Workout With Purpose

Here’s a great business idea:

Pay me to stop you joining a gym.

That’s right. You can save money by paying me to tell you not to join any kind of fitness club. I’ll take 5% of what you would normally have paid in your lifetime for memberships, and you will be much richer as a result.

How does this work?

Well, in two ways.

1. The health club membership business works because most people (more than 75% according to the people I talk to) fail to use even a fraction of the time or facilities their memberships allow. Those folks subsidize the owners’ profits and the other 25%.

2. If you increase your household cleaning, yard work and household maintenance even a fraction, you will get a calorie-burning workout. Put some elbow grease into cleaning the shower, add some vim to your floor cleaning. Look! You have now burnt off more of your breakfast, given your body a real-world stretch and burn, and have a clean and tidy house into the bargain.

Of course, the truth is that you are unlikely to get the kind of intensive weight-bearing exercise you need to keep yourself in strong shape by ramping-up your chores. You will need to get out and walk, take a bike ride, get a kettle-bell (and use it) or get a weight set (and use it too.)

However. As a money-saving measure, most people would be far better off giving me their 5% to prevent them signing on at the gym, and saving the other 95%.



Happy Mother's Day, Carol.
Happy Mother’s Day, Carol.

Sundays have a specific feel to me, perhaps for you too. This Sunday, yesterday, was my first without work for weeks, and so it felt particularly special.

After some breakfast at The Coffee Loft (living the dream with coffee, panino, newspaper and Sunday Baroque) I tootled off to Barnes and Noble. They’ve changed B & N around since last I was there, it’s different and roomier. Hopefully bookshops will survive the Amazon onslaught.

Then to Best Buy. Best Buy can make me feel inadequate. Odd, I know, but it’s the combination of all that wonderful stuff that I can’t afford, and all that wonderful stuff that I don’t quite understand. The technology on sale is brilliant, but I have a need for only a tiny fraction of what’s available. Despite that, I would still like to have it all – ridiculous as that is.

Sunday was restful, a rejuvenation day. This morning I was at Lido Key at sunup, reveling in the absence of people and the quiet. At the beach, there’s space to think, to get calm, to find perspective. It made me happy that someone remembered to give Carol some flowers. That’s what’s important. And I’m glad that someone knows it.

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.

The Price of Cheap

Color = healthy.
Color = healthy.


Question: Is it better to buy one beach towel that lasts ten years, or ten beach towels, one per year, because they fall apart after a few washes?

I had the misfortune of dealing with WalMart today. I had found an item I needed – a specific cellphone accessory – and ordered it with the store pickup option. I wanted to avoid shipping costs, and, given that I drive past a WalMart every day, figured it would be easy enough to collect my item personally.

Suffice it to say that the item was not in the store when I turned up.

It’s not a big deal, and it was a failure of an individual, not WalMart’s system. But it got me to thinking about the value of this retail behemoth. The free-market argument goes along the lines of, well, WalMart allows folks the best possible price for the biggest possible range of merchandise. In that way, I could argue that America’s middle class is expanded by the stretching of their dollar. If you can have two televisions instead of one, you’re richer, right? Buying giant containers of apple juice and bags of chips for knock-down prices improves your overall standard of living, yes?

That’s fine as far as it goes. Cheap (non-nutricious) calories, cheap (poorly made) clothing, throw-away household items…this is the triumph of feeling like you have it all. And yet…

And yet walking around that store today, I was uneasy at the sight of all that crap. What happened to the idea of striving for quality rather then cheapness? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as thrifty as the next tight-wad. But WalMart doesn’t offer a decent compromise of quality for a reasonable price – it offers low price for whatever quality that gets you. Cheap as opposed to inexpensive.

Yes, this might appear to be an elitist argument. Who am I to look askance at someone buying gallon-sized containers of candy for a few dollars? I’m no-one. But I can’t help but feeling that WalMart customers are being short-changed. Someone convinced the public that a giant portion of poor quality food is better than a small portion of higher quality. Over years, the toll on our bodies of this enormous cult of consumption must take effect. If you feed yourself a diet of canned soup each night, will you be more or less healthy than the person who makes soup from scratch, even if it costs a few cents more?

Behind all this empty buying is the “I want it NOW” mentality. Delayed gratification is an archaic concept thesedays. Why wait (and save) to buy a dining table and chairs that will last a lifetime when you can have one delivered this evening? Of course, the cheap piece will collapse in a year or so, but hey, then I’ll go buy another one.

What I’m fumbling towards here is the notion that cheap isn’t cheap when you look beyond the bar code. Price is only part of the cost. Buying low cost might well carve a chunk out of some other part of your life that will take a lot more to fix later on.

Just a thought.