Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hello St. Louis

I'm away from work. Funny enough, because I'm doing training for work in St. Louis. I can't have much affect on the office back home, and, because I'm training, I've tuned out all other work distractions like email and texts. This is the most "free" I can be right now. It only happens once a year. Despite the stress and rigour of the training it is quite relaxing to have no other responsibilities. Even the normal day to day demands of life like doing laundry, buying groceries, maintaining the yard or paying bills are on hold until I get back.

I'm taking some time to reflect on what I've learned.

Sleep is good. I need more of it.
Exercise is good. I need more of it.
Junk food is bad. I need less of it.
Stress is bad. I need less of it.
Relationships are good. I need to invest in them.
Learning is fun. I need to budget time for it.
Families are important.
Work is necessary, but should never interfere sleep, exercise, diet, learning or family.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Real Value

I've thought a lot about the connection between time, money and happiness lately. Here's someone else's thoughts on the same thing. I like what he said, so I'll repost his post for you. Here's Captain Capitalism's take on the subject.

"Wealth" or being "wealthy" is well understood by most people in society. We know "wealth" when we see it. We all know we want to be "wealthy." But when it comes to having a thorough and fundamental economic understanding of wealth, most people (even economists) fail. The reasons are many, but most people just don't have the time or intellectual desire to fully think through "wealth." However, if you take the time to do, not only do you drastically improve your understanding of economics, but you also dramatically increase your chances of being happy. And that, ultimately, is the point and purpose of economics and life.

The first "stage" or level of understanding of wealth people have is money. I remember a friend of mine and I in college walking across campus on a blustery fall day. The wind was blowing and somewhere upwind somebody must have dropped some cash because soon $1 and $5 bills were blowing right across our feet.

For a nanosecond we were stunned because, well..."there's money blowing across our feet." But soon our innate, human instincts kicked in and we were scrambling to grab as much cash as we can, pushing each other out of the way in a spirited friendly competition of enrichment. After grabbing all we could see we were each about $15 "wealthier," but what I remember most about it was the IMMEDIATE and RAPID genetic response we both had to chase and push each other over bits of green colored paper.

The question is why were we so excited about paper?

Obviously it wasn't the paper as much as it was the stuff the paper could buy. And if we could grab that money it would allow us to buy stuff that would directly help support and enhance our lives. And this is the second "stage" of people's understanding of wealth. It's not about the money. It's about the stuff.

This is a key epiphany to have because what you realize is that economics is not about the "money" a nation prints. It's about how much stuff it can produce. This is why, again, Adam Smith wrote "The Wealth of Nations" not the "Money of Nations."

However, what precisely is stuff? Yes it is goods and services that can be used to help extend, maintain, and enhance your life, but does just having more "stuff" necessarily make you wealthy?

Well, yes and no.

Everybody needs a certain amount of "stuff" to survive. We all need a certain amount of food. We all need a certain amount and quality of shelter. And we all need a certain amount of clothing. But for the vast majority of mankind's 2 million year existence on this planet just scrounging up this basic level of "stuff" was incredibly challenging. Again, it was no more than 300 years ago that hunger was the number on thing humans were battling against for survival. Thus it is very much hard-wired into our brains to scrounge and consume as much stuff as possible for survival (which is why dogs will not stop eating just as humans won't either and we have an obesity problem despite the "food" problem being solved). Ergo, human's drive to be wealthy is not so much about the stuff itself but to have the peace of mind, sense of security, and psychological benefit that comes with being wealthy. i.e. - you never have to worry about starvation, survival, shelter, or work again (notice how immediate and happy people are when they win the lottery).

Now, in a literally sense to be wealthy, this would mean you would have to store up all the food you're going to eat, have a house you will live in forever, and have all the other material items and "stuffs" collected at some massive depot. Then, slowly, but surely, you'd eat through these resources, dying fat and happy.

But "stuff" doesn't work that way. Food rots. Milk spoils. Even houses deteriorate and collapse without maintenance. So how does one get wealthy without owning that actual stuff?

