Out of the Mouth of Babes (It’s Not Just Cupcakes). Why Your Kids Are Better Investors Than You Are.

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“Kids say the darndest things,” Tammy Wynette.

funny child

It’s fun to teach the future generations about money.

Well, most of the time it is.

Those under thirteen tend to be an overly-excited group known to blurt out whatever is on their minds often at the surprise of adults in the room.

I always make sure to have plenty of treats for everyone at the end.

Since it was later in the day, the fourth grade class that made the journey to the office recently was especially ravenous, however I wasn’t going to change the routine-we learn at the beginning, ravage the cakes at the end.

This batch of cupcakes was especially fresh and frosty. But it didn’t matter: I wasn’t going to deviate from the plan I’ve used for years.

Out of the mouth of babes – lessons and behaviors we’ve clearly forgotten.  As adults we are relentlessly bombarded with the noise of daily living and sometimes we just don’t see things clearly based on our own biases. Children are overwhelmed with stimulus too, however they don’t have as entrenched a filter and they’re willing to see things as they are and happy to share an opinion.

There are wise words coming from the mouths of babes if you only listen.

Random Thoughts:

1). Do homework first – Many of the kids believe that before you make an important purchase, you do your homework. Now, their homework may not be as sophisticated as yours, however investors tend to forget, especially when the markets are more erratic, that emotions can overwhelm the desire to dig into facts.

We take action first out of fear or panic and deal with the repercussions later. The kids always seem surprised how many adults will buy and sell investments based exclusively on what they see or hear on television and radio. Mind you, these young students think it’s perfectly ok to purchase a breakfast cereal based on media, however acquiring an investment or “something that can go down,” (their words not mine) requires more time and effort.

During market extremes it’s timely to take your portfolio’s pulse (and yours) to determine whether you’re comfortable with your asset allocation plan-the division of assets into stocks, fixed income, cash and other investments. If your portfolio is gyrating more than the market up or down and you’re uncomfortable, homework is required to narrow down the investments causing the turmoil.

From there, it’s time to decide (based on the homework not heartburn), to take one of three roads as you evaluate financial holdings: Stay the course, buy more, or sell the investments causing distress. Again, base these decisions on your tolerance for risk and then maintain that risk profile through good and bad cycles.

2). Buy low – I know this sounds flippant or simplistic-for the mature crowd, buying low is easier said than done. They children believe they should try their best after research, to buy low into investments or at least they hope to accomplish this on a consistent basis. We teach the kids patience when they want a new video game, it’s time we teach ourselves some patience and let asset prices come to us. I know. Good luck with this one, right?

me know me funny

3). Buy what you understand – Another easy one, (in theory anyway). The kids feel strongly about buying what they know or understand. Occasionally, we make a portfolio allocation too complicated by purchasing investments we don’t fully grasp. There are a plethora of vehicles on the marketplace that are based on currency movement, bet against the markets or particular industries, and promise appetizing returns when the market is directionless.

What is the impact to the overall portfolio? If the addition appears overly complicated and you can’t explain it to a listening party, you may be better off passing on it. A complicated strategy is not necessarily a better one. Your investment plan needs to be realistic, actionable and comfortable based on your personalized goals and aspirations.

4). A sell Discipline, what’s that? – Children seem to embrace the idea of selling investments and moving on. For some of us grownups, this can be a challenge. We tend to be resistant to rebalancing or we allow one investment to swallow up a major portion of the portfolio, resulting in more risk. If you don’t have a discipline around buying and selling assets to restore your portfolio to an original target allocation, then ultimately you’re not controlling risk. Rebalancing requires a contrarian nature whereby you’re shaving down what’s done the best and adding dollars to those asset classes currently out of favor.

A concentrated position means that a stock, industry or sector makes up a disproportionate share of your total portfolio, usually 20% or more. The end results is more volatility in the portfolio as the key driver of returns, good or bad, depends on the performance of a large holding. Investors are sometimes reluctant to trim concentrated positions due to the tax implications of a large capital gain or an anchoring to a past price to minimize a loss. It’s important to maintain perspective on the risk as first priority.

5). Wait patiently for cupcakes at the end – Investing takes patience and a willingness to be disciplined. There must be goals established and when those goals are met, the sweet reward is certain to follow.

It was tough for the kids to focus on the lesson at hand with treats waiting; the children eventually learn that shortcuts to the baked goods don’t exist especially through my lessons! It’s similar with investing. We too, as adults, want our dessert first or seek to get rich quick based on shortcuts.

Ostensibly, when the market are not cooperating, back-to-basic strategies like saving more, decreasing debt or extending the time needed to reach a financial goal are usually the best.

What will you learn from the children today?

Keep an open mind and you may be surprised.

kid eating cupcake

 

The Hump Day No-Spend Day Challenge – 5 Steps to Financial Success.

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To be the best with managing your finances; to master what goes on in your head, focus on the present moment.

A money action you take right now is part of a bigger picture.

Success with money comes with the little steps you take daily.

Mid-week is a perfect time to focus.

Yea I know you hate the hump day camel, right?

hump day HA! Fooled ya!

Now that I have your undivided attention, here’s what to do.

Well, before that, there’s this:

Wednesday was powerful for advertising when I was a kid. We were brainwashed by television in New York that Wednesday was “PRINCE SPAGHETTI DAY.”

I still remember the commercials. I drove my mother insane. I would only eat PRINCE SPAGHETTI on Wednesday. It got so bad she fired off a complaint letter to the Prince Pasta Company.

No Pastina, no rigatoni. Spaghetti. Prince Spaghetti. For years.

prince spaghetti day

So let me brainwash you for a month. That’s all.

One month.

Random Thoughts:

Ask yourself these questions then answer honestly. No cheating!

How much will you spend today? What is the focus of your spending? Create the visuals. Make mental notes. Take an inventory. Then ask.

