Cautionary tale or inspiring example?

My sister is considering starting her own business helping people get their financial houses in order. Kind of a life coach for this one little slice of life.

She’d be great at it. She’s empathetic, gives tangible advice and is highly organized. She admires Dave Ramsey, wants to go do his financial counseling course. But she worries whether people would listen to her. After all, unlike Dave, she’s never been in bankruptcy. She’s never so much as bounced a check. In my family, the worst sin ever is to not pay your credit card bill off every month. We both get heart palpitations over the whole idea of debt.

Which got me to wondering whether we learn best from the cautionary tale like Dave’s – don’t do what I did because here’s what happened – or the shining example like my sister. Does the first make us feel our situation isn’t hopeless? Does the second inspire us to do better, to improve? Or does the shining example just make us feel more unworthy and see the gap we have to cross rather than the little steps we have to take?

Just wondering …

Added after I scheduled this post:

Penelope Trunk wrote this week about how we want inspiring stories, that those are the ones we talk about and share. Nice to know, but it still leaves me wondering about whether inspirational stories do more than make us feel good. Are they the ones that spark us to change?

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