Posted in Life lessons

On the shortness of life

This is an unexpected blog post but please bear with me as I try to verbalize a tragedy and make sense of it.  I feel that it is very relevant to this time of year.

This is not something I want to write about at all.  It is not something any of us want to write about but there are things that need to be conveyed and this is my medium to convey them.  This is mostly a therapy session for myself to sort out all of the questions I am trying to answer.  If it helps anyone of you in the process that is an added value I will embrace.  Trying to understand, let alone verbalize someone you know dying should be an eye opening experience no matter who you are.  It should be a time of reflection.  A time of grief, sorrow, and mourning.  Also, a time to dig a little deeper into yourself and figure out some things that may be going on.  Let me just say up front, suicide is not a thing I condone for myself or anyone else.  I do not sympathize with it nor do I think it is a viable alternative to anything going on in life.  At the same time,I do understand the things that lead to suicide and how fast things can get out of control.  I understand how situations can seem beyond a rational point of turning.  I can understand how the weight of the world can literally crush you until there is conceivably nothing left. I have been there, a few times.  I have been through pain that many people would not even know about.  I have not only been witness to someone taking their own life but I have also been the one with a loaded shotgun in my own mouth ready to pull the trigger.  In the moment it seems like the logical next step.  Let me just say it is a snapshot of something that, in a few weeks, months, years, will not even matter in retrospect.  I don’t have some amazing story about how it all happened for me.  I will just say that I was miserable, and I was desperate, and I wanted to stop some pain I was having in my life.  Not only did I scare the shit out of myself, but I scared the shit out of my dad.  That was the moment when I knew I had taken things a little too far.  When he looked in my eyes and had nothing to say after only moments earlier screaming and yelling.  We were having an overheated verbal pissing contest.  It was yelling over something I can’t even remember now.  No idea at all what the whole problem was.  Not to say this one thing was what brought me to a point of suicidal thoughts and actions, but it was a final straw in a string of events leading up to that moment.

But this isn’t really about me.  Tonight I got a message from some good friends letting me know one of my buddies from High School had passed away.  I’m not going to get into the details but I will tell you that it kicked me right in the chest.  This was one person who had seen a ton of problems and stress in his life.  I thought that he was now on a better path over the course of the last few years.  This guy was a real trooper.  Never really complained.  A genuine kind heart and soul.  The kind of person who would lay down in traffic for you.  The kind of person who would take a bullet for you.  Always had a smile on his face despite pain he might have been experiencing.  Always willing to give up what he had if it would help someone else.  He didn’t ask for much in life other than a roof over his head and food on the table for his family.  I feel like I have lost one of my own flesh and blood tonight.  And I feel like shit because I haven’t really talked to him in a while.  I feel that if I could have talked to him things might have turned out different.  I didn’t reach out.  I didn’t pay attention.  A real slap in the face, and the reason why this is so important for me to put out.

Helplessness and Hopelessness

When I say there really is light at the end of every tunnel I mean that whole heartedly.  We are all human and we all are going through some point in the storm.  ALL OF US!  Don’t ever think that you are alone in this world of 7 Billion people.  Don’t ever think that no one else has had pain and suffering like you have.  Don’t ever think that you are the only one who has thought of taking your own life.  And don’t ever think that there is no one out there who will listen.

First and most importantly there are tons of resources.. maybe not for you specifically but if you know someone whom you think is not doing well… you better stop everything you are doing and REACH OUT TO THAT PERSON RIGHT NOW AND JUST ASK THEM IF THEY NEED SOMEONE TO TALK WITH ABOUT ANYTHING…  AND THEN GIVE THEM YOUR FULL UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.  Do it right now!  Do not wait one second!  I don’t mean to come off as some tyrant trying to force you to do something but God Damnit, DO SOMETHING!  If you don’t think that a few mins of your time are worth saving someone’s life then maybe you need to talk to someone as well.

One quick resource that comes to mind and is readily accessible to anyone is the CrisisTextLine.

TEXT “GO” TO 741741

This is geared more toward the younger crowd because that is one of the easiest ways to reach them.  These people are all trained professionals ready to help at any hour of the day.  Not a plug, but a resource I wholeheartedly believe in.

Now the elephant in the room. Why?  I am no psychologist.  I have taught hundreds of Soldiers Resilience Training.  It is not something easy to teach because no one wants to get into the touchy-feely part of their lives, especially in a group setting.  The science and the practicality behind suicide all point to two things: Hopelessness and helplessness.  These are two emotional states that will eat you alive from the inside out.  They are the final destination leading to the river Styx.  In Greek mythology the river connecting the Earth to the underworld.  The portal to hell.  Styx meaning hate or detestation.  A hatred or detestation with the world.  A complete loss of faith in the world and all that is good and just.  A place of damnation.  This is where I think people end up when they become helpless and hopeless. They lose faith in their meaning in life.  The feel like there is nothing out there to fix what is going on.  They feel like they are a lost cause and that they have no more real meaning on the world and those closest to them.  The thing is, helplessness and hopelessness are an inner dialog that we construct.  It is something that we build in our own minds.  It is a destructive creature of our own manifestation.  It does not come from without..  it comes from within.  This may sound like a very scary thing to comprehend, and it actually is a very scary thing, but something that we build out of our own doubt.  I do not claim to have all the answers.  I will say the time to figure all of this out and work on it is not when you have a gun to your own head.  The time to figure all of this out is right now.  Most of us do not even realize the self-defeating talk we casually give ourselves every day.  It may be harmless now (or so you think) but eventually it will eat you alive and take away all that is good in this world.  Without going into massive details, there are dots that need to be connected.  You have to get control of the self-talk.  That is the very first step.  Once you can control the elephant (your subconscious mind), you can control the rider (your conscious mind).  Self-talk comes in many forms.  There are only a few things you can do to actually turn it off.  Without sounding cliche’, my biggest suggestions would be some sort of mindfulness.  I hear it over and over from a lot of people.  I wouldn’t mention it if I did not use it myself and think that it makes a difference.  I really don’t care how foo foo you think it maybe.  It could potentially save your life if you are contemplating suicide (or know someone who is).  There are three apps that I have personally tried and had good success with as a starting point: Calm, Headspace, and Omvana.  These all have their own method of teaching basic mindfulness. The main thing is to commit the time to go through a few days with an open mind and just see how it affects you.  The Calm app also has a companion book you can get from any major book retailer for those who might need a tangibleile guidebook. I highly recommend all three.  I have been doing a mindfulness practice on my own for over a year now and it has done some tremendous things in my life. Get out of your own head and get out of your own way.  Bring a little balance to your life.  Let someone know if you are not feeling that great.  I will just put it out right here.  Any of you ANY OF YOU can reach out to me directly here and I will at least listen to what you have to say and try to point you in the right direction…assuming you have read this far.

Closing thoughts

I am not going to make this drag on and on.  I can’t emotionally or physically at this point. In general just be aware of those around you.  The people you know and the ones you may not know.  The friends and the strangers.  I meet people all the time who are complete strangers and by virtue of me inquiring I find out they may or may not be in a good place.  They may need someone to talk to.  The may only require my ear for a few min and that is enough to get them back to a more realistic place.  It is worth my time to drop everything I am doing to offer my ear.  I don’t feel there is anything else more important that letting someone know you care enough to listen.  I truly miss my friend and I wish he was still here.  I wish I could have talked to him at least before he left this world so unexpectedly.  My complete soul goes out to his family and friends for the loss of a great man, a great father, a great husband (married or not), a great son, and of course a dear friend.  Regardless of what has transpired, you will always have the highest respect, my friend.

I am human and we humans don’t always make the right choice in the time allotted.  You (and I) should, however, revisit this from time to time.  We should tell the ones we care about just as unexpectedly how much we really love them.  We should think about a Latin term (used in Ancient Greece) “Momento Mori” meaning literally “Remember, you will die”.  We all will eventually end our lives on this planet.  I just don’t think we need to prematurely rush the inevitable.  We should also think of Seneca who said, “Life is long, if you know how to use it”.

YOUR life is long, if you know how to use it.

Be well over the holidays and my blessings for a safe and prosperous new year to everyone!



Posted in Finance, Life lessons

The Million Dollar Question…

Enjoy your favorite books (where I enjoy my favorite books) on

The never ending question of how much is enough?

How much is really enough?  How much money does it take to make you happy?  If you were a millionaire or even a billionaire how would you answer the question?  I guess it all depends on your definition of money (and of happiness).  It depends on how you earn, save, and spend money.  If you don’t know how to properly earn, save, and spend money then you might be like I have been in my past years, one of the many who does not properly understand money.  Let’s assume for a moment you do understand money.  How much would be enough?  According to Daniel Kahneman, the magical number is $60,000 (I’ve also heard $75,000).  Anything beyond this amount is not really needed.  Here is the excerpt from the TED talk he gave in response to the Gallup Poll and the correlation of happiness to money:

“Sure. I think the most interesting result that we found in the Gallup survey is a number, which we absolutely did not expect to find. We found that with respect to the happiness of the experiencing self. When we looked at how feelings vary with income. And it turns out that, below an income of 60,000 dollars a year, for Americans, and that’s a very large sample of Americans, like 600,000, but it’s a large representative sample, below an income of 600,000 dollars a year…

CA: 60,000.

DK: 60,000. (Laughter) 60,000 dollars a year, people are unhappy, and they get progressively unhappier the poorer they get. Above that, we get an absolutely flat line. I mean I’ve rarely seen lines so flat. Clearly, what is happening is money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery, and we can measure that misery very, very clearly. In terms of the other self, the remembering self, you get a different story. The more money you earn the more satisfied you are. That does not hold for emotions…”

As Mr. Kahneman points out annual salary below $60K produces more unhappiness, above $60K there seems to be a flatline.  Although this suggests that $60K is the magic number, again it all depends on how you understand money and how you are able to utilize it as a resource rather than some maniacal goal.  Leaning on money as the means and not the ends as it is so often categorized.

Cleaning out the cupboards is the first step in starting a diet.

Have you ever tried to start a diet and quit a few days in?  For that matter have you ever set a New Year’s Resolution?  How has that worked out for you in the past?  Without diving into methodologies about achieving goals, understanding the mechanics of goals, human behavior, or psychology, I would recommend a few things that can help if your current money is not where you want it to be.  It is as simple as the diet.  Start first by emptying everything in your cupboard and throw it out.  The stuff that is in there now has not helped you to achieve the results you want (obviously) so get rid of all of it and start with a clean slate.

