    This is not just an “either/or” issue, nor is any other choice in an adult life. Over and over again, our values run into each other and we have to decide, on some level, what’s really important. We can’t be more than we are, no matter how much we want to.

  9. Natasha says:

    Shouldn’t adequate proofreading in order to produce a solid piece of work be part and parcel of being a professional writer? As someone who has moved beyond the blogosphere to write physical books that sit on shelves, it seems like it reflects poorly on your attention to detail and follow-through to publish (even if it’s an “e-published” blog) shoddy work. If you can’t churn out two well-written (correct grammar and spelling are important components of this) posts every day, cut back for heaven’s sake. Quality over quantity.

  10. marta says:

    I agree with Natasha.

    Why complicate things so much? Just post fewer (but better written) articles!

  11. PB Jung says:


    Although I do agree that the quote is taken out of context somewhat. Vernon is a philosophist.

    “It’s an insight that I keep noticing at the moment, the sense that our own lives are too small for us, and we need something more than ourselves to be ourselves.”

    We could go into a deeper level of spirituality but this is not what this site is about. The site is about personal finance. To Trent, the ‘something more’ is his children, his legacy (which it should be for any parent). Trent tackles the quote through the practical application of daily choices. The small choices that make a profound impact later on (kind of like compound interest). For example, like having your kids remember a dad who was there to play soccer with them or a dad who was too busy with work.

    The quote reiterates living with Purpose. To ‘be ourselves’, involves being spiritually, financially, physically, & relationally free.

  12. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    PB, you are absolutely spot on. I work to live, not live to work.

    This is a blog, not a major media publication. The entire point is to express unfiltered thoughts that haven’t gone through an editor. It’s not supposed to be politically correct and perfect. It’s about ideas.

    To put it simply, I don’t want to be Money Magazine, where I have editors and advertisers and a publishing company to please because they have to have an airbrushed and polished product. I want to be able to throw my thoughts out there without trying to please a corporate line, and I want to occasionally put my foot right in the fire (and I certainly do that). I can be a lot more honest about real personal finance because of that because of the freedom of what I can say.

    In a big way, your comments are flattering. You’re basically saying that my ideas are interesting enough / good enough that they should be polished and put into a publication like that. If what I was saying wasn’t worth polishing, you wouldn’t be saying what you just said. I appreciate the thought.

  13. Gretchen says:

    A professional writer should put out quality work. Period.

    And everyone makes choices everyday about proofreading vs. soccer. It’s called being an adult.

  14. PB Jung says:

    *sorry the relationally free part was worded poorly. Relationally free as in not having any qualms or quarrels with other people.

    Also, the boom roasted was not for Trent. I do agree that proper grammar is important(lol, check out all the fragments I have in here). Trent could have used numerous examples instead of a grammatical mistake. For instance, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, making rice, reading a book, clipping his toenails, whatever! The point is to invest in something more than ourselves so you can be more than yourself.

  15. Interested Reader says:

    Trent I would rather read 1 well written, properly edited post than 2 mediocre ones.

    I read other blogs where people are able to put together quality, edited posts while taking care of their families and holding down jobs outside their home.

    It’s not always 2 a day but they prefer quality over quantity.

    I prefer quality over quantity. I think most people would have quality over quantity.

    If you value that — putting out quality product over mediocre quantity then you should be firm about why you only put out 7 posts per week and not 14.

    It seems to me that claiming you *have* to do this because it’s what your readers demand is just another way of trying to impress people and get their approval.

  16. Christina Crowe ( @CashCampfire ) says:

    Powerful statement – “The only answer that I’ve found in my life is simply deciding what’s really important to you and following that, straight and true. Spend money on what’s important to you and cut back on everything else. Devote your time to the things that most matter and scale back on the other commitments. Use up your energy on what you value the most.”

    I’ve been all over the place, devoting some of my time to things that may not matter but might. Sometimes I go so far as to forget why I even started doing what I’m doing in the first place. This post is a wake-up call.

    I’m going to put more time into things that truly matter. Work and money isn’t everything. It’s the relationships we create and the enjoyment that we have that are really important.

    Beautiful and inspiring post!

