Welcome to our first step into the Training Ground – the Financial Crisis. I wanted to start with this because I feel that a lot of people can relate. I want to share the story of my own financial crisis and what I learned from it within the Training Ground.
My Financial Crisis
When I was 25 I moved to Chicago for my first “real” career job, and was making $30,000 a year, which is soon to be the equivalent of minimum wage. Not only that, I was carrying the multi-ton weight of an $80,000 student loan debt that I was already behind payments on. I was not frugal in College and did not hustle to try and stay on top of my debt. I always thought “by the time I get a job, I’ll make enough money to make the payments.” And when I was wrong – I ignored it.
I was now living in the city and spending way too much money going out with friends and enjoying myself. I dug myself into such a hole that even when I started making $50k a year, (which should have been more than enough to handle my bills AND start a decent savings) – I was still flat broke in between paychecks.
At that point, I saw my friends being more established and comfortable than me, even when I was making more money than the lot of them. At one point on payday, after paying my bills on that term, I had $120 to last me two weeks until the next paycheck. Then it finally dawned on me – why not use this opportunity to finally learn how to save and function as an (actual) adult. Thus, I entered the Training Ground.
Creating lessons to learn
“If you aren’t pissed off for greatness, that means you’re okay with being mediocre.” – Ray Lewis
I was disappointed and angry at myself for getting in that situation. I was upset at myself for going out too much, not saving, and always putting the responsibility ahead to my future self (Damn you, past Jake!). I had things built into my routine that did not help – like stopping for coffee and breakfast everyday on my way to the office. At about $10 a day, that’s $50 of unnecessary spending in one week.
The first step is to take full responsibility for the situation and not point fingers at anybody else. I used that to fuel my intentions to change. The key is though – to step out of that disappointing feeling and let the true intention guide you forward unbiased. (Check out this article here)
Now I was forced to stay in – was forced to not spend money and to change my routines to a more stable lifestyle. I needed to start planning ahead and to keep a budget. But by doing this – I started seeing just how much of a benefit these actions could actually have on my personal development. The true nature of the Training Ground is to take everything you can out of any situation.
Smart Spending, Healthy Eating and Chopped at home
I live in Chicago which is one of the best foodie towns in the US – but spending $25+ eating out every night is something that added up very quickly. I needed to stop spending so much on food but still stay away from the daily dollar menu meal. I couldn’t break the bank, but I also didn’t want to break the bottom button on my dress shirts.
This was the first set of lessons that led to learning more skills than just financial planning. I learned how to shop the deals at grocery stores and only buy discounted items and predict sale cycles across a few different stores. (See this article on how to live (comfortably) on $36 a month for food). This strengthened my purchasing power across anything and even leads to a better business sense in general. I also had to get more creative to stay healthy on the cheap – I adopted Steve Kamb’s (Nerd Fitness) method of shopping “Cost per Nutrient.” Now I was learning more about nutrition and become more health conscious as well.
Being forced to eat at home every night caused the need to learn how to make more recipes than the previous 3 I knew before. I always wanted to learn more on how to cook – and again this financial meltdown allowed me to be able to do so. This was also the start of a weekly cook-off between my housemates where we all competed to make the best dish. I was not only fueled by necessity but by competition as well. I would not let myself get Chopped!
Dedication and Integrity
The next two lessons I could learn and attributes I could strengthen in this was Dedication and Integrity. As stated earlier – I was going out too much. Chicago is an incredibly fun city and has so much to offer for nightlife. But when I should have been working on developing myself, working out, or winning my cook-offs, I was spending crucial time and money painting the town red. I like to play hard, but it was time to work harder.
Don’t get me wrong – I like to play hard and have fun and there is nothing wrong with it as long as you can keep it in line. But by learning how to say no to friends I was able to strengthen and implement my dedication to my true goals. I also was able to keep integrity by being transparent and telling people how it was. And by making those decisions and being more productive – I felt great and was able to stay true and build my personal values.
Making it stick – the follow-through
When you are faced with hardship and enter the training ground, the most important thing is to make the lessons stick. Truly internalize it, and make it a part of yourself while moving forward. The absolute worst thing you can do is implement these things during the hardship, but let them fall off when you dig yourself out – only to ensure that you fall the same way again. This isn’t to say that the lessons you learn will be a fail-safe – but the next time you fail at something (which you will), since you’ve gained new skills since the last time, it will be a chance to either strengthen those previous skills or to learn even more. As Punchers – we follow through. We move forward and we look for new opportunities – new opponents to go against and test ourselves. We won’t always win, but we will always get back on our feet if we get knocked down.
Have your own experience of making the most of a bad financial situation? Let us know in the comments.

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