Meet vulnerable Ninja…

May 12, 2010 · 15 comments

Humility. It’s definitely a quality I lack. In fact, I’m quasi-arrogant. No, I don’t go around telling people how great I think I am. But honestly, sometimes I think that to myself.

This rings especially true in my financial life. I’m always comparing myself to my peers. I don’t like being average. Wait, let me rephrase that. I HATE BEING AVERAGE. While I don’t think the desire to surpass mediocrity is necessarily a bad thing, I do believe it leads to pride. And pride, my friends, leads to arrogance. And arrogance leads to being a douche bag. And last time I checked, I don’t want to be a douche bag. I mean look at this guy and tell me he doesn’t scream “Douche”….

It’s not uncommon for me to measure my financial success by comparison.

It generally looks like this….

Do I make more money than most of my friends? Yup

Do I have a larger savings than most of my friends? Yup

Do I have more in retirement … ? Yup

Do I have less debt … ? Yup

Does that make me better than them? Yup

Wait. No. No, it doesn’t. There is nothing wrong with answering “Yup” to the first four questions, but when I answer “Yup” to the last one, I’m in definite need of a douche-bag-reality-check.

Do I make more money than most of my friends? Sure, but why does that make me better than them? Answer: It doesn’t. Being that I graduated from a small private college, I have quite a few friends that went to work in the non-profit sector. They get paid diddly squat (haha, the word diddly is funny). They may not make as much as I do. And they may not be able to afford some of the “luxuries” I can. But what they lack in income, they more than make up for in life experiences.

Yeah, I make $65,000 per year, but when was the last time I went to Africa in an effort to stop child soldiering like my friend Jed? Oh wait, that’s right. I haven’t. Maybe my income’s not so awesome after all.

Last night, I was reminded I’m not as great as I think I am. I need to stop using my peers as a metric to evaluate my level of success. It doesn’t matter how much THEY make, how much debt THEY have, or how much THEY save. All that truly matters is that I am doing the best I can, with what I got.

Okay I’m going to go rescue a puppy or donate a kidney or something :)

Do you ever struggle with pride?

How do you keep yourself humble?

Who inspires you the most (my guess is it’s not your friend that MAKES the most, but your friend that DOES the most)?


1 OnceARunner

I can relate a little bit (btw i dont like having to submit my email address, but i guess i will survive). I am the youngest in the immediate family (my bro being 2.5yrs older), I have always been better at sports (to the extent his coaches always wanted me to play up 2.5 yrs on his team), school, girls, money, jobs, etc. than my brother and at the risk of sounding arrogant have always been considered the golden boy by my family in general (immediate and extended). It has its advantages and pressures alike but I’m not sure I really like or agree with it…I mean I suppose I have done better or look better on paper than my brother, and other cousins, in life but that is only in relation to what American society as a whole values, which I don’t personally agree with. I am not as patient, kind, loving, or generous as my brother. I’m not as laid back and easy going, nor am I as friendly or compassionate. Not to say that I have NONE of these characteristics but my brother far outweighs me in these categories. I mean 9.9 times out of 10 I’m probably more physically attractive and will probably net more income than him (not to sound arrogant again but it is realistic) but to me these societal successes are so shallow in comparison and I truly do try to keep myself grounded when I get praise for the successes I have made (largely in part due to genetics rather than effort) and aspire to be more like my bigger bro…whether or not the rest of the fam and society as a whole recognizes his deeper contributions. Much like your monetary pride, I guess I can get caught up in societies hierarchy of importance as a whole and forget about what’s really important…although my brother wouldn’t directly seek to keep me grounded, his personality and natural persona help remind me that a fatty paycheck and strong jaw line aren’t the most significant contributions one can make in this life.

2 eemusings

He screams Jersey Shore to me (is that where he’s from??) which yes, = douche to the power of 10.

The only reason I might have to feel superior is that I’m more of a grown up – ie I don’t live at home, I work FT – unlike the rest of my friends. And it’s usually not a good thing!

3 PunchDebt

You’re right. He’s “The Situation” from the Jersey Shore

4 adkKitchenChemist

I have the same problem, kind of. I somehow lucked out and was able to get the job I wanted in the area I wanted. However I remain humble by remembering that it can be taken away at any moment and all I will be left with is me so I better make sure I like me. As far as my role model for being humble, that would be my father who is kind and genuine to every person he meets whether it be a millionaire or the housekeeping lady at a motel. I know so many people that are well off and are complete jerks to people they think are below them.

5 Everyday Tips and Thoughts

I grew up kinda poor, and I hated those kids that felt they were inherently better than anyone else because their parents made more money. As a matter of fact, I still hate them.

The person I admire is my Uncle. He is very well off, but not flashy about it. He is also the first person that will help someone in need, but he is also not a pushover. Nobody takes advantage of my Uncle. That is who I aspire to be like. Well, a female version of him…

You can gain perspective everywhere you look. There will always be people better off than you, and there will always be people worse off than you. (I have often wondered who that poor person is that truly does have it worse than anyone else. That would be an incredible bummer.) When I need an ego boost, I think about how much I have accomplished compared to some of my peers. When I need some motivation, I think of those more successful.

