Living a Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget

•December 30, 2008 • 1 Comment

Champagne

After reading Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational“, it had me thinking a lot about the concept of people who don’t know anything about something that can be complex (ex. getting wine at dinner) buying the 2nd cheapest thing on the menu, because they don’t want to seem cheap (even though they are), to come off as knowing a little bit to the people observing them. I had a discussion this morning that involved the idea of college students coming fresh out of college, having no real idea (even with today’s technology and educational standards at private universities) how to handle their finances, and buying lavish objects to make it appear to their friends that they are living the ideal life (or at least for this age). However, since the finances to back such lavish items don’t actually exist, they are Living a Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget. That puts things in the college perspective, doesn’t it.

A good majority of us, whether from private or public institutions nationwide, do not really understand the value of money, saving it, and spending it responsibly. Heck, I’d love to blame the government for the current financial crisis, but it is very much derived from the irresponsibility we manifested as a whole in handling our money over the past decade. Taking out excessive loans, getting in heaps of credit card debt, and compounding more and more interest onto the money we owe the companies at which we keep throwing our money. There is an apparent need for a more fundamental set of teachings in our public education system surrounding personal finance. Especially since our college education gives us the option to take whatever classes we want, we need something more mandated in our public schools. Sure, my mandatory classes in high school taught me how I can effectively create methamphetamine using simple medications I can pick up at Albertson’s, but I have no freakin’ clue as to what an IRA is.

Gas Pump

Another interesting observation can be made when looking at the price of gas in our current economy. Many times, when faced with the decision between the cheapest gas you could find (ex. $4.15/gal) and the second cheapest gas you could find (ex. $4.18/gal), we would go for the cheapest we could find in order to still fill our tank, but feel like we got the best bang for our buck. However, the circumstances change drastically when we have seen sudden gas prices tank (pun very intended). There are a few observations to be made. First, people start thinking, “Wow, $1.39/gal is so cheap for gas. I’m so happy!” Now that is with regards to the previous prices (ex. $4.15/gal) and also the anchor price we’ve been attached to for the past few years (~$2.75/gal-$3.75/gal). We think that $1.39 /gal is nearly dirt cheap, but that’s only in comparison to what we were most recently paying. It is cheaper than before, no doubt, but is it really what it is worth? When I started driving, it was $1.23/gal, which I still thought was a lot of money to pay for a gallon of gas. I never though by the time I was out of college, I’d be paying $4.15/gal. We are under the assumption that gas is just suddenly the price it should be, merely based on our recent purchasing price. The second observation is that, when gas is this cheap, we no longer necessarily go to get the cheapest gas (ex. $1.39/gal), but instead go for the 2nd cheapest (again, like the wine), because we can afford more than to skimp on the quality of the gas going into our car. Funny how that all works.

Men, Women, and Age

•December 25, 2008 • 2 Comments

As I am nearing the eve of my 23rd birthday, I can’t help but think about how old I’m getting. In all honesty though, it’s not that old. However, that raises my curiosity. When will I finally consider myself to be old? And in terms of my appearance to others, I still want people to mistake me for 23, 24, or even 25. There is bound to be a point, however, that I would much rather have people mistake me for 20, 21, 22. I’m not sure if any of us know exactly when that point in time where we want to appear younger is actually reached, because we don’t notice it until someone mentions, “Can I see your ID?” or “You look underage,” or some other typical comment, and we think to ourselves, “Wow, that feels great for someone to think I look that good to be that young” (or something similar).

Another observation is that the “anchor age” as I’ll call it, is  very different for women than it is men. With the ongoing debate of maturity levels in men and women, women can feel older than they really are as well, looking forward to that “You look too young” compliment before their men friends. At what age do you honestly consider yourself old? What is that point in time where you feel that you’d rather someone think you’re younger than older?

While we are on the topic of age, I think about the friends that I have, and how many of them are actually my peers. While most of them are, some of them are indeed older and some younger than myself. Of those that are older than me, it is interesting to note that about 75% of them are women. This is more than my approximate 50% women friends who are peers. When I look at coworkers that I would consider friends that are older, almost 90% of them are women. This is not necessarily because I am reaching out to befriend them, but also vice versa. Why do I have so many 30-something women friends, but not as many guy friends? Is it the ‘cougar effect’ that women want to have a 20-something guy hanging around them, knowing that they are attractive and still in? Or is it more the idea of feeling younger merely by surrounding themselves with more energetic and up-and-coming guys (I know, I’m humble) ? There are so many questions I have when it comes to recognizing differences in age, maturity level, and sex, that I’ve become more and more intrigued with it the more diverse my group of friends becomes in the realm of age, where not everyone I work with is necessarily someone in “class” with me, etc.

I’d be interested to learn more about what others’ feelings on this topic are. What do you observe in your own lives in terms of both your aging and your friendships? Can there be a friendship between a man and a woman without either of the parties falling for the other at any single point in time?

