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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!

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Taking a month off from email.

Sounds like the dream state. In a way it is. When you dream minutes feel like hours. That’s what taking a month off from email is like. Not to be completely disconnected but just enough to figure out that the majority of emails are really consequential. We spend hours a day checking emails. Those hours compound into days and those days to months and years over time. By filtering and not checking emails constantly we liberate ourselves from the humdrum noise that surrounds us everyday. This allows for more focused thinking on what is really important. Not everyone can do cold turkey well but we can all cut back a little at a time.
One approach to cutting back on background noise is to simply turn it off like I did. I really had to do a lot of extra work just to check email. I said to myself if it is going to require so much extra work then I am just not going to go through the trouble of checking it at all. It worked for me. Another small detail is that for months prior I had already conditioned my email contacts to understand that even when I am checking my email I only do it officially 2 times a day. I sat down a few months ago and set up an out of office reminder for the remainder of my time left in the military that I would only be checking email at 10 am and 4 pm everyday. All other times would be at my leisure. For those people who really have the need to contact me they have my cell phone and can contact me directly. This has set the stage for me to disconnect without the guilt of thinking people are waiting patiently for me to reply. It takes a lot of burden off of everyone’s shoulders.

If cold turkey is not your thing you could start with filter so that you only see emails from known senders. Of course you will still have some emails that are not important show up in your inbox but the majority of junk mail will end up in its proper place. The junk mail folder. Setting up the out of office reminder is a prerequisite to getting things to work properly. Once this out of office is set you have now established parameters for yourself as well as everyone else. Total freedom only works when you set boundaries. Without boundaries we become lethargic in our ways. Set boundaries and set limits to keep your day more productive and to keep your sanity. (This didn’t just apply to email, it applies to many other aspects of life)

Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. If anything sit down and write out a small post it of the one most important thing you need to do and then focus on that one thing. Taken from a blog I recently read, try the 1-3-5 method. The one single most important thing on top. Below that 3 other things that might be important to accomplish once you knock out the one big thing or in tandem once the one big thing is started. Then 5 other things you can do if all of the above are completed. The blog written by Nicolas Burka talks about this process and his app the One Big Thing he created specifically for this purpose.

Again the main thing I want to stress is not to stress. Don’t let email run your life, business, or otherwise. If you are getting that much email and it really is detrimental to your business then find a systematic way to process it all and then hand that system off to someone else (virtual assistant) to process for you. You don’t have to be in complete control of email. You can offline most of it. This approach may not work for everyone but I think the fundamental idea is a great idea for anyone wanting to win back some hours out of their day. We are all tied to digital leaches that ding and whistle at us. The easiest way to escape or at least minimize their existence is the turn them off… Sometimes literally. 

Want to take it one step further? Pick a Saturday or Sunday and block off a few hours or even the whole day to turn off your devices. All of them. When you wake up the next day you will come to find with a 99% accuracy rate that no one has died and your job still exsists.

Any ideas for other ways you can win back your time and redirect it to more productive things in your life? Comment below. As always thanks for reading!

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Being in a happier state will increase your productivity

Ever notice if you are in a bad mood things seem to just grind to a halt. Your energy levels go down, little annoyances become the biggest irritations, you notice people around beginning to feel your distress and discomfort? Productivity and overall happiness are linked it seems. Along with that creativity would seem to suffer. Do you come up with your best strategies when you’re pissed off? One small exception is finding a source of inspiration when things might seem their worst. But that’s not to say that if you have inspiration the effects wouldn’t be multiplied with a better overall general mood. 

Lets reel this back into something quite relatable. Do you have a breaker or two in your house that keep going out. You replace the breaker and then it blows again within a few days or even hours. It’s times like these where you may need to step back and look at the broader overall problem. It may be faulty wiring in the walls that’s causing the issue. As difficult as it may be to trace down an electrical problem sometimes that’s what you have to do. Be a good troubleshooter. So being a great electrician and figuring out the problem isn’t the core competency you should strive to improve. Being a great troubleshooter, someone who can break down any problem into its component pieces and figure out what the unlikely cause is would be the thing to continually work at. Let’s throw stress and frustration into the equation. Would you be better at analysis if you were upset or if you had a calm mind and a better overall outlook of the world in general?  I think we can all agree a calmer mind is a better sandbox to problem solve in than a cluttered and frustrated brain. 

Why does this matter? How you do one thing is how you do anything… Please re-read this and maybe highlight for future reference. It’s really cliche and obvious but the most profound realizations are lost in cliches. So how do you “fix the problem”? I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the Internet as a disclaimer. I do spend a lot of my time studying the human mind and the psychology why things happen the way they do. It all boils down to the breaker problem. Fixing the breaker isn’t going to fix the problem in most cases. Fixing the underlying wiring will.

