Our family owned horses for several years in my late teens and early twenties, and friends of ours were always asking us to take them riding. Many amateur riders like to boast that they have never fallen off a horse, which must mean they’re good riders, right? Wrong.
Contrary to popular belief, the best riders are those who have fallen the most times. Seasoned horsemen always say that if you have never fallen off a horse, it just means you haven’t ridden enough.
In the years in which we had horses, I probably had at least one or two (if not more) falls a year. No one who spends a good part of their hours on horseback can be 100% alert and in control 100% of the time. Horses get startled, agitated, excited, run away, buck, etc., and riders sometimes just lose their balance and fall. It’s a natural part of the learning process. No one becomes an advanced rider without ever falling off.
Some falls are inconsequential and you get up without a scratch. Others might leave you a little scratched, a little or seriously bruised, with a concussion, broken bones or unable to walk for several days. I’ve had most types, but, thank the stars, escaped the concussions and broken bones.
Circumstances differ, but one thing remains the same. The longer you wait to get back in the saddle, the harder it gets. The best cure for getting over the fear of falling is to brush yourself off and immediately get back in the saddle. If you don’t get right back on, but instead go straight home to dwell on your close call and bruises, the next time you get in the saddle, if you ever do, it becomes a lot scarier than it would’ve been.
I also believe that falls come when you need them. When you ride horses regularly, you forget about the many dangers of riding. If you haven’t fallen in a while, you tend to get overconfident, too comfortable and careless. Falls often come at this point. After a fall, you are once again acutely aware of the dangers and find yourself more alert and careful … until history repeats itself all over again.
So what does this have to do with personal finance?
Personal finance is not a high speed train on which you are just a passenger and which would disappear in a nanosecond if you slipped and fell off. Think of it as a horse that you are riding. (Assuming your horse is well trained and stops when you fall off, which most horses do.) If you slip and fall once in a while, you haven’t lost your chance at reaching your goal. Just get back on and try your best to stay on.
Everyone slips once in a while, and no doubt you do or will at some point. Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process from which we learn. If you fall off your saving wagon and commit a spending faux pas, don’t let it keep you down. Don’t think, “Well, I’ve blown it already. What’s the point in continuing to try?” and then proceed to spend more. Instead, analyze the situation which led to your fall, learn to recognize the factors that caused you to fall and watch out for them the next time they come around.
For example, you walk by a favorite shop window and see a large SALE sign. You can’t resist the call of the sale and therefore go in and spend unnecessarily. Afterwards, when you realize your mistake (and can’t return your purchases because you bought them on sale), instead of giving up your resolve to continue to save, think about the following:
- What caused you to slip? Seeing the SALE sign.
- How did you come to see the SALE sign that led you to your folly? Walking by the shop and looking in the window.
- Solution: Take a different route next time, or don’t look at the window if you must walk past it.
Next, don’t console yourself with an ice cream or a new pair of shoes. File this experience away as a lesson learned and get back on your saving wagon.
I once got bucked off a horse during a riding lesson. The instructor thought a rabbit had probably dashed out of some nearby bushes, startling him and causing him to buck. You can be sure that if I’m ever again on horseback where there could be rabbits nearby, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled and my heels down.