No matter how much money I ever have, I will always hold the door for others and say thank you to the waitresses.

By the way, I don’t think that guy in your post looks like a douche-bag at all! :)

6 Shauna

It feels like I’ve experienced nothing but humbling moments in the last two years… pride was definitely an issue beforehand. Pride stems from insecurity, though; it stems from a fundamental fear that we are lacking.

I look up to my grandmother. She gives and gives and gives (usually without judgment), never speaks ill of other people and does not worry about what’s in it for her. As a result, she is very happy and loved. If I have to be humbled every day for the rest of my life to get to that point, so be it!

7 Young Mogul

Wow….that picture of the child soldier is REALLY SOBERING, just wow! I think many of us don’t realize how lucky we are to NOT be born into a war torn country.

On the pride issue….I don’t think I have pride. I am better off financially than most in my family, but it is because I work the hardest and live frugally. I don’t brag or even tell anyone about what I have because I know I would get a lot of monetary request.

There is sort of a cycle of doing just enough to get by in my family. The reason why I work so hard and am frugal is because I saw, firsthand, how miserable a life is when you only make enough money to barely meet your bills. Also, I saw how humiliating it can be for an adult to have to ask another adult for money to pay for necessities. These memories are what keep me humble and my nose to the grind.

8 Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

You hit the nail on the head today. I’m 27 and constantly compare myself to my peers to make me feel good about my financial decisions. I also sometimes find myself thinking douche-like thoughts.

Usually, I don’t have to keep myself humble since life does it for me. I can’t help feeling like a douche when I catch myself being all peacocky…

I am most inspired by a conglomeration of characteristics, but I don’t know of any one person who has them. I want to be caring, friendly, helpful, level-headed, confident, and motivated.

I have caring, friendly, and helpful covered, but I am constantly struggling with level-headed, confident, and motivated…

9 Sandy L

Classic big fish in small pond syndrome.

After entering my first big pond (engineering school), I decided it’s better to be a medium fish in a big pond. So my jump into the working world landed me in a fortune 500. Way more opportunities to learn, grow, etc..and way more role models when you’re at a big school or company. It’s gotta suck if you’re surrounded by people who are aspiring to be like you. I mean, who do you learn from if you’re the best of the bunch.

10 Linda

We sponsor a child in Africa – its only $43/mth but her picture on my wall reminds me how good my life is. Whenever I get all bent out of shape because I can’t afford some new material item that someone else has I look at her photo and get a big fat reality check.

11 Girl Makes Cents

I have pride in how far I have come but I’m not arrogant about it at all. I still have a looooong way to go! But I don’t think I’ll ever become arrogant about it. I’m a pretty modest person and don’t like to brag.

What keeps me grounded is the way I was raised. We weren’t spoiled AT ALL. I think volunteering plays a part too. I think helping others in need is a GREAT way to know how lucky you are. Makes you feel really good too. :)

Another thing to make you feel grounded and lucky is to….watch the news. Some of those stories can make me tear up and remember how good we really have it.

12 zade

Great post! But I do have so say something thats probably not really related to your the topic…but it really bugs me! Reference to Africa without specifying where in Africa, while it may not be your intention, helps fuel the misconception of Africa as a country. There are 53+ countries from North to South to East to West Africa with various cultures, languages, and traditions.

haha…just saying!

13 PunchDebt

Never thought about it like this. The child soldiering that I referenced was in Uganda. If you click on the picture it takes you to a non-profit that helps prevent it.

14 Abigail

How about rescuing a kidney and donating a puppy? Much easier. You just have to drag someone from a bar. And if he has a dog, you’ve got a two-fer.

But seriously, I sort of have the inverse problem at times. I feel sorry for myself and my husband because it’s been a rough couple of years. We’ve been bailing out of debt from medical bills and health conditions caused us to not be able to work much. All the good stuff.

So I was sitting around, all “oh we have it so hard” trying to pay down debt on under $40,000 a year combined. Then I found out one of my readers is trying to stretch $20,000. For two people. Yeah. I felt like a douche for awhile after that. Granted, she lives in an area where it’s more feasible. But that’s still just not nearly enough. And they’re making it work. So it kind of startled me out of myself a bit. Always good.

15 Linda

If nothing else, buy you and yours a nice vacation in Cape Town and swing by the Kruger National Park- it’s a sight to see. Stop over in Sandton and buy yourself a nice handmade South Africa chess set. That should assuage your wish to do something for Africa. At $65,000 per annum, the with the dollar in your favour, I don’t see why not.

But seriously, I get what you’re saying. I have four organizations written into my monthy budget that I give to. My favourite of all being Remote Area Medical (ramusa.org). I believe that to whom much is given much is required. But I’m not held ransom by that.

Love your blog by the way and am always inspired by it.

Your South African in America reader.

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