Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Formula for Success

It turns out that there is a very simple formula for success. It takes some understanding of a few basic theories, but once you accept then as truth and start applying them, it's just a matter of time and effort. I'll give you a brief overview.

First, you have to understand that everything in life is built on a few basic principles. As a society of human beings, we are all 99% the same with 1% difference, usually mainly projected in our physical appearance. We all need food, shelter, love and attention. We all have problems, experience a range of emotions, and have the ultimate goal of being a success at our specific interest. We are all members of different groups where we have roles and value placed on the opinions of the other members based on their roles.

Knowing this, the interplay between us is dictated by economic theory. We are managing different resources that we control, exchanging them with others for ones that they possess that we desire. The value we put on what we have versus what others have is determined by our own happiness as well as the value we place on the opinions and needs of our core group.

With these basic rules established, how do we become a success?

The initial step is to produce value. You can do this on your own on a small scale. If you leverage technology, nature or even other people, you can create consistent value on a larger scale. Once you start consistently producing value, then you just need to find individuals or groups that require what you are producing and are willing to exchange more value in return for it than it took you to produce it.

That is the formula for success in its most basic, elementary form. Specifics are not included, but once you can successfully execute every step in the process from production to delivery, then you cannot fail. It becomes a matter of improving the process to require less to produce more as well as either finding better target groups that have a greater need for the value you produced or increasing the value you are providing so you can get more value in return in the exchange.

It really is that simple.

Social Dynamics

I had this idea that after everyone graduated from middle and high school, and even perhaps college, that there would be this shift away from clique and pack dynamics. I thought that when you "become an adult", there is this transition process where each person can act as a fully functioning unit. I was wrong.

It turns out that this almost instinctive, even animal-like desire to be part of a group, and the pecking order that goes along with it, does not leave us as we get older. All that changes is how it is expressed, mainly in the shift to the work place or in your family life.

Each group has a leader, the alpha male (or female depending on the situation) that decides the direction the pack takes. Below are different classes, usually specialists in different tasks that are needed to supply the pack with various resources required for survival. Finally at the bottom are the sick and/or weak members that are supported by the strength of the rest of the group.

Now that I understand this, my goal has been to become the alpha male in every group that I am in. What's interesting about this is that it is entirely possible, and everyone can do it by adopting certain habits. For example, your posture when with others is critical. Do you slump your shoulders? Do you pull arms and legs tight around you? These things project a lack of openness as well as weakness. Standing tall with legs shoulder width apart and arms by your side is more open and inviting while still being strong and assertive. In situations that require leadership, like planning or preparation, do you hesitate and wait for direction or permission from others, or do you jump in and start running the show? If you want to be a leader, you can not wait for permission to become one, because if you're waiting for permission then you aren't the leader.

I do offer this warning though. If you are not a leader and do not know what you are doing, then stop. Take the time to learn first, then once you have reached a level of comfort in various fields, then start directing others. Do not take control of situations that you are not ready for or your weakness will eventually come out and you will lose your status, or worse. Being an alpha means that there is always others beneath you trying to rise up that you have to guard yourself from. It's not an easy path to be on top, but it reaps the best rewards.

If you want to learn more about this, let me know and I'll expand on it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


So, I'm in trouble. Bad trouble. But I think it's the same kind of trouble as everyone else.

I'm addicted to challenge. I'm addicted to being told no, or you can't.

I constantly desire to do things I haven't done before. To reach new levels of success. To master new concepts and ideas.

But the walls are all coming down. Nothing is truly like I had imagined it was. All the barriers were internal. Everything stopping me was made up. With enough desire, time, and effort, I can accomplish anything I want.

But as soon as I reach the goal, I don't find happiness. I just find the void again. The same desire to find a new goal to reach.

Is there any satisfaction? Does anything last? Does anything actually contain real value?

I think I'm starting to understand where the theology comes in.

When you succeed and you make success part of the fabric of your being, everything starts to become easy, and you develop this understanding of the formula for getting anything you want. But then without the challenge, everything loses its value because it becomes expendable. Then nothing really matters anymore because it is so accessible. So, you need something unattainable in order to still have value in your life.

So then by acknowledging God, a perfect being, and creating a separation between you and God, only in that you cannot be a perfect being, value can be attributed to anything in the pursuit of perfection. Which gives back reason to work for success and be the best you that you can be.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Long Journey

So, after a long year, I think I'm finally back to about where I was a year ago. What I mean really, is that I'm ready to start my own business again. But I'm going to do it a little differently this time.

Last time, my idea was to do the Rich Dad approach, which basically says that it doesn't matter what business you start, just go do it. The only problem though, is if you start a business and you don't care about it, then you're not going to get very far. So that line of thinking had me deliberating for about a year about what kind of business I actually want to start. What is something that I actually care about and want to do.

I finally figured it out. I'm going to start a business doing business consulting. What this essentially means is that I'm going to find small businesses that are already operational and go in and help them to become more profitable or grow. I'm building my own model for how to do this based off of a mixture of the plethora of sources I've read that suggest different ideas. I'm going to add in my knowledge of the new technology that is available and help these small shops in this dark economic time.

Finally I feel like I have all the tools I need, the initiative and the plan as well as the confidence. There are a lot of other little tricks and details that I'm not going to elaborate on because they are my clever innovations that I don't want people to take and run with. The point though is that finally I have a solid goal again, something I can break into steps and start working towards.

It's been way too long :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Context Change

So I'm out in Idaho for work this week training various groups of providers on how to use our software. Just being out in the West is completely different from the normal East Coast atmosphere. The wide open spaces and clean mountain air really gives you a different feel about life. You actually see the land in the phrase "Land of opportunity" and there is this sense that you could just grab 50 acres and do whatever you inclined to, just make it happen.

On top of that, I've been traveling with this remarkable man. I don't even know where to begin in describing his life story. He started working for his dad at age 8, washing the trucks for his dad's crews and restocking them every morning at 4:30 before school. He had more money and was at a more mature stage in his life at the age of 14 than I'm probably at even now at 24. From there he went on to being a professional skier, then when couldn't compete anymore he taught ski lessons on one the most challenging resorts in the country. From there he did IT consulting for various banks, then when he wanted to retire a company that had contracted to his forced him to come work with them since they had invested so much into him. He revolutionized the way they built fire engines, allowing the customer to pick and choose the options on the cabs by selecting different radio buttons in a list and showing them in real time a CAD drawing of what their engine would look like. After enough time there, he ended up doing some work for the state of Wyoming counciling mental health and substance abuse youth. He came up with some ideas for how they could run their system better, but they told him he didn't have the credentials to tell them what to do. So from there he headed off to Oxford to get a couple of masters degrees and some PhDs. After teaching there for some time after graduation, he went back to the state and started implementing some of his programs.

That's really only the tip of the iceberg. Each story is more phenomenal than the previous one, and the guy is just a constant inspiration for the "Yes I can" spirit. I feel like he's changed my life, and honestly I want to emulate him as much as I can. There is only one problem. I know already that what is most likely to happen is that after working with him, he'll move on to the next thing and I'll move back to my normal surroundings and that inspiration will seep out, leaving me right back where I was.

It's almost like a natural animal instinct. I play a certain role in my family and at my job, and everyone else has their roles. I'll come back wanting to change my role, to shift everything and have it different. They won't like that so they'll resist and since there is more of them trying to put me back in place and my inspiration for leaving places will be gone, it'll just be a constant effort to try and make change until one side wins, most likely the other side.

So the question is, what do I do? I know what's going to happen in advance. I still want the change. What is it going to take for it to actually happen, for the elements and relational dynamics of my life to actually change?

Recently, there has been some change in my life that has led me to where I am. But it's been slow and it's been hard and I've even had to change my appearance by growing a goatti just to have a physical and real reminder everyday that I'm not some kid anymore and that I should have some power and respect in my community. What does it take to break through the dynamic keeping me in place?

I'm hoping that writing this will at least help. That way when I look back at it later I can think about what I'm feeling now and at least try to remember that rather than having it disappear completely. Maybe while I'm out here I can start taking some steps. A friend called me about the possibility of doing some contracting work, so that's one avenue I can get in motion. I can finally put together the website I've been thinking about doing. Also, a friend at work keeps trying to motivate me, so maybe with his support there is a greater chance that I'll be able to change dynamics.

The sad thing is that it's really my family and some of my friends that are holding me in place. They have very small world views and have adopted the mindset that they have to be employees and that they have to just move up the ladder at someone else's pace because there is some invisible barrier in their minds between where they are and where they would want to be and they are unable to break through it. I've actually known this for about two years now, ever since I did the Rich Dad Training. I also knew that if I wanted to change I had to change who I surround myself with, but I've been very hesitant to do it because I don't want to give them up. But what are you giving up really when you let go of people who want to hold you back and keep you in place? It's sad because they are trying to help, but they are trying to help from their context.

