The Steak Dinner & A Lesson In Courage

I know what you’re thinking. What in all of the hell could that title possibly mean? I know, I know. What’s crazy about the story I am about to share is that it happened almost 5 back and I just finally picked the lesson out of it 2 weeks ago. Isn’t it insane how our minds work? What I actually mean is, isn’t it insane how our minds work once we learn to reflect?

Here’s how it all went down:

My first job out of college was in a factory, as a production supervisor overseeing all of the employees who run the lines. It was a hard role for a few reasons.

  1. I had no idea how to manage people, what motivated them, what they hated, how to read the team, etc. (5 years later and the only thing I have learned about managing a team is that it is difficult)
  2. The factory was in commissioning which means that the lines were brand new and we were just learning how to run them.
  3. I was literally just months out of college and I didn’t even know who I was let alone how to conduct myself properly to get the outcome I wanted (Still working on this by the way)

Just picture this: 22 year old who barely knows how to keep the peace leading a team of approx 40 people who are still unfamiliar with the lines they are trying to work. Overall, it was just a recipe for a bad time and saying morale was low was probably the understatement of the decade. In an effort to combat the low morale and increase productivity, our manager put out a challenge. The challenge basically boiled down to whichever shift can hit a specific line efficiency percentage would get a steak dinner for everyone on the shift.

Weeks went by and no one even got close. Until one night, things were actually going right for us. I remember being extremely on edge and suspicious of what was happening because I had never seen all the lines run at the same time. There was always at least 1 line down at any given point in the night. But, the team did it. They somehow managed to pull 40% efficiency out of their butt and they were all so happy. I had never seen them so fired up! They were walking off the shift stopping by my office to let me know how excited they were for the steak dinner, it was so awesome.

The next day for our team meeting with the department manager I said “We can’t wait for that steak dinner” when he asked for other business for the meeting agenda. He simply replied back “Yeah, no, that’s not going to happen”. I honestly had no idea what was happening and ended up replying back “What do you mean? that’s bullshit!” Again – remember I was 22 and just could not conduct myself properly but it really was bullshit. Now, I can’t stress enough how inappropriate his reply back to me was and if this ever happens to you guys at work, you should take a serious stand and this should be escalated. He said “I can’t believe you’re this f***king stupid”. I LOST it. Partially because I did not take well to the way he talked to me but mostly because I was SO disappointed for my team and I knew this was just the wrong move if we truly wanted to raise morale. But, he wasn’t budging and I just ended up feeling like absolute garbage. The worst part was, I had to look at my team and tell them it just wasn’t going to happen and I had no explanation for them.

I imagined the team being so disappointed in me for not being able to get this secured for them and I carried the burden of how much that would backslide all the progress we had made. Instead, the team was thanking me for standing up for them. I was so confused how they even found out what happened during the meeting. Turns out one of the team members that were in the room relayed it to the shift lead who worked with me and it spread from there. I was still so disappointed in the fact that they didn’t get the steak dinner that I missed the whole lesson here.

Courage does not feel good. Not always, at least. In this case I left the meeting defeated, disappointed and honestly enraged and frustrated. But, my team recognized my courage and appreciated me as a leader for it. I always thought that whenever I acted in a courageous way, it would feel amazing. I would have light coming out of me or a spotlight on me or something grand and heroic. But I felt like crap. Until I reflected on the situation and really thought about the fact that even though I didn’t recognize it at the time, this was a turning point for my team and I. This was when they started to trust me, this was when they truly felt like I was going to go to bat for them when I believed it was right.

Don’t be courageous because it will make you feel like a good person, or because you think it will end up working out positively for you in the end. Be courageous because it is the right thing to do. When it feels like it is you against the world, be courageous. When it feels like it will never get better, be courageous. When you feel like it will haunt you if you don’t, be courageous.

 

 

The New Year, and Those Damn Resolutions

Every year, it’s the same old story. We chalk the closing year up to a loss and resolve to make the next year a better one. I don’t think many of us do a very good job at looking back and giving ourselves enough credit for the year past. It’s extremely important to consciously do that or we begin to fixate on the bad.

Last year I made many resolutions, and most I didn’t accomplish 100% but I know that I tried the best that I can. I didn’t save up the amount of money I wanted but I saved money, while managing to visit 3 new countries and 4 states. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to but I read 10 different books, that’s 10 worlds I got lost in! I paid off my car and for the very first time completed a full round of a fitness program!! Looking back and giving myself credit for everything I’ve accomplished is an accomplishment in itself. I’m such an overachiever in every aspect of my life so I constantly feel like I’m failing. But one of the biggest things I learned this past year was the importance of being kind to myself. You are the only person that will be with you constantly for the rest of your life, don’t make an enemy of yourself and don’t make all the time you spend with yourself awful because you aren’t friends with you. Appreciate the good and work on the bad, one cannot exist without the other.

So I continue to set goals for myself. In this new year I want to travel more, I want to learn more, I want to read more and I want to grow more. I want to be healthy and I want to feel good. I’ve set actionable targets for all these goals but I will be sure to appreciate the journey to accomplishing them. You never know what a new year, month, week or day will bring. A wrench will be thrown into your plans for this new year but that’s the beauty of the life we live. It’s so much fun if you just enjoy the ride!