  17. lhamo says:

    Trent, I think you should cut yourself a little more slack. The world is not going to end if you don’t post two articles a day. And I don’t think very many TSD readers are sitting there watching the clock to see if you are going to post precisely at 2:00 p.m. every day. You have set a goal, and that goal is important, but goals can/should be revisited from time to time. I also side with those who vote for less material of more substance if that is something that makes your life more managable. I regularly read several blogs that post once or twice a week, and I don’t think any less of the bloggers for having a lighter posting load. You aren’t a factory line. YOu are a person with a life. Step back a bit and have confidence in yourself and the value you offer your readers — we are here and will read what you write whether it comes twice a day, once a day, twice a week, or once a week.

    What would I have done? Finish the basic draft, then set the article aside, take an hour to play soccer with the kids, then come back and do a quick last once over and post by 3:15. You would probably see the post with fresher eyes after a little break and might catch something that would not have been noticed if you were proofing under stress.

  18. Kathleen says:

    Not to be an argumentative turd, but….

    Another way to think about the trade off: do the kids get the immediate gratification of playing soccer with dad, or the longer-term payoff of having a father who’s carefully cultivating his career by developing a high-quality, sustainable product (and thereby ensuring future family fiscal health)?

  19. At first my thought was to pipe up and tell you that you should slow down on the articles (quality vs. quantity and all that). But then I realized that is my own judgement and if your gift is to come up with enough content for two blogs per day with errors I can get over it.
    Have some of your complainers become your editor! Now there’s an idea!

  20. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Please read the comments here, and remember that I was posting six articles a day at the time.


    Many people wanted me to post more.

    That’s the nature of blog writing. It does not thrive on perfect grammar. It thrives on a flow of ideas – and a lot of them.

    Life is never an either/or choice. I am happy with the choices I’ve made. I think that two idea-filled posts a day is the right amount, even if there are grammatical errors sometimes.

  21. Christina Crowe ( @CashCampfire ) says:

    By the way, I was reading the comments and just wanted to say a few things.

    Trent, if you’re trying to publish 2 posts a day and you believe that this frequency is interfering with the amount of time that you spend with your family (playing soccer with your kids, for example), it’s OK to slow it down a bit. Like several readers had already mentioned, I’m totally fine with 1 post a day. In fact, I think it would even benefit us more if you put most of your attention into one powerful post, rather than 2.

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, and I almost always find your posts to be valuable. However, there are some times when you just need to put your foot down and do what’s best for you. If writing 2 posts are too stressful for you, write 1 a day. Some of us might be disappointed, but we’re also better off if the quality is going to be better (not that your posts DON’T have quality, because they most certainly do). But, if posting once a day allows you to do all of the things that you need to do in order to make your readers happy, by all means, post once a day. Don’t let us dictate your posting frequency if it’s too stressful for you. That’s how many freelance writers crash and burn. They do more than they can handle, until they can’t handle it anymore.


  22. Christina Crowe ( @CashCampfire ) says:

    Woops. I published the above post and didn’t realize that you had commented a minute ago.

    “I think that two idea-filled posts a day is the right amount, even if there are grammatical errors sometimes.” – Then stick with this frequency! If you’re happy with posting twice a day and don’t mind a few grammatical errors here and there, that’s fine with me.

    Your readers will get over it, and they will value your ideas for what they are.

  23. Interested Reader says:

    It seems like 2 posts a day are still too much for you to handle.

  24. Jessica says:

    Trent, I think your post is awesome. Have fun with your children!

  25. BonzoGal says:

    Considering that all the information on this site is FREE, some commenters seem to have an inflated sense of entitlement regarding the style of these posts.
    If the grammatical errors and/or typos ruffle your feathers that much, you’re focusing on the wrong things here. There are famous novelists who also write blog posts that ramble around and contain grammatical errors. So what? Are they less “professional” because of that? Their editors fix up their published work; but blogs are for a free and fast exchange of ideas. I get a LOT from this blog, and the occasional error does not detract from that.

  26. BJD says:

    I agree with quality over quantity – I think you should reconsider your posting schedule and evaluate what makes sense for your current life with 3 kids and book deals on the side. The link you provided for reader feedback on your posting level was from 2007. A lot has changed – for you and for most of your readers – not to mention the number of other PF blogs that are now available.

    I’m less concerned about the grammar and spelling errors – I’m able to read through and get your message even with those errors. But it would be nice to see more thought and meaning to the posts – even if it meant a reduction in the number of posts.

