Have you ever watched the movie Hunt for Red October? It is one of my favorites of all time.
Early in the movie Captain Ramious during a gathering of his officers rather casually informs them that he has left a letter with the Soviet high command informing them of their plan to defect to the United States and turnover their high-tech submarine to the Americans. The officers are enraged as they know this will bring the entire Soviet fleet down on them in an effort to destroy the ship and prevent the defection.
His men are agast and ask the Captain why he sent the letter.
Next, Sean Connery in that famous accent of his tells the legend of Cortez and his arrival to the new world. As the story goes, in 1519 Cortez with 500 men and 11 ships traveled to the new world intending to conquer the mighty Aztec empire and capture their vast treasure.
Cortez knew this was going to be a great challenge for his men and decided to take action in a way that would ensure the complete engagement of his army.
He burned the boats
This left his men with no alternative other than to win or die. As Captain Ramious so eloquently frames it in the movie, this left his men “highly motivated”
Time to make a choice
Too seldom in our lives do we decide as Cortez did to throw away all fear and burn the boats. Instead, we let our self-doubt and focus on past failed attempts keep us from fully living life as it should be lived.
No turning back. No moving backward. A highly motivated battle forward to win the prize.
Pivoting my career three years ago was a burn the boats moment for me. I decided that the only way I was truly going move in a different path was to blaze a new one.
Even this change will only take me so far and I know that soon I will once again be presented with a choice to burn the boats or keep floating along.
Will I do it? Will I have the courage?
I like to think that I will.
What about you?
What part of your life do you need to burn so that you can leap forward to a better you?
Do you have the courage required to turn something that is holding you back to ashes?
The truth is that you will never break free from the now unless you find a way to leave yourself with no other choice.
In February 2014, we submitted our final payment for our final debt to pay off the house.
Years later, I find it hard to imagine ever having significant debt again.
We got close a couple of times while sitting at the car dealership considering a loan. I could hear, in my head, all the reasons why a low-interest loan was a better way to go. We could, after all, just write a check at any time for the cost of the car if needed.
No. We are not going to do it. We are not going to be beholden to anyone voluntarily for a debt.
There is mental freedom that comes with not owing anyone a payment. Instead, we pay ourselves by having a high savings rate and a conservative lifestyle.
This freedom made it possible for our son to go to college debt free.
This freedom allowed my wife to work part-time.
This freedom reduced my stress levels during times of change at work resulting in layoffs.
This freedom gave me the courage to do a career pivot, with a demotion, in 2020 to a new role with new challenges.
This freedom has put us on track for an abundant retirement life that will be absent of financial worries.
We are quietly the poster family for how someone with a modest income can live a life filled with joy, adventure, and financial security.
There was a time when I would evangelize to others around me about how easy it is to be debt free and to build wealth. Just some education, small sacrifices, and a forward-thinking view can lead to amazing results. The strategies easily found in books, podcasts, and youtube videos do work. All you have to do is take action and have patience.
Heck, I have a 20+ year spreadsheet to prove that keeping things simple works. What I have found is that most people will politely listen but very few will make changes. That indeed is why Dave Ramsey is so angry. It is not rocket science, it is simple math that even a guy like me that flunked algebra can figure out.
I remain positive and believe there is hope for everyone to find their own path to financial success and the mental freedom that comes with it.
Meanwhile, we will keep plugging along as we begin the transition from scarcity savers to a mindset of abundance. I am thankful for that moment in 2014 and will continue to honor our past by building our future.
Conner is 16 now and it seems lately I have been thinking more and more about his future. What kind of man will he be? How will he do in college? Will his dream of becoming a petroleum engineer come true? Will he go on to have a big house, nice car, and fat bank account?
That stuff is all well and good but the bottom line really is that I just want him to be a Godly man and happy person no matter what path he takes to get there. I also hope that he is blessed to find a great woman to be his wife and partner through life’s journey.