I know eventually everything has to change. I think when I moved back home from college, it was such a dramatic setback that it's taken me years to recover from. The momentum has been building up though, and there has been an increasing change, so maybe this time it will be enough to break free. And if it is not, at least I have this record to look back on and reawaken these ideas in the future. I may lose the battle, but the hope I have is that I can still win the war.

Friday, November 7, 2008


So I have this philosophical questions about how the world works. When you find something that you are good at, and you start doing it, is that when you actually start getting what you want?

I'm a good writer, speaker, trainer and manager. Now I'm finally actually starting to do these things in a professional capacity. Does that mean that my company should actually start paying me a higher amount since I'm producing more value?

I figure, I can wait it out for a while, see what happens. In the mean time I'm going to follow my sister's advice in continuing to build my network inside and outside the company. I guess I'll see what opportunities comes from that.

Eventually I think I'm going to start trying to find ways to give public speeches for a fees and such, and then try to continue to grow the audience. I'm not quite to the level where I'm comfortable with thinking that I should charge people to hear me talk, but with more practice I feel like I'll get there.

Monday, October 27, 2008


So I'm hitting rock bottom in desperation. I'm trying to meet girls on these damn online services. I found one girl I actually liked and sent her a message. She does swing dancing on Monday nights, so I was going to try and meet up with her tonight.

I drove all the way up to Baltimore to this Can Company center where the swing dancing is suppose to be. Once there, I forgot where it was suppose to be, so I asked at the Outback. They laughed at me and told me they don't do swing dancing there and maybe it was the "kiss cafe" next door that just recently closed. (It was actually a little worse than that as they told me I could dance in the corner and entertain their diners, thanks a lot jerks) So, with my tail between my legs, I headed back home.

Once I got home, I realized it was actually at the Austin Grill, which I walked past twice, completely oblivious. So now I'm a little bummed.

Maybe I'm just too willing to accept these things not working out, like I expect for it not to. It was hard going into Baltimore because it triggered some repressed memories of my ex and the different fun activities that we use to do (the actual good times of the relationship). Honestly, I don't miss her at all, I just miss being in a relationship and that feeling like you have someone to love and someone who loves you.

I think I'm too obsessed with the perfect, hoping that I'll meet some ideal women that doesn't really exist. I just feel like I've put so much effort into becoming the type of person who deserves someone great that I don't understand why I can't find someone great. I get this feeling like everyone else is surrounded by people their age and have all these friends to go places with and do things and I'm missing out or some kind of outcast because I always seem stuck by myself. It's so much harder alone as well because you feel like an outcast, like you weren't even good enough for someone to want to hang out with you, so why would anyone new want to talk to you?

I just don't know what I don't know, and unfortunately that seems to be what I'm doing wrong or not doing. I need help but I don't even know where to start or who to go to. People have recommended dating sites and stuff like speed dating and I'm trying it, but I get little to no results.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


So everything is going very well. My job is picking up and changing into new areas that I'm more interested in pursuing. There always seems to be some social event to go to and I feel comfortable with just calling people up and seeing what they are up to (before I always thought I would be interrupting something or bothering them). My extracurricular activities are teaching me new skills and opening up some new opportunities (running, speaking, coaching).

The only thing is that I feel like I'm missing a guiding direction. Like some true passion or calling that should keep me directed in the right direction, doing the right things to accomplish some great big goal for what I want out of life. I'm still not sure what that is or what kind of thing it even should be. It's like I'm playing an open world videogame, and I've been doing all the side quests, but now I want to keep going with the main quest but I don't know what it is.

My only current theory goes along with what I was saying to the kids on my team at our first basketball practice last night. We started with the basics, just shooting, passing, defense. And once you have a good feel for the basics, then you start building on them, give-and-go, back door, trapping, different elements that are more complex, but have greater results. That's my only theory right now as to what to aim for next. Now that I have all the basics, now it's time to build on them. You've got to keep the basics fresh and strong, otherwise the new layers will collapse the whole thing, but that is the best idea for the next direction that I've had as of yet.

What I've been mainly trying to add is a dip into the dating scene. I'm trying to get more comfortable with just meeting new people and talking to them. Forget trying to put together dates, forget deciding if this person is marriage material, I just want to meet someone new and talk to them. I did that on Friday night and it was a good time. I didn't feel like there was anyone new that I should really start trying to see again, but I had fun just chatting with new people. Previously I had a lot of inhibition about doing this because everyone else drank and I didn't and I'd go out by myself and feel like a lonely loser. But I've recently discovered the miracle that is beer and it's made everything a lot more fun with a lot less stress.

Next week I'm flying out to Maine and then I'm flying out to IL for Halloween with my brother. He's a social guy and can have a good time without me feeling like I have to babysit him like some of the people I've been hanging out with. Really, he completes this element I'm missing, which is just having someone else who knows how to have fun to go out and do stuff with. It's funny because he's always kinda been the Ying to my Yang in a sense, so I should have really thought about this before, but he's been out in IL so that's been the limiting factor. It should be a great time so I'm really looking forward to it.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Today is going to be tough. I haven't gotten ample amounts of sleep the last couple of days so I'm dragging. But that's not that important.

I'm packing in a lot of activities right now. I do Toastmasters every 1st and 3rd Monday of the month, plus the time outside to organize and write speeches. I see a chiropractor on Tuesday every two weeks, plus hit the gym to do upper body work. Wednesday is trivia night plus I try to do a 2 mile run. Thursday is usually the only free night I have, but I've been trying to do this Yoga class and I do lower body weight lifting. Fridays I usually have a shift at GameStop. So the week is pretty full, plus I now have the basketball season starting up.

So yesterday I was looking into different running groups in the area. I'm trying to find something I can join so that I know what races are coming up and I don't have to run by myself all the time. I figure, I already have a bunch of activities I like to do, why not find groups of people that enjoy them as well? There seems to be a couple of groups in the area but they have a 90/10 ratio of guys to girls. I told myself before that I wasn't going to join anymore sausage fest groups. I need a new way to find people my age, particularly females, and sadly all the stuff I have been doing doesn't seem to promote that (Toastmasters, coaching basketball, working at GameStop).

A coworker and I were brainstorming about how I could just start a running group that targets people my age. It sounds like a great idea, and in all honesty I'm a big fan. The problem is that it'll take a lot of time to setup, and frankly I don't want to take on more stuff that may or may not work. If there isn't already a demand, I don't want to spend all my time trying to create one. I did that for the last two years or so and it sucks. I want to do activities that other people actually want to do. It's really depressing to have to spend all your time badgering people and trying to get them to do something and the constant rejection makes you start to feel like you are somehow a lesser person.

Which brings me to another topic. I've found a good group of friends recently. They make me realize how crappy some of my previous friends were. If people don't want to spend time with you or never seem to have time for you, then frankly, they aren't your friends. They may say they are, they may even think they are, but they aren't. Friends are the people you call when you want to do something or you need to talk to someone and they find the time for you. If they don't want to do that, then it's time to find people who will. Also, I'm getting tired of all the cynicism and pessimists. I'm naturally an optimistic person, but other people get to me and their negative attitudes ruin things for me. So I'm just not going to deal with people like that anymore. I'm making the choice to be happy, and if they aren't, then they can be unhappy alone.

A friend of mine recommended I do some speed dating. I hadn't thought about that recently. I tried it a while back with poor results and swore off it, but I might try the actual speed dating thing since what I tried was a little different. I'll have to go into DC to do it this time, since all the people in this area seem to be older.

Another thing that's popped up recently is that I found this girl on one of the free dating sites. For some reason I felt like an intuitive connection to this girl, like I should actually put some effort out to meet her and contact her. She's into swing dancing, so I sent her a message about it. She sent me some info about it, so I'll have to try to go and maybe even meet up with her at an event. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Too Human and Dead Space Review

As of late I haven't had too much time to play the games I've borrowed, so unfortunately these are incomplete reviews.

Too Human is an interesting game built on a good system of game play but it has some clear and crippling flaws. Right off the bat, the plot was entertaining, but there didn't seem to be enough background to know what the main issues are. You are some kind of god character and you are fighting a bunch of robots maybe? I didn't get far enough in to learn more and the new plot elements of the fates was just annoying rather than more interesting.

There are a lot of options for RPG like development for your character. You upgrade weapons, armor and different skills in a tree similar to Diablo. You also choose a character class much like Diablo or Mass Effect. The combat was pretty straight forward as your character would jump from bad guy to bad guy, slaughtering whatever current one you are facing.

The biggest issue I ran into was that some bad guys actually seemed to require a strategy, which was hard to do after being so use to just random button pressing. When you die, you will regenerate at the beginning of the section you were just at after a long unskippable cut scene. This seems completely pointless since you lose your experience but all the bad guys stay dead and you just end up running right back to where you were.

