Apr 14

Feeling Your Oats

More than one percent better

More than one percent better

 

The company I represent continues to surprise me in small but meaningful ways.

With my current night-time job, breakfast is a bit of a conundrum. I’m always hungry by the time I get home at around 8:00 am, but I’m also super-ready for bed. I just know that if I don’t have something to eat, I’ll wake up prematurely. That’s a recipe for disaster, because there’s no telling if I’ll ever get back to sleep. Sure, I can survive for a day or two on three or four hours in a twenty-four hour period, but it can get messy after that.

The evolution of my breakfast (in this job) went something like this:

  • Toast with peanut butter or jam

That became obsolete when I figured that all that sugar wasn’t good. So I moved on to:

  • Ramen noodles with some protein, for instance a little chicken or a chickpea patty, which was satisfying for a while, but quickly paled when I realized just how many calories are in those noodles.
  • Granola with milk was next, until I saw the amount of sugar in that stuff too, so that…
  • Whole Oats with Flax (from my company’s healthy food range) came to my rescue. This is easily the best choice, because it fills me up, without all the calories.

Here’s the important part: You’d think oats with flax would be a standard item. They’re not. Compared with regular, supermarket brands, our product has:

  • 66% more fiber
  • 25% more protein
  • 46% less sodium
  • 33% less sugar
  • more whole grains, and is an excellent source of ALA Omega-3, an important anti-oxidant.

I don’t like using the microwave, so I add a little boiling water from the kettle, a dash of milk after five minutes, and some fresh fruit (pineapple at the moment) for interest.

Okay, you say, it’s a better breakfast cereal, big deal. But let’s think of it this way. If you have breakfast at home five times a week, and you live for another forty years, that’s over 10,000 breakfasts. My point is that even a marginally better, less sugary, more nutritious breakfast will have an immense difference on your health when you add up the numbers.

The one-percent differences don’t look like much day-to-day, but they are unbelievably powerful over time.

Apr 06

Talking to a Stranger

Java skill, obtained

Java skill, obtained

 

It is true. Entering one’s sixth decade coincides with more thought of death. The rate of change towards our last breath remains the same, it merely seems faster. The fact is the same with or without the nuance; no matter how you think about it, death is closer that it was yesterday. Our time in this body is limited, and becoming more so.

The natural partner of our personal deathwatch is wonder at how to approach what’s left. I want to make each day count now, avoid dead-ends and pare back the fluff. Here, though, the paradox. Life consists of dead-ends and fluff. No sane individual expects their life to be one big highlight. Not every day can be a winner. The unspoken let-down of life is that it’s mostly about mowing the lawn and getting your hair cut. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone every day; you’re not going to either. In fact, I haven’t the time, I have to pick up my car after its oil change.

I reserve the right to change my thinking on this, but I think one big key to satisfaction in life is attaining competence in new things. Little things even. I’m lucky, I’ve seen more of the world than most people, and more of people than most people. People talk about the stuff that they’ve done right, that they know and like. They’ll tell you how they took an amazing underwater photograph, or learned how to sell insurance, or that they finally built the house of their dreams. In these and almost every other case I can think of, success at the new thing was the thing.

Squint close enough at this idea and you’ll see the whole history of our species. We’re not satisfied with stuff for long. The new, the challenge, the improved, the different, the what we don’t have gets us up in the morning. It’s the Jobs thing, but on a smaller scale. He made stuff that was new to all of us, but what’s new to us individually is quite good enough.

Although I need not say it I shall: Money won’t make you happy. It will make your misery more comfortable, for sure, and the theme of this blog is all about finding your way to financial independence. I want to make it clear that the ‘independence’ part is the important part. Two points about that. One, you cannot survive without money, but the less you have to do for it the more time you have for Two, the wonderful challenges at which you can succeed and be therefore fulfilled.

A better way of saying this might be that once you no longer need to spend your days grinding for money, it becomes less worthy of your attention. At that point life ceases to be about mowing your lawn and begins to be about learning how the German railway system works, or getting that guitar riff down or finding the nirvana of that yoga pose you enjoy most.

Namaste, independent achievers.

Mar 31

Forget About Yesterday

Chain, covered.

Chain, covered.

 

Monday is my day. It is the day I should be pursuing my sales career, but for the moment, I’m taking the daylight hours as my own.

Work demanded a lot of time in the last month, so I’ve been blessed with only…let me count…two full days off in the last thirty-five. It shows that we can be flexible about sleep and fatigue management for a while, but eventually the brain and body need rest. So I’ll take a couple of weekends to do just that.

This beautiful Monday morning, I indulged one of my favorites – a sunrise walk along Lido Beach. Spring it might be, but the chill of winter is still here, although the hint of humidity is in the air. Florida’s like that, always tempting you into thinking things are just right, only to flip you around.

Mornings on the beach are best, weekday mornings better, and cooler mornings better still. Having the beach more-or-less to myself is a luxury worth the early start. And you get to see things that crowds tend to hide.

