• Why You Need to Put a Boot in What Everyone Else is Doing

    WhyYouNeedToPutaBootinWhatEveryoneElseisDoing

    Being different is a revolving door in your life where secure people enter and insecure exit.–Unknown

    You were born an original. Don’t die a copy. Read how being different can be refreshing in this GRIT blog post.

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  • Will to be weird

    10 Ways You Must be Weird to Live a Simple Rich Life

    Will to be weird

    (6 minute read)

     

    When you’re the only sane person, you look like the only insane person. –Criss Jami

    How Strong is Your Will to be Weird?

    If you are going to succeed at living a simple, rich life your will to be weird is going to have to be rock solid.

    Here’s why. Everything about our culture tells us we must fit in. It is as if there is a script written for every American citizen. It goes something like this: get good grades in high school, get a college degree, get a great job, buy a house, car, more clothes than you can wear, furniture and a lot of other stuff you can’t pay for, get married, have kids, heap up a massive amount of debt while doing all this, work more, buy more, work more, buy more, work till you die.

    We spend our entire lives working for who? To get what? To rest when? Why? All because our culture tells us to. Those of us who want to squash this script have our work cut out for us.

    To derail this train takes guts, effort, and a deep-seated willingness to be weird.

    Here are just a few ways you’re going to have to be weird to live a simple, rich life:

    1. Never confuse busyness with value. There was a time when I was in high demand. There were days I would get caught in the parking lot on the way to my office by someone with a request or demand of my time and efforts. Most days I had trouble finding an opportunity to escape to the bathroom and even there I may hear a whisper. “Jamie, is that you?” Yes, it can get that despicable. The culture where I worked bred this environment. It was a badge of honor to work overtime. People noticed the time stamp on your emails; the more obnoxious the hour the more praiseworthy it seemed. Yet, I didn’t accomplish much of anything under these conditions. Later, an acquisition made my “importance” diminish. There were less meetings, less emails, less phone calls, less of everything except progress. It was during this time I was able to contribute the greatest value to the company. I had time to focus my skills and talents on my work. The irony is, there was no praise, no promotion, and no pay increase to go with my contribution.   What’s the bottom line? Well, less, because being weird often doesn’t pay well.
    2. Be willing to wait. We live in a culture of instant gratification. Lost is the value in waiting. The best way I know to help you see the value in waiting is to tell you to watch a dog perform the “wait” command. My dog Mosie is a champ at waiting. Holding a treat, you give the “wait” command. Her eyes track away. As the treat moves closer, her intensity rises, her eyes are bright, aware, excited, anticipating the release. She freezes in suspense. “Okay,” she grasps the treat in her teeth, sheer joy on her face. Contrast this with the complete apathy she portrays when you walk up to her and hand her a treat and you will have the value of waiting embedded in your mind forever. Waiting provides even more advantage than increased pleasure in anticipation. It can also cause you to make fewer mistakes. It can help prevent compulsive spending, leading to better financial decisions. It can also aid in maintaining healthy relationships by eliminating frenzied responses. It is true, waiting is worth it.
    3. Refuse to buy stuff you cannot pay for. The simplest way to prevent this is to not make purchases on credit. There are no great deals when it comes to credit. The rule is, “Pay now, or pay more later.”
