You're broke because you root for the underdog? That's quite a powerful assumption to make but it may actually be true. That statement serves two purposes – to get you to start thinking about money differently and to motivate you to make a positive change.
The S.W.A.T. Underdog In A Nutshell
Recently I have been watching a TV series called “S.W.A.T.” (2017 CBS T.V. Series) about a tactical team based out of Los Angeles, California. You may be surprised to learn that as a police officer myself, I usually avoid watching “cop shows.” Cops usually hate “cop shows” because of the ridiculous unrealistic expectations portrayed in the scenes.
**Warning – Quick Soap Box Moment**
If you have ever watched CSI, you know what I'm talking about. In a one-hour time frame, the cops can collect fingerprints and DNA from a crime scene and the lab will analyze them in about 10 minutes. The suspect is identified, the good guys catch the bad guy, and the case is closed.
Most of us hate that show because the general public now actually believes that if I collect blood from a scene, our lab will get back to us that day. In reality, if I submit blood to the lab for DNA analysis, I am lucky if I get a response within the next year. It's painfully slow and our backlog is horrendous.
Sorry for that tangent – I'll get off my soapbox. Back to the point of this article.
As I watched the show S.W.A.T., I couldn't help but identify with one of the main characters – David “Deacon” Kay.
Deacon is a senior member of a SWAT team and he quickly establishes himself as the underdog. He was recently passed over for a promotion and has his fair share of ups and downs with his wife. Since he is the only officer who is married and has children, it's quite easy to initially identify with him.
When It Rains It Pours
In addition to workplace struggles, Deacon faces a myriad of life issues. His wife is hospitalized with seizures and his daughter is diagnosed with a heart condition. If that wasn't enough, he finds himself facing a major plumbing repair bill of about $14,000 dollars.
Deacon is thrust into a position many of us have faced. He has more bills than money which causes him to start picking up overtime and a side gig. Rather than rolling over and admitting defeat, Deacon does everything in his power to provide for his family.
He does everything except actually set his family up for financial success. Living paycheck to paycheck has put his family in a financial mess.
Even with this extra cash coming in, it is not enough to pay for the necessary heart surgery his daughter requires. Due to this, he makes a deal with a loan shark in order to get the money he desperately needs. As you can imagine, his life quickly begins to unravel. He is injured on duty and can no longer work overtime or his extra job which puts him in a bad position to pay back all his bills – and the loan shark.
Controlling Cops Suck With Money [and most other people do also]
As a police officer, I know all too well how the cop mentality works. We spend 40+ hours a week fixing everyone's problems. When we show up at a chaotic scene, we take control by any means necessary. If we don't take control of a violent situation, people get hurt.
The police profession is filled with type “A” personalities, yet most of us are terrible with our money. You would think that control freaks, [cops] would have a structured plan in place in every aspect of their lives. The truth is, many times the only structure a cop has is at work.
Perhaps the general public is in a similar situation. People spend all their time and energy at work and when they get home, they don't want to make any more decisions. They take control at work and don't have the energy to take control when they get home.
We Don't Expect To Win With Money – Why The Underdog Mentality Makes Us Losers
While Deacon's circumstances may be a bit extreme, he is very relatable. He faces insurmountable odds and we are sympathetic towards people like him. Often we are the “Deacon” in our own personal life. We want to succeed and win with money, but if we don't we are not surprised.
The world tells us that it's not our fault if we struggle financially and change may be out of our control. Our society constantly talks about the “Evil 1%” and how they control all the money. It's almost unrealistic for us to expect to get our finances in order and build wealth because the odds seem to be stacked against us.
The Underdog Is The Natural Loser
This is where the underdog mentality comes into play. If we self identify with the underdog, we feel that we are up against insurmountable odds and if we beat them great, but if not, there was nothing we could do about it.
The underdog is someone who is never actually expected to win. That is why it's so great to root for them. Unexpected results are exciting compared to the status quo of daily life. However, when the underdog actually wins, the unexpected result naturally makes us happy.
“Schadenfreude” Keeps You Broke
“Schadenfreude” is a new word I learned for this article. Don't ask me to pronounce it because I would probably get it wrong but it is an interesting concept. Schadenfreude is a concept that means we secretly or unconsciously take pleasure in seeing others fail.
