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January 28, 2017 / paulio10

So Much Crazy in This World

If you ever feel like maybe you’re crazy, and are worried about that, I’d like to relieve your mind a little bit.

The world around us is crazy. Observe it carefully, and you can’t help but come to that conclusion – crazy. Almost nothing works right around here. So many things are arranged in a less-than-optimal fashion, so much senseless waste, wars between people who are all very good people, it’s ultimately needless, and yet, there it is.

The question is, how well are you able to navigate the Crazy? Can you keep standing up, when being pummeled by Crazy from all sides? Are you able to sleep at night? Resilience and calmness can seem impossible at times; and yet, those are some of the greatest things you can strive for, in Crazy circumstances.

My latest “crazy” experience

My latest “crazy” experience was somewhat off the charts this past week.

My wife and I bought a property to fix and sell in the middle of last year, and it took a lot longer and cost more money (of course) than we originally expected.  It took so much work – but we finally finished everything around September, and put the property on the market.  And it didn’t sell until this month, January.  Which was annoying, but OK. We still made money on the deal.  But the first step when receiving the money was to pay back the loans for the purchase of the property.

Earlier this week I had to wire transfer US$120K from our normal bank to the “other” bank, the one that loaned us the money.  Over there we have a checking account we never use, and the loan account. I called that bank to get the wire instructions – because I didn’t want to carry a cashier’s check for such a large sum between banks; it didn’t feel right to me. I wanted to do the transfer quickly, electronically.  What I didn’t realize was that when the bank said “wire it to your checking account,” they meant because the checking account has a different account number than the loan number. I thought they were the same number (I didn’t know).

So I went in to the closest retail outlet of my normal bank during my lunch break. This branch happens to be inside a grocery store. I told the manager I wanted to initiate a wire transfer. “Oh you can’t do that here” was the response I got, which confused me. “Our branch is closing down, you’ll need to do that at a stand-alone branch.”  I asked, “when are you closing?” to which the manager replied, “not until the end of March.”

I  just stood there for a good moment, pondering this.  It sounded kind of crazy, I have to admit.  “You can’t send wires, even though you’re still a fully operating bank branch, and you’re not closing for 3 more months?” I asked. “Well, yea, we were supposed to close in 2 weeks, but the central office extended us until end of March.” …But didn’t grant you the ability to send wires, when you clearly have customers that need to send them.  Alrighty, then.

So, on to a stand-alone branch. A quick google-search as I hopped in the car; I drove about 5 miles to a branch I hadn’t used before, because I knew it was near the restaurant I wanted to eat lunch at. Now it was 15 minutes after noon, and I was starting to get hungry. Every branch is equal to every other branch, right? I should be able to wire money from one that I’ve never been to.

I went inside and asked to send a wire transfer. They ushered me quickly into an office to fill out the paperwork, which I did; and they said they’d send the wire right away.  “The money should be there within an hour, if you check your other bank’s account after work you’ll see it went through.” Happy with myself, I left and went to lunch; then I drove back to work.

After 5PM when I got off work, I checked the other bank’s account online – no money had arrived. I started to get worried. Something’s wrong! Don’t panic…. failed wires usually get sent back to the originating bank, right?  So I logged into my normal bank account where the money came from – and, no money there either.

I immediately drove to the bank with the loan, and sat down with a more senior employee and told them my issue. “Yea, I don’t see the money has arrived yet, what account and ABA did you send it to?” I told him the details. “Oh, you gave them your loan number, you can’t do that.  Wires cannot go directly to loans. They must go to a checking account.”  My stomach sunk down a bit, inside of me.

Oh no.  That’s my fault then, I didn’t know that. I wanted to make a loan payment of $120K, but apparently I’m supposed to transfer it to the checking account, then pay the loan from there!  My bad.  “OK, what do I do now?”  “You have to go back to the originating bank and have them re-send the wire to the checking account.”

“But I logged in online and checked my account, the money didn’t go back to them either.” “Well, the money is not at our end. The wire would have failed, and the money would go back to the originating bank. Check in the morning, their online systems will probably update over night.”

Sigh.  It’s now 5:50PM. The other bank is closed for the day. I could not find any branch that would still be open beyond 6PM, within a distance that I could get there in time. So I guess I’m done for the day. That sinking, out-of-control feeling was getting stronger.

I think you can imagine what was about to come next.

Realization and Personal Challenge

I needed to go home and prepare dinner, and eat it; without feeling sick to my stomach that $120K of cash is missing now.  I needed to get some sleep, and not stay up worrying all night long. I needed to not stay up drinking all night, because I have to work in the morning! The money is gone from every bank account that I control, and I can’t do anything about it until tomorrow.  $120K is a LOT of money!

In that moment of realization, while driving home, of what the next 12 hours were going to be like, it hit me – this is a test.  This is a test to see if I can be relaxed and calm and keep my cool, despite a powerful wave of fear welling up, brimming on the edge of my mind, ready to take over my brain.  It’s happened before – that out-of-control, can’t eat anything, sleepless-night syndrome. I think it happens to everyone at one time or another. I just didn’t want it to happen to me, despite the circumstances.

When you think about it, this is one of those situations where I literally CANNOT do anything about it until tomorrow. So I knew there was absolutely no reason for me to be waylaid by fear and anxiety.  Put it aside until you can do something about it. I should save all my fear and anxiety until tomorrow, it’s only needed after I’ve taken every step possible and the money is still missing.  …That can’t actually happen, right?!?

I feel like this is a perfect test for me. So much of my life has been wrapped up in unreasonable fear and self-doubt, early on in my life, and I’ve overcome so much of that, it hardly comes up anymore. A couple decades ago, if I “lost” $1000, I would feel a tremendous amount of fear and hatred and anger; but I’ve come a long way in recent years in being able to manage my life activities and keep myself calm in the face of Crazy events, so many times.  Now, 120 times that amount of money was “lost”! It’s almost unfathomable to think about.

But I managed to do it!  I didn’t blurt out the horrible events of the day when my wife got home an hour after me. I spent my time preparing the meal that I had so carefully planned out, I bought many different types of foods that you can eat with chopsticks, so we could both practice using chopsticks, something we’ve wanted to get better at this year.  I designed and printed out an amusing “Chef Paulio Menu” for the 5-course meal I had planned, and put it on the dinner table. It was meant to be a bit of a joke from a very fancy dinner we had one time that was very expensive and took almost 2 hours to eat all the courses. The 5-course meal I was planning consisted of: celery with cream cheese (cut into bite-size pieces), salad with raw mushroom slices (to be dipped in ranch dressing), egg drop soup (super easy to make, and delicious – look up a recipe on the Internet; not a chopstick item, I know, but good nonetheless), a ribeye steak that I spiced up, cooked, and cut into bite-sized squares; and lastly, for dessert – raspberries that I rolled in sugar and arranged nicely on a flat plate.

So you can see, life had an opportunity here to ruin my special evening. This was a surprise for my wife, all she knew was I was going to make dinner; she didn’t know all of the preparation I was going through. I could easily have scrapped the whole thing and gone thru the Taco Bell drive-thru, she would have never known the difference. But I didn’t want to do that. I can choose to have a nice meal with my wife, right?

So we had a really great dinner, and talked about whatever she wanted to talk about; I managed not to think about the lost money except briefly maybe one or two times. After dinner, while we were doing the dishes, I told her what had happened with the wire-transfer, and what I was doing to fix it in the morning. I laughed it off, just one of those Crazy things – stupid banks, you know? And I’m glad I said it that way and then changed the subject, so she wouldn’t worry very much. We both try hard not to hide anything about money from the other person; I think our relationship is a lot smoother because of that, overall.

We watched a couple TV shows that night, which was nice and relaxing, as I managed to barely not think about things too much.

We went to sleep – and I successfully banished all bad thoughts and feelings from my brain all night long! I managed to keep them from grabbing on to me and torturing me, somehow.

The Next Day

The wave of bad feelings hit me when I groggily woke up the next morning at 6AM.  But I still couldn’t do anything about it – banks don’t open until at least 9AM.

I got dressed and went to work – ah, work, such a nice distraction because of all the mental energy it requires.  At 10AM when a number of meetings had ended, I drove immediately over to my main bank, to get them to find the money and re-send the wire. This time I went to my favorite branch where I knew the people who worked there, they’ll be able to help me I’m sure.

When I got there I explained everything to the manager. We sat down and she went to work figuring out what was going on.  It turns out she could not make any changes to the wire, since she had not sent it – there are safety mechanisms within the bank to keep one employee from affecting changes to other employee’s financial activities, such as wire transfers, probably to protect against fraud. Banks have to cooperate with lots of fraud rules & regulations, more and more every year, to prevent many specific problems from happening – problems that must have actually happened, I would guess, at some point in the past.  Rules and regulations help protect against bad activities, but have a nasty side-effect of preventing innocent people like me from doing what we rightly need to do.

She told me that the money had not yet arrived back at this bank.  Sigh.

I got out my cell phone and called over to the destination bank.  They said they would look into it and call me back as soon as they could.

My bank manager made some phone calls to find out what more she could do, but eventually told me, “once they reject the wire, it will come back to us; then you will have to go over to the branch you sent the wire from, and re-sign the paperwork there, because I’m not allowed to make any changes from here.”

I thought about my job, all the work I was going to miss today; after being here for over an hour already, I was going to have to drive about 8 miles to the other branch, sit there for an unknown amount of time waiting for the money to be “returned” to the branch, so we could do everything over again.  A money-reboot. This could take all day. I’m so lucky I work for a flexible company, but now I would have to call my boss to explain I would probably be out for another few hours. I kind of snuck out at 10AM without telling anyone; which is usually OK, as long as I make up the time later on.

Before I had a chance to say goodbye to my favorite bank manager, my cell phone rang.  It was the other bank manager – and, good news!  They didn’t reject the wire because… the loan department did the right thing!

When the loan department saw the money wired in under a loan account number, instead of rejecting the wire like they often do, they were holding the money until they could verify with the customer (me) that I wanted to pay it towards the loan! They would be happy to reject the wire, or pay the loan, whatever I wanted. I said yes, please pay it towards the loan – and so they did.  “You should see your loan balance change online by the end of the day,” the confident voice on my cell phone informed me. I was so happy, I thanked him profusely.

I told my bank’s manager the good news. That’s why the money wasn’t sent back, we both realized. They were holding it, to find out what I wanted to do.

