You Might Be An Underachiever If…

Here’s some humor and inspiration to send you into your weekend—another phenomenal guest post from my friend, mentor and co-author of The Ultimate Financial Plan, Jim Stovall—that is sure to make you laugh and think.

JIM PROMO PHOTO - SMALLSuccess is a wonderful concept. It is self-defining and self-fulfilling. Once we get past our school years with standardized tests and regular percentage grades, we emerge into the adult world where, to a great extent, we get to determine what is important to us.

In school, the labels “achiever” or “underachiever” are determined as compared to your fellow students; however, in the real adult world, you and I get to decide what is important to us and what levels we want to achieve in our lives. Only you and I know whether we are overachieving or underachieving because we establish the rules, set the target, and create the timeframe and deadlines in our own minds. There is probably no greater factor in our own personal satisfaction in life than our own assessment of whether we are overachieving or underachieving as it relates to our own goals.

Since the concept of achieving is elusive and hard to define, I thought I would borrow a time-tested technique from the comedian and entertainer Jeff Foxworthy. Mr. Foxworthy has singlehandedly elevated the term Redneck from an insult to a point of pride among many people simply by helping his audiences define the term. With that in mind, we can take a look at the term underachiever as it relates to your own personal goals that you have established for yourself and your life.

If the last goal you set for yourself involved a science fair project in the seventh grade, you might be an underachiever.

If you spend more time watching television every day than you spend on your own personal development in a year, you might be an underachiever.

If the last 10 books you read all involved comic character superheroes, you might be an underachiever.

If you consider the act of getting off the couch to change the batteries in the remote control to be vigorous exercise, you might be an underachiever.

If you have more creditors calling you than friends calling you, you might be an underachiever.

If the majority of your life savings is loose change that fell out of your pocket into the car seat or recliner, you might be an underachiever.

If you have more premium channels on your TV than you have biographies on your shelf, you might be an underachiever.

If friends, family members, acquaintances, and pets avoid you when they want to have a good day, you might be an underachiever.

If you spend more time planning your three-day weekend than you spend planning your life goals, you might be an underachiever.

If the greatest success you ever had or ever hope to have came during a Little League game when Richard Nixon was president, you might be an underachiever.

If you instantly know who got voted off the island, who picked which idol, and who’s dancing with what star, but you don’t have advisors and mentors, you might be an underachiever.

At the risk of encroaching on Jeff Foxworthy’s space, sometimes it’s easier to define what we don’t want and change it than to define what we do want and obtain it.

As you go through your day today, define your own success, set your own goals, and become an achiever.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082; by email at; or on Facebook at

Decisions and Consequences

by Jim Stovall

We all succeed or fail based on the decisions we make.  All the decisions you have made in your entire life have brought you to this place, at this time, reading these words in a newspaper, magazine, or online publication somewhere in the world.

A lot of people who are not where they want to be in their personal or professional lives like to think of themselves as victims.  There is something that appears initially comforting about not being responsible for the shortcomings in our lives; but unless or until you and I are willing to accept our current circumstances as a product of our own decisions, we can’t live the rest of our lives knowing that the decisions we make today can result in the things we want tomorrow.

One of my mentors, Lee Braxton, gave me two powerful pieces of advice on making decisions.  First, he said, “Don’t make any decisions until you have to.”  I found it ironic that, during this past election season, millions of people through early voting programs or absentee balloting, voted weeks before election day.  This presumes that there won’t be any factors or revelations that might change their minds.  Other than a potential conflict in your schedule, there is no benefit to voting early, and there may be a benefit to waiting on all the information and facts that can come at the last minute in a campaign.

The second piece of wisdom that Mr. Braxton gave me came from his statement, “When you can’t decide between two options, choose the one that leaves you with more options.”

If you own one chicken and can’t decide whether to make an omelet from the eggs or eat fried chicken today, choosing the omelet will give you future options.  Once you fry the chicken, there are no more choices to be made.  Recent surveys show that over half of the people who choose to have a tattoo later choose to have it removed.  This process is painful, expensive, and often doesn’t work completely.

Choices and options have a great value attached to them.  When you look at investing in the stock market, you can buy an individual stock, or you can buy an option which allows you to choose later whether you want to own or not own that particular investment.  You can sell your option to someone else as the right to make that choice has a recognized value in the marketplace.  Never choose until you have to and leave all your options open as long as you can.

