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Eating Right, Professional Athletes & Financial Prosperity

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

I was watching the end of a baseball game last week and after the game, they were interviewing a player about how he keeps in shape during the season. He was talking about how he needed to lay off the fried foods that he loved during the season because the foods adversely his energy level during the games. Professional athletes have been paying more attention to what they eat over the last 20 years because they know that if they are not in the peak physical shape, they will lose their paycheck. Gone are the days where “Refrigerator” Perry could eat anything he wanted and be a star football player for the Chicago Bears. Now, there is a lot more attention even during the off season on an athlete’s diet and exercise program because they see the relationship between their energy level and their pay check.

So what does this have to do with personal finance? We are not professional athletes, so is diet that important to our paycheck? Absolutely, we may not need to run 100 yards for a touchdown or 20 yards to make a diving catch for a baseball, yet how we perform during the day at work is as important to our paycheck as how an athlete performs on the field. However, many people do not think twice before eating a greasy hamburger with extra large fries that will hit the pit of their stomach during the afternoon making them want to take a nap.

We want to blame the long day at the office for not being able to concentrate after work on things that can improve our job outlook like reading the training materials our boss gave us 3 months ago instead of looking at what we eat. I know at my last job, my boss gave me a training binder for improving my consulting skills that he wanted me to read over and discuss with him. However, I never seemed to find the time or energy to read it because I was too tired at the end of the day to pick it up.

Over the last few months, I have also been noticing my energy levels. When I have ice cream or pie for dessert at lunch, I know that I will want to take a nap around 3 or 4 o’clock. And, because my son does not let me do that, I am dragging until 7 o’clock until the sugar fix has passed. When I do not exercise in the morning, I know that I am more irritable and lack energy to work on my writing projects than if I get in 2-3 workouts a week, even if it is just a walk around the block.

So it is important to look at when we are most productive during the day. For me it is in the morning after eating a health breakfast (cereal and juice). Yet, I tend to drag in the later afternoon especially after eating french fries. By seeing our patterns we can correlate to see how what we eats affects our productivity. Also, look we need to understand how if we increased your productivity either in the sluggish morning or afternoon, what it can give us. By being more productive, we may be able to avoid coming into work on the weekend (or stay late) and thus be away from our families less. Or by being more productive, we can get that next promotion. Or, we can work on an idea for a new business after we are done with work because we are more energized.

Thus, when we are looking at ways we can increase our financial abundance, we should look at what we eat and how we exercise. By watching what we eat not only can we cut back on our expenses that we spend on unhealthy snacks but also we can increase our performance at work which can have a direct link to the paycheck we receive (or do not receive if we were caught napping at our desk too many times).

How to Accept Your Financial Situation

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

The other day, I wrote about how accepting your financial situation can be freeing. Instead of moving forward with life by accepting their situation, people find themselves stuck in anger and blaming others. The word “accept” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary to endure without protest or reaction. Accepting a situation for what is doesn’t include blame, anger or upset. I know that it is easier said than done, however if given a chance you will find the whole experience of letting go of blaming others very liberating. So how can it be done? There are a few things that you may want to consider:

1. Know that you are not being treated unfairly

With our litigious society, it seems that many people are looking for reasons why they were treated unfairly and looking for a financial remedy. We love to have a good drama in our lives where there is a victim (us) who gets offended by someone else (perpetrator, for example corporations) and who needs to be rescued (by a hero – for example government). If you believe in the law of attraction, the process of blaming others will only bring more situations your way where you get to play the victim. A victim is like blood in the water that attracts sharks. Salesmen, companies and others know who can be taken advantage of and go after people who portray themselves as victims. Thus, present yourself with confidence who expects to be treated fairly and you will find that you will not attract as many sharks as you use to.

2. Limit or eliminate complaining about your situation

There is a difference between complaining and statement of fact. In talking with someone who works in collections for property taxes, she said that many of the people she calls want to shift the blame for being behind in their taxes onto her (the poor me victim). This attitude actually hurts them because she is more willing to work out a solution with people who want to help themselves (people who admit their mistakes and want to work with her on a solution). The situation is what it is. We may think that complaining will fix the situation. However, there is a hint of a poor me attitude in complaining that shuts down opportunities and solutions by making others shut their ears. Who wants to listen to a poor me story when they hear it all the time (especially for people you owe money to). The people who resonate with complaining are those who also feel like a victim. To solve the situation, you may want to resonate more with people that can help you fix the situation. So shift from complaining to taking charge of the situation. You can still state the facts, yet shift it to what you can do about it versus being the victim and complaining. And, if you do need to release some of your frustration, then find someone who will let you vent and release it so you can get to the facts and action instead of someone who will join you in trying to justify your complaints of be treated unfairly.