    One area you could back off on are your weekend posting. I personally very rarely look at your blog on the weekend – I’ll usually check your weekend posts on Monday morning. And from the relatively few comments (with timestamps from the weekend) you get on those posts, it’s a fair guess that not many others read them over the weekend. Skip the weekend posting and give yourself more personal time.

  27. Brenz says:

    I agree with the popular opinion – quality over quantity. BDJ #25 made the point that came to mind when you linked to the 2007 post. That was over 3 years ago and when I first discovered your blog. At the time this blog was one of a few that I read on a regular basis. Since then many more blogs occupy space under my “favorites” tab.

    Your children won’t always be little and soon one will even start school. Do what is best for you and your family. No one is going to starve for lack of information to read on the internet.

  28. KM says:

    Well, without proofreading, you end up saying one of your goals is to not impress other people, which sounds like you want people to be unimpressed (which they will be if you don’t proofread)…

  29. Courtney says:

    @Trent: “This is a blog, not a major media publication. The entire point is to express unfiltered thoughts that haven’t gone through an editor. It’s not supposed to be politically correct and perfect. It’s about ideas.”

    Funny you should say that because I have often thought that you are too PC and that makes your blog a bit bland. Maybe I’m wrong, though, and you actually are writing exactly what you think.

    Your grammar is fine, though – I could give a hoot about whether it’s perfectly correct.

  30. John says:

    It seems that many of the people who criticize Trent for knowingly allowing minor errors in favor of more content (which we all clearly enjoy or the comments section would be empty) are the same type of person, or maybe the very person, who would complain if his contributions slowed down. The problem with the fact that you don’t have to say things to people face to face is that it allows us to vent negativity and criticism too freely, and often without merit, as it doesn’t add to the development or understanding of others. I find this blog to be fundamentally sound, almost always useful, and always enjoyable. A few minor editing errors does not detract from the material, it’s a blog…not a dictionary. Rant finished. Well done Trent, please keep it going just like it is, if two articles with a few errors from time to time and chances to play soccer with your children puts you at peace with yourself as a man, you win.

  31. Flaneuse in DC says:

    Simplify, simplify. There are only about a zillion other blogs out there, and even your most loyal readers have plenty else to read. One post a day is plenty. That said, your post could’ve used some… er, seasoning before going live. I’m reading a book now by Cecile Andrews called _Slow is Beautiful_ and it’s a lot of her personal philosophizing –things that have been said better elsewhere by others, many times.
    I do give you kudos for actually *admitting* that you’ve spent in order to build yourself up. We all do/have, but not many admit it publicly …that’s what OTHER people do, of course!
    Self-knowledge is a beautiful thing; just try not to be too jejeune in your public posts.

  32. So, about that quote ;-)


  33. Ryan says:

    Well I’m guess I’m in the minority, but I enjoyed the post.

    So that’s 1 person, Trent!

  34. Jenny says:

    “Considering that all the information on this site is FREE, some commenters seem to have an inflated sense of entitlement regarding the style of these posts.”

    Considering that we pay Trent’s bills, he serves us, and he’d better start doing a better job of it. I’ve had about enough of him.

  35. Gretchen says:

    “That’s the nature of blog writing. It does not thrive on perfect grammar. It thrives on a flow of ideas – and a lot of them.”

    I would argue it thrives on readers.

  36. Krista says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I have noticed lately that one of the 2 posts a day has a lot less meat than the other and seems really thrown together and kind of irrelevant. This one is no different. So I am in favor of less but better posts.

    This site is absolutely part of your professional writing resume. It is not your personal online journal. You make some money from it and promote yourself and your book through it.

    No one is asking you to choose between this site and your kids. You probably spend a lot of time and thought on every post, so just spend that bit of extra time to look it over.

  37. Ricardo says:

    I know a lot of what you were saying is a unique and personal experience and I respect that. But this is well known in Economics as opportunity cost. From Wikipedia: “Opportunity cost is the cost related to the next-best choice available to someone who has picked between several mutually exclusive choices.[1] It is a key concept in economics. It has been described as expressing “the basic relationship between scarcity and choice.”[2] The notion of opportunity cost plays a crucial part in ensuring that scarce resources are used efficiently.[3] Thus, opportunity costs are not restricted to monetary or financial costs: the real cost of output forgone, lost time, pleasure or any other benefit that provides utility should also be considered opportunity costs.”