Are the expenditures necessary? Now that you had a chance to think about how your hard-earned money will be spent, step back and consider – which are needs, which are wants.

Can you now wait until the middle of next week? If the purchase is a want, see if you can do without it for a week. A week from today. That’s all I ask!

OK, so what if it’s a need? Still wait if you can. See if you can lower the cost of the purchase. Use the time to do some homework. Shop around.

Can you make every Wednesday a no-spend day? Complete this exercise for two weeks a month.  At the end of the month, discover how much more money you have remaining in your checking account.

See? You have trained your mind to delay gratification!

Greater money discipline comes from a focus on the present moment.

And today.

For me anyway.

Well, you know.

messy spaghetti

 

 

To Be The Best Feel The Worst: 6 Ways To Ride The Red Stain To Happiness.

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I realized early on how perfect my parents desperately wanted me to be.

perfect boys

I’ll go ahead and say the entire planet from our modest Brooklyn apartment appeared more perfect than anything going on in my universe.

However, that didn’t matter. I was the “punching bag” for everything that went wrong. I took it upon myself to be the designated martyr for a bad marriage.

Isn’t that what perfect boys do?

I  fought for perfection inside my own head for years. I tried to control outcomes and then my actions which is ass backwards. Stupid. I was controlling the end of the road but not the construction and direction of the path (thank you for the awakening, Kamal Ravikant).

Flashback 1973. Nana’s Sunday dinner: Outnumbered by 30 hairy fingers grasping for semolina Italian bread, feeling overwhelmed before the big guns, the heaping platters of her finest creations were carried out from the kitchen – I was instructed (threatened) to never allow tomato sauce to meet my crisp button-down white shirt.

Huge challenge.

Ten minutes into the meal uncle Tommy screamed at dad, dad stood up, gave the finger and uncle Tommy would begin hurling Nana’s cannonball meatballs soaked in sauce like we were in the middle of an indoor snowmeat fight.

There I was.

In the red line of fire.

red stain

Dead husky boy. Sitting target. Praying. Watching the skies. Catching mom’s eyes staring at me with that menacing “remember what I told you about sauce on your shirt” look.

Awaiting the inevitable saucy fate to treat my shiny buttons a landing strip.

And I was.

Praying, praying, praying…

For a meatball to fall neatly on my plate.

Praying hard because the odds were not in my favor.

When the inevitable happened.

Red liquid was splattered across the front. Hot in my eyes. All I could think of was that scene in The Godfather when Sonny Corleone gets it at a toll booth. My dad dragged me to see the iconic flick at the Marlboro theater in Brooklyn.

I was shell shocked then.

And I was almost every Sunday.

Sonny Corleone.

Set up.

At the toll booth (dining room table).

sonny corleone

I believe if Sonny Corleone was smart, his guts and perseverance would have made him as popular as Charlie Gasparino, but what do I know?

“What did I say about getting sauce ON THAT SHIRT?”

Not easy to stay tight white when it’s raining marinara.

Yep, my fault. Again.

Always my fault.

You win.

I have no excuse.

Again, a pudgy Sonny Corleone hanging limp like a soaked rag doll from the driver’s side.

I had no chance.

And I lived my life as such.

For a long time.

Always avoiding the splatter that comes with trying new things.

Not allowed to mess up.

Or be in the vicinity of a mess up.

Afraid to fail.

Always stupid until proven different.

I had no chance.

And it almost killed me.

Because life lived with zest is the pulsating exhilaration of a red stain.

If it wasn’t for the fear of god being placed in me about the sauce perhaps I would have ripped that stained white shirt off and sucked on the dripping Sicilian culinary art Nana Rose created with the reckless abandon of a 9 year old.

I would have loved it. Instead I was forced to act like a 40 year-old in a 9 year-old’s body.

Maybe I would have lived for the stain, not for the avoidance of it.

My brain was dying after decades of reliving those dinners.

And.

The rules. So many rules.

  1. Don’t sit on the couch, you’ll mess the pillows (everything was coated in plastic so what was the big deal).
  2. Never go out without a belt, your pants will fall down (no they won’t).
  3. You must wear socks AT ALL TIMES (to this day I’m hairless where the crew socks meet skin).
  4. All your shirts MUST BE WHITE AND THEY CAN’T GET DIRTY especially during Sunday dinner when your crazy relatives are THROWING FOOD AT EACH OTHER ABOVE YOUR HEAD.
  5. Don’t leave the Barbie doll alone and naked inside the GI Joe Headquarters.

So many rules my head would swim.

They owned me. I was a rules bitch. Rules created by others.

Not me.

I carried them through adulthood; it limited my life to a tiny square mental box.

When it came to taking risks.

Because it was always about the stains.

Stains were bad.

And the parents were clear: You cannot have stains on your white life.

And a stainless life is lifeless.

white shirt

I began to read more.

I started talking to thought leaders like James Altucher.

People in my field told me I was pretty good at what I did.

I started asking questions from those who knew more than me (I still do).

I freely shared my knowledge (regardless of what dad thought or my last employer believed – I’m not cattle, I have a brain).

My teachers have been there. No rules, broke rules. Created new rules.

I realized the rules enforced upon me in corporate America (the worst), married America, financial industry America needed REVISION.

I was out of my own skin with revelation. My mind was gone.

Three years lost in discovery.

I blanked out and was enlightened at the same time.

“Did you know you have a garlic press?” asked my friend Amy.

“I do?”

“Did you know you have spoons?”

“I do?”

“Do you see you have about a thousand ties?”

“I do?”

There was wear and tear to break the chains of the rules.

Real bloodshed. An organ and half. Gone.

A lawsuit.

Libel.

Slander.

My rewards for embracing the stain. Questioning the cooks in the kitchen who were adding poison to the food (that’s poetic license people, nobody got poisoned. Well, perhaps their money did) is not good for one’s health if you continue to swallow it.