Whew, what a relief. Eventually, the right thing happened from my point of view. The Crazy was now over. I drove back to work.


The world we live in is crazy. So, if you and I are also a little crazy, that’s not so unusual; it doesn’t make us stick out, instead we uniquely fit right in. The people around us are kind of expecting it from us, actually…. I think everyone needs to have a certain amount of “crazy” just to function in this life!

So don’t feel bad about it at all. It’s like a game: can you maintain your own emotional control, mental sanity, during the Crazy times? Because they come and go; they won’t always be here. Like waves of an ocean, they go away, and then come back again.

Actually, I think you and I fit right in.

Welcome to Crazy Town, population: everyone.


November 28, 2016 / paulio10

10-year battery smoke detectors are horrible

We bought two smoke detectors that boasted a 10-year-battery for our house about 2 years ago, and installed them in place of the old yellowed-plastic ones that our newly purchased home came with. This house was built in the 1980’s, but it was new to us about 2 years ago.  The theory with 10-year-battery smoke detectors is: all smoke detectors really only last about 10 years, so having a 10-year battery means you never have to replace the battery – just replace the whole smoke detector around the 10 year mark. Easy, right?

Well, 2 years into owning these units, the one in our master bedroom started beeping non-stop for no reason at 2AM, the shrill piercing sound blasting us awake from a sound sleep.

I took the unit down from the wall (after fetching a chair I could stand on) and tried pressing the one and only button this thing had (labeled “test”) to turn it off, but it wouldn’t stop beeping. I single clicked it, double clicked it, held it in for 30 seconds, nothing would shut it up! And, there was no battery compartment to open, this was a completely sealed unit – because, of course, when you have a 10 year battery in a 10 year smoke detector, there’s no reason the owner would ever need to pull out the battery, right?

So I took the continuously screeching smoke detector in my sleep-induced state to the other end of the house, into the garage, found a hammer, and smashed it into 1000 tiny fragments with a single blow.  It stopped beeping just as I felt a plastic shard zipping across my cheek at high-speed.  I hit it over, and over, and over, and over, as my brain said, “you really should be wearing goggles to do this”.  I paused for a couple breaths and then I hit it some more.

Then I went back inside and staggered back to bed.

The next morning, being super irritated at how dumb this product was, I went upstairs to check on the other one that I had bought at the same time.  As I pulled it off the wall to look at it, it started beeping!  And beeping and beeping.  It would not stop.

I had to smash that one with a hammer, too, right next to the stringy electronic remains of the first one spread out over my garage floor that I hadn’t cleaned up from the similar violence a few hours earlier. I only hit this one 5 or 6 times and tossed the biggest piece into the trash can. I mentally scheduled a trip to the hardware store for noon time as I swept out the garage.

These companies don’t really understand the real purpose of the battery door – to have a way to make your alarm SHUT UP IMMEDIATELY.  I am the owner, I command you to stop waking up the neighbors and scaring my cats, dog, family members, and hurting my ears, right now.  Without a battery door, the second most important feature of the smoke detector is missing.

That is why I will never buy another sealed 10-year battery smoke detector again.


March 31, 2016 / paulio10

10 Skills You Need For The Future

The world is changing, I don’t think anybody will argue with that.

To adapt quickly and effectively to the changes coming (rather than being railroaded by them), I suggest you develop the following skills for yourself:

1. Observation

Look around you at what other people are doing. Other people are not stupid. If you see another person that you think is behaving in a stupid way, stop what you’re doing and go up to them, and start asking them questions. Observe them. Find out what’s going on, what they are about. Why are they doing that? If you can’t figure it out, ask them point-blank. You can learn a lot about the life around you that you never understood before, this way.

I saw a homeless man who was wearing a grungy dark-green jump-suit, in a fast food restaurant at lunch time a few years ago. He was a young man, maybe 25 years old or so, and I felt compelled to talk to him for some reason, even though my immediate reaction was that I was repelled by him.  I ate my lunch and waited, and then I found an opportunity to go and talk with him. He needed a ride to another part of town, so I gave him a ride in my car, and had a chance to talk to him and understand his viewpoint of our society and the world we live in. I did not talk about me, I talked about him the whole time, and tried to re-express his own ideas back to him, to see if I got it right, and to encourage him to tell me more.

His grungy 1-piece uniform irritated me so much. At one point I said, “you know, if you wore some nice clothes like jeans and a T-shirt, at least, you could probably get a job working somewhere, and have a lot more money to spend.” I wanted to suggest to him what I believed to be the next step in his “evolution” of becoming part of what I think of as our normal society.  It was the best thing I could think of saying at the time, and I really wanted to hear what he had to say about this. His response was really interesting.

He basically said, “no, this is my uniform. I have to wear these clothes. When I wear this, people know I’m homeless and give me money. If I wore ordinary clothes nobody would give me any money.” And it occurred to me, I gave him some money earlier, and now I’m giving him a ride. I really learned something that day. This guy intentionally wore that clothing to intentionally set my expectations, so I would participate one way or another – be repelled and leave, or help him in some way, because those are the two reactions that all people have in our society.  It kind of blew my mind.

He was a very kind-hearted young man who is currently hating our society. And I don’t blame him; he brought up some very good points about the down-sides of our economy and political system and social-environmental system. I couldn’t really argue against anything he was saying. Which means he’s also a very smart young man, because I’m smart too, and I couldn’t come up with very many good arguments against what he was saying. The only difference is, I cooperate with this society the way it is, and try to influence it in the best way possible, from within the system.  He chose a different route, to reject it directly, and rely on God and good samaritans to help him survive.

This kind of thing can open your eyes to other aspects of our society. I’m not going to become homeless anytime soon; but I can understand his point of view, now.  It was eye-opening to see a side of our society that we NEVER get to see from any media-outlet. This is a fragment of the real world around me, and I needed to see that.

2. Listening More than Talking

When I was talking with that young man, I listened 90% of the time, or more. I didn’t talk about myself much at all, except in comparison to what he was saying; then I turned it quickly back to him. I wanted to be supportive of what he was saying, whether I believed in what he was saying or not; because I wanted him to tell me more.  And he really appreciated it. I got the feeling that not very many people take time to talk to him and listen to him these days. Most people, like him, will go into deeper detail and follow deeper and more realistic paths of thought if we simply encourage them and support them in what they’re saying.  To help them reconnect broken connections, come to newer conclusions over time.  It’s possible to do that without believing their viewpoint – simply by understanding their viewpoint.

It’s important to understand other people’s viewpoints. In war time there is a saying, “understand your enemy;” but in this case, I realized this young man is not my enemy, he’s just yet another hurting person in our society who is aligned differently than every other hurting person in our society that I’ve ever seen, including me. Everyone seems to be hurting in some way, in some direction, in some dimension; and I could see that sometimes it pulls the person away from the norms of society, like this young man, evidently.

I could tell that this young man really liked talking to me, because he gave me one of his prize possessions in return for the ride – a large highly polished rock with amazing fossils embedded in it – I had never seen anything like it before.  I still have it in my collection of things in my office, it’s really cool.

3. Accepting Other People the Way they Are; Encouraging Them to Be More, Their Own Way

I didn’t reel back from the way this man looked, talked, or smelled. I just took it all in. It was a new experience from me.

Observe yourself – do you avoid new experiences? If yes, then, why? They don’t really threaten you in any way. You can still go on and be you afterwards, follow your own path, pursue everything you believe in, get things and do things the way you always have. You don’t have to suddenly start following someone else’s belief system just because you learned about it. Knowledge is not a virus! If that were true, wouldn’t you be trying to live exactly like EVERY movie and EVERY TV show you’ve ever seen? TV and movies portray very compelling characters and stories, sometimes in the most amazing way. But that’s ridiculous – you don’t try to do that.  So, then, it’s OK to learn about a new person, a new thought, a new way of life; and not feel you have to abandon everything you are and everything you believe it to become like them.  You’re still you, always, forever. So throw away the fear and start learning what people are like in our society who aren’t exactly like you. You won’t learn it any other way. Life is living all around you; with or without you; I recommend experiencing all you can.

4. Learn how Money Really Works

I wrote an earlier blog post about this.  Read it for more information.

5. Dream How Money Should Really Work in Our Society

Now this is a topic I love thinking about. What are your ideas, I have a feeling I know what the next generation of money will be like in our society, but I’m still constructing my ideas about it. What do you think?  What would be a more fair system, that covers every type of person, every need, every want, in our society?  It can be done. Be creative and see if you can figure out a great system. Thoughts are powerful things.

6. Be OK at Failing, get used to Being Wrong

This is really hard for some of us; it used to be hard for me.  We were taught in school that you’re supposed to find the ONE RIGHT answer; only tell the teacher, tell the class, what the RIGHT answer is. If you don’t have the RIGHT answer, you’re WRONG.  Your grade reflects that; pure and simple.  There’s a certain powerful element of emotion tied in to this, being right and wrong, also. Turns out this is all wrong.

It’s OK to be wrong, or to fail at something.  At the very least, you learned what NOT to do.  I know that sounds like loser-talk, but you’ve got to change your way of thinking – you can never lift yourself up to the next level of understanding ANYTHING until you can get past this limitation you created within yourself. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to fail. Because you’re going to learn from it, and try again. And again. And again – until you are successful.  If it’s painful right now, take a break. You’re done for a while. Stop thinking about it. Recover.  Then get mad – that thing doesn’t have the right to defeat you! Try it again.  Learn from those who already do it right. Study them. Ask them lots of questions. You’d be surprised at how many people “greater than you” are happy to answer questions about how they do what they do. The most talented people are very open about what they do and how they do it. They’ll look at you and say to themselves, “now there’s someone with potential – curious and learning. So few people care enough to ask questions. I want to encourage them, they’ll get it some day. They’re actually closer than they think, right now.”

In fact, you can practice failing, in order to get good at it.  Really!  A good way to practice failing is to learn how to juggle.

I taught myself how to juggle 3 balls with 2 hands. I can also juggle 4 balls, with 2 balls in each hand (which is harder than 3 balls in 2 hands). You don’t have any idea how many times I dropped those balls while practicing. I come from a family who learned to have a giant emotional seizure every time they “drop something on the ground accidentally”.  I realized it’s like an opera – not real, but so compelling. Well, thanks to juggling, I completely got over the fear of dropping things! I have no emotional hangup with dropping things now. I just don’t care if I drop something or not. And, consequently, I almost never drop anything at all, anymore. Maybe one or two things a year, or less. I don’t break coffee cups or tea saucers in the kitchen like my parents would. I don’t drop my phone and break it. I don’t spill the cup of soda all over the rug, and have to rent a carpet cleaning device to fix it.  I conquered spilling and dropping.  I conquered it by learning to juggle.

