Sunday, December 11, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

"Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so." -- William Shakespeare

We may not always have control over what happens to us, but we have absolute control over how we react to what happens in our lives.

We decide what things mean and what to do with information, whether it was information we searched for and found, or whether it was thrust upon us without our consent. We can decide to ignore situations, be frustrated or angry by them... or we can decide to learn from any or all situations and then move on. We don't need to let any specific situation define who we are.

No matter what happened in your past, your future can be influenced by one simple decision that you make in this present moment; as long as that decision is followed by action. You MUST take the appropriate steps (actions) to bring that decision into reality.

We control what we think, which leads to how we feel (or our emotions). Almost all decisions are made based on our emotions. And it is our emotions that drive us to action. Actions create the results that can change our lives.

Some people think there are easy decisions and hard decisions. But really all decisions are easy if you truly know what you want. If you have powerful goals and strong values then you only have to ask, "Will this decision bring me closer to my goals and is it congruent to my values?" If it DOES bring you closer and IS congruent, your decision is made. Of course, the action required to implement the decision may be difficult, but the decision itself will be easy. Also, any alternate decision you make (other than the right one) will just frustrate you, disappoint you and make your life miserable later.

Some decisions require difficult actions now but make our lives easier in the long run; and some decisions require much easier actions now but make our lives more difficult in the long run.

Have you ever seen the old classic movie 'Network'? The main character is a News Anchor and you can see the process of decision making in his body language, tone of voice and action. He not only made a decision for himself, but his resolution was so strong that he motivated his viewers into action as well by telling them to open their window and yell out, "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this, anymore!"

See the clip here:

These are the emotional outbursts that drive us to ACTION! Nothing will ever change for us until we decide that we are 'fed-up' with the way things are now. Until we decide that we will no longer tolerate (fill in your blank here). When you decide that you are 'sick and tired' of: being poor or living paycheck to paycheck or are 'sick and tired' of being pushed around or 'sick and tired' of being bored, sitting around the house watching TV for hours a day; when you are 'sick and tired' of being 'sick and tired'...only then will you be motivated to take action.

Only then will you decide to take the actions necessary to make, save and invest more money. Only then will you decide to take the actions necessary to become more confident. Only then will you decide to take the actions necessary to be more physically active and adventurous.

All of this because of one simple emotionally charged decision!

You can DECIDE RIGHT NOW to make your life into what ever you want. You can decide to do what ever it takes to make your dreams come true.

But don't just decide it. Make it a goal. Write it down. Set a date by which you intend to achieve that goal. Look back to the two Posts on Goal Setting (see January 3rd and January 13th posts) if you have not already read them, to find out what S.M.A.R.T. Goals are,how to set them and what to do with them once you have them.

I like what Hyrum W. Smith says about decisions, "When you decide to spend one hour watching TV, you have also decided NOT to spend the time on what?... Everything else!"

This is one of my pet peeves. People (especially kids) spend hours watching TV and playing video games. They will never get that time back. I very much doubt that anyone lay on their death bed thinking, "If only I had made it to the next level of Mortal Kombat" or "I really wish I had a few more hours to live so I can catch those three episodes of 'Lost' that I missed."

Live your life in a way that you won't have any regrets. Live your life as if today is your last day on Earth. Cultivate your personal relationships. Do the people in your life that are important to you, know how important they are? If not, I suggest you tell them. And even if they do know... I suggest that you tell them again, just because.

Our destiny is shaped by the decisions we make on a daily basis. Our decisions determine our actions.

"Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making that decision has passed." --- Hyrum W. Smith

Right now, go find a quiet spot that inspires you. Someplace to be alone to write down your thoughts. It could be a beach, mountain top, hillside or even your own office or bedroom. Get a notepad and pen. Write down what you REALLY want. Just let the ideas flow at first, without editing or judging. Write down anything that comes to mind.

Then when you have all of these thoughts written down, prioritize them. What is really important to you and what would just be fun, or nice or a bonus.

Now take all of the really top priority goals and decide what you will need to do to make each goal a reality. Set a completion date. Congratulations! You now have a goal. But wait! There is one more thing. Never leave the scene of a goal-setting session without doing at least one thing to make that goal a reality. You must take some action to make this real.

For example, if you are sitting at the ocean and you set a goal to lose 10 pounds in the next 3 months, you might take your first jog along the beach followed by a gentle stretch and a handful of push-ups or sit-ups. You may even decide to reward yourself by eating a healthy salad for lunch on your way home. Or at the VERY least, you should call a close friend or relative. Tell that person about your new goal so that they can help you achieve your goal (even if it's just by not tempting you to go out for ice cream or junk food).

Make great choices.

"Make a decision TODAY, that your future self will thank you for." --- Tony Robbins

Good luck.

Peace and Love,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Greed: A Common Thread...

If you look at the date of my last Post, you would think that I am slacking off in the Blogging Department. But the reality of it is that I have written at least 3 Posts in my head! Working on the 4th one in my head right now.

Two of the Posts that I've been working out in my head have a bit of an overlap, so I'm going to merge them into this one Post today.

In recent news Events, there are two situations that share a common theme: the NBA basketball lockout and the march to Occupy Wall Street.

Not everyone understands the protesters marching on Wall Street (and now across the country).

Opponents say that the protesters are upset that there is too much of a class difference or that they are upset that rich people are rich. That isn't the problem at all. Nobody has a problem with rich people being rich. This is America! One of the great things about this country is that you can be who ever you want to be and make however much money you want to make.

