Friday, October 17, 2014

I'm Dying . . .

I'm not sure there is any news that could possibly be more sobering.

I had my routine check up with my regular primary physician last week. I also had an appointment with my ophthalmologist. It's an every other year ritual with my eye guy.

It was during these examinations that I discovered that I had a chronic, terminal condition. My primary doctor had my latest lab reports when she came in to the examining room. She had a big smile on her face as she handed me my copy of my lab report and said, how do you feel? I replied that I felt fine. Then she told me that everything was just about perfect and these lab tests indicated the best numbers that I had had since beginning to come to her at least 8 years ago.

My eye examination was scheduled for about an hour after I finished with my primary doctor. My eyes were checked for everything they could be checked for. I knew I had cataracts growing and fully expected the doctor to recommend I have the surgery to have them removed. But, that's not what he said. Instead he said my eyes are healthy. He went on to say that I didn't need new glasses and that my eyes had actually improved a little bit. The cataracts are there and apparent, however, they are not creating a problem and in his opinion, since I'm having no problems functioning normally with the cataracts, if they ain't broke, don't fix them.

Add these reports to being told this past spring that I'm cured of prostate cancer after 11 years and will never have to worry about that rearing its ugly head in my life again.

I'm Dying!

So, with all this good news from the three doctors, how can I be dying from a chronic, terminal condition? I've actually had this condition since birth. There is a name for the condition. It's called


That's right! My condition is actually life, the very life the doctors just told me how good I was doing with. And, of course, by this definition, you have the same chronic, terminal condition.

There is no question that I felt elated and pleased with my doctors' reports. But, a few questions flashed through my mind as I was receiving these reports about how my body was handling "life." One of the questions was about how long my body was going to holdup in this condition? Another question was, although I'm healthy and active, how soon could this reverse and I die?

I don't dwell on these kinds of thoughts, though I have met some people who do. But, I guess when one reaches a certain point in the journey of life you occasionally wonder if the end of the road is around the next bend. I'm sure you've thought about it at some point, too, and if you haven't, you will one day.

Live Until I Die

So, I know that I've been in the process of dying since I was born. There is no cure for it. There may be a few ways to prolong it by artificial means, but staying live by artificial assisted means doesn't mean that I'll enjoy a quality of life worth the extra time it may afford me.

So, my personal solution is to, first, accept the fact that I'm dying, it's inevitable, but I don't know exactly when or how this event will occur. Second, since I can't stop the event from happening, I've resigned myself to the eventuality of it and will do my utmost to live my life free, happy and fulfilling until I die.

Do I fear the event? No, I can't say I do. Do I focus my attention on this event? Absolutely not! There is no reasonable logic to focus on death when I have so much life still in my body to live, love, laugh, learn, enjoy and continue to do all the things I can that appear on my "Life List." A "Bucket List" is for those who are negative thinkers. A Life List is all the things I get to do because I'm alive. A Bucket List is all the things I want to try and do before I die. The difference is subtle, yet significant.

Charlie's Grace And Elegance

My, now deceased, friend, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones taught me a lot about living and dying. He told me during one our many very personal discussions, prior to his impending death from advanced stage prostate cancer, that he didn't fear death. Charlie was a devout, born again, Christian. What he then said to me was very profound. He said, and I paraphrase, life is a gift and it's temporary. Dying is part of living. Everyone is going to experience dying at some point in time. He went on to say that he was only going to die one time and he wanted to learn, first hand, everything he could about the process of dying and he wanted to enjoy this final experience of life.

Perhaps others have had similar feelings, but no one had ever verbalized it to me before like he did. He was true to his thoughts and feelings. The last time I spent time with Charlie was about a month before he died. He was just a shadow of the once 250 plus pound, 6'4" man who loved giving bear hugs (of the man hug variety) to every guy friend he knew and met. He could pick me up off my feet.

But, now he was withering away. He slept about 20 to 22 hours a day. Yet, he maintained his positive attitude. He affirmed our friendship and his affection for me as a friend. He told me that he felt his dying was a positive experience. We said goodbye and Charlie died just short of his 81st birthday. The next time I was in Charlie's presence was with his spirit at his memorial service where hundreds of people came from all over the U.S. and, I believe, some of his international friends were there, too. Charlie Jones lived until he died and he set an example.