Want to learn how to juggle? You don’t have to spend much money to practice it. Believe it or not, the nearest to perfect thing to use for juggling balls are: oranges!  Buy 3 oranges that are the right size that fit your hand nicely.  When you wear them out, buy 3 more oranges. They are not that expensive.  And don’t feel bad; those oranges are serving humanity, just as if you had eaten them. Or you can buy juggling balls in some toy stores, or online.

Practice a little every day. Watch youtube videos on juggling basics. When you get frustrated and mad, stop. You’re done for the day. Pick it up again tomorrow. The most important thing: don’t give up until you can do it.

But while you’re learning to juggle, keep an eye on yourself – what emotions come up?  What body movements happen that you can’t seem to control and change? What thoughts go thru your head?  How do your emotions and thoughts change about juggling over a 1-month period?

If you get seriously stuck on something, break it down – figure out the components that make it up; but don’t just analyze it with your mind, don’t overthink it; mindless repetitive action sometimes is necessary to get your body to comply with what it is you’re trying to train it to do.

How are the feelings and thoughts and movements different once you’ve conquered juggling, compared to the middle of learning, and compared to the very beginning? It is so fascinating. Once you conquer juggling, you need to understand that anything big and new that you want to learn, you’ll probably go thru those same feelings and thoughts.  And it’s OK, isn’t it, you got through it!  The later times are never as hard as the first time you conquer something.

Can you juggle yet, like me?

7. Try to Know What You Don’t Know

Be able to admit when you don’t know something. Because who cares! If you don’t know it, you need to learn it, and it’s OK to realize you don’t know stuff. Specific stuff.  And it’s OK if others know that about you, too.  You’re only a human being.  Like them.  There’s plenty of stuff they don’t know either.  That’s the only way you’re really going to learn something you don’t know – you have to realize you don’t know it first. Only then do you have a chance to some day know it!  If you pretend and skip past that part, you NEVER know it, and ALWAYS suffer from that lack of knowledge from that point on.

If you work with other people, you will let down those people with your lack of knowledge and pretend-knowledge.

If you work for a company, you’re hurting that company by pretending to know something you don’t know, instead of actually learning it.  Stop doing that. You’re risking your job, maybe risking your career, with pointless risk. I don’t want that for you. If it’s not easy to admit when you don’t know something, then start with admitting something small, something simple, and see how people take it. You’d be surprised how accepting people are of your lack of knowledge. Because, who cares. You don’t know something. So what. You’re human. Now, learn that something, so you know it for the rest of your life. That’s one more thing you conquered in your life.  And one less painful thought-feeling to experience for the rest of your life.

8. Cooperate; Ask for Help when you need it; Delegate.

In school we “learned” that we have to do our own work! Never cooperate! Don’t depend on other people to do your work for you!  Are you trying to cheat or something?  It turns out this is completely wrong, and completely the opposite of how all modern businesses work today. In business, if you don’t know how to do something, you probabl do not have time to learn it – it’s better to recruit someone who already is an expert at that topic. In fact, you can do both: (1) get the expert to do it right now, this time, and (2) you spend some time over the next week or month learning more about that topic, so you can maybe do it yourself in the future.  Maybe learn some of it from that expert you hired! That could bea perfect opportunity. Or just plan on outsourcing that every time it comes up. That’s a solution too.

Cooperation is the way to get anything done better, faster, cheaper.  Why would you not want to take advantage of experts?  You do what you’re best at, and let others do what they are best at.  It only makes sense. …assuming you know what it is you’re best at.  And that they do, too.

Delegation is getting other people to do the majority of the work. Sometimes this is the right thing to do. Perhaps some thing is still your responsibility, so you still need to track the progress, and maybe report the results to whoever you have to report to. Stay on top of the project or person, but don’t bug them too frequently. Answer their questions quickly and completely. Give them what they need to do the job. It takes practice to learn how to delegate properly, to help the person feel like they’re participating in a bigger project that’s exciting, rather than being give busy work to do by you. Because it is exciting, especially when you see the end results. Sometimes just a few quick words about why, about what the end-result will be if this work gets done. Seeing the vision of the end-result can be a very powerful motivation factor. For you, and for others.

9. Simplify & Optimize

Once you are able to accomplish a bigger task by doing all the smaller steps for it, if you find yourself doing it over and over again, what can you do to simplify the process? Speed it up? Reduce it to smaller tasks? Can you do pre-work that helps speed up the task? Can you get someone else to do the pre-work? Or to do the task itself? Can you have multiple people doing the tasks in parallel? Can a computer automate the task? Try to optimize the arrangement of parts, orders, data and information, so that it’s much easier the next 10 times it has to be done.

You can make your life easier by simplifying and optimizing.  You can create beneficial wins for yourself and your department and your company, if you find these things at your job. Bosses often like to find people who have the skill of simplifying and optimizing. So many people can’t or don’t do this; but so many businesses need their processes and operations streamlined, so they can work faster, better, and make more money – which will keep you employed that much easier and longer. It’s just good all-around.

With software development, “refactoring” is the science of taking a piece of code and simplifying and optimizing it. The benefits are pretty large; you get faster, more reliable code that is easier to debug or improve and add features to. Simpler code has a higher chance of being more secure, from a computer-security point of view. More software developers will be able to understand your code, if it is simpler. A developer can spend more time working on adding exciting new features, rather than being dragged back to the old code when there are a slew of newly discovered and unexpected bugs to fix.

Making something simple takes more work than making something complex. For some reason our initial impulse for solving a problem usually yields overly complex results.  With careful work, it can be made simpler. I like the phrase “make it as simple as possible but no simpler.” A famous writer once wrote in a letter to a friend, “I apologize for the length of this letter, for I did not have the time to write you a shorter one.” It’s funny, because it’s true.

10. Create Processes to Accomplish More Complex Things

Create steps of what to do, in what order; what things to check, what can go wrong, based on what has gone wrong in the past. Some people call this a “process” or a “system” to get work done. I call it common sense, so you don’t suffer the pain and agony of failing to do it properly in the future. I call it “learning now”, in order to not fail in the future.

It’s so easy to forget one of the many steps that it takes to accomplish something important. Whatever steps were left out end up causing a huge headache later on.  Then, next time, you’ll totally remember not to skip that painful step that was skipped last time – instead you’ll skip a different step, causing a NEW pain this time around!  Is that really how you want to live your life? I work with people like this today at my current job. I can see their pain. So I encourage them to (1) create the process they will follow, and (2) follow the damn process every time so nothing is missed. These processes can be revised and updated any time; they’re not fixed in stone.

In my world, most processes have to do with software deployment.  But these principles can be applied to anything in life, such as: paying bills on time, getting your kids to school or soccer practice on time, remembering all the weekend tasks you committed to doing without missing a single one, remembering to buy a card 1 week before valentine’s day / anniversary / important birthdays, remembering the grocery stores all run out of crushed pineapple 1 week before Easter so you should stock up 2-3 weeks before, and so many other things.

The trick is to (1) make a list of all the steps.  (2) follow the list when you’re actually doing the work. (3) when you discover something you have to do that’s not on the list, add it RIGHT NOW to the list. (4) prune anything from the list that doesn’t apply anymore and won’t apply in the future, if things have changed.

I do this for paying bills, even. I can tell when I did NOT receive a bill in the mail within a few days, and sense that something’s wrong in the universe; and call the company to ask where my bill is – rather than “missing a payment” because of reasons outside of my control. Sure, the post office ate my bill. Sure, the company didn’t know I moved to a new house, despite the change of address card I sent them. Sure, the kids got the mail out of the mailbox and dropped something on the ground before it all got back to the house. How was *I* supposed to know I was missing a bill?  Well, after many painful experiences, I created a way to detect that, and you can do the same in your own life. It takes a little extra work every month, around bill paying time, but it’s worth it. And because I documented the steps, I don’t have to think very hard to repeat them each time; just follow the steps.

But paying bills is probably not your issue. What is your issue? How can you remind yourself automatically, to follow the right steps at the right time?

Here’s another good one.  You see a problem (like you didn’t receive the electric bill this month), you contact the company, and they say they’ll get back to you or they’ll send you a new bill – and that’s the end of it. But then they never do their part, and you forget about it, so you fail to make the payment on time – and of course you get penalized, not them! Are you mad at them for failing you?  I say it’s YOUR fault for not creating a reminder system for yourself to stay on top of this thing that’s their fault (because they haven’t done the right thing and sent you a new bill), and they haven’t communicated with you (email or phone call), and yet, you’re responsible for making the right payment on time. You need a way to track what you’re expecting of other people, and keep reminding and bugging them until you get what you want, or you agree it’s time to drop it and move on. Nothing should slip thru the cracks, with you around.  You can create systems to prevent that. I know you can do it, because I HAVE done it, as have may others before me.

Learn about GTD – Getting Things Done. Look into what a “tickler file” is. Learn to use a day-planner. Practice putting things on your calendar to remind you in the future – you do have a calendar of some kind that you follow regularly, right? Digital systems are neat, but may not be a complete solution. What if you have a piece of paper you don’t need to deal with now, but you definitely need to deal with it next week? Next month? 6 months from now? or a year or two from now? Where can you put it that you’ll be reminded of it at the right moment, and NOT reminded about it over and over again between now and then?

You will find a way. I know you can.

Using Your Skills, for… ?

You, in the future. What’s the highest, greatest work you could do, that you would love to do, in the world?

Now, what skills will you need to accomplish that?

I think you will find that many of the skills I’ve listed here will come in very handy in that great future.

Other Skills

Did this article make you think of other skills that you want to learn in the future? Or that you wish other people would learn?

What are they?

January 30, 2016 / paulio10

Election Perfection

The only way elections will ever be honest and believable will be when the vote collectors publish the ENTIRE LIST of everybody who voted, and which way they voted, as an easily parseable text file for all to see.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Everyone in the world knows where and when this ASCII CSV file will drop, and are waiting with baited breath for it to appear. As soon as it does, thousands (maybe millions) of people, including you, go into action – downloading the file, and analyzing it to see who won the election.

