A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

Paying the Stupid Tax

I was born before the dawn of the interwebs and the cell-o-phones. Life was more dangerous, then. Cars didn’t have airbags, infant car seats were rare, and seat belts were optional. I rode a bike for almost 13 years before I ever wore a helmet. Making a mistake had some serious consequences and taught us memorable lessons.

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Back when you could count my age in months instead of years, I crawled under the card table my parents were sitting at and chewed through the lamp cord I found there. There was a flicker, a pop, and a baby forcefully ejected back into the open, followed by some expected crying. I was lucky to have lived through that, but it taught me to never do it again. Even today, you won’t find me gnawing on any electrical cords, no matter how colorful or tasty they look.

We can argue whether our more child-safe society is an all-around improvement or not. One thing is true, though. It’s hard to learn valuable life lessons when we’re shielded from the consequences of our stupidity. Fortunately, there is still one area of our lives where we are generally free to do stupid things and potentially suffer for it.

Money.

There are just about as many ways to do stupid things with money as there are people to do them. If you’re over the age of fifteen, you’ve probably done three of them or more. Maybe you bought your first home mortgage on a trailer, and while it’s fine for shelter, it isn’t worth half of what you originally paid for it. Maybe you invested your emergency savings in a hyped up IPO, thinking it was a sure thing. Maybe you got sold on a timeshare pitch because you thought it would make a nice vacation option for your young and growing family, and now the maintenance fee just sets your teeth on edge.

We can talk ourselves into doing some irrational things. Our desire to have something now overrides our willingness to take the time to make sure we’re buying the right something. We let comfort or excitement guide us instead of wisdom and experience. We pay for it, and we all regret it.

Now, while it’s inevitable that we will occasionally pay some stupid tax, we don’t want to be doing it all the time. What can we do to avoid making money mistakes? How do we make sure the next big purchase is a good one?

First, never buy anything on impulse. It’s alright to take some time and think it through. Wait overnight, at least. You want to give your mind a chance to feel the regret of that purchase before you make it. And if the seller says they can’t wait, then your answer should be no.

Second, explain it to somebody and tell them exactly why you want to buy it. By doing this you make sure that you understand the product or service, and that’s huge. If you don’t understand it, you shouldn’t be buying it. You’ll also be clarifying your reasoning for yourself, and you can keep from being swept up in the hype of the purchase.

Finally, figure out three to five other things you could do with the money you would be spending on it. Things that you would want to do. If you spend that money now, it means you will have to put those things off, or not do them at all. The cost of your purchase needs to include the cost of what you’re having to say “no” to.

We’re human, and we’re going to make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up too much for paying some stupid tax. We’ve all done it. Remember, though, that a lot of it can be avoided, and give yourself the opportunity to learn from other’s mistakes.

I’m still prying myself out from the decision to buy a timeshare. That’s my big stupid tax. What a waste of money. What stupid tax have you paid?

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

As You Will It

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work. Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”

It’s convenient to give others power over us. It’s simpler to claim the world is working against us. Your pain is easier to bear when it’s there because of somebody else. Staying down as a victim will always feels safer than standing up and owning your life. We don’t like thinking that we’re responsible for our own joy and satisfaction.

Still, we are responsible.

We get to choose who we let speak into our lives. Which people will advise us, and who will be our mentors.

While others may still say and do things that hurt us, we control the weight that pain will carry into the future. We control how much their words matter, and how quickly to forgive them.

We get to decide if we will see problems in our home or workplace as the fault of others, or if we’ll see them as opportunities for us to try amazing and interesting solutions.

Never underestimate your power to change yourself; never overestimate your power to change others.

We also get to choose how to interact with the world, and everything in it.

Food. Do we eat for energy? Or for inspiration? Or for comfort?

Money. Do we earn to provide? Or to be charitable? Or to gain power?

We can answer similar questions for our education, our work, our homes, our investments, our toys, and on and on. What is the purpose of each named thing in our circle of influence? In every part of our lives, we can do so much more with it when we clarify the reason why it’s there.

So, what will the next “town” be like for you? It’s as you will it to be. Any change of venue you make will still have you in it. What will you be bringing with you? You do get to choose. Maybe it’s time to unload some of that old baggage so you have the ability to experience something new.

Final Thoughts: Matthew 25 is pretty clear that everything that we have has been given to us by God, and that he expects us to do something with it. If that’s true, why did he give you a home? Also, what if this applies to relationships? What does that mean for the children he’s given us?

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Food and Booze, Marriage and Family, Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on As You Will It

Forty-One

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Alright. Let’s do this.

For the first dozen years of my life, birthdays were pretty awesome things. You get to have as many friends as you want over. They all bring you presents. You get to eat cake and ice cream. What more could a kid want?

