Finders…Not Keepers

Day 83 | $35,083 paid | $55,634 till freedom

I was doing squats in the nearly empty gym this Friday evening after work at 8:30 PM, and after my first set I looked down and noticed a wallet on the floor lying next to a nearby bench. It didn’t appear to belong to anybody since nobody had been in the vicinity for the past 15 minutes, so I picked it up. Inside were credit cards, an ID…and $152 cash.

Now, I’ve lost my wallet more than once. In 2001, during my first week at the University of Michigan, I was working out, running the steps in the stadium–the Big House–and had left my wallet and dorm key on a bleacher to free up my hands for running. The stadium was completely empty, but somebody still managed to snatch my stuff. I went to the nearby police station. They had recovered my wallet in a garbage can with all of the cards, but no cash.

I lost my wallet again at a bar back in 2007. Whoever took it from me (or found it) charged a couple of drinks on it and took my cash. The wallet was turned into the bar staff with the credit card and other stuff still in place.

The last time I lost my wallet was in my apartment parking lot back in 2009. I never did recover that, and it had about $100 cash in it. It must have fallen out of my car door or my pocket somehow on my way to my apartment. Nobody turned it into the leasing office.

Anyway, when I was standing there in the gym with that wallet in my hands, deciding what to do with it, I couldn’t really look back in recent history for inspiration to do the right thing since nobody had done the right thing for me. So I dug further back, and remembered the time when I was about nine years old growing up in upstate New York. I came across a black wallet lying on the sidewalk as I was walking to school by myself. I picked it up and counted the money inside: $105. I looked around for the owner. Nobody was in sight, which meant that nobody had seen me pick it up. I could have put it in my pocket and kept going, but I didn’t even think twice. I turned around and ran all the way back home and gave it to my mom.

She found the owner’s name on the ID and looked him up in the phone book to let him know we had found his wallet. I still remember how happy he was when he came by the house that evening to pick it up. He gave me a huge smile and  a $20 bill that he pulled out of the wallet that I had just handed him. I was on cloud 9. It didn’t even occur to me until the next day when I was telling the story to a friend that there was another, less positive way to look at it. After I finished telling my buddy the story he replied, “Yeah, pretty cool that you got twenty bucks, but you could have had $105 if you had just kept it.”

Yep, that’s true. But I know that I would have felt a lot of guilt if I had done that.

And as such, the entire decision process today at the gym, including the thoughts and memories I just recounted, went through my head in about a millisecond, after which I headed to the front desk to turn in the wallet. I’m not going to lie–on my way to the front desk, I played out in my head the other scenario, the scenario where I do a quick about-face and take a detour to the locker room and stuff $152 into my backpack–that’s $152 less in loans, or quite a few rounds of shots downtown, or part of a plane ticket home for the holidays, etc. Nobody would know, but I would. Just the thought of doing something like that made me feel dirty, so I continued on my way to the front desk, turned in the wallet, and went back to my work-out.

What kind of an idiot loses his wallet while he’s working out, anyway? Oh, wait…

Eyes on the Prize
I stayed till about 7:30 tonight (Friday night), putting in about 60 hours this week. I worked out till 9 and ate dinner in front of Captain America that I rented from Red Box. What a Friday! A 60-hour work-week is fairly atypical at the company where I work. I’m sure there are the handful of workaholics who are seriously driven like me, have nothing better to do, (or have low self-esteem), but they are few and far between. When I was fully ramped in my old role, kicking butt and taking names, I was leaving at 2 or 3 in the afternoon on Friday. (And if some of my HBS classmates who chose consulting or investment banking as their career choice are reading this post and working 70+ hours, then please skip ahead to the next section.)