The real issue here is Greed. When everyone benefits from a good economy...things are good. But if the economy starts to go bad and the people at the 'top' eliminate the jobs of people at the 'bottom' in order to make more of a profit... that is a problem.

Sometimes when companies get too big, there is a disconnect between the CEO's and the front line workers. The CEO's and upper management folks don't know these workers personally and so don't feel as much of a need to protect them, especially if it means a smaller paycheck for themselves personally.

You hear about some of these small and medium sized companies sharing the pain when the economy starts to go bad. The owner of these companies understand that families lives will be disrupted if they have to start laying people off. So rather than deciding to lay of 3 of their 10 workers, then make the other seven do more work to compensate, and then keeping his or her own profit high, the owner will do everything to make the operation more efficient and cost effective and possibly (temporarily) lower all wages (including his/her own) and keep everyone working.

In big companies, if the CEO has never been to your house for dinner with your spouse and kids, he probably doesn't have as much of a personal stake in whether you get to keep your job or you get laid off. All he knows is that he gets to keep his big paycheck.

And what's the deal with these Wall Street Hot Shots making a bunch of money selling products that they know damn well will hurt the economy, but they do it anyway... That is a problem! Bankers selling bad loans that will never be repaid or mortgages that they know will go into default. And selling 'shorts'? Come on, that's just a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I understand that everybody wants to make a buck, but please don't do it at the expense of others.

The reason people have taken to the streets isn't because some people are rich and some aren't. No. The reason people are angry is that these people who got rich didn't do it the old fashioned American way (by offering a quality product or service). They offered a product that was not only faulty, but essentially sent our economy into a downward spiral.

Not only did these people not get punished for doing what they did, they got to keep their personal money and We The People BAILED OUT their businesses! Why? Because they were too big to fail? Really?! This is a very bad precedent to set.

To make matters worse, these banks that we bailed out are now sitting on that money, not making affordable loans to other businesses, not offering great rates on CD's, Money Market accounts or other money products.

They have taken no personal responsibility at all. It is totally unacceptable!

It reminds me of when we bailed out the Auto Industry and in a blatant disregard for the money that we gave them, the Auto Executives flew from Detroit to D.C. in three separate corporate jets!! Luckily, some people were bold enough to make a big deal about that and the situation was corrected next time. And since they knew that they were being watched... they cleaned up their Fiscal Act. As it stands now, the Auto Industry seems to be back on its feet, and I believe that some of that money has actually been paid back.

So let's tie in the other Event in the news: the basketball lockout.

Let me start by saying that I am a firm believer that everyone should be paid what they are worth. The better you are at your job, the better you should be paid.

So here's the thing. Basketball players want more money. They see the owners of the teams getting rich and they feel like they deserve a bigger piece of the pie.

The fact is, people buy tickets to the games to see the players, not the owners. Right? So I understand their thinking on this.

On the other hand, it's the owners who are taking all the risk. Putting up the money, making the deals with networks and advertisers, paying the overhead and dealing with other employees (and all the headaches that go along with that). It's a lot of work! I get it.

This is my thought on the dilemma. Right now these elite athletes are making millions of dollars. And on the one hand I'm OK with that. It does irritate me that teachers, military service folks and first responders (police, fire, EMT, etc.) make so much less for what I think most people would agree are much more important jobs, but it is what it is. That can be a Post for another day! Let me get back to my solution.

I think that these elite athletes should cultivate their Public Personas so they can make however much money they can get through endorsements.

The reality of it is this: ask any kid on any basketball court across the country (indoors or outdoors) if he/she would take on a pro basketball career for $100K. He/she would do it. They would probably do it for $50K (especially knowing that they can make more with endorsements)!!

I bet that not one would say, "No, if I can't make over a million dollars, I wouldn't waste my time..."

Most of them play because they are Passionate about the game. As are all pro athletes. That's what makes them so good.

Really it's the same with any career. That's why it is important to find what it is you are passionate about and find a way to make that your career.

This is the bottom line: we need to look at these types of situations from all angles. When we are so wrapped into a "What's in it for me?" attitude... that's when we start having problems.

Let's look more closely at the lockout.

I'll start with the Team Owners. They want to make a decent living in their careers. That is great. But when they start to get Greedy, then the players decide that they should be making more.

The Players were probably just happy to have a job that they love, but when they see what appears to be unfairness in the 'Distribution of Wealth', they decide to raise a ruckus.

The Players and Owners do this little dance back and forth over the years until the Players are making millions of dollars. At some point it becomes critical and there is a lockout.

Why is that?

Because while the Players and Owners are doing their dance, both sides have forgotten about the most important factor in the equation: the People who buy the tickets. The fuel that runs this whole machine.

At some point the fans decide that the ticket prices are too high and stop attending the games. What used to be a fun Family activity is now unaffordable to the average Family.

The result is fewer tickets sold. Which means that the price per ticket needs to be higher so the Owners can afford to pay the Players.

Higher prices mean even fewer People can afford to attend the games. Fewer attendees mean less beer and popcorn sales. No need now for all those Ticket Takers and Vendors. No need for so many Security People. Since there are fewer People attending, there isn't as much of a mess, so no need for such a big Clean Up Crew and Property Maintenance Folks.

Also, the lower ticket sales means less taxes paid. That's good right? Nope. That is the money that pays for Police Presence and other First Responders!

Net result? If you look at the Big Picture... one little bit of Greed screwed it up for everybody (including the Greedy ones)!

