75 comments

To Achieve Greatness, You Must First Acknowledge that You Suck

I’ve got some terrible news for the most dedicated Mr. Money Mustache fans. Those people who post grand praise on Twitter or the enthusiastic supporters who wrote all those positive comments at the bottom of the Freedom of Speech article.

I, Mr. Money Mustache, am not actually a particularly amazing man. In fact, I suck at many or even most things. Even in the area of early retirement, my primary superpower is simply my ability to Not Buy Things. Furthermore, even if there are certain things I do fairly well, there are thousands or millions of people around the world who do them much better.

Yet I’m not disappointed by all of the glum-sounding facts above. In fact, I’m downright excited about them. The fact that I’m still performing poorly relative to my potential as a human is actually one of my greatest motivators. And if you choose to allow it, it can be one of yours as well!

Let’s dig in and figure out why:

In our culture these days, there is an interesting type of cancer which affects a certain chunk of the population. The modern word for these people is “Haters”, and they’re the folks whose comments you see dominating any online news article about anyone who has done something interesting. A parent who found a new way to raise their kids, a formerly-overweight person who found a way to slim down to athletic proportions, or a person who dared to spend less than they earned and suggest it was a worthwhile thing for others to try. According to the haters, there’s always something seriously wrong with the person in the story… and yet miraculously there’s never anything wrong with the haters themselves.

But despite this uneven distribution of virtues and flaws, the people in the stories are always the ones who get the good results.

I have seen this pattern repeated with the many people I’ve met throughout my own life as well. As with any large sampling of people, there were some success stories and others with pretty serious problems or destructive habits.

But oddly enough, the people in the most trouble tend to be those who claim to have run their own lives nearly perfectly. They always have the very best excuses as to why things are not going their way.

“Man, I’ve really messed up my back, because I had to work so hard at the office and never got a chance to exercise. And now that my back is messed up, it’s even harder to exercise, which is causing me to gain weight really quickly. That messes up my back even further, and … ”

“These credit card companies are really ruining my credit. It all happened because my damned employer closed the company I was working in, right in the middle of a recession.   After that, I just went deeper into debt and nothing has gone my way.”

I’ve had conversations like this while the victims and I were in a seated position, consuming pizza and beer followed by sugary desserts. And yet the problem was still pinned on the oppressive workplace and the bad luck of ‘old age’ dishing out the lower back injury.

I’d like to suggest a different approach.

I’m not asking the haters and victims to jump up and instantly transform into muscular self-help gurus, ready to start writing books and set out on the public speaking circuit. I’m not even asking them to put down the pizza and start combing Craigslist for a good set of barbells. All I request, for now, is that they start acknowledging that they, just like me, currently suck.

“You know what? I’ve managed to mess up my back, because I played the mental self-denial game and let myself get weak and out of shape. I spent my days slouching in a chair at work, and I wasted my precious free time watching TV and drinking beer. I know that in order to maintain an injury-free back I should be doing 3 hours of walking each week, plus some stretching, weight exercises like deadlifts, and situps. I also know that if I eat pizza, apple pie, and beer, I’m going to gain weight very quickly no matter how much I exercise. But I pretended I was still fifteen years old and that my body would forgive me for treating it like crap.”

There. That was a mouthful, and it makes you sound like a loser. But all of a sudden, you’re no longer a victim. Suddenly, you’ve framed the problem entirely in terms of things you can control yourself, and thus you can finally make some progress towards solving your problem.

As it turns out, this change of mentality is essential to achieving greatness, or even making much progress, in any area of life.

Applying it to myself, I can see quite plainly that I still don’t look anything like Vin Diesel, I haven’t contributed nearly as much to reducing poverty in Africa as Bill Gates, and I haven’t even written as many articles here on Mr. Money Mustache as I would have liked to. But these sad shortcomings aren’t because of genetic deficiency, or lack of being in the right place at the right time, or being too busy with the demands of parenting.

While these factors could become the seeds of some pretty good excuses, the excuses won’t help me get ahead. So for all practical purposes, my shortcomings are simply because I have sucked, so far, and it’s quite obvious that I can do better in all areas.

The challenge then becomes the much more approachable (and even fun) task of figuring out how to do better. It’s a matter of figuring out how to increase your self-control and trick yourself into acquiring better habits – slowly but surely. It’s a matter of learning just a little bit each day, noting your mistakes and building on your successes. Without the fake excuse that the outside world is making you a victim, you’re finally free to move up in the world.

Next time you’re talking with friends about your various successes and failures in life, try an experiment. See if you can detect any symptoms of Excusitis, the Failure Disease in the conversation – both from their side of it and from yours. If you have friends who have achieved varying levels of success, see if the level of the disease varies.

If you get a chance, try expressing your hardships in a way that acknowledges the fact that you do, in fact, suck. You’ll probably find that your partner starts to disarm and acknowledge that there is just a small chance that they may suck as well.

And from that baseline of humble and modest suckiness, together you can start to build some real Greatness at last!

