Tuesday, June 30, 2009

30 Day Experiment: Media Fast

I haven’t shared a thirty day experiment in awhile. My latest is in relation to selling my tv. I have essentially been on a media fast for the last month and a half or two months. I don’t watch any news, read newspapers, or visit news websites. Several blogs that I read have recommended the habit and so I gave it a try.

Originally, I thought I would become somewhat ignorant, but that hasn’t really been the case. What has happened is that I have developed a filter for all the stuff that doesn’t matter. That doesn’t affect my life. For example there have been a few plane crashes over the last few months. I am really sorry for the loss of the families, but if I look at how this crash is going to affect me the list isn’t very long. I’m not going to stop flying. I’m not going to think that the airline that crashed is less safe and take another. I’m not going to travel to the crash site and try to help. So what is the only thing that reading about this site could introduce to me? Worry, sadness, negativity, undue concern? In all honesty I don’t think that reading would necessarily cause those feelings in me; the point is that what good comes from knowing the story? I can’t think of anything. I only know about the fact that plane crashes occurred because of coworkers and internet message boards (texags.com). This is my filter. I didn’t hear the details I just saw a blip about it. That’s all I needed to know and maybe slightly more than I wanted to know.

Let’s visit another topic. What about the riots in Iran. My initial reaction upon hearing it (saw a WSJ front page as I walked by) was interest. I wanted to know more. My initial plan in fact was to start reading lots of articles on the subject. And then I thought about it. How does the research serve me? If I read about it and think it’s going to get really bad. I may form an opinion on if the US should get involved. My opinion won’t affect anything. I won’t get angry enough to join a protest. I won’t write a Congressman about it. I won’t travel to Iran to try and help. You won’t see me in my backyard building a nuclear fallout shelter because I fear nuclear war.

Let’s look at some concerns:

Being in the Loop
Most people fear not being in the loop when it comes to what’s going on in the world around us. I haven’t watched news in 2 months and yet I know a little about the biggest topics. In fact, if someone brings it up in conversation they enjoy telling me the details. By asking them questions it actually improves our interaction and they leave the conversation in a better mood. I haven’t found this a problem at all.

Being Prepared
A lot of people want to be prepared for what’s coming next. This is especially true in tax/policy issues that arise in the government. At first I was very much on this boat, but really new policies have very little individual impact. Let’s say my tax rate was to go up 3%. That would definitely be unfortunate, but I’m not going to be broke. I’d find out about it from my peers well before it affected me (tax laws usually go into affect for the fiscal year after they are implemented). If the policy never gets passed then all the better.

For some people this is their hobby. They love to get buried in the news. If this is you then you are in a different boat. Learning about these issues makes you excited and you’re interested in the subjects. Though if you find yourself getting angry or outraged ask yourself if these feelings are really worth the enjoyment.

What if you logged on to cnn and the headline was “Woman in Seattle gives all she has raising 8 adopted kids from unfortunate circumstances. All 8 will be in college this fall”. You scanned for other stories, “Man in Ohio donates 40,000 hours of time rebuilding his community”, “Through your gifts a tribe in Kenya was given 3,000 mosquito nets to prevent malaria”. How would your attitude change if 90% of what you heard was positive and only 10% was negative as opposed to vice versa. Would the world become a safer place? Would you feel happier? There are thousands of stories like my fake stories above going on everyday. The news networks know that fear and anger are a much more potent force behind selling papers. Do you really want to let capitalism shape how you view the world?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pretzel Day

If there is one thing I love about training it’s the pretzel day. There is something to be said for eating ballpark sized pretzels at 2:30 in the afternoon. Regardless of where your training is you ALWAYS have a pretzel day. The giant crispy on the outside soft on the inside goodness just melts in your mouth. The flakes of salt speckle the treat giving you a burst of flavor in each bite. Regardless of current diet restrictions, once a year I make an exception on pretzel day.

