Money

Now Begins 2016

As I write this it is only a moment after midnight, bringing the first day of 2016 to a close.  I recognize that I’ve been writing more personal stuff lately and less… “lifestyle” articles but the truth is that I write what I’m feeling or thinking, and I suppose lately (especially around the holidays) it’s been more along the lines of a journal than a blog.  You get to deal with it.

So, with that said, happy new year!  For me 2015 was more of a struggle than I have had in a long time.  Actually, that may not be completely true, but it was a very different kind of struggle, one that (with the exception of a few positive introductions) basically defined the year as shit.  Yes, 2015 was a shit year with shit-filling coated in shit.  It started out with some promise and was garbage within three months.  My stress level went through the roof, my income plummeted, my finances when to hell, and my self-confidence took a major hit (okay, fine.. maybe it’s a good thing to get my ego in check from time to time.)

2016-01-01 18.16.20

See? Relaxed.

Fortunately in the last couple of months of the year, my struggles and efforts bore fruit in the form of new and different opportunities, and by mid-December I was already beginning my recovery to start 2016 strong.

So here I sit on the first day.  My stress level is minimal (in fact, sometimes I feel too relaxed.)  My work situation has me situated in a literal paradise, and my boss might be the only person on earth who has experienced a greater variety of life than I have (relatively speaking and possibly slightly exaggerated in regards to my life experience.)  Perhaps most importantly, he is very patient and laid back… which I’m honestly still getting used to after my previous bosses.  My income is not exceptional, but slightly better than it was at the height of my financial stability around two years ago (I’ve made more since then, but the situation was much more difficult essentially negating the addition income.)  All in all, the foundation is being reset after it was nearly destroyed in 2015.  It’s a mix of the old and the new (and unfortunately, it seems, not without a few social casualties…) but it feels like it’s strong and fully capable of supporting the next chapter the is 2016.

Note: I passed out while writing this, so the following is a continuation authored the next day (told you I was relaxed.)

So what is the next chapter.  Or rather, what is my intention? We all know that we picture one thing, and even if we reach that goal it will look different than we pictured and take us on a path we couldn’t have imagined, so scrutinizing that is useless.  Rather, I guess the questions are; What are your intentions for the year?  What will you focus on?

elephant-balance-chiropractic

    The elephant understands.

First and foremost: Balance.  Always balance.  If there’s anything that has been obvious to me time and time again, it’s that taking anything to an extreme, even if it’s a seemingly good thing, almost always ends badly. Obviously this is a very general philosophy that can be broken down to very specific situations, but in general I believe the more you put effort into keeping yourself and your life balanced, that happier and better adjusted you will be.  I could write and entire post on this alone (and have if you go way back to the “Philosophy of Moderation” posts.)  Short term, or extreme situations with defined deadlines are important and potentially very productive, but as a general life philosophy I suggest you strive for balance.  It’s an easy google search to find many testimonials from people who took things to extremes and regretted it later on some level.

So with that overtone in mind, I want to get back to personal development.  Much of 2015 was dedicated to the trap of “getting by” that I know a lot of people are still in.  But since it appears I’ll have a little breathing room, I want to get back to hobbies that I enjoy and are productive (no, I’m not talking about Final Fantasy XIV… but that will happen too… in moderation.)

First, I want to write more and more consistently.  The surprising number of you that have hung in there when I got down to one post a month on average during parts of the year should find that you see a lot more from me.  Initially my goal is one a week, we’ll see where I go from there.  Along the same lines I’m considering a second blog / website dedicated to fictional writing.  The “Kaska-Ta” entries are a bit of an outlet using a metaphorical world to discuss actual dilemmas and thought processes, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff that is quite a ways farther out there running around in my head.  So I’ll keep you posted on that development.  I most certainly  won’t be starting that until I feel confident I’m giving you enough attention here.

IMG_3931 2

This is a raw shot I took yesterday.  It might end up being my favorite of the set.  Feel special.