Wisdom and knowledge help us make great decisions.  A wise person realizes that no matter how certain they may be about a choice right now, there will be more facts and information available later.

As you go through your day today, accept the fact that you are a product of your choices, and determine to make quality decisions.

Today’s the day!

Advisors, Advice, and Advertisements

by Jim Stovall

Recently, I have been researching and writing my next book.  This new book, The Millionaire Map, will be out next year and deals with my own story of becoming a millionaire and interviews including research on thousands of other millionaires.

Throughout this process, I have been amazed at the voluminous body of knowledge relating to wealth-building, investing, and financial topics.  I have been even more amazed at how much of the advice is bogus and how many of the advisors are phonies or outright frauds.

One of the keys to succeeding in any endeavor is to seek out and apply the knowledge and wisdom of others.  One of the surest ways to fail in reaching any goal is to take advice from someone who doesn’t have what you want or hasn’t been where you want to go.

Recently, I was contacted by a longtime friend and internationally-prominent figure in the religious community.  He shared with me the recent financial troubles he had suffered and asked to borrow a significant amount of money to cover some pressing bills.  This is always a difficult request from any friend or family member as it introduces the question, “Am I helping to solve the problem or simply prolonging it?”

I was pleased that I was able to offer my friend some advice that would help him solve his own problem in a timely manner while making it possible for him not to get in this financial condition again.  I’m not sure he was totally satisfied as he was looking for quick money instead of short-term solutions and long-term strategies.  Hopefully, as a religious leader, he will understand and accept my attempt to teach him to fish instead of giving him a fish.

Ironically, just a few short weeks after that discussion, I received an advertisement and invitation from this same individual inviting me to pay a significant amount of money to attend his upcoming wealth-building conference.  While I found this literally comical, it grieves me to think of all of the financially-struggling individuals who are seeking hope and information who will attend this dubious event.  These poor people will lose much more than the price of admission.  They will lose hope and the possibility of succeeding.

When people are treading water in the open ocean, they need a life preserver not an overpriced pile of bogus advice.  People can only tread water for so long before they go under for good.  Self-proclaimed experts who waste the time and money of financially-drowning individuals are guilty of much more than stealing money.  They steal hope and future success.

As you go through your day today, examine the advisor before you examine the advice.

Today’s the day!

Sick, Well, and Better

by Jim Stovall

I have a friend and colleague I have worked with for over a decade.  She is among the most talented and gifted professionals it has ever been my privilege to work with.  Several years ago, she was diagnosed with a disease that has made it very difficult for her to function in her personal and professional life.

Recently, her doctors—after exhausting all other possibilities—were considering a radical procedure that would have left her permanently impaired.  Thankfully, one of her doctors, before performing this procedure, decided to send my friend and colleague to an 83-year-old physician who has a great deal of experience and expertise within this particular field of medicine.  This talented octogenarian informed my friend and colleague that he had only seen her condition three times during his lifelong practice.  He went on to explain that she actually had two separate conditions that, together, were creating this debilitating perfect storm she had been suffering with.  He prescribed a medication to handle one of the conditions which made the remaining illness manageable.

Today, my friend and colleague—along with everyone in our organization—is feeling gratitude for this breakthrough in her treatment.  She still is suffering symptoms that most people would find extremely painful and inhibiting, but she is thankful, optimistic, and back to her high level of functioning.

In addition to the new prescription, her elderly and wise doctor gave her some powerful medicine known as hope and understanding.

I meet countless people through these columns, my books, and the speeches I make across the country.  Many people are suffering with personal, financial, or business conditions that remain undiagnosed and very painful to them and the people around them.  These people need to find what my friend and colleague found which is the fact that a diagnosis and treatment provide hope and clarity that can bring healing long before the symptoms begin to disappear.

If you are one of the millions of people drowning in debt, I would suggest the mere process of diagnosis and treatment will change your attitude and revolutionize your outlook.  If, instead of confronting an undefined terrifying stack of bills that you feel you have no hope of paying, you simply add them up and establish a budget to address the total amount of your indebtedness, you will sleep better tonight and have a great day tomorrow.

This improvement will come not because you have paid off one dollar of your debt but, instead, because for the first time in a long time—like my friend and colleague—you will see a light at the end of the tunnel and know that the future is bright, and hope abounds.  A challenge defined and addressed is a challenge in the process of being overcome.

