Money Lessons Learned from a Dead Bird

by Shawanda Greene

Bird's nest with "For Sale" signThe other day, I noticed a dead bird about 2 or 3 inches from the edge of a step leading into my apartment building. It was small, brownish-gray, with yellow specks in its feathers.

When it caught my eye, I paused. Although I had no previous interaction or relationship with the bird, I felt compelled to stop and pay my respects to the creature that’d lost its life.

After a brief moment of silence, my mind immediately shifted to the realms of practicality.

There was a dead bird on my porch!

I don’t know how the bird ended up conspicuously placed where everyone who entered the building could see it. But that’s just gross. The ick factor was augmented by the realization that the dead bird’s eyes were open. Surely, I, my neighbors, and all of our guests found that doubly disturbing.

I thought to myself, “I have to get rid of this thing.”

The solution was simple. With a quick foot flick, I could kick the dead bird into the bushes, and it’d peacefully return to the soil from whence it came.

Yet, I did nothing. I couldn’t bring myself to touch that dead bird with any part of my body.

At the time, it was pretty cold out. There was no chance the corpse would decompose and stank up the building’s entrance. Clearing the bird from my stoop wasn’t urgent. So, I left it for someone else to deal with.

At 11:00 that night, while reading a book, I heard one of my neighbors complaining about the dead bird. She too was saddened and weirded out by it. Apparently, her birthday was in an hour (even though she said at least 5 times that her birthday was in two hours), and she didn’t want to be greeted by a dead bird on her big day. Her sympathetic friend, Danny, said he’d take care of it.

Once my neighbor calmed down, that was the last I heard of the dead bird, until….I left my apartment the next morning. The damned bird was in the exact same spot I left it the day before! Through gritted teeth, I said to myself, “Danny, that lying f***ker, he said he’d take care of this.”

Still, I didn’t want to deal with it. I carried on about my day, leaving the dead bird problem for another sucker to solve.

Throughout that day and the next, I entered my apartment building. I left my apartment building, all the while acknowledging and trying to ignore the bird that lay dead at my door.

As the weather warmed up, it became clear to me and all my neighbors that something must be done about the dead bird situation.

One night, I came home and the dead bird was gone. Someone had had enough. They took the split second required to end the days of mental and emotional torture we’d all subjected ourselves to.

God bless ‘em.

As indicated by the title, there are lessons to be learned here.

We’ll get to those shortly. But first, let’s review my mistakes.

  • Although I didn’t create the problem, the matter negatively impacted my life. Therefore, it was my problem to fix.
  • Way too many days passed with my mind clouded and my soul burdened by an inconvenience that took practically no time or resources to address.
  • I traded a short period (less than a single second) of severe mental anguish for a long period (days) of moderate mental anguish.

Looking back, I wish I’d dealt with the problem as soon as it surfaced.

So, here are the lessons.

1) The next time you’re faced with the annoyance of filing your taxes, filling out a rebate form, cancelling a subscription, returning that DVD to RedBox, getting your oil changed, or any other simple task you really hate, I want you to do something for me. Think back to my dead bird.

2) When you’re waiting for another person (or entity) to do something about a problematic issue that’s keeping you awake at night, let the thought of that dead bird be your motivation.

Stop agonizing for days, months, or even years over issues that are completely within your power to control.

What “dead birds” do you have that are costing you money?

This post was featured in the Carnival of Finance Camaraderie over at My University Money.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

@bettykin October 30, 2011 at 4:06 PM


Your article reminded of this quote:
“All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is to act as if it were impossible to fail.” Dorthea Brande

Easy in theory; Difficult to execute.


Shawanda November 8, 2011 at 6:07 AM

Ah, another glorious quote mentioned in The Strangest Secret. I'm keeping this one close for 2012.


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