  38. Marc says:

    Trent, I’ve never commented before and I’ll probably never comment again. I just want to tell you to ignore the commenters. I can’t believe the ludicrous and hateful things these people throw at you every day. You’ve got way thicker skin than I do. They often make me mad and I’m just a reader. #34 Jenny, get a life.

    You earned 85000 subscribers by being yourself and trusting yourself. Keep doing that and I’ll keep reading. Do NOT let some anonymous negative commenter armchair quarterback what you do.

  39. Blacklabel says:

    I wish I had a job where I could just decide to sacrifice the quality of my work so that I could do something else *I* want to do. Seems Trent hass created a job for himself that allows him to do that. “Sorry boss my presentation would have been better, but I thought it was good enough, so I quit working on it and went to the ballgame”

    So I think he should enjoy it while he can, as long as the decrease in quality doesn’t lead to a decrease in readers, then why not enjoy the time with his kids while they actually want him to spend time?

  40. Kait says:

    I’m with Marc. I read this site often, I’ve never commented before, but I have to comment now because the nastiness being spat out here is just unbelievable.

    Trent, I’ve learned a lot from your site. I’m 30 and the recession has had a big impact on my way of thinking, and I appreciate your column. I’ve shared it with others who also now appreciate it.

    @Jenny: Do do you feel good about yourself after that big “threat” you made? Why don’t you REALLY leave? I’m sure Trent won’t miss you.

  41. Leah W. says:

    So, BACK TO THE QUOTE! “…our own lives are too small for us, and we need something more than ourselves to be ourselves.” I think this is absolutely true, but it’s not about stuff or buying. We do need more than ourselves. We need others. We need relationships. We were built for relationships.

    Needing something more is not about consumption. I agree that people shouldn’t buy so much crap, shouldn’t spend to impress, etc. But I don’t disagree with the idea the quote embodies. I DO need more than myself to be myself. Your relationships with others shape who you are, so in a sense, you CAN’T be yourself without more than yourself.


  42. I like your take on the quote, I actually hadn’t thought about others in the context of the quote but I think you’re absolutely right. I know that without people that I care about in my life, something is missing.

    I’ve done some traveling on my own, around the US and in Europe, only to find myself wishing certain people were there with me to see what I was seeing, to talk to and enjoy their presence…not just to hold the camera ;)

    People definately see where you’re coming from and I think it’s awesome that someone finally commented on the quote…and with such wisdom to boot!

  43. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Leah, great insight! So much of what we do today is solitary. Perhaps that sense of something more than ourselves is yearning for human connection, individual or community, that we’re lacking in our lives.

  44. Kevin says:

    All of this leaves me with one question, and one point.

    Trent, how on earth did you post six times a day when you were employed full time outside your home? You MUST have been writing blog posts at work, yes?

    As for grammar and usage, most high school students who are reasonably talented writers are able to construct sentences without committing grammatical or usage errors. So… why is this even an issue?

  45. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “Trent, how on earth did you post six times a day when you were employed full time outside your home? You MUST have been writing blog posts at work, yes?”

    My posts then were much shorter and, I would say, much less thoughtful.

    “As for grammar and usage, most high school students who are reasonably talented writers are able to construct sentences without committing grammatical or usage errors. So… why is this even an issue?”

    Two factors: the volume of writing and the magnification effect of my errors. I write a lot of words each day and the vast majority of them are error free. That means the errors I do commit stand out like a sore thumb and are memorable, which makes it seem like I commit them more often than I do.

  46. Bethany says:

    Awesome, awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  47. I think people are just looking for them at this point, if ya catch my drift.

  48. Michele says:

    The first thing I thought of when I read the quote was ‘this is why people believe in God’…something greater than ourselves to be ourselves. I know not everyone will agree, but that’s what God is all about. Nice post, Trent. Thanks.

  49. Louise says:

    I never comment on blogs but I’d just like to thank you for a thought-provoking article. Please ignore the thoughtless comments above, the articles on your blog are all interesting and anyone wanting a polished article should buy a magazine! Besides, the point you were making wasn’t about the quality of your writing, rather making the right trade-offs for yourself and not to impress other people. Best wishes and thanks for all the inspiration you have given me.