  • Start by writing down all of your expenditures for at least 1-3 months (without trying to figure out a budget).  ::you have to have a baseline in order to figure out what you want to tweak.
  • Once you see what you are taking in and sending out in the form of income, bills, expenditures, Netflix accounts, excessive car payments, etc. go through the list and see if the expenses and income are consistent every month.
  • Find out what the outliers are (impulse shopping)
  • Ask yourself if these outliers are really things that improve your life over time
  • Figure out what monthly bills you are paying that are actually doing you good.  I have an app that tells me all my bills and lists them out in a short text message.  It also gives me some tips for things I may not need like forgotten subscriptions.  TRIM  But being able to see your bills in front of you is actually the most important thing. (not out of sight out of mind)

Now that you have an overview you can easily see what makes sense and what doesn’t.  Most of us have things we pay for that make no sense.  We don’t change them because we don’t like change.  Humans, by nature, do not like rocking the boat.  The whole process above will probably need to be run every couple months.  Things change.  Income changes.  Life changes.  Being able to adapt and move with it rather than sit and push forcefully back against it will not get you where you want to be.

Moving forward

Back to my live stream the other night…

Discussing what the big deal is with $1M (cash or net worth).  Some people don’t like talking about money.  That’s fine.  I like dealing with the elephant in the room sometimes.  I take her for walks through the park and invite her to be my guest at dinner parties sometimes.  She tends to make everyone uncomfortable, and that is ok as well.  So let’s peel this onion back a few layers.  I mentioned near the end of my video how people complain about “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”.  I went on to say “the rich are not getting richer, they are getting smarter”.  Firstly, complaining in itself is the root of most people’s problems.  Have you ever noticed that being nice to people and not being a complainer attracts more people than complaining does?  Do you want to be around a complainer?  I didn’t think you did either. Stop complaining, and just start doing something… anything.  Secondly, the rich really are getting smarter and I would even venture to say that no matter what regulations, taxes, obstacles or barriers to entry the government or anyone else puts in their way, smart business minded people will find a way to traverse the chasm.  Being an Accredited Investor is one of these ways.  A lot of people think this means you have to make $1M in income.  That is not true at all.  Actually, you only have to make $200,000 a year for at least 2 years OR have at least $1M in net worth (or cash if you are that good).  Personally, I would shoot for the $200,000 marker.  It seems like a lot but it’s really not that much.  You don’t have to earn it all in one place either.  Multiple streams of income is the way to get to this point.  Figuring out what you really really enjoy or what really really bothers you in life.  Putting together a solution for that thing.  Sharing it with the world.  It is really that simple.  You are not going to make it all happen overnight and it will more than likely not go the way you plan it in your head or on paper.  But with persistence and repetition, you can make just about anything happen.  Also, don’t forget that you should be super excited about what you are doing.  That is a really good thing if you are.  You should also share that excitement with the world as much as humanly possible.  You never know who is listening.

The other way to get to this is to have a net worth of $1M dollars (assets, insurance, property, investments, etc.). Here is what Wikipedia has to say about an Accredited Investor (much easier to read than the SEC website)

United States[edit]
In the United States, to be considered an accredited investor, one must have a net worth of at least one million US dollars, excluding the value of one’s primary residence, or have income at least $200,000 each year for the last two years (or $300,000 combined income if married) and have the expectation to make the same amount this year.[9]
The term “accredited investor” is defined in Rule 501 of Regulation D of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as:
  1. a bank, insurance company, registered investment company, business development company, or small business investment company;
  2. an employee benefit plan, within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, if a bank, insurance company, or registered investment adviser makes the investment decisions, or if the plan has total assets in excess of $5 million;
  3. a charitable organization, corporation, or partnership with assets exceeding $5 million;
  4. a director, executive officer, or general partner of the company selling the securities;
  5. a business in which all the equity owners are accredited investors;
  6. a natural person who has individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase, or has assets under management of $1 million or above, excluding the value of the individual’s primary residence;[10][11]
  7. a natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year;[12] or
  8. a trust with assets in excess of $5 million, not formed to acquire the securities offered, whose purchases a sophisticated person makes.”[9]

So there are many ways to get to that point.  This has nothing to do with having this much net worth per se, it has more to do with getting to a point where you can open some really big doors for yourself, your family, and your future.

Like I mentioned in the video, getting to this point alone is a huge step and it is sort of a validation for doing some really hard work and heavy lifting.  The rewards are immense once you are there.

Without droning on about $1M this and Accredited investor that I will leave you with a couple things to think about.

Does anyone have your best interest in mind besides you?

ONE THING you can do right now is doing a little research on a Fiduciary.  The real Fiduciary is a type of financial planner.  These people “should be” but are not always bound by the law to have your best interest at heart.  They are advisors who can tell you, based off your current situation, what things would be best for you and point you in the right direction.  Because these folks have a fiduciary responsibility to you and they do not work off commissions they will be one of your best resources figuring out your investing strategies as well as put you in touch with deals once you become an Accredited Investor that would otherwise not be available. Why not start building this relationship now?

Here is an example of an investment only available to Accredited Investors


One of my really good friends asked me one time about understanding all of this financial jargon and investment mumbo jumbo.  I started from a place not too far from you, and believe me I have a long way to go.  For me, it’s about the journey even if I don’t make it all the way to the destination.  I still want to leave my kids with some knowledge about making their lives easier.  Give them some things they will never learn in school and teach them that in order to make an informed decision you have to be informed.  Please don’t read all of this and feel like a moron or that you don’t understand.  There are people in the industry that don’t fully understand.  Taking that first step, whether it is a diet or working out or investing, is the most crucial part.  Staying around and getting to know the people and dialogs is second (persistence).

I will leave you with a great story that is probably more important than making a million dollars,

“What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars – Jim Paul / Brenden Moynihan”

Probably one of my top 10 books I have read that dives into the life of luck (good and bad) and money…and watching it all come full circle.  It will teach you about your own shortcomings in life and really kick you in the feels.

Thank you always for stopping by!  Hope you enjoyed this!  Please let me know your thoughts below either way.  I will always answer them directly!

Posted in Finance, Life lessons, Real estate

Reality check. Accepting. Embracing flaws (yours and others)

I reach many conclusions in life and one recent conclusion is that we all have flaws. We all have differences. We all have demons. Being able to embrace those flaws and demons is a hard task for many of us to master. We all think our way is the right way but as we learn more we realize that there is no one way to win. No one way to do things. There are ways we are taught and things we learn in our childhood for example that do not translate to who we are today and how we approach things in life right now. One of the main things I want to stress here is to question everything. Sometimes you will have to question things over and over in order to find the truth. The thing about truth is that it’s only truth until you find more facts that make it a non truth. Shifting and changing over time is a natural state of life. Things evolve and things change. As they change you have to be willing to change with them.  

Posted in Uncategorized

Following your path. Living the dream. Expectation management.

This will be my second time writing this post which actually dovetails nicely into the topic. This should actually be called reality management because the true value of your reality lies in your pre conceived notions of what reality is supposed to look like.

Choose your own adventure: I have been quietly watching my brother transition from a shitty job in the oil field to doing exactly what he wants to do. At least from the outside that’s what it looks like. Maybe it doesn’t. We all have our own version of what the perfect life will be. We want to put in our 40 hour weeks over the course of 20-40 years, saving all the while in order to produce a nest egg that will eventually carry us through our elder years beyond retirement. This is what the “normal” American life looks like and how it is taught to us by those following a similar path. Sometimes the majority is not always the best group to follow. I have adopted a saying in my life that goes like this… if you follow the lemmings long enough, you will eventually end up over the cliff. This may sound a bit morbid and a bit unrealistic but our minds don’t really operate all the time on pure reason or logic. Actually our minds are more like 90% monkeys and 10% bees. What does this mean? We are hive creatures by nature but also have higher cognitive function which allow us to be individual enough to not all wear the same clothes or take on the same career paths but we are very much influenced by those closest to us. This can go either way but the main thing to remember is that we can be influenced by a group we are surrounded by.

I’m not going to tell you to dump all of your friends and only hang around type X personalities all I am going to say is be aware of your natural inclinations and your surroundings. Don’t underestimate them for one minute.

Back to my brother. I know he will read this and I don’t want him to take any of this the wrong way. This is purely my observation mixed in with some higher altitude reasoning. Here we go…

He decided he was done with the oil field grind. A job that pays very well but keeps you out on a rig site for as little as a week up to a few months at a time.  The lag between jobs can be a few days or weeks at most depending on oil demand.  He decided he wanted to do more with his time and his life than work for someone else forever only to be able to possibly start enjoying his life after retirement. He wanted to follow his passion of writing and being creative while also building a homestead somewhere in the middle of the woods. He asked my opinion and I bluntly told him from my envious position of running out my last few years in the Army that he should stop complaining about his job and just do what he thinks will make him happy. 

Perception being what it is will show us what we think things should look like. He did not jump into this completely blind. He had months of bills pre paid. He also had months of living expenses saved up. I would venture to say more than most Americans have saved in pure cash assets. He may have expected things to go one way and they may have not necessarily done that for one reason or another. I will inject this little nugget of truth and it is something that myself and many others struggle with over lifetimes, planning purely on perception without accounting for the absolute worst case will usually lead to disappointment. This coupled with a perception that things will go completely smooth or that “I have done all the things that everyone says are the right things to do such as working for 30 years, saving to a 401k, buying a big house, following the “neighbors” or the “norm” do not always lead to success. We save a chunk of money over a long time and expect that savings to do magical things. It actually does not always produce the results we expect. Saving is one thing, and it is usually tied to an expectation that the money will go toward this or that, a specific purchase, but money changes. Time changes the value of money and the things we want to buy. Not only that but our health changes. We may not want to look at things like health and well being because they are nebulous, but they all play a huge part in how things work out. 

A safety net is one thing. A safety net that regenerates itself is something completely different. I’ve seen it with my dad, my mom, and now with my brother. Yes, the experiment was his alone to try but I am sitting on the sideline observing very closely and I see similar outcomes. Money is tied to work, which is usually tied to a job or some labor, which is tied to time (money=job+labor+time). The single (invisible) point of failure in this equation is the individual who is putting all of this in motion. If everything you do in your life revolves around you. If the money coming in revolves around you. If the time being spent is your time… what happens if you can’t physically do the work anymore? What happens if you have to take months off for illness or injury? My point is that work is not a bad thing. Wanting to work for yourself is not a bad thing. Saving money is not a bad thing. But they are however single points of failure.

The solution: putting systems in place or taking a systems approach. I’m not the oracle and I don’t have it all figured out. None of us do. Is your checking account on autopilot or is it something you have to manually go in and mess with all the time? Is your spending on autopilot or is it something  that happens haphazardly? Is your time spent with family and friends on auto pilot or do you have to constantly tell people you are too busy? The only commodity we can not replace is time. We spend much of it in wasted states. I do the same. I’m not saying be a robot. I am saying be aware. Be aware of the quality of your time. Be aware that the time you spend fixing everything all the time or being the one point of failure that brings everything to a halt if you get injured or sick can be catastrophic.  Understand that a systems approach on the simplest level means that anything you do repeatedly (more than 2 times) should be analyzed to find out if there may be a more streamlined method or if the task can be outsources completely.

