Sunday, November 11, 2007

Flat Spots

It has been a tradition for years. Every summer, we grab our kids and our friends and head to the beach. We play volleyball, eat lots of food, then head to the fire ring for a bonfire. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, but after the fire is lit and the smore’s are finished, someone always does the inevitable. They toss a marshmallow at someone across the fire from them. Then, like a volcano exploding, an eruption of Marshmallows fills the air. For 20 - 30 minutes it's a free-for-all. Actually, toss is probably the wrong word. Throw, pitch, fling, fire, or hurl would be more appropriate. Not just a few either, they are in the hundreds, if not thousands. I am sure every Marshmallow manufacturer's stock soars the week before our annual get together.

A few years back, I was speaking with a good friend, prior to our Marshmallow ritual. She said, “Do you know what part of the country marshmallows grow in?” “What!” I replied. “ You know… what part of the country do they grow marshmallows?, I have never seen the trees around here.” As you can imagine, our friends question caught me a little off guard. “Marshmallow trees?” I asked her to confirm what I heard. “yes” she said. I chuckled a bit then asked “ Really, so who in the world did you learn that from?”
At 10 years old it may have been cute, but a 32 year old mother asking a question like that, I had to say something.

Later that year, I was at one of my mentors’ house. I had a few questions about my finances that I wanted to run by him. He asked me what my thinking was on an issue so I started to explain. Something about my viewpoint caught him off guard. He asked me to clarify and I confirmed my thought. He chuckled a bit then said, “ Really, so who in the world did you learn that from? "
“Touché” I remember thinking.

We all have flat spots in our thinking. Things that we have been told, or beliefs that we carry throughout our lives. As funny as it was, my friends’ false belief in marshmallow trees was harmless. On the other hand, my false financial beliefs could have cost me millions.

Our knowledge comes from many sources. We learn from teachers, relatives, and friends. We learn from religious establishments, the Internet, from neighbors, and the media.
We have a constant stream of information coming at us from the time we wake in the morning, to the time we go to bed at night.

Many times we don’t even take the time to validate the source or the facts for many of the ideas that comprise our belief system. A Marshmallow Tree? My friend had not even thought of the source of her belief (her brother, by the way ), or done her homework to confirm it was factual. When you think about how many people buy in to everything they see on television, you realize this is true.

While we will never eliminate all "flat spots", here are a few tips to minimize yours;

1. Acknowledge that you have them. ( don't feel bad, we all do )
2. Do your homework. ( As Reagan said, "trust but validate" )
3. Find mentors in all areas of your life. Not just people with opinions ( they are a dime a dozen ), but with people who have the “fruit on the tree.” ( are where you personally want to be )
4. Learn to think full circle ( we will discuss this later )
5. Commit to a lifetime of learning

My friend was thankful I questioned her belief.... almost as much as I was thankful my mentor questioned mine.

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