My Fear And My Guilt

On Sunday, January 16th Yakezie.com received around 6,300 visitors thanks to Little House’s (Yakezie Scholarship Committee Member) efforts to reach out to other organizations online.  That organization was Fastweb.com, a site that helps students find monetary support for education around the web.

Not expecting such a surge in traffic, immediately things started going haywire.  My registration e-mail notifications started flooding in, and then personal e-mails started coming in asking why they didn’t get an e-mail confirmation to register to the allow them to apply.  Frantically, I tried addressing all problems over comments, Twitter, and e-mail myself as Chris was not near a computer.  When Chris returned, he did some testing and things seemed to work, but because of the sheer flood of visitors, things locked up.

Our e-mail system (Google) supposedly has a ~200 limit per day on sending e-mail notifications for new registrants.  After about 1:30pm on Sunday, the 200 limit was quickly hit but the registrants kept coming in.  As a result, any eager student who was looking to register and compete could not.  Oh my, how bad I felt for them.

MY FEAR AND GUILT

The main reason why I started the Yakezie Scholarship vertical was so that Members could rally around a common cause to help support a person financially to further their education.  We all have different personalities and goals, but I strongly believe that the Yakezie Scholarship and our motto of selflessly helping others will hold us together for the long term.  Education is the single most important attribute one can have and develop to get ahead.

I had two fears before launching the scholarship initiative. The first fear was that there wouldn’t be enough interest in writing a 700-1000 word essay to compete to win.  Success takes effort and audacity.  As a result, we made the essay process as meritocratic and transparent as possible.  If you comply with the guidelines, your Scholarship gets posted, readers vote, and the top three vote-getters win.

The second fear was that there would be too much interest.  With this fear, I decided to increase the number of winners from one to three, and work harder to rally support for the Scholarship fund.  For two consecutive months, Members, Challengers, and readers have pledged over $1,000 to help support three essay winners for their educational endeavors.  I’m so proud of everyone who have contributed.

The first Yakezie Scholarship received a total of 14 entrants.  Although I highlighted beforehand that we would only run the top 10 as decided by the committee, I felt bad denying someone who spent the effort a chance to win.  And so, I dealt with my guilt by running all 14 essays.  I was supportive of every single one of them, making sure they submitted all pertinent info while guiding them a long the way.

With the second Yakezie Scholarship, I now fear we will have over 300 applicants with only 3 winners.  I mentioned in a post on Yakezie.com that we would run the top 30 if we had more than 20 entrants.  I never imagined that our little initiative would receive potentially 10X the number just a month later!

HOW TO DEAL

I now fear more having too many applicants over too little going forward.  With a few applicants (<30), we can personally reach out to everyone.  With many applicants (100+), we can’t accept them all to be published since there is a limit to when each contest will end.  Furthermore, the Yakezie Network is a personal finance and lifestyle blog network where we plan to run our own content.  We’re careful to balance all three verticals of Personal Finance, Lifestyle, and Scholarship.

Thinking Out Loud Solutions:

1) We run our own Member Articles and guest posts on Yakezie.com’s homepage, while concurrently publishing the top 30 Scholarship Applicants on another page on Yakezie.com that can be found via the home page.

2) We rule out all essays which do not follow guidelines (i.e. 700-1000 words, answers one question, provides all pertinent contact info, bio, etc).  We are surprised by how many applicants don’t follow instructions.

3) We expand the Yakezie Scholarship Committee beyond myself, Chris, Jennifer, and a friend of mine so that more of us can evaluate the articles to be published and ensure the ones who follow directions and are the best written go through.

4) We build better systems on Yakezie.com to handle the submissions and sort automatically.  Once we have a great system in place, we should be able to automatically sort by word count, title, etc and make evaluating easier.  We may need to permanently upgrade our servers from VPS to dedicated to handle future spikes.

I STILL WONDER WHY ALL THE TIME

800 words later, I’m coming to terms with my guilt because I realize I can’t help everybody.  Perhaps it’s due to my travels abroad that I’m so conflicted and think about poverty and inequality constantly.  Why are some people born with nothing, while others are born with everything?  How does someone born with less compete effectively against someone born with every advantage?  The answer I believe is through education.  Education is what allows us to make better life choices.  Education opens doors to new opportunities and provides a perpetual gift back to humanity.  Education is what sets us free.

