I’m a push it to the metal kind of guy. If I want to do something, I put in 150% effort. If I want to buy something, I want to have the best.
But this mentality has made it difficult to get ahead financially.
Benefits of High Passion
If I get excited about something, I want to pursue that with everything I have.
As far as my career is concerned, this has worked out very well. Everything I’ve learned has been self-taught through google and online articles. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I’ve consistently received raises and promotions.
I’ve also seen this passion come out in other ways. For example, I’m not a carpenter, but I managed to build five poker tables in the last 10-years. These weren’t just simple poker tables either. They had a birch wood racetrack, padded bumpers, and speed cloth. Just like what you would see in Vegas:
Speaking of poker, I can go from being very passive to extremely aggressive. It can work out well because people aren’t sure if I have the nuts or nothing at all.
When I want to do something special for someone, I go all out. Why would I want to give a $50 gift when a $500 gift will blow them away?
When I set a goal, whatever that goal is, I become hyper-motivated in reaching the target. I may not be the smartest guy around, but I refuse to fail from lack of effort or focus.
Focus and intensity become the driving force of my passion.
Passion equals excitement for me. It provides an adrenaline hit. I can overcome complex and challenging problems, and it feels fantastic when I reach my goals.
Taming the Passion Beast
Having a high passion has some downsides.
What if your car only had a turbo mode? You turned on your car, and you had to back up going 100mph and had to navigate your residential streets without brakes. This example is how my driven nature makes me feel sometimes.
It isn’t that I don’t like being passionate. It’s just that everything that I have become passionate about in the past hasn’t ultimately been beneficial for my family.
The perfect scenario is figuring out how I can “cage” my passion, and being intentional about when I let the passion beast out.
Exhausting my Energy
It can be exhausting letting my passions run my life. I’ll complete a goal, and then go on to the next goal with the same level of intensity.
The amount of energy I have and can give is limited.
When my passion beast comes out, and I’m filled with the adrenaline rush to pursue that idea, it feels like I can accomplish anything. But then when things settle down, I can easily experience severe burnout and exhaustion. Doing this a few times in succession can affect my health and emotional well being. This deplession can lead to sleepless nights, high anxiety, and moodiness.
And sometimes my passion projects leave me feeling empty. And this feeling isn’t always from being burned out, but what I was pursuing didn’t live up to the high expectations I set for that pursuit.
Our energy output is a finite resource. I need to be mindful in how I’m spending my energy, and direct it to what matters most.
This intense passion showed up in my finances in that I didn’t just have a “small” amount of debt. I estimate that over the last 15-years, we’ve paid off six-figures of credit card debt. Last year alone, we paid over $5,500 in credit card interest.
If you have read some of my past articles, you will have probably noticed that I often talk about large TV’s. I can quickly get excited about the latest TV technology. I spend hours upon hours researching how awesome something is. And then I justify why it is worth going into credit card debt to attain that item. But most of the time, I end up regretting the purchase and realized how much more time it was going to take to pay everything off.
Amid this deep passion, I am well aware of what I am doing. But the consequences of these decisions is overshadowed by the intense feelings I experience in regards to what I want. This passion makes it easier to justify bad financial decisions, just as long as I attain what I think will make me happy.
My passion beast would end up showing up when we planned for vacations. This scenario usually plays out like this:
- Get excited about the thought of a future vacation
- Think about all the positive memories we would make together as a family
- Spend massive amounts of time researching different activities and locations
- Deciding that if we are going to do this, why not go for the most expensive options. Which includes the best hotels, locations, and extending our trip to take advantage of the experience.
- Over plan every aspect of the trip. Which includes the itinerary, and everything we “might” need on the trip. Putting together extensive packing lists and schedules.
- Figuring out how to justify and pay for the high cost of the trip
Granted, we always made awesome memories during these trips. And they were loads of fun. But these vacations came with hefty price tags. And they made it more difficult in getting out of debt and made our financial future foggy.