So how do we tackle fixing our happiness level? Here are some tips that have helped me tremendously:

Meditation and mindfulness. As silly as it may seem a few minutes of mindfulness go a long way and compound benefits over time. I have been practicing meditation for about a year now and I can tell you the positive effects have been overwhelming. Just 20 minutes a day is all it takes. The more the better of course but you have to start small. The best initial win you can have is to just sit down and spend some time every day getting into a practice of mindfulness. I recommend a couple apps: CALM, OMVANA, HEADSPACE. These are all guided meditation apps. The easiest being calm and headspace. Don’t make the goal to be in a meditative state for 10 or 20 mins straight. Make the goal to consciously sit down and shut everything off. Turn on the app. Close your eyes and just breathe. That’s all you have to do. Give the results a week or two to appear. You will find that 10 slow concentrated breaths at a given point in the day will completely transform your mood when you are stuck or pissed off. It will allow you to think clearly and not blow up when you otherwise would.

Routines. Some of the easiest ways to get to a more controlled state is to incorporate routines in your life. A morning ritual such as making your bed as soon as you wake up. It doesn’t have to be perfect (as a disclaimer for life none of it has to be perfect but the more conscious effort you put in the better the overall effect). None of us are Martha Stuart. You don’t have to be unless you want to really be the master of hospital corners. The point is to get a quick win as soon as you wake up. Would you rather start the day with a win or start the day with a stubbed toe? Your choice.

Writing down goals. I’m actually far from the best when it comes to this but I try. I don’t want a trophy or a round of applause because I happen to sit down and do something. Nor do I want the wrath of a thousand judge mental eyes when I don’t. Writing down your 3-5 goals for the day helps you to prioritize what’s really important. Going beyond the 3-5 goals try to figure out which one of these, when accomplished, would render all others obsolete or unimportant. Some of you may have read the book “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and if you have this one line repeated throughout the book is the most important thing (ironically funny how that rolls off the tounge). Wait, so you’re saying I just have to focus on one thing every day? Yup! Focus on getting that one massively important thing done. Then you can move onto all of the other tasks you need to accomplish. Even if you only get the one thing done and nothing else you have essentially completed the most important thing you need to do for the day! Much better than starting 10 tasks and only getting incremental progress on all of them.

STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP, STOP BEING A VICTIM, AND STOP BEING A GRUMPY SON OF A BITCH! At the end of the day you are only one person. I really could care less about your ethnic background or how you are a single parent of 3 or how your job only pays minimum wage and that’s just enough to keep the lights on let alone buy food. Don’t care about any of that. Do you victimize yourself? Do you tell yourself things about life in general that really are not true (limiting beliefs)? Do you get mad at the little things in life (don’t cry over spilled milk…it could have been wine)? Are you just grumpy and hate people, long lines, political drama, Isis, the color of your house, the zeros in your bank account? Cheer the fuck up and stop being such a grumpy ass! Life is way too short to worry and be fearful and stressful. You have 168 hours every week, just like everyone else. You choose to do with them what you want. Nobody else has a say in the matter. Your boss wants you to stay late for work? You are the ultimate descision maker. Your kids don’t want to eat the dinner you cooked? You are the ultimate descision maker. Your car is broke and you have to ask someone for a ride…and you don’t want to put the money aside for repairs and just wait for fate to take the wheel? You are the ultimate descision maker.

These are just a few solid tips to win the day and ultimately increase your productivity. These little tweaks might seem incidental on the outside but once they become an embedded part of your life you will wonder what you ever did without them. If you do feel like life is overwhelming don’t worry, it’s overwhelming for all of us! You are not alone. No matter the severity. We are all at some point in the storm. That is the mindset you should take away from all of this. The goal is not to get to the point of complete comfort, the goal is to get everything you can control in your life under you wing and manage it. If you do not manage it it will manage you.

Are there any other helpful tips you might have? Scribble them below. I promise not to be a grammar nazi. Have an amazing day and week!

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What I’ve learned about travel 

Travel can be an amazing subject and it can spark feelings of joy, happiness, excitement, discontent, and anxiety. Why such a broad array of emotions about travel? Travel is not something that everyone enjoys but it is something that most people dream of. Here is a pretty alarming statistic that may bring some insight:

“According to the State Department, there are 113,431,943 valid passports in circulation, which means 36% of Americans own a valid passport (and therefore 64% do not). Let’s assume that those with a valid passport have used it and those without have never been abroad — that means that a healthy majority of the population has never left the United States. Why not? How we decide to use our time and money are major factors in our failure to get abroad, as is a general lack of travel ambition.” – https://m.mic.com/articles/28780/why-64-of-americans-have-never-left-the-u-s#.oDNVPiCVV

Travel doesn’t have to be specifically outside of the US. Although some of the most interesting places you can visit lie outside of our borders. Despite the news reports about world events lately I would say most places outside of the US are actually a lot safer that inside our borders.

