“Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln never saw a movie, heard a radio or looked at television. They had ‘Loneliness’ and knew what to do with it. They were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.”
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Tags: Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Carl Sandburg, creativity, Leonardo Da Vinci, loneliness, William Shakespeare
Categories : Creativity, Leadership, Psychology, Self-Development
“In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months, or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.) At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in — or more precisely not in — the country’s businesses and banks. This inventory — it should perhaps be called the bezzle — amounts at any moment to many millions of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle. In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks.”
–John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929
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Tags: 1929, embezzlement, John Kenneth Galbraith, morality, Stock Market crash, Wall St.
Categories : Economics, History, Psychology, United States
“You must walk to the beat of a different drummer. The same beat that the wealthy hear. If the beat sounds normal, evacuate the dance floor immediately! The goal is to not be normal, because as my radio listeners know, normal is broke.” (Dave Ramsey)
Lately, I’ve been listening to and watching a lot of videos, documentaries and such on finance—personal and national. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading as well. Among them, Dave Ramsey (quoted above). Scores of people have liquidated their debt and got on their feet by taking his Financial Peace University class. Many others have been helped by the direct and passionate style of Suze Orman. Here are some things I am reading and learning:
- Non-government student loans are one of the very few things that can not be expunged with a bankruptcy filing. I did not know that and will be choosing carefully. Those debts stay with you until they are paid or you die.
- Our national debt is nearly $16,000,000,000,000.00 (See http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/).
- Current US GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is $15,090,000,000,000.00 – which puts the national debt into perspective.
- Homes priced 10% below their current regional market value tend to sell 10-15% more quickly–an important point of reference for us as our house is on the market and we need to sell.
- The 5 Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me: About Life and Wealth (Richard Paul Evans)
- The Richest Man In Babylon (George Clason)
- Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness (Dave Ramsey)
- The Road To Wealth (Suze Orman)
- The Coming Economic Earthquake (Larry Burkett) – This one is dated but eerily prescient.
Do yourself a favor and get yourself an education—if you haven’t already done so—on the way money, debt, deficits, markets, lending, borrowing and the like functions. In this time, more than ever, ignorance is not bliss—it is dangerous. Be awake.
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Tags: Dave Ramsey, debt, George Clason, Larry Burkett, markets, national debt, Richard Paul Evans, student loans, Suze Orman, wealth
Categories : Economics, Education, Leadership, Mathematics, Self-Development, Time Management
“I do not deny that many appear to have succeeded in a material way by cutting corners and by manipulating associates, both in their professional and in their personal lives. But material success is possible in this world and far more satisfying when it comes without exploiting others.” (Alan Greenspan)
Bernie Madoff. Michael Milken. Ivan Boesky. Charles Ponzi. Jack Abramoff. Enron.
The aforementioned are catalogued in the annals of infamy for cutting corners financially, hurting a lot of people and ending up in jail. Greed and hubris motivated them all. Plus the fatal narcotic of self-deception, thinking they could get away with their crimes.
There is no shortcut to the building of a large and stable estate. Wealth grows in the soil of patience, competence and hard work. There are no substitutes.
A good deal of the writings in the book of Proverbs came from Solomon, son of David, Israel’s wisest and wealthiest king. Here is what he had to say about the acquisition of wealth:
- Pro 28:8 Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
- Pro 28:19 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
- Pro 28:22 A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
- Pro 10:4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
- Pro 21:17 Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
- Pro 22:16 Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
- Pro 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Avoid like the plague the get-rich-quick mentality. Build your estate, your wealth, day by day, dollar by dollar on a foundation of hard work, thrift, competence and compassion. You are not Gordon Gecko. You’re better than that. Avoid the siren song of cutting corners and coloring outside of the lines to get ahead.