But more than just seeing who won the election, you will be able to look at this gigantic data dump for your own name, to see for yourself that the people who collected the votes properly understood your ballot, processed it correctly, and registered the way you wanted to vote properly, from your point of view. In fact, that will be considered a duty as a citizen of the world you live in, to verify your vote was counted properly. If you can’t do it yourself, you’ll get someone else to check for you; just so long as you have a way of seeing that the world properly acknowledged your meager contribution to the massive election that had just transpired.

Every voter will be able to run statistics on this database – to prove to themselves that the claimed percentages of who received which votes, is correct, or not. They can verify the outcome of the election themselves, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

There doesn’t need to be any central “media” reporting the statistics – every media outlet, large or small, will be able to report the correct results for themselves.  It will be considered poor taste for any media outlet to report ANY early reports of any kind, before everyone has had a chance to vote; “no spoilers!” will be the motto, just like with our TV shows and movies.  Please! Don’t post spoilers before I’ve had a chance to participate! Maybe I won’t bother to check Twitter and Facebook today until I’ve had a chance to vote; I don’t want to know what the spoiler-idiots are saying.

Because I know that my vote counts, no matter who I vote for.  I have learned the truth that used to be a mystery, that my vote always counts, unlike the old days.  And, my vote can’t be “canceled out” by other people.  I don’t have to try to “vote the right way,” because the right way is: whichever way I feel is the right way.  I am the powerhouse behind my vote – not anybody else.  So I vote however I want, independent of anyone else; then I get to experience the fun of seeing how the election turned out by analyzing it for myself!

There will be a system available on the same web site or screen that this published data will be made available on, for people to register complaints about the way their vote was handled – and THAT data will ALSO be made publicly available – the “adjustments” to make up for the incorrect processing/parsing/handling of each specific vote that did not go the way the voter intended.

Each voter can only influence their own vote. They have a right to VERIFY that their vote was counted in the right and proper way, in the system, and follow some kind of process to CORRECT it if it was not registered properly.  And check it again, to see that the correction took place; and repeat it if it did not.

All voters deserve to see all of the data, so that they can independently make sure that no cheating is going on with the final tally, which is the most important thing, the only thing that matters – it is the final results of the election.

People will be proud of how they voted, and want to show off to their friends – which fits in with the ability that everyone has to cross-check that against the actual data – nobody will lie, because anyone can, at any time, check the real data and see how someone else voted.

In fact the pride of the entire country will be in the fact that there is no central organization driving the collection of votes, counting of votes, reporting of final outcomes.  Everyone will be able to do that for themselves – for a true open clean election system – for the first time in history.

A missing vote, or a wrong vote, will be considered a horrible travesty, triggering many people to go into action to remedy the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible. Because we all want the same thing – an honest election, where our vote really counted.  You will never feel that level of confidence until you can verify it yourself with a system like this, and know that everyone else is doing the same.

No cheating will be possible.  This is how it will go down.


January 24, 2016 / paulio10

Why Most Small Businesses Fail

I figured out why it is so hard for most people to start a small business and make it successful.

It is because there are two factors working against them, not just one, based on their past training and experience – things that they have to completely change in themselves to run a successful business.

The first thing is obvious to most people, and it’s the only one they think they have to deal with (but then there’s a second, more subtle one I will explain in a moment).

The first factor working against the small business owner: when I start my small business, I am in charge, I am the decider.  I get to decide what things get done, and how, for my business.  What products or services my business provides, and how we’re going to produce or provide those things.

Most people get excited about it because they have an experience in the past, they know how things weren’t done right by others, and they know how things can be done better, and more correctly, without knowing any of the side-effects of their better method; or the origins of why things were being done the “wrong” way; which is fine, they’ll learn this over time; they’ll realize things they need to change over time.  These aren’t big obstacles.  If they can’t bring themselves to change anything, they insist on running it their way even if parts of it are not working right, then their business probably will go under. But most people do not have that problem, and are willing to be flexible largely, when obstacles occur, in finding ways around the obstacles, and changing how they achieve the ultimate goals of their business, to be successful.

You have to be flexible and become good at finding the root-reasons behind problems (especially recurring problems), and find how to solve the root of the problem, so that the problem is solved permanently. People don’t have to study the science of root-problem-solving, they often will home in on this eventually.

The big mistake people make though, almost all small businesses have this problem, and some never get past this point; is that they think that they, the owner, has to do all of the work!  Now that I have defined what the work is, I know how to do the work, it’s often an area of expertise for me, probably even an area of excitement for me; because otherwise why would I have gotten in to this small business in the first place? There’s plenty of different small businesses I could have started; there was something in particular that drew me to this specific small business. It could have been past experience, past knowledge, and possibly excitement, enjoyment, fun of doing the particular work for this business.

They get stuck with the idea that they have to do the work. They quickly make this decision, which they don’t even know they’re making – because it’s just what they’ve always done! Their experience as an employee was “somebody else made all the high-level decisions in some ephemeral business I worked for, and defined what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it; and they told me “go and do all these steps I tell you to do.”  Here’s the Plan.  Here’s the tasks.  Oh, and how are you coming along with your tasks?  Where are we at? Give me an update every week or every day. What obstacles do you have? Let’s have meetings to talk about that. Let’s write a document about that. Let’s share it with other stake holders and managers.  So the person who is starting the small business knows that they are in charge of all that, and it’s probably just them (or them and their partner), and planning consists of talking about something for 10 minutes, and boom, decision is made, and you can run with it.  (of course that part is a lot easier in a small business).  But who’s going to do the work?

The mistake most small business people make is that they think they themselves have to do the work. I’m the business owner! It’s my responsibility! I have to be successful at this, or the entire business fails! I know how to do the work! I know better than anyone! If you want it done right, do it yourself! I love this work!

As a result, they immediately bottleneck their business and limit the success their business can have, because they themselves (or they and their partner) are a finite resource – there’s only so many hours in the day, only so much work a person can do in one week, one month, one year of time. They quickly become overworked, while not making enough money. That is an impossible situation to get out of without changing something drastic about how they think. But they don’t even know what to change, they don’t even suspect anything is wrong with what they’re doing!

The second factor working against the small business owner – the vitally important core realization, which most small business owners don’t understand because they’ve been employees all their life, is:

I’m not going to do any of the work.

My job is to set things up so that other people do all of the work.

I define what the work is, I guide it, I give training about it, and I make sure it’s happening properly.

I build a system (maybe many systems) to make sure that the right things happen and problems are corrected, missed things won’t be missed in the future, and so forth.

It’s really about guiding and shuffling, directing, rather than doing any of the actual work.

But of course, you’re a small business! So even if you hear these concepts, even if you know that this is what you need to do, it still feels impossible, and you say, “I don’t have the money to hire someone to do all this work!” Or you say: “sure there’s a big chunk of work right now, because of the contract we just signed, I could hire someone to do this, but then I have to fire them next week when it’s all done, and then hire them a week or two later with the next contract, and fire them again one week after that, because the work I have is very spotty, not consistent.

They’re thinking too small if half a day of lost work (of paying an employee for a full day, for example, and not having anything for them to do for half a day); if that is a big risk to the business, then they’re thinking too small about their business, they’re doing it wrong. They need to ramp it up to a bigger level, because here’s the thing: if you have one employee, and they don’t have any work for half a day, that’s a giant impact to the company; but if you have 10 employees and you don’t have work for 1 employee for half a day, that’s a very small glitch; that’s not so bad.  9.5 out of 10 workers working is still most of the work being accomplished.  But 0.5 out of 1 workers working is a huge impact; 50% efficient.

So the business needs to ramp things up. Because if they do that, the business can make way more money. Way way way more money, for many reasons; first: you’re moving more product or providing more service to more customers – so naturally, whatever your percentage of profit is multiplied by the bigger numbers, so your profit is bigger. That’s obvious. But you also get the benefit of Economies of Scale; if you have to buy 1 roll of toilet paper, that’s a certain price. If you buy 10 rolls of toilet paper, you get a discount; less cost per roll. And if you buy 3,000 rolls of toilet paper, I guarantee you’ll get a better price per roll than buying 10 rolls at a time.  In fact, you could sign a contract with a toilet paper manufacturer to deliver 500 rolls of toilet paper every week on Fridays at 2PM. Things like that. Economies of Scale gives you more profitability for your business, which can then be slightly absorbed by having a little bit of slack-time by one or two employees when it happens once in a while.  The cost is covered.  You have a buffer, a bit of room for error, which you didn’t have when the business was too small (3,4,5 people working the business).

So at the very beginning, yes of course, the owner (you) will probably have to do most of the work. You’ve got to get out of that phase as fast as possible. There’s a huge difference on planning & directing a business, versus doing the mundane day-to-day work on the business.  You should be working on your business, not in your business. Print this out, write it down, recite it, put it on your wall where you work and re-read it every day:

You should be working on your business, not in your business.

You need to work on your business – you are the boss, you’re in charge of everything! This business will fail if you do not do the most important things in a timely manner for your business.  Those things all revolve around working on your business – how the business operates, what people are supposed to do, when and how; creating the processes and plans.  Being consistent, and communicating clearly, so customers know what to expect. Not just focusing on your current products, but planning future products. Not just looking at your current marketing and advertising, but your future marketing and advertising. Not focusing only on your current customers, but focusing on who your future customers are going to be. New markets, not just existing markets. Which supplies, and suppliers. What is the future? Where is it going? You are the captain at the helm of your ship. Where is the ship heading? How are you going to grow your business?

People who work on their business, eventually have to work less hours each week, not more hours, because the business starts to run itself. You know you are being successful at working on your business instead of in your business, when the profits and sales go up, but you have more time to spend with your family, doing personal things, rather than business things. The best business people experience this extra spare time as their business grows and their income increases.  People with an employee-mentality associate time with money – to make more money, I have to spend more time. But being a real business owner works the opposite of that: if you’re working harder and harder over time, you’re doing something wrong.

Ask yourself this: what is my plan to double my business in the next 2 years? Think about the level of business you’re at now, and try to double it in 2 years.  Maybe it will take 3 or 4 years to do that, but the plan gets created now – and the steps are taken now, to get there. You might achieve it in less than 2 years. It just depends. You’re going to grow your business starting now.

There’s many reasons why you need to plan on growing your business. One unexpected reason is: a large percentage of your current customers are going away – they will be irretrievably lost to you as customers. People move away, people switch brands, people get tired and bored and leave and go somewhere else.  So what is your plan for getting many new customers, lots of new sales, just to counteract the natural loss that your business is going to go through? This loss of business is normal, and you have to account for it.

