Month: August 2012

What’s the Latest?

Well, dear Readers, although there are not too many of you, I really appreciate the time and effort you spend to read my posts. I had a hard time starting this blog. It took at least 30 hours of studying, planning, organizing, researching and then about 20+ hours trying to navigate my way through Bluehost’s control panel and WordPress. It’s kinda hard for a non techie to learn all these things. I know a lot of people just breeze through these things but I am one that takes forever to learn new stuff.

The lesson I learned is if you have a goal, you have to take the first step. You cannot be planning or organizing your thought forever. The important first action step gets you going, even though slowly, but you still move forward.

I would like to give you a status report of this blog. Sort of making myself accountable for the advice and suggestions that I post here.

I talked about saving time on this post here. My plan for the rest of the year is to avoid watching NFL football. A game is about 2 to 3 hours long. If I watch just one game a week (although 2 to 4 games maybe available), I would be wasting about 48 hours minimum in one season. I can build another blog with that time.

I didn’t watch NBA games last season (except for maybe 5 minutes every month or so) so that’s a lot of time saved already. We also stopped watching TV on the weekdays and only a few hours on the weekends. That lead to reading more non-fiction books designed to motivate and inspire to achieve good things.

About saving money: For clothes, we identify what we need, then find what we want during window shopping. We wait until there is a sale, then we buy the clothes or shoes we want, only this time at a good discount.

For food, we stuck to our  vegetarian diet on the weekdays (supervised initially by a nutritionist) which really saves money on groceries. On the weekends – we eat rich tasting food but since we are used to eating less – we don’t overeat, making us healthier than say, 5 years ago.

We are learning new skills. My wife learned a few new software in the office, and I am learning how to sell items in a web store. I am also planning to put advertising in this blog in the future. My grandson went through weeks of swim school, and weeks of math tutoring to get ready for the coming school year. We are having him learn things that will be helpful to him for the rest of his life.

Where do we go from here? Well, I hope one day to have more readers (around 300 for my first short-term goal). If you like this blog, please let more of your friends know about it. I also plan to have some advertising in this blog in the near future – but not too much that will make you hate reading it.

I thank you dear Readers for giving me the inspiration to keep on writing. I know I am writing primarily for my grandson James, but then you became a part of this too. I feel I couldn’t thank you enough! 

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Lessons learned from my Father

Ahh, the father figure. Contrary to what TV comedy shows try to present to viewers, fathers are the real head of the families, period. The average father work hard to ensure that their families have comfortable lives, and good personal relationships. TV shows portray a cartoonish, ineffective and laughable dads which tends to brainwash some kids that their father aren’t really authority figures. Sometimes you have single mothers raising a child or children against all odds, and they produce great kids. Those mothers play both the role of father and mother (which I think is especially hard).

When I see movies where one of the characters is a father who is in the military and he is overly strict and demanding, I think to myself “hey, that sounds like my Dad”. My Dad never went to the military though. He went to school of hard knocks and gleaned some experiences which are very useful in avoiding bad things and getting good habits.

His strategy for life is invaluable to our family back then and is still for families now:

PICK YOUR FRIENDS

Although I think my Dad didn’t even go to college, he made sure that he continued to learn from people with education. On the weekends at home or when he went socializing with friends, he is with lawyers, successful business owners, a shipping magnate, a city treasurer and even Peace Corps volunteers.

That resulted in education by association. He learned how to converse like someone who finished a college education. He was also able open one business after another, gather business contacts and increased the family income and the value of our  2.5 acre. Our quality of life improved because of this.

GAMBLING GUARANTEES LOSING

My Dad at one time worked in a lottery style business where you try to guess a three number combination and whoever guessed correctly the three ping-pong balls with numbers in them 1 to 30, gets the prize.  Any form of lottery is gambling. So when he told me that gambling will make you lose your money, he had credibility because he worked within the system. The gambling lord gets all the money while the local gamblers get all the misery. To this date, I still remember this statement from him. Of course, if you do the math you will know that you will never win. Why? because it is designed that way. Why do you think casinos have so much money while all the gamblers don’t even have 1% of the casino’s income?

HARD DISCIPLINE IS GOOD FOR YOUR CHILD

I grew up in an environment where discipline is a must. I get shocked these days by children who are very young are already disrespectful to their parents. I guess the western culture favors independence in a child’s character. But it doesn’t say in any child rearing manual that being independent means being rude. Almost everyday, there was constant reprimanding sometimes to the extreme. My main goal in life when I was a teenager was to leave the house and live somewhere else as soon as I get the chance. I finally left the house for good when I was 17 and I felt so liberated – but thanks to the hard discipline I had a good foundation.