I ended up playing the game for about an hour, got sick of it and had no motivation to play it anymore before I had to return it.

Dead space is awesome. I only played it for about an hour and barely got into the meat of the game, but I can tell you that it is fantastic. The environment the game creates for you will creep you out. After the opening I was sitting, muscles clenched, freaked out at every turn. There is just this overwhelming sense of inability to know what is coming next.

If you are into being scared and that thrill of adventure and danger, then you won't be able to put this game down.

Choice - Toastmasters Speech #6

A brilliant American writer, David Foster Wallace once said, "It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out." He was recently found dead by a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests.

I've read a lot of books. Books on business, books on philosophy, and even self help books. There are all kinds of ideas out there about how to live your life, what is important in life and what is the meaning of life. A lot of them are different but there does seem to be a common thread to it all.

Everyday you have a choice.
You have a choice as to the life you live.

I use to roll my eyes when I heard people say this. I'd think, "Yes, of course. I can choose to be happy. Everything is just that simple." Then I'd move on, planning out my day and what I had left to get through, drifting through it till the end. It never really registered in my reality as something more than just words. All those nuggets of wisdom are like that, just clever sayings until you have an experience that clarifies it all for you, makes it sink in, makes it click, makes it real.

That happened for me with this just recently. I decided to pick up a part time job working at GameStop in the mall. This is an odd choice, and a lot of people gave me puzzled looks when I told them I was thinking about it. The first reaction always seemed to be, why?

Before I get to that, let me tell you about this job. You spend hours alphabetizing shelves of games, just to turn around and see some kids start mixing it up right after you finish. Sometimes people come in and scream at you or at their kids right in front of you and everyone else in the store because they are having a bad day. And if you've ever worked a job where you stand on your feet for hours straight, then you know how painful it can be.

So now you’re probably thinking why as well. The answer to why and the beauty of the job is in the choice. I work there because I want to. I enjoy every shift because I want to be there. It is my choice. And I choose to work there because the environment is great, the coworkers are friendly and I love to talk to and help people.

How many times in your day are you given an opportunity to help someone?
To put a smile on their face?
To make them feel special?
At GameStop there is always a new customer coming in who you can help. A new chance to have an impact on someone else, even if it’s just that one pleasant encounter.

The other key element for me is the people. There are a lot of jobs out there that are hard labor. Sitting in a cubicle or an office all day working on a computer is not one of those jobs. It comes with its own price, but it is easy to lose sight of how nice it is when you always focus on how much better it could be. I've found that the people who do some of the hardest jobs are some of the best people I've ever met.
I have my theories about why this is. Maybe it takes a selfless person to do a thankless job. Maybe there is a Zen quality to the hard, repetitive manual labor. Maybe they're just nuts!

But the people you surround yourself with are a key part of that choice, because they are making the choice too. If you surround yourself with people who choose to find happiness even in the toughest times, then they are a beacon of inspiration to you and everyone else around them.
There are a lot of things in life that we wish we could control. Many of us have been through hard times that we had no say in – things like a divorce, a freak accident, or a loss of a loved one. These are just a few of the examples of the challenges that weigh on our spirits, that make it hard to make positive choices. They make the world look ugly and gray and feel cold and lonely. These are the hardest times to make a positive choice. Hardest, but also the most important.
In the end, remember this. Even though it is unimaginably hard to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out, you have the power to make that choice. That choice determines everything else.

Make the right one.

Madam Toastmaster.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This is very strange. Everything is going well for me. My relationships with family members and friends is as good as it has ever been. I'm doing a good job at work, making friends, accomplishing tasks. I've even taken some risks and done some new things as of late.

But now I'm wondering, what next? I feel like there is so much I don't know but I have very little way of assessing where I am. It's not even about comparing myself to someone else, or wanting something I don't have. It's more about, am I really reaching my potential? Could I do more? Should I be looking to do more?

Maybe it's a lack of a goal that resonates with me that is the problem. I'm doing a lot of things and making steady progress, but the question is, to what end?

A good example is working out. I'm probably in the best shape I've ever been in currently. But now what? Do I just keep doing what I'm doing, maintaining what I have and maybe continuing to push it up a notch here and there? Or do I try to set some goals with deadlines? Maybe it's more about what speed to operate in.

Maybe that was always the problem before. I was unhappy with where I was, so I wanted everything else to change quicker than it should or maybe than it can. Or I expected more and more from everything, rather than just taking the time to let things develop. Now that I am happy where I am, I should probably "relax and enjoy it". Why rush a change when things are going so well?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It always amazes me how learning small things can completely change your perspective. Maybe just reading about body language and starting to see the little clues that people give off without realizing so you can tell their feelings. Or seeing how computer graphics are made to look real or 3D from simple 2D designs. The biggest one has been seeing how sales really works.

Basically, it's all smoke and mirrors. The average customer probably has no real need for your product or service. If they never met you, they would keep going on with their daily life completely ignorant that they don't have your product. So the idea of sales is to manufacture that need. True or false, however you want to do it, you build a scenario in their mind that involves them and what you are selling that is better than their current scenario. Basically, your ability at transferring your vision to them determines how much you can sell your product for. You're matching the proposed value of your product against their proposed value of the money they have.

This was well summed up in a line from Pirates of Silicon Valley when the character playing Bill Gates says, "You have to make people need you". That's what it all comes down to. Your goal is to get the person to be shocked they were able to take that last breath without your product. It's an amazingly simple concept, but at the same time so powerful and effective.

Sales truly is in every element of life. Everywhere you go, everything you see is designed to sell you an idea or concept, to make you believe what someone else wants you to believe. If you haven't developed an eye for it, then you are at a severe disadvantage.

Previously I posted about determining when you are an expert. When is the point where you can charge someone for goods or services. I've realized now that if you are asking that question, you are never going to get to that point. It's not about asking people for money. If you give them control, if you let them determine what is valuable enough to pay for, then you will never get paid. It is about knowing, better than the person you are selling to even, that you are giving them something worth more than what they are giving you in return. Once you have developed the confidence that that is true, then you are unstoppable because all you have to do is paint the picture for them to see what you already know.


So, as I mentioned previously, yesterday was the first time I realized how much money I've actually lost in the stock market. I even met with a Financial Adviser yesterday thinking that maybe moving to an asset allocation approach would be a better solution going forward. After meeting with them, I've decided it is not. I was still pretty distraught at that point, and that's when it happened.

Sometimes I start thinking, I'm a good person, I help other people, I try to do my best, why do I never seem to get what I want? It's a dangerous path to start walking down. As of late though, I've had my eyes open enough to see the little good things that pop up and prove that these things are happening for a reason, and in the long run it will end up better for me than I see in the short term.

What happened yesterday was a random conversation I had. I walked out of the financial adviser's office with my head down. Tired, stressed and still recovering from the shock of realizing my loss, I looked like the world had beaten me up. Then the security guard for the area shouted out to me. He basically acknowledged how I looked and I agreed with him, it had been a long day. So we got to talking and he told me about the weekend he had had (he hit some bars with his nephew and from the sounds of it had a good time). He even told me a few jokes that he had learned over the years going to different bars and now remembered them because he retold them here and there.

It was a great time. His jokes were funny, he was a very friendly guy and he really brightened my day. Sometimes the pick-me-ups come from the most unexpected places.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I'm meeting with a financial adviser today. I want to setup an asset allocation rather than just this random conglomeration of mutual funds.

Part of the prep work is to write out your financial portfolio. So today is the first time I've realized how much it has gone down in the past month. I think total I'm down about $35,000. If you take out taxes, medicare, and social security, that's probably about as much money as I'd make in an entire year.

So at this point I have to leave all that money in the market and wait for it to come back. That means my assets are essentially frozen for probably 5 years.

It makes you wonder about if I had put the money all into a savings account and waited to put it into the market till right now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Viva Pinata

This week I'm borrowing Viva Pinata for the Xbox 360.

There is a very Zen beauty to this game. Not only is the attitude of the game colorful and fun, but the simple, repetitive actions are very soothing. If you don't know much about the game, it reminds me of Harvest Moon since you are essentially creating a garden and "raising" animals.

There are numerous elements to the game. First is just general land management, breaking up dry soil, planting grass, growing trees, creating a pond, putting up fence. There are plenty of options for creating a certain look and feel to your garden area that will make it aesthetically pleasing to your tastes. Some of the pinatas are attracted to certain elements, so by creating a mix of all the options available you will slowly pull together a large ecosystem of creatures.