Let's go back to the beginning. If the Team Owner wasn't Greedy, the Players wouldn't have been inspired to be Greedy as well. Ticket prices would have stayed low, so more People could afford to go to the games (and brought the Family). More kids want more popcorn and soda (both large profit items) and more grown ups want more beer and hot dogs. That means more Vendors. That means more mess and wear and tear on property. That means more Custodial and Maintenance jobs. More People means more Security jobs. And that's OK because with all those ticket sales, comes more taxes. And so there can be better Police Presence and other First Responders for safety! And because all these People have jobs there is less crime. And more People will take more pride in their Community!

The New Bottom Line is that even though the owners make less per ticket; they make more in the long run by selling more tickets. Not to mention the 'Good Will' accumulated by customer loyalty.

Just look at Apple. When Apple came out with the iPod, Steve Jobs could have said, "There is nothing else like this product, I could get a small fortune for this."

Instead, he made it cheaper and more convenient for People to store and listen to their music. He made it affordable for Everyone. So much so, that they became a part of daily life. This product became a part of our culture. And then, when he came out with iPhones and iPads, it was a very short leap for them to become necessary tools as well.

The net result of that type of thinking? Apple has more money than the U.S. Government. And Steve Jobs did pretty well personally, too!

We only need to look at Warren Buffet to know that the same holds true in the Financial Markets.

So now, my Dear Faithful Readers... it is time for me to wrap up and get to the point of this whole Rant.

I am all for standing up for what I believe in, and I think it is great that People protest when they think things have gone awry. Freedom of Speech is one of the things that makes America great!

But my question is this: Why do they always have to do it the HARD WAY?

If you want to make a stance against Corporate Greed, why not hit them where it hurts the most? In the Pocket Book!

Don't buy their products... and tell them why!

Look what just happened with Netflix. Here is a company who shot into the spotlight by creating a product that is cheaper and more convenient for the Consumer. So much so that it single handedly took down a giant like Blockbuster Video.

Netflix recently announced that it would split into two separate entities, one mail order and one streaming. Customers went into an uproar. This would make it LESS convenient and MORE expensive.

See what happened there? Netflix saw that they had a corner on the market and found a way to make some extra money...

But when Customers started canceling their monthly subscriptions, Netflix very quickly announced its plan to stay one united company.

This my Friends is how to AFFECT CHANGE!

Do the right thing. Take a stand. But don't just huff and puff, make your stand meaningful. Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Peace and Love,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We The People...

An open letter to the President and Congress:

Dear Mr. President and Congress,

It seems that you are all having a hard time with your decision making skills, so I would like to remind you of a few things that you seem to have forgotten.

WE THE PEOPLE have elected you to do a job. That job is to represent US (the People). If you can't handle that, it's OK, we can elect someone else.

And in case you forgot the basics of your job, maybe I can help you remember. Does this sound familiar to you?

"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

That's it. That is your job:

Establish Justice... provide fair and reasonable rule of law.

Insure Domestic Tranquility... provide First Responders to allow for a life free of disturbance. And although you obviously can't make everyone Happy, you should certainly promote an atmosphere where we can create our own Happiness.

Provide For The Common Defense... provide a strong military presence, not to police the world, but rather to provide for our safety here in our own country.

Promote The General Welfare... this does not mean create a Welfare State. This is the General Welfare, meaning to provide assistance (financial, educational, or otherwise) to people in need in order to help them become more self-sufficient. Note: this is a courtesy of the People, not an entitlement.

Secure The Blessings Of Liberty To Ourselves And Our Posterity... this means we will ensure that our Children have the same Freedoms that we enjoy, and that we will leave the Country a better place than how we inherited it. This is not possible to do if we leave our Children saddled with Trillions of Dollars of Debt!!

And as our Forefathers stated so eloquently... it doesn't need to be perfect, but we should strive for a 'more perfect union'.

One of the reasons I am in favor of Term Limits is that you, Mr/Ms Politician, will know that you will be 'fired' in 4 years or 6 years. (8 years or 12 years if you do a good job and achieve your one possible re-election!)

Since you know you have a limited time, you will try to do as much as you can in the limited time that you have. Note: If you do a great job, you will most certainly command a premium salary in the Private Sector when you get 'fired' from Public Service.

That means you will stop thinking with that long-term Politician mentality. That is when people do as much as they have to in order to get re-elected, but not too much that someone might be offended and not vote for them next election day.

Maybe it would be helpful for you to start thinking of the government as a small business. Or maybe you could make decisions the way you would with your Family Budget.

You know in your Family Budget that you have a set amount of expenses: food, shelter (mortgage, rent, utilities), well-being (medical, health club, insurance), travel (gas, tolls, parking, airfare), entertainment (movies, cable TV, museums, books) and on and on...

When times are tough, you have two options: spend less, make more.

Sadly, Congress, you have taken on option #3: go into debt.

No, in real life you need to choose between option 1 and option 2. Either you cut back on frivolous (unnecessary) spending or you need to generate more income.

You need to get your priorities in order. You can decide to go to the movies less often, brown bag your lunch, cancel your Cable (TV is mostly wasted time anyway!) and travel locally rather than fly to some far away exotic location. Or, if you decide that your Premium Cable Package and going out to lunch daily with your fellow Politicians is a priority for you, then you need to generate more income. So maybe you need to get a part time job (temporarily, until you straighten out the economy) as a Wal-Mart greeter, or you could try your hand at waiting on tables or selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

Either way you need to choose: spend less--make more.