So, I'm dying. My body, despite all the good reports from my doctors, is showing the signs of the aging process. I don't know if I will have three more days, a year, ten years or possibly 20, 25 or even 30 years left taking me to the century mark. All I know is that my focus is on living every day until that final day arrives living as freely, joyfully, happily, gratefully and productively (by my own determination) as I can.

I will hope to leave this life with as much grace and elegance as my friend, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, so I may set a similar example for others following me, both in how to live fully until they die and how to die with grace and elegance. Tomorrow morning, I'll awake again, looking at the view of the San Antonio, Texas landscape and the Tower of the Americas from my hotel window and relish every moment of the experience. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Top 15 List of Life Thieves: Introduction

Are you being robbed?

Did you know there are thousands of thieves stealing your life from you everyday?

It's true! But, the worst part is that most of us don't realize it until we're at the other end of our life. At some point, we all begin taking stock and reviewing our memories and recalling all the things we never got to do. Why? Because something always seemed to come along that diverted us from the things we really wanted to do.

This Life Thief concept struck me like a lightning bolt the other morning when I was waking up. I realized there were so many things I haven't done in my life that I had really wanted to do. I also began thinking about friends, family and others I know who have experienced or are currently experiencing some thief stealing parts of their lives.

One Way To Define Life

It's important to realize and accept that life is a quantitative commodity. In the United States of America, the overall average life expectancy is 79.6 years with women living a couple years longer and men living a couple years less. The U.S. actually ranks about #35 in average life expectancy in the world, depending on the chart you look at, of course.

Obviously, since we're discussing average life expectancy, some people will be blessed with a lesser gift of life time while others will be blessed with a greater gift. However, since none of us really know the true value of our gift, it would seem that whatever our gift is should be valued as priceless.

Allow me to extrapolate this 79.6 years into some other familiar units of time measurement. Think about these numbers. The average life expectancy equates to 955.2 months, 4,153.4 weeks, 29,074 days, 697,776 hours, 41,866,560 minutes or 2,511,993,600 seconds. So, what do these numbers mean?

To me, they represent the gift of life I was given and the great wealth I have in time. My life represented by time is priceless because I know I can't replace it. I can't buy, rent, borrow or steal any more time. But, even if you place a simple monetary value of one penny per second on your life, it means you begin life with a potential net worth of at least $25,119,936.00.

Chances are you've never considered the value of your time this way. I doubt that very few people ever do. Time is, well . . . time. We complain because it seems to pass so rapidly. You hear older people say, "I don't know what happened to all the years." I know, because I say that myself, as do my friends.

But, another thing time represents is LIFE! From the very first breath you take upon your birth until the very last breath you take when you die. The span between these two events is measured in time.

Life Thieves

Just as we expend money in financial terms, we expend our life in terms of time. However, while we are able to accumulate financial wealth during the span between birth and death, we can only expend our time wealth in relation to life and it will continue to dwindle. Those who are on the positive side of the average life expectancy didn't accumulate more time. They were simply blessed with a higher "net worth."

Every one of us will expend our time differently. Obviously, there are some commonalities like sleeping, eating, personal hygiene, basic daily chores and such. However, every one of us will encounter Life Thieves that will rob us of our priceless time (and life) without guilt, concern or remorse. Worse, yet, unlike a criminal who knowingly steals with intent, most Live Thieves don't even realize they are committing their  nefarious acts.

Here, then, is my Top 15 List of Life Thieves. I'll discuss each of these thieves in more detail as an ongoing series of topics over the next several weeks concluding around the middle of January 2015.

 Top 15 List
 Life Thieves

15.  Shoulda/Woulda/Coulda
14. Job/Profession/Business
13. Traffic/Congestion
12. Time Wasters
11. Government
10. Television
  9. Education
 8.  House(s)
7.  Internet
6.   Money

And, Now . . . the Top 5

5.   Pets     
4.   Friends
3.   Family 
 2.   Spouse
        1.    YOURSELF

Only the top five are in, more or less, significant positions of importance. The other ten can be pretty much in any order. Number 15 and number 12 are catch all thieves. They both cover a multitude of losses. The other 13 are more specific. Most probably apply to you, some may not. Only you can determine if you've been robbed or are currently being robbed.

Take note of number 1. YOU are the largest Life Thief on the Top 15 List. The insidious thing is that we don't even know we've been robbing ourselves of our own lives.

There's more to come and I'm sure you'll realize that a significant percentage of your life has been stolen and, most likely, continues to be stolen by these Life Thieves. Hopefully, together we can apprehend these Life Thieves and preserve as much of our life wealth as possible. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"You can do anything, but you can't do everything."

