Month: April 2014

Seeking Counsel

Have you ever faced a major decision or a fork in the road of life that you didn’t know what to do?

Have you experienced an electrifying event that was so emotionally draining that you felt so lost on how to act?

What did you do?

Personally, as I remember now – I did seek advice from people. I must have interviewed a few of my trusted friends and relatives so much that I think they get tired of me asking about my dilemma.

I asked them: “Should I buy a used TV or a new one?”

(I saw your eyes roll!) 

So this was decades ago, but I have always relied on people’s advice on many things (including buying my first TV), especially major ones. It’s easier when I got married because I can ask advice 24/7 from my wife. How convenient huh?

When I have to do a major purchase or a lifestyle change – I always seek counsel. It doesn’t have to be from a person. It can be from several books and magazines, and yes, even google, youtube or startpage.

The Book of Proverbs stated – “In multitude of counsel there is safety”. It means the more people you ask for advice, the better your decision will be.

When we encounter some of life’s heavy battering rams, it is best to find the best shield for it. One of the best ways to do is to find an elderly person with enough wisdom to know what to do in the situation we’re in. Some of our more mature peers (friends or family) are good options too.

This is where it may get a little tricky. How do you know if the person will give you a good advice? Look at their lives – do they have lives that you would like to have? How do they relate to people? Do they have integrity? practice honesty? considerate to other people?

Researching in the internet these days have given us 24/7 access to information that could help us make the right choice. It is easy to type a few keywords (for example: how to avoid allergies) and we are presented with a plethora of websites or forums about the subject matter.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Again, we have to screen if the forum, or video or website makes sense.

Armed with this newfound wealth of information, we are ready finally to make the right move.

Kings, emperors, presidents and other heads of state are surrounded by people who give them counsel on every single aspect of government. In fact, the best administrations find the smartest people and hire them to utilize their intelligence (and wisdom) in running the state.

Even the second wisest man who ever lived – Solomon – had a group of advisers. Can you imagine the amount of prestige you would have if you are one of his advisers?

Successful people are typically people who consistently make good, sound decisions. If you want to be one of them, find yourself a few or even many counselors. You’ll have much fewer regrets in life!

Then you can be the counselor some day!


Let’s Pause

It is the year 2014, right? My, time flies when you’re having fun! I still remember the good old days when no one has a mobile phone (except maybe the military, the uber-rich and law enforcement agencies), and we had to plan our day using a fantastic device now known as the “landline”.

Anyway, the increase in technology over the years has been touted to make our lives easier. Remember when they said “Electronic files will get us paper-free in a few years”? Well, it’s been a few years and now not only do we have paper files, but we also have electronic files that’s saved in hard drives or even in the “cloud”.

In short, it doubled the things we have to do!

Don’t get me started on computer crashes (could be software, server, switches, lines, phones causing it) which is usually blamed on the operator. After the crash is fixed, there are a few blissful and trouble free days until you have to download the latest “upgrade” to the software being used.

Upgrades turn out sometimes to be really downgrades. Windows XP was hailed as much better than Windows 7 and 8 for years (which are supposedly more advanced than the XP). By the time you get used to the upgrade, it’s time to do another “upgrade”.

Could I be right then to conclude that technology just made our lives busier instead of easier? When I am driving, I look to the right and left of my car and see half the people either talking on their phones or texting. We have become a phone-centric society. What about those dinners when all of the invited kids are on their phones or tablets along with half of the adults?

In today’s world of light-speed communications (travels by light in optic fibers), instant messages, various social media, 24/7 emails and the relentless pressure to produce more and more to increase the “bottom line”, we need to take a pause.

I was reading a book by Frank Partnoy called “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay”. In the book, he mentioned that a doctor pioneered a new process in one hospital. He added a pause to the surgery procedure: a one minute pause before anesthesia, another one before incision and one before leaving the surgery room. That gave them extra time to look around and get everything ready for the process. Result? Death and complications were lowered significantly (between 30-40% approximately). They’re now being copied by dozens of other hospitals.

Being the Number #1 Fan of a laid-back lifestyle, I decided to practice this novel procedure.