When I went to Navy boot camp, I saw several recruits crying due to the hardships of training. I thought boot camp was easy (except for the constant lack of sleep) but that was because my childhood and teenage years were like boot camp.

LET THE EXPERTS DO THE JOB

Although this is something that my wife has been reminding me all the time, I observed my Dad having carpenters, electricians, and other handymen do the house and yard maintenance. He was good at crunching numbers and other mental things but he wasn’t blessed with handyman skills. By hiring others, he gets the job done faster and able to employ several workers who are often unemployed. He was also able to gain  which he used to plan and implement business ideas. A lot of the workers always borrowed money from him but then they repay it with labor or sometimes loans were forgiven. That was his way of  being charitable without making people lazy and dependent.

Did  you like some of the best lessons I learned from my Dad? Please remember that lessons learned need to be applied to our lives in order for us to avoid costly mistakes and improve our overall happiness. For example, you don’t need to spend your money betting on horses at Del Mar races because I could guarantee you that you will lose. If you want, send the money to me and I’ll put it to good use

 

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Resources: Beauty Health Attitude

In the previous posts, I discussed three incredibly wonderful resources: talent, time and money. They were things that were God-given which if we chose to use properly and to its optimum level – we could enjoy a satisfying, fruitful and full lives. The above resources, if squandered, leads to a life full of regrets, broken relationships, misery and other undesirable experiences. However, at any time (regardless of our age) we decide to use those resources properly, our life will start going in the opposite positive direction.

There are other blessings that are available to us – we could call it minor resources – and these are beauty, health and attitude. There could be dozens of other things there such as courage, honesty, integrity, perseverance,etc. But those things I feel are virtues instead of blessings. Those things are great also if part of what’s in us, but I think it would be better presented as a separate post.

So as usual, let’s get right to it…

Beauty

It is really in the eyes of the beholder. One of my friends saw a supermodel in an airport and he said that she looked ordinary and short. But back then she was one of the top five supermodels. Is she not pretty? Naaah, she was still pretty. She just looked like any other pretty woman in the airport.

There is a lady or gentleman that may not look physically good-looking but the way they carry themselves makes them very attractive. A person may verge to be on left side of the border between ugly and gorgeous (right side being the gorgeous side), but when the person starts talking, you just get mesmerized and think they are attractive. So what’s my point? I’m saying that beauty is a subjective decision. DO NOT base your concept of beauty from Hollywood or TV personalities and highly photoshopped pictures of models. Rather base your conclusion on the overall person, not basing it on artificially generated “models of beauty” which leads to frustration.

Being good-looking opens doors for you. Statistics and studies indicate that good-looking people get the breaks and has a slight advantage over other less attractive people.

So if you are gorgeous already, what should you do? MAINTAIN it. Avoid habits and attitudes that will diminish your beauty. What about if you are a 5 or 6 in a scale of 10, being that 10 is beautiful (like Bo Derek in the movie 10 :)), then by all means improve your assets. How?  Practice personal hygiene and proper grooming. Pick the right modest outfits (classical look is best because everyone loves classics). Practice good manners, improve your vocabulary and speech patterns, wear sunscreen and moisturize your skin. There are countless small adjustments you can make without spending a lot of money.

Now that you went from 5 to 8.75 in the scale – what’s next? Visit orphans and elderly people. They’ll delight just looking at you – the new gorgeous you! There are other things you can do to share what you have but I leave that to your creative imagination.

Health

These days, I notice that most people are aware that they need to watch their health. The only drawback is that it seems that we so many kinds of theories, ideas, diets and exercise program that the average person gets confused. I am not a licensed nutritionist or a physical fitness guru (this is my disclosure statement) but here’s what I observed:

-Each individual has a unique diet requirement to truly eat healthy. I recommend getting a nutritionist to help you program your own healthy diet and vitamin and mineral supplements. Don’t just go to the herbal place or the Health Store Supermarket and start buying gingko biloba or ginger powder.

-Moderate exercise is best for most people. A short intense workout now and then helps your body get used to harder efforts. I recommend walking, bicycling, swimming and light weights like kettlebells. Check with  your doctor first if you are new to exercising. Maybe even get a stress test.

-Rest and sleep are absolute necessity for recovery from the stresses of work life and the workout. Power naps less than 20 minutes gives more energy while naps of 2 hours of more can sometimes make it hard to sleep at night.

-Avoid recreational drugs. Your body will age way faster.

-Avoid smoking. Same as above and you will look way older than your real age within a few years.

-A glass of wine now and then is not bad. More means your liver gets diseased slowly.