A lot of people will counter and say “it is something I enjoy”, “I would much rather do it myself because I am the only one who can do it right”,  the list can go on.  Lets look at it purely in terms of output vs. input.  There are a couple key things to consider when figuring out output vs. input.  Let me put some bullet points up and explain them a little:

  • Net worth
  • Actual per hour value
  • Overall fulfillment

One of the most important pieces of paper I have ever filled out is a Net Worth Sheet (here is one from my personal stash – a simple one with a few formulas built in).  This document will spell out for you exactly what a bank or anyone else regards as your personal financial net worth.  This can be beneficial on many levels. It is not the end-all document but it does give you a nice snapshot into what your overall financial health looks like from 30,000 feet.  When you apply for any type of business loans, this is the document the financier will look at in order to determine if they will give you money.  Yes, your credit score plays a part in all of this but this one metric of net worth is the overarching determinate.  I would revisit this form at least quarterly if not monthly just to keep your eye on the ball and have some metrics to set large goals against.

Value-Per-Hour: This is something not many of us really take into consideration.  When all is said and done, at the end of the day we are all worth some specific amount per hour.  Whether you work for McDonald’s or Merrill Lynch, your value per hour is a measurable and specific number.  Say for example, McDonald’s pays you $15.00 per hour.  Is this your overall value per hour?  If this is the only way you make money then more than likely it is.  Your value on any given day is equal to $15.00 per hour.  What if you make a salary of say $50,000 per year.  What is your value per hour then?  Do the math and see that, assuming your after tax pay (net pay) is $50,000, monthly income will be $4166.66.  Based on a normal 40 hour workweek you will  get 26.04 per hour (4166.66/160hrs(4*40hrs)=$$per hour).  Well what does this really mean to me?  So I am worth 26.04 per hour?  Yes, if you were to get hurt you will be worth 26.04 per hour (not accounting things like workman’s comp or insurance fees/medical bills).

Lets look at it using this simple analogy: How long does it take you to mow your lawn?  1 hour?  How many times do you mow your lawn in a month… a year?  How much does your lawnmower cost (new)?  How much gas/oil do you have to buy to keep the lawnmower running?  Lets just say for the sake of argument you spend 4 hours a month mowing the lawn (did we also acount for clean up/maintenance/interruptions/?).  That would be $104.16 per month just on labor alone you spend on your lawn.  Let us just say the mower cost $200.00.  Over 12 month (only using it really in the summer months) your mower cost 16.66 per month based on a 1 year lifespan.  Oil and gas would be 1 qt oil and about 5 gallons of gas.  We will say gas (@ $2 a gallon) is $10 and a quart of oil is $2.  So $12 dollars on fuel/oil.  That comes out to 132.83 ($1593.96 a year) a month just to mow the lawn for 4 hours a month.  If you split that up into individual hours your per hour cost is $33.21 for lawn care.  This is purely mowing…no leaves… no raking and assuming that we mow the lawn 12 months out of the year 4 times a month.  We could split this cost out over 2 consecutive “seasons” instead of 12 consecutive months..  the cost is the same essentially.  Is this worth your time to do?  There is one more factor we must take into account, enjoyment.  Enjoyment (or fulfillment) is something that can’t be measured on paper.  It is purely an individual valuation.  You have to calculate this and figure out what your per hour enjoyment is worth to you.  If you enjoy yard work and the enjoyment outweighs the monetary cost then continue by all means to mow the lawn.  If however you despise lawn work and feel that you could be utilizing your time more wisely then pay someone $20 an hour to do the work that you would be doing for $33/hr and don’t worry about it anymore.  You are paying below your cost-per-hour (about $12 lower) for someone else to do the work.  No hassle, no stress, no worries and it can be accomplished without you even being around.

You can potentially free up bottlenecks in your life by applying this concept.  If the numbers work for you and you feel like it adds value to your life overall why not try it?  It is not a 2 year contract you are locked into, it is a matter of re-evaluating on a regular basis to find out if it is actually adding value or not.  It is an experiment, and like many experiments it will have failures and successes.  If you never run the experiment you will never know.  Of course, most of us consider something that doesn’t show results within a very short time frame to be a failure.  Sometimes you have to test and sometimes you have to let the test run.  You have to measure the results accurately.  Then you can make decisions and inferences on the back end to see if the desired outcome really happened.

Lastly let me talk about expectation management.  Our expectations of outcomes directly drive the outcomes we experience.   Let just face the facts, how we perceive something to be is what molds our physical reality to what it is.  It actually steers our emotions and feelings in the direction we think things will end up.  Our biases, judgement, expectations, and our reality is already decided before we start down a path.  It is decided by what we think is right or wrong.  The way we feel about touchy topics.  How we think people should drive versus how they actually drive.  What we think our kids should be doing versus what they actually do.  Loosely translated, Tony Robbins once said something along the lines of “change your mindset and you will change your life”. This just means that your happiness and overall level of fulfillment is contained in how much you let everything else around you effect you.  We literally have about 90% control on things around us.  Things outside of our influence.  We have about 10% control on ourselves and our environment.  You can’t change other people.  You can’t think that everyone will fall in line with what you want.  You can’t help the person sitting next to you on the plane with their oxygen mask unless you first dawn your own mask and save yourself.  You are literally no help to those around you including your spouse, kids, mother, father, sister, brother if you are unable to help yourself first and be completely under your own control.

I know this is a lot to take in but it is the difference between someone who is in control of their life and someone who is not. You will forget things. You will miss payments from time to time. You will (if you are anything like me) spend hours trying to figure out a simpler way to do things rather than just doing them. It is all relative to what your overall goals in life are. You have to decide. I’m not here to tell you what to do, I am however her to tell you about “tools” you can use to make your life more enjoyable. 

Staying with the cost per hour model, what if your cost per hour is $26.04 (what you make per hour of work). How can you change that and make it less of a single point of failure? What if you offset it with an investment vehicle like rental property? What if you rent your house to someone else and live in an apartment? THIS IS WHERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL TELL ME IM CRAZY. But listen, you make ~$26/hr, let’s say you can rent a place where you can live for $600 a month. Let’s also say that you could potentially rent your house for $1200 a month. Assuming you do the math right and assuming your mortgage is well below $1200 you could potentially be living for free and at the same time increasing your per hour worth. Who cares right?  What if you could rent your house on autopilot and say you have a serious injury and can’t work anymore. That $26 will not arrive in your bank account but the money from the rental property will. You don’t have to lift a finger. On top of all of that your house is getting paid off by someone else and there is marginal increase in value over time. If you are making a 3.5% mortgage payment but getting a 6-7% payment in from a renter… you do the math. Duplicate this process and you are one step closer to replacing your current income. Do this a few more times and you are actually saving and earning without actually going to a job. You become paralyzed and the income still makes it to your bank. I’m not saying we will all become paralyzed but eventually we all atrophy. We all get older and eventually we all die. Securing more than one stream of income can change your life. It doesn’t have to be real estate or stocks, but it does have to cross your mind as an idea that makes sense.

If you do nothing else today, I ask that after you read this go and download the sheet linked above and start filling in the numbers. You don’t have to do it all today. Just start. Look at your money and at the same time look at the quality of your life. Make a decision on whether it is what you want or not. Make a pact with yourself to keep an eye on it and constantly re-evaluate it. Understand that life is not ever going to go as planned, but contingencies can always lessen the burdens life throws at you. Lastly remember that things change all the time. You have to be willing to change with them. There will be a point in time that, assuming you work in some service industry that measures metrics by way of human interaction, your job may disappear. Be like water. Fit into the vessel that life affords you. Be willing and able to adapt to change. Charles Darwin ones said something like this: it is not the strongest or the smartest necessarily who survive, it is the one who can most easily adapt to change. 

Please feel free to comment or add suggestions below. I always love to hear your side of the story. Thank you!

Posted in Finance, Life lessons

On the shortness of life

Gleaned from the Tim Ferriss blog, I thought I would share a passage the I have read a few times over the years. It focuses on the time we spend and how we spend it.

Life is not particular about who it seeks out to bless but rather very unbiased in her choosing. She takes and gives as she pleases. It could be your 10 year old daughter or your 80 year old grandmother or even you who receives an unwanted death sentence. But it shouldn’t take a death sentence for us to realize what is important in life and how we should spend the time we have. Even if you you can’t take the time to read this now I emplore you to read it in its entirety and often. I surely do and it helps me move forward when I don’t know what to do. The basic answer is do something. Move forward, however incrementally…

If you like a real book I recommended the penguins books edition Here on Amazon.

If you like what you read here I would also reccomend The Tao of Seneca on audible.

Enjoy! And let me know what you think below in the comments.

Total read time (comprehensive): 25-30 minutes

On The Shortness of Life – Lucius Seneca

The majority of mortals, Paulinus, complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live.

Nor is it merely the common herd and the unthinking crowd that bemoan what is, as men deem it, an universal ill; the same feeling has called forth complaint also from men who were famous…

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly.

Why do we complain of Nature? She has shown herself kindly; life, if you know how to use it, is long. But one man is possessed by greed that is insatiable, another by a toilsome devotion to tasks that are useless; one man is besotted with wine, another is paralyzed by sloth; one man is exhausted by an ambition that always hangs upon the decision of others, another, driven on by the greed of the trader, is led over all lands and all seas by the hope of gain; some are tormented by a passion for war and are always either bent upon inflicting danger upon others or concerned about their own; some there are who are worn out by voluntary servitude in a thankless attendance upon the great; many are kept busy either in the pursuit of other men’s fortune or in complaining of their own; many, following no fixed aim, shifting and inconstant and dissatisfied, are plunged by their fickleness into plans that are ever new; some have no fixed principle by which to direct their course, but Fate takes them unawares while they loll and yawn—so surely does it happen that I cannot doubt the truth of that utterance which the greatest of poets delivered with all the seeming of an oracle: “The part of life we really live is small.” For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

Vices beset us and surround us on every side, and they do not permit us to rise anew and lift up our eyes for the discernment of truth, but they keep us down when once they have overwhelmed us and we are chained to lust. Their victims are never allowed to return to their true selves; if ever they chance to find some release, like the waters of the deep sea which continue to heave even after the storm is past, they are tossed about, and no rest from their lusts abides. Think you that I am speaking of the wretches whose evils are admitted? Look at those whose prosperity men flock to behold; they are smothered by their blessings. To how many are riches a burden! From how many do eloquence and the daily straining to display their powers draw forth blood! How many are pale from constant pleasures! To how many does the throng of clients that crowd about them leave no freedom! In short, run through the list of all these men from the lowest to the highest—this man desires an advocate, this one answers the call, that one is on trial, that one defends him, that one gives sentence; no one asserts his claim to himself, everyone is wasted for the sake of another. Ask about the men whose names are known by heart, and you will see that these are the marks that distinguish them: A cultivates B and B cultivates C; no one is his own master. And then certain men show the most senseless indignation—they complain of the insolence of their superiors, because they were too busy to see them when they wished an audience! But can anyone have the hardihood to complain of the pride of another when he himself has no time to attend to himself? After all, no matter who you are, the great man does sometimes look toward you even if his face is insolent, he does sometimes condescend to listen to your words, he permits you to appear at his side; but you never deign to look upon yourself, to give ear to yourself. There is no reason, therefore, to count anyone in debt for such services, seeing that, when you performed them, you had no wish for another’s company, but could not endure your own.