Second, I’ve got access to semi-professional camera now (Canon 70D, not the 6D that is my goal, but I like it a lot better than I thought I would.)  As such I will be spending more time on my photography.  This one is a little addictive, so I have to watch my time spent, but it’s something I really enjoy.  I’ll probably have a dedicated site for my “professional” photos (no, I’m not putting them in Instagram.. thats for my iPhone.) and while I don’t have any intention of collecting money for my services anytime soon, I’ll be trying a lot of things creatively, entering photography contests, and seeing what I can do to get my name out a bit as a legit taker of pretty pictures.  Since I showed off the camera in social media, a few people have pinged me about potential projects that I’m already excited about.

Third, and while this is nothing new it remains important: I need to get active again.  The nocturnal, all-encompassing Uber life and the stress that came from the greatly reduced income destroyed my routine and left me with little motivation to try and get it back together.  But if anything is essential to maintaining mental balance, it’s making sure your physical body is on the level with your mind.  The running especially is a sort of meditation for me, and one I will not be neglecting much longer.  As expensive as they are, I will probably try to get back into the Disney races as they are both magical and give me goals to train for.  Hopefully I can swing the Marathon this year… and survive it.  I’m a long way away from where I was when I successfully ran that a couple years ago.

The intentions above come with the obvious condition that I don’t neglect

2015-12-02 17.04.52

Work it.

other aspects of my life to do so.  Socially I’ve been recluse and I intend to improve that now that I have the resources to indeed be social.  And arguably more importantly (since it is a large part of my foundation) I need to be sure my focus on work is proactive and diligent.  As I said my boss is very laid back, but that needs to be an excuse to stay sharp and exceed expectations so that I have to basis to continue to improve said foundation.

There are also more tangible carry-over goals from last year:

1. Japan.  I made the promise last year and while she’s been very gracious about my situation causing that to not happen, I hate not keeping my promises.  Besides, I need to get back over there, it’s been way too long.

2. Canon 6D (or possibly a 1Dx should they come up with the rumored upgrade.)  The camera I have access to now will work great in the meantime, but it’s not full-frame, and it’s not mine.  Two things I need to remedy if I really want to be considered “pro”.

3.  Cruise (this is a strong optional.)  It’s been three years now (I think…) since I was last on a cruise ship.  It’s been too long.  I don’t know what it is about being on these 2015-12-31 17.29.50marvels of engineering out on the open sea, but it’s fantastic and I need to get out there again.

So, obviously, it’s going to be a busy year.  But busy is good when it’s the kinds of things you’re excited to do.  Last year I had a few moments where I lost hope and was very close to rock-bottom again, but thanks to my friends reminding me what was important, a lot of hours spent in my car, and a little bit of help here and there from the universe, this year has a great deal of potential that I’m determined to make sure isn’t wasted.

Happy New Year!

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The Case for Being Selfish

“Being good doesn’t mean good things will happen to you…” -Rumplestiltskin (Once Upon A Time)

A long time ago in a land far far away… I was a villain.  Some days I think I still am.  I share a lot of the same traits:  selfishness, narcissism, disregard for a lot of the “rules” and a general distain towards humanity as a whole.  There’s some things that changed as I grew and if I am still a bad guy, I might be a bit more honorable… if only by my own code.  I actively try to be better anyway.

Yay for ironic double-meanings!

Yay for ironic double-meanings!

One thing I can’t seem to make it around though, is my own selfishness.  But I think I know why.  The fact of the matter is, generally speaking the world is selfish.  Humans, by nature are selfish.  People find all kinds of ways to sugar-coat it and feel better about themselves, but at the end of the day almost everyone places higher value on themselves and those more important to themselves.  What this also means, is that those who decide to try not to be selfish will never receive their due.  At the very least they will generally receive less appreciation than they are due, and at most (and probably far too often) they will be completely and utterly taken advantage of.  They are rewarded by being stripped bare and left with nothing because people took with malice, carelessness or simply didn’t think about the affect their actions would have on the giver.  When a tree bears fruit, there are proper times and ways to harvest the fruit so that it can bear fruit again easily.  The same can be said for those willing to give selflessly, but all too often the right way is ignored for the sake of personal gain.

I have, in the past, attempted to be a “better” person, by acting selflessly, giving without expectation and trying not to judge those who seem ignorant to plight of those around them.

Well, fuck that.

