Wins and Losses Series: Amanda from Why We Money – “The struggles make the victories even sweeter”

Wins and Losses Series: Amanda from Why We Money - "The struggles make the victories even sweeter"

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Hi, Team!


Welcome to another edition of MikedUp Blog’s Wins and Losses Series, where we interview a generous participant about 4 of the best and worst moments of their life. The point? To learn from the past so that we can improve in the future!


If you’re interested in participating in the Wins and Losses Series, please send me a note here (you don’t have to be a blogger to participate!)


(Photo courtesy of Kevin Newton)


Check out the complete Wins and Losses Series Here



This week we have: Amanda from Why We Money!



Wins and Losses Series: Amanda from Why We Money - "The struggles make the victories even sweeter"


Amanda is the co-founder of – a site where she and her husband share ideas, experiences, and tactics for finding a balance between enjoying life today, while still planning for a great tomorrow. She has a great one in store for us today so I’ll let her take it from here:



I love going a little deeper than the money side of personal finance, so I was excited when Mike asked me to participate in this series. It’s super important to look at the “whys” of money and life.


I firmly believe that, although we can’t always see them, there are lessons to learn and good that can come out of both the wins and losses. It’s been said life is 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. And, in my opinion, it’s hard to have one without the other.


Worst Moment #1: The call


You know the one I’m talking about.


I was in my last year of undergrad and my parents were visiting for the weekend. That day, we took a road trip to have lunch with all of my grandparents.


That night, we were back at my apartment and the phone rang. My dad answered and within seconds we all knew it was bad. My paternal grandparents had been in a terrible car accident (with a farm implement) and my grandma was taken to the hospital.


My grandpa was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.


I was grateful to have been able to spend time with my grandpa that day he died. (And we just happened to take pictures that day.)


In my entire life, I’d never experienced such a traumatic and sudden loss


I had never had anyone close to me die – and the pain was new and raw and intense.


This was my first experience with the true fragility of life and how fast it can change. I struggled for quite a while trying to wrap my head around it, searching for answers, reasons, and the meaning of life. And I found a new appreciation for life and the amazing people in mine.


Takeaway: Don’t take your loved ones for granted and spend time with them whenever you can. Most importantly, always, always, tell them how much you love them. Not just with your words, but your actions.


Worst Moment #2: An unexpected diagnosis


I have a disclaimer for this one. As I mentioned, I have trouble considering most things in my life a “loss.” Partly because I don’t think I’ve experienced that much loss in my life and partly because growth and other good things can come out of loss (though it’s often hard to see at the moment).


In 2017, I set a goal to “finally” figure out what was wrong with my leg


For years, I’d had significant nerve pain (and a palpable, painful lump) in my right leg. In 2016, it seemed to be getting worse. I started noticing it was much weaker than my left – and didn’t work nearly as well.


After a few months with no answers (but some pretty freaked out docs who saw the MRI images), I went to Mayo Clinic and was diagnosed with some unknown type of Neurofibromatosis. Even the top neurosurgeons don’t know what type of the genetic disorder I have.


They literally told me I’m “special”.


My right leg is full of internal plexiform nerve tumors. I’ve had some removed, but there is no possible way to remove them all (plus, I now know the nerves don’t like the surgery any more than the tumors themselves).


Physically, I am slightly limited in my abilities (I notice this most with martial arts). And the disorder is progressive with a somewhat elevated risk of malignancy, so no one really knows what the future will bring.


Takeaway: Though we may not be able to choose some things in life, we can choose our reaction to them. (Mike: I absolutely love this comment – and it’s so true. Kudos to you, Amanda)


I can choose how to look at this. I can see it as a “loss” because 1) I’ve lost some physical ability and 2) I don’t know what I’ll be able to do in the future or how the disorder will affect my life and longevity.


But I choose to look at it as an opportunity to recognize the importance of living my life “now”, to appreciate what I’ve got today and do the things I love to do. (And I want to hike – a challenging trail. I’d love to attempt some distance on a trail, like the PCT or AT.)


Best Moment #1: Seeing our son at his graduation from Air Force basic training


The day Jake left for basic training – when we said goodbye to him at the airport, walked away, and went home to a house that felt so empty without him – was one of the most difficult days I’ve had as a parent.


Weeks of limited and sporadic communication followed. Knowing that he was going through one of the toughest challenges of his life was hard. But then there was the pride and joy of knowing he was accomplishing so much, physically and mentally. The highs and lows were extreme during those few weeks.


Also, for a child that often had trouble walking at the age of 2 and continued to struggle with borderline juvenile rheumatoid arthritis for several years, getting through basic military training meant even more.