The only thing I can control is making the Yakezie Scholarship as smooth and meritocratic as possible.  I’m trying hard every single day to make this opportunity work.  Inevitably there will be kinks along the way.  Sometimes, I wonder whether it’s easier to just give up.  I could free up 10+ hours a week, reduce my stress and not have to feel so bad about trying to do some good.  But then again, where’s the challenge in that?

Best,

Sam

Readers, do you ever feel guilty about how good you have it?  Does your guilt ever consume you so much that it becomes debilitating?  Do you ever wonder why some are so fortunate and others are not?

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

You can sign up to receive his articles via email or by RSS. Sam also sends out a private quarterly newsletter with information on where he's investing his money and more sensitive information.

Subscribe To Private Newsletter

Comments

  1. says

    I quite often live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can’t believe how good I have it, and I somehow feel like I don’t deserve it.

    I get your conflict Sam. I would have been one of those Yakezie scholarship applicants in 1985, just hoping I could get a little help toward college. However, I never would have won since I went to an awful public school and my writing was not nearly as good as what I have been reading from the applicants.

    • says

      I think about it frequently and I have to believe it’s due to my travels that juxtapose wealth and poverty, constantly.

      For example, Rio de Janeiro is one of my most favorite cities in the world. We stayed at Hotel Casaer Park in Ipanema for $350/night during peak holiday season. Yet if you look to the hills, yhere you can see the flavelas/slums/shanty towns. It’s quite a site and a contradiction. Then I ask why us and not them?

      • says

        I guess it comes down to what you decide to do with your luck.

        We were all lucky to be born in the US. Just with that one piece of good fortune, it makes it so much easier to accomplish anything compared to being born in many other regions in the world.

  2. says

    It’s great to hear there is so much interest, and that we have the right guy on the job to get it sorted out.

    I don’t have a conflict with knowing I am very lucky. It just helps me to realize that I have an obligation to give back and to help people however I can. Feeling bad for being a good, hardworking person doesn’t sound like a good way to live a happy life.

  3. The Genius says

    I hear you regarding traveling the world and seeing a lot of suffering we do not see here in America. We are so insulated and frankly spoiled by how much we have that we forget or are simply unaware.

    It’s the reason why shows such as Undercover Boss are so powerful. The rich boss becomes one of his/her workers and LISTENS to their stories about how they are doing their best to provide for their family.

    The people who feel little to no guilt are the ones who haven’t seen the world and who’ve never experienced or seen poverty. Maybe they are young and naive. Maybe they only speak one language, so they just don’t knokw what’s out there.

    Thanks for your efforts!

  4. says

    You should be really excited about how much interest the scholarship is drawing, as you have always said it was one of the areas that you are fondest about!

    I think solutions #1 & 2 are excellent, and you could set something up on the Forums that would be essentially like Reddit:
    – Post all the entrants
    – Allow Yakezie members to vote up or down
    – A simple “Does not meet criteria” button that would eliminate the rubbish quickly (highschoolers can be lazy sometimes)

    This would allow the group as a whole to help you with your workload. I think there are a lot of members (such as myself) that want to help with the scholarship process but can’t do so monetarily since the money isn’t flowing online yet. I would love to help, and I’m sure others would as well!

    • says

      I’m very fond of the charitable initiative for sure. I find allocating time to help someone and donate money harder than making money, so with this initiative I’m making sure that will not be the case. It’s a TOO easy to make excuses not to give or do. Just like it’s too easy in Americ to eat ourselves to oblivion.

      I thought about the thumbs up/down, but thought against it bc how would you feel putting yourself out there and getting a lot of thumbs down? The 0-5 star system is what we will use.

  5. Nathan says

    FS I’m noticing on the Yakezie blog network that the latest post is not being shown in the last column? I’ve tried clearing my cache and some other things but The Latest Posts seem to be some from December?

  6. says

    Being a teacher, I definitely feel conflicted about student progress, behavior, social and emotional skills. I wish I could do more, but I do as much as I can (most days, that is.) And there are students who have more support than others and it definitely shows in class, not only through their academics, but through their self-esteem and behavior as well. Life isn’t always fair, but we learn to compensate for the skills we are lacking if we’re well adjusted humans. ;)

    I think you’re doing an awesome job managing the Yakezie Scholarship. It’s really impressive.

    As for your ideas, they are all good ones. For #2, I am writing up a some tips that should help minimize these problems in the future (hopefully!). I also like the automated sorting idea; it could easily count the words and make sure it meets the minimum and maximum at least – one less thing to do ourselves. I think #1 and 3 are no-brainers – the more help the better and placing the essays on another page would allow for greater flexibility with member articles.