3. Understand what your part of the situation is

Part of shifting away from the victim who complains is to understand you part of the situation. It may not be appealing to own up to your part because you believe that the fault is out there. Yet, in any situation, we have played a role and can play a significant role in changing it. When we want to shift the blame, we need to understand that part of it resides with us. It is harder to blame others, when we see our part in it. This does not mean that we should blame ourselves either. The situation is what it is and it is all in the past. History is best used to understand how we got into a situation, so we better understand how we can change it.

4. Know that you can control your situation

Think of three steps that you can do to change the situation. Blaming others pushes away the situation, yet does not get rid of it. The situation just festers until we can understand how we can deal with it to resolve it. Taking action brings the situation back to where it is something that we can handle.

5. Know you are more than your money

I keep on hearing that working for minimum wage is demeaning. Yet, money is money. Self-worth has nothing to do with net worth. If we think a situation is demeaning, it is because we set it up to be that way. If you base your self-worth on your net worth, then it will swing like a pendulum, up and down. If your self-worth is based on whom you are (more than your money), it is relatively steady and secure.

6. Keep things in perspective

What would you want someone say about you at your funeral (hopefully this is way down the road)? Money is usually not in the top 3 things that people want to be remembered for. Yet, because money is a part of everyday life, we raise it to a level of importance that it would not have if we take a step back and put it into perspective. So, even if you are having money problems, know that it is not the end of the world. You still need to deal with it, yet it should not drain you of all your energy either believing that it is the end of the world.

Acceptance of Your Financial Situation Can Be Freeing

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

For many it is a struggle to look at their budget or net worth, especially when they are in the red (deficit). They find any reason not to look at the numbers from “I am too busy” to “What is the use because no one will be me a decent wage”. Thus, they keep the struggle going by avoiding their financial situation.

A big step forward to financial prosperity is to accept the situation for what it is. This means no blaming, no waiting to the situation out there to improve and no pushing it off to someone else to fix. As President Truman once said “The Buck Stops Here”. For many, this can be intimidating because it means that they are responsible for what is going on in their lives. We as a society tend to try to attach blame to a distressing situation. Thus, we try to find an escape goat so that the blame does not fall on us. The word “accept” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary to endure without protest or reaction. Accepting a situation for what is doesn’t include blame, anger or upset.

Accepting what is can be very freeing because by protesting and blaming others we are just reliving the situation over and over again instead of fixing it. As I write this line, a light bulb came one because when you accept something as is, there is nothing that needs to be fixed. Am I saying that if you are in debt that you shouldn’t fix it? No, yet sometimes the struggle starts when we feel that a goal (such as debt reduction) is a burden that is weighing on our shoulders that needs attention. Thus, it seems harder to get to where you want to go, creating a struggle. I have been thinking about how people say that finance is a struggle especially when it is said to those who are trying to get motivated to tackle their debt. There is a part of me that feels that people need to get off their duff and take charge of their financial lives (in other words need to work at it or struggle if needed). There is another part of me that when I hear that something as a struggle, I want to say why bother. Why would someone struggling in debt want to struggle trying to get out of debt. Sounds like damn if you do and damn if you don’t situation.

This is where acceptance is important. Instead of trying to blame others and by doing so making the situation look hopeless (such as “How can I overcome overwhelming odds like living on minimum wage?”), it is removing all blame, anger and upset. Why be angry at living on minimum wage? It is what it is. Now, you can choose one of several options to have things be different in the future (e.g., decrease spending, get a second job, work overtime, go back to school, train for a new position via the internet, etc.). For me, it seems easier to accept the situation and pick one of the options than to create a situation where it is a struggle to get out of (such as thinking “businesses just want to use and abuse their workers via paying minimum wage”).