Lastly, I’d like to wish everyone and their families a very Merry Christmas and a warm holiday season to all of those out there reading this! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and being a part of mine. Please invite others to partake in the conversation in this blog, and if you have any interesting items you’d like to teach me, please share them so I can publicize it in this blog. I am so thankful for all of you in my life and I hope that you are as equally blessed as I am. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Idea of Potentiality

•December 16, 2008 • 8 Comments

The theory of Potentiality and Actuality is one of the central themes of Aristotle’s philosophy and metaphysics. Potency is a capacity, actuality is its fulfillment. 

An interesting point brought up by fellow blogger, Ben Casnocha, is that potentiality can have just as strong of effect on our mood and behavior as actuality can. What this means is simply thinking about doing something relaxing, extravagant, or an idea that genuinely pleases you, can increase your mood, energy, and outlook on many of the things you do.

The idea I’m currently experimenting with is along the lines of daydreaming; coming up with an altered reality that I believe will happen in the future, only to find later that it was just something I created for my current pleasure to increase my mood, etc. How much does the absence of actuality actually play a role in the overall improvement of our mood, energy, and behavior?

Christmas in Hawaii

The concept of planning a vacation to Hawaii is something that I would really like to do right now. So, I’ve been looking into plane prices and hotels in my free time over the past day or so, along with dates I’d be interested in going. While I can honestly say that the chance of the Hawaii pulling through in the capacity that I have planned is around 15%, I’m going to see what the negative results bring. I’m not riding on the fact that I’m definitely going, I’m just getting my hopes up a little bit, simply thinking about the idea thoroughly enough to plan out some of the details.

The real question is, “What is going to happen come June (or whenever I have the trip ‘planned’?” The most important aspect, in my mind, is to focus on the present with your mood, while thinking about the future with your idea. Come June, I predict I won’t be disappointed, but I’ll have used the idea of going to Hawaii to better myself and to even set some goals for myself along the way. If it does pull through? Fantastic. If not? No harm done, in my book.

I’ll let you know any results I get, but feel free to share your feelings and experiences as well. Happy dreaming!

Community Chest

•December 13, 2008 • 5 Comments

It’s that time of year again, where the philanthropist in all of us comes out to give to those around us who are less fortunate than we are. In my recently acquired occupation, I have found countless ways to become involved in the community.

I love building parts of houses for those less fortunate and more deserving than myself. I like doing what I can to map out environmental growth in the mountains to document and send to state representatives to increase the national wilderness area. I enjoy giving hours of my time to pack boxes of food for the homeless, to donate my clothing to Goodwill and Salvation Army, and to simply be more caring around the holiday season. We should be more like this year round, which is something I have been working on the past few years of my life. Dictionary.com defines service as “an act of helpful activity; help; aid: to do someone a service.” It seems so simple to give service to those who need it.

Helping Hands

But for those of us recent graduates, current college students, or even people affected in these economic  down-times, we have a strong desire to contribute our time, talent, and efforts, not funding, to a cause that we believe in. But, the more and more I look into a lot of the organizations I want to get involved with, the more that seem to come outright with the idea that there is going to need to be money given, prior to participation in the organization.

Now, in my opinion (and not just the fact that many consider me to be cheap), I’d love to give as much time as I have to helping work for a cause, but of course I understand that at some point I need to fund raise as well. It’s much easier for someone to contribute to you as a fund collector, if you have personally donated to the cause you believe in. I’m much more into giving my time and efforts towards a cause, than a defined amount of money. Pouring money into a service doesn’t always solve the problems. There needs to be more action, in my opinion.

This include a recent calling of me, along with many others in my company, to take up board positions in local community service organizations in the metro area.  Now, while it seems great that I could help use my passion for a cause to guide an organization that I contribute a lot of my time and effort to, many of the organizations require a minimum financial contribution each year, simply to be on their board (even for the typical 2-year tenure). While some of the 19,000 Denver metro community service organizations (in the metro area alone) simply require 100% participation of board members (I can pay $10, the next guy can pay $50, etc.), others require a far greater financial contribution (one example is $125,000/year).

If I want to make an impact in my community, or help those in need, I don’t have to necessarily contribute financially, but if I want to increase the impact I can have, I need to donate in order to partake. Now, I understand if I was a millionaire and wanted to spend all of my time traveling the world with my wife and kids, I would simply throw a hot $250,000 at an organization I liked and let them go with it. But, I am a recent college grad, with some remaining time on my hands, to contribute to an organization or two that I really care about.

I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but maybe there is still more looking involved. Or maybe there is a need for yet another community service organization that meets the needs of people like me. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

That all being said, this is a call to action to go out and give back to your community with just a little bit of time this holiday season. Chance are  you’ll feel really good about it, and desire the feeling of altruism further down the road. I encourage that.

In terms of what I’m doing this holiday season to give back, I’m planning on looking through all of my clothes, and donating everything that I haven’t worn in a year (which is a lot) to a worthy cause, or selling them at a garage sale or to a store and contributing the money to a good cause that wouldn’t usually accept my clothes (there we go with money again. ironic, no?)

