(Yes, the title of this post is a deliberate play on the Capital One campaign!)

I’m been thinking about ditching my wallet for a long time. I haven’t really carried cash for years and I only use a couple of cards on a regular basis. Nearly everything else that fills my wallet has just been weighing down my back pocket for no good reason. And somehow, even after all those years of needing it, I would still occasionally forget to grab my wallet when I left the house.

But I NEVER forget to grab my phone. So…I’ve been thinking about getting one of those wallet-cases for my phone for a long time.

I finally made the switch about a year ago. And I can’t believe how much better it is!

Here are some surprising leadership lessons I learned from making the switch:

  1. Fear is often the biggest obstacle to making a strategic change. See, I knew that all I really needed on a regular basis was my driver’s licence, my American Express (I use this for everything because of cash-back), my Visa debit card (for those few places that don’t take AmEx) and my church card. I could, and regularly did, go literally months without using anything else that was taking up space in my wallet. And yet, I hesitated to make the switch because I kept thinking “but what if…?” That’s just fear. I had all the information I needed to know that this was a safe bet, but fear kept me from pulling the trigger for WAY longer than I care to admit.

  2. Realistic solutions to many potential problems only become clear after you’re committed to a course. One of the things that slowed down my decision to switch was fear that something in my wallet would suddenly be needed for a reason I couldn’t foresee. I probably could have figured out a plan for dealing with those possible issues before making the switch, but it was only after I decided to pull the trigger and switch that I suddenly realized “huh, I could just take a picture of my health insurance card…all they want is the group # anyway. And the same thing goes for my auto insurance card.” Then I realized that I could keep pictures of all of those kinds of cards together in Evernote so they’re easy to find. There’s an important psychological difference between thinking “if we did X, then how could we handle Y?” and thinking “now that we’re doing X, what are we going to do about Y?” I believe the first type of thinking is is still chained down by “maybe this is a reason not to do this” whereas the second has the electrifying clarity of “oh boy, we’re doing this…so how will we make it work.” I’m not exactly sure what makes the two kinds of thinking so different, but they are night and day different.

  3. Most of the things we’re afraid of aren’t realistic issues. Since ditching my wallet and realizing I could just keep pics of my insurance cards, I have yet to need any of the extra-bulk items from my wallet even once. Not one single time. I’m still kicking myself for hauling around that old back-pocket bulge for so long because of these unrealistic fears.

  4. Simplicity is refreshing…and addictive. Honestly, ditching all the extra stuff I was carrying around in that wallet has been mentally refreshing in a way I could never have anticipated. I can’t quite explain it, but I absolutely feel it. Part of it may be that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I have my wallet before I leave the house.  But it goes beyond that. I love having only what I absolutely need with me when I head out to face the world. I feel leaner, more focused and more intentional in ways that carry over to other areas of my life. This has a carryover effect. As a result, I went through my closet and got rid of a tremendous amount of stuff that I hardly ever wear. I went through a stack of old papers on my desk that I was holding onto because “I might need this” and realized that if I hadn’t needed it in the last 6 months, I probably wasn’t ever going to need it. And because of my wallet experience, I realize that, if I ever really did need something I was tossing…there would be some other way to get that information if/when it was required.

  5. Effective leadership works by example. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who have noticed that I’m only carrying things I can fit in my phone case. Nearly all of them begin this way: “I’ve been thinking about doing that for a long time. How has that worked out for you?” Most of them have ended up making the switch after that conversation. All they needed was to see someone go ahead of them.

    Bonus Lesson: It is helpful to have a psychological safety net when making a big change.When I finally pulled the trigger and ditched my wallet, I still kind of kept it around by putting it in my laptop satchel. I always carry that satchel to the office in the morning and back home at night, so it was usually not too far away from me throughout the early days. That gave me some confidence. It wasn’t long before I realized that even that safety net was completely unnecessary and I just put my wallet in a drawer at the house…haven’t taken it out since. You can’t always move forward with a safety net, and insisting on one will sometimes hamstring you, but when it is possible to have such a safety net without it preventing you from actually moving forward, that can be very helpful.

So, what’s your wallet? What do you know you need to ditch but are still carrying around because of fear?