  50. Kate says:

    I’m more or less with those who say, so post a little late one day. If it becomes a too-frequent thing, re-examine the question.

    (I say this as an anal-retentive, copy-editing writer myself, one who would proof text messages if I sent any.)

    (And now I look at that last sentence and wonder if pronoun agreement calls for “she” instead of “I.”)

    More often I’ve felt as if people over-estimated me rather than under-. But in the context of relations, I agree with the quote entirely.

    And not just close relationships, either. Just connecting to humanity fills that need. Simple things. One of my favorites is to compliment strangers. I keep my eyes open at the store, and spot lovely sweaters, gorgeous earrings, that’s-so-elegant hair… Or a cute, or well-mannered, or clever child. I don’t make things up or exaggerate; I don’t need to. Just spot someone with something, and tell them so as a compliment.
    You make a positive connection with another person; you get a taste of that more-than-self.

  51. Kate says:

    And upon reading the posted message, now “awaiting moderation,” I see that I was right the first time in my second parenthetical comment.

    The “I” is in agreement with “myself.”

  52. Credit Expert says:

    It seems that at the moment, everybody needs that little be more to feel normal.

  53. Melanie says:

    What a wonderful post!!! Although I know I have purchased things based on this reasoning I guess I never really thought about it possibly being the root of LOTS of over purchasing I have done in the past. Thanks for this article!!!

  54. littlepitcher says:

    Trent–who owns your life? That’s the only issue here. It’s your blog, sugar, do it your way.
    @Blacklabel–takes brass to criticize someone’s occasional errors due to childrearing, even as you run a typo in your post. I think that half of the criticism of this post is sexism–denigrating a role which is usually performed by females.

  55. Charles Cohn says:

    I have been reading your stuff for a long time and don’t recall spotting any errors, so don’t worry about it.

  56. Jenn says:

    Trent, I swear that if you type, “to put it simply” one more time… There just might be another way to say that.

  57. Alaina says:

    I’m glad you wrote this post because now I can understand why there may be grammatical errors (which always bothered me) and I am happy that you would rather spend time being a good father than spend time fixing a few small errors in a post. I think that choosing to better the lives of your children emotionally is always a good decision. My respect for you has increased.

  58. MacKay says:

    Trent I totally get it. I used to work at home, doing graphic art, mostly for smaller businesses. I had a set price for a logo design. I could design a decent logo in a few hours, or spend days designing a masterpiece. At the same time I had little kids that needed my time. Maybe if I had designed more masterpieces, those would have lead to higher paying work, which would have benefited my family in the future. But I had small children, who needed my time NOW. So when I had a deadline, I adopted the policy to go with the best that I had at the time.

    Publishing, I am sure, is the same thing. You have a deadline, and you have to go with the best you have. This is not like you work for an employer who pays you for your best efforts for 40 hours a week. When you run your own business creating a product, you have no set required number of hours that you work. It about how many hours you choose to put in, and you weigh the quality against other needs of your business and your family life. The law of diminishing returns factors in because it might take ten times the work to get something 10% better.

    What a lot of readers might not understand is that you are developing several articles at the same time, and perhaps what you had planned to go with isn’t ready yet, waiting for you to verify the accuracy of one piece of information for example. So you have to go with your best that is ready, which might not be as strong as the one you had wanted to run.

    People, if you question the quality or meatiness of Trent’s work, take this challenge. Make a list of topic ideas that you would write about if you had a blog. See how many ideas you can come up with that are totally original and totally meaty. If you are lucky, you might come up with a few dozen, no more than 100. But can you come up with even 365? Can you do this day in and day out for years? I have thought about this often, because I noticed when I was asked for a lot of creative output in a short period of time, the well seemed to run dry. There are extremely few people who are brilliantly prolific day after day for years. The one example that comes to mind was the cartoonist Gary Larson. The rest of us are mere mortals, who would do well to put out just a respectable product every day, and hope for a flash of genius here and there.

    The reason I come to this site every day, several times a day, is because it is always changing, including that reader comments are quickly posted. There are other sites whose content is more in line with what I would prefer to read, but those sites might not have something new every day, and their reader comments are surprisingly few. I think the editors are a bit lazy. Sometimes I send something to those sites, and it takes a day for my comment to get posted. There is no dialog between readers when comments are not posted quickly. One thing you can’t accuse Trent of being is lazy.