Though now I still occasionally, (even often) give, no longer is it without strings. It is no longer selfless.  Those I give to I either owe, or want them to owe me.  I suppose in some cases I do so simply for the feeling of making them happy and, in turn, making myself happy.  But even then it’s a form of “brownie points” with them or -at the very least- my own personal satisfaction.  I contribute to the system, I show respect to those around me on the surface and I don’t go out of my way to mess with anyone else’s world (unless they do so with mine…)  But I don’t feel I owe the world anything, and I don’t have any desire to give to it without expectation of return.  Maybe that makes me a part of the problem, but the truth is the real problem is the system and society that encourages selfishness.
Bill-Gates-about-money
Those at the top are selfish, they look after themselves and their own before others.  Even the modern-day great philanthropists: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Bono, etc. are businessmen and celebrities who amassed fortunes most average people cannot even dream of before spending fractions of those fortunes to try and make the world a better place.  Meanwhile famous “selfless” humanitarians such as Mother Teresa are loaded with contradiction and agenda (often religious) over the actual care of the people. (I’m not going into it, but head over to google and do some research, especially the last 50 years or so of her life are said to have been quite contradictory to her image.)

So what’s the lesson here?  I’m not saying “don’t give” or “don’t be selfless ever”.  Remember that moderation is necessary in all things!  I’m saying be okay with being selfish first.  Look after yourself and don’t be afraid to say no to those who ask for things unless they earn it.  Just because you have, doesn’t mean you have to give.  Many of the people mentioned above had a lot before they really began to give.  Now, you don’t have to be the asshole that I admittedly am sometimes, as I said, it’s often questionable whether or not I’m still a bad guy. But people will try to make you feel guilty about having and not giving, which is ridiculous because they are all too eager to take from you and give much less in return.

Try it sometime, if you’re a natural nice person and giver and you feel you have a lot of great friends around all the time who value you, test it.  For a little while, for whatever reason, just stop giving whatever it is you freely put out there; be it attention, money, things, affection, what have you.  For a short time, keep these things to yourself and see what happens.  I am willing to bet that a large percentage of those friends will give you less as well.  Some will call less, visit less or even disappear.  Do you know why?  Because their relationship with you was never unconditional just as you have to face that yours probably wasn’t with them either.  Even our relationships are selfish, so it’s okay for us to decide what we’re going to give, what not to give and what it’s worth.  Relationships in any form are usually some sort of unwritten contract, and when you change the terms, what you get will also change.

People like him for his selflessness...

People like him for his selflessness…

I tend to lean toward the Liberal side of politics; I think Norway has it right in terms of taxes and public systems and I believe the concepts of socialism and even communism in it’s purest forms are great ideas.  But humans can’t pull it off because they are too inherently selfish and greedy.  Even if some can reason past it for the greater good, it only takes a small percentage to ruin an otherwise perfect system.  That’s why such things only work in limited degrees when properly implemented by government, and only when there’s enough reasonable people to overrule the many that are blindly selfish.

But this isn’t about politics, this is about individuals.  This is about me.  Someday I would love to have the resources to be a humanitarian like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or even (to a lesser degree) George Clooney.  But if I am, I’m going to get mine first and I’m going to give to and look after those who earn it first.  Show me you deserve it, and I will enjoy feeling obligated to give to you.  But make me feel as though I’m being taken for granted, and I will withdraw as quickly as I put myself out there.  Whether it be attention, money, time or even love.. I will give to the right people,I  but I have to look after myself before I can give to anyone else.  That might be selfish, but that’s what this world has shown me and given me, that’s how the game is played.  Until the majority of this world decides the change the rules for the better of us all, I’ll play the hand I’ve been dealt, and win.

Work / Life (Im)Balance

I’ve struggled with the concept of a good work/life balance for many years now.  I’ve always been a very firm believer in the line between personal life and what we do for work.  As the saying goes, we “work to live”, not “live to work.”  But then there’s the other philosophy that says if you love what you do, then it won’t feel like work.  To this day I struggle with where the right balance is, and what sort of lifestyle is worth the work you put in.  Can you really love what you do so much that it doesn’t feel like work?  (Especially when you’re as inherantly lazy as I am?)