But let’s take a deeper dive into why Americans in general despise travel so much.

I haven’t been all over the world yet but I have been to 28 states. Basically every state east of the Mississippi River and a few to the west. I plan on seeing all of them before I die. I have also been to 17 countries in Europe as well as 3 countries in the Middle East. I can’t say that I have been scared to visit most except 2 or 3 countries in Europe and Southwest Asia. Even those countries were really not that bad once I was actually on the ground. So the fear factor of visiting another country compared to the fear factor of walking in the wrong neighborhood of any state in the US is marginal. One thing I will say about traveling anywhere whether in the US or abroad is to avoid large gatherings and try to stay away from the tourist traps that are out there. Big venues are where most bad things happen generally. 

Do you hate waiting in long lines at the grocery store? Then you will probably hate standing in long lines at the airport or train station. This is not a mass transit problem this is a temperament problem that lies within you. I completely enjoy travel delays and long lines whenever I can. I condition myself to understand that lines and delays are just a part of life. It’s not the line that will make you mad, it’s how you perceive the situation. I laugh a lot at airports when I see frustrated travelers trying to get from point a to point b. It’s a basic issue of people not calculating delays and problems along their journeys. Everyone wants things to go exactly as planned with no hiccups. That is far from reality whether you are traveling, renovating a house, or just fixing dinner. Things are going to happen that are way outside of your control. Learn to embrace these things and try to glean some insight and wisdom when things go wrong. This is probably the only way you will ever be able to travel happily despite minor discomfort. This applies to most things in life.

If you are not ready to get your passport but still would like to travel there are plenty of places to see right around the corner or farther. Again, delays and mishaps are going to happen. Embrace them. Places like national parks are great for anyone (especially kids). It’s a trip with a learning experience wrapped inside. National Parks Services have “passports” you can buy to log your travels and help you with future ideas on where to go and what to see. Make it a game and have fun with it.

Timeshare hopping is also another inexpensive way to check out some cool resort destinations. These are a little trickier and you just have to know how to say NO when asked if you want to purchase a vacation property. I personally wouldn’t recommend buying a timeshare or something like that but there are benefits of having them. Do your own research and see if the will be right for you or not. You do however have the possibility to spend a few nights in places like Gatlinburg or Orlando in a very spacious resort for very little out of pocket other than the actual travel time and expense. Make sure you block off the few hours you might need for the mandatory tour. Again, make it a game and have fun with it.

Another way to see some new places is to jump in your car and set a distance limit or time limit on how far you would like to venture out. Two ways to approach this road tripping experience: Find a spot and just go there and make some stops along the way if you see something interesting. A bee line is what most people prefer using only interstates and major highways. The second option is to eleminate all major roads and just make your way through all the small towns and scenic routes along the way. Stop when you find something that sparks your interest. You would be amazed what you will find driving off the beating path. 

Do you travel for work? Take you family with you. It may cost a little but the hotel and sometimes rental car are included. Your family can explore while you are in meetings and then all of you can converge in the evening for some sight seeing and dinner. 

The bottom line is embrace seeing and exploring. Travel is like being a beginner learning something new for the first time. I think the best way to do it is to fully immerse yourself in the culture and vibe. Embrace not knowing the language and possible pick up some language skills. It’s really not as hard as it would seem. Especially if you immerse and have no other choice. Have fun with it and make it a game! I plan on taking my first trip to Asia with my kids within the next 5 years and we are going to backpack and explore it fully. No fancy resorts just me and the childrens learning the language and the culture. Where will you travel next? Any tips or tricks you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below! Thank you for taking the time to read!

John

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Cheat day… My most least favorite day

Doing some dieting for the summer? Trying to get those 6 pack abs? Just trying to loose a little weight? 

I have been (surprisingly) following the slow carb diet for a while and specifically some things from the 4 hour body (fanboy) lately. Here is what I have gleaned so far…

1. No or slow carbs is probably the best thing you can do for your body… Period. There is so much crap in all kinds of foods and there really is no escaping GMOs and antibiotics because honestly even if you don’t ingest them directly, somewhere in the food chain you will find something genetically modified in your diet. Purists be damned. Just do a little research on vegetables from just 50 or 100 years ago and compare notes with what vegetables today look like. You tell me if I’m crazy. So cutting carbs, refined carbs specifically, can greatly improve your overall health. The body basically has a few million gut bacteria and a couple of them break down certain foods we eat into fuel the body can use. One of the most prominent is the bacteria that breaks down refined carbs (starches like white bread and white rice.. Basically anything white… Sorry Donnald Trump)and turns them into glucose (sugars) that fuel your organs (brain, muscles, liver, etc.).  Another breaks down fats and yet another breaks down proteins. If the front runner is the one making glucose the others will be terciarry (secondary or second string players) and will not provide as much because the handshake between the bacteria and the body says the body wants sugars as fuel that is what your body will try to optimize. 