-Get a medical exam regularly, especially if you are above 40 even if you feel you are relatively healthy. If you are diagnosed with a disease, research a lot using the internet, library, support groups and getting second or third opinions.

The healthier you are, the better quality of life you will have for yourself and for your loved ones.

ATTITUDE

Attitude is a big life changer. Observe a person with a positive attitude. Instantly he or she makes your life a bit livelier. Most of us would rather talk to a cheerful person than a grumpy one.

Try this before you go to a meeting:  Face yourself in the mirror, smile to yourself and decide right there and then that you will have a VERY positive attitude at least for the next few minutes. Then go and meet the person(s) smiling and with a hearty handshake. Genuinely like the person. If you can’t, fake it until you develop the habit of liking almost any person you speak with. You will have a great meeting.

It has been proven time and time again that if you have a defeatist attitude, you will be defeated. But if your goal is to succeed or win, there’s a big probability that you will succeed.

To maintain a positive attitude: think of things that are lovely, pure, honest and things that make you happy. Don’t think about stressful experiences. Instead of thinking about people you hate, divert your thinking about people who make you laugh. Don’t gossip, because it creates a lot bad images about other people’s action. Positively think positive!

May you have a happy, prosperous life – my gorgeous friends!

 

 

 

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Lessons learned from my Mother

This is the continuing saga of my posts about “Lessons Learned” from people that in one way or the other have influenced my life decisions, contributions and my achievements. I’m sure almost all of us have learned something from our mother. A lot of Moms around the world has impacted positively their sons or daughters. Billions of children are very thankful to their Moms for what they have achieved. There’s billions of stories about how great their Moms are. But I submit to you, my Mom is the best of the best of them all.

How can I claim that? Well, read on… and you will find out.

Extreme Patience is possible – to this date, I still have to meet someone who can out patient my mother.  Yes, she was raised in a nice family owned farm in a very nice environment so there’s not much to test her patience. But then she got married and eventually moved to the city where people behave differently than farm neighbors. Yet in all those years, I never saw her get impatient or be disrespectful to anyone. There are people who had really tested her patience. I won’t mention who they are because it would be condemning to them, and this post is geared towards the positive side of things.  We had our share of pesky neighbors and undesirable relatives, but through it all, she was well respected even by those people. It was because of the amount of patience she had in reserve. This made me conclude that extreme patience is possible, but only a very few people. I am personally still working on being more patient, and still far away from my mother’s level of patience  :)

Work Hard even if it is very little money – these days tens of millions of people work from 60-100 hours a week. They earn more than hundreds of thousands of dollars annually so they feel that their long hours are justified by their income. My mother, on the other hand, have worked long hours for not much money. I have seen my mother work from 7am to 7 pm and sometimes 11 pm  sewing dresses. All she got for it was enough to feed us and pay rent (we moved to the city by then) and nothing much for anything else like clothes. Despite these challenges, she kept on doing it for years until such time that we were able to help her with the finances. She joined a lot of product promotions where you submit labels with your name and address. She won several of them including a cheap pick up truck – which she sold immediately to use the money for food.

Persevere through the hard times – We lived in a remote area when I was a young kid. There was no electricity and water came from a well. Transportation is by a bicycle with an attached sidecar for passengers. Sometimes we ran out of money and don’t know where we will get food for the next day’s meal. My father was working hundreds of kilometers away and it was hard to send money back then. But thank God, sometimes a relative would drop by with a bag of fruits, vegetables, rice or someone else would pay a loan that was extended to them months ago. The quality of our lives improved a little bit through the years. We finally have electricity, running water electrically pumped from the same well, but no TV and no TV station (which helped us get good grades :)) Through all these, my Mom just kept her faith, and prayed daily. We moved to the city and had to share a very small apartment with relatives. It was very shocking to move from the wide tree-filled rural area to the urban decay of the city. All through these, my Mom was quietly just going through the daily chores and sewing dresses. No complaint, no whining, just working. Very admirable.

I have a few dozen more of the admirable qualities and habits that I observed from my mother. In the interest of keeping you not getting too bored, I kept it to three items. Other things like taking care of her children while making sure they learn their academics and practical life skills like cooking, sewing, and taking care of farm animals. Being generous to her children (with what little we have) without spoiling them. With thanks to God first, and my Mom as God’s gift to her children – the guidance, love, care and support my siblings and I received were very big factors in our relatively successful and contented lives.

