Becoming Debt Free Is 99% Intensity and 1% Basic Math

Are you trying as hard as you can to be debt free? As many of you know I coordinate and lead Financial Peace University at my church. I’m currently working on the third group of classes, and we just got finished with the very valuable, and highly motivational Dumping Debt lesson. It’s definitely one of my favorite lessons of all time.

Dave starts out by giving the history of credit and how it has become such an integrated part of our society in a relatively short amount of time. Thanks to genius marketing, and a changing society with alternative financial values than those of our grandparents, debt has become a fixture in almost every household.

Dave Ramsey points out that debt is not a privilege, as much as it is a product. Could you imagine if the product you were selling caused people to line up at the door on bended knee, practically begging you to give them the privilege? The banks wouldn’t bother selling us debt if it wasn’t highly profitable for them. The bottom line is that if people used credit and debt responsibly, the banks wouldn’t have a product to sell. They do not make money off of the responsible, pay-it-off monthly crowd.

They make money because society believes it will always have a car payment. It believes that happiness is found in stuff, so why should it wait until it saves the money? Living without a credit card is impossible, because how else would you have an emergency fund? Let’s not forget about the fact that many believe they cannot live without a credit score. For some people, the holy credit score defines them.

You do not need to have a car payment to own a nice car. Happiness is not found in stuff. I have found a great degree of happiness from learning about contentment. You need a credit card to survive about as much as you need the new car smell. YOU DON’T! Lastly, your credit score is simply a way to keep you borrowing money. You can’t have a credit score without continuing to borrow money. Stop borrowing money.

You are so sick and tired of being in debt, NOW WHAT?

Many believe and try as hard as they can to convince you that becoming debt free is all about math. If the math doesn’t work out or make sense you are doing it all wrong, they say. Many of these same people are in debt themselves…still. It is true that doing some basic math is important. The first of equations would be to spend less than you make, but what determines how the rest of the debt elimination process goes?


Dave Ramsey calls it gazelle intensity. Ever watched the discovery channel when a cheetah is hungry? The gazelle is not even close to being as fast as a cheetah, yet it sometimes gets away. It jumps back and forth with focused intensity trying to fake out the cheetah, who can reach 40 mph in just four leaps, because it knows just how serious the situation is. If it don’t, it will become breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

That same intensity can help you get out of debt, and the more of it you have (the more you want to live), the faster you will do it. In your world debt is the cheetah, and you are the gazelle. The debt will destroy you and your family if you let it. You do not have any choice. It’s either 1.) run from the cheetah as fast as you can, or 2.) let it consume you.

Most people have already reached the point of consumption, but fortunately for them, it’s not too late. You see, if you were really a gazelle you’d get no more do-overs. Once the cheetah caught you, that’s it—no more gazelling around for you. With debt, you are lucky to have a second, third, and even fourth chance to run away from the predator. You can change course and the more intense you are about doing it, the better chance you have of getting away for good.

“Gazelle Intensity” is the key! The faster you bob and weave, the harder you run, and the more focused you are, the easier getting out of debt will be. Does that mean that it is easy? Not at all, but intensity gives you a special power over math. You can do math all day long, and you will eventually pay off all your debt, but your intensity will make the task go much faster.

Just doing math is like slowly pulling off the band-aid. You feel no pain, but it takes you longer to get it off. When you yank it off really fast, it hurts really bad, but the pain is so worth it. A little bit of pain and sacrifice can go a long way, when it’s all said and done. Don’t look for the painless route, it is usually not what it’s chalked up to be.

I’m not telling you to forget about doing math, I’m just saying that when you think math is the major component, you may be hurting your efforts more than you are helping them.

What am I saying? You do not need a finance degree to get out of debt…YOU NEED INTENSITY IN YOUR BONES!!

Do you want to get out of debt, or do you want to sit around doing math?

