Waiting to be Shot is a Default Financial Choice for Some – Work to Avoid This Undesirable Approach to Personal Finance

man in despairI learned the expression “waiting to be shot” when I worked for a small engineering and consulting firm about 25 years ago. We used the expression to refer to employees who weren’t performing well, they knew it, and yet they didn’t have the courage to go find another job where they’d be more successful. Instead, they wandered around the office with limited purpose and productivity. Lacking the courage to go elsewhere, they had to be fired by management. For some, it was the only way to get them out the door and off the payroll.

The idea of waiting to be shot isn’t limited to demanding enterprises and indecisive employees. For some of us, it’s very much a part of our personality, and it’s often reflected in how we manage our personal finances and the many things that can influence our financial well being. If we recognize the problem, we can perhaps do something about it. After all, there are much better alternatives to “being shot.”

Using personal knowledge to provide real life examples, let’s look at how some have handled their personal finances by waiting to be shot (or a similar, but less severe route of shooting themselves in the foot).

One business partner allows the other to mismanage the enterprise and waste precious start-up funds because it’s easier to ignore the problem than to constantly argue about how the business should be operated. After the business is forced to fold up its tent, the arguments about how to run the operation aren’t an issue anymore. It’s now time for bankruptcy proceedings.

An employer is in a marketplace that’s in a downward spiral, yet employees see no sign of management trying to regain market share with creative ideas, it’s just more of the same approach that isn’t working. Nevertheless, employees hang on, hoping that things will somehow get better. When they’re laid off, they find it very difficult to find a job simply because prospective employers see that they don’t have one.

Something doesn’t sound right with the car, like the engine is low on oil, but the driver keeps driving anyway. The mechanical sounds get louder and have a more pronounced metallic sound. A short while later it sounds like a dozen monkeys under the hood hitting the engine with 3-pound hammers. Eventually the engine fails due to low oil, and it’s time to spend money on another car.

A young man offers one excuse after another for not being employed. He doesn’t have to work because his parents keep sending him money for rent, and he gets a free midday meal from a local charity. His lifestyle is being subsidized by those who care for him. After months of this, his parents finally cut him off and his world gets turned upside down.

A young man has a business selling toys for children, but he’s not making any money to speak of, yet he’s sticking with it. He’s been heard to say, “I’m slowly going bankrupt.” He doesn’t have any ideas about how to turn around his financial situation.

The above examples suggest that there are many reasons why someone might wait around to be shot. Here is a short list of some of the key factors that might get us into this mode and keep us there.

  • We’re in a comfort zone and naturally we’d like to linger.
  • Alternatives are uncertain, and we’re not budging until we’re certain the grass is greener on the other side.
  • We really don’t know what we might do to better our position, and perhaps we don’t appreciate why it’s important to do so.
  • Unfortunately, we’ve settled for less, it’s meager, but it seems to be enough to get by.
  • There have yet to be serious consequences for our less than responsible behavior.
  • We haven’t hit bottom, or we don’t recognize it when we do.
  • We’re being enabled to be less responsible.
  • We’d rather play it out to the end so our choices are limited; decision-making is basically done for us.

A lengthy article could be written about each one of the above items, but let me take a shorter route by offering four pieces of advice for those who might know someone who is waiting to be shot or repeatedly shooting themselves in the financial foot.

  1. Be deliberate and proactive. Don’t wait for things to happen to you, instead, make them happen for you by being deliberate about it. Success in any endeavor isn’t going to settle in around you, you’ll have to make it happen. That will require a can-do attitude and a reasonable plan.
  2. Plan it and follow through. I’m big on planning because it’s always worked well for me. Once you know where you’re headed, it’s easier to make good choices that can help make certain you get to where you’d like to be. And, there’s no sense working hard until you have a reasonable plan for achieving your objectives.
  3. Don’t settle for being a victim. I’ve often thought that there are really only three basic roles we can play in our lives, that of villain, victim or victor. In my mind, the idea of being a villain is out. Being a victim is also out of the question because it often makes you a pawn in someone else’s game, and it’s easy to become increasingly dependent on others and unable to manage your own life…how pitiful. So, the selection should be clear, it’s the victor that one should strive to be, one who succeeds based on their own initiative.
  4. Know the company you keep. If you’re following the advice of others, make sure they represent good examples of success. Their success should be based on following their own advice. If you hang around smart people, and you’re receptive and perceptive, their shine will likely rub off on you. On the flip side, whether it’s ditching a bad business partner, walking away from a draining relationship, or turning your back on others who are intent on riding on your back, it’s sometimes best to cut your losses by getting rid of human tar babies. In other words, instead of waiting to be shot, sometimes it’s others who need to be shot.