It is kind of surreal to think that his future wife is out there now. This week she will go to class, hang out with friends and I am sure spend a bunch of time texting. She is also daily making choices and developing relationship skills that will impact her and Conner’s future. The teen years are the most formative in determining who we become in the future.
Right now she is learning what it means to be part of a family. Her parents could be married, they could be divorced, they could be loving or they could be jerks. Either way, they are serving as her example.
Right now she is learning what it means to be a friend. Her circle could be supportive, they could be partiers, they could be bookworms, they could be a bunch of duds. Either way, these are the friends that will have the greatest long-term influence on her.
Right now she is learning what it means to be a girlfriend. Chances are she has a boyfriend, has had a boyfriend or wants a boyfriend. Either way, she most likely has in her heart an image of what it means to be in love and how the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship works.
This future Mrs. Copeland is unknown to me by name but God in his providence has already destined her to find Conner someday.
It is for this reason that I have begun to add Conner’s future wife to my prayers.
Not every day by any means but quite regularly I pray for her as if she is already part of the family. I pray for her success, her health, her choices, her relationships, and her love for God.
At home, I am also always cognitive that my life is the example for Conner as to how he will treat his Mrs. Copeland someday. Michelle and I are his examples much more by what we do as opposed to what we say.
It is important as parents that we realize every day that we are the model that will be followed.
Do you want your child to grow into a happy and God-centered marriage? Give them the best chance by living it yourself.
And while at it, why not go ahead and pray for the unknown to you yet a future family member.
I sincerely believe it will make a positive difference.
And to you future Mrs. Copeland
Someday in the future, we will talk on your wedding day. I can’t wait to hold your hand, look into your eyes and tell you that we have loved you and prayed for you long before you were even known to us. Even today I know you are amazing.
Imagine how you would feel if you had no debt obligation to anyone?
Imagine how you would feel if your savings and retirement were on a mathematical path that provides confidence that you will have a comfortable retirement starting at a time of your own choosing?
This is the reality for my family thanks, in no small part, to being debt-free.
Feb 23rd is our 100% debt-free anniversary. That was the day, in 2014, when we made the final payment on our house. I celebrate this day each year with a plea out to anyone willing to listen about the joys of debt-free living.
It is kind of amazing to think that we have now gone more than eight years with ZERO debt.
Life without debt obligations brings a sense of freedom that is hard to express. Having no debt opens doors to many things. It is the best step on the path to financial independence, it protects you from the blows of economic uncertainties, and it frees you from being held captive by the golden handcuffs of a job.
You are in control, not the world around you.
Here is my annual debt-free plea.
Get out of debt as quickly as you can!
I totally understand that a mortgage is hard to avoid so that is a longer game. As for car debt, credit card debt, and even new phone debt, these are 100% personal choice debts. You are making a choice with each of the decisions to giveaway a bit of yourself and put someone else in charge of your life.
Have a 3 to 6-month emergency fund
Just yesterday I saw an ad where a family has their car breakdown on the side of the road. The woman exclaims to the child in the car that she is not worried. She can get an emergency loan thanks to her credit score. The interest rate she was selecting was over 16%. Wait! What?
Cars break down. Pipes burst. Phones stop working. These are not real emergencies and instead are just part of life. Have good savings for the oh shit moments and you will be far less worried when they happen.
Save at a high rate
Best yet, make this saving automatic by sending a large percentage right to your 401K, IRA, or whatever is best for you. This is often referred to as paying yourself first. Don’t let having the money available tempt you into buying something stupid. Instead, keep it from ever hitting the wallet by sending it straight to savings.
Live below your means
Common sense and certainly not common practice when you consider the amount of credit card debt many people have. That $100 pair of jeans caught your eye? Well, if you have paid yourself first, have all your bills covered, and margin in the bank account that would allow you to pay for them. Go for it!
If you do not have money on hand. You can’t afford them and should not buy them.
