Saturday, October 3, 2015

4 lessons the Martian has taught me about ditching my debt

This weekend, the movie The Martian is debuting at theaters across the nation. With a star-studded cast including Matt Damon and others, it is sure to be an action-packed movie that will be worth my viewing time (once it comes out of DVD, of course :)).

I heard about The Martian by Andy Weir recently when it was recommended at James Clear's website as a book to read. I put myself on the semi-long hold list at our public library, and when I finally got my copy a week or so ago, I finished it within three days. While I can't say that it was the best-written book in the world, I can see why it is such a popular book, and why it is such a great storyline for a movie. The story starts out with an astronaut who is on a Mars exploratory mission who then has an accident in the middle of the storm that causes the crew to believe that he is dead, and because the storm is so bad, the crew evacuates, leaving him behind.

Only he's not dead. And as he comes to, he realizes that he is now stranded on Mars with no hope of leaving until another mission can make it to him in four years. With only enough food to survive for maybe a year-and-a-half, he has the overarching problem of how to survive until they can get there.

I will leave the plot at there for those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie, but suffice it to say, the book is a lot about solving problems that are not only big, but questions of surviving. I find myself dealing with other issues in my life and then thinking, "Well, at least I'm not stuck on Mars by myself with no food . . . what would Mark Watley do?" While having over $80,000 in debt is not a question of life or death, it can feel monumental in terms of overcoming it, so with that in mind, here are four lessons the Martian has taught me about ditching my debt.

1. Focus on the problem at hand.
When Watley wakes up to discover that he's stranded on Mars, he at first feels like he's screwed. And who wouldn't? There are days when I look at our debt balance and think the same thing, but then I remember that every little bit matters, and the more important thing is to not wallow in despair, but to get to work figuring out what I need to do to move forward.

2. When something goes wrong (and it will) re-assess and re-calibrate.
I won't spoil the plot for you by telling you which of Watley's endeavors don't work out, but suffice it to say that a few of his major efforts fail majorly. There are problems that he didn't anticipate, even being as smart as he was, and when they happen, instead of giving up, he figures out what he needs to do to fix them or find a different alternative to what he had been doing. This too can happen in debt repayment - maybe it's a job that you had been relying on to help you make payments that suddenly falls through, or a major house repair that was not in your debt repayment plan. When these things happen, it's important to figure out what you need to do to move forward, and then do it.

3. Stay focused on the long-term goal.
There were a lot of little things that Watley had to do, and do well, in order to survive on Mars. Staying focused on these things was important, but at the same time, every problem was evaluated in terms of an overarching goal of how many days he could survive before a rescue ship returned. In the same way, we need to keep the big goal of moving forward on our debt on the radar when we evaluate current spending choices.

4. Remember that this is a team effort, even if you feel alone.
Much of what Watley does to survive is his through his own efforts, but at some point, he realizes that he needs outside information and help through communication with others, not to mention the efforts of someone else to come and get him. Much of debt repayment has to do with us, but it also helps to network with others who are in the same boat and learn from them, or to find programs that will help you minimize interest/set up a reasonable repayment plan so that you can make more progress on your debt.

Have any of you read the book? What did you think of it?


  1. I am really happy I found your blog! ( I came over from Brandy's.) You are so inspiring and I like vet the way you look at things. Thank you!

  2. I mean the WAY you look ar things...ha!

  3. Thanks for visiting - it's encouraging to hear comments like yours as I write. :) I love hearing from readers too as I know I have so much to learn from others on working toward a large goal or coming up with ideas for doing more with less.


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