I’m now entering my third year as a member of the Public Accounting workforce which means I am in charge now of day to day operations. As far as testwork goes the buck stops here. There is certain level of responsibility and it’s the first hill on your way to top in public accounting. I’m supposed to be more mature. Now in year one I learned my lesson, I got some mustard and spilled a little bit right on the middle of my shirt. Lesson learned in year 2 I decided against the mustard and just enjoyed the pretzel in all its glory. This year though I had finally graduated. I was a man it was time for the mustard.

I wait in line procure my glorious pretzel and put a small spoon sized pile of mustard on my plate. They chose a good day too because we are going over derivatives (read boring). I am excited second wind here I come. As I finished off the last tasty bite I look down. No stains. Mission accomplished. I’ve earned it and the clean shirt was a badge of maturity.

I quietly continue to listen to the lecture. After about 20 minutes pass I look down; MAN a small stain on my pants. It’s the size of a small drip and since I’m wearing khakis it easily washes off. Right as I’m about to finish I notice another little stain on the right side and clean that off as well. O well two small stains were worth it.

The professor is doing his best, but derivatives just can’t be made “fun” by any stretch of the imagination. I look down at my nametag to see what time we’ll be leaving. Just to double check. And then I see it. A small stain on my shirt right down the middle, man I have now surpassed my first year blunder. I’m wearing a blue shirt and while the mustard fades it doesn’t actually come off. It's cool, my mom lives in Dallas so I’ll dry clean my scarlet letter.

Twenty more minutes pass and we are about 30 minutes from the end of class. Good lord could this guy be anymore boring. What time are we leaving again? As I look down to check the times on my badge I grow wide eyed. The entire back of my nametag is yellow. What…. Happened?

I look down and the entire right side of my shirt has been smeared in yellow mustard. Did I not see this before? The stain is about the size of a large softball maybe bigger. I would need about 3 or 4 bottles of water just to begin to fade it. I slowly peruse the table I’m sitting at. Assess the level of embarrassment. Who saw me? As I slowly look up everyone is in a half baked state that can only be brought on by day 4 in your 6th hour on derivatives. I’m safe. What the….. As I reach for the water I notice that my entire right arm is yellow as well. How did one spoonful of mustard turn into this? This is like Jesus feeding the 5000. I turned a quarter size dollop into a stain covering half my body. How is this even possible?

I scan again. No one is watching. I don’t have 5 water bottles at my desk to mitigate this stain. I need the Maytag man to even begin to combat this divine miracle. As the lecture begins to wrap up I grab ALL three binders of materials and hold them tightly against my chest and run out. I feel like Ernest in Ernest Goes to Jail:

I have no idea even still how one spoonful of mustard to which I consumed most of somehow managed to paint half my body. I washed the shirt three times with stain treatment and it still didn’t come all the way out. Needless to say you will never see me with mustard and pretzels ever again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Keys To Happiness #2 Really Invest in Others

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.
-Isaac Newton

Our article on Thursday was a bridge between our first key to happiness and our second which is investing in others. When we improve the lives of those around us we improve our own lives. By making the people around us happier we surround ourselves with other passionate and motivated people. This has a domino affect and changes the world around us. This then inspires us to do the same.

And I don’t necessarily mean helping someone you don’t know either. You can help a spouse, good friend, or family member. In fact, I recommend focusing on depth rather then breadth. In doing so you have a far greater impact on someone else and your actions are more likely to cause that person to pay it forward. Find a cause you are passionate about and focus all your efforts on making a big splash rather than helping out with lots of tiny activities.

From Good to Great
I recently read from Good to Great by Jim Collins which outlines the characteristics of great Companies. One of the qualities of great leaders is that they surround themselves with a great core team of team and then pour themselves and their strategy into the team. By focusing on depth their potency is then disseminated throughout the Company. In contrast, unsuccessful competitors would try and introduce a large marketing campaign to the entire workforce. This would often have little affect after the initial jump start. People’s interest lasted only as long as the flashy campaign was going on and then quickly disseminated. So why doesn’t everyone take the mentor approach? Because focusing on depth takes a lot more of a commitment. It involves multiple meetings and a commitment to a relationship. It often takes years rather then a few weeks.