This photograph is of the weight and chain of a buoy that must have been washed ashore in one of our recent frontal storms. The buoys delineate the ‘swimmers only’ area from the ‘vessels permitted’ area. What interested me was the way in which the chain was partly covered by the sand. Here’s my analogy: that it’s important to not drag our yesterdays into today. Like lots of folks, I find it easy to entertain regret, regret that is chained to all our yesterdays. Spending our todays looking rearwards toward something we cannot change is utterly wasteful. You’d be better going for a walk along a beach.

So I choose to bury my chains, or, better still, to cut them. My day begins at the beginning of the day, and ends at the end. And each new day offers new hope, and the opportunity for a different, better day. Or not. Either way, dragging yesterday into today is never productive.

Mar 26

Navigating Around

Stuff happens.

Stuff happens.

 

Tragedy is unavoidable. Disasters happen. Failure is inevitable. And yet for the most part we all find the will to carry on. It’s the way we’re built.

We can, however, mitigate bad things. If we control that which we can in our lives, there is less room for the destructive and dangerous. That which we can control – and choose not to -  raises our risk. Failure to tend your garden encourages weeds.

Here are some very specific examples, a big picture view of the ways you can court big problems:

  • If you fail to become literate and numerate, you put yourself at risk
  • Choosing not to continue your education throughout your life puts you at economic risk
  • Failing to acquire marketable skills is a risk
  • Habitual drug use clearly raises your risk profile
  • Avoiding two hours of exercise per week risks your health and longevity
  • Overeating and eating junk obviously isn’t good
  • Spending all your income and not saving any is risky
  • Not planning for (the inevitable) emergencies of life will catch up eventually
  • Ignoring the fact that life is capricious is risky

 

The trouble with all of these actions is that modern media and social pressure works against them. Folks selling you stuff tell you how much you need a new big-screen television every three years, or a new car every two. Fast food advertising encourages you to avoid the drudgery of home cooking. Visa and Mastercard will help you get whatever you want now…and why worry about the interest?

Any way you slice it, if you want to give yourself a chance at keeping disaster from ruining your life, you’ll need hard work, discipline, thrift and a plan. Observing the people around me, few see the importance of this, and fewer still the reward.

Mar 13

Transparency

 

You can see straight through.

You can see straight through.

When in doubt, look in the mirror.

If I think a particular way about something, others do too. It’ll be an unknown percentage of any population, but I’m not deluded enough to think my ideas are any different from the bloke or bloke-ette ahead in the coffee line. He or she is wondering the same thing as me: Why is the coffee line taking so long?

Selling to me is actually pretty easy. I’m interested in new and different and shiny, but I am annoyed by the subterfuge of tricky sales maneuvers. The first new car I bought, a Mazda MX-5, back in 1993, was my first experience of “the grind”. In the car business, the grind is the time-wasting and frustration-inducing process that some salespeople use to manipulate you into taking their finance deal, or otherwise get more money. It didn’t work on me, because I had cash, and knew a fair price for the car. The guy had no leverage. I left feeling he was a fool for not being honest with me. His loss.

Now that I do selling for myself, I took that lesson to heart. I’m as upfront as possible. Yes, this is a request to give you a sales presentation. Of course I’m planning on making money by selling. Naturally I want you as a customer. What’s the point of me doing this otherwise?

The corollary of this brutal honesty is the following:

  • The products I sell are ones I use and love myself. Yes, love.
  • I believe my company’s products can (and more than likely will) improve your life.
  • I know my company’s products are at least as good as any supermarket brand.
  • I know my company’s products are a better value than any supermarket brand.
  • I know my company’s products are better for you, better for your household, and better for the planet.

 

Hello. I’m Tim. Are you interested in my sales presentation?

Mar 11

Sales Resistors

Just keep making those calls, Chez.

Just keep making those calls, Chez.

 

It is likely true enough, that people are skeptical of being sold to. Even though there are millions of people who buy the trinkets they see on the twenty-four-hour shopping networks, there are multiples of those millions who aren’t into it, who just want to be left alone.

 

I don’t need anything, new, I’m happy with what I have. I am not interested.

 

That’s probably an accurate summary of the attitude of the majority of people. Accurate in the sense that they are not in the mindset of being sold to, they are unwilling to endure a sales pitch, no matter how much the product might improve their lives. The QVC network’s patrons are the opposite; they’re looking to be sold to, whatever the product.

Let’s tease this out. There is an entire supermarket aisle between “…not needing anything new…” and “…I can’t be bothered thinking about this right now…”. One is a flat-out rejection. The other is a conditional rejection based on a crowded life.

The truth is that most people are interested in change and improvement, but aren’t prepared to spend the time or the brainspace required to do so. We can all keep this kind of opposing thought process in mind. We know that we should be doing two hours of exercise a week, but we’d still rather watch Netflix in bed on our iPad. This, the salesman’s dilemma. How to connect a stranger’s underlying logic of moving onward and upward with the motivation to do so?