 

  • lurker July 10, 2012, 5:44 am

    lives of quiet desperation or noisy excusitis, eh?
    nice post.
    now go fishing with your family please.

    Reply
  • jeff July 10, 2012, 6:09 am

    This sounds a lot like one of The Success Principles that talks about having complete responsibility.

    Basically assume that every shortcoming in your life is your fault. blaming others won’t get you anywhere

    Reply
  • Lance@MoneyLife&More July 10, 2012, 6:19 am

    You hit the nail on the head. If people can admit their problems are because of their decisions they are one step closer to solving them. Unfortunately our society likes to blame others instead. I see this everyday and get frusterated that people don’t take ownership. Hopefully this helped a few people start their journey toward fixing their problems.

    Reply
  • rjack July 10, 2012, 6:22 am

    Ok…I’ll bite. :)

    I suck at adapting a schedule when any little thing goes wrong. I suck at doing chores when I dislike doing them. I suck at biking. I suck at socializing regularly with friends and family. I suck at reducing my expenses as low as possible.

    Reply
  • ddrem July 10, 2012, 6:23 am

    “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves …”

    There’s a difference between taking responsibility for your shortcomings and framing the situation as, “I suck.” That mindset could be detrimental to those you’re trying to help, pushing them further into their poor behavior.

    There’s something to be said for never being satisfied with one’s performance and desiring better of oneself. But berating either yourself or someone else for not living up to expectations is not helpful. That’s just feeding the psychological issues that likely contributed to the situation. It might be better to first sympathize (even if you know it’s their fault), and then help them problem-solve. Your message is then more likely to get through to them.

    Reply
    • darkelenchus July 10, 2012, 7:09 am

      It is true that addressing one’s shortcomings by ridicule can actually be counterproductive. However, I doubt MMM is encouraging such an approach. His use of “I suck” in this context is for rhetorical purposes, to drive the point home that we often focus on what isn’t in our control to make excuses for ourselves not to act on what we can control.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache July 10, 2012, 8:34 am

        Thanks, Dark.. Commenter “ddrem” is of course making a wise and thoughtful point, but he/she has misunderstood the MMM writing style a bit.

        If I were writing a public health brochure to help clinically depressed people, I would not be using the “You Suck” terminology. But in the spirit of Mustachianism and taking life by the horns, I think friendly self-ridicule is exactly what we need. We’re tough enough to take it here.

        Reply
        • Dan July 10, 2012, 8:44 am

          No, really you were just right in the first place. You can’t argue with the 12 steps. Admit that you are powerless and that your life is unmanageable. In short, you suck.

          Real friends tell each other that they suck. They’re also the first to congratulate you when you stop sucking. If it were left up to each of us to figure out that we suck on our own, we would take a lot longer to make positive changes in our lives.

          Reply
        • darkelenchus July 10, 2012, 10:35 am

          No prob. Perhaps there should be a disclaimer posted somewhere: “WARNING: This blog often speaks in ways that aren’t for the faint of heart and may sometimes blast you like you’re drinking water from a firehose.”

          Reply
          • colbiwon July 12, 2012, 10:32 am

            I think “Personal finance through Badassity” pretty much sums it up.

            Reply
        • Dave July 10, 2012, 3:47 pm

          I went to a tough college after sliding through high school on natural smarts. When I suddenly had to up my academic badassity, I started leaving notes around my dorm room. For example, on the computer: “Why are you playing Tetris, Jackass? You need to be working.” On the alarm clock: “You are a dumb ass. The only way to change that is to get up now and get to work.” My room mate thought I was crazy, but it worked. I went from shiftless and lazy to… well, something much better than that, although I could improve.

          Reply
        • Markdog July 12, 2012, 10:48 am

          Two thumbs up for the ‘You Suck’-tough-self-ridicule-Mustachian spirit!!

          Reply
      • mercurymustache July 14, 2012, 3:37 pm

        This reminds me a bit of the discussions that happened regarding the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, describing Chinese parenting. In Chinese parenting, parents are very difficult on their children, setting the bar at no less than perfection. I think this is sometimes misinterpreted as being cruel, by setting expectations that cannot be exceeded, as a result of a lack of love.
        In contrast, it’s really about having such high esteem for one’s children that you believe they are capable of anything if they actually work for it. I don’t think that I suck, I think that I’m actually really amazing, and I need to have enough respect for myself to actually fix my behavior.
        I also think it’s very interesting how similar weight loss and saving money are. They are both two behaviors in which you don’t see the negative repercussions immediately, and it’s easy to lose sight of the real cause of your lack of progress. They are also both very easy to fall of the wagon, shopping in 30 minutes at a boutique you can outspend what you can earn in a month, just as you can eat in 30 minutes at a party more than you can burn off in a month. In both cases they are supposedly fun things that give a rush for no more than a day and can ruin your life. It’s also interesting that for both of these, the common advice is to just do little things to fix them; save an extra one hundred dollars a month, eat 200 less calories a day, rather than questioning each move you make, each dollar that you spend, each nutrient-void calorie you consume. I think one difference is that in general being a failure at weight control is much more embarrassing than being bad at your finances. No one knows how much money you can spend, but they can see immediately how overweight you are.
        Sorry if that was a little rambly, I’ve been thinking about this post since it went up. At first it made me very sad thinking about how embarrassing my behavior is, it really cut a little to close to home, but I think that shame is what I needed to feel in order to change. No more weak American mom just one more cookie bullshit, it’s time to shoot for being a badass.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache July 14, 2012, 4:00 pm

          Nice spirit, Mercury!

