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Engineers, Money, and Falling Off Bikes

So I will make you one promise, if nothing else this article will expose you to a fascinating video about “unlearning to ride a bike” that you will want to share with others.

The video also will get you to think about how ingrained things are in our minds and how difficult it is for us to change.  Hopefully, you will also take the lessons from the video and use them to evaluate a bit about your relationship with money and start on a journey to change any behaviors that you do not like.

The idea for this post came to me earlier this week when my father shared the video shown above from Destin Sander at “Smarter Every Day” that highlighted an engineer unlearning to ride a bike.

As a University of Illinois engineering grad, I had to laugh as the guy in the video shared his three lessons:

  • Welders are often smarter than engineers
  • Knowledge does not equal to understanding
  • Truth is truth

Let’s just say that the lessons really resonated with me a little bit too much based on some not all together positive life experiences!  I could also not help but think about how an engineer unlearning to ride a bike connected so closely with our relationships to money …

The video highlighted three “truths”:

  • How we learn certain things at an early age that are difficult to change
  • How we can unlearn things that we “know” but it takes time and hard work
  • How easy it is to revert to those things we learned early in life

Each of the above corresponds EXACTLY to how many of us deal with money in our lives!

  • We are all taught at an early age how to spend – or not spend – money. We all have one friend that never has a dime and another that has the first penny that went in their piggy bank.  There is nothing “wrong” with either of our friends.  The reality is they were conditioned by years of upbringing to have a certain kind of relationship with money.
  • We can change our relationship with money. However, it is very difficult.  Normally it either takes a number of years, a serious incident involving financial failure, or the help of professionals.  However, change can, does, and will happen if we make a concerted effort to focus and practice the new behavior
  • Once we have our new habits in place, it is hard to revert back. HOWEVER, we still have the mental pathways in place that allow us to behave in the old manner.   We need to constantly practice our new habits or we risk returning to our previous neural pathways

Watching Destin go through this experiment and listening to his insights helped me to realize that when it comes to any activity – being riding a bike or investing – we all have a certain way that we are wired.  And if we want to re-wire our brains, we can do so if we make the commitment to focus on developing the new habit.

So what are the take away?  Three things:

  • Kids learn and adapt a lot easier than adults (he actually said they have more neuro-plasticity, but that sounds too complicated!)
  • We all have our biases that shape our behaviors
  • We all have the ability to re-learn anything we commit to

If you need help re-learning how to have a better relationship with your finances, feel free to reach out to me and we can sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about it.  As a Certified Financial Planner™, there are not many things that I guarantee.  However, I will almost guarantee that redefining your relationship with money will likely be easier than learning to ride a reverse steering bike!

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Curt Stowers

Curt Stowers

Curtis Stowers helps individuals and families across the United States grow their financial assets, particularly in the Naperville, IL region. He is a Certified Financial Planner, holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois, and is the founder of F5 Financial.