Month: October 2014

Good Skills To Have For Young Folks

As you dear readers know, this is being written for my grandson. He’s going to be 10 years old in a few months. I think it’s best that at this point he can learn some good skills while still young. As they say, “It’s good to start them young”.

So what are these skills for? For several reasons – so they can survive in emergency situations, or develop their interpersonal relationships, handle their finances better, among other things.

So let’s dive in, one skill at a time.

The ability to negotiate – this is an important skill to develop because it gives you the ability to get the best price or the best condition for  your own needs. I’ll give you a tip:  When you are negotiating – the first person who gives a price or amount loses usually.

Here’s an example and here’s the scenario:  Buyer is in a car dealer to buy a new car. He sits down with the agent and after some pleasantries:

Agent:     So do you want to drive this car home today?

Buyer:     It depends. If you can give me a good price.

Agent:     How much can you afford to pay monthly?

Buyer:     Well, what’s your lowest price on the car, before taxes and other fees?

Agent:     How much are you willing to pay for it?

Buyer:     The lowest price possible, of course. Just give me your bottom number.

Agent:     Yeah, but I’m giving you the best model with several good options. I’m thinking I could give you a good price. How much do you want to pay?

Buyer:     Like I said, I like the car but I would be willing to look around for the same model somewhere else if you can’t give me a good price.

Agent:     So what’s a good price, you think? Let me know so I can ask my manager (this is an age-old delaying tactic) if we can afford to let it go at this price.

Buyer:     If you can give it to me at a real good price below invoice, I would be willing to commit to you. (Note: Invoice is the official “cost” of the vehicle to the dealership. It doesn’t include any incentives from the manufacturer to the dealer).

Agent:     How much below invoice?

Buyer:     Give me your price and I’ll let you know if it’s within my budget.

Agent:     OK how about $500 below invoice?

Buyer:     (Flashback two days ago: Buyer checked out several websites including to find out how much buyers are paying for it). Well, I’m thinking I can get it from another dealer for $900 below invoice.

Agent:   OK, let me talk to my manager.

Agent comes back about 10 minutes later, and said “congratulations, the manager agreed to give it to you, but at $700 below invoice”.

At this point – Buyer will have to decide if he’s willing to accept it, or he can do further research by calling other dealers within 100 miles.

Did you notice what happened? Both avoided to commit to a certain amount. After so much going back and forth, the agent finally relented, and Buyer get himself a deal.
You can do the same thing when buying appliances, jewelries, expensive equipment, etc.. Someone wrote before that any item over $3,000 can be negotiated.  I personally lowered it to 2,000.  And yes, ask for any discount they offer such as student, military, senior citizen, state resident, etc.

You know what? I will expand this post about skills. This will turn into a series. We’ll name it “Nice Skills” series.


Walk Everywhere

What’s the best exercise?

People could argue all day that it would be either jogging, bicycling, swimming, aerobics or just simply walking.

Walking is the simplest form of exercise. We just put one foot in front of the other while our arms involuntarily swing in rhythm.  We get aerobic exercise and it is also a weight-bearing exercise because we are carrying our body weight.

People used to walk miles only a hundred years ago and for thousands of years before that. Even though there were horses, donkeys or camels available to some, most people travel by walking through centuries.

I read in about a Canadian named Jean Beliveau who completed an 11-year walk across the globe.

He had a neon-sign business that went bankrupt around August 2000.  He thought he was experiencing a mid-life crisis so he decided to go on a journey to get away from it all. His girlfriend Luce Archambault thought that he was just trying to end their relationship but he assured her that he is not.

He logged 75,000 kilometers, stayed with 1,600 families in 64 countries. He started by running from Montreal to Atlanta, Georgia, then he slowed down his pace.

He arrived back in Montreal in 2011 with a crowd greeting him as he crossed a bridge. That was a record setting experience of a lifetime. Not too many people can do it.

We don’t have to do even one tenth of what he did to enjoy walking. We put on a pair of shoes and socks and off we go. I assumed that we are already dressed like always.

Some people though would rather drive a 4,000 SUV to go one mile to pick up a bag of groceries.

Some always try to find the parking spot nearest the entrance on any place they visit.

Some would use a Segway or similar contraption to get around.

What’s wrong with walking?

It’s really only a matter of getting started. You can start by walking half a block or around your neighborhood. Then several blocks. After a few weeks, walk two to four miles.

Walk to your bakery, your grocer, your church or anywhere within three miles.

Walk your dog, walk with your spouse and children.