That quote is by Greg McKeown from his book titled, Essentialism. I picked up the quote in a recent post by Joshua Becker from his BecomingMinimalist blog. Joshua has some great insight on minimalist living and finds some terrific sources for his ideas.

I'm sure many, if not most of us were told, when we were youngsters, that we can become anything we want to become and achieve anything we want to achieve. I'm sure most of our parents had great aspirations for their progeny.

If they were highly successful in their profession and career, they expected us to follow in their footsteps.

If they were working class folks like laborers, factory workers, civil servants or similar occupations, they wanted us to do better than they did.

What our parents didn't expect was for us to choose something that we were drawn to because we loved whatever it was, but was probably not deemed to be stepping up, but stepping back. Maybe we wanted to be  skiers, surfers, forest rangers or whatever. It just wasn't conceivable that we might choose to do something we loved rather than do something purely for the money. Our parents, relatives and family friends would do everything they could to dissuade us from following that course even though it was what we CHOSE and wanted. Some of us relented and gave up our dream - our "anything." 

I bring this up because I've been going through another short period of writer's block. This time I realized something that hadn't crossed my mind before.

I've had an interesting and, reasonably, free and exciting career in the electronic media. But, at this stage of life I've chosen to reinvent myself as a writer. I feel a good writer must be inspired to write whatever will he will pen (there's an old term in a digital age).

As I read Becker's blog, it dawned on me that my writer's block isn't always caused by not being inspired by something. Actually, more often than not, it's because I'm overloaded with things I want to write about. Call it input or information overload. Thus, I am stymied by not being able to select one of many topics that have captured my attention and inspiration.

So, this is where the other part of Greg McKeown's quote comes into play, "but you can't do everything." Nice going, Greg. I think he nailed it for me. I can do anything. I can write about anything I choose to. But, I just can't do everything and I can't write about everything. I know, this sounds simplistic (which is part of minimalism, anyway).

We live in an extremely complex society with literally tens of thousands of bits of information flowing through our lives everyday. How can we process it all? I don't have a clue. I surely haven't figured out how to do it or I wouldn't be writing this.

So, I'm accepting that I can't write about everything. I'm also realizing that the longer I write (the length of  an article) the fewer people have the patience to plod through it, even if I'm revealing the solution to the greatest mysteries of life. So, I'm going to begin providing information in smaller doses with an occasional essay on some very inspired topic. Some other bloggers I follow may use photos or a short video clip to tell the story or make the point. I may, too.

Peter Drucker said, "People are effective because they say 'no,' because they say, 'this isn't for me'." So, I'm going to say 'no,' this isn't for me when I am mulling over topics to write about and you get to say 'no,' this isn't for me when you check my blog to see what I'm expounding on.

My intention is to provide useful, valuable, thought provoking and inspiring content in shorter articles with the hope that you'll find more content you can relate to and use in your own life. 

By the way, this article is actually the size of an average newspaper article. Watch for more like this. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Can I Live Without This?

But Wait! Order Today and . . .

This is a simple question I ask myself every time I go into Costco, Walmart, Kohl's and other stores I patronize. I ask the same question as I read all the product "newsletters" I receive from Rakuten (, New Egg, Sweetwater, B&H Photo, BSW (Broadcast Supply Warehouse), Kohl's, Ben's Bargains, etc. that I receive on line. The same question applies as I glance through numerous magazines and other periodicals from my various areas of interest. And, of course, there is the incessant pounding from the TV home shopping networks and the commercials and infomercials on most TV channels and even Sirius satellite radio channels.

"But, wait! Order today and we'll double your order and send you two chartreuse, endlessly expandable, unbreakable, lifetime warranty muffler bearings for your Formula Go Cart Racer just pay separate shipping and handling of $495.00 each.

Blah! Blah! Blah! It never stops. It's called sales. It's the action part of marketing. Yes! They are actually separate functions. You are being sold something constantly - even those, ever more, frequent pleading and begging pledge drives for public television and public radio is simply another form of selling.

One has to wonder how the entire world, at least in the U.S. and some of the other developed First World countries aren't all blithering idiots. Then again . . . maybe they are. If they weren't our houses, apartments, businesses, caves, whatever, wouldn't be full of so much stuff we need to keep looking for larger places to live. Well, more accurately we should say more accurate places to "warehouse."