Uber vs Taxis:

So the idea is to trick the body into understanding that it can function on other types of fuel from fats and proteins. If you took a running total just today of what you normally eat and figured out all of the nutrients you would see high carbs as well as high sugars and probably lots of empty calories. Cutting these out means the body must adhere to another option. HTC oils (coconut oil), pure fats (butter), lean proteins (eggs, fish) can provide the other bacteria a job and in turn tell the body to use these as fuel rather than glucose normally produced by sugars and refined carbs. This can create a state known as ketosis. So in actuality a slow/low carb diet is actually very similar to a ketogenic diet. A good thing in moderation. Ketosis can stimulate better brain function, focus, and better muscle fuel for synthesis. I’m not a doctor or an expert I just know what I have seen. So what about sugar and the other bugs in the stomach?

Cheat day 101:

I actually started this round on a cheat day. How convenient.. 😬 

Cheat day will do a couple things. It will give you something to look forward to. All the crap that you would like to ingest (candy, cake, carbs, crap… All the C’s). It will remind you that you don’t like eating excess of the junk because of how it makes you feel overall. It will confuse the body for a moment so when you go right back after 24 hours to a healthy low carb mostly protein diet production will resume and probably at a better rate. 

Does cheat day make you regain what you lost? Probably temporarily. I don’t use scales as a habit. I hate them and I think they do not show you anything useful. I would rather look in the mirror unbiased and see results. I would rather tape my parts or get a good body mass index (BMI) in order to really see what is going on rather than get the FOX news update from a scale. That’s all it really is. A quick snapshot on some antiquated technology. If you use a scale to track your progress you will be disappointed. If you are disappointed you will second guess yourself. If you second guess yourself you will quit.

Do you have to go all out on cheat day? You most certainly can. For me I am going to start my cheat day with the normal 30/30 (30g protein in the first 30min after waking up) and then see where the day goes from there. I guess the main thing about all of this is keeping glycemic index down, keeping insulin levels down and generally not eating crap. Crap is a pretty broad term but I can tell you this. As close to slow carb high vegetable high protein diet as you can get will do amazing things not only for your body but for your health. As a result I have not been to the doctor or even had a slight cold for over 2 years. I have not been completely consistent with working out but I have been mostly consistent with what I eat. To the point of having the same meal most of the time.

This is best maintained by making it simple and not thinking or working more than a few min a day fixing food. Keep it really simple and see if you can get food prep down to 10-15 min max. This will help you not get off track. Don’t forget to use your cheat day as a tool (when you crave something write it down and then on cheat day go get everything on the list). Even if you get off track a little know that you have already programmed a cheat day ahead of time and don’t beat yourself up about it at all. Bottom line is we are all human and we all use lust and desire once in a while. It’s pre programmed into our brains. Look at what you eat (nutritional facts) before you eat it and don’t always trust everything that is on the label. 

If you have any suggestions or comments about this topic I would love to hear what you have to say. It’s an open discussion not just my views. Put them below. And remember to have wonderful day above all! Til next time!

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Why is failure so important?

Failure, like death, is just an event. A dash with dates on both sides. The difference being death is permanent and failure is only temporary.

This is something I gleaned from Joshua Sheet – Radical Personal Finance. I took his words and made it my own but the basic premis holds true. Life is a series of events that take us on journeys and shape the way we view the world.

I know I have been speaking on death a lot but I think there is some real introspective value to it. Death is the final destination. Everything we do from the time we are born until death is what encompasses our life, or better said our life story. We are writing this story now. In the moment. Sitting down drinking a cup of coffee. Listening to kids playing in the grass. Watching the wind blow through the trees. Everything we experience is part of our life story. Including failure.

Failure itself is just another event like a cold or a skinned knee. It’s just something that happens. It’s how we perceive it (and anything else for that matter) which gives it meaning. It’s not a matter of if you will fail but when, and at what cost. Failure is going to happen and how prepared for it you are will determine how impactful it is on your life.

Failure can be many things but overall it should be a learning experience. Of all the things that come with failure knowledge is the one you should focus on. It’s this knowledge that should be used to evaluate future events. This knowledge sets the left and right limits of how you can approach things in the future. No failure is any less important so try to learn something from all of them.

Success is not defined by doing something great and not failing but rather failing enough and being persistent enough to stand behind what you believe until it becomes successful.

A great example of this is Andrew Cushman, a real estate investor who overcame his limits and persisted until he was able to be successful. Working toward his very first deal (2006) right before the market crash he made 4575 unsuccessful calls until on the 4576th he was able to find and secure a deal. That is massive persistence. That was his benchmark. 1 deal and then he could decide if it was worth it. How many times are you willing to fail before you are able to achieve success in whatever you are doing in life? How much do you believe in your goals and dreams? Enough to fail at them 4575 times? You can listen to his interview here in BiggerPockets.