I opted to take several pauses as I was doing a rather complicated cash flow spreadsheet the other day. I used the pause to visually inspect my final printout or look over all the numbers again in the financial statement prior to starting the next report. Now some of you will just call it as double checking. No, it’s more like a step back and looking at the final document leisurely as if I am admiring a masterpiece (which in this case, it was!).

It worked. When I did the double check after the pause – my work has less mistakes to fix and the gridlines, numbers, column headers, etc. all made sense.

A pause can be used in almost anything. The things we can do with it is limitless. A pause can be a short prayer just before you start driving or when you leave the house, or it could be as long as a few hours, only this time you might want to call it a “break”.

So does today’s information highway making your life a mess instead? Are you overwhelmed with too much information and misinformation at the same time? Could you use a break from this “running to and fro” in our daily grind? I only have two words of suggestion:

Let’s Pause.


Radical Changes

Remember not too long ago (OK maybe a couple of decades) when the word “radical” was used almost all the time. As in “That’s totally rad, man”.  The word radical itself can mean drastic or extreme, but now the word “extreme” has gained more popularity than “radical”

So I wrote this post to bring “radical” back to the limelight.

Did you notice I was joking?

To make real changes in life, most often we will get faster or a permanent result by making it radical. For example, I used to smoke and I wanted to quit (a long long time ago in a land a bit far away).  First, I tried switching from “menthol” to “menthol lights”. Didn’t work.

Then I tried “ultra lights” figuring that by lessening the nicotine further, I can slide myself to a micro-nicotine intake existence. It worked – but only for three weeks. After that – I went back to the menthols – I gotta have the full power of the nicotine.

Months later, I finally got the gumption to quit once and for all. My main reasons are for health and to avoid wasting money (a full carton of cigarettes back then was around $7.00). Yes, that was a lot for my meager income!

I just quit one day – cold turkey!

We went out to sea for a training exercise and I smoked again for one week. When we pulled in into port, I quit for good. I gained 15 pounds in three weeks, but that would be another post titled “How to gain 15 pounds without really trying”! (this is another attempt to be funny!)

That’s how I discovered that in order to achieve a lofty goal, I gotta do it radically!

And it applies to almost all facet of life:

Finances, for example: it is radically (there’s that word again!) easier to save more than 50% of your net income than to increase your income by 50% or more. Why? Because your net income is in your control, while the possibility of 50% more income is not.

Health: A few years ago, we went to a radical three-week detox when we wanted to improve our health. We were supposed to eat only a few chosen vegetables – no meat, bread, cheese or dairy. The only grain allowed was millet and buckwheat. it was an extreme diet  but I lost about 10 lbs in three weeks (we sneaked every weekend by eating regular food that were still healthy).

Lifestyle: Bad habits are created very slowly. No one suddenly becomes an alcoholic after drinking the first beer. Not for a few weeks at least. We slowly regress into unpleasant activities one event at a time.

Lifestyle II: But to break bad habits, we have to do it the opposite way. Alcoholics that want to quit are normally put into detox in order for them to recover. They don’t slowly limit their alcohol intake from 6 shots of whisky down to maybe one beer in three months. They stop the patient from drinking on the first day.

It requires sacrifice to achieve a lot in this life. Do we want a good paying job? Then we focus on learning something and getting a college degree or vocational training to reach it. That’s radical isn’t it? We could just spend the whole day surfing or being a beach bum.

Successful people (and I don’t mean the ones with the most money but rather those that found contentment, charity, happiness and a good quality of life regardless of their income) achieved a lot of things because of their willingness to sacrifice today for tomorrow’s gain. Self-discipline is a required character.

Do you have something you want to change? Today’s the day to start working on it!


Quiet Time

Sometimes the world seems to be too noisy. Noise seem to emanate from everywhere: the car next to you who is showing off his V-8 engine, inside a game arcade, in a restaurant filled to capacity, in a crowded mall in the middle of a “sale”.

We need time for some peace and quiet.

Today was one of those. We had a power outage for some repairs for about one and a half hour. It felt so quiet. No TV, stereo or internet for distraction. Outside was a perfect sunny day with a slight cool breeze. We just ate a Margherita wood-fired pizza. Life seemed so peaceful. I even took a short nap while sitting in the living room.

Having a quiet time gives us time to think about things, mainly life itself. Having a TV endlessly talking in the background or even a radio talk show doesn’t do anything good for our health. But being in peace calms down our nerves, normalizes blood pressure and eases our breathing.