Almost all of us have a teacher during our school career that changed our lives. My first was probably Mrs. Dial in fourth grade. I was coming out of third grade and had been labeled a “bad kid”. Mrs. Dial must have been patient because she had me and david horn (haha that was a ridiculous combo). I remember she gave us all nicknames that fit our personalities and really set out to get to know everyone personally. When you truly care an amazing thing starts to happen. Your students want to do well. As a class we all excelled. Our class even won some award for having one of the best writing scores in Texas for the TAAS test. The year I spent in her class room turned my school career around and gave me a lot of self confidence moving forward. I am really thankful for all she did for me. On the other hand, we’ve also all had the teacher who teaches the same way to everyone and doesn’t personally invest in her students. I had a bunch of them, and honestly I don’t even remember their names. When you focus on the individual you make a difference.

Biblical Perspective
Regardless of your beliefs, the fact that a man without any sort of worldly authority, wealth, or written work (Jesus didn’t write any of the Bible) disseminated His beliefs across a huge population within a short amount of time is amazing. You would think that His strategy would have been to go out and reach as many people as He could, though when you look at the biblical text much of His time was spent focusing on 12 men and from that group an inner circle of 3. Because He knew that 12 men who were poured into in depth would best disseminate his message, and 3 who were kept extremely close would serve to lead them. If you want to change the world, have a large impact on a few.

The above examples are mentor type relationships, but if that isn’t your strength then perhaps you get extremely involved in an organization. My grandfather has been a long time member of Habitat for Humanity and built around 70 houses with them. 70 houses! That changes a community.

An important note to make is that being an encourager in general and having a willingness to help others will improve the attitude of those around you. Try to make the people around you smile everyday. Plant seeds of positivity and watch them flourish into life long relationships.

If you drop a bunch of little pebbles into a bath tub you are less likely to make a big splash then if you throw in a giant stone. Get involved, inspire, develop, and encourage the world around you. Watch the affects as you change your surroundings and change your life. Go for depth. Take the time to change the world.

Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
-St. Augustine

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Escape the Rat Race!!

I read an interesting article this week that really hit home for me in regards to our keys to happiness series as well as touched on my emphasis on financial independence.

A recent study was done on graduates outlining their goals. The graduates were then sent follow up surveys a year later and then two years after that. The researchers measured both good will (qualities of people living happy lives) and ill will (qualities of people living unhappy lives). What they found was that people who valued intrinsic goals (pursuing their passions) over extrinsic goals (being rich or famous) were much happier. This study included people who became very wealthy within their first two years.

Americans have become subject to what has been called the hedonic treadmill. Which essentially means that you work harder and harder for more and more money to get more and more stuff. You get tired of your stuff or someone one ups you and then you have to get something else. This never results in a “happier” life. From the article

“Those who had the biggest increase in the amount of attainment of wealth, fame, and image actually showed no increase at all in well-being -- zero,” says Edward Deci, psychology professor at the University of Rochester, who co-authored the study with Ryan and Christopher Niemiec. “Even more startling, some of those people showed increases in ill-being, including depression and anxiety.”

“We believe there are three fundamental needs that have to be met to be psychologically healthy: relatedness -- to have relationships with other people and feel a sense of belonging and inclusion; to feel competent, like you can effectively manage in the world and have an impact on the world; and autonomy or self-initiation -- that what you do is in line with your basic interests and values, and you’re not doing it just because someone is pushing you around.”

Following a material lifestyle will generally cause you to buy something that you can’t afford and causing you to put yourself under a mound of debt. You will need to work harder and harder to stay afloat. By the time you get out of debt and start saving retirement is around the corner and you have to save just to ensure that you will be able to support yourself. The joys in life aren’t in money or toys. They are in relationships, pursuing your passion, and experiences. Starting next Tuesday I should have our next keys to happiness. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kevin's Simple Budgeting Technique

I had a recent conversation with a friend and was surprised to find out that he had credit card debt. Doing a quick poll I’ve realized that many of us do. It kind of just sneaks up on us. There are two solutions here. Destroy your credit card or come up with a budget. If you have a high amount of credit card debt (roughly ¼ of your yearly salary or more) I would consider the former. If you have a little debt that you can never seem to pay down then try Kevin’s patented budgeting technique.
Drastic changes don’t work in diets and don’t work in budgets. You need to be able to make permanent changes. So that means you still need the budgetary freedom to do the things you enjoy. Start small and work your way up. Don't try to hit it out of the park from the get go.