          Just a note about the binge eating example, however:

          “just as you can eat in 30 minutes at a party more than you can burn off in a month”

          It’s pretty darned difficult to eat more than 2,000 calories in a half-hour period, and that’s less than what most of us burn in a single day. So, if you spent the next two days eating 1,000 calories less than normal, you’d already have recovered from the binge.

          Real weight gain happens more often from your second example – one more cookie than you need (I personally shoot for zero cookies per day actually), once a day, adds up to a pound a month and eventually some pretty big problems.

          Reply
  • Heath July 10, 2012, 6:36 am

    I’d say that I grew out of the ‘nothing is my fault, and I’m 100% amazing’ phase after turning 17. I know that I suck, and that there is tons of room for improvement…

    Now I just have to work on actually caring! I’m kind of happy to be at my current level of badassity (as low as it is). Looking at it practically, I’m sure that I could continue to not try very hard for the rest of my life, and get by just fine. I wouldn’t do anything amazing. I wouldn’t accomplish all of my dreams. But, judging from the last 10 years or so, I’d have a good and happy life, with my naturally frugal tendencies and decently cheap hobbies.

    Looking at it written so baldly, I can see that it’s fucking pathetic. I just have to figure out how to care enough to put forth the effort to improve, when I know I don’t NEED to. I’m quite a laid back person (some might say ‘lazy’, but I exercise 3-x/week and work full-time), so my current source of Mustachian Motivation is imagining an early retirement where life doesn’t force me to do anything I don’t really want to. I also enjoy my current job very rarely. Not having to do it would be nice.

    I figure it’s just a matter of scale (i.e. baby steps). I’ve already enacted some good Mustachian techniques (wine consumption at nearly 0%, make food at home more regularly, enjoy slight hunger, etc.) one at a time, and without too much difficulty. I figure, as long as I keep doing this…
    “increase your self-control and trick yourself into acquiring better habits – slowly but surely”
    …then I should be good.

    Reply
  • Josh July 10, 2012, 6:52 am

    After realizing blaming external things doesn’t help, what does? As you point out, humility is one thing

    May I also propose a phrase that has served me well (it’s long enough to make into a song like yours for driving fast):

    “Don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can.”

    I used to shirk responsibility, trying to avoid trouble. Now I find taking responsibility allows me to improve my life much more. Blame makes you feel better in the short term but removes your ability to change things. Responsibility forces you to face your problems, but it enables you to do something about them.

    http://joshuaspodek.com/responsibility_versus_blame

    Reply
  • M July 10, 2012, 7:55 am

    I recently read the “Happiness Hypothesis” and in it the author noted that humans are notoriously myopic about their own shortcomings but are good at seeing others’ (log in your own eye and all that..) Further, trying to convince someone to “see it your way” tends to entrench the ego so it’s just a waste of time. (Mind you I believe MMM is just offering–not forcing–suggestions that peoples’ perceptions around money and life could be different.).
    Is it possible that the haters are just voicing their conflicted feelings as expand their understanding of what’s possible? Maybe the grumbling is personal grist for change that isn’t seen in one posting. Just my two cents. Wait.. don’t spend them.

    Reply
  • RubeRad July 10, 2012, 8:20 am

    Reminds me of Billy Bob Thornton in School for Scoundrels: “You can’t help yourself, because your self sucks!” Except, as you explain, understanding that your self sucks is the first step to helping yourself!

    Reply
  • Dan July 10, 2012, 8:34 am

    Those in greater control of their failures tend to be more honest about themselves in general. As I’ve owned up to my own personal failures, I’ve become a more honest person and openly admit all my failures, not just the ones I’m actively doing something about. It’s easy to admit to failures that you’ve already overcome, but the real trick is copping to what you could still improve on. At some point, your self-reflection meets the law of diminishing returns though, such as when MMM says he wishes he looked more like Vin Diesel. This is definitely at the pinnacle of “first world problems.”

    All this honesty is a far cry from the average person who generally talks about themselves as if they were on a first date. Frankly, I have neither the time nor desire to date everyone I meet. Humility is just completely gone from society and it’s a fair bet that the more someone spends self-congratulating, the more problems they really have.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache July 10, 2012, 8:49 am

      Good point about the “first world problems”. A good chunk of us are fortunate to have no really serious problems in life, and in fact it would be ridiculous to complain about anything, ever. In fact, I DO think it’s ridiculous to complain about anything, ever.