The Jolly German Elf

Over this past weekend I watched (walking through the living room of my friend's home) a jolly, stout, German man, with a cute German accent, sell upwards of $5,000,000 + of his namesake, Wolfgang Puck, stainless steel cookware and pressure cookers in two days by incessantly jabbering, along with the host of the various time slots, about his cookware while performing a sort of cooking vaudeville act. Please understand, I didn't watch him all day. I would have ended up sitting in a corner with my eyes rolling in my sockets, twiddling my thumbs and drooling all over myself. I only caught him in small increments as I passed by the TV. And, (thank God) he wasn't actually on continuously, just for an hour or two at a time, multiple times throughout the two days.

There was a counter at the bottom of the screen keeping a tally of the number of these items sold and it just kept going up and up. The supposed retail price of this set of cookware is $412.00, but it sold on Saturday for $199.99 and on Sunday for $249.99. The pressure cooker was $99.99 but was probably close to a $200.00 retail price. Now, it's not that this cookware isn't good. I know first hand that it is. My friend bought a set of it several months ago and I've used it.

The point is more than 15,000 people bought this through the incessant pounding away at their "reptilian" brains. But, you say, 15,000 is only a tiny number with respect to the fact that perhaps, millions of viewers will be tuned in at any given time during the day. My question is simply this, were these 15,000+ people not cooking before they saw this cookware on TV? Again, I know for a fact that my friend has at least (that I've seen) three sets of cookware - two before she bought Wolfgang's. 

Can I Live Without This?

That is a question I started asking myself about ten years ago. You see, I have been involved in both the marketing process and the sales process most of my life, even when I was a newspaper boy at age 12. While I'm far from the greatest marketing guru or salesman, I have read and studied the fields, attended seminars and workshops and have learned from the best.

But, let me tell you that I am no better than anyone else. I have bought so much stuff during my lifetime that I could have lived without very well, thank you very much. But, I, like the people who watch the home shopping networks or fill up their shopping carts with thing that aren't on their shopping list of needs, have been there. I've succumbed to the sales pitch - whether live, print, TV, radio, whatever.

I was living in a house including a partial basement, a two car garage and a small storage area in a small barn totaling about 3,000 square feet. I was single, basically occupying a single room, the master bedroom that I had turned into a sort of "studio apartment" and the house was FULL. Believe it or not, I was getting claustrophobic. When I'm traveling now, I have my 50 square feet of living space (with all the storage I need included in that area) and I never feel claustrophobic.

I finally learned, as I noted, about 10 years ago that I really didn't need all the stuff I had, yet I kept accumulating more. Yes! Our capitalistic society is based on consumers consuming stuff. But, consuming means using it up. We just keep getting more, never using up much of what we already have and adding to it.

I finally began asking myself the simple five word sentence, "Can I live without this?" Invariably, when I took the time to ask that question and was honest with myself, I realized I could live without whatever it is.

It took a while to make that a habit. Now, that question is the first thing that crosses my mind when I see something that catches my eye. It's very easy to just grab things or order things because at the moment, it seems the right thing to do. But, I've found that maybe I began rationalizing a "supposed need" for a particular item because it was on sale. Now I'll say, let me think about it for a couple days. Well, the days come and go and the real need never materializes.

Some people buy things they don't need just because they are a bargain. So, I say to that, you see a size 4 bathing suit at a super bargain price, but you wear a size 12, so you'll buy the size 4 bathing suit just because it's a bargain? Or you see a dump truck for sale and it's a real bargain, but you're not in the dump truck business. So, you'll buy the dump truck anyway, because it's a bargain? Believe it or not, I've heard people attempt to rationalize that kind of mentality.

Will the economy crash because you don't buy everything some fancy salesperson or ad campaign waves in front of you? Absolutely not because you will be in the minority of people thinking straight and the other 14,999 people will buy that Wolfgang Puck cookware.

Two Go Out For Every One Brought In

Here's another idea for you. I know people who do this very well. Before they bring any new item into their home, business or life they must divest themselves of two items they are no longer using, are worn out, depleted or are surplus to their needs.

I've even heard of people who have parties and tell their guests they have to take two items home with them from a selection of "stuff" the host has set out for the guests to select from. What a great idea. The host gets to downsize and get rid of stuff and the guests, who still crave having more stuff get it at no cost.

Everyone wins, more or less (well, actually the host wins).

The Ultimate Snow er, Sales Job

Let me make a couple final points.