Well, welcome to the third stage. Time.

At first you'd be tempted to say, "well I would just store all my wealth in the form of money to purchase future stuff!" And this is true. You could store your wealth in the form of money in a bank account, silver or gold in a vault, or some other form of economic medium that stores your wealth.

But (bar winning the lottery) how did you get so wealthy in the first place? Where does this "wealth," the ability to buy future stuff (and so much of it you don't have to worry about it anymore) come from?

Well, the answer is time.

Again, barring winning the lottery or inheriting wealth, you have to understand what wealth really is and what its origins truly are. For while wealth is just "a lot of stuff" stuff at its "economic-atomic level" is created with human time.

I've mentioned this before in several of my books because the concept is so important, but everything you see around you ONLY exists in its current form because human time went into it. The computer you are reading this on right now was sand, metals, and minerals in the ground. And that sand, metal and minerals would remain there had it not been for humans to dig them up out of the ground, refine them, and then assemble them into this computer. The walls and sheet rock in the room you are currently in would still be timber and rock somewhere had it not been for humans who cut, hauled, and built the building around you.

In other words, yes, stuff is the true source of wealth, but stuff does not exist unless humans exchange their time turning raw materials into usable, consumable stuffs.

Thus, when we look at this or any other economy, it is no so much various tradesmen and specialists exchanging their wares, products and services as much as it is an exchange of time. I will give up my time producing a car in exchange for money. This money will allow me NOT to buy groceries, but rather to pay for the time of the thousands of people involved in producing groceries.

This then puts the onus and origins of wealth in the only place it can be - your time. Specifically, how valuable is your time relative to other people whose time you are going to exchange yours for.

If you are going to become an "English major" or an "aspiring rap artist" or a "professional activist" let us be very clear what you are saying. You are saying,

"My time is worthless. One minute of my time has little to no value because nobody will exchange one minute of their time executing their profession for me executing mine."

However, if you were to become a doctor, an engineer, a pharmacist, or a tradesman you are saying,

"My time has value. One minute of my time will command MULTIPLE minutes of other peoples' because my trade, my skill is that much more difficult, specialized, and in demand."

And it is this disparity, this difference, this deficit between how many minutes of other people's time you can command with a mere minute of yours that builds wealth.

This is why the "Masters in Pansexual Horned Frog 19th Century Literature Studies" makes $9 an hour serving fries to an electrician who makes $50 hour wiring the house of a surgeon who charges $90,000 for 5 hours of open heart surgery. However, don't think of it in terms of "dollars per hour" think of it in terms of "minutes of a skilled person per minutes of an unskilled person."

If I do the math right, just ONE MINUTE of the surgeon above can command 2,000 minutes of the Pansexual Horned Frog Literature major. And since it is human time that ultimately makes all stuff, you can see with such an huge ratio how skilled people can accumulate and command such wealth.

This, technically explains to the atomic level what wealth really is and where it comes from. However, this is only on an economics level. There is one final stage to truly understand wealth, and this also involves time.

Understand there is a law of diminishing returns to wealth. That once you get enough of it, you derive less and less benefit from it. So when Bill Gates made his first billion, no doubt he was very happy. But what about the next billion? And the next billion? And that one after that? For all practical purposes the "first" billion took care of most of his material needs, desires, and wants. But as fun and awesome it is to have lots of "stuff," stuff is not the most important or sought after item in the world.

It's other people. Specifically their time.

Yes, you can command people through money and the labor market to give you 4 minutes of their time in exchange for 1 of yours. But they are working for you and in the end are giving you the finished product of "stuff." But what humans truly value is the time and company of other people who do not give them a "product" or a thing in the end, but companionship, love, friendship, and intellectual stimulation. It is (again) why playing video games is fun, but playing against your friends online is even better. Going to a movie is great, but watching it with friends is better.