Though all the brilliant intellects of the ages were to concentrate upon this one theme, never could they adequately express their wonder at this dense darkness of the human mind. Men do not suffer anyone to seize their estates, and they rush to stones and arms if there is even the slightest dispute about the limit of their lands, yet they allow others to trespass upon their life—nay, they themselves even lead in those who will eventually possess it. No one is to be found who is willing to distribute his money, yet among how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal. And so I should like to lay hold upon someone from the company of older men and say: “I see that you have reached the farthest limit of human life, you are pressing hard upon your hundredth year, or are even beyond it; come now, recall your life and make a reckoning. Consider how much of your time was taken up with a moneylender, how much with a mistress, how much with a patron, how much with a client, how much in wrangling with your wife, how much in punishing your slaves, how much in rushing about the city on social duties. Add the diseases which we have caused by our own acts, add, too, the time that has lain idle and unused; you will see that you have fewer years to your credit than you count. Look back in memory and consider when you ever had a fixed plan, how few days have passed as you had intended, when you were ever at your own disposal, when your face ever wore its natural expression, when your mind was ever unperturbed, what work you have achieved in so long a life, how many have robbed you of life when you were not aware of what you were losing, how much was taken up in useless sorrow, in foolish joy, in greedy desire, in the allurements of society, how little of yourself was left to you; you will perceive that you are dying before your season!” What, then, is the reason of this? You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last. You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals. You will hear many men saying: “After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties.” And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer? Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live! What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!

You will see that the most powerful and highly placed men let drop remarks in which they long for leisure, acclaim it, and prefer it to all their blessings. They desire at times, if it could be with safety, to descend from their high pinnacle; for, though nothing from without should assail or shatter, Fortune of its very self comes crashing down.

The deified Augustus, to whom the gods vouchsafed more than to any other man, did not cease to pray for rest and to seek release from public affairs; all his conversation ever reverted to this subject—his hope of leisure. This was the sweet, even if vain, consolation with which he would gladden his labours—that he would one day live for himself. In a letter addressed to the senate, in which he had promised that his rest would not be devoid of dignity nor inconsistent with his former glory, I find these words: “But these matters can be shown better by deeds than by promises. Nevertheless, since the joyful reality is still far distant, my desire for that time most earnestly prayed for has led me to forestall some of its delight by the pleasure of words.” So desirable a thing did leisure seem that he anticipated it in thought because he could not attain it in reality. He who saw everything depending upon himself alone, who determined the fortune of individuals and of nations, thought most happily of that future day on which he should lay aside his greatness. He had discovered how much sweat those blessings that shone throughout all lands drew forth, how many secret worries they concealed. Forced to pit arms first against his countrymen, then against his colleagues, and lastly against his relatives, he shed blood on land and sea.

Through Macedonia, Sicily, Egypt, Syria, and Asia, and almost all countries he followed the path of battle, and when his troops were weary of shedding Roman blood, he turned them to foreign wars. While he was pacifying the Alpine regions, and subduing the enemies planted in the midst of a peaceful empire, while he was extending its bounds even beyond the Rhine and the Euphrates and the Danube, in Rome itself the swords of Murena, Caepio, Lepidus, Egnatius, and others were being whetted to slay him. Not yet had he escaped their plots, when his daughter and all the noble youths who were bound to her by adultery as by a sacred oath, oft alarmed his failing years—and there was Paulus, and a second time the need to fear a woman in league with an Antony. When be had cut away these ulcers together with the limbs themselves, others would grow in their place; just as in a body that was overburdened with blood, there was always a rupture somewhere. And so he longed for leisure, in the hope and thought of which he found relief for his labours. This was the prayer of one who was able to answer the prayers of mankind.

Marcus Cicero, long flung among men like Catiline and Clodius and Pompey and Crassus, some open enemies, others doubtful friends, as he is tossed to and fro along with the state and seeks to keep it from destruction, to be at last swept away, unable as he was to be restful in prosperity or patient in adversity—how many times does he curse that very consulship of his, which he had lauded without end, though not without reason! How tearful the words he uses in a letter written to Atticus, when Pompey the elder had been conquered, and the son was still trying to restore his shattered arms in Spain! “Do you ask,” he said, “what I am doing here? I am lingering in my Tusculan villa half a prisoner.” He then proceeds to other statements, in which he bewails his former life and complains of the present and despairs of the future. Cicero said that he was “half a prisoner.” But, in very truth, never will the wise man resort to so lowly a term, never will he be half a prisoner—he who always possesses an undiminished and stable liberty, being free and his own master and towering over all others. For what can possibly be above him who is above Fortune?

When Livius Drusus, a bold and energetic man, had with the support of a huge crowd drawn from all Italy proposed new laws and the evil measures of the Gracchi, seeing no way out for his policy, which he could neither carry through nor abandon when once started on, he is said to have complained bitterly against the life of unrest he had had from the cradle, and to have exclaimed that he was the only person who had never had a holiday even as a boy. For, while he was still a ward and wearing the dress of a boy, he had had the courage to commend to the favour of a jury those who were accused, and to make his influence felt in the law-courts, so powerfully, indeed, that it is very well known that in certain trials he forced a favourable verdict. To what lengths was not such premature ambition destined to go? One might have known that such precocious hardihood would result in great personal and public misfortune. And so it was too late for him to complain that he had never had a holiday when from boyhood he had been a trouble-maker and a nuisance in the forum. It is a question whether he died by his own hand; for he fell from a sudden wound received in his groin, some doubting whether his death was voluntary, no one, whether it was timely.

It would be superfluous to mention more who, though others deemed them the happiest of men, have expressed their loathing for every act of their years, and with their own lips have given true testimony against themselves; but by these complaints they changed neither themselves nor others. For when they have vented their feelings in words, they fall back into their usual round. Heaven knows! such lives as yours, though they should pass the limit of a thousand years, will shrink into the merest span; your vices will swallow up any amount of time. The space you have, which reason can prolong, although it naturally hurries away, of necessity escapes from you quickly; for you do not seize it, you neither hold it back, nor impose delay upon the swiftest thing in the world, but you allow it to slip away as if it were something superfluous and that could be replaced.

But among the worst I count also those who have time for nothing but wine and lust; for none have more shameful engrossments. The others, even if they are possessed by the empty dream of glory, nevertheless go astray in a seemly manner; though you should cite to me the men who are avaricious, the men who are wrathful, whether busied with unjust hatreds or with unjust wars, these all sin in more manly fashion. But those who are plunged into the pleasures of the belly and into lust bear a stain that is dishonourable. Search into the hours of all these people, see how much time they give to accounts, how much to laying snares, how much to fearing them, how much to paying court, how much to being courted, how much is taken up in giving or receiving bail, how much by banquets—for even these have now become a matter of business—, and you will see how their interests, whether you call them evil or good, do not allow them time to breathe.

Finally, everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things—eloquence cannot, nor the liberal studies—since the mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it. There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn. Of the other arts there are many teachers everywhere; some of them we have seen that mere boys have mastered so thoroughly that they could even play the master. It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and—what will perhaps make you wonder more—it takes the whole of life to learn how to die. Many very great men, having laid aside all their encumbrances, having renounced riches, business, and pleasures, have made it their one aim up to the very end of life to know how to live; yet the greater number of them have departed from life confessing that they did not yet know—still less do those others know. Believe me, it takes a great man and one who has risen far above human weaknesses not to allow any of his time to be filched from him, and it follows that the life of such a man is very long because he has devoted wholly to himself whatever time he has had. None of it lay neglected and idle; none of it was under the control of another, for, guarding it most grudgingly, he found nothing that was worthy to be taken in exchange for his time. And so that man had time enough, but those who have been robbed of much of their life by the public, have necessarily had too little of it.

And there is no reason for you to suppose that these people are not sometimes aware of their loss. Indeed, you will hear many of those who are burdened by great prosperity cry out at times in the midst of their throngs of clients, or their pleadings in court, or their other glorious miseries: “I have no chance to live.” Of course you have no chance! All those who summon you to themselves, turn you away from your own self. Of how many days has that defendant robbed you? Of how many that candidate? Of how many that old woman wearied with burying her heirs? Of how many that man who is shamming sickness for the purpose of exciting the greed of the legacy-hunters? Of how many that very powerful friend who has you and your like on the list, not of his friends, but of his retinue? Check off, I say, and review the days of your life; you will see that very few, and those the refuse. have been left for you. That man who had prayed for the fasces, when he attains them, desires to lay them aside and says over and over: “When will this year be over!” That man gives games, and, after setting great value on gaining the chance to give them, now says: “When shall I be rid of them?” That advocate is lionized throughout the whole forum, and fills all the place with a great crowd that stretches farther than he can be heard, yet he says: “When will vacation time come?” Everyone hurries his life on and suffers from a yearning for the future and a weariness of the present. But he who bestows all of his time on his own needs, who plans out every day as if it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the morrow. For what new pleasure is there that any hour can now bring? They are all known, all have been enjoyed to the full. Mistress Fortune may deal out the rest as she likes; his life has already found safety. Something may be added to it, but nothing taken from it, and he will take any addition as the man who is satisfied and filled takes the food which he does not desire and yet can hold. And so there is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles; he has not lived long—he has existed long. For what if you should think that that man had had a long voyage who had been caught by a fierce storm as soon as he left harbour, and, swept hither and thither by a succession of winds that raged from different quarters, had been driven in a circle around the same course? Not much voyaging did he have, but much tossing about.

I am often filled with wonder when I see some men demanding the time of others and those from whom they ask it most indulgent. Both of them fix their eyes on the object of the request for time, neither of them on the time itself; just as if what is asked were nothing, what is given, nothing. Men trifle with the most precious thing in the world; but they are blind to it because it is an incorporeal thing, because it does not come beneath the sight of the eyes, and for this reason it is counted a very cheap thing—nay, of almost no value at all. Men set very great store by pensions and doles, and for these they hire out their labour or service or effort. But no one sets a value on time; all use it lavishly as if it cost nothing. But see how these same people clasp the knees of physicians if they fall ill and the danger of death draws nearer, see how ready they are, if threatened with capital punishment, to spend all their possessions in order to live! So great is the inconsistency of their feelings. But if each one could have the number of his future years set before him as is possible in the case of the years that have passed, how alarmed those would be who saw only a few remaining, how sparing of them would they be! And yet it is easy to dispense an amount that is assured, no matter how small it may be; but that must be guarded more carefully which will fail you know not when.