    4. Expect a rainy day. It amazes me how many people live as though nothing bad will ever happen to them. No job loss, no health loss, nothing will ever break, or get stolen. This is not reality. I heard a commercial from a company selling insurance for home appliances declaring that something as simple as a washing machine going bunk could, “Ruin your chances of a summer vacation.” What? Are you kidding me? If your washing machine breaks and you have to buy another this should have no impact whatsoever on your summer vacation prospects. Why? Because if you can’t afford to fix or buy a new washing machine at any point you have no business even planning for a summer vacation other than to spend some quality time at home.
    5. Appreciate basic mathematics. It was the weirdo’s in school who liked math. Well, we all need to be weird when it comes to understanding basic financial mathematics. Gain an understanding of interest rate calculations. Including compound interest, variable rate, adjustable rate, balloon payments and other forms. Also learn to recognize inflation in all forms. Inflation isn’t as simple as seeing the price of gas go up. It can crop up in many forms such as the size of the container shrinking, the serving size increasing, increases in shipping rates, and decrease in the value of coupons, all while the price remains steady.
    6. Do without. Here are a few unnecessary expenses that will not only save you money but will increase your quality of life. Cable TV, expensive vacations, movies, concerts, eating out, toys, electronics, and sporting events. Eliminating these expenses will provide more time and money for more important priorities. Priorities such as eating healthier, exercising, continuing to educate your mind, and family time. Who knows you might even learn to play again.
    7. Identify with your character traits not your external circumstances. Our society tends to identify us by what our job title is, the town we live in, whether married or single, how many kids we have, what model of car we drive, and a host of other external circumstances. The reality of course is, none of these make us who we are. Rather focus on character traits such as honesty, tenacity, contentment, and integrity. Traits like these are what make us who we are, not a silly car that we owe more for than it is worth.
    8. Relish in the simple things of life. Those days when something super exciting happens are scarce. Even rarer are those big moments in life such as weddings, and graduations. Even if you are just one of those who lives for the weekend you are still throwing away 70% of your life. Learn to enjoy simple things like hugs, rain, and a warm shower.
    9. Seek to lead a quiet life. When I see stories of people leaving their children in hot cars, forgetting to turn the oven off, or neglecting their dog I don’t wonder how this happens. We can be so busy and stressed with the urgent we forget about something or someone of paramount importance. I used to grocery shop using what I called the “speed shopping” method. Once a week I had 15-20 minutes to buy a week worth of groceries. I would fly down one isle after another, jogging while tossing items into the cart. This is no way to live. Our lives overflowed with good activities. We weren’t wasting time by any means. Opportunities to do healthy, wholesome activities abounded. It was too much of a good thing. Sometimes we even need to cut out some good activities in life so that our lives can be quiet and we are sure to have time for the important.
    10. Set your priorities and refuse to compromise. I read an article of late entitled something like, “12 Phrases You Will Never Hear Successful People Say.” While some of the suggestions were good such as, “I can’t,” others were disturbing. In particular, “That’s too early,” and, “that’s too late,” got my attention. The article referred to work related meeting times or late social networking meetings with “important” people. If you have set your family as a priority there is a time when it is too early or too late to be having a work meeting or a social networking event. If you have set something as a priority by default it is important to you. Don’t let others trivialize the important. Set your priorities and stick to them.