    I like two posts a day, because there is twice as much chance that a post will be of special interest to me. But even if a post is not interesting to me, I still scan it, so I understand what readers are commenting about. His articles are very often the springboard for lively debates between readers, which I find sometimes more interesting than the original article.

    As for what I would prefer to read, I would like a little more how-to on how one applies frugality. We get it why we should conserve money, but people often get hung up on the process. A perfect example was a recent discussion on how scratch cooking resulted in more dishes to wash, and readers posted interesting ideas on how they minimize dish washing. On the surface, this seems like a “small” topic as compared to stuff like investment plans. But really, people waste hundreds of dollars a month on restaurant meals and convenience foods, because they feel that cooking from scratch is too time consuming. But a few new tricks here gets those people over the hurdle and scratch cooking becomes more doable for them.

    The reality is that no one writer can know all the tricks to making frugality work. Especially given that readers come from all walks of life and have to solve problems differently. I think it would be interesting if Trent just floated out a basic topic or problem to do with every day life, and let the readers post their best ideas.

  59. Amen! Whether or not a person will come out on top financially boils down to one thing: choices. Pardon my french, but if you can remember one mantra in regards to not spending, it’s this: S–t is s–t.

    At the end of your life, you’ll remember those soccer games, and more importantly, so will your kids. As to the negative comments regarding your typos, I am holding a one year old as I type this because I left a very lucrative job to raise my own son….so forgive me if I too, have a comma out of place. Cheers to you!

  60. GayleRN says:

    Back to the quote. I think it means that we need some bigger purpose in life that is outside of our own base and selfish needs and wants. That purpose will bring out the best in us and allow us to be better people than we would otherwise have any reason to be.

    As an example, Trent is serving a much larger purpose in life with writing this blog than he could possibly serve by say writing a local newspaper column on personal finance. Much larger than if he had merely done all of the work for his own personal reasons but never shared it at all.

    So, one of the questions we should be asking of any action is what larger purpose is this serving? The answer to that question will lead you to better uses of your time and money. In this case, Trent made what he considered to be a better use of his time to play with his precious children. Case closed.

  61. Cynthia says:

    Love your articles,even with a few grammatical errors. I don’t think it is even that big of a deal as they are infrequent. Keep it up. What a good workout that soccer game must of been too.

  62. Interested Reader says:

    I’m not saying Trent shouldn’t spend time with his family.

    I never suggested that he spend less time with his family. I don’t think anyone here has done that. What people have suggested is that maybe he should cut back to one post a day so he will have both better quality content and more time for his family.

  63. littlepitcher says:

    @Trent–Who owns your life? That’s the total issue. Do what you love and ignore detractors.

    @Blackwater–You have nerve, criticizing a column for an error made while involved with childcare, and making a typo in your criticism, undoubtedly done while idle.
    My take on the critics is that their attitudes are predominantly sexist, because childcare is unpaid work usually left to women, and routinely is denigrated by those who don’t do it.

  64. Gail says:

    I think your children are learning a bad lesson here, more than ANYTHING else. If they ask for something, they should NOT necessarily get it right away, whether it be Dad’s time, money, or “stuff.” Soemtimes it is ok to break the rules and say yes, but not every time. And Trent, you have a responsibility to your readers as well as your children.

  65. Johanna says:

    Professional writers for print publications (at least, the print publication that I work for) aren’t expected to produce writing free of grammar mistakes and typos either. Print publications have separate copy editors and proofreaders to catch those things. Trent doesn’t have his own copy editor. So typos happen, and they don’t bother me. (Although sometimes I wonder how hard it would be to at least use a computer spell checker.)

    What does bother me is when the content suffers from lack of attention – for example, when an answer to a reader mailbag question clearly overlooks a crucial detail of the question. Trent, if you need to slow down the posting schedule (or cut down the length of the reader mailbags) in order to be more careful about things like that, that would be fine with me.

  66. Lynn says:

    Trent, I’m guessing that half of the people commenting here totally missed the point.

    I don’t care what the subject matter is – a blog is still a blog. Get over it and stop tearing a real human being down for every little thing. Would you seriously act like this towards someone sitting in front of you?

  67. Brad says:

    Trent-I enjoyed the post and it made me think-well done!

  68. Marsha says:

    I have a feeling that the vast majority of your readers don’t really care that much about grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. It’s content that matters, not that everything is “professionally” polished, whatever that means.

    It’s also nearly impossible for a person to thoroughly proofread his own writing, since he sees what he meant, not what is actually there.

    If what you’re currently doing is working for you, and your readership is not falling off, I’d just continue doing it.

  69. socalgal says:

    @#64 Lynn-Thank you for the dose of sanity & humanity. I am shocked at some of the reactions that appear on this thread. Trent, keep up the great work & a huge thank you for providing me hours of free entertainment every year.

  70. Natasha says:

    Comments other than ‘you’re perfect, we love you’ aren’t necessarily representative of nastiness. Sometimes it’s constructive criticism, healthy debate, or just a difference of opinion. Trent has expressed interest in living a well-considered life in many posts (this one, for instance) and open communication with his readers should help him grow as a writer and communicator of ideas.

  71. Jamie says:

    I’m terribly annoyed that an article about (1) priorities and (2) the things outside of yourself that you choose to contribute to your identity has dwindled into a debate about whether Trent should be more grammatical.

    How ironic that the same people who are preaching Quality over Quantity are simultaneously ignoring the deeper, richer content of this article and instead giving precedence to the off-handed example of allowing grammatical errors in a blog. I don’t think it’s constructive criticism at all. I just find it to be superficial.

    Beautiful article, Trent. I’m sorry so many of your readers have trouble focusing on the quality of your content.

  72. Sarah says:

    I appreciate your writing Trent, but even more, I appreciate your general life philosophy. Thank you for the wisdom and patience you regularly share with us. I wholeheartedly second Jamie’s comment.

  73. Peggy says:

    Yeah! Glad you chose to play soccer with your kids! We can’t be all things to all people. I love the diversity of your blog and don’t expect you to be my constant guiding light/advisor. You need time with your family and yourself as we all do. I’m sure we all find ourselves in similar situations at various times in our lives. I think it’s really important not to judge others, but it’s hard not to feel judged and to live without worrying too much what others think.

    Sometimes I’d buy the Goldfish, sometimes the salmon, sometimes both; likely not both all the time! :)

  74. Jenna says:

    Geez – with friends like these who needs enemies? Trent, I swear you have a handful of people out there competing to write the snarkiest comments on here. I guess it’s o.k. to be rude as long as it’s not face to face. If you literally have a complaint about this blog nearly every day, why are you reading it? As for me, I discovered this blog at the right time and it helped motivate me to live more authentically. This post, especially the first half, describes exactly how I lived my early 20’s – hanging with people I had nothing in common with and then struggling to fit in by spending. Finally admitting to myself that I didn’t value those things helped me grow. Great post Trent! If your posts come one at a time, contain errors or are “late” I’ll still be reading!

  75. michael says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve never commented before, though I’ve been reading the blog for months.

    I think it’s great that you choose your children over perfect punctuation. I know a lot of people who don’t and it makes me sad.

    Anyone who reads this blog knows you do the work; anyone who notices a misplaced apostrophe will probably smile, hoping that you “blew it off” to hang with the kids.

    “It means that by sometimes giving what energy and time I have to my children, I do not give that energy and time to you, the reader. That has a negative impact on the site as a whole and, over the long run, reduces my earning capacity.”

    I quote you because that’s the only part I take exception with…because I think your energy SHOULD go to your kids and I’d bet that the time you spend with them improves your blog and earning capacity rather than diminishes it.

  76. Carol says:

    Thanks for the post and thanks for showing up every day. Sometimes I get something out of your posts, and sometimes I don’t; I wouldn’t expect anything different (unless it were a blog all about me and only me!).

  77. Amanda says:

    I’m another long-time reader who rarely comments, and I’d just like to say I enjoy the blog a lot. To the people who are insanely annoyed by the occasional error: no one is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to read here. Try starting your own blog, and you’ll quickly see it’s harder than it looks.

    Posting frequency is up to you, Trent. I will continue to read and enjoy in any case.