Treading Water

I learned this very clearly when I joined a group of business people who met weekly to do networking. I belonged to this group for 2 years, and they had roughly 28 people in the group the whole time I was there.  Occasionally there would be as many as 31 people, and sometimes as few as 25 people, but it always recovered and stayed right around 28 or 29 people the whole time I was there. It was clearly in everyone’s best interest to stay with the group, to get more sales – yet there was a constant flow of people leaving. The only reason it was able to maintain its size was because we constantly invited new small business owners to visit once a month to experience our sharing of leads and referrals, people who had never been to a group like this, people like us that were trying to improve their business sales. But you know how that goes. Of the 50 people you invite, 20 of them will actually show up. And of the 20 that show up, 7 will actually sign up to join the group. And of those, 2 or 3 will actually stay for 1 year or more. Meanwhile, various other people who have already been with the group for a while decide to leave for various reasons unrelated to the group – so there is a constant flow of people leaving and coming, leaving and coming. What do you think will happen to that group if they stop inviting new people to come and join? That group will shrink and shrink and shrink, until it finally disappears. It can’t sustain itself. Your business is the same.

The concept here is very much like Treading Water.  Think about it.  Treading Water means you move your arms and legs in a certain pattern that you have practiced many times, to just stay where you are. Because if you ever stop moving your arms and legs, your body will sink and your head will go below the surface of the water, and you won’t be able to breathe air. You’re treading water just to keep breathing. When treading water, you’re not exercising real hard, you’re doing the minimum work it takes to maintain your minimum position in the water so that your head stays above water.

Your business needs to tread water. You have a current customer base, but people are going to leave; so you need to continually be increasing your customers to make up for at least the number who are leaving all the time.

So now – knowing that, you start thinking about other sales models. Is there a method I could use to lock people in, so that I don’t lose customers so fast? One way is to change your business from a single-purchase model to a subscription-based model. Especially if your product is a series of elements, for example, episodes of a TV show, or episodes of a Podcast – if your product is a weekly or monthly Podcast, then you shouldn’t be asking people to contribute only one time.  That’s crazy. You should be asking them to contribute on an ongoing basis. Because they’re getting value from you on an ongoing basis!  You’re working your butt off on an ongoing basis to provide new content! You’re producing content constantly, so the money needs to come in constantly.

Your payment model needs to match your products or services.  It’s got to make sense.  Software companies are figuring this out now. Look at Adobe. They specialize in an assortment of graphical and visual editing and composition software products like Photoshop, Illustrator, and so forth. They have some of the best cutting-edge products out there. There old model was: you buy it once, install it, and use it forever. But they couldn’t make as much money that way as their new model. They adopted the Cloud Computing model, where the customer subscribes to a monthly license, and has a right to use the latest version of the software, always keeping up with the newest version over time. So they get money every month, every month, every month. The software checks online for its license: did they pay this month?  Oh yes, OK, I will run then. Oh they didn’t pay? OK, I won’t run, but I will remind them to renew their subscription. It’s so easy. Here’s how to do it. Your license expired on this date. Do you have your credit card ready? Here’s how you renew. I have your credit card on file, do I have your permission to renew? Here’s how much it will be, and how long the license will last. You need to click here, type this, do something to give us permission to charge you.  Or, set up an automatic billing agreement – so that it automatically charges the monthly license fee, because that’s what the person agreed to up front to get access to the software. They can cancel at any time – you’re not tricking anybody, they can come and go as they please.

Make sure that you make the whole process super easy – super easy to sign up, to download and install the software, make sure it will work on every platform and style and aspect of computer/phone/device that they might potentially be using.  And it’s a moving target over time – as new hardware and operating systems come out. So there will be an ongoing cost to keep the software working on all modern platforms, but luckily, the billing model brings in the money constantly to cover those costs.  It’s a well thought out model that works for everyone.  People need to keep up with the latest version of the software. You’re helping them do that – as they pay for the latest thing, you make sure they have access to the latest thing.  All bug fixes get propagated to all customers. All new features are shared with all customers, and you make sure to brag about it to your customers, so they know the great improvements that are pushed to their system without them having to lift a finger. If they pay you every month for 10 years, you’re happy to provide them free upgrades the whole time – thank you for being such a dedicated customer to our company.

Whatever the easiest thing is, whatever the default thing is, that is what 90% of your customers are going to do. If the “default” is to not pay you, because they already paid once, then you won’t get paid each month. It will be like pulling teeth.  If the default is to pay you every month because they subscribed to your services, then guess what – that is what’s going to happen every month. I’ve seen this happen in my own life. And I’m a stickler for unsubscribing to things quickly, and not letting companies cost me extra money needlessly over time.

But I needed a cloud product from Adobe for about 2 months. I ended up not canceling my subscription to that cloud product for about 6 months! So they got 4 months of free money out of me before I had the mind and sensibility to cancel it. So instead of paying $60, maybe I paid $180 total. And that seems to be fine to me, I justified it as a business expense for that particular project I was working on at the time. That was the cost for me to use that product at that time, it was a bit higher than I expected. I probably could have called and bugged them to get a partial refund, I didn’t feel like spending the time and headache to do that; I just canceled when I felt like it, and they stopped charging me at that point.  I felt comfortable enough with that, that I would sign up with them again if I need that product again in the future.

Tickler File – Your Perfect Reminder System

By the way, that’s what a Tickler File is for, to remind you about stuff that you’re going to forget about, on a specific day in the future. Because you’re going to forget it.  It’s human nature.

Some people use a calendar app for this, but I don’t recommend it. Because there are concepts that Tickler Files solve which no calendaring app has ever solved properly.

You can have the concept of: remind me about (this thing) roughly 1 month from today, but if I don’t act on it for a week (or two), that’s fine, but once I act on it, file it away for another month from that time. That is a super important concept.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you have a tickler item to back up your computer on to an external hard drive. Well, I know, there’s a lot of online backup systems on the Internet today, the truth is that you want both, a cloud backup system and a physical media backup system like a little external hard drive you can hold in your hand to back up your PC or laptop. You want both of those things. You’re likely to have to run that local backup to a hard drive manually (unless you find a way to automate that too).  But if you do that, now you need to check on it monthly – which means you need a tickler item for that – so you’re going to have a tickler item no matter what.

You put a tickler item that says “1 week from today” or “1 month from today, here are the steps to do the backup”.  You want to make it as easy as possible to do it right, so you don’t put it off, leave it sitting on piles of paper on your desk, to get buried and lost and forgotten.  You don’t want to have any reason to avoid doing it. You write it on a full sheet of paper, and put it in your tickler file folders.

One month from now, when the tickler file brings this folder to your attention, you pull the paper out and exclaim, “what is this? Oh that’s right, I need to back up my computer! I wish I remembered how to do that! Oh, look, I wrote all the steps right here; I guess I should stop what I’m doing and quickly do these steps right here.” That’s great, that’s so important.

Then next month your tickler file brings that paper to your attention again, and you say “oh yea, backups, has it really been a month? OK, I know it’s important but I have this other thing going on right now so I will leave it on my desk and do it later.”  3 days from now you find it on your desk and say, “oh crap, I needed to do this.  OK I will schedule myself to do this tomorrow. I will leave it on my desk.”  So 4 days have gone by since you were scheduled to do your backups.

So, assuming you do the backups that next day, then think about this: when should the next backup date be? You don’t need to do it 1 month from when it WAS due 4 days ago. You need to do your next backup 1 month from now – 4 days later – the schedule has now slipped by 4 days. And that is OK.  The damage is already done- the 4 day slip already occurred.  So now you’re filing away your tickler item paper 1 month from today, so you see it at that time. The sheet of paper doesn’t say “do this on the 5th of the month,” it says “file away 1 month from today”.

Calendaring apps don’t support this concept. They support the “5th of the month” concept. Which is valuable for some types of reminders, like paying your bills – you must pay most bills by the proper day of the month or you will be charged a late fee (or worse).  So slipping that schedule results in having to get back on track – a calendaring app is perfect for that.  But not everything is like that.  If you want to touch bases with your adviser once a month, you might use the Tickler file method of never calling them 2 weeks in a row, because you avoided calling them for 3 weeks, for example.  Each time you call them, you re-file the item for “1 month from today,” and it works great.

October 25, 2015 / paulio10

The New Economy of Natural Rule

The closer an economy comes to working like Nature’s own natural energy, the more it will thrive from fundamental principles found in nature, such as:
* self-healing (skin, flesh, plants, trees, etc.)
* cooperative living for greater accomplishments
* symbiotic or win-win relationships
* smoother expansion when the quantity of beings grows (all the people, all the plants, etc.)
* smooth contraction when the quantity of beings shrinks
* endless and limitless energy

Closed vs Open Systems

Unlike today’s closed-system monetary systems, nature operates as an open system.  There is no maximum number of ducks that can be born into the world, or people, or blades of grass, or any living thing.  Each duck, each person, each blade of grass is not dependent on all the others; it operates independently.

With money — there is a finite, maximum amount available; it is a closed system.  For me to have more, all of the people combined must have less; there’s nothing I can do to create money, no matter how hard I try.  Of course today’s economies have a government-driven entity that can inject new money into the economy (such as the Federal Reserve in the United States) which can add new dollars to the overall system and remove dollars any time they decide to. That sort of thing would be called the “single-point-of-failure” in the computer industry, where you have all your eggs in one basket; but that’s not the main problem with this system.

With energy — it is an infinite resource. There is no maximum or minimum; it is an open system.  There is no central authority controlling everything from a specific location, so there is no central point of failure.  There is no centrally-driven limitation.

Your body’s energy is a good example of Nature’s energy. Your body’s energy works exactly opposite to how money works today:

The more ENERGY you use up today, the MORE you will receive tomorrow.
* if you exercise your body, you will have more energy tomorrow; if you lay in bed doing nothing all day, you will have less energy tomorrow.  Misuse and non-use of energy provides less in the future; right use provides more in the future.

The more MONEY you use up today, the LESS you will have tomorrow.
* if you spend a lot of it today, you will have less money tomorrow; if you spend nothing all day, you will have all of it left tomorrow.

For example, if I have 50 dollars today and don’t use any of it, I still have 50 tomorrow – the world wasn’t improved by my efforts, but I was rewarded for it – I had 50 dollars the next day – when you think about it, this is just wrong!
If I have 50 dollars today and spend all of it in the best way possible to help my fellow people spontaneously, I have no money at all the next day.  This is also wrong!