 

 

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Resources: Money

What is money anyway? Money has been around for thousands of years in one form or another – the most popular units were in metal because of its convenience, durability and portability. It is the most practical medium for conducting goods, value and service exchange. In the present time, paper money is even more convenient, more portable and durable enough to last for a few years. I am not a fan of electronic medium of exchange. An electronic medium of exchange is only good as long as the data base exists. What if it is hacked and your money stolen?

How should we deal with money? Aha! we’ve come immediately to the core of the topic. Money is hard to earn for most of us. For us average folks, best thing to do is to manage it properly: save some for a rainy day, invest the rest, give away to charity.

Here’s the proven formula:

Increase your income – by part time business, gig or job.

Please bear in mind that any increase in income does not mean you have to spend more. Lottery winners receive millions and within 5 years 70% go broke. By having extra cash, you have less worry because now you are able to save more. From that savings – unexpected expenses (car repairs) have less impact on your budget – or even your peace of mind.

One time I had a co-worker who complained about his finances because he just got married and he decided to buy an expensive stereo system. I suggested that he work as a pizza delivery (I was working part time as one back then). His response was “I’m not going to stoop down to that level”.  I felt bad for him. His pride prevented him from earning more.

Decreasing your spending – You may decrease it a little at a time or drastically. Some suggestions on what you may cut off to improve your cash flow: Cable TV, magazine subscriptions, club memberships, sattelite radio, music subscriptions, movies, pay per view sports. Spa membership, trips to the beauty salon, shopping without a budget, sports club memberships. Notice that I didn’t include massages. It’s because I like to get one regularly :). On a serious note: massages are good for your overall health. If earning more is not practical, spending less is the way to get your financial health in a better condition.

Or both. This can be as simple as selling your excess things in ebay or craigslist to increase your income. Then slowly cutting off unnecessary expenses. If it doesn’t improve your health or income, don’t buy it. If it does improve your health but you can postpone the purchase, by all means postpone it. Talk to your spouse (if you are married) and do it together as a couple. It will be funner (new word for “more fun” :))

What do you do with the increase in wealth?

*Save it for emergencies (less anxiety for you if you have some cash on hand)

*Invest in stocks, real estate, mutual funds (lots of studying needed for this)

*Share your excess with the needy (win-win situation)

Here’s to your journey to getting wealthier!

 

 

 

 

 

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Resources: Talent

Second resource that I want to share with you is Talent. All of us have some kind of a talent (or skill, or ability or mastery of something). Some have a lot of talents and some use their talent to the highest possible level (for example: air conditioning technicians that are able to fix your air conditioning in one visit :))

Some talents are not worth mentioning because it causes more heartaches and other negative results which is contrary to what we are trying to accomplish: how to maximize the use of our talents in order to enhance not only our lives but other people’s lives too.  For example, if you have talent in playing billiards, there’s a bigger chance that you will end up gambling instead of doing something constructive.

How do we maximize our talents?

1. Identify which talents we have – be honest and take out unnecessary talents (for example: ability to memorize sports scores or batting averages is only good if you are a sports newscaster). Make a list of all your talents. This will be handy if you are making a resume or even when identifying which ones you want to improve on. This will be helpful also when we reach a point where we want to change careers 0r occupation.

2. Improve the ones that we have – If you like to read, you can practice speed reading.  The Japanese people has a philosophy called “kaizen” which is continuous improvement in processes to enhance manufacturing, engineering and management. This was applied to all other organizations such as government or health care. We can do that too in our personal lives. It took me about 8 years to be able to type 70 words per minute but all the while I was aware that I need to keep improving.

3. Learn new skills: by having a lot of skills, we become well rounded as a person. We don’t have to learn all skills for productivity. Some skills like guitar playing can be relaxing (stress relief) and good for social interaction. We need some kind of social interaction and support to have a stable life.

4. Improve on work skills: attend seminars, courses that can make you a more productive member of your company. This could be as simple as improving on your Microsoft Excel knowledge or exploring what you can do in iPhoto.

5. Don’t overtask yourself with too many things to learn. This becomes stressful and counterproductive. I recommend make a list of things you want to learn or improve on. Then assign priorities on them. Tackle only one or two at a time. When you become proficient in a skill, you may go to a higher level or move on to the next one.  Make the learning fun!

In this world of specialization, it’s always good to be a “jack of all trades, master of none”. Knowing a little bit about carpentry or first aid or sewing can be very helpful to your family’s needs. You don’t have to have super expert skills but a general understanding and skill in order to be proficient and be able to be productive.

There’s only one thing that I think is worse than being idle in the community. It’s having the skills and not using them to improve one’s life or other people’s lives.

“A rolling stone gathers no moss”! (from Wikipedia – the quote was credited to Publius Syrus)

 

 

 

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