1. Allocate a certain amount of money for your favorite hobbies/passion
Right now I really enjoy rock climbing, crossfit, and going out to eat about 1 time a week. These are hobbies right now that I am passionate about doing. Rock climbing costs me 45 a month and crossfit is 135 a month. That isn’t cheap and a few of you have a lot cheaper alternatives, but I have made these activities a priority in my life and therefore choose to spend my excess cash on them. I therefore allocate the money to do these activities.

2. Add in your monthly bills
My bills are as follows: rent, insurance (1 payment every 6 months), cellphone, gas, etc. These are bills that I have to pay every month whether I want to or not. I need to put this on my budget next, because I have to pay these costs to remain debt free. Obviously some of the bills cellphone, cable, etc. could be classified into other stuff. If your budget doesn’t work then consider downsizing these costs.

3. Savings/ 401k
You need to be saving something (ideally 10-25%). Think about all the additional responsibilities you will have in the future (kids, house payment, etc.). As I stated in my previous post each dollar you save now is worth almost 2 dollars of savings 10 years from now. START NOW

4. Other stuff
This is anything else that doesn’t fit into any of the categories above. This is your discretionary spending. This money you can use on whatever you want and includes anything that isn’t a monthly bill or a passion.

A lot of people like me utilize this method and stay out of debt. Here are a few examples listed below:

Case Study 1
I knew a girl in college that only wore designer clothes. D&G, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, etc. She had it all. This girl must be burning through credit cards like money ain’t a thing I remember thinking. Then I went over to her place. She drove an early 90’s camero that had seen better days. She lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment and lived off of canned vegetables and beans. She rarely bought drinks when she went out and ate out only on special occasions. Her passion/hobby is nice clothes and so she sacrifices in other areas that are less important to her in order to get the things she wants.

Case Study 2
Another friend, absolutely loves having a nice car. He spends a lot of money on his vehicle and keeps it immaculate. To counteract that he lives with roomates, rarely goes out, and tends to wear tshirts. It doesn’t really matter to him because he loves his car and wants to spend his money on that. He’ll probably get a new car in 5 years or so, but he will have saved up enough and have good enough credit to have a very low interest rate loan. Aside from a very manageable small car payment he drives around debt free.

Case Study 3
A coworker loves to travel. In fact, if she could do anything she would travel the world and give tours. She wants a lot of discretionary income to spend on traveling; so she lives with her mom and uses the money she would have used on rent to travel the world. She’s spent more on vacation and gone more places than most of her peers. She has already been on two or three trips this year and has another one coming up in August. She thinks the travel is well worth the cost of living at home.

Each of the people above like me have very different hobbies. They all make sacrifices in areas they find less important and don’t miss so they can spend more money on things they enjoy. Try taking this approach when you budget and you will be surprised how much of your “other costs” you can eliminate without missing them.

If it’s still not working for you then you may want to try the “envelope method” which is using cash only and placing in envelopes the amount you are supposed to spend on each area and not spending more than what's in the envelope. You need to get this taken care of now so you are not trapped by your debt. You have lots of time at this age in your life and if you start good habits now then you save yourself a lot of stress in the future.

By building backwards and starting with hobbies, it actually makes the budgeting process more enjoyable. If you haven’t been able to stick to budgets in the past then give this a try. If you have any questions or want to discuss a particular issue feel free to contact me. If you want an article on a specific issue of finance let me know as well.

EDIT: My friend Nick linked me to a great article. Now is a great time to settle debt. Call your credit card company and request a reduction in your balance.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Keys To Happiness #1 Finding Your Passion- Part 2

On Tuesday we talked about Finding Your Passion. Lets look now at Application.