Yet there is no reason for you to suppose that these people do not know how precious a thing time is; for to those whom they love most devotedly they have a habit of saying that they are ready to give them a part of their own years. And they do give it, without realizing it; but the result of their giving is that they themselves suffer loss without adding to the years of their dear ones. But the very thing they do not know is whether they are suffering loss; therefore, the removal of something that is lost without being noticed they find is bearable. Yet no one will bring back the years, no one will bestow you once more on yourself. Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its swiftness. Silent it will glide on; it will not prolong itself at the command of a king, or at the applause of the populace. Just as it was started on its first day, so it will run; nowhere will it turn aside, nowhere will it delay. And what will be the result? You have been engrossed, life hastens by; meanwhile death will be at hand, for which, willy nilly, you must find leisure.

Can anything be sillier than the point of view of certain people—I mean those who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves very busily engaged in order that they may be able to live better; they spend life in making ready to live! They form their purposes with a view to the distant future; yet postponement is the greatest waste of life; it deprives them of each day as it comes, it snatches from them the present by promising something hereafter. The greatest hindrance to living is expectancy, which depends upon the morrow and wastes to-day. You dispose of that which lies in the hands of Fortune, you let go that which lies in your own. Whither do you look? At what goal do you aim? All things that are still to come lie in uncertainty; live straightway! See how the greatest of bards cries out, and, as if inspired with divine utterance, sings the saving strain:

The fairest day in hapless mortals’ life

Is ever first to flee.

“Why do you delay,” says he, “Why are you idle? Unless you seize the day, it flees.” Even though you seize it, it still will flee; therefore you must vie with time’s swiftness in the speed of using it, and, as from a torrent that rushes by and will not always flow, you must drink quickly. And, too, the utterance of the bard is most admirably worded to cast censure upon infinite delay, in that he says, not “the fairest age,” but “the fairest day.” Why, to whatever length your greed inclines, do you stretch before yourself months and years in long array, unconcerned and slow though time flies so fast? The poet speaks to you about the day, and about this very day that is flying. Is there, then, any doubt that for hapless mortals, that is, for men who are engrossed, the fairest day is ever the first to flee? Old age surprises them while their minds are still childish, and they come to it unprepared and unarmed, for they have made no provision for it; they have stumbled upon it suddenly and unexpectedly, they did not notice that it was drawing nearer day by day. Even as conversation or reading or deep meditation on some subject beguiles the traveller, and he finds that he has reached the end of his journey before he was aware that he was approaching it, just so with this unceasing and most swift journey of life, which we make at the same pace whether waking or sleeping; those who are engrossed become aware of it only at the end.

Should I choose to divide my subject into heads with their separate proofs, many arguments will occur to me by which I could prove that busy men find life very short. But Fabianus, who was none of your lecture-room philosophers of to-day, but one of the genuine and old-fashioned kind, used to say that we must fight against the passions with main force, not with artifice, and that the battle-line must be turned by a bold attack, not by inflicting pinpricks; that sophistry is not serviceable, for the passions must be, not nipped, but crushed. Yet, in order that the victims of them nay be censured, each for his own particular fault, I say that they must be instructed, not merely wept over.

Life is divided into three periods—that which has been, that which is, that which will be. Of these the present time is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain. For the last is the one over which Fortune has lost control, is the one which cannot be brought back under any man’s power. But men who are engrossed lose this; for they have no time to look back upon the past, and even if they should have, it is not pleasant to recall something they must view with regret. They are, therefore, unwilling to direct their thoughts backward to ill-spent hours, and those whose vices become obvious if they review the past, even the vices which were disguised under some allurement of momentary pleasure, do not have the courage to revert to those hours. No one willingly turns his thought back to the past, unless all his acts have been submitted to the censorship of his conscience, which is never deceived; he who has ambitiously coveted, proudly scorned, recklessly conquered, treacherously betrayed, greedily seized, or lavishly squandered, must needs fear his own memory. And yet this is the part of our time that is sacred and set apart, put beyond the reach of all human mishaps, and removed from the dominion of Fortune, the part which is disquieted by no want, by no fear, by no attacks of disease; this can neither be troubled nor be snatched away—it is an everlasting and unanxious possession. The present offers only one day at a time, and each by minutes; but all the days of past time will appear when you bid them, they will suffer you to behold them and keep them at your will—a thing which those who are engrossed have no time to do. The mind that is untroubled and tranquil has the power to roam into all the parts of its life; but the minds of the engrossed, just as if weighted by a yoke, cannot turn and look behind. And so their life vanishes into an abyss; and as it does no good, no matter how much water you pour into a vessel, if there is no bottom to receive and hold it, so with time—it makes no difference how much is given; if there is nothing for it to settle upon, it passes out through the chinks and holes of the mind. Present time is very brief, so brief, indeed, that to some there seems to be none; for it is always in motion, it ever flows and hurries on; it ceases to be before it has come, and can no more brook delay than the firmament or the stars, whose ever unresting movement never lets them abide in the same track. The engrossed, therefore, are concerned with present time alone, and it is so brief that it cannot be grasped, and even this is filched away from them, distracted as they are among many things.

In a word, do you want to know how they do not “live long”? See how eager they are to live long! Decrepit old men beg in their prayers for the addition of a few more years; they pretend that they are younger than they are; they comfort themselves with a falsehood, and are as pleased to deceive themselves as if they deceived Fate at the same time. But when at last some infirmity has reminded them of their mortality, in what terror do they die, feeling that they are being dragged out of life, and not merely leaving it. They cry out that they have been fools, because they have not really lived, and that they will live henceforth in leisure if only they escape from this illness; then at last they reflect how uselessly they have striven for things which they did not enjoy, and how all their toil has gone for nothing. But for those whose life is passed remote from all business, why should it not be ample? None of it is assigned to another, none of it is scattered in this direction and that, none of it is committed to Fortune, none of it perishes from neglect, none is subtracted by wasteful giving, none of it is unused; the whole of it, so to speak, yields income. And so, however small the amount of it, it is abundantly sufficient, and therefore, whenever his last day shall come, the wise man will not hesitate to go to meet death with steady step.

Perhaps you ask whom I would call “the preoccupied”? There is no reason for you to suppose that I mean only those whom the dogs that have at length been let in drive out from the law-court, those whom you see either gloriously crushed in their own crowd of followers, or scornfully in someone else’s, those whom social duties call forth from their own homes to bump them against someone else’s doors, or whom the praetor’s hammer keeps busy in seeking gain that is disreputable and that will one day fester. Even the leisure of some men is engrossed; in their villa or on their couch, in the midst of solitude, although they have withdrawn from all others, they are themselves the source of their own worry; we should say that these are living, not in leisure, but in idle preoccupation. Would you say that that man is at leisure who arranges with finical care his Corinthian bronzes, that the mania of a few makes costly, and spends the greater part of each day upon rusty bits of copper? Who sits in a public wrestling-place (for, to our shame I we labour with vices that are not even Roman) watching the wrangling of lads? Who sorts out the herds of his pack-mules into pairs of the same age and colour? Who feeds all the newest athletes? Tell me, would you say that those men are at leisure who pass many hours at the barber’s while they are being stripped of whatever grew out the night before? while a solemn debate is held over each separate hair? while either disarranged locks are restored to their place or thinning ones drawn from this side and that toward the forehead? How angry they get if the barber has been a bit too careless, just as if he were shearing a real man! How they flare up if any of their mane is lopped off, if any of it lies out of order, if it does not all fall into its proper ringlets! Who of these would not rather have the state disordered than his hair? Who is not more concerned to have his head trim rather than safe? Who would not rather be well barbered than upright? Would you say that these are at leisure who are occupied with the comb and the mirror? And what of those who are engaged in composing, hearing, and learning songs, while they twist the voice, whose best and simplest movement Nature designed to be straightforward, into the meanderings of some indolent tune, who are always snapping their fingers as they beat time to some song they have in their head, who are overheard humming a tune when they have been summoned to serious, often even melancholy, matters? These have not leisure, but idle occupation. And their banquets, Heaven knows! I cannot reckon among their unoccupied hours, since I see how anxiously they set out their silver plate, how diligently they tie up the tunics of their pretty slave-boys, how breathlessly they watch to see in what style the wild boar issues from the hands of the cook, with what speed at a given signal smooth-faced boys hurry to perform their duties, with what skill the birds are carved into portions all according to rule, how carefully unhappy little lads wipe up the spittle of drunkards. By such means they seek the reputation for elegance and good taste, and to such an extent do their evils follow them into all the privacies of life that they can neither eat nor drink without ostentation.

And I would not count these among the leisured class either—the men who have themselves borne hither and thither in a sedan-chair and a litter, and are punctual at the hours for their rides as if it were unlawful to omit them, who are reminded by someone else when they must bathe, when they must swim, when they must dine; so enfeebled are they by the excessive lassitude of a pampered mind that they cannot find out by themselves whether they are hungry! I hear that one of these pampered people—provided that you can call it pampering to unlearn the habits of human life—when he had been lifted by hands from the bath and placed in his sedan-chair, said questioningly: “Am I now seated?” Do you think that this man, who does not know whether he is sitting, knows whether he is alive, whether he sees, whether he is at leisure? I find it hard to say whether I pity him more if he really did not know, or if he pretended not to know this. They really are subject to forgetfulness of many things, but they also pretend forgetfulness of many. Some vices delight them as being proofs of their prosperity; it seems the part of a man who is very lowly and despicable to know what he is doing. After this imagine that the mimes fabricate many things to make a mock of luxury! In very truth, they pass over more than they invent, and such a multitude of unbelievable vices has come forth in this age, so clever in this one direction, that by now we can charge the mimes with neglect. To think that there is anyone who is so lost in luxury that he takes another’s word as to whether he is sitting down! This man, then, is not at leisure, you must apply to him a different term—he is sick, nay, he is dead; that man is at leisure, who has also a perception of his leisure. But this other who is half alive, who, in order that he may know the postures of his own body, needs someone to tell him—how can he be the master of any of his time?

