Life Lessons From E.T.

Life Lessons From E.T.

My 11 year-old daughter and I went to Universal Studios to celebrate her birthday not too long ago. While we were there, we saw a host of movie characters – E.T. among them.

Of course, E.T. tells the story of a cute little visitor from another planet. All he wants to do is “phone home” and then go home.

I don’t remember how he ended up on earth. I just know that he didn’t want to stay here. I also recall that while he had extraordinary powers, he didn’t use them to dominate humans. He didn’t use his advanced abilities to control others or to amass wealth (although I’m sure he could have).

Other creatures haven’t always been so benign. Remember those selfish jerks from outer space in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “Mars Attacks”? All they wanted to do was control everything… Oh, and destroy us in the process of course.

But not E.T. He used his powers toward only one goal – to get back home. What I take from this is that E.T. valued his family and wanted to use all of his resources to realize those values. Because he was so authentic, it was easy for him to enlist others to provide help and support too. Those other outlaws from outer-space used power to get more power. I think E.T. provides a valuable financial lesson for all of us.

Sure, things are tough right now. But the reality is that we’re still living in a wonderful time. I’m not just talking about financial opportunity. What I found most valuable is the potential we all have to get clear on what’s really important to us. Of course, the nice thing is that it usually doesn’t cost money to achieve the really important things in life.

I bring this up for you as much as I do for myself. I forget. I bet you forget this too sometimes. Am I right?

When you boil it down, my sense is that our only real asset is the time we spend doing something meaningful. That’s the thing that nobody can ever take away from us… Except ourselves of course. This may sound strange coming from a financial planner, but I this is truly my core belief. Also, I am convinced that we all have the opportunity to express our values through our financial behaviors.

A few examples might help here.

Recently I wrote about my experience turning over some of the family financial management to the capable hands of my wife. Since I’m a control freak, I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to turn it over. Also, it’s hard for me to allow her to do things differently than I would.

But if I think about the core reason behind what we’re doing (making sure the family survives financially in my absence) it helps me rein in any anxiety or frustration.

Let’s say you’re struggling with debt. You want your husband to act more financially responsible. You’d like him to be more mindful when he spends money and you want him to be in charge of the monthly budgeting process.

Your goal is to make the family more secure, not to dominate him. If you explain that to him (and remind yourself of this too) the process will go smoother. It won’t be a cake walk, but it will move along with fewer bumps in the road.

Or let’s say your small business is struggling. Sales are slow and you need to borrow money from anyone willing to write you a check. Your small business might even owe money to the IRS. The last thing you need is trouble with your staff but moral is low and the natives are restless.

Rather than trying to rule with an iron fist, remind everyone that you have to pull together and that by doing so, everyone benefits. Think about why you started your small business in the first place.

Sure you wanted to be your own captain. But you probably also wanted to provide a better service to customers and have a better work environment too. You’ve probably done a great job in both areas. So don’t come off as a selfish oaf that only cares about her business just because the business is struggling now.

Let everyone know that you’re fighting to keep the business alive. Be clear that you’re doing so because of what the business means to you but don’t be shy about sharing your desire to continue being of service to both your customers and your staff.

If you keep your focus on your higher values, you’ll instill confidence and cooperation in others.

How about you? Are you ready to “phone home” by staying focused on what’s really important to you?

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