      But I think part of the challenge in in leading a happy life is to remain challenged. That means acknowledging there’s always a chance to improve yourself, learn more, become more mindful and peaceful, help others more, etc. If first world problems are what it takes to help you make the most of yourself, then so be it.

      Reply
      • Dan July 10, 2012, 9:11 am

        Totally agree. I hold myself to standards that I would be uncomfortable even discussing with another person. It’s important to stay motivated no matter how universal your goals are. It’s all a matter of perspective.

        It’s socially acceptable when we’re talking about feats of athleticism. Everyone understands that it’s a matter of perspective whether 28 minutes is an acceptable amount of time to run a 5k. For some people it’s a personal best while for others it’s unimaginably slow.

        But when you apply the same rules to personal finance, consumption habits, etc, it somehow instantly becomes an uneven playing field. I’m trying to run the 3-minute mile of financial independence which is somehow viewed very differently than actually running a 3-minute mile.

        Reply
        • Andrea October 11, 2012, 1:18 pm

          excellent point, dan.

          i’ve had many serious problems in my life, only one of which was financial, but once i accepted responsiblity, i was able to look forward and embrace a spirit of change.

          i love the term ‘first world problems’ particularly since most of my family live in and my parents came from the third world. it strikes a chord that brings me to the realization that, in the states particularly, i do have the capability and opportunity to make change.

          thanks for helping me climb maslow’s hierarchy of needs ever faster, badass!

          Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 July 10, 2012, 8:36 am

    It’s tough to say out loud that I suck, but yes I do suck at many things. I suck at exercising. I suck at putting my head down and keep working at my job, that’s why I’m aiming to get out of the corporate world soon. It’s much easier to blame our surrounding and circumstances, but how can we grow that way?
    I’ll have to admit my suckiness more often, I guess.

    Reply
  • Holly@ClubThrifty.com July 10, 2012, 8:40 am

    It’s amazing what one can accomplish when they stop making excuses and being lazy. Awesome article~!

    Reply
  • Cecile July 10, 2012, 9:05 am

    If I could, I would add this article to my “favorites”.
    Actually, I like it because this is one of the things I learned in the US : “you are the one in control of your life, no one else”. It’s too easy to say that your life sucks because of this this and that, it’s a lot harder to realize it sucks because of wrong decisions (be it for lack or knowledge or lazyness). But once you aknowledge it, you can start changing it for the better, and that’s great !

    Reply
  • Nurse Frugal July 10, 2012, 9:07 am

    What an awesome article! It’s incredible how much I hear that every single day at working at the hospital! It drives me wild when people don’t take accountability and responsibility for their own decisions! It’s also a good reminder for myself whenever I start turning into Mrs. Complainy pants!

    Reply
    • fastbodyblast July 10, 2012, 6:16 pm

      Nurse Frugal, I feel your pain!! I too hear this daily in my Osteopathic clinic in Australia.

      “Man, I’ve really messed up my back, because I had to work so hard at the office and never got a chance to exercise. And now that my back is messed up, it’s even harder to exercise, which is causing me to gain weight really quickly. That messes up my back even further, and … ”

      I have learnt never to give up though, people do break through. I have seen/heard people who have made this same complaint year in year out and then suddenly something changes. They just get tired of being victimised by pain and start doing something about it. Just one person doing this can cheer me up for a year!

      Its amazing to see just how fast the body can change and start healing itself. Within a year, you are looking at a totally different person. Now some people might say “are you kidding me, it takes a whole year??!!”. If you have been feeling like crap for 20 years, 1 year is nothing.

      I could pre-empt MMMs response – I am sure he would say gaining financial independence is exactly the same, it just doesn’t take that long to see results, especially if your finances have sucked for 20years.

      Reply
  • Dragline July 10, 2012, 9:11 am

    Ancient wisdom, repackaged with Badassity.

    3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. — Matthew 7:3-5

    Reply
  • Gerard July 10, 2012, 9:13 am

    Some readers might want to check out some stuff on Attribution Theory (Weiner is a well-known author in the area). Been a while since I studied this stuff, but… research says it’s actually a three-way split. If you say “I failed because my boss/teacher hates me” (external attribution), you’ll continue to fail. Because, hey, it’s not your fault! If you say “I failed because I suck” (internal constant attribution), you’ll continue to fail. Because, hey, you’re too weak to change. But if you say “I failed because I did things wrong” (internal, uh, something-else attribution), you’ll be more likely to change the things you did so that you succeed in the future.
    Apparently people whose lives are a mix of successes and failures are more likely to have the third approach. And there’s a lot of socialization involved, with skews for gender and class and ethnicity and learning disabilities. That is, some of us are more likely to be told by people around us that our failures are due to The Man or The System or our getting too big for our britches.