  7. says

    Sam, as someone looking from the outside in at this post, I can understand the challenge and frustration you feel. I’ve never created something with the response that you are getting, but I do know how difficult it can be when your time gets swamped trying to keep everything afloat.

    From one person to another, keep the right outlook and attitude and stay optimistic. You are making a measurable difference and that certainly counts for something. All the best.

  8. says

    I feel guilty sometimes – mainly because almost everything I have is the result of my parents’ work and sacrifices. I do think about the day I can repay them often. Just to say one day “Hey Mom/Dad, we’re going on a cruise next month.” would be amazing.

    I support the idea of rejecting entries that don’t follow instructions. It might be harsh, but it’s the easiest and fairest way to whittle down the entries.

    • says

      Ryan, that is going to be a great day! You will feel great! That’s exactly what I did about 3 years ago and sent my parents on a two week all expenses paid cruise. They went to Egypt and like 5 other stops. Thanks for reminding me. I had forgot and will do it again!

  9. says

    I’m just a middle class/middle income guy, so I have it good but not great. If I had it all to do over again, I would.

    The good think about having money is that you are in a position to help other less fortunate individuals! Shoot, your support has help all the members in the yakezie in one way or another. Whether we all realize it or not…

    I think that it’s great that you are giving back to society. Sounds like a daunting task though, hats off to you!

    • says

      Hi Don, the thing is, just living in America and being able to afford internet and blog is being fortunate.

      The Yakezie Scholarship takes little money. Anybody with an internet connection can make it happen. It just takes A LOT of time, planning, executing, and analyzing. I really hope there are more social giving networks that pop up this year!

  10. JTMcGee says

    I am not a member of Yakezie, but that doesn’t mean I won’t share my opinion!

    As the winner of a scholarship (not this one, but another) myself, I think it’d only be fair to offer the scholarship to those that followed the directions. While a college degree is important to many people, following directions is important to EVERYONE.

    Even without that thought, though, I am of the opinion that allowing someone to win for failure to follow the directions isn’t fair to the number of others who had, in fact, followed the directions. Undoubtedly, those who fully followed the directions gave up additional time, and maybe even the chance to apply for other scholarships. That should not be discounted.

    Just my opinion :)

  11. says

    Sam,

    I have to admit, I read this post about 3 hours ago, right after I finished my commute home from work. I was thinking about some of these very same things on my way home this evening. I guess you read my mind.

    I didn’t want to write a book here in your comments section, so I just went over my blog and wrote an entire post on the topic.

    Very thought provoking.

    Bogey

    • says

      Read your post. A good one and glad I’m not the only one thinking about this situation.

      It’s the same thing with letting ourselves go physically when there are so many starving people out there.

      Maybe it’s better to never travel the world and never speak another language. Ignorance is bliss!

      • says

        Yes, Sam. Ignorance is bliss. And great post Bogey.

        My dad told me that I would always have “problems” because I see the world in a different light than what appears to be the majority, much like you reflect in your posts, Sam. On the surface, it seems that the overweight can incessantly eat high calorie fat laden delights, the spendthrift can buy whatever he or she wants, and the lazy man or woman can just live off the government and it is just infuriating. The good in this thought process is that I don’t have to feel guilty for everyone I see because I think that it is in their ability to change; the bad in this thought process is that I may sometimes neglect the understanding that through their parents or social structure, some people may not be able to change if no one or nothing “gives” them the motivation to do any better.

  12. says

    I hear ya Sam! I’ve won a few scholarships from writing essays myself, so if you need someone to help sort through them, definitely let me know. In any case, that’s great that so many students are interested in the scholarship! I’d give if I could, and I will when I have the means again.

  13. Charlie says

    First of all – HUGE props to you for starting Yakezie, for all of your great ideas and launching the scholarships. Don’t feel guilty! Every organization goes through growth spurts and growing pains and it’s impossible to predict how everything will turn out. If people don’t follow instructions there’s no reason why you should feel bad. You’re doing a superb job! And things will get better!

  14. says

    The feeling of guilt is understandable…but don’t feel it! You are already doing such an amazing thing by helping donate $500, then $1000 (and then some, later on I’m sure) to young students who are wanting to go to school. In my opinion, this is such a great opportunity for students- write an essay and you might be selected! Much easier than some other scholarship opportunities, I’m sure!