For instance, many people do not like the New England Patriot's NFL football team because they have won so many Superbowls. People root against them simply because they have won so often. If we look at this phenomenon from a financial point of view, we can often sabotage ourselves by being envious of others.
Rather than celebrating with those who have financial success, we can find ourselves secretly envious and wishing we were the successful ones rather than them. As bad as it sounds, we don't always feel bad when rich people end up broke.
Instead of learning from other's successes and finding ways to emulate them and to improve on what they are doing, we tend to hope for their failure. It's the mentality of dragging others down with us rather than climbing to the top with them.
Changing Our Financial Mindset To Finally Achieve Success
Without going into the controversies with the team, the Patriots constantly win because they have set themselves up for success. They recruit some of the best players and the team plays to win. The Patriots focus on what works and ignore what doesn't. Each member of the team expect to win and they are convinced they will be successful.
The team constantly reviews footage of prior games and they focus on what worked in a particular game. They build upon their successes and try to improve on what worked in the past.
Often the teams that are constantly losing review their video and focus on what they did wrong. While their intentions are good, focusing on what you are doing wrong doesn't open many doors to improve on what you are doing right.
Focus On What You Want In Order To Get It
Your focus has a tremendous impact on what you will achieve in this life. Years ago I went through bicycle training and I learned many life skills through it. When you ride a bike on an off-road trail, your focus determines your direction.
As you ride, there are cliffs, rocks, and other hazardous items in your way. If you stare at any one of these hazards and tell yourself to avoid it, you more than likely will run right into the rock. If you look straight ahead while you are turning, you will never make the turn – you will keep going where you are focused.
To be successful when riding a bicycle, you have to look through the turn. You stay focused on where you want to go rather than where you are. By starting a turn and looking way ahead at where you want to end up, you can successfully make a difficult maneuver.
Focus On Your Goals And See Yourself Achieving Them
This is so incredibly true in our financial lives. If we look straight ahead and do not clearly see the picture of where we want to end up, we can continually end up off track. If you look towards your end goal and stay focused on what you want to achieve, you can often avoid the majority of the obstacles.
You Are Not The Underdog – Identify With The Success Story
I encourage you to change your focus from an underdog mentality. Convince yourself that you are not destined to fail. Your success should not be viewed as an unexpected miracle. Give yourself the tools to be financially successful and believe in yourself. Make yourself the New England Patriots of your finances.
Make the best playbook to get out of debt and how to build wealth. Recruit the best people to cheer you on and focus on what is working with your money rather than what is not. Rather than beating yourself up about overspending in a certain area and focusing on what you screwed up, look at the areas you were successful in. Focus on your successes and figure out what you can do to duplicate that success to the rest of your finances.
What Deacon Should Have Done
To tie this back into Deacon's predicament, let's focus on structure. We all know that life happens, and it happens when we least expect it. By setting up a personal finance structure in our life, we can actually be lazy with money because our choices are made up for us. Deacon should have followed this personal finance structure to set his family up for success rather than failure:
- Build a Budget
- Save $1,500 – $2,000 For Emergencies
- Attack His Debt
- Have Cash Reserves For 6 Months Of Expenses
- Invest 18% Of His Money For Retirement
- Paid Off His Mortgage
- Built Incredible Wealth
What Works For Me And How I Move Forward
I have built a system to set me up for financial success and I encourage you to do the same. If you have not yet created a budget for yourself, I have some great resources and tips including free budget printables to get you started. Check out my related article: It’s Time To Budget Like A Boss! for a step by step process and your free resources.
It's time to change your focus and your finances, my friends. You are no longer the underdog who is not expected to win. From this day forward, set your focus on what works for others and how you can emulate their success. Build a game plan that will work for your situation and equip yourself with the tools to ensure your success.
You do not need to live a life burdened by debt. It's time you broke free from those chains and become the expected success story. I have complete faith in you that you can do this – I just need you to believe in yourself!
Ryan Luke is a father of three, a husband, a finance blogger, and a full-time police officer. Through proper budgeting and money management, they have been able to live off one income and build wealth at the same time. As an active member of the personal finance community, his goal is to educate and help people get out of debt and build wealth! Come join him in an active conversation about all the best personal finance information available at ArrestYourDebt.com!