To bust apart the rules society established for me (along with Catholic school nuns and deceased parents) I needed to feel and go through the worst.

To live.

Break through.

I learned to love the worst. I felt alive.

I was able to taste food again (I thought my taste buds were gone everything felt dead like cold mashed potatoes).

I began to explore new things.

I spoke up.

I began to write and share my mistakes.

I became aware and appreciative of the present moment.

I slayed my ego (needed a big knife).

I discovered I owned a garlic press and about 60 shirts with sales tags still attached to the sleeves.

garlic press

To be the best.

To create your rules.

You’ll need to go through some shit.

Wrestle with ghosts of the past until they let you go.

Because people are going to mock your rules.

You will knock them, too.

Because it’s not normal.

Or is it?

And who defines normal?

Society?

To do what society says you must?

That’s normal?

Fuck them.

Buy a house.

Go to college.

Don’t splash tomato sauce on your white shirt.

eats spaghetti

Whatever.

On occasion the paved road is a horrible way to travel. Once in awhile you’ll need to hit a pothole, go over an embankment.

To awaken.

Random Thoughts:

1). Be Clean. But understand it’s ok to get dirty when you need to. I’ve enjoyed tussling with a corporate bully, getting dragged through the worst muck of human behavior and beating myself with fear and anger.

I now enjoy the smell. There’s something gritty in the process of choosing and finding yourself. The bruises take on greater significance. I will spend the rest of my life helping others understand what this former employer truly is behind its “wholesome” facade.

“You learn to warrior up,” I imagine my friend Andrea saying that. I’m not afraid of the stains anymore. I greet them, earnestly.

2). Forget White. Be proud of your stains. You can’t avoid them. If you seek to reach a new level of thought, or feeling, or emotion the white shirt cannot remain white. White is colorless. Sure – You’ll fall, get beat, lose a piece of yourself. Marks will fade, scars will heal but they will always be a part of who you were before you were better. Good reminders. Rip open a scab on occasion. Feel the pain.Stain your life a bit. It’s fine.

3). Enjoy Meatballs.  I’m not ashamed. I got smacked for eating errant meatballs that made it to Nana’s linoleum floor. Never let anything get in the way of pursuing your meatballs no matter how messy it seems or how bad you look to others. Keep your eye (mouth) on the prize. I learned who accepted me for who I was. Nana did. Who are the people in your life who accept you for who you are, faults and all? Love them. Tell them you’re not perfect. They’re not either. There’s beauty in the rough edges of the human condition.

4). Think Simple. Managing your finances comes down to rules you follow, consistently – Rules based on behavior and attitude towards saving and debt. Even if you suck at investing (investing is icing on the cake, anyway) there are several core habits you’ll want under your belt first to accumulate the capital to invest when you feel comfortable to do so. If your consistent behavior is to funnel most of your take-home pay to reduce debt or make minimum payments on credit card balances; or if you’re an impulsive consumer without a budget, you’re never going to have the cash to invest and increase wealth. No meatballs for you until you face and correct your financial pitfalls.  Improvement begins today.

As my friend Linda says “you don’t have to humor me. I’m a godless pagan with a short temper and too much credit card debt.”

Be honest with yourself. Create your own rules that will lead to financial success. Seek an objective financial partner to hold you accountable. It’s ok to employ humor to make it through. Keep it real. So you fucked up. You needed those $300 shoes. It’s ok.

5). Don’t Overthink. As a kid I anticipated the most horrible things going on during those Sunday dinners. Like when uncle Vinnie cursed dad in broken English or Italian slang and the food would fly. Our brains, out of fear, will lead us to believe the worst is going to occur. Most of the time, your brain is wrong and the worst doesn’t happen. I can recall many dinners at Nana’s where everyone was civil. Imagine! And we enjoyed cannolis for dessert.

6). Forgiveness is for suckers. I don’t seek it; I don’t provide it. I’ve learned to appreciate the weakness in the human structure and absorb the lessons. Red stains that never fade. Every lesson adds dimension to the thought process.

To forgive is to ignore the gifts, bypass the wisdom of others. Refusing to forgive sharpens the blade. I’m happier to not forgive my parents for trying to make me “perfect.” It’s helped me appreciate my imperfections and form them into diamonds. Forgiveness saps energy and taps your resources that are designed to help you learn, teach, survive.

You’ll feel better holding on.

To the stains of others.

Converting them to energy.

“There’s bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet. No matter where you live. There will always be a few things, maybe several things, that you’re gonna find really difficult to forgive.”

The Mountain Goats – Up The Wolves.

There’s gonna be a party when the wolf comes home.

Imperfection is a wolf.

You own it.

Train it to fight.

Tear. Create edges.

Persevere.

Embrace the red stains.

Taste them.

And live again.

wolf

More to come on the red stain with insights from master wolf James Altucher and The Walking Dead’s Beth Greene and Daryl Dixon. 

The Tolle of the Governor: 6 Steps to Rebirth.

“Been on the road a couple of months.”

“By yourself?”

“Yea.”

“Where did you live before that?”

“I was in a town.”

“Were the monsters there?”

“No.”

“It was safe. Full of good people.”

“What happened?”

“He just – lost it.”

“Who?”

“Man in charge.”

“I barely made it out alive.”

Brian Heriot aka “The Governor – Philip Blake.”

governor beard

As you rip from the past, forge a path to the present, there’s a good chance the man in charge will unravel.

Actually, it’s guaranteed.

There will be.

A tumble, a spiral down, to discover who you really are inside.

And burn out what’s haunting your sleep.

Because fire cleanses.

Extinguished fires leave imprints.

Black stains scar foundations.

governor burn three

I’ve learned to fear and respect fire of the mind. 

You won’t notice change; at the surface you’ve built high fences. However, underneath, today’s thoughts are directing steps to a place you must go.

Actions will eventually get you where you need to be.

