31 causes of failure #6: ill health

sick butterfly

sick butterfly

I abandoned this series (based on the 31 causes of failure Napoleon Hill lists in his classic Think and Grow Rich) for a while, but then I decided that abandoning it was actually succumbing to the fifth and most recent cause I wrote about: Lack of self-discipline. Unfortunately the next cause of failure is one that’s somewhat out of our control: ill health. I’d like to put ‘ill health’ into two different categories and examine why one of them is far more likely to be a cause of failure than the other.

The first category is out of our control. You can get sick for reasons completely outside your control: you can have a genetic disposition towards cancer, or suffer a car accident or simply be unlucky enough to come down with some disease. It happens; we’ve all heard anecdotes about perfectly healthy people who suddenly got ill for one reason or another.

The second category is more unpleasant: illnesses you cause. You eat too much junk food and become obese: say hi to heart troubles, diabetes and hypertension. Smoke and you invite cancer. Live a stressful lifestyle? Get ready for all sorts of illnesses. It’s easy to assign blame, of course, for blatantly bad behavior. But most people indulge in some behavior that’s not ideal; few of us are perfect exercise machines with carefully and consistently monitored food intake.

Here’s the kicker about ill health, though. More than any other item in this ’causes of failure’ series, ill health can derail your plans and prevent you from achieving your goals. Why? Just read.

29% of people with credit card debt indicated that some of that debt was medical-related. It’s a bit dated, but a 2006 USA Today, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard School of Public Health survey showed that 25% of the households affected by cancer said they had used up all their savings dealing with the fallout from cancer, and one-tenth could not afford basics such as food, heat and housing. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a universal health insurance system. U.S. health care spending is approximately $2 trillion per year, or $6,697 per person. The United States continues to spend significantly more on health care than other countries in the world.

In 2006, the U.S. census reported that more than 45 million Americans had no health insurance; more than 9 million children lacked health insurance in America (those are dated stats, of course). I don’t intend to get into politics for more than a second here, but the health care bill – mockingly and (in my opinion) disrespectfully called Obamacare – will not fix these problems. It may help slightly, and it may hurt slightly, but the root problem hasn’t been fixed: you can be financially destroyed by a medical problem.

That’s the issue. Is it fair for someone to lose their life savings because they get cancer? I don’t think so – but that’s the way it is now, and I doubt that will change anytime soon. In my opinion, only universal single payer health care can solve this situation; whether you view that as a good or bad thing is up to your own political mindset. So for this cause of failure – one of the most important ones, over which we have some of the least control – you have to be extremely focused. Ill health can impair your ability to work; it can drain your savings; it can make progress towards your goals difficult, or even impossible. Taking care of your health is the single most important things you can do for your wealth. I’ve written before about losing weight and how I quit drinking soda.  Regular exercise and a low-stress lifestyle are key, as well.  But it’s important to remember that the sixth cause of failure from Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is one of the few that sometimes lies outside our control.

Previous posts in my “31 causes of failure” series:

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by Eliezer Borges