  15. hatcco01 says

    I think about what you wrote here every day – not just my economic privilege, but so many other privileges (race, etc). These thoughts made me a miserable teenager because I knew I had it good but hated my life anyway. I’m not sure why or how I realized these things at a relatively young age since I was never exposed to first or third-world poverty until much later, and the actual exposure increased my awareness even more. I think it’s important to acknowledge the first-world poverty too, and realize that some of our neighbors (I’m speaking from an American perspective) do live just as impoverished lives as they do in the third world, and some may not live as physically impoverished but are emotionally and educationally very poor. I think many Americans forget what is going on in their own backyards (or want to desperately avoid it). But I also see our first-world culture constantly shoving down our throats the idea that we don’t have enough, and so many of us are obsessed with the “Joneses” that awareness of those below our level and any effort to improve others’ lives before our own goes out the window (into the SUV to the mall). I don’t know, maybe I’m just being cynical? Thank you for all you write though. I often have to tell myself that guilt is a useless emotion, and what you’re doing (self-reflecting, implementing avenues to help others and spread awareness) is one of the best ways you can deal with your privilege.

  16. says

    Sam you have unleashed a beast and the crash is a good problem to have come up against (if that makes sense!). The scholarship is so simple in design and I think that is why it is so effective.

    Your out loud thoughts all make sense to me. Maybe just showing the essays on the scholarship vertical from the homepage would work well and allow you to publish them all. Once all posted a summary post with all 30 links may work well on the main homepage.

    As for guilt, it’s not guilt but pure upset. I didn’t grow up with much to be honest but when I compare to the people living in graveyards, under card board on the side of the highway or just under a palm tree (not as nice as it sounds) here I get very upset. I denied a street kid money one day and he burst into tears and run off, I promptly did the same thing and poured out crying, why is the world so f*cked up and who is to blame, I don’t know!

    I try and give regularly to people here, mostly food so that their begger pimps can’t steal it from them and sometimes and I have been planning to buy a shipment of flip flops to give out to the street kids as they tend to need them replaced pretty regular.

    As for education I do think in many ways it is the answer but not necc the direct USA version of what education is. Education needs to be tailored to individual needs and given in different forms to pull people out of their situation, give people hope and make people feel better than the dirt they have to sleep on.

    The Yakezie scholarship is helping to make the world a better place for sure and you should be constantly bloated with pride for what you have started.

  17. says

    i’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum in my life, and if it wasn’t for the lower end, i wouldn’t be what i am today. education is how i have done it, and a big part of me believes that education is strong enough to make world peace a reality, but then i constantly see and hear about highly educated men and women who set out to cause harm to others. i guess the inherent barbaric instinct in humans trumps all else

    • says

      “I guess the inherent barbaric instinct in humans trumps all else”

      Sunil, I couldn’t have said this better. But I would argue that there are still plenty of people with great values.

      • says

        Romeo,

        I’d like to think that too, and I agree. But the true test is adversity. When faced with tough times and challenges, I can guarantee you that the “plenty” would shrink to “not a lot” or “if any at all”. Citizens in most these nations are unfortunately exactly in that category.

        Example, ever since I started earning, a percentage of income always (each pay day) goes to charity on an automated basis just like 401k – I don’t even see it to be able to miss it. But God forbid I am faced with tough times (i.e. conditions of these nations and thereby most of its citizens), would I continue to do so at the expense of me and my family’s stomach’s???

        Survival mode

        Then there is a whole another spectrum on religious beliefs and philosophies….and I don’t even want to go there

        • says

          I totally agree, but I would argue that not all men will be faced with adversity at the same time. So when you are unable to give, someone else may and often do step in. Furthermore, I take the stance that charity does not always have to be about finances; we can share knowledge through our blogs, or be mentors at local schools for example. These acts of kindness may not fill someone’s belly, but perhaps they can generate and inspire someone to seek higher future earnings so that they may fill their own bellies.

          The expression, “you can give a man a fish and he’ll eat for the day or you can teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever” holds true today as it did in the past.

          Romeo

  18. says

    I agree with the College Investor. I think the expansion of our scholarship is awesome. We should all be proud that it has been so successful. I also think their idea about having the applicants on the forum would be great. I am sure many of us in the network would volunteer to help review the scholarships so that you can get through all 300+.

    As far as how lucky I am, I definitely know it. Especially the last year. I have really taken time to focus and review what I have in my life and it has made me a much more calm and happy person. So many of us have more than we realize. We just need to stop long enough to notice.

    I am so honoured to be a part of the Yakezie group…our purpose of helping others is just so amazing in this day and age.