It would be tedious to mention all the different men who have spent the whole of their life over chess or ball or the practice of baking their bodies in the sun. They are not unoccupied whose pleasures are made a busy occupation. For instance, no one will have any doubt that those are laborious triflers who spend their time on useless literary problems, of whom even among the Romans there is now a great number. It was once a foible confined to the Greeks to inquire into what number of rowers Ulysses had, whether the Iliad or the Odyssey was written first, whether moreover they belong to the same author, and various other matters of this stamp, which, if you keep them to yourself, in no way pleasure your secret soul, and, if you publish them, make you seem more of a bore than a scholar. But now this vain passion for learning useless things has assailed the Romans also. In the last few days I heard someone telling who was the first Roman general to do this or that; Duilius was the first who won a naval battle, Curius Dentatus was the first who had elephants led in his triumph. Still, these matters, even if they add nothing to real glory, are nevertheless concerned with signal services to the state; there will be no profit in such knowledge, nevertheless it wins our attention by reason of the attractiveness of an empty subject. We may excuse also those who inquire into this—who first induced the Romans to go on board ship. It was Claudius, and this was the very reason he was surnamed Caudex, because among the ancients a structure formed by joining together several boards was called a caudex, whence also the Tables of the Law are called codices, and, in the ancient fashion, boats that carry provisions up the Tiber are even to-day called codicariae. Doubtless this too may have some point—the fact that Valerius Corvinus was the first to conquer Messana, and was the first of the family of the Valerii to bear the surname Messana because be had transferred the name of the conquered city to himself, and was later called Messala after the gradual corruption of the name in the popular speech. Perhaps you will permit someone to be interested also in this—the fact that Lucius Sulla was the first to exhibit loosed lions in the Circus, though at other times they were exhibited in chains, and that javelin-throwers were sent by King Bocchus to despatch them? And, doubtless, this too may find some excuse—but does it serve any useful purpose to know that Pompey was the first to exhibit the slaughter of eighteen elephants in the Circus, pitting criminals against them in a mimic battle? He, a leader of the state and one who, according to report, was conspicuous among the leaders of old for the kindness of his heart, thought it a notable kind of spectacle to kill human beings after a new fashion. Do they fight to the death? That is not enough! Are they torn to pieces? That is not enough! Let them be crushed by animals of monstrous bulk! Better would it be that these things pass into oblivion lest hereafter some all-powerful man should learn them and be jealous of an act that was nowise human. O, what blindness does great prosperity cast upon our minds! When he was casting so many troops of wretched human beings to wild beasts born under a different sky, when he was proclaiming war between creatures so ill matched, when he was shedding so much blood before the eyes of the Roman people, who itself was soon to be forced to shed more. he then believed that he was beyond the power of Nature. But later this same man, betrayed by Alexandrine treachery, offered himself to the dagger of the vilest slave, and then at last discovered what an empty boast his surname was.

But to return to the point from which I have digressed, and to show that some people bestow useless pains upon these same matters—the man I mentioned related that Metellus, when he triumphed after his victory over the Carthaginians in Sicily, was the only one of all the Romans who had caused a hundred and twenty captured elephants to be led before his car; that Sulla was the last of the Roman’s who extended the pomerium, which in old times it was customary to extend after the acquisition of Italian but never of provincial, territory. Is it more profitable to know this than that Mount Aventine, according to him, is outside the pomerium for one of two reasons, either because that was the place to which the plebeians had seceded, or because the birds had not been favourable when Remus took his auspices on that spot—and, in turn, countless other reports that are either crammed with falsehood or are of the same sort? For though you grant that they tell these things in good faith, though they pledge themselves for the truth of what they write, still whose mistakes will be made fewer by such stories? Whose passions will they restrain? Whom will they make more brave, whom more just, whom more noble-minded? My friend Fabianus used to say that at times he was doubtful whether it was not better not to apply oneself to any studies than to become entangled in these.

Of all men they alone are at leisure who take time for philosophy, they alone really live; for they are not content to be good guardians of their own lifetime only. They annex ever age to their own; all the years that have gone ore them are an addition to their store. Unless we are most ungrateful, all those men, glorious fashioners of holy thoughts, were born for us; for us they have prepared a way of life. By other men’s labours we are led to the sight of things most beautiful that have been wrested from darkness and brought into light; from no age are we shut out, we have access to all ages, and if it is our wish, by greatness of mind, to pass beyond the narrow limits of human weakness, there is a great stretch of time through which we may roam. We may argue with Socrates, we may doubt with Carneades, find peace with Epicurus, overcome human nature with the Stoics, exceed it with the Cynics. Since Nature allows us to enter into fellowship with every age, why should we not turn from this paltry and fleeting span of time and surrender ourselves with all our soul to the past, which is boundless, which is eternal, which we share with our betters?

Those who rush about in the performance of social duties, who give themselves and others no rest, when they have fully indulged their madness, when they have every day crossed everybody’s threshold, and have left no open door unvisited, when they have carried around their venal greeting to houses that are very far apart—out of a city so huge and torn by such varied desires, how few will they be able to see? How many will there be who either from sleep or self-indulgence or rudeness will keep them out! How many who, when they have tortured them with long waiting, will rush by, pretending to be in a hurry! How many will avoid passing out through a hall that is crowded with clients, and will make their escape through some concealed door as if it were not more discourteous to deceive than to exclude. How many, still half asleep and sluggish from last night’s debauch, scarcely lifting their lips in the midst of a most insolent yawn, manage to bestow on yonder poor wretches, who break their own slumber in order to wait on that of another, the right name only after it has been whispered to them a thousand times!

But we may fairly say that they alone are engaged in the true duties of life who shall wish to have Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus, and all the other high priests of liberal studies, and Aristotle and Theophrastus, as their most intimate friends every day. No one of these will be “not at home,” no one of these will fail to have his visitor leave more happy and more devoted to himself than when he came, no one of these will allow anyone to leave him with empty hands; all mortals can meet with them by night or by day.

No one of these will force you to die, but all will teach you how to die; no one of these will wear out your years, but each will add his own years to yours; conversations with no one of these will bring you peril, the friendship of none will endanger your life, the courting of none will tax your purse. From them you will take whatever you wish; it will be no fault of theirs if you do not draw the utmost that you can desire. What happiness, what a fair old age awaits him who has offered himself as a client to these! He will have friends from whom he may seek counsel on matters great and small, whom he may consult every day about himself, from whom he may hear truth without insult, praise without flattery, and after whose likeness he may fashion himself.

We are wont to say that it was not in our power to choose the parents who fell to our lot, that they have been given to men by chance; yet we may be the sons of whomsoever we will. Households there are of noblest intellects; choose the one into which you wish to be adopted; you will inherit not merely their name, but even their property, which there will be no need to guard in a mean or niggardly spirit; the more persons you share it with, the greater it will become. These will open to you the path to immortality, and will raise you to a height from which no one is cast down. This is the only way of prolonging mortality—nay, of turning it into immortality. Honours, monuments, all that ambition has commanded by decrees or reared in works of stone, quickly sink to ruin; there is nothing that the lapse of time does not tear down and remove. But the works which philosophy has consecrated cannot be harmed; no age will destroy them, no age reduce them; the following and each succeeding age will but increase the reverence for them, since envy works upon what is close at hand, and things that are far off we are more free to admire. The life of the philosopher, therefore, has wide range, and he is not confined by the same bounds that shut others in. He alone is freed from the limitations of the human race; all ages serve him as if a god. Has some time passed by? This he embraces by recollection. Is time present? This he uses. Is it still to come? This he anticipates. He makes his life long by combining all times into one.

But those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear for the future have a life that is very brief and troubled; when they have reached the end of it, the poor wretches perceive too late that for such a long while they have been busied in doing nothing. Nor because they sometimes invoke death, have you any reason to think it any proof that they find life long. In their folly they are harassed by shifting emotions which rush them into the very things they dread; they often pray for death because they fear it. And, too, you have no reason to think that this is any proof that they are living a long time—the fact that the day often seems to them long, the fact that they complain that the hours pass slowly until the time set for dinner arrives; for, whenever their distractions fail them, they are restless because they are left with nothing to do, and they do not know how to dispose of their leisure or to drag out the time. And so they strive for something else to occupy them, and all the intervening time is irksome; exactly as they do when a gladiatorial exhibition is been announced, or when they are waiting for the appointed time of some other show or amusement, they want to skip over the days that lie between. All postponement of something they hope for seems long to them. Yet the time which they enjoy is short and swift, and it is made much shorter by their own fault; for they flee from one pleasure to another and cannot remain fixed in one desire. Their days are not long to them, but hateful; yet, on the other hand, how scanty seem the nights which they spend in the arms of a harlot or in wine! It is this also that accounts for the madness of poets in fostering human frailties by the tales in which they represent that Jupiter under the enticement of the pleasures of a lover doubled the length of the night. For what is it but to inflame our vices to inscribe the name of the gods as their sponsors, and to present the excused indulgence of divinity as an example to our own weakness? Can the nights which they pay for so dearly fail to seem all too short to these men? They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.

The very pleasures of such men are uneasy and disquieted by alarms of various sorts, and at the very moment of rejoicing the anxious thought comes over them: “How long will these things last?” This feeling has led kings to weep over the power they possessed, and they have not so much delighted in the greatness of their fortune, as they have viewed with terror the end to which it must some time come. When the King of Persia, in all the insolence of his pride, spread his army over the vast plains and could not grasp its number but simply its measure, he shed copious tears because inside of a hundred years not a man of such a mighty army would be alive. But he who wept was to bring upon them their fate, was to give some to their doom on the sea, some on the land, some in battle, some in flight, and within a short time was to destroy all those for whose hundredth year he had such fear. And why is it that even their joys are uneasy from fear? Because they do not rest on stable causes, but are perturbed as groundlessly as they are born. But of what sort do you think those times are which even by their own confession are wretched, since even the joys by which they are exalted and lifted above mankind are by no means pure? All the greatest blessings are a source of anxiety, and at no time should fortune be less trusted than when it is best; to maintain prosperity there is need of other prosperity, and in behalf of the prayers that have turned out well we must make still other prayers. For everything that comes to us from chance is unstable, and the higher it rises, the more liable it is to fall. Moreover, what is doomed to perish brings pleasure to no one; very wretched, therefore, and not merely short, must the life of those be who work hard to gain what they must work harder to keep. By great toil they attain what they wish, and with anxiety hold what they have attained; meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New distractions take the place of the old, hope leads to new hope, ambition to new ambition. They do not seek an end of their wretchedness, but change the cause. Have we been tormented by our own public honours? Those of others take more of our time. Have we ceased to labour as candidates? We begin to canvass for others. Have we got rid of the troubles of a prosecutor? We find those of a judge. Has a man ceased to be a judge? He becomes president of a court. Has he become infirm in managing the property of others at a salary? He is perplexed by caring for his own wealth. Have the barracks set Marius free? The consulship keeps him busy. Does Quintius hasten to get to the end of his dictatorship? He will be called back to it from the plough. Scipio will go against the Carthaginians before he is ripe for so great an undertaking; victorious over Hannibal, victorious over Antiochus, the glory of his own consulship, the surety for his brother’s, did he not stand in his own way, he would be set beside Jove; but the discord of civilians will vex their preserver, and, when as a young man he had scorned honours that rivalled those of the gods, at length, when he is old, his ambition will lake delight in stubborn exile. Reasons for anxiety will never be lacking, whether born of prosperity or of wretchedness; life pushes on in a succession of engrossments. We shall always pray for leisure, but never enjoy it.

