Month: June 2014

Giving That Hurts

If you ask most well-meaning people what they would do to change the world, I bet you half of them would say “end poverty”.

There are thousands of private organizations and hundreds of government agencies that give aid to the poorest countries year after year.

About a year ago, I found out from my research that many charitable organizations are not safe. Some are fraudulent. Some are created so the founder can sell the organization for millions later. Some gave very little to the needy while paying their executives massive amounts of money.

A few years ago, I had a heated argument when a cashier in a clothing store adamantly pressured me into giving to a charitable organization that they were supporting. Stubborn as I was, I refused stating that I have to do research first on the organization prior to giving.

Yesterday, we were watching a DVD set titled “Poverty Cure”. I will give you the link to their website later on so you don’t leave my website early, my dear readers.

It was an eye opening DVD about how we think about giving to the poor.

Here’s a brief summary of what I gathered.

The CHALLENGE

In the DVD, the local people were claiming that receiving government aid, surplus food or even used clothes did not help them at all. It made their lives worse. The reasons?

-The arrival of free used clothes and shoes stifled the business of the local manufacturer. They ended up losing money and their employees lost their jobs.

-Since the western governments provided the aid, they dictate how to do things instead of asking the locals how they intend to solve their economic woes.

-Additionally, the foreign governments hired their own contractors who pocketed most of the profits instead of working with local businesses to spread the wealth locally.

-The local businesses ended up as sub-contractors working the worst tasks while earning much less.

-Many local businesses closed because the population just relied on the foreign aid.

-The food aid depressed the value of the local produce and removed any profitability from selling their locally produced fruits.

-Many of the foreign aid is attached to a foreign loan. The poor developing countries ended up with massive amount of debts worsening their economy further.

The X FACTOR

What’s the difference between the Western affluent countries and the poor countries? There are no level playing grounds for poor countries. In developed nations, there are civil laws founded on moral laws which enable them to live in an environment of justice and freedom. They benefit from private property rights which is missing or highly convoluted in poor countries (especially in communist, socialist or oligarchies).

To succeed, the environment must change to help spread prosperity in the community.

THE SOLUTION

The local population has a solution.

Many of these local business people are well educated, honest, knowledgeable in business administration and good communicators, even in English.

They mentioned that it has to be a mindset change instead of an “aid-driven boondoggle”.

They said that micro finance should be offered at the local level. By providing small business loans (as small as $30), people are enabled to start their own micro business to make themselves able to take care of their daily needs.

They are working with their government and honest aid providers to enhance the business environment to encourage the fledgling entrepreneurs. This will prevent an attitude of dependency on foreign aid and waiting for leftovers.

What can WE do?

The bottom line is that giving aid is not a loving things to do if it causes a dependency. People began to have a “beggar mentality” instead of being proactive in improving their lives through their own initiative, creativity, skills and resourcefulness.

Knowing that, then we must do our due diligence before we give to any charity organization.

The other day I even investigated how much the annual salary of the officers of a Christian charitable organization I was interested in. I was happy to find out that only the CEO receives an average salary, the rest volunteer their time as officers.

We also must pay close attention to the consequence of our action. If we give assistance, would it make the lives of the people better? Or would it make it worse?

When we give, is it because we want to feel the emotional high of giving? Maybe to bask in the approval of people for our charitable action? What about the people receiving the aid? Will they become empowered to be “job makers” or entrepreneurs or will they become aid-dependent?

 

The DVD set covers a lot more detail. Here’s the link to Poverty Cure. I do not receive any compensation from their organization for this post. If it fails to open, please google: povertycure.org.

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Less Penalties

I am happy to announce to you that I watched only three NBA game this year, and for no more than 10 minutes each. I got more productive so far, but let’s wait until the Tour de France comes around and we’ll see…

Whenever I watch NBA games I always pay close attention to the statistics. What was the deciding factor for the game? Was it the rebounding? the assists? the blocks? the fouls and turnovers?

It is the scoring of course!

But one thing I usually pay attention to is the turnover rate. Or the fouls. When the ball is turned over, it enables the other team to score. When there’s a foul, the opposing team gets to shoot the ball as a free throw or they added another penalty to eventually put the opposing player into foul trouble which could mean he could foul out of the game.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the majority of the games is won by the team that creates that least amount of penalties for themselves. It also applies to other sports: It can be cycling, soccer or tennis.

Applying that principle to life in general, penalties are the consequence of mistakes and bad decisions we make. The less penalties, the better chance of us advancing to a better life and this is our lesson for today. Get it? better life lesson?

How do we avoid making mistakes?

Awareness and Observation – By really paying attention to actions and events and note that it may apply to us. Then we think of alternative action to take to avoid the same mistake. You’ll be surprised at the number of people who observe yet does not think that it will affect their lives.