Think about this. I read an interview with one of the former "hosts" for HSN or QVC, the two main TV shopping networks. He said when he went to audition for the job, a producer handed him a regular, yellow, No. 2 pencil with an eraser at one end and said, "Tell me about this pencil for ten minutes." If you never have, tune into one of the TV shopping networks sometime and just imagine the host blathering on and on about that No. 2 pencil, because that's exactly what he or she is doing.

Here's my second point and it's another thing to ponder regarding the power of sales and marketing. After you read this, regardless of where you stand, honestly ask yourself - Why?

Imagine placing a person into a very high level and extremely powerful position. This person has a sketchy background, some of which doesn't seem to make sense. The person came from a somewhat strange heritage, also. The person is supposedly highly educated, yet you can't examine his or her educational credentials. The person never held a real job based on his or her profession as most people define jobs but dabbled in a few areas including teaching. The person managed to get him or her self into one position of power and authority, but never did anything truly remarkable, memorable or all that effective and left before completing the third term of that assignment. The person left the first assignment incomplete to take on another position of even higher power and authority where he or she also did nothing remarkable, memorable or effective and left the position early to take on the ultimate position of power and authority. This person, by many people's estimation, has either been ineffective or possibly made things worse during his or her tenure.

I am, of course, talking of the current President of the United States. Now, to be sure, he is not the first and only POTUS of questionable credentials (in my personal opinion) to attain this position of, arguably, the most powerful head of state in the world. But, consider that few knew much about him (and still don't) before he was elected to the office. Also, consider that he has associated at various times with people of very questionable character. Additionally, he never served in any manner in any military capacity (not that every past president has), yet he's the Commander-in-Chief of the largest, most powerful and expensive military force in the world with control over massive numbers of weapons of mass destruction.

How did he achieve this?

This is the power of Sales and Marketing. Whether orchestrated by himself or someone behind him, there was a massive power of defining the market and it's several facets, then focusing extremely targeted sales pitches designed to persuade and to sell to those who were persuaded, if you will, the product named Barrack Obama to a large enough part of the market to take home the prize.

It's really not all that different from selling Wolfgang Puck's stainless steel cookware to people who already had some kind of cookware and then taking home his prize - the profits. In both cases, they pitched it and made us believe we couldn't live without the product.

Any questions? Can you live without (whatever) it (is)? I've learned to and I'm happier and freer because I did. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

R.I.P. Mork, Patch, Adrian, Mrs. Doubtfire . . .

I am, of course, addressing only a few of the characters portrayed by the late Robin Williams. Yes! Rest in peace, Robin!

Tonight, the world learned of the passing, apparently by his own hand, of this entertainment genius. I'm not going to make this a long, maudlin discussion of his life, his talent, his characters, TV shows, stage performances and movies, his humanity or philanthropy. All the news channels and entertainment shows are and will continue to do an excellent, over the top job of that.

What I want to make note of is the Demon that took his life at the young age of 63. That demon has a name and that name is Depression.

I am, personally, well acquainted with this horrific affliction. I, myself, have experienced some depressive states from time to time over my life, so I have a limited knowledge and understanding of the despair and darkness that depression can drag someone into. But, on an even more serious level, my father suffered from depression. I was a senior in college, having not quite attained the age of 22, when my father apparently found himself in a similar place as Robin Williams did today. Unfortunately, my father didn't even make it to 63, he took his life at 42.


I cannot begin to describe the devastation my father's suicide caused for our family, his friends, professional colleagues and me, in particular. The causes of his dive into the depth of despair were likely several. Unfortunately, those who were left behind are scarred for the rest of our lives, ever wondering why we didn't see it coming and what we could have done to prevent it. But, there is never an answer.

So, here is what I'm saying to you, my loyal readers, and to those who may find this blog someday in the future and read this article, be aware for yourself, your family, friends and colleagues. Depression is often genetic, so if someone in your direct family bloodline suffered from depression and/or hurt himself or herself or took his or her own life, talk with your doctor about it. Depression is very stealthy. You may not even realize you are dealing with it, perhaps, until it's too late.

If you have a family member, friend or colleague you suspect may be dealing with some depressive demons, talk to them. Be a friend. Suggest they bring it up with their regular primary care physician. Physicians can do some tests to rule out things it probably isn't before considering that a person may be dealing with depression.

Preventive Action

Do everything you can to prevent your life from dragging you into the pit of despair. We live in a very stressful, complicated, often unfair world. There is a lot of negative all around. The news and talk shows and many of the TV crime and drama shows as well as movies proffer this negativity 24 hours a day. While this stuff may be reality, it doesn't have to be your daily reality.

