Don't Give Up on You

Personal Money Planning |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

Many of you might remember a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” I often use it as motivation for those who have reasons why they can’t improve.

Some blame their family: “If only I had a better childhood, or spouse, or kids…” Maybe it’s the boss’s fault: “I know I could do it, but he won’t give me the chance.” Or it could be your smarts. You may not be the smartest person around. You may not have had the opportunity to go to a good school—or any school. Physical limitations are often given as an excuse: too short, too tall, missing a limb, blind, incurable disease.

Well, I didn’t say you could do anything. Neither did Teddy.

Do what you can.

With what you have.

Where you are.

Take what’s-her-name.

I am bad with names, but I remember what’s-her-name (who going forward I’ll call her WHN). Two years ago, I was running the Oklahoma City Marathon. I thought that I might be able to break five hours (this is not a particularly fast time, but I’m not a particularly fast runner). In larger races they will often have pacers. Pacers are volunteers who run the race at a perfect pace for a particular finishing time.

This is nice because many runners (like me) are lousy at maintaining a pace. We have a habit of starting too fast and burn ourselves out in the process. If we get that part right, having a running buddy or team can make the race more doable and act as the motivational factor during the last 5 or 6 miles when everything hurts, and you just want to give up, throw up, or both.

WHN was the pacer for the 5-hour marathon group, so I hung around her. In the process I learned that she had run many marathons (not unusual for a pacer), but that she took a little break due to a stroke.

A stroke.

Knowing that, you can see some of the signs I her mannerisms, but while that may have slowed her a bit, it gave her a new purpose. Sure, she might not be setting any records now, but she could help others do so. And for the last many years WHN has been a pacer helping others set records of their own. And I did, breaking the 5 hour mark that year.

WHN: She’s doing what she can, with what she has, where she is right now.

Are there goals you haven’t accomplished? That may be fine. Interests change, our surroundings change, or bodies change. But if you bump up against a wall, you have more choices than to sit there leaning against it and wondering what’s on the other side. You can look for a door—choosing a different path to your goal. You can explore the room you’re in—who knows what wonders await you. Or you can leave that room the way you came in, go down the hall, and find another.

In any case, moving is the only way to get anywhere.

Continue to remember the victims of the Maui fires.