  19. says

    Sam and all,

    Let’s look at the good in this little hiccup. One, Yakezie got a traffic surge, not just by the average blogger but by high school kids that are coming to a critical point in their life; the horrors of gorilla marketing on college campuses. So, maybe 25% of those students who attempted to apply will say to themselves,

    “hey, this is a great site, there are actually people who can teach me what credit cards are?”

    Second, if any of us personal bloggers wants to send traffic to our site, it seems like starting a scholarship fund and posting it on Fastweb.com is the way to go. It would help both us and the student :)

    As far as your question, with the overwhelming media today, at least in America, it is difficult to say that people just don’t have a clue about what’s good and bad in terms of setting up a great path through education. At some point, we have to start holding high school students accountable for their own dumb actions. Even the worse public schools in Detroit teaches students what college is and how to get into one.

    So I don’t know. We (You) can’t help everyone and we (you) can’t definitely save the world. But what you can do is enjoy your life by helping one person at a time and hope that your goodness spreads such that the person of whom you helped pay it forward.

    • says

      I was thinking, the best way to save the world is if everybody just takes care of themselves. That way, there’s nobody who needs saving!

      I don’t have a goal of saving the world. I have a goal of making a small difference.

  20. says

    I definitely appreciate what you are doing with the Yakezie scholarships Sam and I can also really relate to you regarding the feelings of guilt coming from being so well off when others are literally starving to death as I type this.

    I have traveled to poor places like the Philippines and some places in the Caribbean and see the opulent luxury of 5 star hotels and then not even 100 meters away there is absolute poverty. It’s wrecks you to look at stuff like that and to know that you are using your money for the luxury instead of giving it to those in need.

    I admit the guilt has debilitated me at times and I’ve even gone so far as to donate an extremely large sum of money comparative to my income to help people in various poorer nations. Since then I have changed my viewpoint a little bit and don’t feel as compelled to give away all my money, but I still definitely want to help.

    10 hours a week is a lot of your time to donate to something like this and I really think you should focus on the good you are doing. It is fantastic that you are choosing to put the effort towards education too because, as you said, giving education equalizes the playing field and allows anybody to have a chance at pulling themselves out of poverty.

  21. sandy @ yesiamcheap says

    The best that we can do is strive to make a difference in one to three lives every month. Personally, I would have preferred not such a large exposure because the quality of the submissions will decrease while the volume will and has – increased exponentially. We have to ask ourselves, are we wasting the time of those that submit essays if we know that we have extremely limited resources and can help a single digit percentage of the student that make submissions. I don’t know Sam.

    But then again, maybe I’m wrong.

  22. says

    You’re doing some great stuff here Sam; I admire your dedication and sharing.

    As far as feeling great about stuff, my wife says I’m corny, but sometimes I remind her of how great our life is and ask if this is for real. People often mope and complain when something goes wrong, but don’t step back to reflect on the good times. Things are good, but I don’t feel guilty. I feel bad for people who were hit with lousy circumstances, but I’m not where I am because I got there by stepping on someone else. Things have just gone my way. At some point they won’t, and I’ll get up again. But no guilt or jealousy either way. Life’s too short!

  23. says

    You are doing great work with the Yakezie scholarship. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy right?

    I don’t feel guilty about having a good life. My family have been through tough times before and we all work to get out of those situations. No matter how bad the situation is, hard work and good planning can always make it better in the long run.

    • says

      Nothing worthwhile is easy. Oh my, this is so hard. I don’t know if people realize how hard this really is. I’m struggling to keep my head above water. Can you imagine figuring out 1,200+, 700-1,000 word submissions in a fair and efficient way? Will keep on trying.

      Best, Sam

  24. says

    I think it was coming sooner or later… I mean all the flood of submissions. Maybe it happened too quickly. But this scholarship fund is an amazing thing and as retireby40 said great things are never easy.
    Last year we went to Mexico for vacation and yes, I felt guilty for having things like a car, a Kindle and a laptop, and being able to afford a vacation. Hungry children were playing in dirt, houses with no roof… It was really bad. And the feeling of guilt was present pretty much through the whole vacation.

  25. says

    I also believe strongly in education, and I also believe in fair and transparent laws & rules that preserve the rights of people, which allow people to rise up and keep the fruits of their own labour instead of having it taken away from them. When the people are educated they are (hopefully) less susceptible to the sweet lies of those who would take their freedoms and rights away from them.

    P.S. 1200 submissions? Oh my… I had no idea of the rush you have been dealing with. There’s gotta be a way to spread the load somehow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *