“Promises make debt, and debt makes promises.”
I received my first credit card when I was a plebe at West Point. Perhaps there should have been a hazing ritual to go along with it so that I would have been more scared of it than I was, but, hey, I was a plebe. I wasn’t going anywhere, and there really wasn’t too much to spend money on anyway.
However, as time went on and our freedoms were given back to us one at a time, I discovered the world outside of the grey walls of West Point. By the time I was a senior, I was going away as often as I could. While we had a stipend, it wasn’t much, and since we couldn’t take another job, the flow of income was limited.
But, that didn’t stop me from going out and having a good time. I was going to graduate and become a lieutenant and make the BIG MONEY. At least, that’s what I told myself, which allowed me to rationalize whipping out that credit card and funding my lifestyle with my future earnings.
Actually, what was going on was a battle inside of my head between two parts of my brain. Inside of all of our skulls are two main brain areas constantly battling it out for control of what you do every day. There’s the thinking, sentient, rational part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex. It’s the part that acts like the responsible adult, thinking about the future, and not getting too carried away in the present. It’s usually the section of the brain which sends out the “whoa…maybe that’s not such a bright idea” signals that we altogether too often ignore.
The second part of the brain is the limbic system, what Seth Godin calls the lizard brain and what I call the Monkey Brain, since it’s the same system that we share with monkeys. Monkey Brain wants fun, and he wants it right now. He’s the one that tells you that eating chocolate on vacation doesn’t count because you’re going to start the diet as soon as you get back from vacation, only to come up with another excuse (“DIET CAN’T START ON DAYS THAT END WITH ‘Y’”) when you get back.
Sometimes the prefrontal cortex wins, and sometimes Monkey Brain wins. When I was younger, stationed in Germany, and spending money like there was no tomorrow, Monkey Brain won a lot.