Do I need to translate that into GovernmentSpeak for you Mr/Ms Congressperson?

That means cut spending or raise taxes (temporarily).

When you cut spending it needs to come from non-essential budgets. You know, the Goofy Stuff. That means all the 'Pork' spending in bills that build bridges that go nowhere, and funding for experiments that determine which ketchup pours faster. And although some of these things may net interesting information (in the long run) they could be put on hold for now until the economy can support extra spending on things like the already over-budget Webb Space Telescope, on which we have already spent $18.4 Billion, but which having gone over budget, now needs an additional $1.6 Billion to complete! Note: this funding for the Webb telescope is to replace the (perfectly good and productive) Hubble Space Telescope.

I am a firm believer in a strong Military. But let's get with the Modern Times, can we please?! Mr/Ms Senator, just because Boeing or Pratt and Whitney (enter your local business here) is in your state, you don't need to fight for more government Military spending.

The future of the Military is Seal Team 6 and similar types of precision Strike Teams. Small, mobile, travel light. Do we need to spend billions on tanks? It is highly unlikely that we will ever fight that type of battle again. And we need to be more selective about the aircraft that we build. No more building just to build. Some of these monstrosities are obsolete before they finish building the final aircraft in the contract! We should be spending money on training and intelligence, not expensive obsolete weapons. And don't even get me started on Independent Contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater Worldwide.

All of this leads me to another beef! What is the deal with the concept of, 'Too Big To Fail'? There is no such thing. Economic Darwinism is the American Way!

WE THE PEOPLE promise to 'fire' (vote out) the next politician who even suggests another Bail Out.

Businesses will continue to grow, change, improve or at least keep up... or face the risk of failing. This is what WE THE PEOPLE call being 'Buggy Whipped'.

Remember when stage coach drivers used whips to encourage the horses? Well, when WE THE PEOPLE transitioned from horse-and-buggy to automobiles-- did we Bail Out the buggy whip makers? No. And the world didn't end. Maybe he got hired by Henry Ford (as did the blacksmiths) to make automobiles. Or maybe he reinvented his image and changed his Target Market to create the Sex Toy Industry.

Remember when a young kid named Bill Gates revolutionized the computer industry out of his garage? IBM and those other computer companies had to keep up or move on to 'explore other opportunities'. For a while, he even ended up in court for having a monopoly. Nobody thought he could be brought down. Enter Steve Jobs with his little company called Apple. He had a few innovations of his own.

Did we Bail Out Wang or Honeywell or Dell? No. And they all either got bought out, changed their focus, or changed marketing strategies to keep up.

WE THE PEOPLE refuse to ever Bail Out anyone EVER again.

By bailing out these companies, we are not only setting a bad precedent, we are setting them up to fail. They won't try hard to succeed if they know that we will reward them for their non-effort.

We need to encourage Personal Responsibility. Yes, WE THE PEOPLE are a caring, compassionate and generous people, but we also ascribe to the "give a man a fish, feed him for a day... teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime" theory.

This is why our welfare system also needs to be overhauled. There should be a time limit on our generosity, otherwise people start to feel entitled to the money and support we offer.

We should continue to offer this help and support while recipients are doing job training to learn new skills to make themselves more marketable. Once they are back on their feet, they should come out of the 'system'.

The thing that bugs me the most about the Bail Out situation is that while WE THE PEOPLE are Bailing Out the oil companies, they are generating record profits while simultaneously spilling record amounts of oil into the environment.

Did you know that while we are Bailing Out General Motors here at home, they have been making record profits in China? I wonder how many tax dollars are being generated here on their profits over in Europe and Asia?

And a final note on spending cuts. Now that you are aware Mr/Ms Congressperson, of a few places to cut (and believe me there are plenty more!) let us (WE THE PEOPLE) suggest a few places that you should refrain from touching.

Stay away from the money we spend on our Essential Employees.

No, you idiot Politician... you are NOT an Essential Employee! In fact, you have in this past year (or two) proven yourself completely Non-Essential. We hear that if you don't decide soon on a budget, that it will shut down government. My question is this: How will anyone know the difference?

No, when I say Essential Employees, I'm talking about Military and Police. This includes all First Responders (Fire, EMS, etc.) who keep us safe, both nationally and locally.

Spending on Teachers/Education should be Tabu. Again, WE THE PEOPLE promise to 'fire' any Politician who even proposes a cut in Education or First Responder Budgets.

You should vote to slash your own pay, Mr/Ms Politician, before considering cuts to our Essential Employees.

In fact, you should make some changes in your benefits package, too. What's the deal with your Perpetual Paycheck? You keep getting paid, even after you are out of office?

Maybe I understand that for the President, since the President has a bunch of seriously classified information in his/her head. This means he can't just walk around in the street and get a real job. He still needs a protection detail for a while. Should we call it 20-25 years? By then all that info is pretty obsolete. And by then he is probably at retirement age anyway.

Another area that is off-limits for your cutting pleasure is Social Security. That isn't your money to cut. WE THE PEOPLE have put that money in to the system. It is your job to invest it and grow that money so it will continue to be there as people need it.

That money is not for you to borrow, cut, steal or otherwise screw around with.

Here's another novel idea. What if we think of Social Security like an investment? We all put money in (as if it was a Rainy Day Fund). Then, if we need it, we use it. If we don't need to use it, then we leave the money in there for the less fortunate. It would be the choice of each individual person if we want to use it or not.