Through Experience – For some of us that are stubborn, we may have to experience the consequence of the mistake. Then we are convinced (finally!) that it is really a mistake and therefore we should avoid doing it again.

Being Prepared – If we are visiting a city for the first time, we study maps and directions and modes of transportation before we go there. We may even plan a route that would avoid heavy traffic congestion or dangerous neighborhoods. This eliminates getting lost or in trouble.

By Asking – For things unfamiliar to us, we may ask knowledgeable people to share what they know about the area or matter that we wanted to explore. The more people we ask, the better.

Think Deep – We don’t have to think alone either. We can team up with a partner or group to think together and solve potential problems before they become problems.

Model & Estimate – Making a model, drawing or illustration makes it easier to avoid mistakes. When I did a wooden bicycle rack, I did about six drawings complete with exact measurements. When I was laying the pieces together, I figured there are better ways of joining wood together, so I made some last minute changes to the plan. I also saved money on materials by having exact estimates.

Decision Map – And yes, making a decision chart could help us too. It can be as simple as a Pro vs. Con listing or it could be a complex spreadsheet full of specifications.

Lastly and most significantly, I personally found out a long time ago that praying for wisdom to have good judgment helps out in essential life decisions. It very much helps if my thinking is in harmony with the Creator.

Have a wonderful blessed day!

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Attract Happiness

Who among you doesn’t want to be happy?

No one? OK, now let’s go down the list of things that will make an average person happy (warning: this will be sarcastic. If you can’t stand sarcasm, please go down and read after the line below.

List of things that will bring happiness:

-A brand new car with the latest electronic devices that connect you to the web.

-The biggest house in the neighborhood with numerous wi-fi hot spots

-One million dollars? (like Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery)

-Owning your own business without working in it (for the lazy bone)

-20 feet wide television (also known as Ipad XXXXXXXXL)

-A collection of all movies ever made (except Austin Powers movies)

-Comic book collection

-A vacation in a tropical island with tons of food.

-A very luxurious yacht with a personal chef and servants

-The nicest, fastest executive jet (to hang out with the jet set crowd)

-The best electric skateboard (OK, I admit – this is my wish so it can’t be sarcastic).

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What did you notice with the above examples?

It’s all about material things or hedonistic lifestyle. Will any of the above make you happy?

I admit it will make me happy but maybe for only a few weeks, or months (except for the million dollars – that would make me financially independent for the rest of my life).

Some of you might be happy with any of the above for a few years, but would the happiness last?

Maybe, but most likely it would not.

So how do we make happiness come to our lives?

Here are some suggestions which I hope you would take to heart:

-Do not envy or compare yourself to others – this is hard to do because this world is based on comparison. This hollywood personality looks attractive. I want to be like her so I’m going to get botox injections.

-Enjoy what you already have – kinda hard to do but with practice and knowing that your savings is increasing, you got more satisfaction than going out shopping.

-Avoid living a money-centered life – What? How do you do that? Simple, send all your money to me so I can accumulate a million dollars. Joking aside, money buys happiness, but it’s very short-lived. Material goods will never be a long term source of happiness, period.

-Have a social support group – People with friends and large (friendly) families tend to have a happier existence. Proof: Read the previous post titled “Old School Social Networking”.

-Give It Away Now! – give not only your old clothes or equipment but even your latest stuff. You don’t have to give it away for free either. Sell it at a very low price so the buyer gets an unexpected bargain. He or she will be happy but you’ll be happier!

-Fake the Positive – even if you feel depressed, act as if you just received one million dollars from Austin Powers (with his little finger at the edge of his lips). You will feel happy and you will influence the people around you to perk up too!

-Give it all you’ve got – work hard and work smart- taking breaks only to recharge. Always produce superior results and you will feel not only empowered, but joyful!

-Be Healthy – be picky on what you eat – not picky just to be picky – but picking the healthier choices 80% of the time. Go run and get some sun! Drink water instead of soda pop! Ride that electric skateboard (OK, I admit – this is for me!)

-Thank God always for all your blessings – As you do this, you will feel that your life is much better than 90% of the population because you have so much going for you. Would you like me to enumerate the good things you have in your life? For a small fee I will, but you’ll do a better job at it.

Don’t you feel happier already?

I’m happier that you’re happy.

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Old School Social Networking

The past few years we have had facebook, twitter, pinterest, whatsapp, viber, linkedIn and of course, myspace. Together, they have produced billions of hours of unproductivity in the workplace. They have also enabled individuals to constantly tell people what’s going on with their daily lives.

“I am currently now at 7-11 buying a big gulp” A big gulp? Do they still sell those?

“I am now driving at 40 mph in a 35 mph zone. CRAAAAASH!”

