May 162013
 
Planting shade trees ...

Planting shade trees is a metaphor that, when drawn out, leads to a clear understanding of the value of building and creating a legacy that will far outlast you.

When you plant something that takes time to take root, you quite likely will not be able to partake in the benefits of what you’ve done; however, if you grasp the immense value of paying something of value forward, you won’t bat an eyelash, since it was the very ACT of planting the tree(s) in the first place that gave you the leadership achievement.

In a mass media/consumerist/un-dreaming culture, those that plant the shade trees are defining success not in terms of what’s in it for them, but rather, what’s in it for the next 2-3 generations. That kind of thinking used to be far more common, and it is a mission field of mine to restore it, step by step. When you have detected your purpose, and piggyback your reality onto your vision, it clears up any and all misconceptions or desires to live in the ‘now’.

A tree that protects a future generation from a dearth of wisdom, from poor information, from a lack of dreaming and goal setting, or from become a debt serf, or any of a number of other negatives, is a tree worth buying, planting, nurturing, and watching grow.

Re-defining success in one’s life may require completely rebuilding many things, however, the payoff will be a ripple effect that will not only transform you from the inside out, as it did me, but additionally, it can and will save a marriage, create principle centered servant leaders, pull some out of debt and teach them the huge difference between investment and expense, and restore and promote the eight meanings of freedom.

Have a terrific ‘thank you’ Thursday & I look forward to many stories of those who start planting!

Dec 232012
 

Culture. That word alone can be the theme of an entire book!  So, suffice to say, I will not be delving in too deeply, just skirting the word’s meaning/definition and tying it into the words ‘credential’ (-ist) & ‘consumer’ to form the core of this pre-Christmas post.

As the West has always faced its share of challenges, two of these are much more recent, and perhaps have eluded the radar of many citizens, those being the rise of an overly credentialist and consumerist culture. What are the definitions & tell-tale signs of each, one might ask?

Credentialist:  Someone who believes that they are an expert, and knows all there is to know based strictly on having various paper-based, classroom-focused credentials, whether a B.A., B.S., M.A., M.B.A., J.D. or post doctoral coursework.  A person(s) who believes he/she/they can make decisions for others who may not have as much schooling*

Consumerist:   A person(s) who, incidentally or otherwise, puts consumption of goods & services ahead of production; Someone whom does not anchor their consumption to what they can actually afford based on their production, but rather, uses credit to expand their income beyond their means to pay in the present without selling off their future; lastly, someone who does not know, understand, or ignores the vast difference between expenses & investment.

Here’s why I believe both of these to be challenges that require a firm and even-handed response:  Both are acting together, and in some cases separately, to erode the foundations of free enterprise and the traditions of the West which brought countries like the United States and Canada unprecedented prosperity.  How so, one might ask?

First, while I’d not say there is anything wrong with classroom based schooling, there is something wrong when men & women get credentials and any of these happen thereafter:

1. He/she/they cannot find a stable career that pays back the time spent in earning the credential(s)

2. The credential offering institution does not focus on entrepreneurship as a way forward.

3. The schooling leads to thinking which does not offer the student(s) the mindset to know and understand “How” to think, rather than just “what” and/or “when”.

4. The debt burden for attaining the credential(s) puts the student in financial bondage.

5. The credentials lead to a way of thought that says “I earned “X” , therefore I am smarter than you” and I am immediately qualified to make decisions for everyone else.

6. The schooling does not recognize or teach that values like creativity, tenacity, innovation, humility, character, & purpose matter, and always will matter.

Second, while every one of us is a consumer of goods & services, putting consumerism on a shelf and almost considering it a religion to be worshipped, that is where the common, every day need to consume crosses over into the challenge for us to recognize, face, & counter-act. Here’s why this matters:

1. Consumerist culture alone pushes too many citizens into financial bondage to credit card companies, banks, leasing agencies/firms, marketers, advertisers, & Hollywood/NY/Miami celebrity trends.

2. Seed corn/wheat is a metaphor for having money always available to invest in oneself. (no, I’m not talking about 401(k)s and stocks) – when one is a consumer above most/all else, he/she often not only has no seed in reserve, but actually OWES seed to someone else — i.e., a bank!