“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.” (Sophocles)
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Tags: Alan Greenspan, Bernard Madoff, estate, get-rich-quick, greed, hubris, Ivan Boesky, Jack Abramoff, John F. Kennedy, Michael Milken, Proverbs, Solomon, wealth
Categories : Economics, History, Self-Development
If you’ve ever purchased a new home or vehicle through an automotive dealership, you’ve been through the experience of signing, initialing and dating voluminous documents related to the transaction. Disclosures, releases, obligations, waivers. It can be daunting. The easiest thing in the world is simply to sign, initial and date with only a cursory glance.
I know. I’ve done it numerous times. So have you. And that is the problem.
We call such encounters “signing our lives away.” Given the careful, legal language in which these documents are composed, it’s not far from the truth. And in the normal course of events, one normally doesn’t think much of it. Just sign the thing and be done with it.
Until you get surprised when one of the terms, contingencies or disclaimers affect you—your plans and your pocketbook. You feel as if you’ve been sucker punched. It feels that way.
But you haven’t been blindsided. One of the documents you signed said, in effect, that you had a full understanding of the terms of the agreement. And you’re now legally liable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
Liable to pay double-digit interest on that credit card when the economy flags and banks are low on cash. Liable to have to negotiate the use of your own art if you’ve surrendered copyright to a publisher. (I know one recording artist who, when younger and untutored, gave up ownership of his music and now has to lease master tapes from the record companies just to press CD’s for his fans.)
No, it’s not unfair. It’s called fine print. And most don’t read it. Those who do are often the ones who are better off financially than the rest of us. They’ve done due diligence in their financial affairs. Part of their reward is an often proportionate lack of unpleasant “surprises.”
What to do?
- Take your time when signing documents. Read the small print. Ask questions. And don’t be intimidated if the agent with whom you are doing business seems impatient. You have everything to gain or lose by taking the time you need to know what you’re getting into.
- Do your homework. If you’re buying a car, go in knowing the worth of the vehicle better than the salesperson. The blue book information is available on the Web. Same for house and land purchases.
- Learn about compound interest, something Einstein purportedly called “the Eighth Wonder of the World.” You’ll buy far less and shop around more before parting with your hard earned money.
This is a step that those who would own their future must take. Be diligent and ahead of the pack.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
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Tags: documents, full disclosure, homework, legally binding, small print, terms
Categories : Economics, Leadership, Mathematics, Self-Development, Time Management
“Leadership in church is one of the biggest challenges that the Church is facing because without strong leadership, the church rarely lives out its redemptive potentials.” (Bill Hybels)
I have been a student and disciple of Bill Hybels for many years. There’s a reason for this. To be sure, Bill has been the brunt of a lot of criticism for his church—Willow Creek Community Church of North Barrington, IL—and their “seeker sensitive” approach to guiding irreligious people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. At times I criticized Bill for what I thought his approach to seeker-sensitivity meant. I was way off mark. I regret that now.
Here are some things I’ve learned from Bill:
- It was Bill who turned me on to the concept of delayed gratification and the writings of M. Scott Peck, chiefly The Road Less Traveled.
- Bill has exemplified, year in and year out, the concept of the disciplined life. He runs religiously, now in his mid fifties. He applies the same discipline to journaling, sermon preparation, budgeting and time management.
- He is a man of heart. You only have to watch or listen to him but a little to realize that, though he doesn’t take himself too seriously, he takes lost and hurting people very seriously.
- Bill, more than any evangelical leader of his stature (his church numbers north of 20K), realizes it is not about him and really eschews the whole self-promotion toxin that comprises so much of American public life.
- Bill is intensely practical, a man’s man and down-to-earth. I like that. A lot.
- He has a summer residence in South Haven, MI–a town I lived in from 1967-69. He has that same kinship for the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as did my family.
Don’t waste your time with the critics. Go to the source. Read Bill. You’ll be all the better for it.
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Tags: Bill Hybels, discipline, leadership, M. Scott Peck, seeker sensitive, self-promotion, Willow Creek
Categories : Appreciation, Leadership
“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” (Henry David Thoreau)
Years ago I read a book by John Eldredge that said, in effect, that the most important battle we will ever fight is the battle for our hearts.
He was on to something.
Human beings are like snowflakes. While we all have certain commonalities like the marvelous geometry of snowflakes, we are, nevertheless, individuals. Sui generis. One of a kind.
