I've been watching ABC's Fat March for the last few weeks. The show is about a group of twelve severely overweight people who range from roughly 100-300 pounds overweight. The show documents the group as they walk over 500 miles through eleven states on the east coast from Boston to D.C.
In addition to getting a ton of exercise, losing lots of weight in a short period of time and learning to eat healthfully, there is a huge cash prize for completing all of the walking. The prize starts at $100,000 per contestant but decreases by $10,000 per contestant each time one of them leaves the march. At the end of each stage, the contestants have the option of voting off one member that they feel is dragging down the team, but they don't have to send anyone home. Only one team member has to choose to send someone home for that person to be forced to leave, which can create tension amongst team members. In order for anyone to get any money, all of the contestants who don't drop out or get voted off in earlier stages must complete the entire 500+ mile walk.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the show has been watching how some of the contestants sabotaged themselves both physically and financially while others did not.
One walker quit after walking a mere 8 miles over the course of two days even though she was not injured or physically disabled in any way (aside from being severely overweight), costing her teammates $10,000 each and herself $100,000.
One contestant was very strongly motivated by the cash prize and barely complained at all about the weeks of grueling physical activity. She was the first contestant to finish many of the walks.
One member considered sabotaging the entire group at the very end by not crossing the finish line because she was mad that they voted her friend of, saying "It would be pretty freakin' cool just to freakin' stick it to everybody!" Can you imagine cheating not only yourself, but five other people as well, out of $40,000 each just out of spite? I am sure that she is not the only person with this kind of self-defeating attitude towards money, but for someone who wouldn't sacrifice even $100 out of spite (me), this kind of thought process is mind boggling.
The show has given me some interesting insight into how so many people in this country who have the means to live comfortably end up perpetually broke or in debt. I believe that all of us let our emotions get in the way of making sound financial decisions, but some of us have learned to keep those emotions in check more than others--and yes, it is something that you have to learn. I still can't stop myself from thinking that all people who drive luxury cars are jerks even though I know it's wrong to make such generalizations.
T. Harv Eker, author of The Millionaire Mind, says that each of us has many of these negative attitudes about money running through our heads day in and day out whether we are aware of them or not, and that we need to overcome them to achieve wealth. The idea is that if you think that people who drive expensive cars are jerks, you're also thinking that having a lot of money makes you a jerk. Therefore, in order to avoid becoming a jerk, you should avoid having a lot of money. Or perhaps you're still able to accumulate wealth, but you constantly feel guilty about having nice things when other people are living in poverty. Ideas like these may sound far-fetched at first, but if you read the book, I think you'll find that you too hold many of these negative attitudes towards money.
Being financially successful takes more than a decent paycheck. To accumulate wealth, we must learn when it is appropriate to override our emotions so that we do not sabotage ourselves.
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