First you’ll stagger.

Over time, your gait will firm.

Deeper strides begin.

You don’t look back any longer.

Perhaps you’ll change your name to a person who was loved once.

brian heriot

Take on a new identity.

Not an issue. Whatever it takes. You do it.

Because a free mind can’t be shackled.

And ego is loosening the grip.

Yep: To gain a second chance at life you must die first. A piece of you must pass. In the worst case, an organ will be sacrificed. An element of your sanity, or stamina go to black.

You’ll fight until exhaustion.

Thrash.

Until death overtakes you.

You understand (finally).

There’s no other choice.

If you want to survive.

An enriched life dwells in acceptance, not resistance.

“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” — and find that there is no death.”
Eckhart Tolle

When my father was in the care of hospice and dying one cancerous internal a minute, I wanted to accelerate the process somehow. I thought of insidious ways to fast-track his departure. There was red behind my eyes. I couldn’t understand why he needed to suffer.

I didn’t want to understand then how we all must suffer.

To climb to higher places.

Grow.

I was mad at dad for leaving. I hated how I held his hand for ten hours and for five of them it felt like gripping flesh ice.

He always did the opposite of what I thought he should.

As the man in charge he drank too much, womanized too much, worked too much.

Holy shit.

As the man in charge you do it, too.

Rain blood on the closest ones.

Splatter some on yourself.

And it never.

Washes off.

The man in charge forced rules you lost interest in a long time ago but still followed; you couldn’t understand why you carried them with you for so many decades.

Maybe the space felt comfortable even though it worked against your spirit.

It’s the clash. A battle. Between past and present. Ongoing.

And in acceptance you admit.

Finally.

You were indeed, the man in charge.

Suckered, duped, stupid, evil, resentful.

All you.

Good or bad. That was you for a time. A system-based creation from endless approval of others and false control – courtesy of ego.

Because you couldn’t control outcomes. You couldn’t accept the rejection, the change, the spin of the earth, until damage was done -

It’s not fight or die.

It’s fight, THEN die.

Your inner self, perhaps who you were as a child, was a pale light in the distance that eventually got snuffed out.

Realize..

You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
Eckhart Tolle

And a new man in charge emerges.

Out of the shatter.

Wakes up reborn.

Carrying new rules.

Stripped of ego.

Steeped in humanity; seeded from insanity.

New choices.

A higher self.

Rebirth.

And so it was for Philip Blake.

And so it can be for you.

Random Thoughts:

1). Be re-vulnerable. Look – I created a word. Crash through the high walls. Allow vulnerability to live again. You’ll need to practice. High fences just don’t fall. You’ll need to consciously drive through them every day. I’ve learned to be open to and aware of those around me. I’m more charitable. I direct my anger toward evil entities. I drop people who suck my energy. I hug my daughter from somewhere beyond my heart.

vulnerable governor

2). Become re-acceptable. Of yourself. Who you were before you lived for the approval of others who held the power, but little substance. Through nurturing your own self-acceptance, you will become accepted by others. At least the “right others.” As Srini Rao writes and teaches in his best selling new book - The Art of Being Unmistakable: A Collection of Essays About Making a Dent in The Universe -

Accolades, awards, recognition and validation may never come. In addition, ironically, when you finally stop giving a shit about them, they seem to come in abundance. Be your own gatekeeper, tastemaker, and connoisseur of what matters. Do not choose yourself so the gatekeepers will choose you.

3). Seek re-energy. Living in the past saps energy. The present creates passion, excitement. It’s full of oxygen. Focus on a present moment. No matter how small. Step into it. You’re not your parents, your co-workers. The past does not define who you are right now at this moment.

“Awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment. … The ultimate purpose of human existence, which is to say, your purpose, is to bring that power into this world.”
Eckhart Tolle

4). Relish replenishment. Sure, investing is sexy. Financial media touts sexy all the time. Sell Apple, buy Tesla. Nothing sexy happens without the boring act of saving money, replenishing financial coffers. In the new year, increase your savings rate by 1 percent. Haven’t started? That’s the past. This is the present. Begin an auto-savings plan today. Now. Direct at the minimum, 1 percent of your take home pay into a savings account.

5). Cherish those who re-new. Who are the people who renew and revive you? You need more of them. You need to appreciate and fight for those who renew your spirit. Those you love. No matter the disagreements. If I love someone I tell them. Why hold back? Life is too short (especially in a zombie apocalypse).

family

6). Know when to re-unleash hell. It’s inevitable. Sometimes you will need to fight the enemy. You also need to know if you’re the enemy. Focus energies on what’s required to overcome obstacles. Roll a tank over your ego. Occasionally, that’s a challenge for The Governor.

Although he does try.

He’s got some work to do.

Noted.

governor tank

Look up.

A pale light glows brighter.

Dark clouds fade.

Self-redemption is yours for the taking.

Accept the past. You can’t change it.

It’s a prison.

Accept the present. It’s yours to take.

Now.

Step.

“Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.”
Eckhart Tolle

10 Life Lessons from a Grandma – Today is Everyday.

Lord knows nana Nellie wasn’t a looker.

At 40 she looked 70. She was always old.

Nana was the “custodian.” at my Brooklyn, New York public school.

Custodian: Fancy word for janitor.

It embarrassed me how she cleaned toilets.

I would look to avoid her in the halls.

As I get older, I realize the impression she made on me. 

Grandma’s life lessons.

Random Thoughts:

1). Screw Stereotypes – Nana loved people for who they were, not their appearances. She would provide food to families at the school who were having difficult financial times and hold fundraisers for the less fortunate. And she was one of the less fortunate.

2). Be Nurturing to Children – Nellie would dress as Santa every year, walk down  school halls and hand out pounds of candy to the kids. They loved her. I was so embarrassed. Odd. Imagine someone dressed as Santa delivering candy at a public school today? That is grounds for dismissal or perhaps – arrest.