So this is all good and great, but how does it apply to us? Is it too late to find your passion? Branson found his calling at 16, Jesus began his ministry at 30, and Lincoln entered National Politics at 37. If you don’t know your passion now that doesn’t matter, many of the happiest people in history didn’t find their passion until later in life. So what can you do now?

Don’t Chase the White Rabbit
I know the feeling. You finally got a steady job and you’re making more money then you ever had. Now it’s time to get everything you want in life. To go for the dream. MONEY/MATERIAL POSSESSIONS DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS. Our generation is suffering under loads of debt, which traps us into jobs we don’t like, which makes us unhappy. As the saying goes people buy stuff they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like. You can still do things you enjoy while saving up money and paying down debt. Through one of my 30 day plans I gave up tv for a month and now don’t have one because I learned how little I actually missed it. Cut things that don't matter and really splurge and relish in your true passions. (If you need help with debt message me and we can work on a plan together)

Get the Pieces
Start acquiring skillsets for your dream career through activities that you find interesting. I know that I eventually want to run some sort of business. I don’t know what that business will be so I pick up general business skills. I read books on how to run businesses, magazines, case studies, etc. to try and pick up information that will help me in the future. I volunteer for speaking roles at work and participate in Toastmasters International to help improve my communication skills. I locate others who have had success as entrepreneurs and listen to speeches they have given or ask them questions. I write this blog to improve my writing (slowly yet surely). Do things you enjoy.

Stay The Course
Don’t listen to anyone else. I can’t stress this enough. If you want something bad enough there will be people that don’t believe in your dream because they can’t see themselves doing it. Greatness is achieved by accomplishing what others said you could not. If you believe it then you can achieve it. Have a plan and surround yourself with people who encourage you and help you facilitate your dreams. That said if no one believes your idea will work then maybe you should alter or change your plans to find something that will work. Surround yourself with positive people.

Start Today
If you already know your passion, then you should be pursuing it right now. If you can’t support yourself start small. I have a friend who is passionate about baking. Due to the fact that she has a work visa for a specific Company she can’t leave her job. So what does she do? Spend all her free time baking for friends who pay for all her supplies. Even though it’s not her career she is gaining valuable experience and developing contacts that will help her in her future endeavors.

It takes a spark to light a fire. People who are deeply involved in their passion are described as someone who has an infectious joy. I want that for me and I want that for you. Think about a world where everyone does something they truly love. Amazing.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-Gil Bailie

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Keys To Happiness #1 Finding Your Passion- Part 1

I decided to start a new series on what I thought true happiness is/ where does it come from. It’s a question that I as someone in my late 20’s find myself constantly asking. Right now in my life I see a road of several paths that I can take. Here is part 1 of the journey.

Desire reveals design, and design reveals destiny.
-John Eldredge, “Wild At Heart”

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books. Eldredge really explores in depth the the idea of what it means to be a man and explores how to live one’s life. I highly recommend this book. It’s a classic.

What were you made to do? What are you passionate about? In today’s society we often find ourselves going after money and then assume we will abandon our career for our passion as we get older. This is a misnomer. Anyone who is both successful and happy loves what they do and does what they love. A study was done on people of various income levels and one question was asked:

1) How much money do you need to be happy?

The participants would then be given an examination to test their happiness (tested contentment, goals, health, etc.) and what they found surprised them. Regardless of income level the group would on average name a price $50,000 more then the previous bracket. In reality, after an income of $40,000 anything above that did not add to the happiness of the individual. In fact, it was found that as long as people had even a little bit to spend on whatever they desired they could be content. Let’s look at some case studies:

Richard Branson
Ideally, since 80 percent of your life is spent working, you should start your business around something that is a passion of yours. If you're into kite-surfing and you want to become an entrepreneur, do it with kite-surfing.

Look, if you can indulge in your passion, life will be far more interesting than if you're just working. You'll work harder at it, and you'll know more about it. But first you must go out and educate yourself on whatever it is that you've decided to do - know more about kite-surfing than anyone else. That's where the work comes in. But if you're doing things you're passionate about, that will come naturally.