There is so much to love about life. Watching your kids or grandkids growing up if you have any. Enjoying time with your spouse, if you're married, as well as family and friends. Exploring hobbies. Learning new things. Experiencing the beauty of nature, places of interest and meeting new people, whether locally or through extended travel to new places. Volunteering to help in any of many ways, the disadvantaged, disabled and hurting people in your community or around the world. Get involved in the arts - whether theater, performing in a choir or something else. If your job or occupation is bringing you down or stifling your life, consider what you'd have to do to change to something you'd be attuned to and love doing.

Be A Friend

Tell your loved ones that you love them. Call distant family members and just say you were thinking about them and wanted to let them know. Call friends, those you regularly see and/or talk with, but especially those you don't see very often or perhaps for years or decades, and tell them you were thinking about them. Smile as much as you can. Try to make others smile regardless of their relationship to you or their station in life as a clerk in a store, a ticket agent at the airport, the receptionist at your doctor's office, etc. Attempt to make everyone you come in contact with each day feel just a little better because you spoke on the phone or crossed paths. You may lift them out of a little depression, but you'll do yourself a world of good at the same time.

There is ALWAYS a Way

Finally, remember, there is ALWAYS a way out of the darkness. There is always someone you can talk to who cares. I'm here and I care. Email me and let me help you find some light. Even when you don't believe anyone loves you, believe me, there is someone, just reach out. Whether you have a strong religious faith or not, there is something bigger than any of us and you were born into this world for a reason. You are needed. Learn to let go of negativity. Learn what it will take to live free and find the happiness and contentment you seek. It's there. I know.     

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Enough Is Too Much

I'm sure you reached a point of frustration at some time during your life when you just threw your hands up and declared, "Enough is enough!" Everyone reaches that point at least once, if not multiple times during his or her life.

But, let me pose this question . . .

When does enough become too much?

Here is what I mean and I'll use a series of questions to make my point.

How long does it take until you have accumulated "enough" stuff that it becomes too much and begins to weigh you down emotionally, psychologically, physically, spiritually and financially?

How long does it take for you to stay in a job you dislike or despise "enough" that you'll tell your boss "to take this job and shove it?"

How long does it take until you spend "enough" time on the Internet or glued to the TV screen watching sports or pulp TV content or even news programs living vicariously through other people's lives when it doesn't add anything to your life, but is likely detracting from your life?

How long does it take for you to realize a relationship is toxic "enough" to have a negative impact on your emotional, psychological, financial and/or physical condition?

How long does it take for you to realize you've given up "enough" of your life to meet everyone else's expectations and demands that you've never lived up to or met your own personal expectations and dreams?

How long does it take to accept that there is only "enough" time and "enough" of yourself to serve one master . . . one captain of your own destiny?

How long does it take to reach the point when your finally realize that "enough is too much?"

We ALL Reach The Same Destination At The End Of Life's Journey.

It doesn't matter whether you, like me, were fortunate enough to be born in the United States of America or any other country considered a "Western" or "Developed" country or you were born in a small, primitive village somewhere in Asia, Africa, South America, some small island nation in the Pacific or Caribbean or any other undeveloped or underdeveloped place in the world. Your basic needs are the same as every other human on the planet. You need food, water, shelter and a sense of security from prevailing danger. We were all born with nothing and we'll take nothing with us when we leave except our memories.

The areas we, as individuals and societies, differ in begin with the "wants." The wants of a person in some small, remote primitive village might be a bright, yellow Hanes Beefy-T shirt or maybe a basic pair of, what we used to call, sneakers. Meanwhile, your wants might be a bright, yellow Ralph Lauren polo shirt or a pair of Air Jordan's. If you're a woman, similar comparisons apply. Depending on the part of the world, you may want a mule, horse or camel for your transportation. In the developed world that might translate to a hot Mustang, Camaro or a tricked out SUV.

The point is simple. The people in the undeveloped or underdeveloped societies needs are the same as yours, but their wants are much more modest. The wants in the developed world are much more extravagant. Not only are the wants more extravagant, but there seems to be an insatiable desire to accumulate more and more of these "wants" requiring more and more space to store it when one tires of it and moves on to something else.