Keep it simple
Day trading, 0 down house flipping, Beanie Baby saving, Enron stock buying, blockchain, crypto, next big thing whatevers are all well and good. I am sure, with these things, there are many that have made buckets of money and are very happy. The path for me has been the simple one with high quality, low cost, mutual funds.
Do the saving first and then use the leftover for speculative playing.
The number of resources available right in the palm of your hand thanks to youtube, podcasts and other resources just amaze me. Get obsessed. Soak in a wide range of opinions and then take action based on deep knowledge based on the success of others that are now where you want to be someday.
That is it! If you have made it to the end of this post then you are indeed a winner. Now, take action!
“I am a failure. I try to win but there are just too many barriers. It is better to not try as I always end up disappointed and heartbroken. Instead, I will live a small life, with small dreams, and I will blame the world around me for all my problems”
People with this inner voice suffer from a victim mindset. They see the supposedly perfect lives of those that have got everything in life handed to them. These lucky people have a life so easy. Good looks, great cars, big bank accounts, travel to exotic destinations, amazing jobs, and more.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media resources have amplified the opportunities to get minute-by-minute reminders of how much your life sucks relative to what seems to be the lives of the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, that same feed, along with your search suggestions, provides basket loads of evidence that the world is one messed up place with more doom on the way. This only serves to validate how you feel about your obvious failings.
Instead of using these images to spark motivation, these feelings are turned to anger and efforts to tear down others. It can be very easy to join in a party of negativity. It is kind of fun to release this anger from the safety of your phone. See someone living their best life and being positive? Be sure and lash out at the person so that they too know that actually, they suck because the world sucks.
Only by forcing the world around you to be smaller, can you in turn create a feeling of being taller. That is the classic mindset of the bully.
I had a bully growing up. His name was Carlos and in elementary as well as middle school, he would torture me with taunts about my weight and lack of athletic ability. I became so fearful of gym class that there were a few times that I made up fake notes from my mother to get out of having to go. It was dreadful to always be the last picked for the team and the first to get hit in the head or balls with the dodgeball.
I was joyful when I learned that joining the band would get me out of any future requirement to go to gym class. Whew, at least now the bullying would move to only lunch. The band turned out to be a terrific experience and I am very thankful as it saved me in a way.
Carlos is long gone but that bully voice still speaks to me at times even though I am now in my mid-50s. The bully voice pops in with reminders of my inadequacies as I strive to reach big vision goals for my future.
Time to lose some weight? The bully in my head says you will always be fat!
Proud of my debt-free life? The bully says, so what, an economic crash is coming and you will never have enough.
Signing up for a race? The bully says you are a to-be-picked last person, why bother.
Writing a new blog post? There will be at least one typo or grammar error that you will find later. Post with errors and people will think you are stupid.
The voice goes on and on.
Yes, I still hear it from time to time. The good news is that I have identified my voice and even though it speaks to me, I know it is not in control. I know that I actually live a life of great success that is just a glimpse of even better things to come. I am not in competition with others. I only compete with the me of today as I strive to be a better me tomorrow.
Who is your bully? Do you have that secret voice inside of you that tries to pull you down?
Middle school playground kid that taunted you? A parent that put you down and said you were worthless? Former, or current, spouse that devalues your worth? Religious leader that filled you with guilt.
Who or whatever is your inner bully
Recognize it. Name it. Embrace it. Then resolve to bully it back. You are in control, not the world around you, and certainly not that meaningless negative voice(s) inside of you.
In Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG), Paul writes, “I’d say you’ll do your best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things to curse”.
The best way to mute the bully is to take Paul’s advice. People on Facebook got you angry? Easy, get rid of Facebook. Tired of the pretty people on the Gram making you feel bad about not owning a Tesla, stop the scroll.
You know this. You know that your life will go where your mind and spirit have their focus. It is a universal truth. Want a new life? Direct the mind differently and follow that with action.