Feel free to share your ideas for the upcoming season. I’m sure I’ll run into more, but it’s important to remember those around us who are less fortunate, equally as fortunate, and even more fortunate than us, at any point in time, not just “times like these”.

Happy Holiday Season!

Managing Motivation

•December 8, 2008 • 2 Comments

A New Hope

The most important thing for managers to keep in mind when acquiring new talent is the balance of responsibility. We have all seen the imbalance more times than we can count. Whether it be people brought onto a team and given absolutely nothing to do, or people brought onto a team and overloaded with stressful work; we can recognize that both of these scenarios lead to the almost immediate destruction of personal motivation.

I have far too many times been entered into a project with high expectations, only to be put to no use. Even with lowered expectations, there often remains a lack of responsibilities delegated via managers. This also happens if a team member gets overwhelmed and no longer has the desire to work.

That being said, a manager needs to have goals and delegatable tasks laid out to be assigned accordingly and at logical time intervals. These tasks also need to be rewarded (whether it be with praise or the delegation of another task). This leads to continued satisfaction, without devastating amounts of commitment and the feeling of being overwhelmed. Here are several quick steps to effective management in the realm of motivating those working under you.

1. Develop a list of necessary responsibilities ahead of time and get an idea of the amount of time and effort they will take. (These should be laid out in the order they can be accomplished in a timeline fashion)

2. If you have the choice, only acquire the amount of workers necessary to complete the task in the given time. More often than not, large amounts of tasks can be completed by far less people than you think without overwhelming them, and giving them a steady amount of workload.

3. When tasks are completed, have follow-up tasks to be assigned, or if you see a person struggling, attach the person done with their work to accompany the teammate and aid in the workload, which improves teaching for one worker, and learning for the other.

4. Any way you put it, show those working under you that you appreciate what they are doing for you. Whether this is out of the company’s pocket, or your own, it goes a long way to show others you appreciate their hard work. Anything from dinner out, to a small gift goes an unbelievably long way.

Most importantly, throughout the whole process, experiment enough to find out what is and isn’t working for the team. Teams all behave differently than one another, and more often than not, some of the main techniques can be applied, but have to be tailored individually to fit the unique team characteristics. Be open with those working under you, but keep things on task, in order to promote further motivation, and prevent those working below you from feeling like they have nothing to do or too much to do, and losing motivation to help you further in your endeavors.

Corporate Communication

•December 4, 2008 • 1 Comment

The technology of today’s world is very different from that of the past, but there are some things that never change. We often see all of the incredible benefits new technology brings, but less often focus on the problems that come along with it. These are all things I’ve personally learned from.

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Conference Call Monitoring

When it comes to corporate conference calls, you may be on mute the entire time or you may be actively participating in the conversation, but when the call is over, think twice about hanging on the line to talk to someone on the call about the call. Most conference lines have an administrator (the coworker that setup the call) that, even when everyone including them has signed off the call except you and a select person or two, has access to the content of the line. There are all too often comments made about the call that the administrator may catch when reviewing the line later. It’s not big brother, but it can be a bit scary.

Forwarded E-Mail Appointments

In MS Outlook, watch out for someone forwarding you a meeting because even when you just hit “Reply” the response will not to the person who sent you the e-mail, but the original creator of the meeting or event. A comment like, “I’m not going to be attending because I don’t see the point in the meeting” can begin to dig you a few holes you’ll have to cover up. Just a thought.

IM’s vs. E-Mails

When communicating directly with people quickly, think about what method of contact works best FOR THE RECIPIENT. IM should be used as exactly that, “instant” messages that require immediate attention. These are very interruption driven, even more so than a phone call sometimes. To help keep a message “alive” in someone’s mind, IM’s are instant and are often immediately forgotten. E-mail has a trail, and thus more “legs” or “life.” If the recipient cant help you now, they may be able to help you in the future, but an IM completely negates that. E-mail is kept in a folder (if they don’t delete everything!), and is much easier to forward to peers of the recipient if they might be able to offer better help. The audience might be getting hundreds or thousands of emails a day. An e-mail enables a trail to be kept, and important information to be attached to a summary. This limits interruptions to the recipient. 

All this being said brings up the opposite though. If your goal is to be immediately forgotten, and interrupt someone with immediate requests, then IM is your best bet. I rely on it all too often, but I assume rereading this post will help my e-mail etiquette in the future.

Hope these help out a bit, or pose some interesting thoughts/discussion. Any thoughts and tips you have are always welcome!

Trial by Fire – Lifestyle Design and Hacking

•December 2, 2008 • 4 Comments

Great author of renowned “4-Hour Workweek,” Tim Ferriss is releasing a new reality TV show on The History Channel this Thursday at 9pm MT. Tons of tips and tricks to hacking life. Check out the preview below, but it proves to be an inspirational and a series with limitless boundaries. Go check it out! It will most likely change your life as his book has already changed mine!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09_YaUw9Rm8