    Reply
    • Fawn July 10, 2012, 7:17 pm

      +1

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    • Osprey July 11, 2012, 1:26 am

      Thanks for the info, it’s a bit of a breakthrough for me. I’ve been using the second approach for most of my adult life. Now I can try to push towards the third.

      Reply
    • Stephen July 11, 2012, 6:48 pm

      Sounds a lot like Carol Dweck’s work on mindset.

      Reply
      • Gerard July 12, 2012, 7:15 am

        Cool, thanks for that. It looks like Dweck’s work is based on Weiner’s, or extends from it, but maybe puts it in a way that better lends itself to practical applications (or self-help books!). I guess the core idea (“you can change, but only if you realize that you can change”) of both of them is kinda obvious if you think about it, but clearly a lot of people don’t!

        Reply
  • George July 10, 2012, 10:18 am

    This article reminds me of the book QBQ: “The Question behind the Question”;

    it is a short, simple book but sure is one of my all time favorites, it is about avoiding the victim mentality and taking responsibility for yourself.

    Reply
  • Howie July 10, 2012, 10:36 am

    Super post! This sums up what is wrong in a great country whereby not everyone participates in the success. It is a lot easier to complain about outside forces causing your problems then yourself. We grew up with our parents always saying it is not my child’s fault. For a poor grade. It must be the school or teacher. This post gives anyone with the poor me attitude a good kick in the ass. Hopefully they will all become badass instead!

    Reply
    • tamara July 11, 2012, 10:02 am

      I didn’t grow up that way. My parents taught me to take responsibility for my actions. I actually got in trouble for running away once, but not for the act of running away. I got in trouble because I ran away because someone else ran away (I was a follower) And I still suck! Not at admitting when I’m wrong but at making the decision in the first place. I have no problem taking responsibility for the decision once it’s made.

      Reply
  • Nunayo July 10, 2012, 12:29 pm

    Key word “currently” suck. With room to stop sucking. When I realized my net worth 12 years after leaving my mom’s house was virtually the same as it was the day I moved out, I had to admit that I had thus far sucked. It was falling for the “good debt” bullshit mainstream advice that led me to that position. Once I realized I had been sucking, I started eliminating my “good debt” rather than keeping it around like a pet poodle.

    Reply
    • GayleRN July 10, 2012, 3:23 pm

      Pet Poodles is a great concept here. Just last night I had a conversation with a coworker that was about what I can now identify as a pet poodle. She has been paying $30 a month to a “service” to tell her how to handle her finances. For 5 years she has had the same advice to refinance her mortgage and up her savings. She has failed to do either. By my calculations she has ponied up $1800 for poodle grooming services. It may look pretty but what she has is still a dog. The part that really gets me is that her husband is so busy that he can’t find the time to do it in spite of having had a career in banking but is currently unemployed. She has 2 jobs. Maybe she has 2 pet poodles.

      For those who would yak at me about logs and beams, I am completely debt free and my only bills are the usual monthly ones. However, I do wish I had learned not to suck much earlier in life.

      Reply
      • Art Guy June 26, 2013, 12:49 pm

        Poodle Grooming!!!!! Love it!

        Reply
  • Kenneth July 10, 2012, 12:45 pm

    I like to think of it in terms of the 80/20 rule, which is that you get 80 percent of the benefits with 20 percent of the effort. Take my Vin Diesel training program. I work out 5 days a week, one hour per day. Then I walk my golf on weekends. This is about 20 percent effort, I figure, and I have reaped 80 percent of the benefits. No I don’t look like Vin Diesel, but I look and feel a heck of a lot better than I used to. Chasing that last 20 percent could take enormous effort, 4-6 hours a day in training, nutrition to the T, etc. Not worth it to me.

    Edit – I’m down 70 pounds from 3 years ago.

    Reply
    • darkelenchus July 10, 2012, 12:50 pm

      This is a good point. Diminishing returns does have to be factored in. There’s no reason to become a specialist to the neglect of other areas in your life. The post isn’t really addressing that, though. It’s about the “haters” who do nothing and yet complain that it’s impossible to achieve X awesome thing.

      Reply
  • Nunayo July 10, 2012, 12:58 pm

    Key word “currently” suck. With room to stop sucking. When I realized my net worth 12 years after leaving my mom’s house was virtually the same as it was the day I moved out, I had to admit that I had thus far sucked. It was falling for the “good debt” bullshit mainstream advice that led me to that position. Once I realized I had been sucking, I started eliminating my “good debt” rather than keeping it around like a pet poodle.

    I could blame the housing crash for the underwater mortgage, but I feel more empowered to admit that the real reason is a sucky affection for low interest leverage.

    Reply
  • Lisa July 10, 2012, 1:37 pm

    Fran Leibovitz said it best. “You are the architect of your own stupid life.”

    Reply
    • Kenneth July 10, 2012, 2:04 pm

      Love it. Yes, everything I KNOW is that we each create our own lives, all of it, 100 percent, no exceptions. Accepting personal responsibility is thus the only logical thing you can do.