3). Be Proud of Who You Are – Nana was nana. She dressed like crap but had a heart of gold. She would wear this hideous battleship gray and white school uniform that made her appear more matronly than she really was. I rarely saw her dress stylishly. And people could care less. Neither did she.

4). Make a Killer BLT – Nana was a good cook but her BLTs were something to die for. I know her secret to a mind-blowing BLT sandwich and will take it to the grave.

5). Smile & Say Hello – Nellie’s bedroom window faced a busy street. One of her favorite pastimes was to sit there and watch the people go by. She always would call out a hearty hello and smile. Even when people didn’t return the courtesy.

6). Save, Save, Save – Grandma was a Depression baby. Nothing went to waste. She wasn’t a hoarder, but found a use for everything. My grandfather abhorred how she would have him pull over because she would notice a salvageable treasure in a neighbor’s garbage, out by the curb. One year she found the coolest red wooden Santa’s sleigh complete with ornate wooden carved reindeer. We dragged it ten blocks to her house.

7). Forgive Your Kids – My dad was always out with some hot girl two decades younger than him. He would tell grandma he was coming by and not show. Or he would cancel on her for a hot date. She would shake her head and say “that’s my Benny!” smile and move on. She told me once – “you can’t control what others do. Only what you do.”

8). Encourage - Grandma was always telling me I could do what I want. I was smart enough. I could attend college. She had owned multiple businesses in the 1950s – A laundromat, a delicatessen. It was rare then for a woman to take the bull by the horns. I think unfortunately, grandpa killed her spirit so she relented a bit and gave up the businesses.

9). Be a Good Friend – Nellie was loyal and loved her friends. And she had many.  She was there to listen, support, engage.

10. Today is Everyday - I believe this was nana’s shot at philosophy. She wasn’t educated, yet she was wise. This life lesson is still the most challenging for me – If I talked about my future or I was frustrated by my situation Nellie would advise me to make the best of it, learn from the experience.

Then give me a hug.

And a BLT.

On occasion, a hug, a sandwich (made with love) and a memory is all you need.

To get by.

To make it through the school of life.

BLT

The Condition of Chronic or – How to Survive When a Piece of you is Dying.

“This appears chronic.”

chronic kidney

Chronic. What’s that? Sounds like a newspaper. Like the Houston Chronic.

“Well, your kidney doesn’t have much meat.”

Hmm.

“Doc – Are you sure they didn’t scan my groin instead of a kidney?”

Laughter.

Curtain close.

thats all folks

Besides the ongoing, nagging throb coming from the right flank, like there’s a little alien dude in there clawing its way to freedom, I’m reminded my kidney is dying every day.

The doctor’s visit brought memories of a word from long ago. Thrashing. When my father was dying. He was in hospice care. The woman (saint) who helped us make him comfortable, advised me: He’s going to fight the death process by “thrashing.” Limbs will convulse. Expect sudden bursts of muscle movement. It’s a body’s last gasp before going under permanently.

And he fought. Boy, did dad thrash.

Yea. The kidney feels like sometimes it’s in a death throe, or playing ping pong with a marble. And I’m sad. Because I’ve become very attached to my internal organs. I’m sensitive to the pain because my right kidney and I have become very close. We sort of grew up together.

It’s weird when a piece of you thrashes.

And then.

Random Thoughts:

1). I’d rather lose three-dimensional over multi-dimensional any day. If I needed to make a choice, I’d lose a kidney over the ability to possess knowledge, maintain a sharp mind, stretch my imagination. Well, I’d rather have my cake and kidney too, but I’ve learned, especially as of late, you can’t keep everything.  Parts of you will eventually die. While you’re still alive. Dreams will require burial. The challenge is to keep as much of yourself as alive as possible before the entire system you’ve grown to depend on, folds up like the banking industry in 2008. This also includes your spirit to continue pursuing your dreams.

2). What dies first? You will go off the deep end. Your brain will die from panic if you try to control the outcome of a physical challenge. All you can control are your actions in the face of it. Focusing on the present and not trying to make the problem bigger than it is (or worrying about a worst-case scenario which may not occur) will only cause your sanity to die first.

Kamal Ravikant writes in his new book “Live Your Truth” that you must live in the moment and suffering occurs when we resist the moment. We are far stronger than our pain. It can come in waves, move through us, spice up our lives (yay) but suffering, that happens when we fight it, shut the doors and hold off, shouting – “No you should not be here..”

Don’t “thrash” or fight shit you can’t control; you’ll only expend  precious energy – end up nowhere. One the obstacle rolls over you, once you surrender, there’s an eerie calm and clarity to your thought process. I know. I’ve been there. Kidney, you listening? Now roll over.

3). A  greater piece of your net worth potential dies daily. If you’re not aware or just plain ignore the pitfalls of your saving and investment behaviors, every day your financial situation is gonna die. Progress can only come through acceptance of bad money habits and no longer making excuses. Ease also comes from living in the moment from a money perspective.

Take out five bucks (yes, actual paper money).Pass your finger tips slowly over the fibers in the currency. Look at the bill up close. Smell it if you dare. Then take out a pen and paper – write down what having money means to you. Write down short list of quick sentences. Focus on small actions you can take right now to save more, reduce debt or invest smarter (even if it means you require professional guidance getting it done).

4). Stress will kill. The more friction you create by trying to control outcomes in your life, the more kidneys you will lose (and you’re usually blessed with two, only). The real power you possess is focus. Focus on your efforts. Now, are your odds of success more favorable if your efforts are true? Sure. Are your efforts guaranteed to lead to the outcomes you seek? No. When you learn to be responsible for the actions taken and truly understand deep inside, how the outcomes can be far from what you expect, (or predict), the inner peace experienced will reduce your stress. The odds of maintaining those lovely organs you’re attached to, will increase. And that’s a good thing. You’ll laugh more in the face of adversity. You’ll crack funny jokes like I did (take my kidney, please).

