Podcast: Mistakes, setbacks, and lessons learned

(A note: Podcast post for Tuesday — I’ll go back to the Summer in September posts tomorrow.)

As Sarah and I plan out our second year of podcasts, we’re listening to the feedback we receive. A surprising number of people have told us that they like the episodes where we just chat about a topic. So, with that in mind, we bring you today’s episode on mistakes and setbacks. Like everyone we’ve learned some lessons the hard way with work and life. A few:

Sarah did not actually want to earn a PhD. She entered a combined MD/PhD program many years ago and then realized that this was not the way to go — she was much happier seeing patients than running experiments (to say nothing of wanting to be younger than 35 when she started practicing medicine). So she had to figure out how to extricate herself, and as a result she was one year behind her husband in medical school, causing some headaches for residency placements (but they made it work!)

I am not a personal finance expert. While I enjoyed writing All the Money in the World, this was a bit of a career detour as I realized I’m not nearly as excited about money — certainly the frugal aspects of it — as I am about time. We go through a long list of my career-detour books.

Don’t take a 14 month old to Disney World. As Sarah put it, they were hemorrhaging money and they were miserable. Good times!

We should have started this podcast in 2014! But hey, there’s that proverb that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. We’re glad we did this in 2017 at least.

There are more! So please give the episode a listen and let us know what you think.

32 thoughts on “Podcast: Mistakes, setbacks, and lessons learned

  1. I guess I’m the anomaly but I loved All the Money in the World. I feel like it’s aligned so well with your point of view on time- you should manage money OR time to best fit your priorities and try to avoid the trite narratives that surround them.

    1. @Kt – thanks so much, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! It was a fun book to write, but definitely hasn’t sold as well as the time ones.

      1. I also read it and I have one of your quotes written by my desk where I pay my bills. “If I had all the money in the world (or all I wanted) what would I do differently.” And I joyfully pay my lawn care bill every month because I hate yard work!

        1. @Linda M – oh good, another All the Money reader 🙂 Yes, a good question to ask, and I’m glad it helps lessen the sting of paying that bill!

    2. A third “All the money in the world” reader! I really loved the book and the blog posts about the utility of money that surrounded the book. It really changed my relationship with money. I found it way more useful than all the frugality books out now. Like Grindhoppers, which I loved and led me to following your blog, it was ahead of its time.

    3. Add another “All the Money” lover to the tally! The perfect day exercise inspired me to look for ways to create a big happiness boost with minimal cash.

      A fun upcoming example: I have a few business trips to London in October. During one of them, there’s a single day break between meetings. Rather than work (which can always be done), I’ve decided to do 24 hours alone in Paris (which has never been done). Yeah, it requires a Eurostar ticket and a night at a hotel, but that’s nothing when the airline ticket across the ocean is already covered!

      It’s also been a great chance to put some Off the Clock tips to use. I’m savoring the planning experience and mapping out my all-day romp through the city, with restaurants to visit and pastries to try and photos to take. So excited!

    4. I really liked this episode – it’s so great to hear successful people talking about mistakes, big and small. It so rarely happens in our culture.

      I had a very similar story to Sarah when I quit my PhD program – panic about whether I’d have to pay back my fellowship (thankfully, no) and a realization that I did not want to do research as a career, nor did I want to be in school FOREVER. Looking back, while it seemed like a ‘mistake’ it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’m a happy “corporate pawn” now – love that phrase 😉

      Would honestly love to see this as one of the questions you ask all your guests. I think that would be fascinating!

      1. @ARC – ooh, that would be an interesting question to ask all our guests! I especially think some of the higher profile ones…

  2. Your podcast was so very welcome today! I made a transport miscalculation this am which made us miss a specialist appointment for my little guy and was really beating myself up over it. I realized it was Tuesday and opened my podcast app for some commonsense discussion of parenting and your chat about mistakes was perfectly timed. As was the call from my boss rescheduling a meeting because of a sick kid – glad that I’ve got a boss that is right there in the parenting trenches with me.

  3. I love all the money in the world it was how we discovered you in the first place Laura. It did take me a while to add that book to my shelf of your work as it was way more expensive than your other books on bookdepository at the time. It was that book that enabled me to discover your blog and I am an enthusiastic daily reader and I’m constantly recommending it to other people. Ziplock bags bring me joy too.

    1. Another all the money in the world reader!! It’s the first book of yours I read, and I’ve recommended it to friends who also found it helpful! Ditto to the thrill and guiltless purchase of costco sized ziplock bags now… and how I’m frugal yet am happy to spend money on certain things!

    1. @Alissa- thank you for sharing that link! So fun to see that I’m on that blogger’s list of most recommended books.

      1. This is also the blog that recommended all the money in the world! And it was through her that I discovered Gretchen Rubin, too. Double win!

