Denial and Admission

A friend decided to eschew coffee for three months. He’s been in a stressful zone recently, mostly frustration at his (behind schedule) Sarasota condo renovation. A diet professional suggested a caffeine-ectomy, as simple a calming remedy imaginable.

Commiserating with him this morning – over my delicious double-shot latte, just enough milk to taste, a macchiato really – we decided that denying ones-self a pleasure is a good thing. The pleasure is so often in the anticipation, not the having.

I like this way of thinking. It nicely melds with the philosophy that if you can enjoy the process, the end almost doesn’t matter. The outcome is so often affected by randomness and stuff outside our control anyway, letting go and focusing on what’s right here and now makes for a less bumpy life.

Money, It’s a Gas

In a perfect world, folks would have a clear idea of their finances. We’d all face up to our money – or lack of it – regularly and dispassionately. But the world is not like that. We’re not like that.

Money creates enormous roadblocks in people’s lives. Too little of it is an obvious problem, but too much can be destructive as well. It’s part of my journey to figure out how to place money in its proper place in our lives, in my life to start, and hopefully others thereafter.

A few thoughts: One, there are way too many people in America who live from payday to payday. Secondly, way too few people have any kind (let’s underline that) any kind of savings. Thirdly, most of these people have no plan to change either of these predicaments. Hope and, well, more hope is their preferred tactic.

This will not work.

On the basis that the way you think is more important than anything, we need to find a new way of thinking about spending, saving, debt, rainy days and the most important element, our incomes. My thinking is to create recurrent income separate from your wages or salary, growing the passive income to eventually supplant whatever you make from your job. That’s what I’m doing.

But you need not follow my plan to the end to make a difference. Creating even a small amount of recurrent income can make a lifetime of difference, and here’s an illustration:

I Tweeted earlier that in the next forty years I’ll spend more than $30,000 dollars on electricity. That figure will be way under, because I simply multiplied my current bill by 480 months. Inflation, increased energy costs and who knows what else will almost certainly make that much, much higher.

Now imagine if you created $65 per month of recurrent income for yourself. You would never have to worry about paying the electricity bill ever again, which would be a relief to many. And the money from your salary that would otherwise go to paying the electricity bill could be used for something else. Saving for emergencies for example, reducing the principal on your mortgage or adding to whatever retirement arrangements you have.

$65 dollars per month, $30,000 dollars overall, and that’s before compounding. Small change, big outcome.

Signposts

Information, order, advice or requirement?
Information, order, advice or requirement?

 

The new year is a natural time to take stock. Most folks, I think, will indulge a little introspection in order to place themselves accurately in the landscape. We should – meaning, I should – do this more frequently than once a year, but better sometimes than never.

Driving along any road, if you can bring yourself to do so, you’ll notice an enormous number of signs. There are so many that we no longer take heed, unless we must do so for accurate navigation or parking restrictions. Have a look next time; on a busy road, signs clutter the roadside at surprisingly small intervals. Frankly, it’s a mess.

In the wider and abstract roadside of our lives (sorry for the tortured metaphor) signs likewise clutter the view. Radio, television, newspapers, tablets, phones, advertising everywhere, pop-ups, banners, product placements, celebrity endorsements…all this static bombards us night and day, unless you live in a yurt on a mountain-top. Much of the time I imagine we let it go by without a thought, but undoubtedly some of it sticks. We wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.

That’s why the idea of a contemplative review is important. Dumping the cookies from your internal browser allows you re-decide what messages you see. The folks who want to sell you stuff want to know that you are remaining in the category hopper they assigned. Let’s take that assumption back to them by not allowing them to do so. Make them work to prove themselves to us again.

There are two positive advantages to this. First, a fresh start allows us to re-energize and refresh. Second, that renewal means we are likely to look around for change, for life improvements or for a better fit. Snakes and lobsters shed their skin regularly so as not to be hemmed in. We can do the same, and for the same reason: so we can grow and adapt.

A New Luck

My lucky number...is any number.
My lucky number…is any number.

 

We’re a weird bunch. We have unlocked many of the (amazing) mechanisms of the universe, but still buy lottery tickets. We have equations that describe the architecture of the seen and unseen world around us, and yet astrology persists. And we are gaining knowledge and practical understanding of our own minds and bodies at an astonishingly swift rate…but somehow people keep smoking.

Can we characterize our species as being a little bit schizophrenic?

The answer is yes we can. But it’s not all logic versus silliness here at Timszone. I think some of the qualities that make us human are those that allow us to create stuff like WordPress (thanks WordPress people!!) and to formalize cake-cutting at a wedding. It’s harmless, even sweet. And such rituals are a living reminder of the time not so long ago when people’s lives were ruled by superstition.

The gaps in our understanding will never be completely filled. Why do we fall in love? What precisely is consciousness? Where does my habit of checking the door lock three times come from? We’re a mix of scientific method and abstract painting, and all the better for it.

Sometimes we need to understand that our lives can be ruled by ancient totems, or we can choose a better way. Habits form from experience but can also be handed down from our parents. Much of what we learned at school is now wrong or superseded, so we need to update. Making good life (a phrase I just coined, but rather like) is often about giving up the stuff that doesn’t work, or is just plain wrong.

It takes humility and willingness to do things better, to make things better. Not luck. And not a lucky number.