The Paradigm of the Bootstrap

The Motto for Those Who Rebound From Financial Letdown

What does it mean to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps, dust yourself off, and go to work”?

This week I watched a YouTube clip of a popular politician ranting about the absurdity of the bootstrap expression and what it implies. Now, I rarely connect on anything this politician says, but I do admit I have never thought about the literal image of hoisting one’s own body weight by one’s own shoe straps. How have I never seen that message in this idiom?! Since this is a popular saying in my community and one by which I live, I Googled the origin of this expression. I became aware of just how widely the imagery of this idiom is perceived as someone pathetically and impossibly trying to defy their own gravity.

I appreciated this discovery because it gave me the gift of an “aha” moment. I always love a good paradigm shift.

When a person is stuck or lost, the last thing they want is the suggestion, “Do something that feels impossible and do it alone.” That is invalidating, deflating, and demoralizing. And honestly, straight up irresponsible. Understanding the gravity-defying imagery helps me understand the politician’s reaction. Luckily, the advice to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” has now come to mean something entirely different, and will prove much more useful. I am honored to share what image I and many other’s see when we hear this idiom.

Ok, so it’s not a perfect image of what I see but it was free and it gives the idea. The image I see is someone sitting on their butt, dusty and worn, with a look of determination on their face as they pull their boots snugly (back) on.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the idiom “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go to work.”

“Pick Yourself Up”

When you find life has knocked you on your ass, then “pick yourself up,” not from a standing position to a state of levitation, but from a sitting position–a stagnant, vulnerable position–to a ready, standing one. Perhaps I never balked at the verb choice since I grew up where people say, “I’m gonna learn ya (teach you) somethin’,” “Bring (take) this over there,” and a whole slew of other grammatical ironies. Or maybe I overlooked the verb choice because I lived in a culture of resiliency and “sticky to-ity.” Either way, we were always picking ourselves up off our rumps and going again.

Boots are the footwear of the worker, and usually the worker of dirty jobs–jobs that involve snow, manure, mud, scrap material, etc. Putting on appropriate attire, especially footwear, is the first step in recognizing and accepting the tasks ahead. This is metaphorically owning your attitude and must foremost be done. Your attitude is always in your control, and the control force for everything you do.

As Facing the Giants, one of my kids’ favorite movies, says, “Your attitude is like the aroma of your heart; if your attitude stinks, then it means your heart is not right.” No one can change your attitude. This part you must do for yourself, and everything hinges from it. Your actions, your environment, and the company you keep will certainly be reflections of your attitude and gratifications of your beliefs. Wouldn’t you rather they were productive and empowering?!

“Dust Yourself Off”

Show yourself compassion, make an honest self-assessment, and improve what “little” things you can. Are you doing the little, daily things that correlate with success? Are you seeking guidance from your God? Are you nourishing your important relationships? Are you properly sleeping, eating, and exercising? Are you planning your time and budgeting your money affectively? Are you honoring your commitments? Are you regularly investing in self-growth? Do you have a support team around you to help you where you are weak? Are you living in congruence with your values?

“Go to work.”

That one is pretty straight forward. Work is God’s gift and the vehicle of change. Work is the only way we learn, create, invent, sell, organize, produce, manage, or love anything and everything. If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, that is where your work begins.

Which image of the bootstraps paradigm did you see first? The man attempting levitation, or the boy gearing up with work boots?

I do recognize that, for those who see the bootstrap meaning as I do, if feels implied that this should be a solo event. To that I say, “Work and life are not intended to be a solitary experiences!” Humans have always created more products and ideas when we learn from, collaborate with, and connect with each other. Not to mention that those who regularly give and receive help are happier and live longer.

If you are trying to work alone at things you struggle with, then you will continue to struggle and possibly exacerbate the weakness. In their book Boundaries, Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend say, “Do-it-yourself people will often fall back into a cognitive (focusing on information or data) or will-power approach simply because it’s not as [costly] or as risky. Though we can certainly understand their dilemma, they’re heading toward another quick-fix dead end. Symptomatic relief–trying to solve a problem by dealing only with the symptoms–generally leads to more symptoms.”

What? They’re saying in many situations, DIYing your fix in order to save face, money, time, etc., only makes the problem grow. This is the definition of dysfunctional. We are trying to force a fix on the symptoms only. Allow this clip to demonstrate.

When dealing with financial struggles, efforts to treat symptoms with free health care or stimulus checks are not going to fix perpetual problems. Borrowing money from family to meet your debt payments won’t solve your problem.

If you sit with your shoeless feet on the curb, soaking in impossibilities while hoping someone else will provide the solution to your challenge, then you will wait your whole life. Increased grit may not be your solution either; sometimes pushing harder only breaks more things. We need a pattern change and new perspective. Albert Einstein, a genius, stated, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” So what is the solution?

The most effective fix is to, first, own your attitude and your actions. Then go to work with a competent guide who can give you a new perspective and help you break the process down into achievable steps. Maybe your guide is a powerful book–I can recommend some great ones–or a wise, experienced friend. Maybe you want a really great financial coach.

No one can pull on your work boots for you. But if you are ready, I can help you dust yourself off and go to work. Wisely. I can help you change the way you approach your finances and, consequently, your life–forever. No more missed payments. No more money fights or avoidance. No more robbing tomorrow to pay for today. No more shame! You can experience an abundant life and you don’t have to live on beans and rice to get there. The sooner you start, the greater the life you can make.

If this post resonates with you, give it a “like,” or share it with your friends. If you would like to get started on your path to abundance, then schedule a consultation now. If you would like to request a topic for me to cover, send me a message.

I am on a mission to help you live abundantly through the mastery of your money. What can I help you accomplish today?

Published by Ruth Liebel

I am a mother of 4, wife of a surgeon and soldier, girl of the Southwest but I love The South. I am a formally educated financial counselor and a Ramsey Preferred Coach. I love my work and want to empower others to live abundantly through budget, boundaries, and beliefs. What can I help you accomplish today?