And I have another general rule of thumb: What is good for Congress is good for WE THE PEOPLE! Get it? You can't pass laws that only pertain to Congress (like your sweet Post Office set-up, and your personal loans set-up, and your comprehensive health care program). And you can't pass laws for the rest of us that don't pertain to you.

So as soon as you balance the budget, you can start working on these other things. And while you are making changes, there should be no pork in any bill, EVER. In fact, you should only pass one law at a time. No more mixing laws, no more 'I'll vote for your bill if you vote for mine' by putting them in the same law. If you can't write your bill on 5-10 pages, it's too much. And it should be written in plain English so that WE THE PEOPLE can understand what kinds of laws you are passing on our behalf.

WE THE PEOPLE would also like to remind you that our forefathers came to this country over 200 years ago on some pretty rickety old boats to get away from the tyranny of an inflexible, stubborn, selfish old king who was out of touch with the people.

Your job Mr/Ms Politician is to do what is good for WE THE PEOPLE, not 'I the Person' or 'I the Big Business' or 'I the Re-Election Campaign Contributor'. Maybe sacrifices need to be made. But you need to ask yourself--"Is this beneficial to WE THE PEOPLE?"

And don't forget, Mr/Ms Congressperson, that you are also, WE THE PEOPLE!

Is it worth closing some loopholes in the tax laws so that the wealthiest 1% of the people in this country pay a little more? Maybe just temporarily? Will that be beneficial to WE THE PEOPLE?

That is, after all, the flip-side of the coin. Remember we talked about the Family Budget? You can cut spending or generate income.

In this case, your temporary part-time job, translates to raising taxes. Or at the very least, temporarily eliminating tax cut 'loop holes'. Keep in mind that this is not really raising taxes. These are taxes that they would be paying, but now are not because a previous Congress wrote in a 'loop hole' so that now they are not paying that tax.

And if you are going to tax something, make it something that is optional. If we tax alcohol and cigarettes then people can decide to not buy those things, and by not buying alcohol and cigarettes, WE THE PEOPLE have just given ourselves a tax break! And the money generated by taxing alcohol and cigarettes can go to helping out with health care costs.

The same with automobile tax and gas tax. We can choose to not drive, thereby saving money on taxes. And again, the money generated by these taxes can be used to pay for road and bridge repairs, transportation infrastructure, etc.

And while I'm on the subject of pet peeves and things that irritate me...

Who's idea was it to allow gas companies to charge nine tenths of a cent on gas? Who do they think they are kidding? Call it what it is... it's an extra penny. Was that so hard? What a joke! It's an insult to my intelligence.

Can someone out there fix that? Don't make me have to run for Senate!

And also, Mr/Ms Congressperson, please don't let people screw with my food. All of this genetically modified food and processed food is making us obese and unhealthy.

And food is either organic or it's not. You can't say that food can be called organic 'as long as it meets the criteria' of some obscure law (that nobody ever read or could even find) passed in 1991. Please, don't be ridiculous!!

And can we treat our farmers a little better? Don't you realize that without our farmers we won't have real food and will be dependent on these chemically enhanced, processed foods, and/or foreign growers.

WE THE PEOPLE have one other reminder for you:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government..."

In my opinion, our Trillions of dollars of National Debt constitutes "a long train of abuses and usurpations"!! It's time to vote some people out and "to provide new Guards for (our) future security".

Congress, your "my way or no way" attitude is Un-American and Unacceptable. You are a disgrace to our Forefathers who braved rough waters in rickety boats to offer us (WE THE PEOPLE), their descendants, a better life.

So it's time to stop trying to legislate LIGHTBULBS and balance the budget!

I am disappointed in you, Congress.

WE THE PEOPLE deserve better.

Signed by a true patriot and one small voice of WE THE PEOPLE,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Think for yourself...

Before I go off on a rant about current events, I would like to say Thanks to our troops for keeping us safe globally and Thanks to our first responders (all levels of law enforcement, fire and EMS) for keeping us safe locally.

Also, I would like to thank the elite troops who did 'what needed to be done' in Pakistan.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen them capture bin Laden rather than kill him, but I also understand that in this type of operation, that is not always possible. The down-side is that now radicals will proclaim him a martyr and fight in his name.

I know that capturing him would not likely net any real 'intelligence' on how to find other radicals. I wouldn't expect bin Laden to 'give anyone up'. But the real intel that could have been acquired is a better understanding of what goes on in the mind of the radicals and why they think what they think.

Obviously they have a misunderstanding of us. (As we likely misunderstand them.) They find our capitalist ways unacceptable. For over two hundred years other cultures have seen our system and those who understand have incorporated it into their own. But those poor radicals have been brainwashed into believing some warped concept of our culture. So warped, that they want to destroy our way of life.

If we could help them to better understand our lifestyle, then even if they are not interested in incorporating it into their own lives... at least they will know we are not evil, and hopefully not feel the need to destroy us.

Understanding differences is the best way to define the problem. And a problem well defined is half solved.

The knee-jerk reaction to the news of Osama bin Laden's death is reminiscent of 'W' Bush's proclamation on September 12, 2001 that "We are at war!" I find it irresponsible and inflammatory.

And even though I don't always agree with President Obama's policies, I appreciate his 'It had to be done and so we did it' approach. He was careful not to gloat and not to indiscriminately blame Muslims or Pakistanis or Afghanis, etc. Just radical extremists. Thank you for that.