And so, my dearest Paulinus, tear yourself away from the crowd, and, too much storm-tossed for the time you have lived, at length withdraw into a peaceful harbour. Think of how many waves you have encountered, how many storms, on the one hand, you have sustained in private life, how many, on the other, you have brought upon yourself in public life; long enough has your virtue been displayed in laborious and unceasing proofs—try how it will behave in leisure. The greater part of your life, certainly the better part of it, has been given to the state; take now some part of your time for yourself as well. And I do not summon you to slothful or idle inaction, or to drown all your native energy in slumbers and the pleasures that are dear to the crowd. That is not to rest; you will find far greater works than all those you have hitherto performed so energetically, to occupy you in the midst of your release and retirement. You, I know, manage the accounts of the whole world as honestly as you would a stranger’s, as carefully as you would your own, as conscientiously as you would the state’s. You win love in an office in which it is difficult to avoid hatred; but nevertheless believe me, it is better to have knowledge of the ledger of one’s own life than of the corn-market. Recall that keen mind of yours, which is most competent to cope with the greatest subjects, from a service that is indeed honourable but hardly adapted to the happy life, and reflect that in all your training in the liberal studies, extending from your earliest years, you were not aiming at this—that it might be safe to entrust many thousand pecks of corn to your charge; you gave hope of something greater and more lofty. There will be no lack of men of tested worth and painstaking industry. But plodding oxen are much more suited to carrying heavy loads than thoroughbred horses, and who ever hampers the fleetness of such high-born creatures with a heavy pack? Reflect, besides, how much worry you have in subjecting yourself to such a great burden; your dealings are with the belly of man. A hungry people neither listens to reason, nor is appeased by justice, nor is bent by any entreaty. Very recently within those few day’s after Gaius Caesar died—still grieving most deeply (if the dead have any feeling) because he knew that the Roman people were alive and had enough food left for at any rate seven or eight days while he was building his bridges of boats and playing with the resources of the empire, we were threatened with the worst evil that can befall men even during a siege—the lack of provisions; his imitation of a mad and foreign and misproud king was very nearly at the cost of the city’s destruction and famine and the general revolution that follows famine. What then must have been the feeling of those who had charge of the corn-market, and had to face stones, the sword, fire—and a Caligula? By the greatest subterfuge they concealed the great evil that lurked in the vitals of the state—with good reason, you may be sure. For certain maladies must be treated while the patient is kept in ignorance; knowledge of their disease has caused the death of many.

Do you retire to these quieter, safer, greater things! Think you that it is just the same whether you are concerned in having corn from oversea poured into the granaries, unhurt either by the dishonesty or the neglect of those who transport it, in seeing that it does not become heated and spoiled by collecting moisture and tallies in weight and measure, or whether you enter upon these sacred and lofty studies with the purpose of discovering what substance, what pleasure, what mode of life, what shape God has; what fate awaits your soul; where Nature lays us to rest When we are freed from the body; what the principle is that upholds all the heaviest matter in the centre of this world, suspends the light on high, carries fire to the topmost part, summons the stars to their proper changes—and ether matters, in turn, full of mighty wonders? You really must leave the ground and turn your mind’s eye upon these things! Now while the blood is hot, we must enter with brisk step upon the better course. In this kind of life there awaits much that is good to know—the love and practice of the virtues, forgetfulness of the passions, knowledge of living and dying, and a life of deep repose.

The condition of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but most wretched is the condition of those who labour at preoccupations that are not even their own, who regulate their sleep by that of another, their walk by the pace of another, who are under orders in case of the freest things in the world—loving and hating. If these wish to know how short their life is, let them reflect how small a part of it is their own.

And so when you see a man often wearing the robe of office, when you see one whose name is famous in the Forum, do not envy him; those things are bought at the price of life. They will waste all their years, in order that they may have one year reckoned by their name. Life has left some in the midst of their first struggles, before they could climb up to the height of their ambition; some, when they have crawled up through a thousand indignities to the crowning dignity, have been possessed by the unhappy thought that they have but toiled for an inscription on a tomb; some who have come to extreme old age, while they adjusted it to new hopes as if it were youth, have had it fail from sheer weakness in the midst of their great and shameless endeavours. Shameful is he whose breath leaves him in the midst of a trial when, advanced in years and still courting the applause of an ignorant circle, he is pleading for some litigant who is the veriest stranger; disgraceful is he who, exhausted more quickly by his mode of living than by his labour, collapses in the very midst of his duties; disgraceful is he who dies in the act of receiving payments on account, and draws a smile from his long delayed heir. I cannot pass over an instance which occurs to me. Sextus Turannius was an old man of long tested diligence, who, after his ninetieth year, having received release from the duties of his office by Gaius Caesar’s own act, ordered himself to be laid out on his bed and to be mourned by the assembled household as if he were dead. The whole house bemoaned the leisure of its old master, and did not end its sorrow until his accustomed work was restored to him. Is it really such pleasure for a man to die in harness? Yet very many have the same feeling; their desire for their labour lasts longer than their ability; they fight against the weakness of the body, they judge old age to be a hardship on no other score than because it puts them aside. The law does not draft a soldier after his fiftieth year, it does not call a senator after his sixtieth; it is more difficult for men to obtain leisure from themselves than from the law. Meantime, while they rob and are being robbed, while they break up each other’s repose, while they make each other wretched, their life is without profit, without pleasure, without any improvement of the mind. No one keeps death in view, no one refrains from far-reaching hopes; some men, indeed, even arrange for things that lie beyond life—huge masses of tombs and dedications of public works and gifts for their funeral-pyres and ostentatious funerals.

But, in very truth, the funerals of such men ought to be conducted by the light of torches and wax tapers, as though they had lived but the tiniest span.

“It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”

-Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Posted in Life lessons

The power of patience 

In my daily journey I tend to get things in bundles, whether food or inspiration or exercise or love or hate. It comes in bursts and bundles at a time. Today’s journey brought me to patience and small steps. It brought me to persistence and percervierance. I may have at one time or another discussed moon shots with a number of you in private. I just want to elaborate on that a bit and unravel the idea. The idea that moon shots are not some huge leap forward but rather tiny steps in a direction that lead to an amazing end state.  Our world gets faster and better by the minute but does our quality of life or our definition of success? As we set goals and try to achieve we seem to get lost in the minutea. So as of late I have opened up “Daily Rituals” a book by Mason Currey. This book curates about 160 great authors, composers, artists, scientists, leaders and countless others who have made their mark on humanity in one way or another. It talks about their habits and quirks. How they went about their lives sometimes following routines and sometimes haphazardly. It talks about their addictions as well as best and worst practices. It speaks to the human condition and if you read all the way through you discover patterns and commonalities.

This goes without saying that I re-discovered Simon Sinek and some other very amazing TedX alumni who discuss the human condition. It amazes me how our 50 billion year old species have survived and thrived to become today’s sapien. How we have overcome great obstacles and met challenges head on. But lest we forget that those same challenges and obstacles plague our everyday existence now. We still have the same drive and curiosity. The same fatigues and compulsions. The same caring and compassion. The same hatred and destructive tendencies. Trying to glean insight from those who have walked the toughest paths.  I see these subtle commonalities more and more. I ask myself how to overcome obstacle and challenges. How do I be a better person than I was yesterday? I come back to the same conclusions. It all comes back to the human condition. The soon to be forgotten art of human interaction. As I sit and write this from my balcony sipping a delicious glass of Malbec and listening to the critters of the night sing their melodies I am surrounded by no one. Nobody to discuss things with. No one there to laugh with or ask about their family. Yet I’m not completely alone. I do some of my deepest mental processes by myself. But I will not discount the value of having someone else around from time to time in order to make sense of what I’m thinking about or discovering. A mentor, a relative, a lover, a friend all of which I have in my life at the moments when I really need to talk. It’s this simple act of communication that builds the bond. This conversation that truly inspires at the end of the day. Being able to interact and feel that visceral meaningful human condition.

As of late I’m working on one of the scariest things I can imagine. Working on business plans and real estate deals. It’s all becoming very real after only discussing and dreaming for what seems like an eternity. Bouncing ideas and asking complicated questions to know I’m headed in the right direction. But the action is what really moves the aspiration forward. But it is a very slow process. Maybe it’s just me who is impatient. And that is how the world really works. A combination of true human interaction, which builds relationships, which drives the plot of life forward, which ultimately produces a desired (or in some cases a not so desired) outcome. It’s a long slow journey at times but the result is always the same. You head down a path. You start off in a direction. The road twists and turns. The seasons change. Summer to fall, winter to spring and then back to summer. Time passes but eventually if you face a direction and keep on that course you will reach your destination. Take the time to study the path you are on. Make meaningful connections with people along your path. Have patience and persistence. You will end up where you belong. It might be far from what you envisioned but that is the amazing thing about it. We end up where we are supposed to end up. As long as your compass is true the end game is guaranteed to be fruitful.

Posted in Life lessons

A moment of silence and retrospect… the shot heard around the world


This is not one of the things I do well in life.  I am not trying to bridge some gap between what happened 15 years ago and how it relates to business or real estate or health.  I have an obligation as an American and as a Soldier to submit to a somber quiet moment in order to reflect on the past.  It is this day in particular that has reshaped the way our entire world operates.  Today is a day that, unlike many others, I am able to look back and re-trace my steps.  It is a vivid reminder that no matter what happens in life that our lives are very fragile and unpredictable.  It is this very day that reminds me to be awake, alert, and aware of my surroundings in any given situation.

September 11, 2001:

I was 5 years into my Army career in a place called Darmstadt, Germany.  Living the life that most would dream of.  I was overseas enjoying all the pleasures of Europe while being able to pay my bills and not have much to worry about.  It started out as a very normal day indeed.  I remember it was nice outside with a few clouds but the sun was shining.  We were getting close to the end of the day (Germany time) having already eaten lunch and doing the odds and ends we had to complete before going home.  Then a formation was called early.  Our First Sergeant called us all together to inform us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and that we should get to a phone or to our email as soon as possible to try to contact our families who might be in NYC or elsewhere so they knew that we were safe and to see if they were ok.  I remember a pit in my stomach and that uneasy feeling of a surreal moment.  I knew none of my family were NYC or anywhere near New York so I went straight to my room and turned on the TV to see the live stream of what had transpired.  I remember putting a VHS tape in my VCR and pushing record.  I think the second plane had just hit the other tower when I started recording and they were replaying both back and forth on the screen.  The ticker at the bottom of the screen was rolling.  There was a sense of despair and uncertainty on the faces of the news anchors.  I let that tape run for the better part of 10 hours.  I still have the tape to this day.

Within the next 30 minutes another formation was called and the big question was who knows how to run guard duty.  I am no expert at it but I had done it in Bosnia and also in my Army training over the years.  My hand instinctively went up.  Looking around, and it may have been the pure shock of what was going on, I really didn’t see anyone else’s hand in the air.  The First Sergeant or my Platoon Sergeant (not sure at this point) said, “You’re it SGT McConnell, get a team of Soldiers together and get some supplies to build up guard shacks around the housing area (something to that effect)”.  Little did I know that I would be in charge of a lot more than a few Soldiers and guard shacks.  We gathered empty sandbags, wood, rope, radios, weapons, and ammunition and headed down to the housing area to start setting up.  The makeshift guard shacks that we set up would later transform into permanent inspection points for guards until the day they finally closed down the Army assets in Darmstadt.

Let me digress for just a moment to explain the openness of that base until that point.  The gates were open and anyone and everyone was able to casually walk through from one end to the other.  German school kids, Germans going to their gardens, normal pedestrians, civilians, and Military personnel walked freely through the post.  It was for the most part an open post.  Not to say there were not times when the gates were closed for security training or some kind of threat but for the most part it was open and everyone was able to move about freely.