But the thing is, I’m not going to work 40 hours a week and let my boss point to my performance during the last quarter as the reason I get a crappy, sub $10k bonus. My bonus had better be at least $12k, or $8k net of tax. I’m not looking for a stellar review, I just want a review that recognizes I worked very hard, ramped very quickly, and added value in the short time that I was in the role before bonuses were decided in the December timeframe. It was a month and three days ago when I officially took over the role, and I think that I’ve already come a very long way. I’ve learned a lot. I still have a ways to go before I’m operating where I want to be operating, but I think my progress so far is worthy of a reasonable bonus. I hope my boss feels the same way. I still have about another month to prove myself if he doesn’t feel that way yet.

I think my life will get a little more balanced here in a month or two as I finish ramping up and the bonus gets decided. But until then, my weekdays will continue to be what they have been for the past month: 11 to 12-hour work days, followed by the gym, dinner, shower, and bed.

Quite frankly, I’m sort of glad that the landscaping jobs haven’t been very plentiful. After working 60 hours this week, almost always straight through lunch, I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend. I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow morning, waxing and detailing the S2000, going out with friends tomorrow night, and doing some stand up paddling down at Town Lake on Sunday with Danielle. Michael and I actually do have a job to quote tomorrow morning, but hopefully we can put that job off until next weekend. I want to relax all weekend long. Actually, I take that back. I’d be okay with putting in eight or ten hours on Saturday or Sunday. One day to relax and one night to go out with friends and one day to work outside would be great.

By the way, the saying “keep your eyes on the prize” might  be the most anti-Zen saying ever. Keeping your eyes on the prize means you’re taking yourself out of the moment and looking forward, looking into the future, looking into a time and place that you cannot control instead of focusing on the now.

And that’s why I sometimes get so frustrated. I want to fully live in the present, but every once in awhile my brain fast-fowards involuntarily to April and I visualize that pivotal point in time when my boss will sit down with me to deliver my year-end review, and I desperately want to see something like $12 or $15k printed on the bonus sheet that he’ll slide across the table to me. That would mean success. That would mean mission accomplished. That $12k turns into $8k after tax, and with the motorcycle and Murano and roadbike sold, that makes a June end-of-debt target completely achievable. It nullifies my $6k delta at the end of June that I have right now.

The other factor in the bonus besides being a solid individual performer is that the company has to have a killer fourth quarter. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much control over that.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside…and Inside
But what I do have control over is the thermostat. I don’t think my roommates care for my frugal lifestyle, as I haven’t turned the heat on yet this fall. It was 64 in the house this morning. Bundle up, suckers! It’s going to be getting a little chilly in here!

Living like this kind of reminds me of when I used to live at home. My mom is ridiculously frugal, and she kept the thermostat at about 67 throughout Michigan’s long, cold winters. I had to buy a space heater for my bedroom just to survive, and I still plug it in whenever I visit during the winters.

$300 Incoming!
I called Progressive to cancel my motorcycle insurance policy today, and the agent told me I’ll be getting $300 back on my credit card immediately! I hadn’t even contemplated that when I sold the bike! So in a way, it’s kind of like I sold my bike for $2,200 instead of $1,900, right? Not really, but let’s pretend.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Finders…Not Keepers

  1. Kellogg MBA

    You know what was interesting about this post, the link to WSJ’s article Why Relaxing Is Hard Work. Thanks for putting low self esteem in parenthesis I guess.

  2. Marilyn

    Sometimes this blog is hysterical to me. Like roll on the floor funny.

    I mean, this month we got a major paycut, and we’ve lost 20% of our income, so I’m scrambling around trying to figure it out. Finally we decided to sell the house. And so we’re putting it on the market.

    And I’m keeping the house at 60 degrees this winter so far, because it’s extremely expensive to heat this house.

    And then ironically you sold your bike, and turned the heat to 64. It kinda cracks me up.

  3. Barbara

    WOW…..that’s awesome about the wallet, and so glad you did the right thing. It can be hard at times, but He knows and you have already been blessed!!! WTG!!! Very cool on getting $300.00 back too!!

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