      Reply
  • Charles July 10, 2012, 2:51 pm

    Reply
  • Brandy July 10, 2012, 3:56 pm

    I suck at returning phone calls, eating healthy, exercising, cleaning up….gosh I am just lazy!

    Reply
  • superbien July 10, 2012, 4:43 pm

    Come on MMM, we saw those Vin Diesel legs on your post about making the CrossFit platform! No need for excess modesty! (ducks Mrs MMM’s right hook)

    Seriously though, good post. I know that I’m in a place in life where I have to be a lot kinder to myself in the words I use with myself so “I suck” isn’t in my vocabulary at the moment, but the essence of this advice can still be extrapolated and applied. Taking responsibility and not being a victim is such a liberating idea… this stage of “pulling up my big girl pants” has been such a great journey so far, and I’m just getting started. Thanks MMM for the great advice.

    Reply
  • Rebecca @ Trim Waist Fat Wallet July 10, 2012, 8:19 pm

    This reminds me of the recent college graduation speech where the guy said to the students “you’re not special”. It’s true :) We’re always thinking we should have everything handed to us. The fact us, we’re lazy and unappreciative.

    http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/11/commencement-speaker-tells-grads-theyre-not-special/

    Reply
    • Raech July 12, 2012, 1:25 pm

      Totally agree. I LOVED his speech! What a great teacher!

      Reply
  • poorplayer July 10, 2012, 9:18 pm

    This post, for all its good advice and observations, has set up anyone who might have the nerve to disagree with any part, or all, of it as a “hater.” It’s a classic rhetorical strategy designed to disarm the arguments of your opponents by labeling them as “X-ers.” At the risk of being so labeled, I disagree with your basic argument, not because it’s fundamentally wrong (it isn’t), but that, in my experience, it’s too simplistic. If there is one thing I have come to dislike in modern North American first-world culture, it is the unfortunate tendency to try to reduce every life situation or issue to a simple solution in an either/or format (the classic “false dilemma” fallacy). Laying ALL the responsibility on yourself is just as simplistic a line of reasoning as laying ALL the blame on others.

    There is value in understanding when something is your responsibility, and there is value in understanding when the blame for your situation does, in fact, belong to someone or something else. If you are incapable of doing that, you will not understand when you are being oppressed, discriminated against, deceived, or pushing yourself farther physically than is safe for you. Like MMM, I, too, have witnessed many people in serious trouble, but whose trouble was not because they sucked – their problems were clearly the result of human assholes.

    You, personally, don’t always suck. Others suck at times, and suck hard. Developing a discerning eye and the perceptive skills to be able to tell the difference is far better advice than offering a single, simplified solution.

    And if you ever get the chance, when you do realize that something is in fact someone else’s fault, and not because you suck, have the balls to make sure they know that. This may not disarm your partner all that much, so be sure to bring the badsass. Sorry to be a hater (God, I suck).

    Reply
    • Clint July 12, 2012, 5:28 am

      I suck because I like both Poorplayer’s and MMM’s arguments and can’t decide which one I like better.

      Reply
    • Raech July 12, 2012, 1:41 pm

      Dear lord, you are SO missing the point! Yes, it really is simple! Don’t overthink it – and get wound up in your own “reasons.” He wasn’t writing a research based thesis.

      Reply
      • Chris July 12, 2012, 6:33 pm

        Poorplayer, I would say this article was merely meant to be a simple, introspective reminder, to not forget to look in the mirror every now and then and say, “am I taking responsibility for my station in life.” You are correct sir in that every now and again, someone else is the asshole and you’re the victim, however, one can waste the rest of their lives bemoaning assholes, OR, dodge that asshole and get on with kicking ass in one’s own life. Its really about the power of self versus sitting on the sidelines and bemoaning. OR, put another way, it was an introspective cut with an ax, versus, your cut with a scalpel.

        Reply
    • icenugget July 16, 2012, 7:04 am

      +1 poorplayer

      Reply
  • mike crosby July 10, 2012, 11:02 pm

    MMM, you just keep hitting it out of the park. Another excellent post.

    I just got this in my Facebook– http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/retire-at-30-easier-than-you-think, an article about Jacob at ERE retiring at 30. Read the comments and see all the haters. It doesn’t fail.

    The very first step one must take is admit that there’s a problem and take responsibility for that problem. But it takes a hell of a lot of balls. And most never will. For me, that’s the definition of real courage.

    Reply
  • Poor Student July 11, 2012, 5:02 am

    I agree completely with the premise of this post. Admitting you have a problem (sucking) is the first step to no longer having that problem (not sucking).

    I would just add that telling a person with back problems to be doing situps is, first of all, not much of a weight loss exercise, and second, is likely to further hurt their back. The best core/ab exercises stabilize the spine, such as planks. I know it’s not the point of the article, but I just want to point it out because a lot of people take your advice, and this one piece of advice shouldn’t necessarily be followed.

    Reply
    • Josh July 11, 2012, 5:55 pm

      I agree with you and would like to add that the gluteal muscles are important for your back too.