Determination, persistence, bailie Bing in your goals and dreams and a lot of failure… Go after what you want no matter how hard and how long it takes. 

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Minimalist thinking…

I’m not one to always conform but at the same time I am one to think some rules make sense. Either way I find myself outside the lines of life and have found myself there many times over the years. This morning I was struck with an email that pretty much sums up what I think about many things. I would try to contact James and ask permission but he doesn’t answer email or phone calls… So out of respect I will included the entire unabridged email with embedded links to his site. Thank you James Altucher for a great article. And thank you to everyone who has found their way here… Enjoy:

How Minimalism Brought Me Freedom and Joy

J

James Altucher

to me

16 hours ago
“I like to be a wanderer…”

How Minimalism Brought Me Freedom and Joy

By: James Altucher

(read on site)

  
I have one bag of clothes, one backpack with a computer, iPad, and phone. I have zero other possessions.

Today I have no address. At this exact moment I am sitting in a restaurant and there’s no place for me to go to lie down.

By tonight I will find a place to lie down. Will that be my address? Probably not.
Am I minimalist? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t like that word. I live the way I like to live no matter what label it has.

At any moment, you are exactly where you want to be, for better or worse.

A lot of people get minimalism confused.

It’s not necessarily a good way to live. Or a free way to live for many people. It’s just the way I like to live.

I like to be a wanderer. Without knowing where I am going to end up. To explore with no goal. To love without expectation.

For now. Maybe not for later. Maybe not yesterday.

“Does minimalism mean not having a lot of possessions?”

No, not at all. I think minimalism means having as little as you require. That means different things to everyone.

For me, having little means I don’t have to think about things that I own.

My brain is not so big. So now I can think about other things. I can explore other ways of living more easily.

Some people don’t like that. I know many people who love roots. Who love being sentimental towards items. This is fine. Who am I to judge?

The other day I threw out my college diploma that was in storage. I threw out everything I had in storage. The last objects left in my life.

At 48 years old I have nothing and nowhere. Other than the people I love and the experiences I love.

A friend asked me, “You worked hard for that diploma. Are you sure you want to throw it out?”

Yes. I’ve worked harder for other things since then. I don’t keep all of these things around either. They are gone.

Society tells us a diploma is a special life achievement. It isn’t. It’s yesterday. I don’t hold onto all the things society tells me to hold onto

“How do you deal with kids if you are a minimalist?”

Like 50% of Americans or more, I’m divorced. I have two beautiful children with my first wife. I love my children very much.

I miss them almost constantly. I’m not minimalist if minimalism means having zero attachments. I’m attached to my kids.

I see them as much as I can. Sometimes they visit me (wherever I am) and sometimes I visit them. And some times they stay with me for an extended period of time.

I hope to talk to them every day for the rest of my life. If they lived with me I probably wouldn’t be able to live the way I do and I probably wouldn’t want to.

But life has delivered me to this shore. So I pick myself up and explore the jungle on this new island.

“Do you have to get off the internet to be a minimalist?”

Sometimes. For four million years we were “disconnected.” For 20 years we have been “connected.”

I have 238,795 unread emails in my inbox. Emails are a suggestion but not an obligation.

Love and spirituality and gratitude are found in personal connection. Not in an email response.

Sometimes I might return an email ten years later. Those are fun. I pretend like I just got the email a second ago and I return it, “Sure I’ll meet you for coffee tomorrow!” I get fun responses.

I never answer the phone. I have no voicemail. My phone number is 203-512-2161. Try it and see.

I go on Twitter one hour a week to do a Q&A every Thursday from 3:30 – 4:30 EST. 

I’ve been doing that for six years.. I post articles on Facebook but don’t really use it for anything else.

I have a kindle app on my iPad mini and read all of my books there.

I understand real books are beautiful. So I go to bookstores for hours and read them. But I won’t own them because they won’t fit in my one bag.

I never read random articles on the Internet unless they are by people I know. Mostly I read books I love.

A friend asked me, when he heard all of this, “But aren’t you afraid you’re going to miss some information?”

I asked him, “What information?”

99% of information we read, we forget anyway. The best way to remember is to “DO.”

Otherwise, I look at nothing online.

Experiences happen when you disconnect. And I choose experiences over goods or information.

“Does minimalism mean having few emotional attachments?”

I love my friends. I love my children. I love talking to people at a party or a dinner or an event and learning from them.

Love is minimalism. Desire, possession, and control are not minimalism.

Minimalism of things? No. Minimalism of fear, anxiety, stress, mourning.

I don’t like any intrigue. I don’t like to gossip about people.