About Brad Chaffee

12 Responses to “Becoming Debt Free Is 99% Intensity and 1% Basic Math”

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  1. Abigail says:

    Well I *do* love math!

    But seriously, I think single-mindedness is definitely the key to success in most situations of debt.

    This post does sort of bring up an issue I recently wrote about, though: How you talk about your debt. I tried to figure out whether our debt images are too passive, too “victim” fueled. Or if they’re just the best motivators for the task at hand.

    For example, in your post, you have the innocent gazelle fleeing the savage cheetah. It’s fleeing for its life, desperate not to be gobbled up. But isn’t that lending too many people an air of being victim to debt rather than having a hand in it?

    Or is it just an inspiring image?

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      LOL, I can always count on your for lively debate Abigail.

      I wouldn’t call it single-mindedness, as much as I would say there are some things that work better than others. Obviously, doing the thing or things that work the most would be the focus.

      You bring up a good point about the victim issue. I am not denying that we all got into debt, for the most part, because of our own decisions. But you can’t dismiss the fact that there are other factors out there that helped contribute. Victim-thinking to me is thinking that someone else holds the key to a resolution instead of yourself. Many factors contribute to someone being in debt, including themselves, but you of all people should know that there are victims in almost every situation.

      We are victims of society, great marketing, misinformation, medical issues, among many other things. This post is saying that you can either run like hell, or you can get gobbled up. It’s not in any way shape or form telling my readers that they are not responsible for their own mistakes.

      The gazelle and the cheetah comparison is a great way to illustrate our relationship with debt. If we’re not careful we can become a victim to what debt brings with it. Simple as that. The picture is awesome is it not? ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Abigail says:

        The image rocks!

        And when I say “single-mindedness” I’m not talking about forgetting to eat or anything. Just avoiding, as you say, BEING eaten. Making that a very high priority in life.

        Maybe this image is actually perfect to find the balance for what I was talking about and your answer. People who consider themselves victims of debt or whatever… As you said, they believe someone else holds the key — both to getting in and to getting out of debt. So I don’t like to think that we’re “victims” of marketing. That just implies we’re the proverbial fish in a barrel. Maybe, instead, we’re just would-be prey, like that gazelle. And it’s all about learning to actively avoid being “victims.” Just like the gazelles that evade the cheetahs. They’re aware enough to run for the hills (or across the savannah, as the case may be).

  2. Young Mogul says:

    Great advice. As I was reading this post, I could here Dave Ramsey’s voice.

  3. Griff says:

    Attack debt with gazelle like intenisty is key to getting out of debt faster! Stick with it all you fellow debt haters! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Forest says:

    I am waiting for my copy of Money Makeover to arrive that I won from Enemy of Debt… I m looking forward to read as this Dave fella sounds like he has a great approach.

    Stuff is pushed down our throats everywhere we go and it really feels liberating when you learn to rise above most of that (although I would still love an iPad ;), so not fully over it!).

    Your doing a great service at your church.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Hey Forest! Sorry to hear you haven’t received your book yet. I’ll check into it for you. It was probably sent media mail which I have noticed takes forever, but I’ll double check.

      I know exactly what you mean about wanting the stuff around us. iPhone, iPad, PS3, XBOX 360, Kindel. I want them all!! Haha! I am just not willing to fork out the money to buy them. LOL

  5. Chad says:

    Great post! We’re trying to get our 3-months emergency fund built up, and some days I really don’t feel like being gazelle intense!

  6. I enjoyed the gazelle reference here. Especially the bobbing and weaving here. You do make a good point about how the banks made us think we will always need this or that payment for the rest of our lives but the banks are not all to be blamed. It is also ourselves, society as a whole, demanding newer and faster technology, cars, etc…

    I will have to look more into this Financial Peace thing of yours. I never really heard of this. But I do agree with you on 99 percent intensity is the key to getting out of debt. You either want to get out of it or you don’t.

    Thanks for the inspiration,

    Editor @ DMNW

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