In other words the ultimate form of wealth is other people WILLINGLY deciding to spend a percentage of their finite and dwindling lives hanging out with you. Not in the expectation there will be "stuff" at the end, but simply because they want to.

This then changes the focus of wealth from "skilling up" or "leveling up" so your time is more precious than other people's time in the labor market, to that of being a good and enjoyable person. A good and enjoyable person that people willingly spend their time on.

Are you honorable?
Are you honest?
Do you speak the truth?
Are you interesting?
Are you funny?
Are you selfless?
Are you altruistic?
Do you have standards?
Do you have ethics?
Are you charming?
Are you entertaining?
Are you interesting?
And are you humble?

In other words, to be truly wealthy you need to command other people's time in two different ways. One, economically so you can accumulate enough wealth all your material needs are taken care of. But, two, socially so other humans willingly spend time with you and you have good social, familial and romantic lives.

This final "stage" or epiphany is arguably the most important economic lesson humans need to learn. Because once realized not only does it makes people happier, but it has a drastic and amazing effect on your personal finances. For once you realize that true wealth comes from friends, family, and loved ones, your need to make a ton of money for material wealth disappears, or at least is severely lessened to a minimalist level. And if all 315 million Americans realized this, imagine what would happen to our finances.

Nobody would be borrowing money to buy a fancy car they can't afford to impress people.
Nobody would be buying designer jeans or bags to impress people they hate.
Nobody would be slaving away to pay for a mortgage on a McMansion next to the Joneses.

Nearly all consumer and personal debt would be wiped out (or severely lessened), people would adequately save for retirement, and a level of sanity and economic knowledge would pervade the entire population that no doubt would lead to a much more stable, brighter, and happier economic future.

But something tells me more people will tune into Kim Kardashian's derriere than read this article.

Oh well, enjoy the decline!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Wave

There's been a few times in my life where I've had so many responsibilities and so many "To Dos" I've felt completely overwhelmed. This last month has been one of those times. It's felt like a wave crashing over me. I knew it was coming and I couldn't do anything but brace for its impact. January has been like that. February will be like that too. Things will finally slow down in March. I wonder if I can prevent future waves or just prepare for their inevitability.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I've been home sick the last couple days. It was wonderful. Not the sick part, but being home. Even still, work managed to call me, email me and text me all day long. That's just an example of how I'm never really free from this job. Anyway, in between all the work related communications, I finally had some time for me. I read. I watched TV. I prayed. I cleaned. I organized. I made (as opposed to microwaved) meals. I would have exercised a bit too, if I wasn't so sick. It was practically a vacation (except for the part where I was still working). I needed that. It's really sad that I need to get sick before I can finally find some relief from work. I've already contemplated using vacation days just to catch up on the normal errands most people have time to do daily. I fantasize about 40 hour work weeks and 3 weeks of vacation a year. I really need to find a solution to this work/life balancing act before I burn out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Life's Short

There have been a lot of health scares and deaths in the circles that I travel last year.

My cousin's wife died from ALS last year. She was younger than I am. A co-worker discovered she has MS. She's younger than me as well. Two co-workers' children passed away.

What does this mean? I don't think there's meaning to be found in these events. But a lesson can be learned. Life's short. No one really knows when their time is going to be up, and I would guess most of the time its unexpected. There's the old cliche that no one lays on their death bed saying that they wish they would have worked more. I don't know when I may die. I'm planning to live past 100, Having said that, I don't want to work my best years away. The things that make life worth living are usually the first things that I sacrifice on the altar of work. What's the point? I'm still trying to find balance in my life. The guy from the video in the previous post definitely errs on the wrong side of the work/recreation scale. But I feel like I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum. I would definitely take less money to work less and live more. I don't want to find out my time is running short and all I've left behind is a profitable division of a company.

I've got more thoughts to think about on the subject.

Monday, January 19, 2015

To Do or Not To Do

I have a lot going on. Work. Youth. Church. Friendships. Sports. Training. Family.