When I do that, I feel like I am carrying those people in my backpack. So the more I gossip, the heavier my baggage is.

I don’t like feeling bad if someone doesn’t like me. That’s also baggage. I try to leave that behind.

And we’re all different. You never really know why someone is doing the things they are doing.

Sometimes its for deeply sad reasons. 

Sometimes they are projecting. 

Sometimes they had a bad day, or a bad life. Sometimes It’s for reasons we’ll never understand.

“Why did they do this?” or “Why is this happening to me?” won’t fit in my one bag.

Did I check the box on physical health, emotional health, creativity, and compassion today?

Those items don’t need to fit in my bag. They are gone by end of day. I’ll find them again tomorrow.

How do you get rid of an attachment that is in your baggage? I don’t really know.

I certainly carry around extra baggage. So I just get back to the four items I said above starting with physical health.

Then I always find my baggage is a little lighter.

“Does minimalism mean having no accomplishments?”

No. If anything, the more you accomplish, the more you can afford to get rid of the things society uses to hold you down.

Or, the reverse. Either way.

“Is minimalism healthy?”

Yes. Sometimes. For instance, I don’t like to eat more than I need. Although going extreme on that becomes an obligation to carry around.

I don’t like to have experiences that are unhealthy.

For me, experiences are always more important than material goods. A story is more important than a gift.

A material good might not fit in my bag. But a joyful experience is lighter than an atom.

I get to look forward to it beforehand. I get to have it. I get to remember it forever afterwards and learn from it and love it. And it weighs nothing.

What if an experience is not so joyful.

One thing I know: joy is a choice inside and not an emotion given to you.

Sometimes I make the wrong choice. I can’t help it. But sometimes I make the right one. I hope today I will.

“What are minimalist emotions?”

Love, joy, wonder, curiosity, friendship connection. These are things you give away. Not take from others.

Emotions that can’t fit in my bag: possession, control, anxiety, fear.

I don’t include anger. Anger is just fear clothed. When I’m angry I try to find the underlying fear. Get naked with it.

Am I good at this? Not really. I try to get better.

If I judge myself for something I did wrong then I just did two things I don’t like to do: the wrong thing, and the judging.

Minimalism is about not judging yourself or others.

“You have to have goals to succeed! How can you be a minimalist with goals?”

Goals are ways the mind tries to control you. “I need X to be happy.”

When I feel like I need something outside of me to be happy, I have to make room in my bag for it.

I don’t have enough room. I have some shirts and pants and toothpaste and a few other things. Goals don’t fit.

I have interests and things that I love to do. If I get better at those things each day (or try to) I feel good.

When I have less things in my bag, I feel more free. Did I get 1% more “free” today, whatever free means?

When I spend time with friends, I find joy in the connection. Sometimes the only thing we need in life is not a goal achieved but a hand to hold.

These three above items catapult me to achieve every goal I never had.

It’s magic.

“Should I sell my house and get a smaller house?”

No. Or…I don’t know. Don’t do it for a label. If you like your house, keep it. If you like your job, keep it.

Figure out the 10-15 things you want in your bag before you die tomorrow.

“What’s the first step I should take? Should I throw things out?”

I have no clue.

This is the problem with self-help books. They seem to be written by someone on a pedestal giving advice without having any blemishes.

I have too many blemishes to give advice. I am a homeless man with no address, with some failures and some successes and no possessions.

Today I can start over. Or today I can ask too many times: “Why?”

But there’s one thing I can do: I can always help someone else. That makes my day and life lighter.

Anyone can have miracles in their life.

Miracles don’t happen. Miracles are given.

“If you are a minimalist how come sometimes you have really long articles?”

Because I don’t care what you think about me.

Sent to: john.a.mcconnell@gmail.com

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Why are the most important things important?

Do you ever get started on a project and wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing? You have this feeling in your gut that tells you something is worthwhile. Even if it isn’t worthwhile in the end the gut steers us in directions for reasons and it begs to questioned. Why do we follow it? What is that gut feeling trying to tell us. And ultimately, why not follow it into the depths of hell and back.

Our gut is sort of like our moral compass. It knows instinctively what is right and wrong and it automatically chooses based on some sort of algorithm that is programmed from our core values and beliefs. We may or may not know what those beliefs and values are but our brain and our gut (more importantly our soul) know. If this is the case then why wouldn’t we ever not trust our gut? Our monkey mind, bird brain, congnitive self. The conscious thoughts we have are there to question what our unconscious tells us. The amigdala and other parts throw fear and uncertainty into the pot to create a stew of doubt. Not only can this fear and doubt stifle us from the beginning but it can hamper us along the path as well. So just because you “go off your gut” doesn’t meant you are out of the forest. Not even close.

Along the way, once you’ve chose to follow the smarter of the shoulder pigeons (those entities of good and evil that tell you what to do… Also related to gut feelings) what happens next? Let me give you an example. 