It is easier said than done, I know. I never lived on minimum wage after college, thus I will probably lose a lot of credibility in what I am trying to say because I can not walk in others shoes. I have had my set of situations that I lived through. I worked 60-70 hour weeks during summer vacation to pay most of my own way through college. I doubled up on some classes my last year in college, so I could graduate in 3 years to avoid going into debt (plus I couldn’t justify paying the tuition for the professors I had). I am blind in one eye. I know that when I dwelled on a situation and thinking how bad things were, I created a downward spiral for myself. It got hard to get the work done that was in front of me. When I accepted the situation for what it is (e.g., being blind in one eye) and practice forgiveness, the anger, upset and blame went away allowing me extra energy to pursue opportunities that opened up.

Acceptance is not the same as giving in (e.g., taking a position at a company that wants to treat its workers unfairly). Giving in is relinquishing our power to change a situation. Acceptance is say this is what is and what can I do differently now. For example, I recently had a property tax dispute. Because I recently bought my house, my tax value was about 33% to 40% higher than comparable houses around me (where the owner lived in their homes for 10+ years) but only a little bit higher than other homes that had recently sold. I sent in a letter of protest that did not elicit any response. Because my thoughts went back to the situation, it was hard for me to get work done at times. Once I accepted the situation for what it is (new home owners have a higher tax value than others), I wrote another letter about how I just wanted someone to justify my value to me and then I let the situation go. A few days latter, I got a call which they gave me an explanation and offered to reduce my value by 8%. I chose not to pursue it more because I was not going to change the whole valuation method used. By accepting the situation, I had a calm discussion with the gentleman who called me back and he worked with me instead of just trying to hang up on the 10th upset tax payer that called him that day. And, I was able to continue to do my work because thoughts about being cheated did not continuously come up to distract me from my tasks.

The key is to approach your finances without the anger, blame and upset by knowing that you can handle any situation that comes your way which includes paying more taxes than your neighbor if you recently bought a home. Saying that it is unfair, after filling the appropriate complaints, is only distracting you from pursuing other opportunities in front of you.

For the next step, see How to Accept Your Financial Situation

Ringing in New Year with Forgiveness

Friday, December 29th, 2006

As we get ready for the New Year, it is common to set goals and resolutions for 2007. Yet, more importantly in getting ready for a New Year of growth and prosperity is to forgive yourself and others for past financial transgressions and mistakes. What is forgotten about when moving towards lofty goals is that past blame, hatred, anger, resentments, etc. will hold us back from reaching our goals.

How does forgiveness play a role? What we sometimes fail to understand is that an incident takes just a blink of an eye and then it is over. Someone may have cheated you, lied to you, or has done other things to you, yet the event itself is already in the past. We are the ones that carry it forward to today in regards to what we think it means about us.

For example, you may have not gotten a large raise or bonus from your boss last year. Thus, you feel unappreciated and may believe that you will never get ahead. Yet, you are going to give this job one last chance. You have your eyes set on a promotion that is set to open up later in the year and make your goal to get that promotion. A few months down the line you finish up an amazing project and pat yourself on the back. You wait and wait for your boss to congratulate you on the project, yet he never comes around. The feeling of being unappreciated from the snub for the raise comes back and you get angry at your boss. The next time he asks you for a favor, you answer back with an sarcastic attitude because you doubt that busting your butt will have any effect when he does not even recognize your work.

Note, the anger for not getting a raise is just boiling under the surface all year round ready to come out when you feel like a victim to your boss again. Your boss may actually have recognized all your hard work and was thinking about promoting you yet could not give you a raise due to his hands being tied and just forgot to say thank you for that project (you were never around when he went to your desk to say thank you). Yet, the sarcasm may have made him think twice about promoting you. Thus, our anger and resentments may have come back to bit you and thus should to be resolved to help you meet your goals.

You may think that this is a one-time situation that happens at work (and the boss is really a jerk). Yet, it can happen even on our budget goals:

For example, you may decide to save an extra $1,000 a year. In the past, something has always comes up that eats away at your savings. However, you are going to give this one last chance because saving up for an emergency fund is important. Even the statement (one last change) may sound angry due to the experience from the past on how life did you wrong. You find yourself moving towards your goal by saving $500 by mid-year. Then, you get in a little fender bender on the free way and need to pay a $500 deductible. I can imagine the words you would use when you got to pay the $500 deductible with the $500 in savings that you had worked so hard on. Yet, the bigger issue is that you just lost momentum to save and can’t get it back because this is how life always treats you (kicks you just as you get ahead). Thus, you give up your goal and spend any extra money that you get because what is the use saving it.