As you go through your day today, diagnose your condition and take a double dose of hope.

Today’s the day!

Everything Counts

by Jim Stovall

I’m a firm believer in the concept that we never do anything, good or bad, that we don’t get paid for.  Some of the good things you may do may not be immediately or obviously rewarded, but I believe they will be; and if someone does something bad, it may seem—in the short term—that they’re getting away with it, but consequences are a universal law.

Everything we do matters in the grand scheme of things.  There are some things that seem more critical than others, but if we will step back and examine it, we will realize that the crisis comes from our performance not external factors.

Recently, I enjoyed the NBA playoffs.  It seems like basketball, more than any other sport, often comes down to what sports announcers or fans would call a last-second critical shot.  In reality, if a team needs a last-second basket to win the game, that single basket counts no more or less than if they had made it immediately after the opening tipoff at the beginning of the game.  In fact, often the last-second basket seems critical because a team may have played poorly at some point in the first half, and the crisis comes to the surface at the last second.

Last college football season, fans watched in frustration and anguish as a young man from Stanford University missed a critical field goal.  Obviously, you would expect a kicker at the major college level to routinely make that field goal; however, if the team had simply gotten another first down in the second quarter or if a receiver had not dropped a pass on the opening drive of the game, Stanford might never have needed that field goal in the last second of the game.

Many crises we face in our personal and professional lives are self-induced.  We put ourselves in a financial or time constraint and then need some last second heroics to emerge unscathed.  Success in life is not about seeing how close we can get to the edge without going over the cliff.  While there are last-second emergencies and crunch times in everyone’s life, the majority of stress and frantic last-minute efforts could be avoided by prior planning.

Too many people who face last-minute financial or deadline emergencies based their planning on a best-case scenario.  If you don’t plan for the inevitable delay, flat tire, or budget overrun, you will live your whole life facing the frantic last-second shot to stay in the game.

As you go through your day today, plan to win in every area of your life beginning with the first play of the game, not just the last one.

Today’s the day!

Gratitude and Gratuity

by Jim Stovall

During the current economic downturn, I realize many businesses and individuals are having a difficult time making ends meet.

Recently, my coauthor Tim Maurer and I released a book dealing with money and personal finance (  As a result of the publicity and promotion of that book, I have had the opportunity to talk with many groups and individuals about the economy, budgets, and personal finances.  While speaking to a group of people who work in the restaurant and food industry, I was shocked to find out how much economic conditions affect consumers’ tipping practices.

My first life experience in the world of business and commerce involved delivering newspapers.  I quickly discovered if I was reliable, dependable, got the newspaper on the porch or where the customer wanted it, and kept it dry during inclement weather, I could receive some generous tips.  I found that good service often brings a disproportionately higher tip.  This is to say that many times for slightly exceeding expectations, you can receive a tip two or three times larger than you would otherwise expect.

When you and your family or colleagues go out to eat, everyone knows that the standard expectation for tipping is a minimum of 15%.  If you cannot afford to comfortably pay for your meal and minimal tip within the context of your budget, you simply cannot afford to eat out.  Regardless of your personal financial condition or the prevailing economic trends, the person who serves you deserves to be compensated appropriately.

Experts disagree on how you should handle substandard or poor service.  Some feel you should not tip at all or limit your tip while others feel you should discuss your situation with your server or, better yet, management.  I feel if you’re going to withhold a tip, the server should understand why.  Withholding a tip should indicate the service was so poor that if your meal had been deficient to the same extent, you would discuss not paying your bill with the management.

Apparently, many consumers find a number of minor complaints in their own minds sufficient enough to withhold the tip, but they never express their displeasure or the reason for their actions with the server.  Tips are discretionary as are most standard expectations in polite society.  If you withhold a tip without discussing it with your server, it says more critical things about you than the waiter or waitress.

I have a personal problem with establishments that put a standard gratuity on the bill.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with it if it’s disclosed up front, but I simply think the practice defeats the time-honored tradition of tipping.  Invariably if there is a mandatory tip already added to my bill, that is generally all I will pay.

One of my favorite quotes from President Harry Truman says, “We will give millions for charity but not one penny for tribute.”  President Truman was expressing the sentiment that we enjoy being generous but not having things taken from us or required of us by people who feel entitled to what we have.

As you go through your day today, remember the people who serve you, and treat them as you would want to be treated.

