Train for Your Financial Home Run
Growing up, I was a pretty good baseball player. I was a four-tool player (five-tool players are the most sought after). I could throw, hit for average, run fast, and field well. The only tool I didn’t possess was hitting for power (this was probably a result of weighing 130 pounds as a high school Junior). As a boy, it was my dream to play in the big leagues. But it wasn’t meant to be. By the time I was 16 I had thrown too many pitches and ruined my right arm.
I used to wonder if I could have played professionally. Now in my 30s I realize I probably wouldn’t have played professionally even if I hadn’t been injured. I don’t believe I would have had the discipline to train enough to become a professional player. I certainly tried hard, but that was where I maxed out.
In light of that, I’ve been thinking about something for a while now, and I don’t believe it’s an original thought. I’ve noticed how people often tell me how they “try” to do better with their finances yet can never seem to get it together. Their “injury” can be a variety of things (medical bills; debt; lack of education; etc.). Then there are others who understand that it’s not just about trying; it’s about training. In youth athletics, the important thing is to “do your best” or to “try hard.” That works when you’re playing for fun, but when you are playing for keeps, you must train.
The Apostle Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 27:
Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
I love how Paul uses athletics to make his point. Athletics were familiar to Paul’s audience. Corinth was the site of the Isthmian Games, second only to the Olympics in distinction in Ancient Greece. Paul himself may have been in Corinth during the games of A.D. 51 and according to New Testament scholar Gordon Fee, may have even made tents for the visitors and contestants needing accommodations. In this verse, Paul is speaking specifically about spiritual training; however, I think this is easily applicable to our finances since how we handle money is often a great indicator of what we value.
Paul couldn’t imagine a competitor striving for the crown simply by “trying.” More often than not, financial struggles are not a result of a failure to try. Financial struggles are a result of a failure to train. However, if you want to make it to the highest level, you have to train. Olympic athletes train for many years to become the best.
Respecting the distinction between training and merely trying is the key to transforming your finances. People often look for the easy way to financial freedom. People often think that doing the necessary things to get their finances in order (keeping a budget, spending less than they make, being generous, and saving money) is too hard. They think this is doing things the hard way. In reality, the “hard way” is failing to train themselves in the area of finances.
So how do you train yourself in the area of finances? You read about money. You attend seminars on how to handle money. You take a finance course at a local college. The more you learn about money, the easier it is to manage. Remember, if you don’t control your money, it will control you. But training goes beyond simply acquiring knowledge. Training includes dedicating your finances to God and asking Him what He would have you do.
Training is not about finding a quick fix for your finances. It’s also not about a get-rich-quick scheme that requires no effort or risk. I would call that simply “trying,” and since we don’t want to simply “try,” we need to do things that require serious effort. What I’m talking about here is a long-term modification to your behavior. You will develop a different way to view money. You will set financial goals with more emphasis on debt elimination and savings as opposed to buying more things.
Blaine Harris, in his book The Four Laws of Debt Free Prosperity, writes this: “The sad truth is those who spurn money, and resist learning how to use it, often end up spending more time worrying about it than those who took the time early on to master the principles involved in acquiring, keeping, and managing money. The people who understand money spend it on assets that generate wealth. Those who don’t understand money spend it on things that consume wealth, and thus the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
All too often, I meet people who continue to get poorer, and it’s not for a lack of trying. It’s for a lack of training.