A Different Kind of “Tax Season”

Hand inserting money into a savings jar labeled Tax

Image credit: steveheap

Do you still use ATMs?

Folks used to use them all the time to take cash out of their accounts. I rarely use them anymore, except to occasionally deposit a check without having to fill out a deposit slip. (Which feels like making me do homework to get my money. No thank you!).

I saw an ATM the other day and it reminded me of my buddy Mike. Back in our younger,  pre-parenthood days, Mike, myself, and a few other friends would regularly go out for drinks. Every time we did this, Mike would stop at an ATM and take out $20. The thing is, the ATM would usually charge a flat fee of $1 to $2.

If you’re good at math you know that works out to a 5-10% surcharge each time. These friends would mock him mercilessly, calling him an idiot for not taking out more each time.

One night, one of our friends - a grad of the Wharton School of Business, mind you - turned red and exclaimed, “What is wrong with you?! You are literally paying a 10% fee to access your own money! Just take out more each time!! YOU ARE BEING SO DUMB!!!” 

Mike would just smugly go about his process, ignoring the criticism. You see, MIke knew something that some numbers-driven folks might miss: if he took out $20, he would only spend $20. If he took out more, despite his best intentions, he would spend more. 

Spending $2 to withdraw $20 was terribly inefficient. It was also much more effective for Mike.

This is an example of a personal tax. I heard this phrase from Elizabeth Filips, and she defines it as “the price we pay for following our nature.”

What’s interesting is that most of us would look at these things as personal failures and work to change them. Their internal dialogue might go something like this:

You know what? It is stupid to pay a 10% fee to take out my own money. I’ll take out $100 but I will only spend $20.

And of course that’s fine, if you have that sort of self-control after a few drinks. But not everyone does, and this “savings” ends up costing them more.

However, when you think of these inefficiencies not as flaws, but as your personal tax, you may realize it’s a cost you’re willing to pay for doing things in a way that aligns with your nature and strengths. 

Once you accept that the best way for you might not be the “perfect” way, you can move from guilt, negative energy, and feeling stuck, to being effective and moving things forward.

What’s Your Personal Tax?

What is the thing that you do in an imperfect way that makes you feel guilty, or embarrassed, or frustrated with yourself?

How can you reframe this as your own personal tax? What can you do to say, “yes, and” to it instead?

And don’t forget you can use this reframing technique in any are of your life:

  • Personal - If you have a goal you’ve been trying to achieve but have been procrastinating or getting upset that you can’t do it perfectly, defining and accepting your personal tax will lower your stress and resistance and allow you to get moving.
  • Business - What strategies are your team members avoiding because they are not perfect? How much time, energy, and attention is your organization putting on fixing those inefficiencies, and how much more effective would you be if you could accept those as the cost of doing business your way? 
  • Leadership - Your employees have their own personal taxes. Are you accepting their inefficiencies or are you creating a culture of negativity by constantly harping on them?

Obviously, this is not about accepting every flaw and never improving or growing. It is about taking stock and realizing that not every problem needs to be solved. When the flaw is part of your nature, just accepting that you are doing things sub-optimally may be the key to achieving more of what you want.

Part of identifying your personal tax is “knowing yourself,” which is one of the things I covered in the “Say, ‘Yes, And!’ to Yourself” webinar. You may have missed the live event, but you can still watch the replay by signing up here.

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