3. Compound interest is the 8th Wonder of the World in some respects, and not only does it have such a label, it is also, sadly, a mystery to the majority of citizens, who haven’t had financial education in the K-12 (conveyor belt) schooling (and often not much more, if any, in undergrad or graduate professional track curriculum)

4. Consumerism often puts pleasure and short term thinking well ahead of happiness and mid to long term vision.

5. Being that there is a gigantic difference between investment & expense, it is crucial to grasp the concept of delayed gratification, and how buying books, listening to audios, attending seminars & conventions, and the like is an investment in one’s MIND, and therefore, has a return that cannot be measured in mere dollars and cents alone. Expenses come and go out of one’s wallet, and often draw a person(s) into bondage to others, especially if compound interest is involved, without the same return.

6. There is nothing at all amiss with having fun, and entertaining oneself; however, restoration and serving others is far more valuable than just spending money to have temporary fun, esp. if its seed wheat, on something that is often not remembered even a week later.

To bring these both together and tie to the response needed to counter-act the challenges posed, I offer up some thoughts, and some references to other sources.

Response A : Read. History will show that many many great men & women did not have so much schooling, yet they were highly educated. If you don’t read much, or at all now, start small:  15-20 mins./day-night, and build a habit. Trade those 15-20 for wasted time already in your day:  while waiting for an appointment; while (in park!!) in a traffic jam; by turning off the radio or TV in a 1:1 ratio to time spent in a book.

Response B : Listen. Audios (CD, mp3, vid clips, webinars) are golden. Learn from someone else’s experience(s) – especially someone who may not have any press clippings, however, he/she has the ‘fruit on the tree’ and has earned the responsibility to lead, and thus is worth following.

Response C : Associate positively. One can spend time most anywhere and for any amount of time, yet, is it in an environment where education is primary, and does it encourage personal growth and change that will ripple outwards into society?

Response D : Pay it forward/Serve others. If you have read a great book, listened to a fantastic audio, or been to an event that inspired you to find your purpose, sharpened your vision, and taught you principles and not pragmatism, bring someone else with you next time!  Give that book or audio to a friend(s) who may be struggling with life’s circumstances.

Response E : Do not confuse schooling and education. Being in school is one thing, but is the student coming out on the other end of the tunnel with an education?  Therefore, look into a self-directed/liber education, and understand how many in the West had just such an education and changed the world ( Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin, et al. )

Response F : Use an acronym like “Y-D-I-L” as a financial education tool.  Y = You, Inc. Invest in your mind first, always. D = Debt. Pay off all consumer debt as quickly as you can, ahead of saving or investing in non mental things. I = Investment. This is the classic type of investment that the conventional wisdom teaches; nothing wrong with it, however, it comes after the first two letters. L = Lifestyle. Be a consumer last. Of course, you have to eat and buy clothes, and shop for a place to live with a roof; otherwise, never let an advertiser, PR specialist, the mass media, or a celebrity/sports star convince you to part with your hard earned income to “look like” him/her/them.

Response G : Understand the value of production. Study, think like, and learn from entrepreneurs. Even better, become an entrepreneur!  What you learn from the transition from employee-ship type thought to ownership type thought is priceless; there’s no dollar value that can be placed – it is that important to the future of our culture and the restoral of the Western world that reigned supreme for centuries.

 

Nothing but the best to one & all. May you find your North Star, and put service ahead of self!  Blessings & good will to my readers. 🙂

Oct 212012
 

Today, I want to address a topic that can be sensitive to many, especially living in the economic times that we do here in the US, and that is the crucial difference between investment & expense(s).

This post will not go in depth into the textbook definitions, nor will it serve as a step by step guide, however, my goal is to just blow up a few myths and bad, or even obsolete, information re: these, and ideally, help you think deeply when it comes to your money.

First, high high level.  What is an expense?  I define it as something that you exchange your money for that doesn’t offer any long term value, return (ROI), or which grows your wealth or reduces your debt burden.  Let’s briefly cover each of these:

1. Long term value. Many excellent authors/business owners/entrepreneurs have made crystal clear that money is NOT something you simply trade in exchange for a good or object; it is much more – money should create memories, and most definitely, bring something back to you that doesn’t simply last for a day, a week, or a month. What you get back must have value that carries on a least a year, and even better, a decade or more.