I recommend quiet time several times a day. Even for a few minutes. What I do is I go outside to a hidden nook in the back of our office building during my work breaks. I get some sun at the same time watching a few guys working on a ditch in the dirt lot across.

In the car, I seldom turn on the radio. I like quiet moments. Driving slightly below the speed limit adds to the solace. I’ve listened to music countless times for decades. I even  had a Sony Walkman when it was the “gadget to have” back in the 80s. These days, electronic music gadgets are in the tail end of my priorities.

We also need quiet during times of meditation. To me, meditation is also known as praying. It’s having quality time with the Creator outside the influence of the external distractions.

Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be absolutely quiet. There are birds chirping, maybe some footsteps outside in the alley or a car door closing. Those are acceptable noises. It can feel weird too if it’s very quiet, just like what I experienced one time when I go to those soundproof rooms when I do hearing tests. Those places are absolutely quiet.

Experience some quiet time. Turn off the radio, TV or anything electronic producing any sort of sound. Even for a few minutes. It will be refreshing. Just like a quick nap during a power outage.

Today, we asked James (my grandson) if he wants to go to the game arcade. He replied “No, it’s too noisy there”. Smile



Sail On!

Many websites, books, magazines, and health gurus always lecture about living an active life (as opposed to sedentary lifestyle).

Should we go running at least three miles a day?

Swim daily for 30 laps? Ride a bicycle to work? Walk at least 5,000 steps a day?

Does that mean we should go on a round the world cruise on a sailboat?

All of the above!

Just kidding! in today’s news, people who sit in comfortable armchairs watching the news are vilifying a family that set out to sail around the world. It was a husband, a wife, a three-year old and a one year old baby.

The baby got sick two weeks into the journey 900 miles off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. To make matters worse, the boat lost its steering and I think another mechanical problem. The Coast Guard, Navy and Air National Guard pooled their resources to rescue the family. They are on their way back to San Diego minus their boat.

The regular TV watchers who spend hours on CNN or other news station were vicious in their comments about the parents. They said the parents are irresponsible for bringing their young children to such a risky endeavor. But, were they?

In one of the news websites, there was a mother who commented that years prior, she took her children to ride their bicycles from Alaska to Argentina covering 17,000 miles. It took them three years. As you can imagine, it was quite an adventure. She said that her boys really learned from the experience and are now very successful Science students.

Another commented that hundreds of parents take their children on long ocean voyages. Most parents that do this are of course prepared and qualified to do this activity that seems so dangerous to someone sitting in a reclining leather chair in front of a 105-inch LCD-LED TV.

I personally think that it is admirable to do such things, because it will teach you about survival, planning, emergency response, navigation and sailing knowledge.

I would not do it at this stage of my life because I don’t know how I would react if I have to ride the massive waves that I experienced several times while I was in the navy. Yes, I was seasick for at least a day each time and No, it wasn’t fun at all. I was in a big ship back then. I can’t imagine being in a boat one-tenth the size of my last ship.

However, experienced sailors know how to avoid those waves by going on certain months of the year.

The father of the family was a hospital corpsman in the navy and licensed by the Coast Guard as a captain. He knew what he was doing. It just happens that things went wrong. Even astronauts with million-dollar budgets and thousand of hours of training experience mishaps.

I think it is best to admire them for their courage and daring. All they had was a temporary set back. We should show moral support for them. A group of supporters generously donated a total of $11,000 as of yesterday. It’s terrific that we still have those  good Samaritans.

I myself plan on taking sailing lessons with James. No, we’re not going on a world cruise. I like bicycling too much!




On Your Own Terms

No, this is not about being a rebel (although you might laugh at the advertising industry if you mastered this strategy), nor being a non-conformist (you would be unique though), or having your own identity (we already are separate and distinct individuals).

This is about living a life based on a robust foundation that avoids trendy or fashionable changes in moral, spiritual, financial and other essential life principles.

This is also about avoiding the brainwashing that media and the advertising industry is bringing to us every waking hour; and living a life based on strong foundations of knowledge, wisdom, experience, character and fear of God!

So how do we know if a person or family live on their own terms?