Chronic is not death.

It’s the universe shaking you. Making you aware of a problem.

Chronic doesn’t regret to inform you that you need to do a better job.

Or your entire life will turn to shit.

What part of you will die today?

Which piece of you will live?

You decide.

fail kidney

The Terrorists Within You (and Without You).

terrorist

Can’t walk the streets, search my mind, read, write, eat, sleep, without thinking of them, sweating their existence. Cold sweat as they grip me. I know when their plan is successful. Sheer panic. Nothing else matters.

And when they release, I can’t help but constantly obsess over:

When will the bastards strike again? How long will they stay? Where are they now? How can I escape? Will the attack end? What if they all show up at once? How will I survive?

Respect. Fear them. When they draw first blood on your psyche, when you relent to the heinous acts, there will be suffering. And when they’re gone, damage remains. The aftershock will alter how you operate.

Understand why they thrive; they’re lethal. Even in small numbers they outnumber you. THEY galvanize - YOU dismantle. It’s the sheer power, the raw hate, the perseverance, the risings. The elements of surprise. Shock. The willingness to scare you so much in plain sight you can’t see anything. They block the sun. Damage you. Mentally. Physically. Hold you hostage. Place you in shackles. Infiltrate the air you breathe.

The Terrorists. They seek to kill. Slow. Fast.  Pick the velocity of the impact, the explosion.  Just know it’s coming. It’s the only certainty. 

Some are outside your control. Always close.

The ones within are just as lethal (and still outside your control).

female terrorist

Inside & outside. They circle.

The ones within you. Without you. Waiting to pounce. Destroy.

One moment you’re fine. Next, you’re dazed, down, injured.

Random Thoughts:

1).  Conquer The Terrorists Within: Negative thought, fear, stress, hopelessness, anger, rejection, in small doses can encourage, motivate you to jump obstacles you were convinced you never could. But when they overwhelm, when relentless attacks are successful, when the negative overrides, becomes extremist, then the terrorists within will steel to take you down, set you back. The hits will keep on comin’. And then you’re dead. Or worse: Apathetic, bitter, tired, reclusive, defeated. The more latitude you give the terrorists, the more they’ll take, until: You. Can’t. Escape. You have become one of them. 

And the enriching life you once knew will be at risk. Gone. The person you knew and liked will be a memory.

Understand: Even when you fight, even if you win, there’s gonna be damage. So?

Hey, damaged goods can still operate. Push forth.  Find a new road around evil, play defense. I see that now. You’re never 100% but you’re as close as you’re gonna get, kid.

It’ll require a jolt, a jump start. A counter shock. To win the fight. To set the terrorists back. You’ll need to feel something stronger than how they make you feel. The terrorists.

boom

Make the shock-wave a positive force. Fight dark fire with light fire. The inner terrorists abhor and weaken when bombarded by a healthy, life-prolonging arsenal. Even a tiny step will work. Take a B vitamin, deep breathe, read a funny passage, converse with a person in your inner circle, write, hug a pet, a person, a stranger (don’t get arrested) will shake the inner enemies off your path. Subtle steps – they send a powerful message to your brain:

I’m here now. I plan to be here later. I’m not surrendering. F**k Off!!!

The more you fight to live, the more the terrorists cower. You’ll discover how quickly they weaken – even an action that at first feels insignificant, will turn out to be a major blow against them. The terrorists languish, the inner anguish ceases.

2). Strengthen Against The Terrorists Without. The ones without ethics, decency. The ones who seek to destroy everything you have to preserve record profit margins. Think of them as corporate. As an employee today, especially in a publicly-traded corporation, you are  the enemy. You’re an expense. And they will drain your life, your health, your well-being, the time with your family, your entrepreneurial spirit, your spirit in general. Work for them but understand they’re not loyal to you. They’re loyal to shareholders and directors. Not you. Not anymore. Not for a long time. Save your money. Pay down your debts. Then go out there and do something your love and customers will find you, be loyal to you. They’ll help you defeat the terrorists. The ones without. Without souls.

corporate greed

3). Destroy the Terrorists Outside. Work hard to sever ties with those who weaken your resolve even if their intentions are good. Cast out forces that will influence your negatively, allow the outside terrorists in. Make a list. You know who and what they are. To live, to prosper, you must cut the lines, set them free. It’s going to be painful, you’re going to lose a bit of yourself in the process but it’s about survival.

You can never completely rid yourself of the terrorists.

They live among and within you.

All you can do is recognize them.

Fight them. Fight them hard.

Push ahead positive.

They can’t win.

Unless you allow them.

And you won’t.

You refuse.

Damage and all.

You press on.

move forward

When Fear Turns to Strength – 4 Ways to Stand for What you Believe.

“She may never come out of this Richard, but she may. You never know.”

Some doctor at Coney Island Hospital blurted these meaningless words at me. Advised me how this time around, this attempt to take her life was most likely, going to be successful. Or not.

Mom really did it this time, that I did realize. Now in a coma. I saved her. Just in time. At least I thought I did. Obviously, to the doc anyway, my “just in time,” was not timely enough. Or was it? I couldn’t tell from his words.

And I was scared. She was hooked to a respirator. Last time she tried to take her own life, mom was home the next day, following a stomach pumping. This felt different. Or didn’t.

It looked bad. And at ten years old I was scared. Shaken. Perhaps this doctor was right. Or not. The system told him she was dead, already. I should just deal with the fact.

I was afraid to be alone. I wasn’t prepared for this. It was then, the feeling was born. The feeling of ice water in my veins. The flow of dread. Helplessness. It pooled in my gut. Got colder. Coldest.  Froze me from the inside out. I needed to break free or remain under cold forever. I had a choice. Believe in the worthless words from an uncaring doctor. Or fight. For her. For another. For the others who also heard the same careless words.