2. Return ( ROI ). Rate of return, for the purposes of this post, is simply summed up as —  did/will you receive something of value back, over an adult time frame, for what you spent your money on?  ROI is not necessarily just measured in financial terms (such as if you were able to pay down debt quicker by buying a financial pack to apply principles that you were never taught); it can also be measured intangibly: Did you sign up any new clients in your consulting business due to that seminar on people skills you attended?  Have you been able to get on the career path/track that you wanted after pursuing more credentialist based (professional track) education?

3. Reduction of debt / Growth in wealth. Growing one’s wealth/assets runs inversely to lowering one’s debt(s)/liabilities. And, keep in mind, a mortgaged home is a LIABILITY, not an asset, unless you have rented it out and are receiving recurring rental income. From that perspective, expenses need to be reduced, including paying off consumer debt, and eventually investing in ‘hard’ assets, like bullion metals, later on down the line. Growing one’s wealth requires buying back time, having a systems based model, understanding the power of compounding (of interest, of invested monies, et al.), & delaying expense based gratification until you can truly pay or whatever you want in cash based equivalent(s).

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now, let’s move on to investments. Investment is not what you may think!  Let’s start w/ understanding that investment in one’s mind most definitely counts just as much as investment in something paper-based ( like stocks, mutual funds, bonds, or REITs ). The vehicle of a 401(k) or its functional equivalent has only been around for 30+ years, yet it seems like it, or the becoming obsolete pension plan gets mentioned most when this word is discussed in the mainstream of society.

Don’t get me wrong:  these are all investments, however, how much stronger is your mental fitness if you just put 10% of your W-2 income into a 401(k)?   Will you be closer to true wealth?  Unlimited time & money choices?   Perhaps a step or two, or ten, yet think bigger and more metaphorical (in depth):  what about directing some of these monies into your mind?   That’s a key threshold to cross when it comes to understanding even better the critical distinction b/w expenses and investment.

Here are some examples of investment now that we’ve set this foundation in place:

1.  Building a library.  Whether its a virtual (read: e-book) library, meaning you invest in an e-reader/tablet & download books online or via app, or the other way, where you buy paperbacks or subscribe to receive them monthly, this is a perfect starter example for someone who wants to invest in the mind.  We’re all worth minimum wage from the neck down; all the great leaders of history, from Napoleon, to Teddy Roosevelt, to Thomas Jefferson — they read. A LOT. Books matter. They expand your horizons, expose you to lessons you can learn from by living someone elses’ experiences, and you can apply what you read to your life immediately.

2.  Audio Learning.  Subscribing to, or buying audio material – whether books, podcast downloads, mp3’s, CDs from seminars – they all count. Audio is an excellent complement to reading, as it engages different areas of  your brain, and rounds out further the investment in your mental fitness.

3. Attending Seminars / Streaming webinars. Association with other climbers, those who are on the success curve of life, and whom understand the critical importance of ‘You, Inc’ investing, know that being around others who are growing from the inside out, who value personal change, will put monies into this category.

4. DVD / web videos ( YouTube ).  Another option as technology continues to evolve is to purchase, subscribe, or click on a link to have vids sent to you to watch. Visual learning on your own time is still another investment vehicle that will pay great dividends on your leadership development/self help journey.

5. The final one I’ll list is a BIG one. I would strongly and unequivocally urge everyone to do this:  Start a business. Own something, an asset that is yours, which will generate income that is not subject to a third party and will allow you to direct monies away from expenses and into the above options I listed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To put a capper on this post:  I wholeheartedly believe that entrepreneurship and self-directed learning, investment understood in a much different way than what is the “CW” , and outside the realm of pure ‘credentialist’ institutions, is a crucial element to being able to maintain freedom (see my earlier blog posts) & to strengthen your financial standing in our internet/connected/information age world. The industrial age is gone, regardless of what the politicians are saying in this election cycle; the sooner you invest in ‘You, Inc’, and turbo-boost your mental fitness, the better off you will be.

All the very best & God Bless.