Today’s the day!

The Art of Amazing

by Jim Stovall

Defining success is the initial barrier most people face.  If they instantly had the opportunity to flip a switch and become successful, they haven’t determined what that illusive term “success” means to them.  Success comes in many sizes and shapes.  It is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but instead success is a custom-made garment designed to serve you throughout your life.

Once you have defined what success means to you, you’ve got to have a plan of action for how to get there.  I have been searching for a number of years to find a simple, one-step process to help people move toward success as they have defined it.  As usually happens, great wisdom comes not in the form of an insightful answer, but instead, it appears as a penetrating question.  Once you have defined what that customized success looks like for you, and you are pursuing it as a part of your daily routine, you simply need to ask the following question as you approach each task.  “What would I do right now if I were amazing?”

This seems to cut through the clutter and clarify the critical issue faster than anything I have ever found.  The question, “What would I do if I were amazing?” doesn’t require us to be amazing or even act like we’re amazing.  It simply assumes we have the ability to act amazing when dealing with the single task before us at any given point in time.

Lifetime goals can be broken down into long-term objectives and short-term activities; but at some point, no matter what our goal, we are faced with the next single task at hand.  It may be as simple as a phone call, a meeting, or a conversation.  It may require us to meet or greet a new person.  But whatever that activity, if we can answer the question, “What would I do right now if I were amazing?” we then stand at the fork in the road and are faced with that inevitable question, “Do I do the least I can do, the minimum that is expected, or will I perform this next task as if I were amazing?”

If you perform enough tasks at that level, soon people will begin to say of you, “That person is amazing,” and they will be right.

As you go through your day today, accept the fact that you won’t always have the right answers, but from now on, you’ve always got the right question.

Today’s the day!

A Financial Emergency

by Jim Stovall

We have all heard and read a lot recently about the financial crisis or monetary emergency that we are facing.  These reports, most often, define the looming disaster in terms of billions or even trillions of dollars.  While we are certainly facing some difficult economic times around the world, the most critical financial emergency we are facing, individually and collectively, is represented by $1,000.

A recent survey showed the staggering reality that 64% of Americans don’t have $1,000 set aside as an emergency fund.  This is an alarming statistic because, with the cost of all the complex devices that make our world possible, a non-functioning refrigerator, broken transmission, or even a leaky roof can use up a $1,000 emergency fund and more.

It’s not a matter of if you’re going to have a $1,000 emergency.  It’s a matter of when.

These 64% of respondents to the survey were asked what they would do if they had an emergency since they don’t even have $1,000 set aside.

  • 9% of them said they would take out a loan;
  • 17% declared they would borrow from friends or family;
  • 9% replied they would get a cash advance on a credit card;
  • 17% replied they would simply disregard other monthly expenses to cover the cost of the emergency; and
  • 12% actually said they would have to sell or pawn some of their personal possessions.

In my latest book, The Ultimate Financial Plan, my co-author Tim Maurer and I explore every aspect of the financial decisions that are faced by you and your family; but it all starts with an emergency fund.

There is a tremendous benefit to having an emergency fund that goes far beyond covering the cost of an emergency.  It could commonly be defined as a good night’s sleep.  If you are one of the majority of Americans that don’t have even a minimal $1,000 emergency fund, you need to declare your own emergency now, and begin compiling reserve funds for that next inevitable bump in the road.  You can turn a broken air conditioner, a visit to the minor emergency medical center, or an unanticipated tax bill into an annoyance instead of living with these realities as a looming emergency.

The number one cause of divorce, depression, and dissatisfaction in our society is reported to be worry over money matters.  I’ve got to believe that the majority of the worry is not about retirement, college education, or paying off the house.  Most worries are about those routine, daily matters that come to us unexpectedly and can only be resolved with money.  Money is far from the most important thing in life; however, with respect to the problems that money solves, there is simply no substitute.

As you go through your day today, realize that relaxation and peace of mind may be only $1,000 away.

Today’s the day!

Fight or Flight

by Jim Stovall

Recently, I spent quite a bit of time with a dear friend of mine who could best be described as the quintessential Southern gentlemen.  He is well into his eighth decade of life but, in many ways, his attitudes and demeanor harken back even farther to a much-earlier time.

He was born and spent his formative years in rural Mississippi and remains very steeped in the southern culture.  While my friend seems to have love in his heart for everyone, he still refers to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression.