Could we simply be waiting around to be shot, or are we “looking alive” and trying our best to stay that way? When it comes to our personal finances, are we on top of the game, letting it slide, or waiting around to see what happens next? Do we have a plan, is it reasonable and achievable, or are we going to let the economic winds blow us where they may? Is our attitude that of achievement, accepting challenges, just holding our own, or are we more inclined to simply give up? Do we have a mentor or role model, are we surrounding ourselves with good examples, are friends and family a source of encouragement, or do we have a monkey on our back?

There are as many answers to these questions as there are people, and it’s only important that you answer the questions honestly for yourself. To do anything less is to cut short your chances for success. There are many paths that one might take to get out of debt, accumulate wealth, live comfortably, and otherwise have the financial means to enjoy a self-chosen lifestyle. Many paths lead to success, and as long as we stay on one that’s reasonable, we’ll at least we’re not simply standing around waiting to be shot.

And, if you know someone whose approach to personal finance includes standing around waiting to be shot, it might be best to step away from them and keep your distance.

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About Clair Schwan

9 Responses to “Waiting to be Shot is a Default Financial Choice for Some – Work to Avoid This Undesirable Approach to Personal Finance”

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  1. Great advice for those in this situation. I also think that your first tip, to be deliberate and proactive, is a great way to help avoid falling into this situation to begin with! We can have a big hand in creating our own destiny, and if we take steps to actively guide our future then perhaps with can live AND work with a greater sense of purpose.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      The idea of being deliberate is one of my favorite concepts. It’s a big part of creating our own future. Sometimes bad things happen despite our efforts, but for the most part, what we allow to happen and what we try to make happen will indeed happen. Whether we acquiesce, or take an active part, they’re both a form of being deliberate. The good news is that most often our actions will produce the results we desire, or at least get us very close to our objectives. As an acquaintance of mine once told me, “Be careful what you wish for, because you’re probably going to get it.”

      • I agree that being proactive is the most important concept. We live in a time in which we make our own successes. To work hard and strive to achieve your goals is the only way to reach them. Always be on the lookout for your best opportunity!

  2. I was one of those people after I was laid off. I was trying freelancing, but doing nothing proactive about it. Instead I played a lot of volleyball, hoping jobs would start coming to me. It was only after I was hitting a pretty big low with my finances that I started to get my butt in gear.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      I refer to what you describe as the state of “getting mad enough (with yourself) to do something about it.” Sometimes it takes a kick in the ass to get us to take action. If I may quote from one of my websites:

      ” Oddly enough, once I got mad enough (and desperate enough), my financial freedom was secured for me by investing money very close to home. I put what little I had in the hands of someone who I trusted. It was someone who I knew would work very hard on my behalf – me! ”

      Much of our success in any endeavor is tied to believing in ourselves. Unless we’re headed in the wrong direction, taking action is always better than failing to take action (waiting to be shot). We can course correct along the way once we’re started on a what we believe is a good path, as that is likely to be the case no matter how excellent our planning might be. And, being actively engaged in problem resolution, and seeing progress being made, can both be sources of stress relief.

  3. Great article, Clair! I’d also throw “fear” and “hopelessness” in there as more reasons why people choose to wait until they’re shot. I have many family members who wallow in fear and hopelessness, and was once there myself: This attitude of “I’m scared to be in a new place, because at least I know what to expect in the current place.” or “It’s never gonna work – why should I even bother?” Just more lies we tell ourselves to avoid, like you said, stepping out of that comfort zone and doing what needs to be done. But as we’ve learned, that choice to “do something” invokes confidence, creativity and the will to keep going.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      Laurie, excellent observations. To be sure, fear and hopelessness can be added to the list. It’s difficult to overcome these things because they come from within. And, as I like to say in a mocking and joking manner, “The mind is a terrible thing.” We’re good at fooling ourselves about what can and should be done, yet we don’t recognize it as lies, sometimes because those lies are reinforced by our associates who also might not know what is best to do. As an acquaintance of mine once said, “You can talk yourself into just about anything.” And, I’m sure that applies when it comes to talking oneself out of just about anything as well.

  4. I’ve never heard of the phrase “waiting to get shot” but after reading this, I can definitely identify to a few of these habits. I try my best to always be proactive, at least I think I do, but there are just some days when comfort reigns.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      My hope is that some of what I write will help create new concepts for those who struggle with where to begin to slay the debt beast. The idea of waiting to be shot is the opposite of being proactive; it’s allowing things to happen to us instead of making them happen for ourselves. As I’m fond of saying, if we wait around for someone to tell us what to do, or to do something to us, we’re probably not going to like it much at all.

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