I hope you can see how anger and blame can sabotage your goals just as you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The key is to release the anger and blame towards yourself and others (including life in general) and see that anger and blame aroused by how you reacted towards the event. In any one situation, someone may get angry while someone else may decide not to. The answer to meeting your goals instead of sabotaging it with blame is to decide how to react differently.

In the past, you may have gotten angry at your boss for not appreciating you. Yet, in reality, you are mad because a part of you did not appreciate yourself, first. As I told a client the other day, imagine if you had a Harvard education and someone calls you stupid. If you believe that you are not stupid, the words do not have any effect on you. Yet, if you believe it a little inside you, the words can make you angry at that person. It is important to note that you unconsciously believed at some level first.

What can you do to release the anger and blame? Forgiveness. Some people feel that forgiveness is giving the person permission to have done what they did. Yet, in reality, it only releases you from reliving the emotions (e.g., anger and frustration) from the event. So instead of helping others, you are helping yourself.

There are several forgiveness exercises including one that I wrote about earlier (click here). Other exercises include writing down what you want to forgive on a piece of paper and then burning the paper. Other exercises include writing down what and who you want to forgive every day for at least 7 days. Another exercise is about remembering that the incident is on a moment in time and that it is probably miniscule in the larger picture of life (especially if you believe in an after-life). Thus, it could be a statement like, I am a spiritual being and this event has no lasting impact on me.

Thus, as you start the New Year, take a few moments and think about what you want to forgive, so that it does not impact you in the current year.

There Has To Be a Better Way

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

In a comment to my article on “How a good opportunity be a snake oil salesman when the intent is to become rich”, LaserTroly wrote:

I completely agree with your view that just by the force of the energy we put into it, we often attracts what we don’t want.

Emotions so often become a spiral, feeding on themselves and getting stronger. Then when events in our lives reinforce them (when we get what we feared), we believe that those fears were right all along. Our worldview shifts, little by little, until we completely believe these ideas.

But how to get out of this trap?

How do you identify those thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back, when your entire framework for viewing the world seems so familiar, natural and right? How do you separate out the stuff that’s not working from the stuff that is? Then how do you go about changing your programming, given that you inadvertently developed this harmful belief system in the first place? What to embrace and how to do it?

For it to stick, you must really buy into the new belief system - just paying lip service to a set of principles won’t do the trick. How to effect such a deep and lasting change?

I always can count on LaserTroly to ask those deep questions that keep me thinking and are hard to answer easily in a blog article. Yet, here is my attempt to summarize it all:

But how to get out of this trap?

First, this is a personal issue that everyone is responsible for themselves. It is hard, if not impossible, to force someone to change when they believe what that they are on the right path. Second, there over 6 billion people on this earth, thus there are 6 billion paths that people can take to reach where they are meant (or want) to be.

The key for me is to have an open mind, not attached to anything. This allows to me look at other people’s point of view and see the merit behind their beliefs and thoughts. Yet, this is tough to do if we want to be right. If I believe that my way is the only way to enlightenment, then I have trapped myself into a fixed way of being, whether it is right or wrong.

For me, the light bulb went on in talking with a friend at work. I was angry and she gave told me that I could continue to look at the same insurmountable mountain or turn around and see the beautiful meadow. It was my choice. She said this at a point in my life where I was angry and stressed out and I finally said “There Has To Be a Better Way” which opened my eyes to different teachings.

How do you identify those thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back, when your entire framework for viewing the world seems so familiar, natural and right?

The key is to know how you want to live on this earth. For me, it is the same way that I want my son, who is 18 months, to live (peacefully, happily, joyfully and lovingly). Thus, every other emotion (anger, shame, guilt, fear, etc.) is not the way that I want to be because it blocks how I want to live. When these feelings (anger, shame, guilt, fear, etc.) come up, it can be a learning experience of identifying which thoughts and beliefs are not serving us and thus these thought patterns and beliefs should be looked at to see if we want to change them.