The second element are the pinatas themselves. They are essentially animals, just in pinata form which makes the food chain more child friendly. They visit and then will reside in your garden if you meet certain requirements. Then you can find ways to "get them in the mood" and they will breed and an egg will be delivered that will hatch a new pinata of that type. There are some mini games associated with this, one that is like operation in that you have to guide one pinata to the other without hitting any of the bad guys that line the perimeter.

Third are the towns people. They offer advice and services that will benefit you as you create your garden. One runs a general shop, one will build homes for your pinatas, one will find pinatas in the wild for you, another hosts an Inn where you can hire laborers. There are more that provide a variety of other services as you continue to progress.

The game is more addictive than you'd think and I found myself saying, "I'll just do this one more thing before I stop playing..." over and over again. It appeals to the perfectionist inside of us who always sees more potential and another thing to do, giving us a garden filled with opportunity to craft and create to our own liking.

If you're looking for something playful and fun to kill some time, this is the game for you.

Inside Out

I've done a lot of thinking recently about what exactly I want to accomplish and the best ways to go about it. But one of the key findings I've had is that you really do have to start with yourself. Only be growing strong yourself will you have the strength needed to reach out and help other people. If you build yourself up and put yourself in a position to succeed, then you become a beacon for others.

The hardest part of helping yourself is that since you see things through your eyes all the time and you are always present in what you are working on, you lose the ability to see change over a long period of time. For example, when you start working out and getting in shape, you see the gradual improvements and your mind starts to adjust to them, expecting them instead of remembering the contrast. So you don't store up that feeling of accomplishment unless you have a snapshot from farther back to compare to.

The nice thing about this is that it provides a great opportunity for other people to help. Since they pop in and out of your life at different intervals, they will be able to point out the bigger changes that you can't pick up on. They can feed you encouragement by giving you a greater range of time to contrast from.

The question I'm left with in all of this is, how do you get an even bigger perspective? How can you tell that the path you are going on it getting you to the right place, or that the place you are trying to get to is actually the right place? I have these 'epiphany' moments at times where I get this understanding and clarity about something I'm doing and then I can't remember why I thought the way I did before.

I imagine that those moments are the real value of experience. You can have all the raw talent and detailed knowledge of some subject, but until you temper them with experience you will never have that clarity of understanding.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Watching the debate last night was a really interesting experience. First off I'm going to say that honestly, I don't know which candidate is really going to do a better job. Each campaign is well designed to exploit the weaknesses of the other and create a web of rhetoric that prevents them from actually nailing down the actions they are going to take to fix the problems we are facing.

I did like how McCain's approach to the economy is to stop the housing market's free fall, since I think that creating a stable base to build on would actually make a difference. Renegotiating your mortgage at the real value of the house would take back that easy money people thought they were getting without robbing them of everything like losing their house would. It sounds like a good middle ground. I'm not sure what Obama's plan is, all I can remember is this idea of taking money from Wall Street and giving it back to Main Street. But that doesn't make any sense since most people on Main Street have their money in 401ks, which is governed by Wall Street. I imagine he's just trying to say that he's going to take the money from the rich and give it to the poor, but that sounds pretty stupid because the poor people lost the money in the first place trying to be like the rich people, so doesn't that just create an endless cycle of having to keep robbing the rich to give back to the poor so they can keep giving to the rich? I'm less concerned about pinning down the blaim for why we are in this position and more concerned about what is actually going to be down to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again in the future.

I thought another big point that should have been emphasized is how can the government, and specifically the president, help push for more innovation towards energy independence. I don't care about off site drilling, I care about alternative energy, specifically stuff that works like nuclear and wind power. Are they going to cut the subsides for turning corn into ethanol and instead shift money into places like the National Science Foundation or consumer credit for people who install green technology in their homes (where appropriate)? Neither candidate talked about this. There was a lot of vague generalities about nuclear power and drilling, but no factual details about what real steps can, should and will be taken. I wish the debate would at least show more of the candidates thought process on these issues even if they don't actually commit themselves to one action or another.

The final large point of emphasis was foreign relations. Again I had to agree more with McCain since he really seemed to be confident and know what he was doing. Foreign relations is like the ultimate chess game, you have to be strong and fortified, not over extending too early and leaving yourself weak, but also always holding a card up your sleeve in case things go the wrong way. McCain seemed to understand that you can't always just sit down and talk everything out, because if the person you're trying to talk to isn't meeting you at the same level then nothing good will come from it. When you're the alpha male, you have to keep a certain image, and if you lose that image then you open up ideas that you have weakness and can be overthrown. I think it was a misstep for Obama to say too much about his plans for Osama Bin Laden, esp since it made him seem like he's acting emotionally rather than rationally. If you're going to lead you need to be able to pull back enough from the raw emotion so you can focus on the bigger perspective.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


So I finally figured it out. The ups and downs, where it all comes from. It's all just about whether or not the girl I like that given week responds favorably to me or not. That's it.

It's that simple. If the girl blows me off, then I'm pissed. If the girl is nice, then I'm happy.

Now I'm going to go eat some comfort food because I'm pissed off.

Monday, October 6, 2008



My goal is to be able to write like this.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Quick Note About Sales

Here's the thing. You can read all about sales. There are specific, very well documented techniques, that can almost guarantee you a high success rate. A quick search will find them or you can go to a used car dealership and they'll give you a whole walk through as long as you're savvy enough to pick up on it.

The thing though, is your success rate will be zero until you try it. The techniques require a certain amount of practice because our inherent nature is to back down. Well, that is unless you were the bully in the school yard. :) But once you do start to practice, to get through that first no, to start having those flashes of how to counter arguments and read people's body language, then it all starts to fall in place.

Sales is a universally needed skill. Once you get it, you see it in every interaction. Every communication is one party selling the other party on a piece of information or an idea. The question in the end is how good are you at getting yours through.


You want to know how depression works? Well, I can give you the insider's picture.

It's start very slowly. It creeps up on you unexpectedly, very sneaky in order to get in under your radar. The first step is that you don't wake up feeling rested. You're always in a slight daze, almost like a fog. If you try to sleep longer, it only gets worse. It's like being dehydrated but the more water you drink, the more the thirst grows.

But then it starts to get worse. The world starts to dim. Colors start to gray. The things that use to bounce off you now start to stick and linger. Each one clings on longer than it should, adding extra weight. It starts to get harder to see things that make you happy, like they are hidden, always slightly out of view. Then the anger starts.

Why anger? Because you're drowning. You're sinking slowly below the surface and every part of you is reaching up, begging for help. But no one seems to notice. You start to feel alone, insignificant, almost non-existent. It's like you're living in the world, but a step outside, watching everyone else. They move so effortlessly, so easily, completely unaware of what you see and of you. You're dying for them to notice you, to want to help you, but they don't, almost like they can't.

So you get angry. You hate them for being different than you. For being happy. And then is all gets so much worse. Now you start looking for reasons to sever your connections. You doubt they even existed in the first place. All that's left is fear and mistrust. You pull back within even more, shouldering all the weight. The water is too high now and you start to resign to your fate. But it doesn't end. That loss of air, that moment of pain doesn't go away to any release into the next life. Instead you sit there on the edge.

You keep clinging on, why? Because that's all you can do. All that's left is numbness or pain.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Knowing Yourself

This is the third speech I wrote and gave for Toastmasters:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. These words by Ralph Waldo Emerson have always rung very true in my life. It seems like everywhere you go – school, work, home – everything you see – TV shows, movies, billboards – there is a new message of who you should be, what you should want, and how you should think. But the reality is that there is only one person you can be, and that is yourself. But you can’t be true to yourself if you don’t know who you really are. So the question is, how do you know yourself?

Everyone has some general sense of self. How could you not? You live your life through your eyes, you experience the world through your senses, and you make decisions based on your thoughts. But is this enough to really know yourself? Can you accurately depict what decision you would make in any given situation? You may think you can, but you may end up like I do, describing the person you wish you were, rather than who you really are. So then, if you can’t even trust yourself, where do you start?

You start by building a basic model. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is an assessment test that is centered on four dichotomies. These dichotomies are assessed based on three main descriptive categories of a person: attitudes, functions and lifestyle. The targeted questions in the assessment help you to understand your preferences towards extroversion or introversion, intuition or sensing, thinking or feeling and adaption or judgment. By determining these preferences you determine which of sixteen personality types you largely fit. Once you have determined your type, you will have a stronger idea of what your natural inclinations are going to be in a variety of situations and you will have a better grasp of the elements that make you who you are, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge of yourself can help you to see patterns of behavior that you tend to follow that you may have never noticed before.

Now with a basic model, the next step is to look at who your friends are. It has been said, show me who your friends are and I will show you who you are. If you look at the six people you spend the most time with, they are a true reflection of who you are. Think about this for a second, it makes a lot of sense. When you have a question or a problem, who do you go to? When you have an idea or come across something of interest, who do you share it with? Your closest friends are the ones that you feel comfortable enough to show your true self. You chose them for a reason, maybe one that you are unaware of, but regardless, you chose them and you continue to choose them. By looking at what makes them who they are, what are their characteristics and values, you will be able to have a perspective of yourself and what really matters to you.

