Paying the Price

By Scott Westerman
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“If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”

Lose weight without dieting! You, too, can live like a millionaire! Free muscles, fast! Get an MBA without going to class!

Everyday we are bombarded by messages like these. They reinforce the false assumption that rewards don’t involve sacrifice.

This idea has been so ingrained in our psyches that we have forgotten the most fundamental fact of life: You get what you pay for.

The California Board of Prisons recently released a report stating that they expect the majority of incoming adult prisoners to have a 4th grade education. Study after study suggests that kids with better educations are more likely to do better in life. Everything from the crime rate to competitiveness hinges on the education we provide to our citizens.

Yet nobody want’s to pay the taxes necessary to ensure a world class educational experience for all.

We decry the potholes that blow out our tires and cost us hundreds in automotive repairs, but few politicians would dare float the notion of raising taxes to improve our infrastructure. We want the benefits but are unwilling to pay the price.

Jonathan Fields wrote a searing piece about this called “Everyone Wants Better, No One Wants Change”. He says, “Everyone wants to own the result, nobody wants to own the process. Especially when it involves change or disruption to the patterns around which they’ve grown accustomed.”

How true. Well guess what? Change is happening, with or without us. We can make the decision to remain the preeminent force that creates the lives we want, or someone else will define it without us.

So engage. Understand what it really costs to sustain the lifestyle legacy you want for your children and be willing to pay the price. That doesn’t just mean dollars, it means stretching your mind, developing tomorrow’s skills today, partnering with your kids’ teachers to help make sure lessons are learned, making your voice heard in the political process, taking personal responsibility for causing your own effects.

Life is not a game we can watch from the bench. From the moment our brains develop the ability to consciously make choices, we’re quarterbacking our own team.

Positive outcomes are the result of a habitual set of positive behaviors. This is especially true in uncertain times. Assess, act and repeat. That’s how guided missiles find their targets. The winds change. They adjust and continue. The target moves. They adjust and continue. We’re all guided missiles. Those who don’t adjust will never get where they want to go.

Jonathan Fields, founder of “The Good Life Project“, tells of an entrepreneur who defined our greatest human weakness, “Maslow got it wrong. The fundamental need is not survival, but rather the need to not have to endure change.”

Seth Godin gives us the key to overcoming this weakness. In Lynchpin, he separates Resistance from Fear. Fear is an appropriate response to real danger. Resistance walks, talks and acts just like fear. But it’s different. It’s a force that is always trying to keep us in our imagined comfort zones. It stifles creativity, inovation and forward movement. Resistance hates change. And yet, our ability to adapt, to change is the single most important skill we can develop. Get good at it, and you won’t just survive, you’ll thrive.

“Better” doesn’t happen without change. Change doesn’t happen unless we’re willing to pay the price.