A number of years ago Jerry scheduled a lunch of barbequed beef tacos at an old-time L.A. Mexican restaurant with his men’s group buddy, Nick. Normally this get together would have been all about good food and good fun. But on that particular beautiful Southern Californian day, Jerry wasn’t thinking about food, fun or the weather. He was panicking. Finances were getting tighter and he didn’t know what to do.
This scene is played out daily by men everywhere. We define ourselves so completely by our financial success, that when our business or personal fortunes shift, we can become completely unglued.
The difference for Jerry was that he had a very close relationship with Nick, and he knew to ask for help.
Jerry laid out what he believed to be the facts, his fears, and his dire analysis of his situation. Nick heard just one thing — little boy.
One of the benefits of being completely known and understood by another man is that, when you’re struggling, your buddy knows it and can often pull you back from the brink. It’s the reason why men’s groups are so valuable. For those men who don’t have these tight relationships with brothers, friends or mentors, groups allow men to create them, and to have that ongoing support.
Because Jerry was so convinced that he was completely screwed, he was expecting Nick to co-sign his fear and help him figure out a way to somehow escape his impending doom and make it all go away, like a kid. This is the sort of fanciful thinking we can succumb to when we’re out of our minds with fear and acting like a scared little boy.
What Nick delivered to Jerry was something quite different, and simple. Nick told Jerry that it was time for him to become financially mature. That meant he needed to go home, take a complete inventory of his finances, and come back to Nick in two days with a detailed spreadsheet and a plan.
Jerry had an assignment. But more importantly, Nick hammered him with the message that it was no longer acceptable for Jerry to let his fears rule him and keep him from being a strong man, husband and father. Nick kicked his ass.
Though Jerry was still worried and very much in his head, as he devised imaginary escape routes from his troubles (some of them very dark,) he went home and did what he had committed to do.
As Jerry covered his desk with his bank statements, long-term obligations, P&L, and investment documents, something quite extraordinary began to happen. He calmed down and shifted from being in the problem to being in the solution. That’s what taking action does for us. Until we choose to fix our problems, we allow ourselves to swim in their gory details until we sometimes drown.
The act of compiling, organizing and reviewing put Jerry back into his power and enabled him to start seeing more clearly. The numbers weren’t miraculously positive, but the reality was not as dire as his imagination had led him to believe. There was work to be done, but now his options were becoming clearer. He met again with Nick to fine-tune his short-term and long-term objectives and strategies. He was on his way toward solving his problem.
It is the little boy in us that allows us to fall victim to our fears, ego and stubbornness. When we choose to be grown up about our challenges, we face the facts, ask for help and move on. If you’re in a financial bind, or facing any other monumental challenge, your answer is the same as Jerry’s.
It’s very sad to hear stories of men who have allowed their businesses to fail, marriages to crumble, families to break up, and worse, all because they felt too isolated, embarrassed or afraid to ask for help and to make a plan to improve their situations.
Whatever your financial situation, there is a way out and a way up. You may not see it at the moment. But if you can find the courage to take responsibility, not just for causing the problem but for solving it, you’ll find that your newfound maturity will lead you to options that only a man can see.
Jerry was very fortunate to have had scheduled lunch with Nick that sunny day. Instead of continuing to flail in his misguided misery, Jerry got the help he needed, took the action his business and family required, and began his journey to becoming a financially mature man. At their next lunch meeting some months later, Jerry really enjoyed his tacos. It was a much better day, just as it will be for you when you commit to being financially mature.