    You’re going to look a bit weird to others for the actions you take and the priorities you set. Assure yourself the sacrifices you make, such as cable TV, or a work promotion, pale in comparison to the benefits of the choices you have made. Go ahead and be a bit weird. Leading a simple, yet rich life is worth it.

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  • Stop Compulsive Spending

    9 Tips on How to Stop Compulsive Spending

    Stop Compulsive Spending

    (3 minute read)

    You can never get enough of what you don’t really need. –April Benson

    Too often we buy stuff on impulse rather than calculated thought. From pressure sales tactics, to clever marketing, to seeing and wanting we all get caught in these traps time and again.

    One paramount rule to follow is this, sleep on it. This one simple action will end the bulk of compulsive spending.

    For the rest of those items you find yourself still craving after a good night sleep, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Do I need this item? True, we all buy things we don’t need from time to time. I mean did I need the new bedspread I just bought? No, but I bought it anyway. Why, because the one we have is over 10 years old, faded, falling apart, and without beating around the bush, I’m tired of it. Add to this I bought it at a discount in the first place and I was able to reason that even though it wasn’t needed it was a reasonable purchase to make. There are many other items for which I have asked this question and also come to the “no” answer. For these I was unable to provide a strong enough explanation on why I should have it anyway and left it on the shelf. Facing the “need” monster is always a good idea.
    2. What function will this item serve? Everything you buy should serve some function. Even decorations serve a function provided they are of good quality and are not cluttering.
    3. Do I have the money to pay for this? This should be an easy one to answer, provided you are living on a budget. Is there enough money left over after your prior commitments and budgeted items to make this purchase?
    4. Do I have the money to maintain this? Some things need maintenance. It is incredible how easy it is to neglect the law of entropy. The fact that everything heads towards disorganization. In common terms, things break. So often we buy appliances, mowers, trimmers, automobiles, and even houses without considering maintenance costs. If you can’t afford to maintain it, you doubtless shouldn’t have it to start.
    5. Where will I store it? If your goal is to not have a house crammed wall to wall with stuff it is a good idea to know where you will put an item before bringing it home.
    6. Do I already have another item to suit this purpose? It is many times worth looking through the things you already have. It is surprising how often you can use what you already have outright, or make something new out of parts and pieces already in your possession.
    7. Would I be willing to pack this item and move it? If you have ever moved, this one hurts. Being willing to spend the energy and the expense to pack and move it yourself says a lot about the value of this item in your eyes.
    8. Is there something better I could do with this money? This is a tough one because yes, there is always something better you could do with the money. The question perhaps should be, am I comfortable with my attitude toward this item? Am I purchasing out of a sense of greed or perhaps in an attempt to impress someone else? Is this item in reality just a status symbol with no real purpose? Be clear what your motive is for making this buy. Are you also comfortable with the things you are doing with your money as a whole?
    9. Does this item help me achieve my desired lifestyle and activities? First you must know what it is you want out of life. Once you have this nailed down you can begin to narrow your purchases to achieve this focus. Avoid purchases that distract by taking your time, energy and money away from your focus.

    As a final word to the wise on this topic, remember the less you see the less you want. Limit time in stores, online shopping, and watching TV.

    [bctt tweet=”Stop buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have. You’ll be happy you did.”]

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  • What Does Freedom Mean to You?

    What Does Freedom Mean to You?

    What Does Freedom Mean to You?

    (2 minute read)

    Break the rules. Find your freedom. Live your life.

    Minimalists like to talk about freedom.

    Yet it is a funny thing. Some want it, some don’t. Some deserve it, some don’t. One person’s freedom is an others bondage. Sometimes past decisions present consequences and circumstances out of our reach of influence. Be it either our own decisions or those of others. These circumstances may limit our ability to be free.

    One factor is clear. If you want to be free, you must first define what it means to you.

    Maybe your idea is putting everything you own in a backpack, pointing at a globe, and then taking a trip to explore this new place. I myself, could not think of many endeavors more stressful.

    For me, freedom is being able to sit on my back porch in my underwear, far from humanity, without a care in the world. Freedom is bare naked windows that leave my house open to the clear starry nights, or the spectacular light show of a thunderstorm.

    There is also a little piece of us whose sense of independence isn’t determined by our physical location. It is rather determined by the ability to follow our dreams.

    Being free can mean to feel no burden. To be free to go wherever the winds may blow. To be able to take life as it comes in good stride.

    Maybe freedom is to be able to focus all your energy on caring for an ill loved one.

    Once you have your definition, you must be willing to take the responsibility required to achieve it. Yes, freedom requires responsibility, no matter how you define it. Perhaps this is the reason why not everyone desires freedom, it takes work. Some are just not willing to make the level of sacrifice it takes to be free.

    Regardless of your definition there are three areas where you must be free to begin your journey.

    You must be:

    1. Debt free. Whether you want to travel the world, hang out on your farm, chase your dreams, or give the best care to your loved ones, you cannot do it with the burden of debt. Debt is the cancer of freedom.
    2. Clutter free. You cannot be a slave to stuff and be free. If stuff is keeping you from doing what you dream it is a load that must go.
    3. Distraction free. Staying focused is key. We must eliminate those activities deterring us from our focus.