But the crowds in the streets making such a 'Big Deal' about it, gives the radicals the satisfaction of thinking that they are making progress in their cause because it is affecting us.

Don't get me wrong. Finding bin Laden is a 'Big Deal'... but dancing in the streets is probably not the best or most effective action for us to take.

I mostly blame the news media for their lame 'sound bite' philosophy. It creates a bit of a 'mob mentality'. People really do feel safety in numbers. People tend to get caught up in the excitement of the mob and do or say things they never would on their own (looting, street fights, etc.). Even in this situation, people say things like, "Kill the bastard" or "Off with his head". Safe things to say in a mob of people.

The reality of it is... most people, gun in hand, would not choose to take the life of another human being. Most people, machete in hand, would find it difficult to hack off the head of another human being.

But imagine that same person surrounded by an angry or enthusiastic crowd yelling, "Do it! Do it!" That might be all the empowerment needed to perform an unspeakable act. There are many examples of mob mentality in our history. This Easter season reminds us of just such a mob two thousand years ago. "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

Earlier in the day on Sunday, before the news of bin Laden's death, I met a man at my local sandwich shop. I saw him get out of his car and complimented him on his bumper sticker.

It read, "Bless the whole world".

He returned to his car, grabbed another bumper sticker and gave it to me. He told me that he bought 1000 of them about a year ago, and was giving them out to anyone who commented on it. When I asked how many he had left he said, "Almost the whole box."

I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

As our sandwiches were being made we had a great discussion about how people with "God bless America" bumper stickers surely mean well, but are unintentionally part of the problem.

One of these days I may write a post on how the words we use can inspire, inflame, degrade. How our words create emotion and how that emotion translates into action. Most people are not aware of the power of their words.

I met another interesting person today. As I was walking down the street I heard a small voice yell, "Hi!" I looked toward the voice and smiled. I waved and said, "Hi!" back.

"What's your name?" asked the small voice.

"Nick" I answered, "What's yours?"


"That's a beautiful name."

"Thank you." (Big smile.)

"It was nice to meet you, Eva" I said as I went on my way.

"It was nice to meet you, too."

It was refreshing to come face to face with five year old innocence (maybe four years old).

Last night's news extravaganza had no affect on young Eva's day to day life activities. Granted, it could be argued that the event made her future world a safer place, but the point I'm making is this:

Young Eva genuinely cared about making that human connection. I think she wanted to be my friend. She didn't care that I was different from her. She didn't see me as a scary old guy with long hair and a beard.

I'm not sure what was going through the mind of Eva's mom. She was parked on the side of the road and Eva was carrying on her side of our conversation from her car seat in the back.

I imagine that Eva's mom felt a mixture of embarrassment that Eva was yelling out the back window at a stranger; and pride that her daughter is so polite and well-spoken; and fear... that Eva is so fearless. (Note: I really am sporting long hair and a beard right now, so I am potentially a little scarier looking than usual.)

At what point do we make that switch from our natural desire to befriend everyone to becoming so fearful of others that we need to 'destroy Them, before They destroy Us'?

For that matter, at what point do we become 'Them' and 'Us'?

I hate to sound like Rodney King, but, "Can't we all just get along?"

I am a firm believer in standing up for my beliefs. But I make it a point to take the intellectual 'high road'. I choose to use words to debate the pro's and con's rather than use a fist or a gun to make 'Them' submit to my way of thinking.

The most important piece of information I want people to take from this post is this:

Think for yourself!

I have said it before and I will very likely say it again. Don't get wrapped up in 'sound bite' news or mob mentality. Really think for yourself.

If you think about the big picture of this situation and the consequences of it, and you still think that dancing in the streets is appropriate and the right thing to do... then dance away. You have my blessing. As long as you yourself have decided that it is right.

And one final thought. This quote was made by a man who stood up for what he believed and knew the fine art of thinking for himself. His quote is still relevant today:

"Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Think well.

Peace and Love,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Really Big Picture...

My previous post was on Goal Setting Tips, which I thought would be good for people trying to set their New Year's Resolutions. I admit that I took a little heat for not posting my own resolutions (but that was not the point). The point was to give people the tools to come up with their own.

Rather than bore you with my own specific resolutions or goals, I thought it would be better to share with you my Life Mission Statement. This is a Guideline or set of Rules that I (do my best to) live by. You can pretty much bet that all of my other goals (Immediate, Mid-Range and Big Picture) fit nicely within the Rules. I like to think of it as the Really Big Picture.

Once you have come up with your own Life Mission Statement and set your Goals, the whole decision making process suddenly becomes VERY EASY. Since your Life Mission Statement is essentially a list of your underlying Values and your Goals are the things you want to accomplish in life-- all you have to do is answer this simple question: "Is what I am doing right now, consistent with my Goals and Values?"

If you have a tough decision to make, again all you have to do is ask the question: "Which choice will get me closer to achieving my Goals and fit within the Rules I have set for myself (my Life Mission Statement)?"

The tricky part (that I just barely touched on in the previous post) is to be sure that your Goals and your Values are congruent. For example, you can't set a Goal to make more money no matter what the cost, and then say in your Life Mission Statement that you will never steal, cheat, etc. That will make you crazy when you have to decide whether to rob that bank for a quick pay out or to apply for a job that will take a lot more time to come up with an equal amount of money.

If you decide that you want to create your own Life Mission Statement, it should incorporate all the aspects of your life, just as I mentioned in the previous post (physical, personal, spiritual, etc.).