As an Executive Assistant (what I do when I’m not writing long-winded blogs) my hours can be fairly erratic.  When I was serving my last Chairman I was salary (the norm for this sort of position) which made the extended hours a bit upsetting at times.  Now, I’m hourly (no overtime pay but still a step up…) and my current CEO demands (as nicely as possible) I put extra time in.  This last week especially I’ve had a lot on my plate and found myself taking it home.  Great for my paycheck, but not so great for having any downtime.  Downtime and decompression time are very important to me to the point I often take extended lunches to remove my brain and start on my blogs.  But when you find yourself struggling to get enough sleep and having little “you” time, at what point do you decide if it’s worth it or not?  There’s no real standard, and I’m NOT complaining about where I am in life, but I do seek the balance for the sake of myself and my employer as I believe many people do.

Executive Assistant Life

Executive Assistant Life

So what’s the solution?  It’s said that you have to work hard and put in your time in order to improve your lifestyle and make money. But is the money worth it if you don’t have time to enjoy it?  I know that I’m not willing to give up my lifestyle at this point, and I want to build on it, so the most logical conclusion is to keep my nose to the grindstone, kick ass, work the long hours and reap the rewards….eventually.  But I’ve always believed it’s a mistake to put your happiness into a far off goal or dream.  It must be a balancing act that involves working toward your eventual dream (I’m not even sure I have one…) while taking the time and providing yourself with the experiences that make your life worth living now.  Regardless of how much you work, you have to be happy!  Sometimes that means pulling yourself away from the grindstone and investing time in you or those you love.  If only it were as easy for us to be as happy at work as many company founders want us to be!  But you can’t blame them for not understanding why you aren’t.   

I’ve spent years working for company founders now.  One thing many of them don’t understand, and that you may not realize is that it is psychologically extremely difficult (if not impossible) for you to have the same level of connection / ownership to the company that they do.  You may care deeply about your company, you may even “love your job”, but the person who brought that idea into the world built it out of their experiences, thoughts, beliefs, feelings and even some of their imbalances that you will never have.  It is an extension of them, and therefore when they are investing time in the company, they feel fulfilled in a way you essentially can’t because they are actually investing time in themselves.  It’s not impossible to try and mimic this mindset, but when you go home and open that laptop at night, neglecting personal time to catch up on your e-mails, it simply won’t feel the same to you, because for them, even if they would rather be doing something else, catching up on those e-mails IS personal time.

So, assuming you don’t want to give up your lifestyle and become a wanderer, your options boil down to four or five situations:

If you can't stay rich on that, you made some bad choices.

If you can’t stay rich on that, you made some bad choices.

1.  You win the powerball or get rich quick somehow.  Come find me so I can help you think of awesome ways to both manage and make the most of the money while using it to perpetuate your own happiness and that of others.  Thank you and your welcome!

2. Start your own business.  This is the only way to experience the “founder” level of ownership and satisfaction in your work. However, the founders that I speak of and who are employing you have already “made it” to some extent, and thus are in the phase where they can actually enjoy it on some level because they (obviously) have employees and income.  I never said they didn’t earn it (in most cases anyway) by working harder, smarter or both.  In the beginning and even well into the green (profit,) owning your own business can come with huge levels of stress that can make that personal connection to your company very difficult to handle.  There is a reason many of the very successful founders and CEOs you hear of are often quirky, odd, eccentric or sometimes straight-up batshit insane.  They have to be in order to be obsessed enough with themselves and their company to push it to astronomical levels.

3. Do something easy that you “love”.  When we’re teens and young adults we often joke about doing what we perceive as super fun to get paid for.  Acting, starting a band or writing a best selling book (or god forbid.. being a reality show “star”.) Obviously, some people really do achieve this, but it’s not easy at all and often requires a lot of sacrifice.  For instance: a lot of late teens/early twenties (especially but not exclusively guys) joke about doing porn because who doesn’t want to get paid to have sex!?  But naturally the industry often doesn’t live up to the fantasy image in some people’s head.  Beyond that, many quickly find that once they are forced to do whatever hobby/activity they really enjoy casually under “professional” guidelines/circumstances (another example: Video Game Tester,) it loses it’s fun pretty fast.  A few weeks later it’s no longer a dream career, it’s just another job that’s making you not want to have sex or play video games on your own time any more.  That said, some types people are cut out for those respective industries and it doesn’t ruin it for them (usually because they can drastically differentiate the two in their head,) But either way,  work is still very much work and for those average people it will put a damper on their outside life too.  So, while “doing what you love” is a great idea, it’s harder than it sounds, takes a lot more work than one would think and is usually tough to find/break into.  Even after you get there, it is impossible to know if it will be as fulfilling as you hope. That said, for some people it IS worth it, IF you can really make it.