It’s obvious we need a monetary system that rewards people for doing the right thing – spending their money to improve the world – rather than rewarding them for selfishness and inaction.  In economics we have the concept of the “velocity of money,” which can be measured. But what about the velocity of work being done? What about important work that has no money behind it, so that work does not get done?  Maybe we should focus on measuring the Velocity of Work Accomplished instead.

Voting-based Systems

How could we possibly invent a new economic model that more closely replicates how Natural Energy works?
One possible system could be a voting-based system.
Because the big obstacle is this: who or what is the deciding factor on how much money you should receive tomorrow, as reward for the things you did today?  It shouldn’t be you, because you are too close to the work that you did to see it clearly from a vantage point to properly judge its value.  Selfish people will try to get more than the value of the work they did.  Self-unsure people will tend to ask for less than the value of the work they did.  The bottom line is, the person doing the work is too close to the work to accurately judge its value – it needs to be measured by persons separate from them.

This problem has been solved in various ways on certain open Internet news and blogging sites today.  The creators of those sites desired something that seems impossible – a standard way of rating the quality of comments on articles written by individuals, in such a way that the “best” comments can bubble up to the top, with lesser comments following them, in descending order of “goodness”. But how can you have a standard rating system when no two people will ever agree on exactly what “good” is?  It makes you think: who is our audience, so that we can accurately measure these varying degrees of “good”ness among the tens of thousands of comments written every day?  Once we know who our audience is, that could change over time, so how do we monitor changes in our audience’s values and beliefs, so as to maintain maximum “good”ness as the dynamics of our audience change over time?  And how do we automate all this, so that no small minority of people can monopolize the system, either accidentally or intentionally misjudging comments?  If nothing else, natural human fallibility will tend to vary the comment-voting-quality over time, which will then be noticed by the people who use the system, they’ll get mad and discuss it far and wide, and the whole system will lose respect by the people as being a flawed system.

These seemingly insurmountable problems have been largely conquered in various ways on some web sites today.  My favorite system is the one implemented by Slashdot, which works roughly like this:

Anyone can sign up to be a moderator. Moderators cannot be anonymous, the web site knows who you are. Once you are granted moderator status, the web site will randomly select you once in a while to moderate a set of people’s comments.  You cannot moderate more than a fixed number of comments that the site determines, say, a random cross-section of 10 comments from various recent articles on the web site. You read the article, read the comment, and make a judgement about the comment: was it appropriate or inappropriate? Was it off-topic? Was it funny? Interesting? Insulting? Trolling or Flame-baiting? Was the comment related or unrelated to the article it was supposed to be commenting on?

[ Reference: ]

However, you may quickly discover a flaw in this system – what prevents people from incorrectly moderating comments, for their own personal biased reasons?  What if someone doesn’t believe in a particular viewpoint (say, abortion) so they intentionally down-vote any comment that shows a positive-bias towards that viewpoint?  What if a group of people secretly agree to always down-vote anything written by a particular person or of a particular topic that they dislike?  This actually happened, and so the creators of Slashdot added this rule:

Moderators occasionally will be allowed to Meta-Moderate – that is, to moderate other people’s moderations!
A moderator can choose to vote on whether other people have done a proper job of voting, or not.
Each moderator only gets a certain number of meta-moderation “points” each time period, and the times at which they can do meta-moderation are randomly chosen. They never are allowed to vote on their own moderations (only on other people’s moderations), and they don’t get to see who the person is that they’re meta-moderating – they only see the minimum information needed to make a decision.  The web site presents them with the article, one comment on the article, and the decision the moderator made about the comment — they basically just choose if the moderator made a “good decision” or “bad decision”.  Voting up or down.  The web site keeps track of how many down-votes a moderator receives from meta-moderation, and if they have too many, then their moderation status is revoked for a period of time!

Moderators automatically lose their limited power over others in this system, when others (without seeing who they are) separately come to the same conclusion that they are not doing the job properly.

This kind of organization does an amazing job at controlling itself, and growing and changing over time, as the people using it change and grow over time.  It scales up as much as needed, if you have 100 times as many people, then there’s 100 times as many moderators – each person is only doing the same amount of work to keep the system working.  It can shrink by 100 times when needed, too.  It can grow and shrink by any amount.  And there’s no central authority, no human emotion or frailty swaying the system as a whole.

A New Model for Money

Our world could create a new monetary system as a variation of Slashdot’s moderation and meta-moderation system.

A person does some work in their society – they fix someone’s car, mow someone’s lawn, teach something useful to a group of people who all met together with a common goal, pick up some trash in the neighborhood or grocery store parking lot, etc.  Other people witness this work taking place, or at the very least, evaluate it “before” and “after” the work was done to understand the type and scope of work.  Those witnesses vote on what amount of “new money” the person should receive for the work they did today, based on a set of factors that needs to be chosen.  Maybe things like:  was the work beneficial or detrimental? how many people were affected beneficially? to what degree were they benefited? are there long-term/recurring results from this work, or was the value only short-term? For example, picking up trash is fairly short term; more will appear within a day or two. But teaching someone how to repair a car could last the rest of their lives – especially if they turn around and teach it to other people afterwards!  There can be a certain amount of passive-income, so to speak, from work actions that people take, when appropriate.

Another factor that should be considered is how much the money is going to help the person or their family.  The first amount of money is the most important, since it will be used to buy food; clothing; housing; essentials.  But additional amounts of money are less important to that individual or their family, once the essentials are already taken care of. So there might be a sliding scale: if you fix 1 car today, that should cover enough for food & clothing & shelter for 1 day at least.  If you fix 10 cars today, that will not be 10 X the amount you would have gotten for that 1 car, because the need for money was so much greater for the first part, less-so for the following parts.  Kind of a decreasing curve, like a curve approaching a limit.  Maybe it would look like:

1 car repair – 1.0 units of money, enough for today only.
2 car repairs – 1.5 units of money
5 car repairs – 2.0 units of money
10 car repairs – 2.5 units of money
100 car repairs – 4 units of money
(or something like that.)

Granting other people money by way of voting about them does not subtract money from you.  The money for them is “generated from nothing” and is an infinite source.  The work they did has nothing to do with the work you’ve done, so the money is not interconnected in any way.  Like points in a game.  Where do those game-points come from?  Does the game ever run out of points to hand out?  No, game points are a truly virtual currency. There’s an infinite amount of money/points available; it only varies based on amount & quality of work performed.

How Contributions Work

The same kind of thing holds up for contributions – giving to others.  If you give 1 money-unit to a poor person who literally has nothing, that’s super valuable to them – they can buy some food and eat today – so that was worth a LOT, and you should get rewarded 2 or 3 money-units for that service to humanity.  But if you give 1 money-unit to your friend who works hard every day, maybe that’s only worth 1 money-unit that you’ll receive tomorrow.  And, if you give 1 money-unit to a super rich person, that has so little value to them, you’ll only receive .05 money units for that service tomorrow.  If you give no money to anybody today, you get no extra money tomorrow (for contribution-based income).

How Teaching Works

If you teach another person to do something, and they do useful work in society because of it, you should gain a small portion of passive-income from that – because they wouldn’t know it if it wasn’t for you.  So now, each day you work, you receive maybe 1.1 units of money; you worked for 1.0 units, and were paid a passive-income of 0.1 units from students you taught.  Maybe the percentage should go down over time, because 20 years from now they probably aren’t using as much of your knowledge as they will be 1 year from now.  But you should receive some small remuneration for the rest of that person’s work-life, for it.

How Passing Away Affects Income

Married couples and families often depend on a single individual’s income, or two individual’s income for all parties involved.  Because of this, it can be hard when one “bread winner” passes away.  Because of that, there should be a sliding scale decreasing the money coming into that family group over time.  This gives the other members time to figure out some way of generating their own work-income, rather than being hit with the financial loss all at once.  For example, suppose there is a married couple where he makes 2 money units per day and she makes 2 money units per day on average, but then he suddenly passes away.  The next day the widow should receive the full 4 units, with that number decreasing over time.  Maybe it decreases by .5 units every 6 months or so, so that only after 2-3 years she is dependent solely on her own income.  Or maybe there’s an logarithmic component to the decrease.

Satisfying Need  – Supply and Demand

There are different kinds of need in the world.  One type is manufacturing of parts to be assembled into larger items.  If you are the only one manufacturing a certain type of spring or screw or washer in the world, and those items are in great need, you are creating a huge benefit – worth lots of money-points.  If you are just one of thousands of people creating such items, or the need for those items is dwindling, that is worth less money-points.  This is the equivalent to “supply-and-demand” that we know of in today’s modern economics.  There has to be a way for Need to be met – increasing Need to be increasingly met, and decreasing Need to be decreasingly met.

So there needs to be some way of identifying the proper amount of money to associate with production of useful items and services, on any given scale small or large.  This may end up being a “big data” problem, the science for which is just now being developed in our society with software database design and analysis for Big Data.

It would be so nice to have a Big Data search engine that people could look up things in – find out the effective value of producing certain products, or providing certain services – so that they can decide whether to go into that business or not.

Large Scale Industry, Business

With such a unique monetary system as this, how can large business ever come up with large amount of funds as initial investments to get their business going?  How could a construction company begin working on a new square-mile of housing that they want to build?  Since the new money in this system is basically the energy of the people, the only way to raise money like that would be to attract thousands of people to commit their time and energy towards this useful common-goal.  If not enough people can be encouraged to do so, then something is wrong with the plan, because otherwise the workers and supporters would be there.  Humanity is quickly reaching the point where every bit of news that is interesting to an individual is available to them, without so much interference from unrelated and uninteresting bits of news.  Good projects in any category or location can be immediately known about to the masses, thanks to the Internet – increasingly so over time.  Perhaps some large-scale crowd-funding systems similar to Kickstarter or GoFundMe, but more tuned towards this new economic model.

Other Economic Areas of Interest

There are so many other areas that need consideration about how a system like this would affect them, but these can be discussed over time.  In the same way that electric cars (ala vehicles produced by Tesla Motors) have one-tenth of the moving parts of old-fashioned gasoline-engine cars – similarly, a new economy based on Natural energy may result in many complex economic elements to become unnecessary. Is it still important to consider import/export restrictions between countries? Would there need to be such things as stock markets, or Forex Trading, going forward?  What would these systems look like, how would their transformation come about?