Now with a model and a perspective, the last major elements that make you uniquely who you are, are your beliefs and passions. Originally your beliefs may have been modeled after your parents, or from the religious teachings you follow, but there are core things that you have taken to heart and made your own. These meant more to you because they rang true or resonated with you because of the experiences you have had and the situations you have encountered. The difficult situations you have faced, the pressures and challenges you have endured and overcome have molded and shaped you into who you are. Your passion is evident through your accomplishments because it is what has fueled you to continue on during the hardest times; sticking with decisions to pursue one goal over another, succeeding against greater odds of failure.

Knowing your passions and beliefs, having a perspective of who you are, all built on a model of your preferences is a strong foundation for knowing yourself. By knowing yourself, you are equipped to stand your ground and be your unique self in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else. To be who you are and share yourself with the world is truly the greatest accomplishment.

Life Purpose

So one of the big questions everyone takes on in life at least at some point or another is, what is the purpose of my life? Or another way of putting it, why am I here?

While there are many articles out there about how to find your life purpose (http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/01/how-to-discover-your-life-purpose-in-about-20-minutes/), I've still not pinned mine down completely. I have taken different steps that seem to resonate better than the path I was previously taking. Before I focused more on doing something challenging that not everyone could do and would have a high potential for helping me to find a job. Now that I have a job, I have been allotted the chance to look at my life with more perspective and start looking for something that fits with who I am and what mark I want to leave on the world.

One of the key steps happened recently when I realized my personality is more INFP than ENFP. It seems like a little thing, and to some people I imagine a stupid thing, but when being more truthful about who I am it has helped me stop thinking that qualities that didn't match up were deficiencies of mine. Now that I've found what seems to be the best match, it's more of a boost than a discouragement because it's all in alignment. It also helped to clarify what other types match up with me and in what roles.

Another key step was joining Toastmasters. I love to write and give inspirational speeches, which is probably why I started coaching. Now that I have a forum where I can do that and continue to grow and refine my skills, I feel like whatever happens with my job I'll have the skills to find a new one doing something that I love. I'm not exactly sure what specifically to use it in, if I should try to become a motivational speaker or a priest or even just get into marketing and sales, but at least I have knowledge of what direction to look.

Finally, the last key step of late has been writing on this blog. I enjoy writing and openly and honestly expressing my thoughts. It helps me to clarify what I'm thinking, see the progress over time, and map out my growth. Plus I hope that it helps to inspire other people to do the same. One of the hardest things is to be truly honest with yourself because it's easy to create cognitive dissonance or let things slide when you are the only one who is suffering, but it does catch up with you eventually. Writing has helped to keep me honest with myself and force me to dig deeper into my thoughts.

So I'm not sure what my Life Purpose is yet. But I'm getting closer and I'm continuing to realign myself with each step, making the next step easier. I use to go to this chiropractor who said that when you fix the initial problems, sometimes it unveils the underline causes. That's what seems to be happening, there are all these layers I've built up with the wrong core fundamental goals. Now, with the right perspective and goals in mind, I'm starting to peel them back and find the truth underneath.

I still have this one goal that I really want to accomplish that trumps everything else. I want to write something that is quoted by lots of people and used to express some wisdom or insight to people even long after I'm gone.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lego Batman Review

Again, one of the best perks, if not the best, of working at GameStop is that I get to take home games and try them out for free. With this privilege, I feel like it is my responsibility to also share my thoughts on the games with the world. So here goes.

Over the weekend, I borrowed the new Lego title, Lego Batman. If you've played the other Lego games (Indiana Jones and Star Wars) you know what to expect with these titles. I had not played them, so while I had some clue as to how playing with Legos was going to work, this was still new for me.

The game is broken down into 6 main Chapters. The first three have five parts each and you play through them as Batman and Robin. The second three are the flipped side where you play as the villains. Over the weekend I only finished the first three Chapters as Batman and Robin and then played one of the villain missions where you are the Riddler and Clayface. I imagine with the other missions you will rotate through the different villains as well, but didn't have the time to get through all of them.

Some of the main game dynamics are general fighting, item collection, collection of Lego "stubs" (which is basically the currency for the game) and destroying objects in order to open up Lego pieces that are then built into objects that allow you to advance or operate some new device. Along with just your normal operations, you can also change suits which gives you a new ability such as being able to glide or dive underwater. Each Chapter also has a mission where you use a vehicle, such as the Batmobile or the Batplane.

This game is not designed to be some epic revolution of game play. You're basically playing around with Legos, in Lego environments with a lot of smash and grab repetition. There is some humor and clever little environment combinations thrown into the mix to keep things fresh, but the bottom line is that there is just a lot of stuff to collect and it's going to take a while to do it. You'll have fun doing it for as long as you can keep interest, but inevitably the repetition will add up.

A few side features exist that reward you for your efforts. You can purchase information about the Batman franchise, you can buy access to new characters, you can do a mix and match to determine what you want your super hero to look like, you can wander around the "trophy room" to see what you've collected, and there seems to be some mini games scattered throughout like collecting money lying around Wayne Manor.

There weren't any real flaws with the game that I could think of as long as you understand what you are getting into. I ran into some confusion early on because it didn't do a very good job of explaining the controls to me as well as what options I had available in order to know what I could and could not do at the current time. Some of the stuff you have to come back to in the "Free Play" mode of the levels in order to collect (at least that's my assumption since I couldn't find any other way of doing it), so not knowing that produced some frustration in the beginning as I looked around trying to figure out what I was missing.

Overall, I played it more during the weekend than I thought I was going to because it was fun. There wasn't a lot of thought involved, and I imagine if you've got a buddy and want to play co-op, it can be a lot of fun to tag team the bosses and just go through the levels smashing stuff. The bottom line is that you're playing with Legos, so if you're cool with that, you'll enjoy the game.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Place

So I've been powering through this big project at work, pushing to meet the final deadlines. It's been really tiring but all the work is paying off and I'm almost finished. The whole process has been draining, but today I got to go to my happy place.

So, before I continue, what is a happy place? For me, my Happy Place is a real location that I actually physically travel to. The reason it is my Happy Place is because no matter what else is going on, how tired I am, what mood I'm in when I enter, I always leave feeling refreshed. It's like a wellspring of joy and energy that I dive into and everything outside melts away. Another way to put it is its a place that I go to when my batteries are low and I can sit and charge back up.

My Happy Place is GameStop. This is the main reason I wanted to work there. The best though is when two specific coworkers are working. Something about those two, esp when they are there together, creates an awesome environment that makes you happy to be alive.

Part of it is because they are so good at what they do. At GameStop no one makes a commission, but we do like to get people to sign up for the Edge cards and reserve games coming up. A lot of people think, oh who cares about that, they just want my money. The Edge card is like $14 for a whole year, you get 12 issues of Game Informer, 10% off used games, 10% additional for any trades as well as an assortment of other little perks and bonuses. Reserves are great because they guarantee you're going to get your game, esp for hot titles that are going to fly off the shelves. If we get enough reserves for a game, we can do a midnight launch, which is an awesome experience.

Anyway, now that I've gone off on my tangent, the beauty is in how they sell. Again, they don't get any commission or anything, it's more just because they truly believe in the value to be had. But watching them talk to customers and explain the benefits, parrying different objections, and how the presentation has different pieces that they throw in a different times, it really is a work of art. Life is filled with little moments that shine forth with true beauty and one of the greatest crimes a person can commit is to rob themselves of appreciating them. Watching those two work, for me at least, is one of those moments. It is a display of true, pure beauty.

After watching them, I'm filled with inspiration. It's like because I've seen them exercise their talents and abilities so well, I too want to go out and release what I have out into the world. And that is why it's my Happy Place.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Progress or Depression

So everyone has something. Maybe you don't know what it is yet, but you have something, some little defect that makes you who you are. It could be OCD, it could be an eating disorder, it could be any number of things. But it's something. I have Depression.

It seems that the current theory is that my new passive trend may just be the first step towards a seasonal relapse into a Depressed state.

I thought I had beat this. I work out so that I'm in good shape. I changed my diet so that I get Vitamin D and I even take fish oil supplements for the Omega 3. I keep a pretty strict sleep schedule.

I can't even write about this.

I'm probably bipolar, since that's what my great grandmother was. That nervous energy I wrote about is probably a manic state that just recently came to an end and now comes the depression state.

I hate this.

I guess we'll see.