Luxuries is another completely different category. A luxury for someone in an undeveloped society might be to have a dwelling of their own with perhaps three or four rooms and some kind of simple indoor toilet facility. This dwelling would be for only the immediate family. The parents, grandparents, siblings and grandchildren would live somewhere else.

You may feel a need for 5,000 to 50,000 sq. ft. with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, special areas for entertaining, gaming, exercising, tinkering, playing and even indoor swimming pools, Jacuzzis, bowling alleys and theaters with surround sound. And let's not forget the multiple vehicle garages filled with Mercedes, Ferrari roadsters, Hummer H2's and a variety of exotic motorcycles.


Why the great disparity between the wants and luxuries of the undeveloped societies and your (my) developed society? The answer is actually pretty simple.

Because you can and they can't. It's really no different than that simple statement.

Why do you want all this "stuff?" Again, the answers are simple. First, because you see others with it and you want to keep up with the Jones's (or Vanderbilts). Second, because someone makes this stuff and through aggressive marketing makes you believe you "need" it, so you have to consume it. Third, because from a very early age in our modern, advanced, developed society, you were conditioned to be ready, willing and able to sell your life and soul into "indentured slavery" to get as much of the pie as you could accumulate. It's your way of spreading your wings and saying, "Look at me, what I've achieved and what I have." It identifies your position in the pecking order of society.

If you seriously looked at all your stuff today, how much of it could you really live very comfortably, happily and contentedly without? Would a nice Ford or Chevy get you to and from the same destinations that your Beamer or Mercedes does? Does a bright, yellow "house brand" shirt cover and protect you the same as the $75 or $100 designer label shirt?

Who Is Happier?

This question is subjective, of course. I don't know you and maybe you're the happiest person on the planet, in which case, I'm very happy for you. I'm not envious or jealous of you. I don't particularly want what you have. But, that goes back to the "different strokes for different folk," concept I've mentioned before. 

In general, studies seem to indicate that societies that are undeveloped and have very little of the kinds of material things we want or the luxuries we aspire to, seem to be happier societies. Within our own developed societies, those who choose to live simpler, less materialistic lifestyles, also seen to be happier. I am neither a psychologist nor an anthropologist, so I can't give you specific scientific data or statistics. I'm just relating what my readings and observations of the human condition are as I travel the U.S. And, to be honest, most of what I see and feel is nuance not overt demonstrations of happiness or unhappiness.

I certainly do not consider myself to be the judge or jury to condone or condemn your behavior or anyone else's. I am the judge over my own life and that's a big enough responsibility. If, in your heart of hearts, you're happy and free and living exactly the life you've always dreamed of, then carry on. I believe you have something most others don't have, but pretend they do. However, if you're not living the life you've always dreamed of, then maybe you need to go into your heart of hearts and ask the hard question . . . "Why not?" The answer is there. If you're an honest judge of your life, you'll know the answer and begin to make plans and choices and take actions to change it. If you're not an honest judge of your life, then you'll likely carry on the rest of your life always wondering why it's just not as you dreamed it would be.

So, when is enough too much? When you finally realize that enough is enough and it's time to make some changes. Any thoughts on this? I'm always open to your ideas. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ed's Living Free Simple Plan For A Meaningful and Purpose Driven Life

This morning I read a very interesting post by Trent Hamm in his very popular blog (over one million readers every month) The Simple Dollar. The title of the article is "Building a Meaningful Life from the Bottom Up." The title of the article is a link to the actual article if you'd like to read it yourself.

I enjoy Trent's articles because they are straightforward and make good common sense when it comes to personal finance and living a simple life financially. The first thing Trent said in this article was, "One of the biggest struggles of modern life is the search for meaning and purpose." Boy is he on target with that statement.

We live in a world that is so busy and so stressful that most people simply keep going, doing all kinds of things they consider necessary until . . . well, until they stop, because they are too stressed, have run out of time and are just too tired to do anymore. So, they call it a day and start the next day doing the same thing and end the same way, day in and day out, including the weekends. Is there any wonder that most people realize little joy, contentment and fulfillment in their lives? They simply do stuff they automatically accept as necessary and important without determining if it serves any meaningful purpose in their lives.

I can certainly relate to this. I chose an entrepreneurial route for my life, as opposed to a more traditional employment scenario in a private sector, institutional or governmental career. I found myself, on many more than a few occasions, asking myself "why" and "to what end" am I doing whatever it was that I was doing. Of course, the older one gets, the more confusing this becomes.