Another thing that you should keep in mind is that these Rules are self-imposed. That is why I often refer to them as Guidelines. As things change in your life, it's OK to change your Life Mission Statement as well as your Goals. So it is very important to be aware of what you REALLY want. Sometimes people get wrapped up in what they say they want, and then when they get that thing, they are not happy because it's not what they really wanted.

For example, maybe you set a Goal for yourself to own a 42-foot Fishing Yacht. So you save, save, save, until you can afford it. When you finally purchase your dream yacht, you find that you are not any happier than you were before, because now you have to work more hours to be able to afford to store it at the yacht club. What you really wanted was to have more free time to spend out on the water fishing. For the amount of money you have spent on the yacht, storage, gear and yacht club fees, you could have taken a destination vacation, rented a boat (that comes complete with gear) and spent more time doing what you REALLY wanted to do.

So do a little Soul Searching!

I admit that my own personal Life Mission Statement has evolved over the years, but not a whole lot.

Spoiler Alert: If you want to write your own Life Mission Statement without being influenced by mine, you should stop reading now. Go write yours, then come back and read mine. You can write your Mission Statement in many different formats. Mine looks like this:

I live my life to be a positive influence on the lives and lifestyles of others. I lead by example to encourage, educate and motivate people.

I insist on the highest ethical standards and will never accept less than the best quality performance from myself and others.

I take pride in all that I do, and always stand up for what I believe.

I am the best friend, brother, uncle and son that I can possibly be.

I treat all living beings with fairness, kindness and compassion.

I approach each day energetically, with creativity, passion and humor.

Good Luck. Live Life Well!

Peace and Love,

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goal-Setting Tips...

Welcome to 2011.

Once again we find ourselves with a fresh start in a new year. Time to do some reassessments and goal-setting.

It has recently come to my attention that many people are not efficient in their goal-setting. So I would like to offer some suggestions.

First, we should set our goals in three levels: Immediate, Mid-Range and Big Picture goals.

An example of Immediate Goals are goals on our Daily List of Things To Do or our goals for the week. Mid-Range Goals are things that we would like to accomplish by the end of the year (or maybe within the next two years). Big Picture Goals answer questions like: Where do you see yourself in five (or ten) years from now? Or what do you want to do with your life?

To me, it seems like the Big Picture Goals are a good place to start. If you know what you want to do in the Big Picture, then you can be more efficient in planning your Immediate and Mid-Range Goals. If you start the other way around (with Immediate Goals) then you may end up on some tangent from where you really want to go.

Once you know your Big Picture Goals, then when it comes time to set your Mid-Range and Immediate Goals, you can ask yourself the question: Will this eventually help me in the Big Picture? If it doesn't then you know that you need to re-focus.

The second thing you should be aware of is that your Goals should not be lopsided. Sometimes we focus all of our attention on one thing. For example, you may set a goal for yourself to be financially independent by the time you are 50 years old. This is a worthy goal to shoot for, but there is more to your life than just money. There are many aspects of our lives and we should set goals for all of them.

Back in April, I wrote the second post in a 3 part series on Books. You may remember that one of the books that made my personal list of Must Read Books was "10 Natural Laws Of Successful Time And Life Management" by Hyrum W. Smith. If you did not rush out and add that book to your own personal bookshelf... that's OK, I'm not offended. But, now may be the time to add it to your collection.

There is a whole section in Smith's book on Goal-Setting. I will give you some of the highlights (including how to incorporate goals for all aspects of your life). As I mentioned earlier you may want to set Financial Goals. These are goals about making and saving money. Investing money. Preparing for retirement. And most importantly, living within your means.

You should also set goals relating to your Physical Well Being. These are your Health and Wellness Goals. Things like Exercising and Eating Right. Overcoming bad habits like smoking, excessive drinking, junk food, etc. Weight Loss.

You may also want to set Personal Relationship Goals. Maybe you want to spend more quality time with your Family or Friends. Both individually and as a group. Maybe plan a vacation with your family or set aside some One On One time with each of your kids or your parents. Maybe plan a Family Reunion. In my opinion, all the success and money in the world is meaningless if you don't have a happy and healthy Family Unit.

Keep in mind that your Financial Goals are a little different from your Career Goals. These are goals as they relate to your Job Performance, not just the making of the money. Maybe you should set goals on how you can improve your performance at work. How can you be more effective at your job? What can you do to ensure advancement and promote your own job security?

We often forget (or take for granted) our Spiritual Goals. This might also include Humanitarian Goals. Maybe you want to volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen. Maybe you want to search out a church, temple or mosque where you feel comfortable worshiping. Or maybe you want to find a Spiritual Guide or Mentor. Do what feels right for you.

And one of the things I love about the Franklin Covey organization (that Smith co-founded with Stephen Covey) is that they are always geared toward Personal Development. (They often call it "Sharpening the Saw".) These are your Continuing Education Goals. Your Big Picture Goals may require you to take some more formal educational classes at the University level. Or it may be as simple as reading some books to increase your knowledge on your career. Maybe you want to take an occasional workshop to keep your skills sharp or learn the latest most up to date information in your field.

Your Personal Development Goals should also include some form of Rest and Relaxation, and some Cultural Goals. Maybe you want to take in a museum or a concert. Don't forget that sometimes it's good to step away and come back rejuvenated with "Fresh Eyes".