Rent vs Buy

Renting makes more financial sense than homeownership

Very interesting argument with a lot of valid points. Currently, I'm still a renter and probably will be for at least a while since housing prices have inflated to such a ridiculously high amount, but that's more a personal choice of what works best for my current situation. Personally, I still believe with the right consideration of the following points, buying trumps renting.

The first thing to consider is the specific market you are analyzing. In the NY market, I could see why there is a significant difference between monthly rental rates and ownership mortgage payment rates, but in other markets the balance is the reverse, you can actually end up in a situation where the rent is more per month than the mortgage payment. A year or so back, I did some sample evaluation in North Carolina and found a market where the prices were almost equal, something I have never seen in my home market. There is enough public information out there that you can research markets across the country to find ones with better ratios so that the odds of finding a deal in that market is statistically favorable. This of course assumes you have the freedom to choose where you are buying, which works better for an investment property than a primary residence.

The second thing is the price and method of purchase. Just like how rental price can be negotiated, a house purchase price shifts by the laws of supply and demand. You don't have to buy a house through a Realtor, you can purchase a foreclosure, a bank auction, or do a lease option. Regardless of how the national market is, there will always be people desperate to sell and offering great deals if you are willing to look for them. It comes down to a matter of preference, esp if this is your primary living space, but with an investment property it becomes more about finding numbers that work in your favor for making a profit off of the rent.

I will say this, there is no blanket right or wrong answer for whether renting or buying is better. The bottom line is your individual financial situation, expectations and desires. Business and real estate are great investment tools, stocks and bonds being better for the passive investor and real estate better for the active investor, so it comes down to your preference for level of involvement. Sometimes the burdens that come with buying a house add a level of stress or frustration that tips the scale against the value any monetary gains would give.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Quiet Confidence

So I've noticed this shift recently. I wrote about this previously, about feeling like being in a current and always trying to fight against it. Now that I've stopped fighting the current and started to go with it, everything in my life is dramatically changing, and for the better. It's like this. Previously, I'd read something, understand the concept, appreciate the inherent beauty of it, and then try to change my life to be more like it. But the problem with this approach is that you are constantly trying to be like someone else. That doesn't work though because you can only be you.

I want to say, it's like I've accepted who I am instead of fighting it. Now when I read something inspiring, it's more like I incorporate it into my philosophy, or see how it applies to what I am doing, but it doesn't change my core goals. Instead of trying to do what seems to be successful for someone else, I just apply the new knowledge towards what I am working towards already, what is important to me. I'm not going to be happy even if I'm successful accomplishing someone else's goals, I'm only going to be happy being successful in being me and accomplishing my goals.

Sadly, the more I write about this the more it seems like obvious common sense, but I say again, it's not so obvious when you're too close to the action.

The result though is that I'm developing this quiet confidence. This greater understanding of who I am, what unique gifts and talents I have, and how I can develop them and use them to benefit a greater and greater number of people. Growing up, I always felt like I had to be someone else in order to do something people would see as valuable. Like I had to be a engineering type major in order to end up successful or be paid well. But now I'm starting to see the truth in that being a person of value, who has developed their natural strengths and used them to do something in a successful way is always going to be valuable to someone. The better I develop, the more value I'll have.

Previously, all my actions were reactionary, or almost in desperation. I was uncertain of who I was, so I'd be the person I thought other people wanted me to be instead of being true to myself. Now, I'm more honest with myself and what is important to me. Now I have a core philosophy that governs my actions, helps me to see what choice is correct for me regardless of the situation or person I'm dealing with at the time. It's like with the Catholic church, any new issue that comes up, they already have a position on it based on their core belief structure. I know what I believe to be true, and I act accordingly. I had this to some degree before, but before there was always this fear like what I believed was wrong or unacceptable, like everyone had to agree with it or if they didn't something I was doing was wrong. But now I understand that I have to do what works for me, based off of what I want and what I believe to be true, otherwise I'll never be confident in my actions. Now I follow what comes naturally because I have more trust in my own decision making.

In part I have to thank Steve Pavlina for this. Reading his book and writings has gone a long way in giving me a proof of example as to how being yourself is rewarded by the world. I'm a little sadden though, because in this move he's made to a pure raw diet, he seems to have made a shift that's made it harder to relate to him. It seems to be very good for him, but it's not something either I'm ready for or that I'm considering in my own life at this time, so I feel like we're falling more and more out of sync. I truly hope that this is not the case and that he'll keep writing in a way that I can continue to grow from, but as of now I'm worried based off some of his most recent posts.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Price of Success

I've been thinking today about this concept of "The Price of Success". I have read a lot of books about habits, ways to be successful, different techniques and skills to learn. All kinds of things that, if applied correctly, should lead to success, happiness, all your wildest dreams...

Here is what bothers me though. They don't talk about what you give up. In order to be successful, it seems you almost have to be a slave to a routine and a certain way of thinking. Sure that sounds fine and dandy because you don't focus on it, all that is focused on is the rewards. But it's all starting to sound like a sales pitch again. I've learned the secret to a great sales pitch is never to talk about the product first, always start by establishing the customer's goals and dreams, then find some way to incorporate how your idea or product is essential to fulfillment of that dream. That way they're so fixated on something ethereal and far out that they forget about the short term inconvenience of what they are giving up to you, essentially their freedom.

Now, this may be totally off balance. Maybe these people really are trying to help. Maybe the success and happiness promised that they say they have attained is the end goal everyone should strive for. Maybe being a slave to this routine and habits and way of thinking is really the best way to develop as a human being, and secretly we think we want freedom but the reality is that we just want the freedom to pick out our cage.

The question though is, what if I want to make "bad" choices? What if I don't want to be frugal? What if I want to not think about the consequences of my actions? What if I want to gorge? Maybe I would never read their book or advertisement. But does having doubt, having this sense of a conscience, this uncertainty about the direction I'm taking with my life really just make me a pawn that's easily coerced by their speak?

What if the real answer is your answer? What if reading this advice is just a deterrent from you actually just doing what you want but by providing it, I'm feeding your insecurity and weakness, perpetuating your fixation on needing someone else to tell you what is right because you don't have the confidence to believe in yourself?

Maybe the reason people reach a level of success is because they stopped listening, they stopped looking, they just did what they wanted to do, fought through the resistance and became free of the lack of trust in themselves? That's why people who lose and lose big do so well. They forget about everything else, loss all the inhibitions that they've collected because they reach a point where it's just about survival, not about the shallow constructs that are so easy to build around yourself and trap you where you are.

But how can you be sure I'm right about this either? I'm just a talking head like the rest of them.

Personal Development

Just recently I ordered, received and started reading through Personal Development for Smart People, The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth by Steve Pavlina. Let me just say first, this has been the best personal development book I've read so far. I am only about 100 pages into the book, but already the format and explanation of concepts has been very clear and concise. Also, I've found what he writes about to be inline with what I've been intuitively learning through experiences and trial and error for the last few years.

What I find funny about the book is the logical building blocks he uses to formulate fundamental tenants for putting together a life that will provide you with happiness, success and purpose. It's almost like he is writing a mathematical proof, first defining the core tenants than using them to build higher. I mean, the approach really makes sense once you see it written out, esp since the fundamental tenants he has chosen seem dead on, but it's unexpected in this field since I imagine most people that gravitate to it don't have formal training in logic.

Also what I've found interesting is how much overlap there is between this book and the Rich Dad, Poor Dad coaching and philosophy. The terminology is different, but the concepts and general ideas are the same. Basically that you grow rich in life through development, hard work and working towards goals through experimentation, learning and perseverance through failure. Also, that people who are rich become rich by helping as many people as possible. I find the whole thing to be similar to the concepts in Maslow's hierarchy. (http://sagerave.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/maslow.gif)

I'm intrigued about what the rest of the book has in store since I haven't even finished the initial section about the principles. The second section seems to focus on application. That also seems like the Rich Dad program, but that is also where I struggled there, so hopefully I'll have better results with the exercises here.

Dealing with Disappointment

One of the things they teach you in Quixtar is when you make an appointment with someone, always restate the details of the appointment and make sure that they wrote it down in order to confirm. Apparently, most people are not good with keeping appointments.

This was always, and still remains, a foreign concept to me. I strive to be as truthful as I can, which actually seems harder to do when making commitments to myself rather than to other people. But for some reason this is not the case for other people, which surprises me because of my perspective towards it. I remember in the Rich Dad Poor Dad Coaching tapes this one interview with a guy who studied wealthy people. He said they all seemed to share two things, real estate and their word was their honor. Apparently for a lot of people, making a verbal or written commitment is more of a guideline than a commitment or a maybe than a yes.