    Finally, we must face reality. Just in case you thought freedom requiring work was as bad as it got. For some of us reality means our past decisions make it impossible for us to achieve some forms of independence and still remain responsible. In some cases the decisions or behavior of others has even limited our possibilities. In this case, which is every case to some degree, make sure your vision fits within your limitations. At the same time be careful not to sell yourself short. Remember also, once you achieve the above required three freedoms a whole new world of possibilities will open.

    Always bear in mind, “The key to happiness is to keep your wants few and simple.” Much the same is true for freedom.

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  • Leave work on time

    When Did it Start Taking Courage to Leave Work On Time?

     

    Courage to leave work

    (3 minute read)

    One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. ― Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

    I’m not sure when it became a badge of honor to be a workaholic. Maybe it has always been so. I know as a kid my dad worked for a big auto company. Many of his co-workers would work any overtime offered to get the money. I am sure some of them had valid reasons for snatching at the opportunity for overtime pay.  Yet, I have to think most of them were either in over their heads in debt or were after more money.

    By the time I got to graduate school things had taken a turn for the worse. Believe me, there was no big money in a graduate school stipend and there was no chance for overtime pay. Yet, students would spend long hours at the lab, weekends, even holidays.

    There was a student in a lab down the hall from ours who found himself in the emergency room in the wee hours of the night from a seizure. He had been awake for over 72 hours. This same student scared the dickens out of me one morning as I went to the dark room to develop some tests. I entered the revolving door, spun it around and stepped out into the dark room. My foot hit a warm body. I screamed bloody murder while clawing for the light switch on the wall. It was him. He lay sleeping in the floor of a narrow room filled with chemical fumes. What on earth would cause a person to behave this way?

    Peer pressure.

    I prided myself on being one of the few students I knew to receive my PhD in the average time while counting on one hand the number of days I had spent more than 10 hours at the lab.  More than 95% of my days were 8-9 hours including lunch. I was never there before 6:30AM and only once was I there at 8:00PM. The 8:00PM day is unforgettable as it was the worst day of my graduate school career.

    I tried hard to leave work on time.

    I noticed something about the other students. Especially the ones claiming crazy long work weeks. They piddled around a lot. They wouldn’t show up until later in the morning. Getting some coffee and reading the news were first on their agenda. They spent a lot of time while experiments were incubating or processing talking or playing computer games. By the way, it was a flashing computer game that put my fellow student in the emergency room. Sure they were there long hours but were they working the whole time? The way they talked it was clear they felt they were some kind of martyr for scientific research. To them I was a slacker, who didn’t want “it” bad enough. I was never sure what “it” was. I was happy being weird. It was worth it to leave work on time.

    When I got a job at a biotech company not much changed for the better. I did get paid a little bit more for what I was doing but the stigma of overtime remained. I once had a co-worker with a husband and two small children at home. She was also a PhD Research Scientist. As a skilled worker with a work ethic to beat anyone she struggled to stick to a 40 hour work week for the sake of her family values. The pressure on us was intense beyond description to work unpaid overtime. She was even told in her yearly review one year, “Our company doesn’t like it when our salaried employees work less than 45 hours per week.” Interpretation, you are not getting a promotion or a raise if you continue to leave work on time.

    Luckily, she was smart enough to do the math. There would have to be a 12.5% pay increase just to get paid for the extra 5 hours per week minimum they were asking. Any real increase in salary would have to be beyond this amount. She was smart enough to know this was not going to happen. In reality what they wanted was more time for less money from her. She was smarter than they gave her credit for and chose to stick with the 40 hour work week. Less than a year later she received her termination letter. In a stroke of dramatic irony, they terminated everyone in our company the same day regardless of how many overtime hours they had worked.

    Middle class Americans have been working more as time goes on since around 1960, before I was born. We work more than any industrialized country in the world.

    Maybe more of us need to do the math. Change our lifestyle. Reset our priorities. Figure out who is the real beneficiary of your extra labor. It isn’t you. Leave work on time.

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