How To Implement a new Economic Model

It can be extremely difficult to implement any revolutionary-new monetary system, especially on a world-wide scale.

First you must convince everyone about the benefit of the new model, not just those who are in the best position to implement it.  You try to understand and discuss all possible down-sides to the model, and hope you’ve thought of everything.

Then, you have to find a way to implement the new plan, by somehow shifting (as seamlessly as possible) from the current (failed) system to the new system. How do you gradually implement a new system that is completely different from the old one, and even has a variety of contradictions and conflicts with the old system?

Then, it takes lots of practice for everyone in society to become mentally and emotionally familiar with this new way of operating, with the new rules. It will take practice to stop all of our old, outdated behaviors and ways of thinking.

All of this seems like it’s too much all at once, it’s too difficult for everyone to absorb and thrive in.  The only way a completely new system can be taken on and accepted by everyone is if the old system becomes so manipulated and SO PAINFUL, it’s clear to everyone that there is no alternative but complete replacement.

The amount of work to implement and follow the new system must match the amount of pain of the old system, or people just won’t be willing to try it and keep at it until they get it.  Months and years later it will seem pretty easy to follow the new system, once the majority of people have overcome the possibly steep “learning curve” of the new system.  The people who often seek new and changing environments and circumstances will more easily adopt a new system of money than those who largely try to avoid change in their lives. But everyone will be inspired by those around them whom they see adopting the new system. When they see the benefits and reduced detriments, they’ll want that for themselves.

For example, if you need a new car because your current car is very old and is really breaking down, and you have the money to buy a new car, but you just haven’t purchased one yet because your old one still runs and you have lots of other things to do right now.  Your NEED for a new car is less than the work it takes to obtain the new car.  But then, suddenly, your old car’s engine blows up or the transmission falls to pieces. Now it’s much easier to get a new car, you’re much more motivated, because you have no way to get around!  Now the NEED is much greater than the work to get a new car – so you start shopping for one right away.

The length and depth of the current world-wide economic crisis will decide how different and how much of an improvement the new economy will be, when it is created and implemented.  The more pain now, the better the system that can be implemented in the future. It’s sad, but true.  The more painful now, the more obviously outdated and ill-fitting the current system is; the more of an overhaul it will require to get Humanity up to its next level of Finance – and greater happiness and benefit.

But, are the people in charge of the various economies today really able to feel the pain of the portion of humanity affected by that economy? They must be if they are the ones who will be replacing the old economy with a new one.  If they cannot feel this, if they cannot stay connected to what Humanity is going through, they will end up being left behind, as those who directly feel the pain work together to solve the problem their own way, as it always has been throughout history.  People naturally solve the problems and find ways to meet their needs and those of all the people around them.

In Summary

A Natural Energy economic system encourages right behavior, to maximize the benefit to all of Humanity – to provide the most to those who really need it, to create balance across all people.  Selfishness and separatism are naturally discouraged in this system, which is very good.  Right behavior is encouraged, since each person’s peers are voting on their work actions and accomplishments.

Such a system will prevent the poorest-of-the-poor conditions for all people in the world.  Such a system would help reduce excessive hoarding of funds; it would be very difficult to build up a large amount more money than you need for yourself and your family to live.  People would not care as much about the richest-people, either, since in an open system your own money is not affected by others hoarding all they can for themselves. In a closed money system, others hoarding/controlling massive amounts of money definitely affects you.

No longer are the masses struggling to “find employment”, it’s all around them all of the time.  If you can move, or even just speak, you can do work.  Whatever work you do will be rewarded by peers.  The reward to you is not subtracted from the peers – it is “generated out of thin air”.  This will help Humanity to more easily move away from being fear-driven animals of the past, towards becoming powerful Human Beings for the future.  An important accomplishment for any human being is learning the skill of not reacting blindly to waves of emotion and misdirected thoughts, but listening to all of their inputs (physical, emotional, and mental) and deciding consciously what the right thing is to do next, and doing it, despite fear-based pleadings from various internal voices.

There has never been this kind of self-healing, natural-energy-compatible monetary system on the planet before.

What would happen if a single country like Greece were to spearhead a whole new monetary system?

What level of pain are the Greek people going through now, and what level of change is required to solve the issues within this country once and for all?

Would Greece become the new world leader in modeling the next step towards happiness and success on our planet?

Perhaps the land which produced the greatest artistic Architects of the past will spawn the greatest Financial Architects of the future.

April 18, 2015 / paulio10

“All The Others” Around Us

There is a pattern to each of these stories, I assure you.

1. Ice Braking

I learned to stop my car while driving on almost-pure ice, when I lived in Flagstaff AZ.  There’s tricks to it – pumping your brakes, sliding your car half a car’s width to the right so the tires are on the part of the ground that has more traction (middle and edge of road), which works especially well in Flagstaff where they sprinkle cinders on the road to melt the ice and give traction – the middle (and edge) of the road have not been flattened-down and slicked-down yet by lots of tires – you can stop relatively quickly this way to avoid crashing into the car in front of you.

But the car behind me doesn’t know these tricks.  When the car in front of me suddenly began stopping for no visible reason, I was able to stop in time because of my knowledge and skill with using the above tricks. Of course the car behind me didn’t know these tricks.  Why should they bother to figure them out or learn them from others?  Resulting in a 15MPH fender-bender, rear-ending my car.  That was many years ago; very little damage, except for feelings; and wasted time exchanging insurance information; and missing one of my classes on the first day of class.

2. Programming

I learned Test Driven Development, writing Unit Tests and then writing the code to meet the tests; modularizing my code in ways that are easy to test and debug.  It’s so powerful and fun, it’s clearly the right way to program from now on.  But very few other developers I’ve ever worked with have bothered to learn this or care about it in the slightest, after much encouragement from me, so their code is horrible to look at and work with and horrendous to debug – which I have to do on a regular basis. All my life I’ve had to work with other people’s code that has horrible bugs that my code never has, because I don’t accept that level of pain in my life anymore – I found ways of completely eliminating entire classes of bugs from my programming.  Sometimes the original author has to find these bugs they created, and sometimes I have to find their bugs, which really is no fun for me.  Sometimes hundreds of people (“customers”) are inconvenienced by these horrible bugs.  And nobody cares. Management doesn’t care.  The team doesn’t care. The customers don’t care, even when they’re the ones damaged by the bugs.  And after an exceptionally huge bug, and customer complaints, and management investigations, and reports and analysis, nothing changes, so that it happens again, and again, and again. And it hurts me deeply.

Before I learned these advanced programming skills and discovered how great programming could be, I didn’t care about working on my coworkers crappy code, because I was just like them, writing equally crappy code myself.  We were one big happy crappy-coding family.  I got in trouble once in a while with these bugs, but who cares? Everyone else did too, so I was on equal ground.  Now that I know better and do better, I should feel better, too – but other people’s code is so painful to me now, and I don’t have time to fix it all, and even if I did, nobody would notice, and they’d just crap it up again.  And this seems to happen at every company I work for. And I put up with it, week after week, month after month, year after year. I’m good at fitting in and not raising a ruckus.  Deadlines are looming; let’s just get the code working by then, OK?

3. Organization Skills

I organized my life and my projects and tasks in such a way that I’m not late for meetings, I never have to say “oops, sorry, I forgot to attend your meeting!”  I don’t forget tasks assigned to me, I get them done and on time, after being told just once about them – dozens of them, even hundreds, some weeks.  Because I have a mechanism for recording and tracking what people have asked me to do, I even volunteer to take on work that I know I can do, where I’m the right person to do it – instead of avoiding everything, trying to hide, trying not to take on any new work, like most other people I’ve ever worked with throughout my 30 year technical career.  Not everyone is like that, in my experience, just, most people. People don’t realize that I handle tons of tasks from work, and an equally large number of tasks in my home life.  It takes hard work and effort, but I’m able to keep it all running fairly smoothly.  So now it pains me deeply to have someone ask me a technical question, but bring no pencil or paper to write down the answer.  I love explaining! I love being the go-to person! But they stand there looking at me, and make no attempt to write down the web site I told them about, the trick, the technique, the task I assigned them. (“Can you email it to me?”  yeah, sure, I guess…)  Then they can conveniently forget all about it later.  I feel disrespected when they have no recording device with them, and they have no idea I could possibly feel that way, because nobody ever brought it up with them before.  But this is a business!  Isn’t it?  So they end up having to be reminded 3-4 times to do the thing they agreed to do, and then they get angry about being reminded a 5th time, a week after they promised it would be done.  But whose fault is that, really? They should be mad at themselves, not me. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m clearly demonstrating a weakness in your system. Fix your fucking system.

Before I learned to be organized, I was just like them, and we all would forget 20% of all tasks, miss 5% of all meetings, always be late everywhere we went, and it was all OK, just our bosses would get angry from time to time; but you know how the human mind is, you can’t remember everything, right?  Lame excuses – it worked for me.  I didn’t care back then.  Now I care, and I do so much better myself – and it pains me to experience everyone else’s cockassed lack of organization and follow through.  Have some respect for yourself, and for me, while you’re at it!  Can’t you do what you agreed to do?  Do what it takes to not fail.  Then you won’t feel like a failure so often.  Don’t you care?

