Letter grades are one of the hallmarks of the American education system. Whether it’s an A or an F or something in between, letter grades define our academic abilities as students for nearly two decades of life. And then what? People still talk about succeeding and fret at the notion of failing. What would happen if we altered the verbiage and recategorized failure?
That is, in fact, one of my favorite parts of summer school. Since these are non-credit classes given my students’ ages, I assess individual skill strands. I don’t have to worry about assigning letter grades that have to translate into GPA points and transcript data. My favorite category? Not yet. There is no F. There is no no. Instead, a student is either mastering a skill, developing a skill, or hasn’t done it quite yet. More chances will be offered, and there is more work to be done. She hasn’t failed. He hasn’t flunked. They’re just not ready yet.
As someone who
obsessed obsesses over failure regularly, removing the notion of failing from my mindset has been liberating. I haven’t flunked personal finance. I haven’t failed a goal. I’m just not there yet. I’ll get there. I might be on mile two while everyone else is eyeing the finish line, but I’ll keep trudging on. In the spirit of summer school, here are my not yets–financial and otherwise.
My Financial Not Yets
Invest with confidence. If you’ve followed my blog or my Twitter feed at all, you are well versed in the fact that I am investing. It’s the confidence part that has yet to arrive. In addition to not having spent a lot of time in the markets, the markets have been so hot and cold, yes and no, in and out, up and down*. A lack of experience coupled with subpar results is a difficult combination. As a result, I definitely only just starting to develop my confidence. Onward.
*I know you wanted a Katy Perry earworm. I could feel it.
Spend my emergency fund. I created an emergency fund. I got to a number that felt good to me. I even moved it to an account in order to score a sign-up bonus and earn a higher interest rate. But I still can’t really bring myself to spend it. The thought of parting with any of it makes me downright twitchy. Of course, I know it’s ideal to maintain a fully-funded account. I’d also like to think we’re done with our share of disasters
for life the year today. But I really am working at coming to terms with the fact that the money is there to be spent when a need arises.
Open another retirement account. It’s really easy to blame fee-heavy companies (ahem, AXA) or my district. But really, it’s my fault as well. I’m only just starting to explore and advocate for better options besides my Roth IRA. And I’m not a new teacher. However, instead of resigning myself to the fact that I haven’t started a 403b that satisfies my criteria, I’m going to keep looking. Feel free to chime in and follow my saga on Twitter.
Other Not Yets
Make mulch from my compost bin. I’m going to chalk this one up to time. I think I know what I’m doing, mostly because the idea of letting things decompose doesn’t seem to involve me all that much. I’ve certainly been consistent. But it’s only been three weeks, so there’s really nothing that resembles anything other than vegetable scraps, wet newspaper, and dried leaves mashed together. Some smells maybe.
Run more than two miles without stopping. I have been consistently terrible at running my entire life. I could rattle off a litany of excuses from mild asthma to back problems, but mostly I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it. As a result, I spent the better part of my fitness life doing other things. However, I have churned out at least a mile every day without stopping this summer.
Play piano with the same skill as I once did. I recently recaptured my piano from my parents’ house. I
tickle plunk the ivories fairly regularly, but this is not like riding a bike. I can play, but I can’t play like I used to. Yet.
Speak Spanish fluently enough to not hesitate or feel awkward when I travel. Oh, Spanish. Had I been braver as a student, I would have studied abroad for longer than two weeks, and I would have pursued more Spanish. However, I lived in eternal fear of
failure a B. I’m much more daring with my language practice now. And my students really get a kick out of helping me bumble my way through.
The list really could go on. Life is a continum. While there may be checkpoints and deadlines along the way, there is nothing stopping me from continuing to hone my skills and interests. Now that I’m opening myself up to more opportunities, I realize what a colossal work in progress I am. And there’s nothing I’d rather be.
So Tell Me…What are your not yets? What skill or insight have you recently improved?
My not-yets are nearly limitless. I would love to build up my endurance and run longer. I also want to start a compost bin, but I have had that goal for like three years. There are many other things, but I’m working on it!
Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions
I am definitely “not yet” in terms of starting to spend my emergency fund when needed (yea – twitchy describes it pretty well!) and to start spending down retirement accounts to fund our “gap years”… I haven’t come up with a word for that yet! But twitchy doesn’t do it justice at all! Keep up the running! I am not a good runner at all (swimmer at heart!) but I ran two marathons (SLOWLY…yep, think total “slow jog”) and it was the biggest high of my life. And the playing piano thing, yep – me too – and I just wrote about that yesterday. Too funny!
I love, love, love this grading concept! Thanks for sharing.
My not yet is exercising consistently. We’ll go on a 100+ mile hike one week, then sit around for the next week. But we’re getting better at other things, so it’s all a trade-off.
It’s a trade-off and a balancing act, for sure! And I’m not sure I’d recover from 100+ mile hike in your heat in a week 😉
We have a few long-term plans that are “not yet”s including Tim’s dream car. That had to get pushed off when we needed to replace our last car unexpectedly. So we’re starting from scratch.
I think I found the most success when, rather than remove failure, I just accepted that it was okay. As a depressive, I see failure everywhere even without grades or a specific timeline. So I just accepted that it can happen and probably will — and that I need to either try again or focus my energy elsewhere.
Yup! I guess that’s been the big shift for me. If I fail once, so what? I mean, it’s awful and I WILL beat myself up over it. But if I keep going, it’s not a permanent failure. In the past, I’d always approach something like running and say, “If I can’t do X by Y, then I can move on to something else.”
I just gave my compost bin to my mother as I proudly admitted to failing at it, haha…
Nooooooo! That is not what I needed to hear, J! 🙂
Gary @ Super Saving Tips
Well, some of my recently improved are also some of my not-yets. While I’m not up to running, I have been trying to increase my walking distance and speed. I was doing really well last year, but have kind of slumped back. I’d also like to get back to decluttering the house with the dream of keeping it organized one day. It’s good to think about the not-yets and make a plan to turn them into recently improveds.
I love the idea of Not Yet. Life is a continuum of skill levels that go up and down according to how you are focusing now. I’m not yet a skilled driver, but I will finally take drivers ed before marrying my girlfriend. She cannot drive and I want to be more comfortable driving us if it is ever necessary. Of course, she is not yet agreeing to marry me either, but that’s another day…
I also have terrible trouble with the idea of spending an emergency fund. If I put money into a savings account there better be a damn good reason for it to come out.
My not yets-health, travel, keeping up with the languages I took in college. I try to do something each day for at least one of them (drink plenty of water, walk to work, read the BBC in different languages) but nothing consistently. Not yet.
Aaron @Income Honcho
Hi there, my first time on your blog here! I’m in the same boat in regards to running. I also have a hard time running for a longer period of time, I always have to slow down to a walk before I can run again. I have been practicing this summer though! anyways, cheers!
The vege garden. No point starting it in winter (southern hemisphere…)
Bigger house renos. No cash just yet.
Getting back to playing guitar. Just don’t feel like it right now – comes and goes!
Free to Pursue
I have plenty of “not yet”s, but the biggest one for me is finally believing we have “enough”. I know it, but I don’t KNOW it yet. I’m really working on it. It’s hard to turn off the message that “more is always better” and that our default is always money/possessions as opposed to what really matters: relationships, a life of purpose, love, giving, joy.
Diane @ Smart Money, Simple Life
There are a few things on my Not Yet list. The timing for them is mostly related to available (or rather, not yet available) finances.
However, I recently moved an item that’s been sitting on the Not Yet list for many years to the Now list. I’ve gone back to university! I could never justify it before because the area of study was completely unrelated to the work I did but now I work for myself, I figured I no longer need to justify it. 🙂
So, Not Yet lists aren’t necessarily Never lists…
Our not yet is doing a professional qualification to further my career. I’m ABOUT to start it, but I haven’t yet. It will hugely help in the years to come. And will definitely help our finances 🙂
Amazing post! I really enjoy it. You put a lot of effort into it. Thanks for sharing this with us.