I stood. Looked straight at the doctor, in the eyes, and said -”she will make it.”

He didn’t know what he was talking about. He didn’t understand the fight in her. Frankly, he could care less. I could tell. She was a number. Job security. A check mark in a box. I was thinking he was going to pick up a Quarter Pounder  & a Shamrock Shake on the way home and eat in front of some late night TV show circa 1974. Perhaps the late, late, late show on CBS. And the next day his routine will start over again. Another day of dispassion, lack of empathy. But at least he would get paid. Because that’s what it was about, wasn’t it?

I found a way to warm, melt the ice that night in March, 1974. I spoke my mind. I provided information the doctor wouldn’t/couldn’t know, I stood my ground. I turned fear into strength. I re-focused. Away from the cold and towards the heat. Just long enough to focus again on what was important. Her life. Her survival. Not my fear.

He turned. Walked. He adequately delivered his line. To keep his job.

Many of the people you deal with daily. Your boss, your spouse, friends, YOU. All believe you’ll buckle under – allow the system to overwhelm. Until you feel nothing. Until you’re spiritually broken. Just working to pay the bills. No waves. Afraid to stand for a higher calling. For others. Scared to make things better. Not bothering to try. Because it could mean danger to you and yours. And when you stand, sometimes you’ll fall under the weight of the decision; the consequence will overwhelm you. Until you re-focus on why you made the gutsy decision in the first place. But you’ll need to feel it first. It’s just the way it is.

The ice water.

ice water

Random Thoughts:

1). First understand: There’s a switch inside your brain. Maybe deeper than that. A beacon, a light, buried under the ice. Takes a lot to turn it on – the switch to warmth  comes from faith and fight. A passion for what you believe, because you know it’s the right thing. For others.

You are privileged. Many never have the guts to stand and fight. Because they can’t stand. Because they’ve lost the faith in their strength. They allow the ice to cover them, sink them. They won’t speak their mind or take action even though they know it’s the right thing to do. They’ll just document and report. They convince themselves with lame self-righteousness, how they’re good people. But they’re not. They’re spineless, nameless cogs in wheels of bureaucracy. They lie to themselves. They lie for others. Don’t sell your soul. Because under the ice you’ll be dead. 

2). Be selfless. Through selfless acts, following a passion with others in mind, you will indeed win. They’ll be battles, resistance in the short run. On occasion, a Goliath, a monster will attempt to crush you. The system lives to break you. Temporarily, you’re down but you’re not out because your focus is on stirring up change,for the better of others. In turn, good things will happen for you.

3). Realize it’s all a test. Almost every time you take a stand, your resolve is going to be tested. You’ll feel sick inside. You’ll doubt your past actions. You’ll regret the decisions. Because the system feels comfortable once you’re in it. It fools you. It makes you think it’s good to be dead. It wants you back. It wants you to surrender.

4). The system wants you to fail. It doesn’t want you to save, watch credit, live below your means. The American system entices you to overspend, consume. We are now all paying for those actions.

I don’t regularly attend church. Today I did. Up on a screen, above the Pastor, I read these words. I found a pen. Wrote them down.

“Jesus sees a man unafraid to push the accepted limits in order to bring about needed change.”

For some reason I needed those words, today. I closed my eyes. I could feel the ice melting again.

Mom was alive again.

She made it.

So will I.

Because I believe.

And will always push the limits.

For others.

Three Lines. Three Words. Three Lessons. Three Tips. Three Reasons to Believe.

Don’t worry. He won’t hurt you. Just sit there (three sentences).

Santa

Not sure why Santa scared me so much. Clowns frightened me. Women frighten me. Threes.

Scary happens in threes. Scary movie sagas frequently occur in threes, although many times I wonder why. The Godfather movies? Three. Don’t ask me why. Don’t see Godfather III. Abomination.

On occasion you need three signals to wake you, shake you, bake you – Three hammers hit you in the head, three lightning strikes. You cry, you deny, you wake up. Maybe you wake up. Most likely, you don’t wake up. Try. I try every day.

Why?

Because your brain forms protective layers. Three from what I’ve discovered about myself. As your mind tries to protect your heart. To get through to you, to others, you need to bust through the layers.

Thinking in threes, speaking in threes, can improve your life, possibly save it.

Everything you ever need to know can be learned in threes. Everything you ever need to communicate can be accomplished in threes.

Random Thoughts:

1). “Leave me alone. Go away. I mean it.” Use this for bad thoughts, bad people, bad ideas, bad anything. Sure, you can stop at leave me alone but it’s not enough. Go further. There is a force in threes.

2). I love you. Three actions prove it: I’ve been there for you in rough times, I’ve been there for you when you disappear and return, I’m there for you now that you’re gone again. Being there through bad times isn’t enough to prove you love someone. It’s through the challenging times, confusing times, the times when you want to let go. But you don’t. And you should.

3). All you need are three rules to be successful with money. Save more, spend less, be thankful for what you have. It’s not rocket science people. The financial services industry makes it more complicated, sexy, confusing, on purpose. Now you may need a coach to help you save more, spend less, be thankful. Most of the time it’s a failure to accomplish one of the three simple rules that upsets the game plan. Recently, I met with a distressed lady who saved, had no debt (and a beautiful home), but was not thankful and wanted more. I spent hours taking her through an inventory of all the gifts she’s been bestowed, most of them based on her good habits.

Try writing out your throughts in three sentences. Let me know if it works.

In 2000, I received a call from a doctor I didn’t know. I was at work. 1pm.

“Mr. R? Your mother is here at our hospital. She’s been ill. She’s about to die.”

“I can speak with her. What do I say? I’m not sure.”

“Tell her you love her. Forgive her for the bad things. Help her to move on.”

He handed me the phone receiver.

“Richard? Are you there? I’m sorry.”