-Richard Branson

Branson is the owner of the virgin brand is worth approximately $2.4 billion, but he didn’t start that way. Branson began his business selling records out of the back of his car in London, England. In fact, for several years he didn’t make much money at all and lived in the car from which he sold his records. Yet when you read interviews with him you realize that he loved what he did then as much as he does now. It’s always been about running the business, seeing the next big idea, and expanding the brand. That’s Branson’s passion. According to Wikipedia, Branson has started over 360 companies under the Virgin name. Obviously, not all of them are successful, but success isn’t the goal. Success is merely a by product of the passion he pursues.

Abraham Lincoln
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.
-Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln is considered by many to be the best president in the history of the USA. Lincoln was known for always doing what he thought was right regardless of the consequences. He had a passion for his country and for the greater good of the United States. Lincoln was well to do, but not rich. Respected, but not revered. In fact, Lincoln lost his first attempt at election in 1832 when he tried to run for the Illinois General Assembly and almost left politics altogether. The only thing that brought Lincoln back was a stirring passion for the American Ideal. In fact, Lincoln traded his prominent and successful position as a lawyer for the life of a politician. Lincoln is most famous for his steadfastness during the Civil War and his unwillingness to compromise for what he thought was right. He never sought success or fame. He focused on one thing. The greater good.

Jesus Christ
It’s funny how the real principals of business, happiness and life are timeless. I am most familiar with the Bible and I want to use it here and throughout my series because none of these concepts are new. We just don’t put into practice what we inherently know.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
-John 15:11

Jesus offers a strong contrast to Branson in that his final net worth was zero. He died without an asset to his name. And yet he is considered by many (Christian and non Christian) to be one of the most joyous people to ever walk the earth. Jesus had a message; one that he ultimately died for. What a great example of someone who gave up everything and poured His entire being into pursuing a cause. Never once do you see remorse or wanting, because at all times Christ has a passion, a cause, and a desire. To save humanity.

To be continued… On Thursday we will read part 2 of pursuing your passion. Which is application.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

401K Quick and Dirty Style

Hey I’ll give you .25 cents for every dollar you show me. You don’t even have to do anything. Just whip it out and show it to me and I will give you .25 cents. How many dollars would you show me? Probably a hell of a lot. That’s free money.

Well for those of you with a 9 to 5 job your corporate employer probably offers you matching. At my firm it’s .25 cents on the dollar up to 6% of my salary. So I take 6% because I’ve already made a 25% return for the year on my savings. If you think about the fact that over the long term the stock returns roughly 9% your employer is almost tripling that or more. Why would you not do that?

Let’s look at some math (Note that these numbers are rough but make the point):
I assume that you are 25 and have 30 years to retirement. If you put just $50 bucks a month in your investment account for your working career you have $235,000 at an average of 9% return. If you increase to 100 a month you have $472,000. What if you wait ‘til you are 35 and start investing 200 or twice as much as our 100 dollar example. You only end up with $369,000 at age 65. That’s because of compounding aka leaving your earnings in the account for long periods of time. It adds up and the longer your money is in there the larger it grows.

So everyone should be saving something even it’s just $50 dollars a month because if you wait like most people our age you have to save over TWICE as much for the same results. You don’t want to do that. Believe me your future self will thank you.
So ya back to free money. We saw what happened with a 9% return. What happens when a 25% return is added to that? Most companies contribute lump sum at the end of the year so my math here is going to be a little off, but free money is free money. First off in our $50 a month example your Company is paying you another $6,000 in cash, because you saved money for YOU. You make roughly $285,000 for your actual contribution of $18,000 dollars. Compare that to the above. You made an extra $60,000 with matching. If you start 10 years later you have to invest over TWICE as much for the same return. And remember if you invest $100 you make $570,000 at retirement for your actual contribution of $36,000. That’s sixteen times what you invested. Also since Company's cap the amount of your salary they match (generally between 4-6%) you can never make up for the free money regardless of how much you save.