No words can describe that first hug when I “tapped” him out of formation on the first day of graduation weekend.



Takeaway: The struggles make the victories even sweeter.


Seeing Jake at graduation – and all the amazing changes in him that happened over a few weeks – was nothing short of amazing. As his parent, there are no words to describe the immense feeling of pride, love, and respect I had at that moment.


Best Moment #2: Passing my temporary black belt test


My husband and I started taekwondo when our kids were younger. The kids quit but we chose to continue. One belt test after another, we moved through the ranks (with an injury here and there). As we neared our temporary black belt test, we trained daily.


In our martial arts school, the temporary black belt is the most challenging test, both physically and mentally.


I was confident in most of my abilities, but I went into the test not knowing if I would even break my boards. I hadn’t broken them in practice. I was so nervous I was shaking – and I was exhausted from the rest of the test. Also, I didn’t particularly like the idea of getting out there in front of the judges and spectators. But after 2 tries, I broke my boards and finished my test.


So, as a not-so-athletic 39-year-old, I passed the temporary black belt test. But this isn’t a win because I became a “black belt”. It’s a win because it gave me the confidence and recognition that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to.



Takeaway: With time, persistence, and practice, I can do anything I set my mind to.


I never had the goal of black belt. And as I trained over the years, there were times of frustration and doubt. But with persistence, time and practice, I saw a slow improvement in my skills and confidence.



Thank you, Mike, for allowing me to share these moments! Writing this post drove home the importance of reflecting on momentous life experiences. For me, it was a reminder that both the wins and losses are essential for growth and gratitude in life.


Reader’s Input


I loved reading about Amanda’s mental approach to challenges in her life. Where some folks may come to a setback and ‘turtle up’ (hide in the shell) – she sounds like someone who would do the exact opposite – find a way through. What about Amanda’s story stuck out to you? We’ll both be monitoring the comments section below and we’d love to hear your thoughts!


Thanks for Reading!


If you’re interested in discovering a better version of yourself – whether with fitness, finance, or family – then subscribe below to MikedUp Blog’s FREE newsletter and let’s improve together!


I’m glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!


– Mike
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  1. Thanks so much for allowing me to share these personal stories, Mike! It was super therapeutic to write through them and bring out the takeaways. I think we should all do this from time to time – take a step back and really look at the memorable life events, how they affect us, and the impact on how we move forward.

    1. Amanda – thank you so much for participating! I really love so many of the posts in this series just because they tell real – personal stories that you can’t find in any old post. It’s because of great writers like you that we can all learn from past experiences together. Thanks again!

  2. Amanda, it was great meeting you in person. I could tell talking about Jake at dinner that you love him a bunch. He is lucky to have you as a mom, and while he has his heart set on traveling, you should know that. I hope that my kids are as close to me as he is to you when they get older – even if they are far away.

    You have an incredible story and one worth sharing. Thanks for being vulnerable enough to open up and share with everyone else. We are all better for it.


    1. Wow TPP! 🙂 You have no idea how much this means to me. This is so kind. These are words every parent would love to hear. And after meeting and talking with you, I have no doubt your kids will be just as close to you. It was very apparent to me that you love your family more than anything in the world. Thanks so very much for the kind and thoughtful words.

  3. Thanks for sharing that Amanda. Congratulations on the black belt test. That takes a lot of dedication and is no easy feat. Great to show that even what life throws at you won’t slow you down. Glad you are living life to the fullest right now as tomorrow is never promised

    1. Thanks so much xrayvsn! You’re right – it’s so important to realize that tomorrow is never a guarantee. It’s always better to move forward with lessons learned and live your best life each day. 🙂

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post, Amanda, and the concept of Mike’s blog. There are greater lessons learned from bad experiences than good. And it’s better to try to learn to avoid the bad through other people’s stories than your own. There is a saying, “Amor fati,” which is Latin for “Love of one’s fate” It is similar to Mike’s comment in your post. It is not what happens to you, but how you view what happens to you that matters. It is our choice if something is good or bad, or maybe just a path full of opportunities. Like the Stoics, the obstacle is the way.

    I always enjoy our conversations with You and Alan, and I’m excited to see how life plays out for everyone. Remember to always enjoy the journey…

  5. Thanks for reading and for your awesome comment, Ryan! I love this: “It is our choice if something is good or bad, or maybe just a path full of opportunities.” Many times in life experiencing the struggles leads to growth and even happiness.

    We really enjoy the conversations with you too. And It will most definitely be exciting to see where life takes everyone. 🙂

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