Perhaps it is time for you to shed everything around you that is trying to make you smaller. Call it the great purge if you will. Easy will be the redirecting of what you see on the phone and on the TV. Hard will be the choice to eliminate some people from your life.
Voids are called to be filled. Create a rise in your life by filling that hole with goodness. Good media, good health, good friends, and good times. Know that you are a unique masterpiece with many positive things left to give the world. You can win. It starts with being willing to fight. Forget you bully! I am calling the shots around here!
Are you ready? Victim or Victor? The choice is yours to make. Today!
“The purpose of a goal is not to achieve said goal. The purpose of the goal is to turn you into the type of person that could who could achieve that goal” –Jeff Woods
For many years I have spent a few hours over the course of the last week of December to jot down my goals and think deeply about what I want to accomplish. More so, I think of my life in the present and the life I desire in the future.
This is the root of the whole “davidnprogress” thing. I know that I am never finished and no matter where I am in the now there is hope for change in the next.
More than just goals
These are not set and forget goals. They have been a part of me for so long that they are ingrained as my value system. I view them often as the weeks and months go by and before writing for the next year, I add notes regarding my results for the current year as a review of my effectiveness.
The first goal document I have is from 2005 and I have goals from every year since that date.
Looking over them today, it is almost journal-like as I can see a picture of where I was in life at the time. Some years have been full of triumphs. Like for example the year(s) where I actually lost weight. (Yea for 2011, 2014 and 2017) And then there are those years where I felt like I had amazing outcomes at work. Finally, there are the years of wonderful family-impacting events, adventures, financial milestones, and parenting moments.
There are also years where I can tell that I had lost focus. I see no result notes and just know that for whatever reason, my motivation on progression just did not happen.
What about you?
Are you a goal setter? A dreamer? Someone in progress?
I hope that you are. I hope that you look in the mirror often and think about who you are now, who you were yesterday, and who you plan to be tomorrow. As you think, I especially hope that no matter what you see there is also a smile knowing that life is good and it is only getting better.
Not a goal setter? Perhaps now is your moment to start the journey.
Time is going to move no matter what actions you take. I promise this time will be better if you are engaged, chisel in hand, to craft yourself into the best you. The you that God gave you the potential to be. It is never too late.
Michelangelo is quoted as saying, “I created a vision of David in my mind and simply carved away everything that was not David”
Perhaps 2022 is the year to start shedding all that is really not you. Are you ready?
My goal setting template
Here is the format I have evolved to be my goal template to be over the years.
My one word. This is a word that I use to brand my focus for the year. My word for 2022–Persist
My affirmation. This is actually pretty new and something I added as almost a mantra. There have been many times where I start my day by repeating this a few times: I am positive, I am passionate, I am persistent. I make a difference for others.
Next, are the goals and I have these in categories to reflect the whole me that I want to impact. Ideally, your goals are SMARTER. That is, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timebound, exciting, and rewarding. The more detailed your goal, the more likely you are to follow through with your plan.
Here are the categories I use and under each category, I have at least one goal.
Yes, seven categories of goals with specifics under each is a lot.
If, for your first year of doing this it seems overwhelming, then just pick a couple of key categories and start digging deep. Even with just two of these committed to in writing you will be light years ahead of other people.
The last two years have brought tremendous challenges and yet you have made it through. Now is your opportunity to look into 2022 and make it your best year ever.
It has been quite a bit of time since I have regularly posted here and I have some catching up to do for sure. Here is how I have landed where I am in life now.
I had started my goals for 2020 very early into 2019. There was zero doubt in my mind that it was to be a special year with the son graduating college, celebrating our 25 year wedding anniversary with a dream trip, and the potential for a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.
I personally branded the year as vision 2020 knowing many of the goals I had in motion were progressing to come true.
