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A Mudder’s Guide to Finding Financial Contentment

October 15, 2013

Every Thanksgiving, people take the time to reflect on the things for which they’re thankful. While there are many things to be grateful for, it’s sometimes hard to shake the feeling that things just aren’t going your way. In my case, I can’t help but sometimes feel stuck. Our friends are buying new houses, new cars and even income properties; they appear to be advancing in ways that we aren’t. This can result in disappointment and dissatisfaction. Fortunately to counteract these Thanksgiving misgivings, there are four things that I’ve learned from running “probably the toughest event on the planet” that have helped me get back on track.

That event is none other than Tough Mudder. The objective: conquer a grueling 17 km track, littered with obstacles designed by British Special Forces. Participants voluntarily subject themselves to the test of mental and physical strength in an effort to raise funds and awareness for Wounded Warriors Canada, an organization that helps injured Canadian war vets.

Lessons from the mud

Find your pace

Cage Crawl and Personal Finance

One of the first tests was the Cage Crawl, an obstacle that takes the fear of confined spaces and water and combines them. The idea is to flip yourself onto your back and pull yourself across 60 feet of cage with only 6 inches of breathing room. Many tried to hold their breath and rushed through as fast as they could climb. The majority ended up coming up for air and panicking when they started to swallow the water splashed around from their movements. The best method to get across was to breathe calmly and take it nice and slow.

Others are in better shape. Get over it.

No matter how good your pace, there will always be someone faster. Perhaps they regularly train in high altitude or maybe they’ve put in their hours of P90X. You’re better off accepting what works for you and look to improving the shape you’re in. Early on in the race, one of our teammates raced ahead and ended up finishing an hour earlier than our troupe; turns out he recently ran a marathon.

See how far you’ve come

About half way into the race we made our way up a double black diamond ski hill. The calves were crying for mercy and threatened to cramp at any second. I took a breather at the top of the hill to stretch it out. For a moment, I forgot about the pain as I took in the beauty of the fall colors of Simcoe County and was rewarded with satisfaction at the sight of the tiny obstacles at the bottom of the hill that we’d overcome.

Ask for Help. Help others.

Everest and Personal Finance

One final rite of passage before being crowned with the orange headband was the beast of an obstacle called Everest. It’s a quarter pipe coated in mud and grease that Mudders are supposed to summit. Being a fairly quick sprinter, I figured I’d be able to run up the incline without much difficulty. I dug in my toes, picked up speed and charged towards the ramp at full speed – only to bounce off the wall and come sliding back down. Take it from me, humble pie tastes a lot like mud. I eventually made it to the top, but not without some help. A friendly stranger let me in on the secret: the trick to the pipe was to lean back when running up the curve. Having teammates to pull you up also makes it easier. Once at the top, we reached back over the ledge to pull up the rest of our team members to the top. Not one man (or woman) was left behind.

Of Mud and Money

Tough Mudder is not a race in the traditional sense of finishing first and the lessons realized from being drenched in mud can reveal a thing or four about what it means to be content.

  1. When it comes to our financial circumstances: there are times to run, there are times to walk, and there are times to stop to take a breather and stretch out the cramping calf muscles. Different seasons of the journey call for different financial decisions. New houses, new cars and income properties don’t come all at once, if at all.
  2. In accepting that others are better off, potentially as a result of their previous preparation, we understand that there’s no point comparing apples to oranges. The focus shifts and we can look up to and learn from them through emulating the habits that led to their successes.
  3. Hindsight is 20/20. A little over five years ago, I was living in a single room in a shared basement apartment. Today, my family enjoyed an overabundance of a Thanksgiving bird with sides of scalloped potatoes, roasted cauliflower and asparagus, finished off with poached pears and pumpkin pie (all made by Emily) in our own home. I’d say that’s progress. Count the blessings and be thankful for them.
  4. Just as there are those better off, there are also those in need of help. Reaching out serves as a reminder that no matter how dire we may think our situation, there are countless others who would trade places with us in an instant. No one climbs their personal and financial Everests alone and the gratitude in being able to help along the way serves as its own reward.

Final Thoughts

The hardest thing about the Tough Mudder weren’t the obstacles encountered along the way. The most grueling aspect of the day was having to climb up all the hills between. Like in our financial journeys, we learn from the challenges that come and go but the toughest part usually comes from trying to stay the course. If we can remain focused on the priorities and goals that we’ve set out and manage to ignore any runners that may seem to be passing by, we’ll be sipping on a cool Dos Equis at the finish line fulfilled with the knowledge of a race well run.

What helps you get over your financial blues?

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