Write it, Say it, Then Tell Someone About It

If I want to achieve something, and if I don’t write it down, then it hardly ever gets done.

One of the few things I’m good at it is saving money. At the beginning of each work year, I write down what I want to save for the year. And every month, I write down what I actually invested on the same sheet of paper. And yeah… it’s paper. It’s easy to see that way. I used to keep it taped to the closet wall so I’d see it every time I put on a clean shirt.

When recovering from cancer last year, I threw myself into rehab. I wrote down some goals, but then found it really frustrating because I had to keep rewriting them. Too many uncontrollable variables kept coming up. I had bone cancer, similar to what Terry Fox initially had. And chunks of three ribs and some of my spine (as much as they dared take) was removed because the tumour was growing into the spinal area. Not fun.

Once I got on top of the rehab, some of those uncontrollable variables started to fall in line. I started to run again. I started to do light exercises in the gym. And eventually, I was able to do push-ups and pull-ups again.

A few months before the cancer surgery, I won a fairly big running race in Singapore.

One year later (and about five months after my surgery) I did the same race again and finished 43rd. I was ecstatic.

I made a plan to train hard and try to finish in the top 5 for the 2011 edition. The race is in April, and there’s still plenty of time. But I didn’t write down a plan.

Running 4-5 days a week (sometimes hard, sometimes easy) wasn’t going to be enough. In the past four months, I haven’t improved one bit. And I need to get faster if I want to finish in the top 5, come April.

I’m telling you about it for motivation. It’s going to force me to realize that somebody might be watching. So I’m writing down a plan of running workouts with Rocky Balboa-like focus. I’d love to finish in the top 5 of this year’s race. I’m nowhere near ready, but I hope to be.

Making a public goal worked a few months ago when I took on the TRX 40/40 challenge.

I failed. And I posted the failure on my blog with a defiant claim to eventually finish it. And about a month ago, I did just that, on my second attempt.

What about you?

We’ve developed a great community of bloggers here. Anyone interested in sharing a goal that they want to achieve, financial or otherwise? Make it public right here, and we can revisit this later. Set a timeline for it. We’ll work towards our respective goals together, and we’ll know that somebody else is watching.

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Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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5 Responses

  1. Hey Andrew, love the post.

    Although I wrote my financial goals for 2011 on my blog a couple of weeks ago, I'll share this one again because it's very important for us:

    Goal # 6 – Build up our emergency fund to $10,000 before the end of 2011.


    We have some funds set aside for emergencies but not enough to satisfy our comfort level. Everyone has their own level and ours is $10 K. We don't know what the future will hold so any emergencies we need money for, we'll feel more secure about having some means to recover from them.

    I look forward to hearing how you kick some !@# in that upcoming race!

  2. @My Own Advisor

    Thanks Mark!

    I've often thought about having an emergency buffer, but I never have. You'd laugh at how "close the to wire" I get, sometimes, at the end of each month…generally because I invest so much of my income when I get paid!

    The way you do it is probably better than what I do. My emergency fund is my bond fund. And yeah, once or twice, I have had to sell shares of my bond index for some unplanned-for expenses.

    It takes discipline to save $10k to have as an emergency. But you're smart to do it!

  3. 101 Centavos says:

    Hi Andrew – love your motivation. Well done on your recovery.

    I try to write down little things to do on my notes clipboard. One of the goals I have this year is to plant at least 10 fruit trees. There, I've proclaimed it.

  4. @101 Centavos

    Nice work Centavos!

    Place that goal where you can see it!


  5. I shared my goals a bit after the new year, and while some of it seems to be two steps forward, one step back, the focus is on continual forward movement. Every time I read about what you've been able to accomplish, it serves as a kick in the behind!

  6. no one has more first hand experience helping expat investors

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