I decide one day to rescue and animal from a shelter. I find an amazing cat and decide she is the one. I think I saw her twice. It was a timing decision as well as a gut decision. I wouldn’t call it pressure sales but similar. In cases like that you have to think quickly and you have to trust your instincts. Now we may say our instincts can lead us wrong… I beg to differ. I think your instincts can lead you right based off of your morals and core beliefs. If you question those morals and core beliefs then things could go wrong and internal conflict will happen. So back to the cat, Eden. The perfect name, the fervent but calm demeanor, the perfect color and pattern (silver Bengal). What could go wrong? The thing about animals from a shelter they are usually a crap shoot. No matter how loving they seem there are things under the surface that you can’t possibly understand without knowing the background. This particular cat was a first time show winner, bred a few times in a habitat full of cats with little personal space and even less one-on-one human interaction. She is an amazing cat with amazing qualities but she has some hidden demons(don’t we all). I spent the better part of a couple months doing everything I thought was right but not able to get her to fully come out of her shell. I was ready to give up thinking that she was just not happy. Truth is she wasn’t happy but there are ways to help bring her back to some kind of normalcy. Then the night before I was intending on bringing her back she decides to come out and spend time with me and show me affection like never before. What do you say to that? A sign from God maybe? Long story even longer I end up not bringing her back but being reinvigorated to try even harder. We are now on the third inning. But I’m not giving up on her. She deserves the best and she will eventually have it once she lets down her guard and trusts people again.

The thing is we give up. And sometimes we give up right on the cusp of things changing for the better. We put tons of effort into something only to give up before it has time to blossom. That’s where this gut feeling comes full circle. If your gut told you it was the right decision… And you continue to believe it is the right decision and trust your gut then eventually, it may take months or years sometimes, it will come to fruition. Your gut feeling is great but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. You must have faith that your gut know what is best. And by having faith in your gut means you have faith in yourself. And that, is the most important thing of all. Elon musk started these companies, you may have heard of some of them and they were a result of him trusting his gut against all conventional wisdom. Are they booming companies now?? Yep. Were they all on the brink of failure and as a result left Elon to spend every last dollar he has to keep them afloat? Yes indeed. It took years and plenty of failure before SpaceX Tesla and SolarCity became what they are today. So you have to believe in you and be your own biggest fan. Sometimes, a lot of times, no one else will.

May your decisions be wise, your work be hard, your failures be many, and your harvest bountiful!

Farewell.

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Work harder not harder.

In life’s travels sometimes you end up putting in hours that you do not plan for.  At the end of the day there are a couple things that will keep you living a long life: Working hard and doing healthy things.  This is paraphrased from a man I met a couple weeks back who is now 99 years old.  Just to shake the hand of someone who has seen a century of life and to see he is still moving and vibrant at such an age is amazing in itself.  It brings me to wonder in my journey where will things lead and how long do I have.

Of all the things we keep track of and consider to be important to us there are expendable things and there are non-expendables.  I would consider money to be in the expendable category.  Although you need it to get through life, it is something that is replaceable.  I mean anyone can earn money.  Money is a venture sought by all in one way or another.  It magnifies what is already inside of us.  For some that may be greed.  For others that may be philanthropy.  Resources (usually exchanged for money) are also replaceable.  Things like cars and clothes and homes.  The one commodity that we have in limited supply and is not replaceable is time.  Time is of the essence.  Time is money.  Time … is on my side.  Time is an abstract thing to think about because we place constraints on it just in the way we describe it.  We call people old on one hand but clock our best lap around the track or fastest mile on the treadmill down to the second.  Ultimately we take time for granted.  Who is older a 10 year old child or an 80 year old man?  Depends on when they are scheduled to leave this life.  How about a 10 year old child with stage 4 cancer and a relatively healthy 80 year old man?  Changes things a bit doesn’t it?  We have to take a look and explore this in order to space out our decisions and goals.

We all try to practice some sort of time management but I ask is there a difference between someone who “uses their time wisely” or someone who is lackadaisical in their time consumption?  I think it ultimately comes down to one key thing.  Using our time to achieve our goals in life.  In order to do that in the most efficient way we have to know what we want.  This is probably the hardest thing to focus on because we have so many choices in this life of ours.  I know I am heading down a rabbit hole but bear with me, there is light at the end of this tunnel.  We are guided by what we see and hear.  We are also guided by our internal compass.  We know deep down what we really want to do but a lot of the time we are diverted into the “normal” life, depending on our surroundings.  It makes the difference between the 10,000 year old hunter/gatherer who evolves into a machine making, sword wielding, horse riding, manufacturing, technologically advanced being or just someone who continues to travel at the breakneck speed of the hunter/gatherer for millennium.  There are still people living in the 10,000 year old world today on this planet.  In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, Covey describes the two circles of influence.  The inner (smaller) circle represents things within our control.  This smaller circle is super imposed inside of the larger circle which represents things out of our control.  When things in the larger circle impose their will on the things in the inner smaller circle that is when conflicts arise.  Mostly we should be concerned with things in the smaller circle because those are the things we can control.  Those are the things that ultimately matter and things that should shape and guide our decisions about what we want and who we aspire to become.  So it comes down to your sphere of influence and core values and beliefs.