4. Risk

I learned all about risk, and how business people think about risk – and discovered the 4 aspects of risk that you need to consider when evaluating any risk (what’s the chance of it happening, what’s the consequence of it happening, what can be done to mitigate the risk, and what is the cost of mitigating the risk).  It could be any kind of risk – to your business, to your family, to your life.  Now it pains me deeply when I say “I own a rental house,” and before I can finish the person I’m talking to interrupts with “ooohhh- I heard about that, my friend used to do that, he had this one renter who was absolutely horrible – punched holes in the walls, shredded the carpets, trashed the lawn, stole all the furniture, burned the house to the ground, jumped up and down on the ashes, and then the whole neighborhood exploded into a big crater, filed a lawsuit against my friend the homeowner, and LASTLY – stole the little flag off the mailbox in the front yard.  I don’t ever want to have a rental property!”  Oh really, well, good for you I guess, for giving up on something potentially valuable without doing any real research, or having any rational thoughts of your own.  Did you know you can have a management company handle tenants for you? Did you know you can do credit and background checks on potential tenants to help you find good ones? Did you know you can buy insurance to protect yourself against many of these things? How frequently did that actually happen to your friend, or is this a one-off story your friend told you? Because stories of happy tenants aren’t very interesting to tell? All I heard from your childish blathering was “I might get a bad renter who will cost me more in damages than I made in rents”, which I guess is sort of true, at least I can understand this purely-emotional fear as a basic risk that needs to be considered.  How about attending real-estate investing meetups for free, and asking 2 dozen people about their experiences with good renters and bad renters to get a balanced view?  Because everyone has a horror story. Can you find out how frequently the horror stories occur?  Can you discover if there’s anything that can be done ahead of time to make sure you don’t get one of those bad tenants?  And if you have a bad tenant, can you evict them before there’s a catastrophe? How does the law work with that? Is there any kind of communication you can do with them to ameliorate it before it escalates to the maximum level? You don’t have to be a lawyer, you can just ask people who have been there and done that.  Ask them what they are doing now to prevent it?  And if they say “oh, I don’t rent properties anymore, I stopped some time ago,” then you have to just say, OK, I’m sorry that you gave up… Next!  I’m done talking to that person – I’m moving on to somebody successful. If you can’t find any successful people, then your bullshit detector will go off, and you know not to waste any more time. But this is property investing, so every fourth person at these meetings is secretly a millionaire, and it really works, and you just need to learn what it takes to do it and overcome your fear.

I learned that risk can be understood, estimated, and mitigated – and that in the event of total catastrophe, there are steps you can take to protect your property and your business and yourself; there are many, many ways to be protected. But this lame person I talked to with the scary story didn’t bother to learn any of that. And nothing I say to them at this point will change their mind. It can’t be done, in my personal experience, so I just shut up and slink away. Which hurts me even more, because I’m here to help. I love helping, teaching, sharing, encouraging.  People want to stay in their pretend bubble, living their bubble existence, which is fine for them I guess. I kind of understand because I was like that at one point in my life. Would I have appreciated someone bursting my bubble when I was like that around age 20-25?  Hell no.  So I should probably leave them alone, as painful as it is for me to not introduce them to a small snippet, at least, of what a better life could be like – to overcome their irrational fear of evil destructive tenants. I listened to their irrational someone-else’s painful 1-off story; can’t they listen to my rooted-in-reality experiences of success in the same area?  The answer of course is: no.

I’ve learned that I can do a lot to reduce risk, but there’s always going to be some risk – and I’m going to be OK with that risk after all reasonable arrangements have been made, and keep moving forward, no stopping. Because a meteor could always come screaming down out of the clouds and flatten me like a coyote in a roadrunner cartoon – but I don’t worry about that risk because the chances of that happening are so infinitesimal, and there’s nothing I can really do within my budget to mitigate the risk of giant meteors – so I don’t waste my time and energy and emotions and mental thought about it. In fact, I’m sorry I brought it up. I apologize.

5. HOAs

I used to be one of the homeowners that would bitch about the stupid HOA, “they’re always fining everyone, complaining about everything, and charging money for everything.”  But then something interesting happened: a friend of mine was on the HOA board, and invited me to join them.  I thought, oh what the heck, might as well, I’ll learn more about our community, I’d be interested to see how much money they kick around every month anyway.  So I became a board member for 2 years, and did my best to work with the other HOA members, and really saw things from their point of view – they are ordinary homeowners just like me, with a thankless job to do, having to balance the expenditure of moneys entrusted to them according to a set of bylaws that they did not invent, and cannot change.  So many decisions have to be made where we understand BOTH sides, and you can’t have both sides win – one side has to win, and one has to lose.  So we make our decision. And somebody hates us.  The HOA tries hard to create consistent beauty and commonality within a neighborhood by keeping the lid on out-of-control neighbors, so nobody tears out their grass and leaves it dirt for 6 months; nobody parks their broken down 50’s pickup truck in their front yard and hangs the greasy engine from a nearby tree for 10 years, and nobody paints their house bright purple/orange/green/blue stripes because they personally like primary colors and fuck everybody else’s personal taste.  Each of those individuals bitches about the HOA leaning on them, and the rest of the community has no idea that the HOA has kept their neighborhood beautiful (or at least, consistent-looking), which maintains the value of the homes much better so if you ever have to move and sell your house, you’ll get many thousands of dollars more for your house than you would have otherwise.  So now it pains me to see people complain about the HOA fining them for leaving their ugly trash can languishing at the street curb for an entire week, when everyone else put theirs away behind their gates like you’re supposed to in this neighborhood to keep it looking nice and allow visiting cars to park on the street.  It pains me to see anyone complain about the HOA without attending a single meeting to ask why the rules are the way they are.  If they just would do that, they’d see that the HOA members have no other choice than to do what they’re doing, and if you were a member, you’d do the same thing yourself.  And if EVERY HOMEOWNER IN THE COMMUNITY came to the meetings and agreed that the rules were stupid, they could change it  easily – because a majority vote by homeowners is how these rules get changed.  But nobody knows these things, or bothers to find out. Changing stupid rules almost never happens, because truly, nobody cares.  They don’t want to vote, even when it’s in their favor to do so.  They don’t want to learn about the HOA, because they don’t want to change their mind, they are happy to have an enemy, and they don’t want to see the other point of view because they think it lessens their own point of view in some way that I don’t understand.  It’s crazy. This is a truly crazy world we live in.

6. Money Management

It pains me now to see poor and middle-class people wasting their money on stupid stuff, spending every paycheck 100%, sometimes 120% by way of credit cards and other debt – then spending the rest of their life paying huge sums of Interest to lending companies, which does nothing more than weakens their own spending power!  If you make $2000/month, wouldn’t you like to have the spending power of $2000/month?  You don’t, because you’re paying $750 in interest every month, so you only have $1250 to spend. Some of the interest you’re paying right now is for the stupid stuff you don’t even remember buying many years ago.  Such a travesty.  Every month you’re paying credit card interest, car-loan interest, house-mortgage interest, student loan interest, and if you don’t make the interest payments you’ll get late-fees which are even worse than interest.  Have you ever sat down and calculated how much mortgage interest you’re paying over the 30-year-mortgage you got on your house?  You might actually be paying more than a complete other house worth of money.  You can easily pay for 2-3 houses, but you end up with just 1 house!  And its totally legal.  People who spend all their money every month – you’re going to get old, some day. Are you not saving and investing for the future?  Simply saving money in a bank account won’t do it, not that anybody even does that these days.  Simply investing in a 401K or other lobotomized investment “tool” won’t do it either, except for highly compensated individuals who work their entire life and always contribute to the 401K at least 6% continuously, and never tap into that money for any reason before retirement.  Those individuals need about $3,000,000 worth of investment-savings in their IRAs and 401Ks to retire at a lifestyle matching their working one – I calculated it once.  I see it instantly now, very clearly, in all the people around me, and it pains me greatly.

7. Knowing but not Sharing

Sometimes knowing the truth about something, understanding how to relieve painful happenings, isn’t enough, especially if you can’t implement the knowledge you have.  Or in my case, I can implement it in my own life, and I’m proud of what I’ve done when I see it all working – then it hurts me doubly that (a) nobody wants to hear about it, (b) nobody wants to take fucking notes because it’s great fucking knowledge that could change their lives, and (c) nobody wants to implement it in their own lives to reduce their own pain and agony.

Maybe they don’t really feel pain as painfully as I do.  If they felt it half as much as I do, they’d reach out to anyone and everyone immediately, looking for better ways of living their lives; they’d listen with open ears to every word anyone had to say on the topic, they’d look to learn things they didn’t already know, they’d take notes in the day-planner or to-do app on the phone they carry around with them, and they’d implement what they learned for themselves – to see if it works or not.  They would never dismiss something as stupid or “not for me”, without testing it out, seeing it first-hand, before deciding to discard it.

8. Learn Other People’s Great Lessons

There are great lessons that the richest people in our world have mastered – which have been written about in books, and taught as lectures, which you can search out and learn for yourself, for free, or for a very low price. Mostly free, now, thanks to the Internet and local meetup groups.  I mean this for many variations of the word “richest” – financially, spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, creatively, cooperatively, etc.  You can learn real investing, and do far better than any stupid lobotomized 401K or IRA after a bit of practice.  You can have the worst memory of anybody you’ve ever met due to the horrible childhood illness of Asthma wherein you spent dozens of sleepless hours at a time sitting upright in bed, struggling to breathe every breath, your brain oxygen-starved for permanent brain damage, year after year after year, and survive.  And hide, keep to yourself, the knowledge that you will never be able to get good grades in school because of your disability. And nobody notices. And you discover that in the real working world, you’re going to fail at job after job, because you can’t remember anybody’s name, you can’t remember all the masses of technical details you need to remember to get your job done. And still, nobody notices. Until you figure out a few coping mechanisms on your own, one by one, to barely scrape by. And then you’re shown the Getting Things Done techniques of David Allen, life organization and balancing skills of Tony Robbins, how to think like a rich person to understand how our economy, business, and investing really works by reading Rich Dad Poor Dad and Cashflow Quadrant books by Robert Kiyosaki, the organization systems of Franklin/Covey, the emotional-healing techniques of TAT and EFT that can literally cure you of certain hangups (and even some physical ailments) quickly and save you decades of expensive therapy, and finding spiritual leaders who really talk to your heart despite what anyone else in your family/life has trained you for. And you read the books not once but many times over, watch the videos many times over, listen to the audio books and podcasts over and over, and implement the techniques for yourself, your own way, over time.  And then you re-read, re-listen, and add more and more elements as new things make more and more sense to you over time.

Oh … did I say “you”, in that diatribe?  I meant me, of course.  Sorry about that.

The Pattern

There is a pattern to all of these stories, which is this: you don’t live in a vacuum.  You should absolutely do everything you can to improve yourself, make yourself the best “you” you can be!  But understand, also, that much of your fate belongs in the hands of everyone else around you.  Just because you learned to brake on ice, doesn’t mean that you can never get into accidents now on ice – actually, you may have just signed up for an entirely new type of car accident, in some ways caused by your new learnings! I cannot express how infinitely frustrating this is for me. But it’s part of how our world works. I don’t know any way around it, because you can’t force everybody else to be “like you” – the world doesn’t work that way (and it shouldn’t). I guess you just place each newly learned thing into your “bag of tricks”, and then try to use the best tool for the job each time you encounter each new situation, and hope for the best.  That’s about the most you can do, I think, the rest is out of your control. I need to learn to relax when thinking about that.