Again I say how this seems strange to me because I firmly believe that in any relationship the most important things are trust and communication. If you cannot keep your word, how can a person believe anything you say or come to count on you if they need your help? What is the good of having an unreliable friend other than if you feel like there is value in "being friends" with a large quantity of people? If you are missing the trust, how can you have good communication? I personally would not share anything personal or important to me with someone I don't trust because it would be like giving money to a known thief and expecting some positive return on investment. It just seems so contradictory.

The final thought I have about this is a question about why people make the commitment if they don't intend to keep it. I'm more disappointed when I'm expecting someone to do something and they don't than I am upset if they just say no outright. Usually these happen in situations that don't contain any sense of urgency, like if someone says "Oh, I'll call you tomorrow". If they expect to be busy tomorrow or they know that calling me back is not a high priority so they'll probably end up pushing off, then don't commit to tomorrow. Just be honest, because then at least I know the truth. If I'm not happy with the truth, then it is my responsibility to make the truth more inline with what expectation I have or what I want, but if you just lead the person on then how can you validly say that it's the other person's problem rather than your own? If you just have a bad memory and you forget, at least you can be honest and offer the other person the opportunity to remedy the situation by taking over responsibility to remember contacting you.

I guess you could make the argument that you try to say what you are saying without actually saying it, by giving clues that are "obvious". I would argue though, that nothing is more obvious than just saying what you really want to say directly rather than trying to spare the person's feelings.

Buy maybe I should just change my base assumption of trustworthiness and instead only trust through validation. They say when approaching a business deal you should always trust by verify, so maybe all encounters should be treated this way.

Walking Zombie

So I've been shifting my schedule earlier all week. Part of the motivation has come from the numerous articles I've read about the advantages of getting up early. Part of the motivation came directly from talking to a good friend of mine who goes to bed early and gets up early (I figured if I'm more aligned with her schedule, I'll be more likely to meet more people like her). This is day four of waking up a half hour earlier (not a half hour earlier each day, just one half hour earlier than I'm use to). The experience so far has taught me a lot of things.

First, if other people are as tired as I am now, but on a normal basis, that would explain a lot. I'm irritable, crabby, lazy and quick to anger. My fine motor coordination has dropped significantly, I almost feel like I'm drunk. Today on the way to work, I honked at a few people and maneuvered around them because their driving, which was pretty on par with the standard poor driving, was too much for me to be on the defense for. I just wanted some separation from everyone else because I knew I wasn't going to have the reaction speed necessary to do emergency maneuvering if they started edging into my lane or cut me off.

Second, I understand this addiction to coffee that everyone seems to have. While I personally have not submitted to drinking coffee, I have bought myself some candy bars the last few days just to try and get a boost that will help carry me through the rest of the day. The idea of a 9-5 work day seems really stupid in my eyes. Personally, I'd be more productive if I had just stayed in bed until I got enough sleep to function correctly and then came in and worked the rest of the day. I see how this isn't the employer's fault, but allowing a more flexible work schedule as long as the work gets done cannot possibly be a bad thing. I'll have to reevaluate once I've fully adapted to the new schedule.

Finally, this has been my experience with the change. So far it has been almost impossible to actually fall asleep earlier. I imagine I could take some supplement like melatonin or serotonin (whichever it is, memory problems have also started to occur with sleep loss) and that would help me to fall asleep. I did fall asleep a little on the early side last night, only to wake up 4 hours later. This had the unfortunate side effect that taking a nap when you really want to go to bed for the night would. I couldn't fall back to sleep for about 3 hours after this. On the other end, waking up has taken a little more effort just with the initial step of getting out of bed. I've read and found to be true that if you get up when your alarm first goes off you are more likely to stay awake and the process is easier. The only additional difficulty has been going through my normal morning routine with less fine motor coordination. I've actually run into a few walls, I guess because I figured that I had walked far enough to get around the corner or through the door.

I'll report further once I have adapted to the change better, but so far the costs have been outweighing the benefits. I'm hoping with the daylight shortening, I'll at least have the benefit of enjoying a little extra sunlight than I would have gotten. If this does start to work and I end up pushing earlier, I hope to be able to exercise some in the morning before going to work. I'm not sure how early I'll have to get up in order to do this, or what the best time to get into work in the morning is, but that'll be thoughts for down the road.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bad Customer Service

I'm writing this not to settle a personal gripe but more because I feel this needs to be said. I've had experiences with three businesses lately that have shown very poor Customer Service. In business, I believe that Customer Service is, if not the most important part, one of the most important pieces. One of the reasons I decided to work at GameStop part time was because of their emphasis and understanding of the importance of Customer Service. If you do not treat your customers correctly, providing them with prompt and courteous service and solution to their need, then they will not remain your customer for long. In this day and age, word of mouth advertising is one of the few genuine, trustworthy sources of recommendation left. Bad recommendations are an even purer source with much larger reach and less hesitancy to spread.

That being said, here are my three recent example of bad Customer Service.

First is Chipotle. This is not a universal criticism, but rather specific to one location and one employee, but as an employee of the company you are a representative of the brand. Recently I went in to a local store, waited my turn in line and ordered my common order, which is hard tacos to go. The lady placed the aluminum foil down and pushed it along. The next lady in line filled the customer before me's order, paused, removed the aluminum foil for my order from the line and proceeded to fill the next customer in line's order. No explanation was given. I politely asked about my order, but no response was given. The next person in line's order was filled and the line started to move along past me. I inquired again, but still no response. At this point I looked around at the other customers, then left the store. I'm still not sure why exactly my order was left out and why the ladies behind the counter were ignoring me, but I have not returned since and do not plan to any time in the near future.

Second is Three Brothers. Being lactose intolerant, it is always a nuisance to have to tell everyone at restaurants to hold the cheese or not put cheese on, but I always make a special emphasis of the point. I ordered a normal order of a chicken cheese steak, without the cheese (making special emphasis because this store has gotten it wrong probably 3/5 of the time I've ordered there). Not surprisingly, they got it wrong again. Normally, I'm very forgiving of this and would not make a big deal out of it. This time was different. The manager there, after finding out that they got my order wrong and were going to have to remake it, came up to me and said, "Next time, make sure that they type it into the order." There were several things that bothered me about this. The first was the tone, which doesn't come through in print. The second was that, even though I made special note of this when ordering, apparently it is my responsibility as the customer to make sure her staff does their job correctly. Something rang false about that to me. I'm paying them for a service, and apparently I am now responsible for supervision on that service. That sounded more like her job to me than mine.

The third and final example is Sprint. I'm not sure exactly where it all started. It may be the poor level of service, it may be that they have hung up on me so many times, but Sprint is probably my least favorite company. In my most recent conversation with Sprint, they called me during the work day (for the fourth time or so) to tell me that I have an old crappy phone that I should upgrade. They of course want to provide me the upgrade for free (minus the new commitment to a 1 or 2 year contract). After the lady was laying into my phone for a while, I stopped her and said that I wanted to speak with her manager about my account. She put me on hold for about 10 minutes, then hung up on me.

So there you have it. Each of these small, almost petty seeming encounters have left a bad taste in my mouth as a consumer. We have the choice to vote with our dollars and my patronage at these companies has been lost.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Direction Thoughts

Some men have had a deep conviction of their destiny, and in that conviction have prospered; but when they cease to act as an instrument, and think of themselves as the active source of what they do, their pride is punished by disaster. …The concept of destiny leaves us with a mystery, but it is a mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.

I found this quote in a blog I was reading earlier today.

It felt very inline with what I've been thinking and experiencing lately.

For a long time I've had this sense like I have to force all these things to happen in my life because I have this sense that I'm destined to do more than I'm doing. Usually, the result of this is me expending all this time, effort and energy into making something happen, with the end result being frustration and more of the same.

So instead, I'm trying to take the perspective more of the observer. I have certain talents and abilities and I'm going to continue to work on developing them. While I do it, I'm going to keep my eyes open for the opportunities that come along, rather than trying to force them to appear. That way it's more of an organic growth, rather than something manufactured and over hyped. I'm focusing on something I enjoy and am good at, rather than trying to be someone else just for perceived benefits.

While the opposite approach seems to work for some people, it doesn't seem to work for me. I have this deep belief that you have to work for and earn what you have, that your status changes as you grow. So when I try to take shortcuts, I sabotage myself because I don't believe it is either fair or honest or I get this sense of guilt.

I have noticed an improvement since I've shifted in my thinking. An example is with running. I like running, I do it for fun and enjoyment. But now I'm getting to the point where I can run further distances, so I've started doing 3K, 5K and 10Ks. This has opened up new topics of conversation, helped me to meet new people and has just been an overall positive experience in my life. It all happened without me having to beat everyone over the head around me and get them excited in it, or rely on other people to help inspire me to want to do it. I don't do it because I think I "should" do it, or because other people have told me to, I do it because I enjoy doing it.