Literal.

Literal.

4. Set a goal to become something difficult that you “love”.  This falls a little in line with starting your own business in that it really can pay off the way you hope it will, but you will have to go through hell and high water to get there (and I mean years of it.)  As an example I have several friends who grew up wanting to be veterinarians.  I’m happy to report I personally watched some of these people become the 1% of 1% of 1% or something like that.  They achieved their “dream” to some extent.  I say it like that because some didn’t end up doing what they envisioned themselves doing, some fell massively into debt and the others that really made it did so by sacrificing years of their time working and studying (long AFTER the hell that is Vet School) at really odd hours under immense amounts of stress and pressure to finally, finally emerge somewhere close to where they wanted to be.  The reward is that yeah, they are most often better off financially and more fulfilled than your average Walgreen’s clerk.  But it’s still work, and sometimes they get up in the morning (12:01 AM) and don’t want to do it,  but they still have to.  I should also point out that some of these people end up owning their own business.  So, essentially a different path to option 2.  That said though, if you can make the investment early on, this is arguably the best, most consistent outcome beyond the powerball option.

5. The rest of us.  Circumstances happened, and we’re not where we wanted to be or thought we would be by now.  Hell, some of us didn’t even know where we wanted to be and still don’t know where we’re going.  But we’re still adults, and we haven’t given up and become vagrants just yet, so work happens and bills gotta get paid.  This brings me back to the importance of enjoying your life along the way.  Because with this option, if you don’t, you’re probably miserable.  The work/life balance in this situation is essential because you don’t have the ownership and you don’t have the long-term dream that you achieved.  You are working to live.  That’s really okay so long as you don’t lose sight of why.  The balance isn’t always about a set amount of hours, it’s about whether or not your work allows you to do what you enjoy.  That means both the time, and the resources to be happy in your life outside of work.  It doesn’t have to be everything you dreamed just yet, it just has to be enough to have fun, be happy, and make progress.  So working those extra hours is totally worth it if it makes you feel better about your work and gives you the extra funds to treat yourself and/or those important to you.  But if you feel like a slave to your job and go home miserable only to crash and repeat the next day; get out.  No amount of money will save you from that, and the more you make, the more of that scarce life they will ask for.

Don't be THOSE guys.

Don’t be THOSE guys.

This brings me to a few guidelines for maintaining that balance (be realistic):

1. Don’t be afraid to say no.  Draw your lines, draw your boundaries and don’t back down from them.  Do NOT allow a job to corner you into making compromises that will make you miserable.

2. Know what you are worth and ask for it.  If you research and feel you deserve a specific wage, ask for it.  If they won’t work with you to at least make a plan to get there, move on.  The same goes for benefits you need for you and your family.  Often these are arguably more important than base wage.

3. Ask for the time you want in advance. Know what you are willing to give and not to give and barter that time as needed to be certain you have the time that is most important to you.  This can be a specific schedule or specific days.

4. Along with number one, be honest and communicate about all the above needs.  If you aren’t seeing what you want, give your employer a chance to accommodate you before you just get fed up and leave.  It looks better on both parties even if something can’t be worked out.

5. Have a contingency plan.  We’d all like to be “lifers” with a great company, but shit happens, and it happens fast.  Make sure that you have the cards up your sleeve to be willing to walk away from the table if you need to.  Feeling trapped in a job you don’t want to be in is a very quick way to demoralize yourself.

Finally (and yeah.. this post got long…)

6. Make sure whatever you are doing for work leaves room for you to BE HAPPY about your life outside of work.  This means having time to have a life outside of work, having enough money to enjoy your life outside of work and having a job that doesn’t make you feel bad about you your life inside or outside of work.  The work/life balance isn’t about a specific number of hours per week or a wage you make, it’s about how it enables you to live, and how happy you can be in the process.

Errr...Maybe Allen is hollow inside? ^.^;;

Errr…Maybe Allen is hollow inside? ^.^;;