“I am now being taken to the hospital because I was posting to facebook and sipping my big gulp while driving and didn’t see the lamppost”

The above was an extreme example of the current way we conduct our social lives. Don’t “unfriend” me because of the guilt I caused by the above example 

Today, I would rather talk about the old way we conduct social networking. It’s when we visit with friends and families at homes. It’s when we meet at restaurants with friends/families. It’s when we chat with person to person in parks, baseball fields, etc. There are no electronic devices involved except maybe a hearing aid.

Personal conversation is becoming a lost art. I had an experience of going into dinner once when all the people invited below the age of 20 were constantly monitoring their phones. They wouldn’t get in to the conversation or even have eye contact. They’d rather spend time with Siri than with the people at the table.

The reason why I want to bring this up is because social networking (the old fashioned way) is one of the reasons why we have fulfilling lives.

Did you know that social support is one of the reasons for life longevity in almost all of the communities where people live long lives? Aside from eating certain diets (eating good oils and mostly veggies and fruits), living relatively low stress lives (did not join or hopped off the rat race), and exercising regularly (walking and tending their gardens count), these groups are strengthened by the social bonds they have with their neighbors and the community.

These days I seldom experience that because my family live in far away lands. Growing up, I remember the bond I had with neighbors – I can show up at their home any time and feel welcome. Despite having meager amount of food, I always get invited to eat.

I remember growing up with my high school friends. We didn’t have much money but we had tons of conversations about life, our future, nice girls and Bruce Lee. I regret to say that I haven’t seen them for at least two decades. They live in a land far away and we lost contact.

In the navy, I couldn’t build much relationships because every three years or so, I get transferred or my buddies get transferred to another duty station (sometimes in a land far away). Once in a blue moon, I see one of them in a restaurant or at a barber shop and we talk as if we’re back living in the boat (a.k.a. naval warship).

Isn’t it time to get to get more substance out of life? There’s more to life than posting what’s the latest thing you found in the web or your latest activity.

Let us go back to the old school social networking. Let’s turn off our phones, go to a cafe and talk with our friends or families. And no, don’t bring your laptops too (unless you have a PowerPoint presentation on How to Live a Meaningful Life).

There’s also the good old telephone called the “landline”. Pick it up and call someone you haven’t heard from in ages. Or using the free call feature of any of the social networking apps, call someone in a far away land. They’ll be glad you did.

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Little Victories

Yesterday, James told us that in his third-grade class, he was the “fastest runner, best artist and neatest desk”. A few months ago, we were so worried about him because he just moved to a new school where he hardly knows anyone and most of the students are from an affluent economic background. We thought that he stuck out like a sore thumb.

Yesterday, he also told us that his classmates voted him to be the “most popular person” in his class. What a relief! My grandson is really blessed.

I went on a time-machine ride back to my early childhood. Every little accomplishments that I did became my “little victories”.

I had a few “first honors” or valedictorian from first to fifth grades. From that I gained confidence that I am a bit smarter and therefore I should study more to get even smarter.

In sports or physical fitness, I wasn’t that great. It wasn’t until college when I was playing basketball that I discovered that I was missing out on the fun of playing competitive sports. Not much victories there so I never became a sports guy.

I started sketching and drawing at a young age, thanks to an uncle who loved to draw. I watched him and copied what he was doing. Over the years, I got better at it. In my high school, I started drawing comic books and sold it to four of my classmates.

My comic books ended with “to be continued” so that I would have to make four new comic books after a week and sell them again to my classmates. That increased my allowance by a whopping 20 cents.

One of my best friends who always has a lot of cash from a grandfather’s pension from the U.S. Army really admired my drawings. He bought me a bunch of colored pencils and drawing paper and commissioned me to draw comic books for him. I get free snacks in return. That “little victory” furthered my drawing skills.

My grades in school were varied. I had excellent grades in my favorite classes (World History, U.S. History, Natural Sciences, etc.) and I had mediocre grades on classes that are either boring (Shakespearean Literature) or with boring instructors (Business Management, Cost Accounting).

Conclusion: the more effective teachers directly influences your advancement in life.

As you may have noticed by now, I am claiming that the little victories I experienced in my life directly affected my life to help get a relatively successful career. I think I may have overachieved but then is there such a thing as overachievement if you really achieved it?

I’ve had my shares of obstacles. I’ve had insults and harsh words thrown at me all the way from childhood to my twenties. I’ve had my share of frustrations and disappointments. I’ve been humbled so many times. By the grace of God I survived them all.

Through all the hardships, the little victories kept popping up, reminding me that what’s happening is a temporary setback at the most.

Dear readers, look back at your hundreds of little victories. Build from it! – and live a brighter future!

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