How can I reach these people? Well, there probably is no way to reach most of them. But I believe the sales-resistors form a spectrum – it’s not a binary, yes/no reaction. Some will under no circumstances be tempted into considering our products, but there will be others more easily convinced. These are the folks to find.

Mar 09

Affirmations

Looking to build something?

Looking to build something?

 

In July of 2001, when I first moved from Sydney to Seattle, I figured the time was ripe for some self-improvement. I had the time to read and digest new ideas, and a new life ahead to contemplate.

I bought books and tapes. Dr Wayne Dyer and Anthony Robbins became my companions. Before bed I’d read their words of wisdom. On long walks I’d listen to their tapes. At the gym, they’d work out with me. These guys were in my head.

But that’s as far as they went. I didn’t notice my bank balance increase. There weren’t more women hitting on me. Things just seemed…well, more or less the same. Being analytical, it seemed clear that I was missing something, that I was the weak link in this beautifully narrated pathway to success. Just what was it that I wasn’t doing?

The continual doubt that I couldn’t shake was that the gurus’ version of the world didn’t match my version. In their world, you dream, tell yourself stories, convince yourself you deserve more than this, and tell everyone about it. In my world, you set goals, work towards them, sacrifice, work harder, deal with failure, try different paths, adapt to change, use your intelligence, seek guidance from experts, strive to be the best, and work some more.

Now, whenever I look at the self-help books in the bookstore, or hear someone tell me that “…affirmations have changed my life…” I’m skeptical. I’m happy for that person, if it gives them what they need. Good-oh.

My life, however, is different. The way to make things happen, better things, is to work at them. Be smart. Create good habits. Do the right thing. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Focus. Understand that doing a little every day is a more certain way than any other of moving towards your goal. Yes, there will be moments of setback, just as there will be quantum leaps forward. It’s not a single-speed universe. The only secret is to keep moving.

In essence, this is an argument for logic against emotion. There are minimum requirements in life. Feed, clothe and house yourself. Provide for your family. Plan for your future. Not always will you accomplish these by doing everything your way. Sometimes it will require sacrifice, especially of your need for self-expression.

Once you’re up and running with the essentials of life, that’s the time to indulge yourself. Then you can tell yourself that “it’s my time.” Until then, keeping paying the bills before they’re due, and save for a rainy day. Utility companies don’t accept good intentions, and life without electricity blows.

Mar 04

It’s Not All Going To Hell.

One Grand Canyon, one river.

One Grand Canyon, one river.

 

Is is possible that the key to life is not worrying about the key to life, but getting on with your day?

Feb 28

It’s All Going to Hell!

Really, the day the earth tilted.

Really, the day the earth tilted.

 

No, it probably isn’t.

I’m fond of toying with the following aphorism:

Important!

In your life, things are never as good as they seem. But things are never as bad as they seem either.

 

It keeps me buoyant if matters look grim, and in check when everything’s hunky-dory. It falls neatly into the philosophy of “change is coming, for better or worse”, which can be either cock-eyed optimism or self-defeatist gloom depending upon your mood.

The key, in my opinion, is understanding that we never know what’s around the corner. Although our minds fool us into thinking we are aware of all the inputs to our lives, there is no way that’s possible. Imagine that your life is like floating down a river in one of those big inflatable tubes. You can see where you’ve been recently, and more or less where you’re going. But the water all around you hides rocks and currents and eddies and pools and fish and all kinds of things, things over which you have no control.

Only your attitude towards the river and its surprises – good and bad – is within your control. Everything else will be as it will be. Be reassured that around the next bend is something you never thought of, despite all your planning and dreaming. How that affects you is entirely determined by how you look at it, not by the thing itself.

No, the the ocean liner isn’t actually falling off the earth, despite the evidence.

Feb 26

Don’t BS Me

Contemplating something different.

Contemplating something different.

Selling is change.

You want to sell me something, you need to change me in some way. My view of myself or those around me will alter, there must be a clear benefit, or you’ll provide me with new information. Sometimes I’m prepared for change. Sometimes I’m looking for an answer to information I found on my own. And sometimes I have a problem for which I have yet to find a solution. When I have any of these mindsets, I’m primed to be sold to.

However, if I do not have a need, do not have a problem, or am ignorant of the facts you want me to know, I’m a more difficult prospect. Your job is to find a way to pique my interest, garner my attention, and help me understand. But I’m like most people, I’m overwhelmed. Advertising has OPUDed* me all my life. I’m cynical. I trust what I trust, and have built a solid wall around my likes, my dislikes and my biases. Cross the moat around my castle at your peril.

I don’t want BS. I want first to trust you, then to understand you, and then to – maybe – give you room to tell me what you’re peddling. Otherwise, leave me alone.

Sound familiar?

 

* Overpromisedunderdelivered

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