Changing oil couldn’t have saved the Titanic!

I’m pretty sure it didn’t have a chance. Nope. And here’s why — the problem was that damn iceberg! The engine was doing just fine. Perhaps a little too smooth to sail right into that slab of ice!

Sorry if that sounds a little crude. I know more than 1,500 innocent passengers were killed that starry April night. But this analogy of ‘changing oil to save the Titanic’ is a profound one. At least to me, because that’s how we sometimes (or most of the time, depends on who you’re talking to) react to what happens to our lives.

Bumped into an old acquaintance who drives a Mercedes GLA (he told me about it, eight times, even dangled keys in my face!) at the coffee shop. We swapped war (read: office) stories from the past, the struggles back then, how times have changed and how fortunate he is own a Mercedes GLA… among the other things in life like his wife and two beautiful kids.

As you can tell, I was getting irritated but I sensed also sensed his frustration and asked what that was about? He confessed that he’s in a dire financial situation thanks to the new swanky apartment that he purchased recently. Upon further probing he mentioned about his spending habits (kind of like mine but magnified by a hundred thousand rupees per transaction) and the grave that he was digging himself into. And despite all that, his solution was to take out a massive business loan and close out all the others so that he’s more ‘focused’ on paying off just one debt.

(At this point, I wanted to yell at him, “can’t you see what’s going on you, moron! But I didn’t go there. Thank you, meditation!)

Now, I’m not a financial expert and I’ve had my share of related challenges (thankfully at a much, much, much smaller scale) but I could tell this man was headed for trouble. I decided to put on my coaching hat (some times this feels like a superpower) and help this person clarify this thinking. A good 90 minutes later he arrived at a resolution:

  1. He will sell off his old properties and use the money to pay off the amount he owed for the new property. Use the remaining cash to pay off all his other loans.
  2. He will sell off his Mercedes and buy a used (3 years old) Toyota Camry that wasn’t as great (in terms of prestige, social status and all that crap) as his current vehicle but will do just fine. The extra money will be used as a 3-month emergency fund that he wishes to convert into a 12-month one.

Of course, we didn’t get deep into the spending habits because it was purely based on his world-view. It’s not something I (or anyone, perhaps) can change in just one coaching session. But he was smart enough to understand why he was doing what he was doing. And that’s a great start.

Would he follow through the plan? I’m not sure. It was a pro-bono session I delivered out of compassion. Only time will tell. But from what I saw, my gut says he’s going to make some serious changes in life and follow through on what he said he would do.

The crux of the whole episode was pretty simple — we fail to look at the glaring, obvious issues that are the root of almost all of our problems. Looking elsewhere isn’t the solution. Staring right at it surely is. And that’s precisely why I’m dang convinced changing the oil wouldn’t have saved the Titanic.

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