“I love you mom. I forgive you for everything. Grandpa is waiting for you.”

I heard three breaths. Then nothing. Then a dial tone.

Threes. What an impact.

On everything.

 

Visualizing the Sole of Retirement – Do you own Retirement Shoes?

For a majority of workers, retirement is an ethereal concept. It has no real presence, density or visibility. There are several published studies available that outline how for many, retirement, especially after the economic drubbing of 2008, remains a misty pipedream, or at the very least postponed well past normal retirement age of 65 or 67. For those in their twenties and thirties, it feels even more nebulous and approaching the topic seems fruitless; retirement doesn’t appear on the financial radar for this group.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute, an institution providing objective, nonpartisan information surrounding employee benefit plans since 1978, conducts annual surveys designed to capture the pulse of Americans saving and preparing for retirement.

Specifically, their Retirement Confidence Survey is one of the longest-running public opinion studies of its kind on Americans’ attitudes on retirement and savings: The survey for 2010 reports that fewer workers and/or their spouses have saved for retirement – 69 percent, down from 75 percent in 2009. Also, fewer workers say they are currently saving for retirement (60 percent down from 65 percent in 2009). As if this wasn’t troubling enough, many workers continue to be unaware of how much they really need to save. Less than half those surveyed report they have even tried to calculate how much money they’ll need to have accumulated by the time retirement comes around.

With rates of return muted and people living longer, the pot of money needed to sustain a comfortable retirement needs to be greater than almost any other time in history. There has been a marked decrease in the younger set saving for retirement. In the year 2000, 75 percent of surveyed workers aged 25-34 reported saving for retirement; in 2010 the number hovers around 58 percent.

For those 35-44 the percentage of workers who said they saved for retirement in 2000 was a healthy 83 percent; in 2010 the number falters to 61 percent. If these trends continue, the majority of Americans will face a formidable retirement lifestyle crisis. As I ponder this dilemma I realize we all need to find a way to bring the retirement future into the present so the pain or pleasure we may experience is real and in the now.

Having 20 years to retirement myself made me understand I needed to make the next stage more real for me too, but I didn’t know how to go about it-then the shoes came along. These aren’t ordinary shoes mind you-there are memories deep in the soles.

When I was 8 years old I received my first pair of Hush Puppies. I was a lemming to advertising as a kid so when I saw the Bassett Hound mascot at a young age I was hooked. I drove my parents crazy. I had to have them and begged relentlessly. My father gave in one Saturday and purchased a dark suede-like pair of paradise for me and I wore them proudly for years, making sure to keep them as pristine as possible for as long as possible.

I drove my parents nuts about many things like only eating the bacon with the “Indian head” on the packaging, but that’s a story for another time. A year ago it happened. After all this time I bought a pair of Hush Puppies. Black suede-like material and the memories came back brighter than ever. After I slipped them on and realized how comfortable the shoes were, I wondered why I waited all these years to buy a pair.

How much bacon can one man eat?

Perhaps I just figured Hush Puppies weren’t made for adults. How silly. These things are so comfortable I can’t imagine not wearing them well into the future. And then it hit me. While on the phone with a special friend who tends to inspire me often, the idea took over.

It hit me so hard I needed to find a place to pull off the road and quickly record my revelation: At age 47, I purchased my retirement shoes. Ok so not literally; I don’t believe the shoes are going to endure that long. However the comfort I felt was something I knew I wanted to experience well into the decades. I was able to actually make a purchase today that pulled a future into the present. I realized then how all of us, regardless of age, need to make a purchase today of something we can imagine using through a different lifecycle years away and to use that good feeling to motivate us to save more for the future.

So, where are your “retirement shoes?” Have you thought about it yet? Here are some steps to take (no pun intended) to make a purchase that may alter your thinking and cushion the blow (pun intended) when retirement is the present situation: They don’t need to be Shoes and Expensive is Not Part of the Plan – Don’t use this exercise as an excuse to make a high-end luxury purchase. This is all about comfort, not cost. Keep it under $100 dollars. Someone I know bought a plain-vanilla pair of cotton sweatpants.

Random Thoughts:

1). As early as Tomorrow Increase your Retirement Savings by 1 Percent – Don’t think about it, just do it. Begin by increasing the salary deferral percentage in your company retirement plan or set aside the money on monthly autopilot in a traditional or Roth IRA. It’s not the amount, it’s the exercise.

2).  Visualize the Comfort – Walk a mile in the shoes. Use the blanket, wear the pants, read the book, eat the candy. Close your eyes and attempt to fool your mind into believing retirement is here and enjoy the comfort today.

2). Don’t Forget to Add more Comfort Items Later on – I don’t know what will compliment the retirement shoes, but I’m going to keep a keen eye out. So should you. I have a favorite website for comfort items. Take a look: http://www.vermontcountrystore.com. Time goes by quicker than you think.

3). Think Comfortization – a combination of comfort and visualization may be just what you need to jumpstart your thinking. Sounds funny, but spending a little today may help you save more for a better tomorrow.

4). Comfortization Goes Deeper than you Think – Let’s face it. You may never retire. Studies show how those between the ages of 55-64 hold roughly $45,000 in retirement plan assets, which is $3,000 lower than 3 years ago. Comfortization may be facing the fact that you need to make a change now, a big one, in your life. Forget retirement. If you make $100,000 at a job you despise and you’re never going to retire anyway, why not make $50,000 doing something you love and enjoy it since you may spend more time working than relaxing in retirement? Perhaps working at what you love is the new retirement?

Today, I’m seeking my retirement Christmas tree. It’ll be made of tinsel, you know the real stuff that cuts your fingers without you realizing it. Along with one of those vintage color wheels. Old school. I plan to stare at this tree reflect pretty colors as I drool into my lap.

I want to slip off into the next journey, under this tree. Staring as the colors change above me.

I bet that’s what heaven or retirement is really like.