For example, I often hear people who are tired of the work routine, regardless of their employment choice - traditional job or entrepreneur, who can't wait for the, supposed, bliss of retirement. Then, I hear the same people, once they've made this leap into, supposed, bliss, complaining that they are now busier than they were before they retired. It doesn't make any sense, but it seems to work this way for many people.

I would often jest with friends, when asked about the self-employed, entrepreneurial way of life, saying I traded 9-5, five days a week for 14 to 16 hour days six and seven days a week and holidays and vacations didn't exist. Looking back at my life, I realized that I complicated my businesses and my life in unrealistic ways because I believed this was expected of me and necessary. Unfortunately, as I look around at other people, including many young people, today, I see the pattern repeated.

701,280 Hours

What exactly was the meaning and purpose of all the time I spent using up so many of the precious 701,280 hours (80 years, including leap years, the average life expectancy)? I've told myself it was to have a nice home, create financial security, acquire a never-ending list of things I wanted for myself and my family and similar goals. I even said I wanted to make the world a better place. However, the reality was, I had no idea what was really meaningful and served my purpose for ultimately being joyful, content and fulfilled. I wonder how many people live their lives and never do discover meaning and purpose for themselves.

Quiet Desperation

Thoreau said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." To me this simply means that most people function throughout their lives just "doing" and doing whatever it is without an understanding of any underlying meaning or purpose. But, everyone is desperate to get whatever it is that they do done so that one day some of them will wonder what it was they actually did, why they did it and feel no contentment or fulfillment. And, because they are so accustomed to the rut they've carved for themselves, they may reach retirement and then fill their time with more things to do that produce no contentment or fulfillment. But, it's what they do because they are so conditioned to the idea they are expected to do it.

I remember an early issue of the magazine, Travel & Leisure, then either part of or promoted by American Express, with the major cover story, "The Lost Art of Doing Nothing." That story impacted me. On the one hand, the very concept of actually enjoying doing nothing totally intrigued me, while on the other hand, I couldn't fathom the concept of actually living, even a short period of time, doing nothing. The reality for me was that purpose and meaning were just "doing." It didn't matter what it was, just doing anything. The idea that doing nothing was actually doing something didn't register.

"Life Pyramid"

Trent Hamm has developed an exercise for himself that he repeats approximately every three months or so. He calls it "My Life Pyramid." He explains it in great detail in his article (link above). Actually, while I found it very detailed and easy to follow, I remembered that Trent is in his late 20's or early 30's. He hasn't made it to the mid-life 40's and 50's when reality begins to settle in. Reality is that all the dreams and goals of those 20's and 30's are not reality. And those who actually achieve many of them, find there is little that's fulfilling and joyful about the things, especially material accomplishments.

Trent's "Life Pyramid" was inspiring for me. However, by the time I got to the end of the article, I realized that at 69 years of age, while I still have some good life and living ahead of me, Trent's approach to goal setting was just too complicated for me. If you are in your 20's, 30's or maybe even your 40's, it may make more sense for you.

Ed's Living Free Simple Plan For A Meaningful and Purpose Driven Life

I said that Trent's article inspired me and it did. So, I decided to spend a few minutes rather than hours thinking about things that had meaning and purpose for my life and led to fulfillment, contentment and joy. Here they are. They are short, simple, sweet, easy and best of all give me fulfillment, contentment, joy and often (usually) make a difference in other people's lives.

1.   Make 12 people smile everyday
2.   Stop doing things that are meaningless and have no useful purpose to me
3.   Do something to help someone else have some joy everyday
4.   Stop thinking, worrying or stressing about things I have no control over
5.   Do something everyday that brings me joy
6.   Laugh as much as possible and as hard as possible everyday
7.   Explore, learn and see something new/different everyday
8.   Give as much of my knowledge and experience as possible without expectation of return or reward
9.   Do not become dependent on others, but cultivate new friends continually
10. Never forget old friends; we are part of each others' lives
11. MAKE MEMORIES, lots of them, they are the only things that go with you when you die
12. Become financially independent - on MY OWN TERMS based on my needs in life

That's it! These are simple. They all bring me great joy, contentment and a feeling of purpose and meaningful engagement. They are all fluid. My world won't end if I only make 10 people smile on any given day. In other words, if I live the rest of my 5, 10, 15, 20 or any more years and focus on these goals, I will die a content and fulfilled man.

I hope I made you smile as you read this. That's one of many smiles for today.

How do you like this idea? What are your goals to make your life have meaning and purpose?