We have unique talents, fascinations, propensities, drives, goals and potentialities. The war for the heart, at least in the realm of sense and society, takes place as we are confronted with the “safe” choice of conformity to expectations of peers and loved ones versus that road less traveled by which we fulfill our unique design and destiny given by God.
You have your own voice and perspective. There are enough parrots in the world. There are lots of people you touch daily who want to hear the events of the day through your perspective. What happens, then, if we play it safe and give the expected response, perspective or party line? Or put another way, what happens if we are not authentically ourselves by letting self-preservation rather than our values dictate our contribution to those around us?
Step to the music you hear. Don’t play safe. Play honest instead. Integrity is your watchword. It is what lets you sleep well at night. Be courageous and be who you were created to be.
And let the chips fall where they may….
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Tags: different drummer, heart, Henry David Thoreau, John Eldredge, passion, uniqueness
Categories : Appreciation, Creativity, Leadership, Mentoring, Psychology, Self-Development, Wonder
I had been married all of one month in the spring of 1988. It was then that I hired in as the manager of a full-line bakery here in northern New York. I was fairly green at the young age of twenty-four.
That first year of reorganizing the bakery was trying and fatiguing. I learned lots of lessons and made plenty of mistakes. I was the sole man in charge and my boss, the owner of a chain of bakeries, lived a hundred miles away in the Mohawk Valley. I saw him rarely. I was on my own.
One of the early challenges I faced was leading a crew of employees, many of whom were at least ten years older than me. It was intimidating. There was plenty of “we didn’t do that when [insert a previous manager] ran this place.” It goes with the territory.
I was faced with the difficulties of leading with heart, fairness and a strong hand. I did well some times; other times I blew it. I would do things differently today, but it is well-known that hindsight is a 20/20 enterprise.
At a mentoring meeting last Spring, we discussed the challenges of being a young leader who has to grasp the nettle and lead—and yes, fire—employees old enough to be our parents. It is never easy.
What to do then?
The apostle Paul, writing to his young protégé Timothy, commanded him “let no man despise your youth.” Among other things, that meant that Timothy had been given charge and oversight of a group of people and he was not permitted to duck the responsibility of steering the ship competently and forcefully.
Here are some time-honored principles for leading with distinction:
- Lead by example. Paul told Timothy to be an example to the people under his charge by the way he lived his life. You must be the first to do the heavy lifting. The motto for Israeli officers today is “After me!” People buy into you and your leadership when you get into the trenches and sweat. It’s much easier to take directives from a leader with his sleeves rolled up and perspiration on his brow.
- Avoid arrogance like the plague. Giving people the back of the hand—harsh remarks, constant criticisms with no commendations, sarcasm—will sink the ship and demoralize the troops. Be humble.
- Treat people old enough to be your parents with deference befitting their age. Paul told Timothy to treat elders like fathers and mothers. That makes it much easier when you have to make tough executive choices.
- Don’t apologize for being young. You got hired to do your job because you demonstrated some level of leadership acumen. Even if you feel “all at sea” with intimidation, you need not show it. People respect a man or woman who can make a decision and abide by it.
- Be optimistic and avoid petty shop gossip. As one of my supervisors counseled me, “In everything you do, be a class act.”
You have the wheel of the ship. Sail on and prosper!
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Tags: Apostle Paul, baker, man the help, Timothy, young skipper
Categories : Leadership, Mentoring, Self-Development, Vocation
The best advice I ever received came from an eighty-four year old spitfire named Helen Easterly. We worked together in the summer of 1987 in northern Ontario near Hudson Bay. We happened to be part of a team of missionaries bringing the Gospel to a remote region amongst the Cree people.
Grandma Easterly—as she became known to me after she “adopted” me—had terminal cancer at the time. Yet, she had more energy than gals sixty years her junior as she worked amongst the Cree children. She had lived an adventurous life ministering all over the world with lots of remarkable ministries. She was vibrant, humorous and kinetic as she stared death in the face.