So here we all were myself and a bunch of Soldiers from my unit, filling sandbags and piecing together some sort of check point.  We had to figure out rosters for the shifts, figure out the logistics for food and water and ammo.  We came up with the radio protocols and ROI (Rules of Engagement).  We were doing this all from scratch and from memory of doctrine that had not been changed in well over a couple decades if not longer.  That initial push of 30-40 hours straight without much rest and basically running off adrenaline and deep rooted fear was one of those moments in life where you have to step back a little in order to see the all encompassing meaning of everything going on around you.  One moment we are about to head home for the day, the next we are in our full gear with loaded weapons mindful of every single noise and movement.  We didn’t know if there was some broad scale attack on America or what was going on.  No one did.  Hyper-vigilance is the word I like to use to describe this type of situation.  Being completely awake, alert and aware of your surroundings.  This is something I tell my kids all the time so they understand that it doesn’t matter what you are doing or where you are at.  You don’t have to be paranoid but you do have to be cognizant of what is happening all around you.  That is how you stay safe in most all situations.  In the midst of all of the mixed emotions and lack of understanding a strange thing started to happen.  Germans from all around the city were coming to the gates and guard stands.  There was no threat from them but rather an immense solidarity and empathy.  They were in as much awe as we were.  They were saddened just as much as we were.  We had been a staple of their community since the end of Nazi Germany, well over 50 years at that point, and they came to show their condolences for our entire nation.  The brought candles and flowers and cards and tears to our barricades and laid them right in front of us.  They sobbed and sang songs and offered up every ounce of gratitude because we were there in case something like this happened on their soil and because of our recent losses.  This was one of those moments where you see true human compassion and comfort.  One of those moments where, as a Soldier with a loaded rifle pointed in their general direction, you just wanted to walk up to them and say thank you and hug them and cry with them.

I was not in the United States when 9/11 happened but I did get to witness the recoil of a shot truly heard around the world.  I got to witness raw human compassion.  That day I got to truly understand and embrace what being a human being is about.  In my humble opinion it is about being kind to people.  Its about understanding that life is short and things happen in a moment.  Its about understanding that up to that moment when life ends there is time to make decisions that will better yourself, your friends and family, the world around you.  Its about seeing life go on despite hardship and grief.  Its not about blame or justice.  Mother nature doesn’t blame anyone when she destroys life.  Mother nature is not just in her actions.  She is however indiscriminate.  Its about rebuilding… not being afraid…not being sad…mourning but not spiraling into self pity.  Being human is about living the most productive and fulfilling life you can because tomorrow… everything could change.

Posted in Life lessons

Gratitude and the art of paying it forward.

It’s been more than a little while since I’ve last posted. This time I actually want to give a little back to one or more people who have really influenced change in my life. I would say changed my life but that wouldn’t be entirely true. The change comes from within and the influence comes from everywhere else.

To go through life blindly and not seek knowledge is nowhere in my agenda. I have however spent more than a few years in the dark ages. Maybe not the most productive years of my life in my own opinion. Now I make it my daily mission to learn something new and interesting every day. I also strive to disconnect myself more and more from mainstream media. It’s a black hole that will always have an enormous gravitational pull and it does shape the lives of many people I come in contact with. I know the cliff notes of what is happening in the world but I definitely do not know up to the minute reports from CNN or Fox. I try to stay away from the media like it is some sort of disease (in a sense it really is a disease).

There have been multiple people I have come across in my live (real, fiction, alive and dead) who have truly made an enormous impact on me. To say that I’m a total fanboy of Tim Ferris would be an understatement and for this not to come across as a sales pitch for him is probably not beyond realistic expectations. I’m just a normal person who has a man crush on a truly inspiring and influential person. Let me explain…

As some of you know I started on a journey which took me off on a few tangents. It was a death in the family that sparked a divorce and eventually another love life that didn’t end up how I planned it. This journey took me to a couple places  and moved me across the country more than a few times. It persuaded me to open a book that would ultimately be a catalyst to reading and absorbing knowledge. Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence. A very dense book about EQ and human psychology. This book led me to a guy on the Internet in a garage with a Lamborghini and a Ferrari – Tai Lopez. The 67 steps that opened up my mind to what is really more important: health, wealth, love, and happiness. Happiness being probably the most important. 12 ish months and 100+ books later I discovered, Brandon Turner, Josh Dorkin and a ton of other real estate smart people. A community that not only talked about real estate but some of the values and beliefs I was starting to adopt as important.

Enter #timtimtalktalk. I can’t really remember the first podcast but I remember vividly hearing everyone complain about this 4 hour guy and what a bunch of bullshit this book has to be. Nobody can have a 4 hour workweek. Obviously hearing everyone talk shit about it is what attracted me to it. I need to know for myself that everyone else is crazy. I’ve heard the stories too many times about too many things… The rumors and the myths. Investigate and disprove the bullshit (one of Tim’s and my core principles). So I read the damn book. It was a complete eye opening experience. It’s not about working 4 hours a week, it’s about condensing and optimizing your time so that you can compress 40 hours of nonsense into a few hours of hyper-productivity. It’s about doing the few right things that matter. It’s not about doing busy work for the sake of being or looking busy.

So naturally I had to see what else this guy was about. The myth was busted but is he just a one hit wonder self help guru?

The Tim Ferriss Show to date has been the most optimally enhanced information I have ever ingested. Period. It has completely raised the bar for everything I spend my time listening to or reading or watching. Every single episode I learn something completely new and sometimes very dense in nature. It leads me to places and people I never would have met in the course of my regular day. It begs me to ask the hard questions, the right questions in order to get to the important overarching answers.

So as I walk through Barnes and Noble and I pass by Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli, Ryan Holiday, BJ Novack, Glen Beck, Kevin Kelly, Josh Waitzkin, Jocko Willink, Amanda Palmer, Rolf Potts… The list could go on forever. Amazing and interesting people that I am able to connect with on a whole other level through one mans tenacity to interview people on a human level. To extract all of the great conversations and stories that come from a very personal interaction. I will say it’s probably one of the most inspiring parts of my life right now to be able to ingest so much knowledge and information on an enormous scale. So this is my official, long winded, thanks to Tim and many other mentioned here.

And as journeys go usually you are on a journey when a new one begins right in the middle of the old one. I look up from my blogging banter and see a familiar author on the table – Jonathan Haidt. And at that very moment I have to ask and find out who is reading this amazing book. Turns into a couple hour conversation and me, doing what a lot of amazing people do, gifting a copy of one of the best short reads and a gateway drug into reading and embracing knowledge… Discovering the “good life” and just general life lessons. Seneca – on the shortness of life. It all seems to come full circle.

I guess that is the end state in all of this. Life is short, depending on how you spend your time. Getting information and knowledge is one thing. If you never pass any of that knowledge on to anyone else you have just wasted your time and everyone else’s in the process. So give back 10x the value you get in. That’s what Tim does every day and that’s what I strive to do as well.

So in my most non-creepy and humble voice. Tim Ferris – Thank you…for cotinuing to bring enormous value to this world and introducing me to an amazing bunch of people….raising my expectations and aspiration…

Posted in Finance, Life lessons

Managing your money and the 10000 year old hunter gatherer

hello everyone! Just spent a turbulent week going over a lot of things in my head and making some progress forward with important things in my life. As an aspiring real estate investor I have come to realize one major thing in my life. You can’t manage real estate or investments unless you can manage yourself. I have spent an enormous amount of time doing this over the last year and I will continue in the next 12 months to push forward managing myself and optimizing my life. I have made leaps and bounds just in the last 12 months and started off 2016 with the same vigor in my future. As someone turning 40 this year I am slowly realizing things that I was never taught or never learned in school. But I am completely focused on making major changes in my life at a rapid fire pace in order to right some of the wrongs. So what exactly am I talking about?
Over the last 12 months I have re-discovered myself and re-discovered things that make me move forward as well as things that hold me back. I am doing daily tasks that will compound over months and years and bring me a huge return in my investment. Yes I could be talking specifically about money but money isn’t everything. Wait, didn’t you just say sometime last year that a millio… I know. Just listen for a min. Money is what you need to survive in the modern world but our perspective of it and how it works is sometimes skewed. Money creates opportunities. Money pays bills. But money also gives us choices and for some of us choices are bad. Too many of them at least. I have spent a somewhat comfortable life until about a year ago when I decided that most everything I learned was wrong. My focus was in the wrong place. My money was in the wrong place. I have always been able to pay my bills but I like everyone else thought that earning was the key to success. It’s not. Let me just say you have to earn in order to save but not only that you have to save in order to earn. So what can I do right now to make that mentality a reality?
Cut your spending. Increase your saving. Use your saving for investing. Leverage your investing for more saving and investing. I am a podcast junkie. There, I said it. I am also a book junkie. They kind of go hand in hand. I am listening and reading Tony Robins book on money as well as his book on Awakening the Giant (which I discovered from the Tim Ferriss podcast). The money book is my main focus however. He studies and breaks down the 7 steps in creating a financial future for yourself and your family. The thing about all of these self help books and ideas is that not all of them work the same for every person. We are all at different points in life and all moving in different directions. You have to read all of it. Find the patterns. Tease out what works for you. NOT be so stuck in your ways to not see a better way. So save, earn, invest, rinse and repeat is the basic premise. The main point I would glean from all of it is cut your spending! What are you spending money on? Is that spending in line with your goals? Are you tracking any of this at all or are you too busy tracking your fantasy football team? Priorities and goals have to line up. I can see this is Turing out long so let me get to my last point(s).
Podcasts… If you are a good friend of mine you probably have that link sitting in a message from me. So this show is normally about real estate investing but this particular week hit a major nerve for me in a good way. I have been studying the greats throughout history and looking for the patterns that made them great. Hal Elrod is on the show talking about his book “Miracle Mornings” and his 6 steps of overall happiness and productivity. Funny enough I find myself at this point in time already doing 4/6. Here they are in order:
S ilence: meditation
A ffirmation: what do you want to do? Why do you want to do it? What are the obstacles? What do you do to overcome them? When do you do it?

V isualization: visualize the end results. Feel the emotions involved with those results. What do you have to do today to get to those results?

E xercise: stretching and mild cardio (5-10min) along with any other workout plan you already have.

R eading: (books/podcasts/blogs/documentaries)

S cribing: journaling

SAVERS. If you want to know the details, listen to the podcast and then go read the book. These are the common things that all successful people do. Most successful people only do one or two of these things. Why not do all of them 10 min each, first thing in the morning, everyday. It will change your life forever! I promise! Although it may seem all over the place I want to just emphasize that you have to manage yourself. They even have a book on it by Peter Drucker called “Managing Oneself”. Sit down today for 5- 10 min and dump everything from your brain on paper. That is a great place to start! From there open your mind to the tools that are sitting in front of you and take control of your life. If not for your own sake for those you love and care about! Be blessed and be humble! Until next time.