Somewhat related to this is another concept I've heard about a lot recently. The idea of "media fasting" or "commercial fasting", basically avoiding other input for a certain amount of time in order to get in better touch with what you want. I'm finally starting to understand why and how this works. By removing the influences around you, the focus starts to shift more onto what you naturally like or dislike in your life. For example, if you work at a job you hate just to pay the bills so you can live in a large house, something may be wrong. Maybe you'd be happier working somewhere else for less pay and the overall total happiness would be higher even if you had to move to a smaller place. It seems pretty logical since you have to work so long or hard that at the end of the day you can't even enjoy the large house anyway.

Stars Wars: The Force Unleashed

One of the perks of working at GameStop is that you get to borrow games from the store for four days at a time. Apparently, it's so that we can do 'research' and be up-to-date with new titles and experienced with games that we are selling at the store.

In keeping with this, I've been borrowing a game each week. The first week I borrowed "Infinite Undiscovery" for the Xbox 360. I ended up playing it for 30 minutes, not really liking the controls and then not playing it the rest of the four days. I hear the plot picks up about four hours into the game and I imagine you get use to the controls but I didn't enjoy it and it doesn't get my recommendation.

Second, I borrowed "Mercenaries 2: World in Flames" for the Xbox 360. It seems to be very similar to Grand Theft Auto, except with the addition of being able to destroy different parts of the environment. I played this for a couple of hours, got bored and sick of completing the little objectives and that was it. Fun, but not a must play.

Finally, over this last weekend, I borrowed Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for the Xbox 360. I feel obliged to review my thoughts on this game.

First of all, a disclaimer. I only played the 360 version of the game and I played through on the easiest difficulty, one because I had four days to beat it, and two because I'm lazy and wasn't looking to play something challenging.

The concept behind the game is that you are playing as Darth Vader's secret apprentice between the time frame of the third movie and the fourth movie. He sends you out to hunt down various Jedi and then through some plot twists you end up gathering together the Empire's enemies in order to start the rebellion.

This is a very linear, action game with some platforming elements tied into the game play as well as "button time sequences" when fighting against bosses or various larger enemies. As you progress you get "level ups" in a sense that allow you to unlock new combos, force powers (strengthen really since advancing the game unlocks the new powers), and status increases that enhance various categories. Also, there is a collection element to the game in the form of different power ups that will either give you force points, some item like a light saber crystal or a cloak, or a rank up point that can contribute to upgrading one of the three different elements I mentioned earlier.

What I enjoyed about the game was mainly the Force Lightning. Being able to shoot lightening out of yourself and fry everyone around you is one of the most enjoyable things a person can do. It's small and simple, but frankly, it made this whole game for me. There are lots of force powers available, like the force push, being able to pick up things and people and throw them around, a force lightning shield and this force shockwave, but the lightning was the main power I used because it is so effective. As you go through and gain access to all these abilities, I imagine you'll end up like me, forgetting about all but one or two of them for long stretches and sticking mainly with whatever is your favorite.

The only major gripe I had with the game was the platforming elements. They give you free control of the camera, so you can rotate it around, but it doesn't make it any easier to determine exactly where you are going to land. By "using the force" you have the ability to double jump, but it isn't always clear what is a platform you can land on and what is part of the background. I wish you could use your force grip ability to levitate or lift yourself onto higher platforms, but sadly this is not an option.

Overall, I enjoyed playing through the game. I don't think I'd buy the game, but it's worth a rental if you have 10 hours to kill and you're looking for something fun to do with the time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Today is one of those days.
It's hard to accurately describe it,
it's like your soul is sucked out of your body,
and you just sit there numb.

It's like you have a certain number of ways you can lie to yourself about your situation being better than it really is but eventually,
you run out and you're just stuck staring at the cold reality.
The question is, what is better;
finding some way to keep killing the pain because you don't know how to find a better solution,
or just sit in that state until it is so unbearable that you just snap and force some dramatic change?

Sadly, I'm going to go buy a candy bar and numb the pain some more.

Cleansing Fire

If you're like me, you've gotten the privilege of watching your stocks drop in value a significant percentage over the last week. Nothing helps to ruin a day like seeing those red numbers come up all over your portfolio, almost like watching your net worth bleeding away.

Unfortunately, I don't have any magic advice to save your portfolio. Instead, I'm going to just sit and ride it out, continuing to dollar-cost-average as I wait for my portfolio to recover over the next couple of years.

I do want to interject some perspective. The linked article talks about how this is just technology starting to creep into the finance industry and how it brings about destructive but progressive change. I like to think of it like a cleansing wild fire. Times change, humanity advances and people's needs change. If businesses don't change with them, then they become like rotting, dead wood, waiting for a spark to set them aflame. The healthy, growing and changing businesses are strong enough to not be engulfed by the flames, and then grow stronger from the ashes of their competitors and the new space opened up by their removal.

The economy is cyclical. It's always been that way and it will always remain that way as long as the basic principles of supply and demand remain true. We are in the midst of a down cycle. It was going to happen eventually, despite the government's best efforts. Things are going to be very different from the up cycle we are all use to, but that doesn't mean that the opportunities are gone, or that the new challenges presented cannot be overcome. It's just time for us as individuals to shift our thinking and adapt, much like the businesses have to. Just make sure that you aren't stuck being dead wood.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I feel really different today. I'm not sure what to make of it, like if it is a good thing or a bad thing.

Normally I have this anxious or almost nervous energy, like I have to do something big and dramatic right now to change something in my life so that it's better. But today, I feel different. It's like this content happiness.

I think I normally picture this world where everything is this idealization that seems so perfect, and I want that to be my life, I want to change everything to be like that world. But recently I've started to let it go. I don't really think it exists.

Now, you're probably thinking, what? How is that a good thing to give up on your goals and just start to be content?

Well, I think it's a little different than that. It's more like I have goals, I want to be happy, and I do want some areas of my life to change. But at the same time, the ideal world I picture is never reality, it's always just a fantasy. And usually, it's a fantasy so outlandish that it's just not possible. So by thinking I can have that, or that I should want that, I miss out on the little things that make me happy, or that will start to change my life in positive ways, because I'm always looking for bigger things that will cause instant and dramatic change. But it just doesn't work like that.

It's like working out. If you're out of shape and you think there is some pill or some magic exercise that's going to make you have a perfect body, then you're going to get very discouraged and quit. But if you realize that taking a small step now, and progressing at a steady pace, eventually you can achieve your goal, then you have a better chance of making it a reality.

I've used the analogy in the past of this feeling like I'm trying to walk upstream against the current. Well, I think the reason for that is that I'm trying to make everything happen on my own. I'm trying to be this dynamo that's going to make the water start flowing the direction I want it to. But I'm starting to think that is what is causing all my unhappiness. By trying to force everything to work, I just get frustrated and stuck where I am, rather than working with the environment around me to get to a better place. I put so much pressure on myself that I become terrified of messing up, and that forces me to mess up.

So instead, I'm just going to start going with the flow. I'm going to do what comes naturally, trust my instincts and intuition and be open to what comes along, rather than trying to optimize everything and passing on every opportunity because it doesn't seem perfect enough.

Again, I'm sure this seems like common sense to everyone else, but it's hard to see what is the cause of the problems in your life, esp when it turns out to be you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So I have a new theory about fear. The problem with it is that usually it's based around some misconception or some perception we create that makes whatever we are afraid larger than it really is. Larger in the sense of, harder to overcome, a bigger problem than it really is, or just actually seem physically larger (like a fear of insects).

So when you try to overcome this, the longer you wait the larger it becomes, until you get to the point where it's too large to even think about it. So you push it off or try to focus on something else.

This leads to the problem. The fear has made the task so large that you as an individual can no longer seem to conquer it on your own. So the only way to conquer fear, is to work with someone else. Someone who may have fears of their own, but not the same fears that you have. This is why expanding your social circle or experiencing something new is so vital, because it forces you to alter your perspective and it helps to shrink fears back to reality.

Growing up, my parents were never ones to ask for help. Maybe on occasion they would have certain people they would call on for specific tasks, but when it came to new problems they were all about tackling it on their own. In observing them, I picked up this trait. While I feel like I've developed into a capable individual, learning how to ask others for help is a necessary skill that I was lacking and am only now learning to develop.

Asking others for help is a tool for breaking down barriers, building relationships, and presenting other people with an opportunity to feel useful and helpful. We all have our own individual strengths and weaknesses, by understanding that and overcoming the pride that prevents us from reaching out to others, we helps create a chain of growth and opportunity. I've found from personal experience that any thoughts or actions that help us to feel connected to other people around us cannot be bad, but those that create a sense of isolation only lead to negative recourse.

This all sounds like common sense, and I'm sure it is, but sometimes it's hard to look at our own lives and see what mistakes we are making. Being too close to the action makes it difficult to see the alternative paths that we miss out on.