The Jar of Quarters

Updated insider information by Chellie Campbell, author of “The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction”

194-July 13

“Fall down seven times; get up eight.”—Japanese Proverb

My secretary, Joanne, was terrific. Bright, thoughtful, energetic—I hired her on the spot. As we worked together over the next few months, there was only one problem: She wouldn’t proofread her work. We fell into the habit of her preparing a rough draft, I would proofread the letter, then she would type the final. But often the final draft would also have a typo or two and would have to be done again. It finally dawned on me that this was not an efficient use of my time.

The next morning, I brought a big jar to the office. I put it on my desk, and I told Joanne that the proofreading of her work needed to be reassigned because I could no longer spend time on it. She asked who was going to do it now. “You are,” I said. She laughed and said, “Oh, Chellie, you know I’m no good at that! I’ve tried.” “Well,” I said, “I think you’re going to try harder. You may not work here forever, and my goal is to train you to be so fabulous in your work that when you hand a letter to someone for it to be signed, they can rely on you to have done it perfectly every time. This will get you trust, promotions, and more money.

“From now on, I am going to charge you a quarter for every mistake I find in your work. Each typo, every misspelled word, every missing punctuation mark will cost you. I brought this jar to put the quarters in.” Joanne laughed a little and remarked, “That’s a big jar. You must think I make a lot of mistakes.” “Prove me wrong,” I replied, as I gave her some letters.

The first letter cost her seven quarters. We watched together as they clinked into the bottom of the big jar. She went off to do another letter. Five quarters. Day in and day out for the next several weeks, the quarters piled up in the jar. It was beginning to cost her real money. She started getting frustrated with the game, and determined not to fill up that damned jar. She was now motivated to change. We both cheered the day she turned in a perfect letter and no quarters had to go in the jar. She had succeeded in changing her habit. We went out to lunch on the jar money.

Years passed, and eventually Joanne left to take another position. Over time we lost touch. Then one day, I got a phone call from her—she was working in management and very successful. She said that of all the things she had learned while working for me, the lesson that always stood out in her mind was paying a quarter to the jar for mistakes. Now she had her own secretary. And she was the one with the jar of quarters on her desk.

Got a bad habit you’d like to change? Get a jar.

Today’s Affirmation: “I work in perfect harmony with the time and tides, and rivers of money flow in to me.”

My new book "From Worry to Wealthy" for women in business

My new book “From Worry to Wealthy” for women in business

I want to get a jar of quarters for our politicians. They’re making lots of mistakes with ours! Before I make any Democrats or Republicans angry, let me say I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of gal and tend to call myself a “Republicrat”.

I’m rather fiscally conservative and mostly socially liberal, see? But what disturbs me now is that the game of politics has become an end in itself instead of being a means to accomplishing an end: a wonderful society where people with the talent and drive to succeed can get ahead but also where those with lesser abilities or resources can still have a fine life.

Better political analysts than I am have been pointing out the irrationality of the Republicans wanting to beat the Democrats at any cost, even if it means stalling needed legislation that they would otherwise be in favor of. I’m sure that it works vice versa in places, too. The problem is that politicians are supposed to represent us, The People, and work hard for our best interests. But it takes so much money to get elected that it’s no surprise if our politicians are indebted to their big corporate donors and then must work a little harder for their best interests. They spend most of their time hobnobbing with each other and lobbyists and I think they tend to forget not everyone has a pension and full medical benefits for the rest of their lives.

I just want to remind them that they’re in charge of legislation that affects all of us, not just the people who are doing well and want to do even better. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get ahead – this is a wonderful country where it’s possible to do that. But I notice a lot of companies are just a little too obsessed with the bottom line, making every nickel count, and perhaps not paying enough attention to making things great for their employees who make it happen. Why give such exorbitant salaries to the CEOs at the expense of living wages for everyone else? We need a little more equal distribution now. It’s better for everyone when all of society is healthy and has enough to live on.

Politicians need a visual reminder of this. So I want them to put a quarter in a jar every time they vote to give more money, benefits, and services to those who already have an abundance of them, and put a quarter in another jar for every time they give more to the general populace in social services available to all.

Which jar do you think will have the most money in it at the end of a year?