Updated on 11.22.09

New Eyes

Trent Hamm

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.
– Marcel Proust

The single most important element of personal finance is patience. Financial independence isn’t built in a single day – it takes many years of consistent, patient work to build the foundation necessary for money success. Whether you choose to take the route of earning more through building an impressive career or a stellar business or you focus on spending less through frugality and strong spending choices – or you do both – it’s still a long, long road.

That road can sometimes seem really dull. When we make the hard choices day in and day out, it can feel long and painful. When we stay up late at night trying to break through with career success while others are kicked back and relaxed, it can feel incredibly difficult.

And when these sacrifices happen day in and day out, it can begin to feel we are missing out on life. We’re stuck in a rut of doing the same old thing.

I’ve struggled with this very thing many times during my financial recovery and my career rebirth. There have been times when I’ve wanted to simply step back from my work and just take it easy. There have been times when I’ve wanted to take my emergency fund and go splurge on some things.

It’s those times when I step back, recharge, and try to look at things through new eyes.

I look at things through my own eyes if I stopped on this path. After the initial rush, I would be deeply disappointed with myself. I would hate that I let myself down. I would hate that I let others down. All I’d have to show for it is a few nights of relaxation or a few material items I didn’t really need.

I look at things through the eyes of my wife. She does so many things to keep our family running. She relies on me to provide a solid income for our family so that she can continue to do what she’s passionate about (teaching and taking care of her children).

I look at things through the eyes of my children. It’s up to me to take care of them, both now (making a good income, teaching them, and setting a positive life example for them) and later (having sources of income so they don’t have to take care of me in my dotage).

I look at things through the eyes of my readers. I know from many conversations with readers that the articles I write have a positive impact on their lives. If I quit doing that, it might not be devastating to them, but it would be the loss of something positive.

When you begin to look at what you give to the world through the eyes of those truly important to you, you often strive to not only maintain the positive things you’re doing, but to push yourself to do even better. Your choices impact those who are most important to you and when you step back and realize the impact you have by making certain choices, it’s often an incredibly powerful motivator to do the right thing.

When I play with my daughter and look into her shining eyes, I wonder what she sees. I hope it’s a good thing.

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  1. Little House says:

    Refocus, recharge, renew. I completely agree. Sometimes the path less traveled is difficult and others don’t understand. My husband and I have owned our own business for many years, and it hasn’t been the easy path. Sometimes we think that people who work for corporations have it easier: they get raises every year (except maybe this year!), they have a 401K plan or perhaps a pension, they can depend on their steady paycheck (again, this year is different).

    But then we think about what we enjoy about being self employed: we can take on exciting challenges, be our own boss, set our own hours (we’re finally able to take weekends off now), explore a lot of other business possibilities. Whenever we feel like we’re on the wrong path, we think about what it would be like if we were on the alternate path, and we don’t like it! This keeps us focused.

  2. Kris says:

    Any fans of “The Wire” out there? In one episode, Lester teaches Kima about Soft Eyes. He explains it as stepping back, easing your laser focus on one thing, and getting a better view of the big picture. By readjusting your perspective, you don’t get hung up on the minute details, and subsequently become a better problem solver.

    Of course, they used it to bust a pair of murderers, but it applies almost everywhere.

  3. Kristen says:

    What a great article!! I am slowly starting to work on having a more positive attitude about more things and this fits right in. I am the more “frugal” one in the relationship and sometimes I have to stop and think about money from my husbands perspective as well.

  4. Lo says:

    What I like about the article is that the same principle applies to all the areas and not just the financial one.
    Whn i was in school and i couldn’t solve a difficult problem my mom always advised me to forget what I reasoned before and start a new page in the notebook.

  5. littlepitcher says:

    Trent, I look forward to your column each day and always learn something from it.

    Now, to your podcast. Can you please look through the eyes of the people who listen to podcasts while on the treadmill? The echo-chamber effect makes your voice difficult to be heard over the motor noise. Reducing echo and surface noise and projecting voice would be a blessing and probably increase your downloads.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. janet says:

    Just wanted you to know that I really needed to read this today.



  7. Diana says:

    I’ve made some changes in my buying habits in the past few years that have helped me avoid the desire to buy things I really don’t need. My focus has been to put my urge to spend into things that will save me money along the way.
    My daughter bought me a Magic Jack. I kept my landline for about 4 months and just used the Magic Jack for long distance calls. It worked so well that I got rid of the landline about 6 months ago and am saving an average of $65.00 per month on phone bills. The Magic Jack cost $40 and included the first year’s service (local and nationwide); subsequent annual charges are only $19.95 or %59.95 (on a current offer) for 5 years. Most of the Internet phone companys charge about $25 or more per month.

    Since my kids all live in another state, and don’t have a Magic Jack yet, we all use the PTT feature on our cell phones through Boost Mobile. I bought a phone for my daughter on eBay last night for $19.50 including shipping, to replace her original phone that fell into the water and got ruined. It was the same make and model, but cost a couple hundred more. The Walkie Talkie works coast to coast and we can talk all we want for $1.00 for each day we use it. That includes talking to anyone with the same system on that same $1.00 (as opposed to $1.00 for each person. Another advantage is that since it can be used as both a regular cell phone or a W/T, we usually can get either radio or cell reception almost anywhere, even when there are “dead spots” in cell phone coverage in some rural areas. We do the pay as you go plan so we’re not stuck with monthly cell fees, too.
    My latest change is to get rid of my satellite TV service. I use DirecTV right now, and even after cutting it down to basic service, it still runs in excess of $42 per mo. I checked consumer reports to find out which Internet TV software package was the best. It showed that iSoftware.com was their first choice. As I understand it, the software sort of “collects” all the available programming off satellites, and organizes it to make Internet TV easier to use. The price they’re showing for the software is about $34.95. That’s it. No monthly fees. There are some drawbacks to it, I know…still can’t get everything I want, and sometimes episodes are old, but I can live with that to save $42 a month. I can even get hookups to connect my PC to my TV and watch it on that (but, actually my flat screen monitor is bigger than my TV, and nice, too), and get a remote so I can watch from favorite easy chair. I saw a package for both of these features for about $60, or as low as $20 for just the remote.
    Pet food: I just hate cutting out the canned dog and cat food. My pets love it. Instead, I’ve changed over to a higher premium dry food (Natural Balance low ingredient foods) and instead of giving them a 1/2 can of canned food, I just give them each 1 tablespoon that I mix with a little warm water to make a nice gravy and mix that in with the dry food. They’re healthier and it’s costing me much less.
    Oh, yes…and I’ve been making all my laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid myself. Thanks Trent. It’s saving me plenty over the past several months.
    These are just of few of the changes that don’t hurt. I actually feel extravagant when I buy these things, and yet by doing it, I’m saving a lot of money. Finally, I’ve started an emergency fund – something I just couldn’t seem to do after paying my expenses before.
    The future just keeps getting brighter and brighter.

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