Over the past three decades since I was 12, though, I’ve grown more and more unwilling to share the “significance” of that day with the general public.

At first, it was the disappointment. After the age of 12, the grandeur of the day never seemed to live up to my sense of entitlement. It was, after all, my birthday. Why wasn’t it all going the way I wanted it too? I slowly came to understand that no matter how much I (or my family and friends) wanted to build the day up into something special for me, my birthday was really just another day. In hindsight, that seems like a giant “Duh!” but it was hard let go of my desire for a day that was all about me.

Later came the realization that, after a certain point, birthdays stop being an achievement or milestone, and just start being a reminder that you’re getting older. After the age of 21, everything that is legal is now an acceptable option to you. Sure, we talk about how the decade marks (30, 40, etc.) are big deals, but you aren’t granted any special status at those ages. Until you turn 65 (for now), all of your birthdays are just a celebration that you survived another year. Yip-a-dee-#&@$ing-do.

So, with each year, I became more and more reserved about it. By the time I turned thirty, I was positively mum. Apart from my family and a few close friends, very few people are aware when it occurs. I block it from appearing on social network sites and forums. A small family dinner is the only thing that really marks the occasion.

By now it should be pretty clear where I’m going with this. Today, April 30, is my birthday. And, having written all of that, why am I announcing it here for all five or six of you to read? Especially since it makes me feel so weirdly exposed?

Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that, like so many other things in my life, it’s time for a change. My reasons for obscuring this were pretty poor to start with, and continuing to do so would be allowing a toe-hold for isolation to remain. I don’t want that. I’m a better man when I’m not hiding.

It’s important for me to publicly and personally celebrate my birthday.

It has to be public, precisely because it isn’t all about me. By keeping it quiet, and forcing my wife and kids to do the same, I denied everyone else the opportunity to bless me. I’ve stolen from them moments to share in my life, to be generous to me, to show me love. Just as my disappointment came out of my selfishness, so did my withdrawal. By trying to avoid pain, I was depriving others of joy.

It has to be personal, precisely because each year is a milestone. Everyone has accepted January 1 as a universal day to reset and renew, if you will, but think about it. Your birthday is really your New Year’s Day. That’s the day when you should be setting goals for your next year. (I’ve got to give credit where it’s due, here. Zack over at BA Expat helped to clarify this for me.) I can choose to take time to reflect on the previous year, and plan for what I want to have done by my next birthday, so it stops being about age and starts being about growth.

So, yes, today is my birthday. Feel free to say something nice, and I’ll do my very best not to wince. No, you won’t see it on facebook or anywhere else (maybe next year). I’ll share my goals for the upcoming year in the next couple of weeks.

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Marriage and Family, Past and Future | , , , | 5 Comments

Changing For the Better Isn’t D.I.Y.

I can be pretty hard on myself.

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I like to use Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life as a reference for how to divide up the key areas of life. It helps to cement the need for balance in the way that I live. While I’ve been kicking butt in a couple of those key areas lately, it wouldn’t take a lot of effort for me to list one or more ways that I should improve in all of them.

There’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself to improve, but many of us get the idea in our heads that attempting to make a positive change is a private matter. We tell ourselves that the only way a change is valid is if we can do it alone. That’s foolishness, and it often leads to isolation and frustration, because true change doesn’t work that way.

Real improvement comes when we surround ourselves and put our trust in others who are pointed in the same direction that we want to go.

It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.

– Warren Buffett

Whatever your current goal is, you need to be spending time with, and seeking the counsel of, two groups of people. Those who are passionately working towards a similar goal, and those who have achieved it. Associating with others who share your struggle allows you to hear voices of experience, and learn from their wisdom. It introduces accountability to your efforts, and motivates you. You gain focus and fellowship.

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Ben Franklin understood the power of a group. He pulled twelve of his friends together to create “a club of mutual improvement,” which they called the Junto, when he was only twenty-one years old. They met for more than forty years, guided by a set of discussion questions, exploring the myriad topics of the day. Franklin became the Founding Father we know today because of the investment he made with that small group of men.

You and I have to stop thinking that self-improvement is a do-it-yourself project. If we really want to improve, we need experts to tell us how to get where we want to be, and extra sets of hands for the heavy lifting. We need to build a trusted community around us that will challenge us to grow.

I’m challenged to start formally putting together a mastermind group like Franklin’s Junto. I’m already involved with an accountability group, but I’m thinking about grabbing Dan Miller’s 1+1=3 as a guide to assembling people who are interested in growing in all the key areas of their life. What do you think? Any suggestions?

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Changing For the Better Isn’t D.I.Y.