  4. I read both Grindhopping and All the Money in the World. I really liked all the money in the world! It helped me to rethink spending money, and helped me to not feel guilty about using my skills to make money, that I can then trade for time!

  5. Thank you both for opening up about your “mistakes.” It’s refreshing to hear people talk about their struggles openly. I didn’t think your mistakes were really mistakes though. Just because something doesn’t turn out the way you expect doesn’t mean you did something wrong necessarily. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, and you can only learn by trying things out and seeing how it goes. My favorite story was the one Laura shared about being on vacation without a husband or babysitter. Easy to relate to that one! Sounded brutal though.

  6. I was surprised to hear that “Grindhopping” didn’t sell well when Laura first mentioned it. I bought two copies, one for myself and the other one for a friend. I’m even more surprised about “All the Money in the World” which is my favorite of Laura’s. Both books influenced how I approached my career and over time inspired several job changes which resulted in designing a completely unique and customized career based on what I enjoy doing. I also arranged my spending towards things that make me happy and I stopped craving things I “should.” I pick my jobs based on flexibility and ability to scale up if I want or need to. Even though I’m an employee I view myself as a freelancer in charge of my career path. All of those are lessons from those two books. It should be required reading for young adults entering workforce and perhaps I can persuade some of my students to read them.
    “Grindhopping” is similar to many popular and somewhat obnoxious books about finding job independence written by male authors, with “4-hour Work Week” as the prime example. I find it fascinating that it was published after Laura’s book, but the difference is that Laura’s writing is matter-of-fact and not sensational unlike other books in that genre. And being a female writer and using women as examples probably didn’t help, which is sad.
    Finally, I have to admit that “I Know How She Does It” is the only book I would have picked up based on title and cover. I came Laura based on promotional efforts of “What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” and I slowly searched for other books and read them all, multiple times. “Grindhopping” doesn’t even come up on Amazon under “Laura Vanderkam” search, which is crazy. Hopefully the podcast gives it a boost and there are some new sales – I absolutely recommend it.

    1. @Morana – thank you – I’m so glad you liked Grindhopping. Clearly promising a “4-hour workweek” is more broadly appealing than a lot of other ways to frame a non-traditional means of supporting yourself. I am always trying to learn from how people manage to market things. Please do recommend Grindhopping, and yes, hopefully a few people will pick it up after hearing the podcast!

  7. I’ve got “All the Money in the World” sitting in my e-reader now with plans to start it next. I liked the idea of the healthy living book and was wishing I could get a glimpse at that one. Funny how everyone here is commenting on these, but I suppose it makes sense that your blog readers would perhaps be longer-term fans of yours. I too appreciated the porch-jumping story and found it quite relatable…I’ve been needing to dig deep for patience with a certain 3.5 year old lately…

    1. @Allison – I’m sure there’s a copy of it somewhere! The Healthy Guide to Unhealthy Living. Good stuff. And yes, patience is necessary with 3.5 year olds…

  8. Yep, another fan of All the Money in the World. It definitely helped shape my early professional years along with 168 Hours and The Other 8 Hours (book by Robert Pagliarini).

    When Sarah expressed her interest in writing I immediately thought of Abraham Verghese. Cutting for Stone is an amazing novel as well as his biography of his time in Appalachia specializing in infectious diseases. Atul Gawande came to mind as well…

    1. @Anne – definitely both great writers. There are a number of physician/writer crossovers…

      And so glad you liked All the Money in the World! I’ve really been tickled by these comments from people who’ve read that book (sadly, these comments may represent a fairly high proportion of the people who HAVE read that book…)

  9. One more thanks for sharing these stories. And one more vote for asking your next guests about their mistakes and setbacks. 🙂

    It’s interesting to hear a successful physician pondering whether going to med school was a mistake. And considering a career as a writer on the side. There’re many people out there who are contemplating similar dilemmas. And who feel perhaps less stupid after such a podcast 🙂

    And also one more positive feedback about All the Money in the World.
    I bought it at the beginning of 2018 after having read What the Most Successful… and 168 Hours. I agree with Kt that it aligned quite well with Laura’s books and articles about time management. There’re several recurring themes: e.g. opportunity cost or decisions reflecting your priorities.

    3 things I want to mention specifically:
    1. The metapher “playing defense” vs “offense” for managing your costs and your incomes. (Yes, I’m a sports enthusiast. 🙂
    2. The “buying happiness” way of thinking. With this in mind, it takes much less pondering to say yes e.g. to some EUR 43 tickets for a sports event. Or to say no to some good but unexceptional meals. As a side effect, I can also communicate these decisions more effectively.
    3. I support multiple charities and found that chapter also very insightful. A special thanks for introducing DonorsChoose.org . I really like that concept and have sponsored some classroom projects since then.

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