Kind of out of nowhere, one day in December 2019, I got a call from a person asking if I would be interested in applying for an open position in HR. This was a change I had thought about for quite some time and had prepared for by getting a Senior Level HR certification and through my experience in my role as a Training Manager.
With the still in question Sprint/T-Mobile merger on the horizon and the Sprint history with layoffs the norm, doing a career pivot to a high in demand job seemed like a good move. After all, my reasoning went, if I were to need to find a new job the HR role would add to my marketability.
A risk? Sure it was.
David as a risk-taker?
I had lived a path of the known for the last many years of my career and with the financial weight of the son’s college in the mirror, it was a good time to step into bold.
I had received external job offers over the past few years but had never had the courage to make the change. This was not a move to a new company but instead was a career pivot to a new role. It was also a demotion with a decrease in pay as I was moving from a manager role to an individual contributor. On paper, the new job would be a step back from where I was.
I took the mindset that this was to be a pivot. A step to the side into a new lane so that I could move forward in a different direction.
I applied, got the offer, and said yes!
I have to admit that the months that came next were among the most stressful of my working career which was, in some ways, exactly what I was going for. Digging deep into the new role, floated through several different teams, and did my best to rapidly learn while making sure to project a personal brand of confidence.
Move to a new career in HR right at the start of a pandemic, a merger, social change, and economic uncertainty? Sure, why not!
From my start in March of 2020, through the summer of the pandemic, merger, and changes I experienced many what was I thinking moments.
Now here I am with 2020 gone and 2021 soon to pass as well. Looking back, I am so very thankful that I had the personal courage to step out of my comfort zone and take the pivot risk.
I have found a new sense of joy in my new role and with my new organization. Key in part is that my core work vision regarding being of service to others has not changed. I am doing who I am but just in a different way.
There is an extreme sense of motivation when you recognize you are doing something as the result of your own choice. There are no negatives that I can blame on anyone other than myself and no positives either.
I realize now that this truth applies to every part of our lives. Everything is a choice and you can be a victim of these choices or you can grind them into your own positive expectations to turn into victories.
Now with the new flip of the calendar almost here, it is once again that magical opportunity to choose.
Today is an exciting milestone anniversary for us. It was on this day seven years ago that we paid off our house to make us 100% debt free. It was a long time target to be debt free when our son turned 16 knowing there were many big expenses to come.
In the last seven years, there have been the expected expenses of college and life. There were also other less expected but still large expenses that included new heat, A/C, and also new windows for the house. A car accident resulted in the need for a replacement car around this time a year ago.
Heck, this week, we have joined the many others in our area experiencing leaky pipes due to the record cold winter storm.
As I write this, I am just a few feet away from a tub of water I am using to refill the toilet since we have no running water. It will be a few days before we will know the exact damage and cost of the repair. Stressful? Yes but way less than if we also had a mountain of debt to add to our worries.
No debt + a high savings rate = freedom, peace of mind, and preparedness for when the unexpected comes along.
Was it hard to hold strong to get out of debt and then to stay out?
I will admit that the temptation to finance the car was compelling given the low interest rates at the time. The car dealership finance guy gave us a bit of a hard time saying he never understood why people pay cash when they could make more with money in the stock market.
We thought about it but just could not do it. Just weeks later, the stock market had one of the largest drops in history, the nation fell deep into the pandemic and suddenly it looked like jobs were in great jeopardy.
I personally just can not imagine the additional stress that a pile of debt would have provided during all of these “unprecedented” and “historic” events.
It truly is my hope that the crisis that was 2020 and is in progress still for 2021 will be a wake up call for many. If these times do not create a line in the sand-no more, moment then I do not know what it will take.
If you are in debt, get a solid emergency fund in place and then go crazy to get rid of it as fast as you can. You will sleep better at night for sure and then soon will be well on your way to secure your financial future.
This week was yet another historic moment for our country as a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in what in essence was an attempted coup to keep the electoral college from certifying Biden as President. Five people died during the incident and there were many injuries to the police. There was even a Confederate flag brought into the house chambers and there were KKK flags at the demonstration.
