Since I was a teenager, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from sports. For me, the life-lessons learned through sports are so relevant to many of the same struggles we face in real life. Little did I know that something I picked up from following college football would help me stay motivated on my plan to become debt free.
In 2006 the Rutgers football team made a big splash in the world of college football. They even knocked off Lousville that year, who at the time was ranked as the #3 football team in the country. It was a huge win for the Rutgers program, and their new coach, who began to draw national media attention.
I noticed during the game that players were making a “chopping” motion after big plays, and a number of coaches joined in. I didn’t understand the celebration, because it looked to me like they were simulating the referee’s call for a personal foul. After searching around the web, I discovered they were “chopping wood,” which was the visual representation of a mantra the coach had brought to Rutgers.
An AP story from that year describes the motivation behind the phrase “keep chopping wood.” Apparently, the idea was developed by a sport psychologist, and adopted by a number of coaches as a battle cry for teams trying to rally from behind. I like how Rutgers coach Greg Schiano summed it up:
“Right now we’re in a bad spot, we’re in the middle of the forest, it’s all dark, we can’t see. Get an ax and just start chopping away.”
That’s the approach we have taken to debt repayment. Some trees (debts) were taller than others; some bigger around. It didn’t matter, we just kept chopping, and eventually those trees began to fall. To most people, it might seem like it would be easier to borrow a chainsaw-it’s more efficient than an old ax. But swinging that ax hurts, and that pain is an important part of the process because it is a constant reminder of why you’ll never venture out into the forest again.
Some months you’ll chop more wood than others. Illnesses, emergencies, and other unforeseen events will inevitably slow you down. Just keep chopping! One word of caution. After a few months of swinging your ax you’ll start to create a little space. Don’t get comfortable. Complacency is the enemy of progress. If you decide to put down the ax and take a little nap, you might wake up to find things overgrown again. Now you’re tired, sore, and once again surrounded by debt.
How do you psyche yourself up to face similar challenges?