So for those of you who work for a Company with 401K matching:
1) Talk to your HR representative about your 401K program
2) Find out how much of your salary the Company matches and invest that much
3) Laugh because you just got a raise for doing something you should be doing anyway (Hell you deserve to be paid more anyway)

For those of you who don’t work for a Company with a 401K or you Company doesn’t match:
1) Save $50 extra dollars a month (if you can do more awesome! And even 10 dollars is worth it) and put it into a Roth IRA (call charles schwab and say “I want to put XX dollars a month in an IRA and have it drafted from my checking account”)
2) Tell them you want to invest your Roth contributions in a retirement fund with a goal for retirement in 2049 (or whatever age you want to retire at)
3) Laugh because every dollar you save now is worth more than $2 ten years from now

This is a quick and dirty intro post to 401K matching. If you have questions or concerns, leave a comment or hit me through facebook.

Monday, June 1, 2009


When I look at where I was to where I am now I know the changes are drastic because my entire perspective on life is extremely different then what it was. I have focused on shedding what I consider the “loser mentality”. I’m still not perfect, but by identifying my faults I’ve been able to improve. Let’s start with:

Stubbornness/ Egocentrism
My worst trait that I have worked on for years is stubbornness. In fact, this was probably my first big project. I have not completely shed the mentality. Stubbornness manifests itself in my life in many ways. The most noticeable to my friends was argumentativeness. I always wanted to win an argument. So I would use logic and entrap people in their language to cause them to backpedal to the point of “losing” the argument. The only problem is that no one every truly wins an argument. Instead I hurt a relationship and didn’t convince anyone of my point. The only time when it is appropriate is when I and the other party are exploring truth together. I hardly ever argue anymore which is a drastic change coming from someone who did debate and mock trial in highschool and college.

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.-Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I find this quote very intriguing. Part of the loser mentality is the angry preaching of your beliefs and the scoffing of others who disagree. Most religions preach modesty, humbleness, and empathy and religious zealots are anything but. Anger is a result of either fear or the frustration of an individual in realizing their lack of power in controlling someone. It doesn’t spawn from love. People fear their ideas being questioned because of the doubt that exists within themselves.

If you truly believe in your idea, your cause, etc. then you shouldn’t fear dissonance you should welcome it. By subjecting your idea to the “marketplace of ideas” you allow it to strengthen by standing up to the scrutiny of the outside world. I now enjoy meeting others who have vastly different ideas than me because I very often gain perspective and insight on a world I haven’t even begun to understand. People’s actions or choices often don’t make me angry (with the exception of people who stifle the rights of others) because they are free to make the choices they choose.


Another aspect of my “loser mentality” is my resistance to growth. Initially, I was done with school and thought, wow I never have to study again. If you want to settle for where you’re at right now then go for it, but as a young person I realize I have on average 50 years left of life. Am I really going to entrust my development to my employer? I’ve seen some of the people I work with. I need to go to the expert on me, myself. I know where I need growth and so I constantly pursue areas of improvement.

Part of this growth has been taking down fears and conceptions by challenging them. This has led me to skydive, meditate, try weird foods, diets, habits, etc. All of my thirty day challenges are results of this project. I try and challenge my conceptions and habits because by doing so I find out what makes me a better person. It takes action. I have to do something. I have to be the one to illicit the change I want to see in my world.

If you close your eyes and imagine the ideal person, those traits are traits that you aspire. Allocate time in the day to pursue just a small piece of those goals and grow a little bit everyday. A small seed grows little by little everyday until it’s a giant oak tree. Start small and start often.

Being the Victim
Finally, victimization is the worst “loser mentality” trait of all. I AM IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE. I make the choices for what I am doing and where I end up. I had at least two, but probably more arguments with friends and or family in highschool because I would not accept responsibility for my actions. I feared the consequences and thus wanted to play the victim. I got bad grades because my parents got divorced, I said what I said because he hit me, etc. You can always find someone to blame. I have to realize the buck stops here if I want to be a better person.

In fact, you can’t change any of your habits, your situation in life, or achieve your goals unless you realize that you are the agent for change. Before, I worked on my stubborness and egocentrism I had to recognize the problem. It’s the first step in AA for a reason.

I took this post as a point of reflection to show where I have come from and recognize things I still need to work on. By recognizing my faults and bad habits I give myself the freedom to become a better person.