      I had a lot of back pain from sitting too much at my new desk jockey job. I can’t remember how it started, one day my back just hurt and wouldn’t stop. I had always been and stayed very active when not at work, and I later learned that sitting for long periods is bad for your health and you cannot offset it with exercise. I immediately began to do everything in my power to heal myself. Tried all types of exercises, researched on the internet, went to a doctor and chiro, and finally a physical therapist who showed me how to strengthen my transversus abdominus (girdle muscle) and glutes (medius and minimus). This helps a lot, but often chronic back pain is a result of not using proper muscles for regular body movement (this can happen when you don’t move around enough) so you have to retrain your body to use the right muscles again. I have mostly recovered, but am still working on it and I have to do the exercises every day and make sure not to sit too long. I now transition between sitting and standing at work.

      Anyway, the point is I do sympathize with people who have back problems. Back pain can be complicated and may not be avoided by just working out and not getting fat. The modern human sits way more than is healthy and I think our society should stop encouraging people to do this. Although the only way to get better is to recognize you are in control; blaming society will not fix your back or do anything else for you, so I still agree with the main message of the post. Whenever back pain comes up I want to share my story so maybe somebody will learn something from it.

      Anyway, I love this site! Thanks MMM!

      Reply
  • shadowmoss July 11, 2012, 9:47 am

    I started at the beginning, and have now caught up with reading all the posts to date, and the vast majority of the comments. Now, off to the forums.

    I heard about you from the http://www.simplelivingforum.net/ message boards.

    Reply
  • Mr TrimWaistFatWallet July 11, 2012, 8:23 pm

    Great post, I realized a few years back how much I sucked and have decided to try and live my life attempting to constantly improve myself since, knowing there is always room for improvement. It started with finishing my degree, then losing 140 pounds, now trying to wipe debt and hopefully become financially independent in the near future (maybe 10-15 years from now?). I often look to your blog for inspiration! Thanks MMM!

    Reply
  • Shilpan July 11, 2012, 10:18 pm

    Why not ‘my thinking suck’ instead of ‘I suck’? Logic is simple. Thoughts are things. We become how we think because our thinking forms our habits and our habits drive our action(or lack of). The end goal is to take personal responsibility of everything that happens in our lives.

    Reply
  • JaneMD July 12, 2012, 11:40 am

    It is hilarious the number of people who do not recognize that they cannot necessarily change the external forces, but do have control of themselves. Healthy eating, for example, everyone can afford if you know how to do it. It’s about putting the effort into it.

    I am including poverty in this because many of my patients are on WIC. In fact, some organizations have dietician go to the local food store and spend the WIC check on healthy food. They actually buy more food with the check than the WIC receiver did with the same money. And I actually shop at the same grocery store because urban renewal dies a two blocks from my apartment.

    Reply
    • frugalone July 12, 2012, 11:48 am

      Don’t WIC checks have pre-printed list of foods that one can buy? You are not allowed to buy anything other than what’s printed on the check so there should not be any difference in what WIC clients or dietitian’s can buy.

      Reply
      • JaneMD July 15, 2012, 8:56 pm

        The items you purchase have to be WIC selections. You can buy certain products and certain brands. You can buy whatever you want as long as it is on the ‘list.’ The list is government created and not necessarily up to date on what is healthy versus not.

        The programs I referred to (http://www.chop.edu/service/healthy-weight-program/home.html) are usually childhood obesity programs targeting the underserved where the parent requests nutritional help. The dietician goes with the parent to the store and makes replacements like bottled water for full calorie juice boxes or raw potatoes for french fries. With assistance of the dietician, they often end up with more food items and more meals than before.

        The program also often provides cooking classes to help cut down on the use of convenience foods. The dieticians and nurses who run the programs report this information to doctors like me so I can understand how the program works, how it helps people, and how to refer families to the program. The explaination was a little long so I just shortened it to ‘dieticians with WIC checks’ for my example.

        To the original comment, you are correct that the list is limited. The point I was trying to make was that if it can be done on limited resources and limited selection, anyone who is in better financial shape can’t really make excuses not to purchase a healthy diet. Internal triumph over external forces.

        Reply
        • BobTX June 25, 2013, 9:02 am

          Does WIC actually pay for bottled water! AAARRGGHH!

          I fully support food assistance, but if that is true, it is insane.

          Bottled water is irredeemable ecologically, not actually healthier (I do water quality testing – it is scary what turns up in supermarket bottled water vs my tap), and perhaps the biggest tax on stupid ever invented.

          Reply
          • JaneMD June 26, 2013, 7:59 am

            There originally was a longer post that mentioned I meant WIC+food stamps which was not really the point of my post. (The point being as stated if people of very limited means are able to buy a healthy diet, anyone should be able to) Some of my patients have told me they buy bottled water with their WIC checks, but they probably include food stamps.

            If you want to see what you can buy with your individual WIC check – http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/Contacts/stateagencyfoodlists.htm#V.