Tell SallieMae, Jesus Paid it All!

Student loans.

Those two words are the modern day equivalent of a witch hex. So many terrible connotations and bad feelings come intertwined with those two words.

The truth of the matter is, everyone has student loans now, so don’t take it as a personal attack or a weight that you have to bear on your own, just make a plan. When I graduated school, I owed north of $50,000. It seemed almost insurmountable. Every time I authorized my payments it wasn’t without a week’s worth of depression and thoughts of a million ways that money would have been better spent. It wasn’t until I started to look at this as a true challenge that I really start to make any headway with these cursed loans.

I started to read multiple online blogs that talked about strategies to pay off loans. There were a lot of overwhelming words in there that I had to do secondary research on and I would get all panicky and think I had no idea what I was doing and I was somehow getting duped into paying everything I was making into these loans. Totally irrational. So, let me bottom line it for you so you don’t get stuck in the same endless cycle that I did.

Every time you request a loan, it was most likely at a different interest rate. So, in my case, I would request a federal loan (which means it came through the government) and a private loan (which means it came through a credit agency) every semester. So after I graduated, I had 16 different child loans of the two larger parent loans I got with all different interest rates. Within these child loans you either have a fixed interest rate (which means you agreed on the interest rate based on the market when you requested the loan and it won’t change) or a variable interest rate (which means you agreed on the interest rate based on the market when you requested the loan but as the market fluctuates, so will your interest rate. Could go up, could go down)

In general follow the below guidelines when paying off loans:

  1. If you have both private and federal loans, try to pay the private loans off first. Usually the private loans have higher interest rates than the federal ones but the federal loans also have a bit more wiggle room if you find you are not able to make your payments, there are programs you can lean on.
  2. Pay off the variable interest rate loans first. Even though the variable rates are usually a bit lower than the fixed, the potential for them to sky rocket is pretty high. Yes, technically they can go down but if you’re not willing to hedge that bet (which the odds are stacked against you) then maybe just pay them off first and save yourself the constant panic.
  3. If you have two loans with the same interest rate but different principal (the amount you borrowed originally), pay off the higher principal first. This is just based off percents. If the principal is higher, the actual money you are paying in interest will be higher.

That’s it, plain and simple. Once you wade through all the fancy financial gymnastics and deliberate word play, that is the simple strategy that got me to pay off my loans in less than two and a half years.

Now, that is the financial side of it, but there is more to it. This is the part that makes all of us cringe: there will have to be sacrifices made. In order to pay off your loans without falling captive to the interest, you WILL have to pay more into your loans on a monthly basis than your monthly payment.

  1. Write down all your monthly expenses. Start with your fixed costs (the stuff you have to pay every month) rent, phone bill, utilities, car, insurance, etc. Then compare that to your monthly income. From there, work backwards what your extra spend should be. For example, Suzanne’s fixed costs are $2200 a month, she makes $3200 a month. Suzanne wants to put an extra $300 toward her loans on top of her fixed payment so she can spend $3200-$2200-$300=$700 on whatever she pleases.
  2. Concentrate these extra payments into one specific “child loan” following the priorities discussed above.

I moved to a different state for a year and was able to pay a good amount down but then I moved back in with my parents and funneled almost 60% of my paycheck into my loans. Now, not everyone has that luxury but whenever you find opportunities like that, you have to bite the bullet for a few months so you can set yourself up for a great future.

What really helped me was writing down my loans on a monthly basis. It’s like weight loss, it happens gradually and you won’t notice it unless you take progress pictures. Think of these monthly checkins as your progress pictures of your loans. It motivated me to really get at them. Any money I came into went right to my loans, bonuses, tax returns, Christmas gifts, etc.

It truly is worth it once you pay them off and realize the financial independence you have but you also set yourself into very good financial habits that you will continue to reap the benefits of well after you pay off those irritating loans!

We Wanted to Be Adults So Bad, Now Look at Us!

Trying to complete a puzzle with out the picture on the box is a daunting task. The task is clear but how to go about it is not. Life is very similar to this. We graduate college and are sent out into the real world without instructions or preparation.

When I graduated, my first job was halfway across the country. I had to figure things out that I had never come across before like how to look for an apartment, how much can I spend on rent, do I need to pay for a covered parking space, wait I have to get the gas and electricity turned on how the hell do I do that, what exactly is a 401k? Along with a million other questions. I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it, I was essentially just guessing at everything I did.

Two and a half years after signing a lease for my first apartment I still stumble on things from day to day that I honestly just don’t know how to handle. I wish I had a how to guide that I could just ctrl+f what I wanted to figure out. Adulting is SO hard and I want to make it a bit easier.

This blog is for all the twenty-somethings who are just trying to figure it all out. This is a one stop shop for everything I have had to learn on my own so far and so many things that I still want to learn. I want to seek things out that we’re all struggling with and find answers and I want to share those answers with everyone who is looking for them. Think of this as your adulting cheat sheet! One part instructions and facts that you are looking to find and the other part my take on the things I am experiencing and how I am trying to handle it all.

I am so very excited to start this journey and welcome anyone who identifies with anything they read on this blog. Please email me any subjects you would like me to research and write about or anything you feel like you might be the only person experiencing, I assure you, you will not be!