Setting up your life to point toward what it is you want out of life frees up a ton of processing power on your brain.  This also allows you to make educated on-the-spot- decisions without overthinking if something is worth your time and effort.  The disclaimer to all of this would be that we are all human and are all capable of getting off track.  We are also all capable of much more than we could even dream of!  We have the ability to make massive changes in our worlds and powers beyond belief.  You just have to set yourself free from the stigmas and people around you who tell you things are impossible.  If that is your inner dialog then maybe its time you sit down with yourself and have a good heart to heart and let yourself know that you will not stand for mediocre thoughts and behaviors.

Don’t go at it alone.  Find someone or something to hold you accountable whether an app where you can put real money in escrow and that have that money go to your least favorite charity if you don’t stick to what you said you were going to do or someone who is maybe doing something similar to what you are trying to accomplish who helps push you (and you do the same for them).

Without going off on too many more tangents I will leave it at that.  Some things to think about when you have free time in front of the TV or you are just staring at your computer screen at work wondering why you are even there in the first place.  You would be surprised what a little introspective thought will do for you.  Don’t be too alarmed when you find out that things are not all that you planned for.  Don’t be alarmed when you find yourself a bit disappointed.  Just know there is always time to do course corrections.  Its never too late to change anything.

 

Enjoy!

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The learning curve and how to run with scissors

Been a while… Blog broke. Thought I lost my original posts. Luckily I have the power of multiple platforms and devices that seem to cache (store things in memory) at random intervals. As long as they don’t sync (or sink depending on how much coffee you’ve had) then you are in good shape. Which leads me to today’s topic. Like always the disclaimer is that I may jump all over the place. Viewer discretion advised.

Two is one, one is none. The age old adage about having a backup to a backup. Like anything in life having a plan b-z is always the best thing to do. Even if you never have to rely on plans b-z the one time you don’t incorporate them will be the time you wish you did. Another cliche I should add to this, how you do one thing is how you do anything. If you half ass something believe that behavior will bleed over into other things. A book I’m re-reading, The book of five rings by Myamoto Musashi talks about practicing with all of the determination and tenacity of the real event you are practicing for. Back up plans are a direct relation to this. Would you travel with only one pair of underwater? Probably not. We all want to be investors and entrepreneurs deep down but some of us treat the businesses we start as a hobby. Treating it as a legitimate Bonafide business from the start will enable you to ask the right questions. To plan for all of the downsides and upsides. To understand things that matter in a real business instead of incramentally building. This allows you to starting at attack speed from the beginning.

Let’s look at this a little deeper. Incramental movement versus exponential movement. I know I have mentioned it somewhere before but this is a key factor that separates the real business people from the fake. We are all brought up in the world that wants us to take our time and take incramentally steps. Do you know what would have happened if Mozart or Warren Buffet would have started by taking incramentally steps? Right, nothing would have happened. Mozart started playing and writing music when most of us were starting kindergarten. Buffet read every financial book in the Omaha public library somewhere around 11 years old. We don’t know what we are capable of until we actually are doing the unthinkable. If we start out in this frame of mind then anything on the outside is going to look slow and unreasonable. This is a hard thing to do, flipping unconventional wisdom on its head but it is the counterintuitive things in life that are usually the most successful.  Of course Mozart and Buffett were surrounded by people (their team) who helped nurture them along the way. Which brings me to my last point.

“Show me your friends and I will show you your future” ~Dan Peña. You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. It’s been said by many but heeded by few. You have to run like your life depends on it (it truly does) when it comes to people dragging you down. I’m not saying you have to fire everyone and cut everyone out of your life. That’s entirely your decision. I’m saying that if you want to be successful at anything you have to have a strong team in place. Whether in sports, politics, investing, public speaking, there has to be supportive people who are hopefully 5-10 years ahead of where you are now. People you can look up to and strive to be like. They don’t all have to be mentors but you have to have people there who can inspire and push you to your limits. You wouldn’t say oh I’m going to marry my childhood sweetheart because she is pretty average and I think she will really not make me do anything outside of my comfort level… I don’t want the best looking woman out there. I want average. That’s what I deserve… Think about that for a min.

These are just a few things that flew through my head over the course of this past week. Always look to improve yourself and your situation. Always be thankful for what you have and what you have not. Enjoy.