One of my favorite quotes from my dear friend is that “a good run is better than a poor stand.”  This old saying may have originated in the aftermath of a long-forgotten Civil War battle, but it can serve you and me today.

There are few human endeavors that require more time, effort, energy, and resource than an argument or disagreement.  In many cases, the disagreement or argument, itself, becomes more costly than the issue it sprang from.  Very few people have the ability to disagree without becoming disagreeable.  We are all so vested in our personal beliefs that we take opposition to our position as a personal affront.

I would be the first to say there are many beliefs, standards, and positions that are worth arguing for and even fighting about, but it’s important to pick your battles.  Oftentimes, with a friend, colleague, or loved one, you can win a brief argument and lose good will and trust that have been built up over many years.  Before you engage in a conflict with another person, group, or organization, be sure to count the cost.

In the ancient and classic book The Art of War, Sun Tzu describes the best way to win any battle and be victorious in any war is to avoid the conflict entirely.  Before you engage in a debate, an argument, or a conflict, ask yourself the following questions:

1.      Do I really care about this issue at hand?

2.      Does the matter under consideration involve a core principle that I hold?

3.      What could I lose by escalating this conflict?

4.      Does the outcome of this debate affect one of my personal or professional goals?

5.      Is it possible for me to simply state my position and agree to disagree?

As a professional speaker, I have had the privilege of sharing the stage with General Colin Powell.  We should all be grateful and thankful for leaders such as General Powell who have dedicated themselves to our defense.  During a recent debate about an ongoing conflict in the Middle East, General Powell cautioned that it is important that we avoid a situation where we win the war but lose the peace.

As you go through your day today, never back down on your core principles and beliefs, but never fight or argue over things that truly don’t matter.

Today’s the day!

The Bias Trap

by Jim Stovall

Like many people of my generation, I grew up on a steady diet of 60 Minutes broadcasts every Sunday night.  Whether you liked or didn’t like 60 Minutes, and regardless of whether you believed in their slant on a story, it was—and still is—hard not to watch.

For many years, 60 Minutes did three news magazine-type features followed by a brief commentary by Andy Rooney.  Andy Rooney could be best described as an off-beat, out-of-date curmudgeon.  This is exactly what made his commentary so poignant.  No matter what the topic of his commentary, and regardless of your own personal experience, Andy Rooney could look at any issue from a totally unique perspective.

We lost Andy Rooney not too long ago, just a short time after he retired, having worked into his 90s.  He had an amazing career that spanned from being a war correspondent during World War II through the formative stage and golden years of network TV, up to a point long past where most of his colleagues had retired.

Andy Rooney was fond of saying, “People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.”

It’s easy for me to believe that everyone else, including Andy Rooney, would come to an issue with a bias.  What is hard for me to admit and grasp is the fact that I, also, have a bias in every situation.

My late, great mentor and friend Paul Harvey told me that the most honest he could be as a reporter was to admit his personal bias up front.  We succeed in our personal and professional lives by making good decisions.  We make good decisions by honestly evaluating the situation and our various alternatives.  This honest evaluation is dependent upon our ability to set aside any bias we may have.  In order to set aside our bias, we must admit we have one and clearly define it.

If you’re looking at a choice, a decision, a debate, or controversy, the easiest way to clarify and get rid of your own bias is to argue the other side and present the other position.  This keeps your logic strong and gives you the benefit of an opposite perspective.

During the formative years of my company, the Narrative Television Network, I had the privilege of interviewing many classic film stars.  Among these were Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.  These two superstars were the best of friends who seemed to have virtually nothing in common.  For years, they starred on Broadway playing the lead characters in Neil Simon’s production of The Odd Couple.  Jack Lemmon played the persnickety, neurotic neat freak Felix Unger while Walter Matthau played the irascible slob Oscar Madison.  Both of them told me, on separate occasions, that they brought strength, originality, and freshness to their roles because, once a week, they would switch parts, allowing Lemmon to play Oscar while Matthau played Felix.

The late, great favorite son of my home state, Oklahoma, Will Rogers, who was a Native American, was fond of saying, “Never judge a man unless you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”  Mr. Rogers understood that a different perspective would change your focus and eliminate your bias.

As you go through your day today, try to gain knowledge and apply it in the form of wisdom by eliminating your own preconceived bias.

Today’s the day!