            Reply
  • Raech July 12, 2012, 1:06 pm

    AH, you just made my day! I LOVE your mentality! YES, I couldn’t agree more. (and think the silly discussion on your particular choice of wording is goofy – but just symptomatic of our culture’s inability to easily and quickly take responsibility for our shortcomings. I see this often. “If you say you suck, you must truly suck…” I tend to avoid these people. They tend to be a bit dense. Ha ha ha – great article, one I’d LOVE to share with a few folks! (again.) And a good reminder for me to shut the heck up, quit the b*tchin’ and just GET IT DONE! Thanks!
    *By the way, my kids and my husband and I were up last night late discussing doubling, saving, mortgages, interest and the irony of mortgage insurance. My kids (knowing that we’re in debt and working to get out of it, learning how much we’ve paid in INTEREST and how we could own our house OUTRIGHT by now, if we weren’t paying interest and MI and so forth, looked at us like we were crazy. My son asked “Did the bank think you were stupid?” Ha ha ha – it was a fun talk. (Yes, we know we were stupid and want to be different. More importantly. we hope they learn to avoid the same mistakes. I would LOVE for them to think “HOW STUPID COULD YOU BE??” to buy ANYTHING on credit. My husband and I found ourselves trying to reference your articles, (hedonistic adaptation is a big one, for kids that “want all that shines and glitters – right now” but break them down for kids’ level – several times. Thanks again – it’s changing our entire lives, and we hope that of our kids. We have a LONG way to go, but we’re getting our butts in gear.

    Reply
    • superbien July 12, 2012, 1:11 pm

      Raech, there is no better lesson for your kids than that one! Having them figure out for themselves that buying on credit is stupid is incredible. Another of those lessons I am learning as an adult, they’re lucky to get that heads up as kids! And good for your for walking them through that concept with your real-life example.

      Reply
  • Cindy July 15, 2012, 12:53 am

    Superbien, i agree that buying on credit to CONSUME is dumb, but using credit to start a business, buy rental property, etc. can be a great way to achieve financial independence sooner than otherwise possible.
    MMM, thanks for the post–who knew that saying “I suck” could be so empowering?!

    Reply
  • Joy Host July 16, 2012, 6:18 pm

    For once, I did not even skim the other comments, because all I wanted to say was this:
    BEST. POST. EVER.

    Reply
  • Tony @ A Young Investor July 18, 2012, 7:19 am

    Totally agree with you. Most people just can’t face their own weaknesses, and as a result, can’t overcome them towards the path to greatness.

    Reply
  • Tom Smith August 12, 2012, 11:37 am

    Your ability to not buy things is an ability I envy.. How oh how can I learn more about that?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 13, 2012, 3:39 pm

      You could try reading a blog about personal finance, financial independence and early retirement.

      Reply
  • JYves August 20, 2012, 1:44 am

    it reminds of a phrase from a famous country music singer during an interview. She had been struggling with domestic violence a few times. Until she looked herself in the mirror, and said to herself : “one cannot be a victim twice”. I like that sentence. Helps me to think “where is the lesson ?”.
    Tks for your blog. I enjoy it very much and it gives me strength.

    Reply
  • Erica / Northwest Edible Life September 29, 2012, 2:23 pm

    I like this….almost but not quite completely. I am a big fan of the “common denominator” theory of personal responsibility, as in: “look around. If the common denominator in your problems is YOU, fix that shit.”

    That said, the persistent and unquenchable thirst to always be better and to feel like one sucks perpetually because that target is always moving and is factually unobtainable, does concern me. I am a perfectionist, and not having things “right” really bothers me. Not having ME right bothers me most of all. Not being able to TURN OFF voices telling you you should be better (stronger, fitter, richer, a better parent, whatever) actually can be pretty destructive if it gets out of hand.

    You could say I SUCK at moderating the drive to be perfect, and I’m working on getting better at that. :) As an example, post-baby number two my previously excellent physical conditioning has basically gone to hell. That’s my fault and is a direct result of how I have been prioritizing things over the past two years. But from where I am now, I am trying NOT to continuously tell myself I suck, and instead be kind to myself with the knowledge that my fitness WILL get back to where it was, or to a level I’m happy with for this stage in my life, but that right now I’m not prioritizing 12% bodyfat and multiple workouts per day and that’s just fine.

    You, MMM, probably wrote less posts here, for example, in part because you prioritized other things, like your wife and son, and while our drive may be infinite the hours in our days are not. But you don’t say, “I suck because I spent time with my kid instead of writing to internet strangers.” Nah, you say “MY PRIORITIES ARE AWESOME! And you who want more from me will have to fucking deal.” Am I right?

    So, yeah, stop making fucking excuses. Own up and pony up. But be kind to yourself too.

    Reply
  • Shawn Levasseur February 22, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Y’know at this point you could put together a collection of quotes and have a quiz to see if people could tell the difference between Mr. Money Mustache, and Tyler Durden from Fight Club.

    Reply

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