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Knowing Better vs. Doing Better

My first night in Chicago, I was awakened in the middle of the night and was immediately overwhelmed with the munchies. I made my way to the kitchen and eyed a container of Golden Oreos and in the fridge the bottom shelf was lined with cans of Ginger Ale (my parents' soda of choice). I reached for a can thinking, I can have a few sips and eat a cookie or two, brush my teeth and then go back to bed.

It was 4 in the morning.

I looked at the can, put it back on the shelf, sighed and grabbed a bottle of water instead.

I knew better and as a result, I did better.

Most people probably can't count how many times as a child they heard, "You know better." As as parent, I've listened to myself tell my son, "Meaning well and doing well are two different things."

But am I actually applying this train of thought to my own life?

As a man, a father and a husband there are many things that I want to accomplish. I want financial freedom from debt, I want a home for myself and my family, and I want to be able to live a spicy, spontaneous life with my life with no worries over bills, and looming/constant financial disasters always overheard or around the next corner. Things happen that none of us can control --- that's why this is called life. But if I can do as much as I can to steer clear of the bumps in the road, the better off I'll be.

Knowing better and doing better involves making tough choices.

When I bought my first property I had all these plans to furnish it. Then suddenly I remembered my father had to help me buy the place because I had no credit and frankly, I was broke. I made a tough choice: I moved in with an Aerobed, a folding tray, a borrowed folding chair, 2 skillets, 1 pot, a box of plastic forks, knives and spoons, paper plates, my laptop and a subscription to Netflix and a bunch of large storage bins for my clothes. No TV, no cable, no furniture, no nothing, and not a word to anyone but my lawyer, my parents and my now wife. The majority of my belongings, the stuff I had been dragging along with me since those first few stupid years after college I either gave or threw away. I did this for a year.

Doing better often involves delaying gratification.

My life was very quiet and oftentimes lonely. My lady refused to visit me at my place, and I didn't dare tell anyone else my austere living arrangements. At nights, after dinner, I settled down with my DVDs and my laptop (where I watched the movies) or sometimes I'd just listen to music. Most mornings I'd wake up with my back killing me. But the only bills I had were fixed expenses: mortgage, car insurance, and student loans.

Within a year I managed to clean up a significant portion of my credit card bills, I completely paid off a student loan, stashed a nice pile of cash away into a savings account and qualified (without help) for a home equity loan to renovate my place. I also found out along the way that I established an A+ credit rating. Something I wore like a badge of honor on my chest and still do to this day (although it's dropped a bit).

As a Christmas present to myself I bought a bed: mattress, frame and all (even the stupid extras you know you don't need) in cash, something I wouldn't have ever been able to do before.

I look back on those times and think about the times I face and realize in order to navigate them I need to draw on what I know to succeed (a little bit of divine strength never hurts either). For a while now I've been consumed with dread over how to get by, get ahead, etc. But most of this stuff is only as bad as your perspective on it. Just like buying a house with no credit and no money stopped being daunting once I began to truly sacrifice to make it happen.

I have a house to buy, a baby to put in preschool, a teenager to put through school, a wife to keep happy, and a personal sense of purpose to fulfill. By knowing better and doing better --- even if it makes me unpopular at times in my own house --- I know all of this can be done without too many tears.

How often do you do better when you know better?

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