The one thing I do too much of, that interferes with the things that give life meaning, is work. I believe we all need to work, to provide for ourselves, our families and those things we wish to support. I also believe that we should not work nearly as much as we do. I'm finding more and more that I am envious of those who work little and have a lot of free time to give to things other than work.

I don't care for the attitude of the guy in the video, but I can't help but be envious of his laid back lifestyle. With the progress of technology I can never be "off" from work, except when I'm sleeping. And that is starting to take its toll on me. The previous 3 people who held my position all quit due to stress. I've managed to stick it out for almost 2 years. But's its starting to lose its appeal. The longer I stay, the more responsibilities get added to my position. By my account, the workload of this position has gone up about 50% since I first started it, and the money isn't worth it any more.

The incentive to stay isn't found in compensation. The job used to be its own reward. Now my incentive is to provide for a future family. I have decided that there's no point "providing" for a family if I can't actually spend time with them.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

December Thoughts 2

With Christmas and New Year's Eve behind me Winter takes on a different personality. December is like a friend. January is like a foe. Before I mentally prepare for January I think I'll reminisce about the last half of December.

There were some unbearably cold days, but only a few. Overall it was one of the nicer Decembers as far as weather goes.

Winter Solstice finally arrived. Every day for the next six months will have more sunlight than the day before it. Its not too noticeable now but in a month or so the difference between days will be hard to miss. It makes me feel happy.

Christmas was good. I spent it with family and new friends. It was quiet. That is also good. Life has felt a little "loud" recently. I needed some "quiet".

New Year's was also quiet, mostly because I was feeling a little sick and took a 4 hour nap last night. I woke up in time to grab a quick New Year's party, count down, kiss, concert, pumpkin pie and then off to bed again.

It was a good December.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December Thoughts

It's been a while.

We've been reading through the bible chronologically this year in church. In early December we caught up to the crucifixion. It was unique reading about the Easter story during the Christmas season. It was a unique juxtaposition. I liked it. Easter is the point of Christmas.

For the first time in my adult life I've decorated my home for Christmas. I wish I had more time to enjoy it.

I've been to 7 Christmas parties this season. I'm tired.

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice. It's my favourite day of the year. Each day for the next 6 months is going to have more daylight than the day before. It starts speeding up noticeable in the next month or so. I could use some sun light.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Too Many Friends

Four years ago I could count my friends on one hand. Probably on one finger.
I am very different now. And as I've grown and changed I've made some friends. A lot of friends actually. Maybe too many. I'm still an introvert, but I'm a very outgoing introvert. An introvert needs time alone, but a friend needs time too.

A couple months ago I decided to have a football party at my place. I made up a guest list. I had 66 people on the list. I was actually surprised. I didn't think I really knew that many people, let alone people I would call friends. Granted, some are closer friends than others, but all are people I would be perfectly fine hanging out with, in a group or one on one. Just to make sure I wasn't lumping some extra acquaintances I redid my list. I came up with 77. So, I really tightened up my criteria and scaled it back to 57 invites.

The only reason this is noteworthy is because of what I said at the top. Four years ago I was lonely. I felt alone and unknown. It is absolutely amazing to stand back and take a look at how my life has changed. I've changed too.

Now I just need to figure out how to manage my time. 57 friends is 57 birthdays. Engagements. Weddings. Births. Gatherings. I think I'm beginning to see why I find I have so little time for me.

Its definitely a good problem to have. Four years ago I had all the time in the world and no one to share it with.

And in case you're wondering, 32 people showed up.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Slowly organizing my life. Slowly. Removing clutter. Adding order. Finding a life outside of work.

I am very good at organizing and finding efficiencies. Somehow I have never really turned my focus on my own life. When I took over a division of my company last year it ran over budget for 13 months in a row. The first month I took over we ran over budget by $17. The next month we were under budget and have been for the last 17 months up to now. My division is just about to turn in its most profitable year in the last decade.

I'm turning my focus on my time management.