I’ve started wondering if always wanting the best is providing that much more of a benefit than cheaper alternatives. Does a $400/night hotel offer much more than a $200/night hotel room? Does the quality of the experience depend on having the best? At what point does paying a higher price for quality start to depreciate?
Taking Control of my Passion Beast
Whatever fuels the energy that drives the passion beast inside of me is ultimately a good thing. It comes out in how I deeply love Andrea and my kids. And my passion has produced some fantastic results.
My untethered passion beast needs a leash.
I need to be become more intentional on when I unleash my passion. I need to recognize that not every urge to unleash this dragon is a smart decision. It causes me to justify making stupid financial decisions that don’t add to our lives.
I’ve been trying to catch myself in the early phases of these feelings so that I can think about the effects it will cause on my life. These are a few questions I’ve started asking myself about any item or idea that I start to get excited about:
- Is this going to push us towards our financial goals?
- Will it improve the relationship I have with Andrea and my girls?
- After attaining this item/thing, will it leave me feeling regretful?
- Will my future self want to smack me for pursuing this? (see a pattern?)
- Can I reduce the cost and still get most of the benefits?
- Is the time commitment in pursuing this passion worth it?
If I can do this early, I can usually stop myself from making a stupid decision. It causes me to think about how I should spend my time to pursue our financial goals, and also reminds me about the things that matter the most to me. And just as important, I think about how I should use my available time.
For example, do we always need to get excessive with the vacations we take? Can we drastically cut costs and have just as much fun?
This new TV that came out, is it worth spending three months of savings? Will this TV provide that much better of an experience than what we already have to justify the extra cost?
Is watching massive amounts of TV adding to our lives? Could we be spending some of this extra time doing something more productive and beneficial?
I’ve noticed that asking these type of questions helps work through what is worth pursuing and how we should spend our money.
Passion for this Blog and our Financial Future
Over the last year, a deep desire has been growing inside of me.
This passion has come from being sick of the results of my bad financial decisions and feeling empty from how I’ve used my time and money. It isn’t that I want to become filthy rich, but I’ve worked hard to get to where I am at, and I spent most of that time spending more than we made and trying to play financial catch-up.
I’m sick of feeling like we always have to pay off massive amounts of credit card debt. I no longer want to wonder how we are going to cover a large unexpected expense, and realizing that we will have to go into more debt to handle the bill.
I know I am a generous person, but the massive debt burden made me feel like I would not be prioritizing my family unless we spent every extra penny on trying to become credit card debt free.
Do you know what I dream about? Being able to spend as much time as I want with my kids or grandkids. Spending a few months in a foreign country. Buying lavish gifts for my bride. Helping pay for my grandchildren’s college education. Funding causes we believe in.
Pursuing financial independence, while not sacrificing the present, has become my top priority.
And now it is time to be brutally honest.
After seeing how much damage my financial choices have caused my family, you know what I’ve learned? That I’m a selfish prick.
I could sugar coat this story and make myself out to be the hero. But what good would that do? If I didn’t say it, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be true. And the ironic thing about all of this is these decisions didn’t even make me happy. I was left feeling empty, depressed, and alone.
As I’ve written about my past before, a lot of my over-spending has stemmed from me wanting to drown out my insecurities by buying things that I thought would make me happy. This is not an excuse. But it is a way to process the “why” behind my behavior.
Realizing that I am a broken vessel is not about creating a pity party. I’m not looking for anyone to feel sorry for me. I’m learning that my future does not have to match my past. It’s about turning away from the path of destruction and doing my best to try to make things right.
My family needs me to step up. They have put their trust in me, and the best thing I can do is turn things around, even if I was the cause of most of the problems.
Reflecting on the Past
As I write this article, my heart is full of sadness and joy at the same time. I feel so bare and exposed writing these words. But I can already feel myself healing by getting my thoughts in writing.
I’m grateful for the family I have, and the intense passion I’ve been given. But I also feel the pain of my choices. I can’t undo or change the past, but I can change the decisions I am making today.
I’m going to use these feelings to direct my passion for the future of my family. My family deserves better. And I’ll be damned if I don’t give it my all.
Chris is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.