It saddens me that our country has sunk so low. Positive conflict and compromise is a wonderful thing and part of what has made our country so great and different.
We no longer seem to have the capacity for E Pluribus Unum.
We can have opinions. We can disagree. We can be passionate. The grinding of conflicting ideas is very important to progress. However, at the end of all of this were all one wonderful thing–Americans.
Somehow this has been lost by a large number of our citizens that have seemed to have joined the cult of always right. Too many people have moved to an FU culture where if you do not believe as I believe then FU.
If you do not look as I look then–FU
If your religion or lack thereof is not mine then–FU
If your personal lifestyle does not reflect mine then–FU
If the person you voted for is not my person then–FU
It goes on and on and on. I see this and I think of all the immigrants, the tired and shattered, that have come to this country over 200+ years to escape the FU and instead find a path to freedom.
Too many people have grown so hard-hearted and selfish that they are completely unwilling to accept anything that is contrary to exactly what they see as the truth. We have millions of two-year-olds that have lost all emotional intelligence and the ability to really understand the difference between facts and opinions. “It is okay for me to do this because they are worse than me”. “Because they did this, I am going to do that”
Even my own US Senator and Congressperson participated by refusing to certify the election. Not because there were any actual facts to support the issue. The Supreme Court, law suits, U.S Attorney General, State Attorney General’s and more had agreed there was no evidence and instead there were mostly rumors. Really, they were afraid of the FU and the impact that working from the truth would have to their own reputation among the FU crowd.
As a result, they will have to live with blood on their hands and history on their conscience knowing they served to encourage what happened on that terrible day.
Those folks with the flags storming the capital in pursuit of a coup attempt were all strangers to me just as we’re the people that decided to loot businesses and pull down historical monuments during the riots over the summer.
Not strangers to me have been many folks I know on both sides that have seemed filled with hate and vileness towards people that in the past would have been friends with different opinions.
Can we heal? Honestly, I am not really all that sure. Try to speak subjectively with people on the far either side and most likely you not find find any openness to listen.
My person is right, the other person is wrong and that is not going to change no matter what. FU
Well for me, I am going to continue to love and support as I believe the Lord would want me to do. I am going to do my duty, as a citizen, as I believe our founders would want me to. I am going to support openness as the millions that have come here for the dream would want me to. I am going to do my best to live in my own very small world with honesty, civility, and objectiveness.
Perhaps someday we will come out of this winter that is our world. In the meantime.
Today is our 25 year wedding anniversary. I know this is traditionally referred to as the silver anniversary which I think is intended to be a reference to the type of gift that is expected to be exchanged but in my case, I think it may be more of a reference to what is happening to my hair.
Since we happen to live in a state with one of the highest divorce rates in the country, this is quite an accomplishment. The truth is that we have never seen it that way as our life together is pretty good and our circle of friends all seems to have stable, long term marriages.
I was 28 when we were married and had met Michelle through a mutual friend blind date just a couple of years earlier. The path to our coming together seemed long at that time as I had come to wonder if I would ever find “the one”.
We found each other and have been happy ever since. Have there been challenges? Of course, as they are part of life. Nonetheless, we have faced them together as full partners with never a thought about not getting through whatever has come at us. That is what great teams and great relationships do. They find a way to joy even in the darkest of times as it is the wind and storms that make roots strong.
We are thankful for our family, our health, our past and the possibility of what awaits in the future. I am thankful for the enthusiastic, smiling, giving, and beautiful woman that has put up with my shenanigans for all these years. I am thankful to the Lord for making me wait for that blind date to meet the person that would become the rest of me.
The years of gone by quickly and now we look forward to retiring and filling our lives with even more adventure, fun and service to others.
Marriage to many is considered to be a risky thing. Meet the right person, share common goals, and treat your lives as a singular endeavor and you will win.