-They know the difference between a “need” and a “want”. They limit spending on the wants to ensure they will have a few years worth of savings for their “needs”

-They live well below their means. They don’t “buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like”. Dave Ramsay said it I think.

-They don’t rely on the government to bail them out from their bad decisions. (Note: It’s OK to get benefits from the government if you paid your taxes. There are, however, some people who try to get fired so they can collect unemployment benefits.)

-They have a reasonable budget and they stick to it. I hear a few people complain “But I don’t make enough money” to which I reply silently “Dude, or Dudette: You are in the USofA. You earn more than six billion people on the planet.”

-They don’t get swayed by the latest craze or fad, but rather build their financial foundation on proven principles and familiarize themselves in the chosen investment. In 2006, during the great real estate bubble, many investors bought multiple homes because it was a “hot” market, ignoring warnings that it’s about to crash. In 2009 most of them were foreclosed.

-They spend their time on being productive at work, giving 100% effort daily. If they are managers: They manage their people well and create positive morale in their workplace.

-They practice integrity in all things (This takes out most politicians! Feeling Good).

-They believe that the guy or gal next to them is as important as themselves, regardless of their social or financial status. That means their wants does not supersede other people’s needs.

-They constantly improve themselves, not only in work related matters, but in creative endeavors as well.

-They take advice from a variety of sources (“in a multitude of counselors, there is safety”-Proverbs).

-They rely on their own research to find knowledge, especially in the essential things in life such as morality and spirituality. They build a good character by practicing sound decision-making at all times.

-They make plans. They work on executing their plans. If the plan went south, they learn to be flexible enough to switch to an alternative course of action. Flexibility and adaptability are part of their character.

I could probably go on and on on this topic. But I value your time too. So maybe I’ll do a part II. For now, take a few minutes and think about some of the things that I mentioned. Maybe there’s an area in your life that needs improvement?

We all could use improvement – a little at a time.

La vie est courte. Live your best!


Progress Report Year II

Time flies when you’re having fun! Writing this blog is FUN!, and I hope you are having fun reading, learning a bit and getting entertained. Although this is primarily for James (who assures me that he reads it now and then Laughing ) I enjoy being able to disseminate my life lessons and experiences for your reading pleasure.

It is very gratifying to know that last month there were 694 of you reading this (17,605 hits). Without you, only my closest family members would read this if I promise them a free dinner. But since you are here, I would like to thank you for spending a few minutes of your time in this site.

Last year, I averaged 229 visitors and 5,433 hits during the month of April. Because of your readership, it tripled the numbers this year. I really, really appreciate it!

Last month, I wrote 8 posts which was a record. That was because I rearranged my priorities and cut off some fat (but physically I gained 3 pounds! Yikes). I noticed that the more posts I write, the more people come to the site and read. So I will try to write 10 post for this month (and lose 9 lbs).

Since last year, I might have shot about 2,500 photos with my DSLR camera. I may have improved a bit, but I think I would need another 10,000 shots before I can feel like an expert (not a pro). I will write about my photographic endeavors in a future post months from now.

My original goal was around 200 posts before I semi retire, with this blog still around for another few years as a ready reference for my grandson and for you. However, with the fun I am having and this is my 105th post, I might go beyond 300 and then slow down. The object is to have quality instead of quantity. However, with the fun I am having…

On the minimalist front, we are concentrating on avoiding a lot of expenses. In fact, for this year – one of my goals was “Do not buy another car”.

We have greatly reduced the “eating out” expense. Now we are down to one big family meal on the weekends, and maybe two during the rest of the week. Before that, it’s a lot more than that. Five? check!  Maybe even 8 times a week? check that too!

We’ve discovered Trader Joe’s (I am not getting paid to say this) and our grocery bill average around $50 per week now. My wife can outcook most restaurants now so what’s the point of eating out?

The objective in all of these money saving is to be able to have a future that will not be scary. See, the older I get, the more I realize that taxes gets higher, everything gets too expensive, salary remains stagnant and 99% of employers exist for profit only. My wife and I need savings to avoid having a penniless future.

I’ve fallen in love with painting with Acrylic, with the intent of specializing in impressionistic painting. I will show one of my paintings in a future blog so keep coming back!

Thank you so much, my dear readers! Embarassed