So now that you have an idea about some of the areas to focus on (feel free to elaborate on these areas as they pertain to your own situation)... the next thing you should keep in mind about Goal-Setting is that you must Write Your Goals Down! If you don't write it down, it's not really a goal, it's just a dream or a thought in the back of your mind.

I have some friends who are so serious about their Goal-Setting that, not only do they write their goals down on paper (or in a journal) but they also find an image that represents their goal and post it on their bathroom mirror. This way they see it first thing in the morning while brushing their teeth. And then again at night before they go to bed. This helps them to stay focused on their goal and helps them stay motivated.

Speaking of motivation, there is a great quote by an iconic sales coach and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar. "People often say, 'Zig, motivation doesn't last,' and I say to them, 'Bathing doesn't last either, that's why I recommend it daily!'" Smart guy.

Not only do you have to write your goals down, you have to make sure that they are (what Smith calls) SMART GOALS. These are goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Timely.

Specific: To say that you want to be more healthy this year, or that you want to lose weight is a nice concept, but that is too vague. How are you going to be more healthy? Better to say, "I will workout one hour a day, three days a week for the next year." Or say, "I will eat vegetables with each meal and only have 'fast food' once a week." (Keep in mind I believe in moderation. And that I didn't say that you wouldn't ever eat fast food again.) And as to the weight loss... how much weight do you want to lose? By when?

Measurable: You should be able to measure all of your goals. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds by summer so you can fit into your bikini, that is measurable. That gives you 4 months to accomplish that goal. The thought of losing 30 pounds may seem overwhelming at first glance, but looking at it in smaller increments is much more doable. By working your Specific Immediate Goal of working out 3 times per week for an hour and eating more vegetables/less junk food, you should be able to lose 2 pounds per week. Two pounds per week is 8 pounds per month. And the first four months (January-April) would put you at 32 pounds of weight loss if you are sticking to the program. That still gives you all of May to make up for any lapses in your program.

Action-Oriented: Saying you want to be a better student at school sounds warm and fuzzy, but setting a goal to study two hours a day, five days a week is much more efficient. Saying you want to learn more is 'nice' but saying I will read one book per month is better. Once you know when your paper (or project) is due for school, map out when you should have your outline prepared by, when you should have a rough draft prepared by, and when you should have the finished product ready to hand in and then be sure it is completed before the real due date (in case you want to make last minute changes).

Realistic: It is good to set goals that motivate you and push you out of your 'comfort zone'. But they still need to be realistic. For example, to say, "I will make a million dollars this year!" is a fun goal, but for most of us... it's not realistic. Better to set a goal to make a measurable amount more than you did last year, but still within reason. To say you want to lose 100 pounds by summer is not only not realistic... it's not healthy! Better to set a healthy and realistic goal of two pounds per week. This will help you stay motivated.

Timely: A goal isn't really a goal unless you have a time frame within which you can accomplish that goal. To say you want to travel the world is a nice idea. You might even put pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Big Ben on your bathroom mirror to keep you motivated. But when are you going to do that? Let's say you want to make this your Big Picture Goal. Retire and travel the world by the time you are 60 years old. Well now you can set your Mid-Range and Immediate Goals accordingly. How much will that trip cost? Don't forget to include your other living expensed while you are away. Unless your mortgage is paid off (or unless you sell your house) you will still have to pay that, so add it into the cost of your trip. Now you can backtrack from there and set your other goals. Set aside (xxx amount of money per month) would be an Immediate Goal. Taking the occasional class (or workshop) at your local community college to learn some language skills (French, Italian or Spanish phrases to make your trip more enjoyable) might be a Mid-Range Goal. And all of that on top of your other Goals pertaining to your Family, Career, Spiritual and Personal Development Goals...

Another thing to keep in mind about your Goals is that they are just Goals. These are not Rules or Laws that are inflexible. You can change them if you want. As we grow as people, our desires change. You may decide later that you want to travel the United States, before you travel the World.

A great way to keep all of this in perspective and to keep ourselves motivated is to share our Goals with a close friend or family member. This way you won't give up on your goals too easily.

But chances are that if your goals are really in alignment with who you are and what you want... you will likely be motivated enough on your own. If you are not motivated every day to wake up and do something toward accomplishing your goal, then your goal is not motivating to you and you need to find a better Big Picture Goal.

One day, when I was working out of a health club, managing a team of sales people, I walked into my morning meeting with a can of shaving cream. I took the cap off the top of the shaving cream and pressed the button. Some liquid drizzled out of the top of the can. Then I read the directions off the side of the can. "Shake well before using." So I shook the can. When I pressed the button again, a nice thick foamy substance came out of the canister. The point I was making is that sometimes we have to Shake Things Up. We made some serious changes that day. Changes that worked out for the best. There is an old saying, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got." Well if you don't like the way things have been going in the past, it's time to Shake Things Up.

Don't just make random changes. Make specific measurable changes. Feel free to start by reading the "10 Natural Laws..." book.

Good Luck with your Goal-Setting. If you need some help, let me know. Happy to help.

Turn off your computer right now and write out your Goals for 2011. Do it NOW! In fact, one of your goals should be to stop wasting time. One of my favorite quotes that Smith makes in the book is (and I'm paraphrasing here): "When you spend an hour watching TV, you spend an hour NOT doing what?... Everything else!" But now, he would probably say the same thing about Reality TV or Facebook or any number of other goofy things that are serious time wasters.

Get your priorities straight. Figure out what is really important to you and work toward that.

Happy New Year!

Peace and Love,