  78. SwingCheese says:

    I am a grammar machine!!! Learning and/or teaching Latin for the last 18 years of my life will do that a person. And on the rare occasions that I do text, I do proof my texts before going out. And emails. And here’s why – probably more than the Latin aspect – I spent my college years hanging out with people who looked to find intellectual inferiority in others. The fact that I proof even personal correspondence is a lasting effect from not wanting to make a mistake that the hoi polloi would make. I have found, though, that as I have grown older and kinder, I no longer notice if someone makes a mistake. Unless A. It is pointed out to me (and @Kate, 49 & 50, the “myself” agrees with the “I” in the subject of the main sentence, but I think that, since the subject of the relative clause is “one”, the second “I” should be “she” – but I’m not certain on that aspect, lol!!) Not only would I not have said anything about this if Kate hadn’t pointed it out, but it also wouldn’t have registered as a mistake – I know the point that Kate is making and I agree with it. This leads B. If I’m looking to find fault with someone and feel superior to them, I will comb their correspondence looking for grammatical faults. It is the easiest way to pick apart a piece of writing and feel intellectually superior while doing it.

    I don’t notice a great amount of grammatical mistakes here, and if I do notice something occasionally, as long as I can discern what Trent is saying, I let it slide. These mistakes do not happen frequently enough to detract from his writing.

    Perhaps those who spend so much time ripping apart the writing should ask themselves why they need to provide criticism of a free, for-entertainment-purposes-only website to be themselves and what purpose this behavior is serving in their lives.

  79. Judy says:

    I’ve not read all the comments, after the first couple of dozen I found I did not agree with the authors of them anyway. What I wanted to say was that I particularly liked this post, it is what I needed to hear at this moment. Sometimes our priorities conflict with each other and sometimes something has to give. I remember about 10 years ago writing down my top five priorities in importance order so that when they conflicted I knew which one came first. This saved a fair bit of anguish when they did collide.

    I needed to be reminded of that today as I battle a new dilemma. I am trying to be superwoman and be brilliant in all the things I need to do, all the whilst I’m not doing what I truly want to do. So with this in mind I’m going to reorder what is important, so I know which ones to drop when they collide.

    Thanks for your blog Trent – I enjoy your content.

  80. >>#68 Jamie:”I’m terribly annoyed that an article about (1) priorities and (2) the things outside of yourself that you choose to contribute to your identity has dwindled into a debate about whether Trent should be more grammatical.”<>”How ironic that the same people who are preaching Quality over Quantity are simultaneously ignoring the deeper, richer content of this article and instead giving precedence to the off-handed example of allowing grammatical errors in a blog.”<<

    HA! AMEN.

    Trent, it seems to me that writing your blog is in many ways similar to my job, teaching high school math to students performing at a 5th-grade level. I can prepare a lesson with details & make as many big-picture connections as I can, but some of them will choose to whine about how I give them "only" 3 minutes (180 seconds, exactly) to take out a sheet of paper and a pencil. Your miss-the-forest-for-a-splinter commentators seem very similar.

    Thanks for a post about a worthwhile TOPIC.

    (Remember topics people? The point of reading something? Oy.)

  81. Interested Reader says:

    I have a serious question and I am not trying to be mean or rude.

    But I finally noticed the disclaimer at the bottom of the page – “This site is for entertainment purposes only. Trent is not a financial advisor and no information on this site should be construed as financial advice.”

    My question is this – how can you have a disclaimer like that and do posts like the mail bag where you give financial advice?

  82. Matt Jabs says:

    @ #80 – it is a legal protection so those taking Trent’s free advice cannot turn around and sue him later. Sad… but those are the measures that need to be taken in our society.

    I also did a lot of spending to impress others. It was foolish, and quite costly. In fact I am still paying for it today. I would say that behavior set me back at least 10 financial years from where I should be.

    That said, I wasn’t doing it knowing it would cost me so much down the road, I was just another confused young’en just struggling to find my place in life. That is one of the reasons I LOVE getting older, because with my age comes wisdom and experience, and I would NEVER give that up for youth.

  83. Joan says:

    Trent: I love your posts, and I like the fact that you take the time for your family. The family is the most important. Who cares about some grammatical errors. I like reading about how much your family means to you as much as I like reading the other contents of your posts. You are a very straight, honest person about your life and your priorities. Keep up the good work.

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