Some months later, I was about to get married. Grandma Easterly sent Kath and I a very nice card with this advice:
“Don’t take yourselves too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourselves.”
I’ve many besetting sins. One of them is I tend to be way too serious. (Kath doesn’t have this problem.) Those who know me well are no doubt chuckling, You’re just now figuring that out?
Easy now. Some of us are slow.
So I thought I’d pass on a few tips to help my friends who trip over the same banana peel:
- Listen to jazz. Really. Leonard Bernstein once said, “Jazz is real play.” When I listen to jazz, I chill out. Always. Music affects the mood more than you can imagine.
- Realize that you alone can’t fix the world. You’re one in about seven billion inhabitants on this planet. Do what you can where you can and then let it be. If everybody just did a little in their own orbits, things would be a lot better in the world.
- Exercise. Free and legal high. Endorphins. You will feel better. Trust me on this.
- Watch films with Robin Williams in it. For tougher cases, break out the Three Stooges.
- Read Dilbert. Just do it.
- Smile. It’s proven that deliberately smiling makes you feel better, not just those who look at your mug.
Now lighten up!
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Tags: destress, Dilbert, Robin Williams, taking yourself too seriously
Categories : Leadership, Mentoring, Psychology, Self-Development
I remember the day President Ronald Reagan was shot. I was an 11th grader, just home from school and watched the now-famous footage of the assassination attempt. Thankfully, no one died though Press Secretary James Brady was left debilitated by the shot he took to his forehead.
I remember seeing a photo montage of the shooting in Newsweek some years later. In one of the photos, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy (shown in the above photo) was shown jumping in the air, spread-eagle, making as big a target as he could to protect the president. He too took a bullet. Why? Because his duty was to lay his life down for the President of the United States. And he was a man of honor.
Some time ago my wife and I were discussing relationships and interactions. We hit upon a characteristic of this generation, something to which we—though older—are not immune. It is the unrealistic drive to have everything now.
Quantum leaps in technological innovation have taken place over the past thirty years or so, especially with the advent of in-home personal computing. The upside of these advancements has been the ability to do in moments what used to take days, even years.
But there is a downside.
When you live in an instant, microwave, “I-need-this-yesterday” culture, you become habituated internally to getting whatever you want whenever you want it. Unfortunately life does not work that way. The best things still take time.
Here are a few sober earmarks of the “microwave” society:
- Debt. Easy credit has made it possible for people in their teens and twenties to rapidly accumulate lots of stuff that took their grandparents a lifetime of thrift and prudence to purchase. And with such rapid acquisition comes a mountain of debt, including compounded interest.
- A monstrous sense of entitlement. An increasingly litigious society with plenty of social programs as fallbacks has helped to produce a generation of employees who often feel like they are unfairly burdened by the demand to work while on the clock. The result: Personal service is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. This is a trend. Thankfully, there are exceptions.
- A disturbing lack of self-control. We hear often of things being “an emergency” or “urgent.” But one needs to define the terms carefully. A cardiac arrest needs to be fixed now. A plane falling out of the sky needs to be fixed now. But a teen upset at a parent who says “no” to them does not constitute an emergency. Nor a thousand other similar “stresses.”
What is the key then to reversing this unhealth?
Duty is that sense of personal and corporate responsibility that takes the interest of others and the interest of the group before personal considerations. It’s not about me. Or you.
Duty is what has made societies great. Its abandonment in favor of personal fulfillment—others rights and concerns be damned—is what has eroded the same great societies. We don’t have to let that happen here.
Duty means that a man who has a wife or children has a sacred obligation to provide for their needs. And believe me, there is a world of difference between what one needs versus what one wants.
Duty means that an employee gives eight hours work for eight hours pay. Without an attitude.
Do your duty today. It is not glamorous but it is a mark of true greatness.
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Tags: assassination attempt, duty, James Brady, Ronald Reagan, sacrifice, Secret Service, Tim McCarthy
Categories : Appreciation, History, Leadership, Mentoring, Political, Psychology, Self-Development, United States