There is a catch also. For each emotion (peace, love, joy, happy, etc) that we want to live by, we need to see if it is real or not. I will define a non-real emotion as one where I need the situation to feel a certain way. To me this is more like an addiction. For example, I can feel good when I have a glass of wine occasionally. Yet, if I can not be happy without it, it is the start of an addiction. An addiction starts, where I may need just one glass to relive the periodic stress of the day in order to be happy and then turns into a situation where I need more of it and need it every day to feel good. The same is true for money. If I need a raise to feel good, it is only temporary (thus not real). A few months after the raise, I probably have forgotten about the raise and need another raise to feel good. Being happy with a raise is not real because it may be covering up a lack of self-worth where I need someone to give me more money to prove that I am good enough. Do not get me wrong, getting a raise is great. Yet, when we use it to feel good about ourselves, it is covering up the issue that we need to fix. The non-real aspect of this is that it only relieved the symptom (wanting) and did not solve the problem (possible self-wroth) only covered it up.

Then how do you go about changing your programming, given that you inadvertently developed this harmful belief system in the first place?

For me, I look at my beliefs and thoughts and see how they are not serving me. By looking at it, I can see how it works. Once I have looked at my beliefs (that create emotions that do not serve me), most of the work had already been done because I can see the trap and know how to get out of it. It is like getting trapped in a ditch. The first few times you get caught in the ditch, it may take a while to find your way out. Yet, once you are aware of the traps, you may slip back into the trap from time to time, yet you know the way out quickly. And, after awhile, you know how to avoid the trap all together. It all starts by looking at the trap and by knowing how it works.

This is where I am different than some prosperity teachings out there that say you only need to think positive thoughts to get what you want. When 80% to 90% of our thoughts are unconscious thoughts, changing only 10% to 20% of our conscious thoughts to be more prosperous is only creating a small wave against the larger tide of unconscious thoughts. For me, it makes more sense to observe the 80% to 90% of our unconscious thoughts, so I can change that pattern instead of just covering them up with conscious thoughts about prosperity. It does not solve the problem that generates our unconscious thoughts. Now, changing 10% to 20% of our thoughts sometimes can change the tide. Yet, many times, when our unconscious thoughts are so ingrained, these thoughts need to be detected and changed to change the tide. The key to uncovering our unconscious thoughts is to look at what happens in our lives (the outcomes).

There are three traps that a friend of mine (Greg Liber) teaches. It is hard to cover them all here, so you can hit the link and find out more about them.

1) Cycle of ExperienceThis is where we keep on experiencing the same things over and over again based on our beliefs. Our beliefs shape the way we see the world. So, it is our beliefs about who we are that can trap us.

Solutions: Change our beliefs that do not serve you or gather evidence to prove our old belief wrong

2) Cycle of ShameThis is where we feel that we are not good enough. Thus, we look outside ourselves to addictions (food, work, alcohol, etc.) to feel better. Yet, in the end those feelings of not being good enough come back stronger because we did not address them.

Solution: This is inner work of knowing who we are, in other words, what makes us magnificent

3) Drama CycleThis is where we feel like a victim of what happens in the outside world. Think about what sells these days, a good drama or a feel good movie? We become addicted to the drama so we can blame others for what is wrong.

Solution: The only solution is to know that you are creating the drama and want something else. Thus, you change your behavior that creates drama. If you insist on changing the world to solve the particular drama, this will only change the channel to a different drama.

How to effect such a deep and lasting change?

There is a saying, “The egos way starts off easy and gets hard. God’s way starts of hard and gets easy”. I have joked with some friends that the path to enlightenment is too hard because I need to keep on looking at myself and figure out what is not working.

When we look at the world to change to make us happy, we are really just temporarily getting rid of our anger, guilt, shame, etc. We get angry at others to make ourselves feel better by pointing the figure at them. It feels good for a short time (egos way, starts off easy). Yet, because the source of the anger, shame, guilt, etc. inside us has not changed, it just comes back in a different form (gets harder because the problem get bigger from being reinforced).

When we look within ourselves to change, it is hard at first because it is a constant process of what thoughts or beliefs are not serving us. It does take work. Yet, I find that it gets easier as I go further down this path because where I use to be angry or upset for days or weeks at a time when I first started this path, now my anger only lasts a few minutes or hours (sometimes a few days).

To keep it going, I surround myself with others who are on similar path to help encourage me and to use as a sounding board when I need to vent. In our discussions, they usually point out what I am overlooking to get myself back on the right path.

As a side note, my blogging may slow down over the next 3 to 6 months, as I put more time into two other projects (writing a book is one and the other I hope to announce in 3-4 months). This is in addition to watching my 18 month old son during the days which keeps me busy. Please be patient during this time, it will be worth the wait if things work out the way that they are starting to unfold.