Park away from the entrance so you’ll be forced to walk.

Walk while window shopping (don’t buy anything – it’s not frugal! :))

The most recent guideline is to walk 10,000 steps a day (that’s about 5 miles). Sedentary people hardly break 3,000 a day.  The active ones go above 10,000 almost daily.

The beauty of walking is you will hardly get injuries (unlike running or lifting weights) from the exercise. It also gives you a euphoric feeling after your done with your health walk. It can slow aging too because it promotes blood circulation and removal of toxins (via sweat glands).

It can make you better looking too (you will feel happier after a walk so you’ll look better).


No Worries

Have you ever worried about anything? Raise your right hand. OK, so it’s everybody.

So many things worry us.

In the upper crust of society: what do we wear tomorrow? which wine goes best with this medium well fillet mignon?  What color of this new all-electric sports car should I get?

Yeah, those are the nice things to worry about.

Then there are those who live truly miserable lives: Like the household help working 12-16 hour days while earning US$3 per day wondering when she’ll get some rest(this is a light example – but to avoid turning your stomach any further – I’ll stick to a less negative situation).

Most of us are in the middle. We live normal lives but we are still worried about things, daily. The other night I could not sleep. I was awake until 5am (first time it happened in more than 10 years. I was worrying about something in the future that is within my control yet I’m not sure if it’s the right path to take. Vague huh?

When I was younger I worried about many things – mostly things beyond my control. But  looking back now, it was all useless worries.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I/we confuse worry about thinking hard about a matter. That is different. Worrying is different from thinking things through, different from mapping a route or a plan for a future project or goal.

I’m pointing more to a worry that goes toward something or someone who we don’t have control over. People have free will, especially our closest friends and loved ones. Therefore, their decisions (good or bad) are beyond our reach. We can do suggestions and persuasions, but be warned: you will be frustrated if they don’t change for the better.

Some of our worries are avoidable. By planning something and breaking it into small steps, we can slowly chip away and reach our goal without being anxious. Having time removes anxiety. Acting at the last-minute produce worry.

Having a checklist (written is best) is the best way to avoid problems or nervousness. That’s why when we plan for a wedding, we have a checklist of things that need to be done or purchased at a certain time. Without organized planning and action, things may fall out and lead to a last-minute panic.

For the other daily worries in life: Will I have a job next month? Will I pass this class?  the best way is to prepare for the worst but hope for the best (I usually prayed this prayer when I was greatly worried while a teenager growing up with a nasty tempered Dad). Everyday back then was a miracle. I hated my life at home that my number one goal back then was to leave the house and find a job and live independently.

I reached that goal at age 17 when I moved to the capital city. I was so relieved that all my pimples disappeared. My job hunt was another matter but I got one within months working as janitor/messenger in an office.

Did all my worrying help me attain my goal? Not at all.


How To Cook Tasty Food

We all love to eat, don’t we?

I love to eat. These days I try to eat as healthy as possible so I’m limited to mostly to select grains: quinoa, millet, oats, brown rice and buckwheat. For meat: mostly fish (scaly) and chicken with occasional beef. Fruits: basically everything. Vegetables: everything.

But how do you make them tasty?

There’s many ways to do it. One is by following a recipe, getting cooking lessons, and experimenting. If we really think about it, the ingredients for cooking are divided into: meats, liquid, garnish and vegetables (or fruits).

Why fruits? Because some produce like tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers are known as vegetables. They’re actually fruits because they came from a developed part of a flower.

So for meats: fish, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, goat, turkey

Liquid: Water and oil (olive, canola, corn, etc., wine or beer maybe?)

Garnish: Spices, herbs, pepper, salt, soy sauce, spicy sauces, vinegar

Vegetables and fruits: any

The technique is to combine the main four ingredients to produce a delectable cuisine. That’s where it gets hard.

That’s where a recipe book (or an expert cook) comes in.

Keep it simple in the beginning. If you are just learning, start with the basics: cooking rice, fried or poached eggs, pancakes from a ready mix box, cooking frozen foods (after it’s been thawed), steaming vegetables and fruits.

Then go to soups. The secret to a good soup is the amount of salt. It’s gotta be just right. You have to keep tasting it until it’s right. Be careful though because some of you like too much salt in your diet.

Then pick a recipe for a dish that you know you will love. No sense of cooking something that you won’t eat, right? After all, if you approve your own cooking, then most people will approve it too.

Keep on tasting the dish as you cook (this is an advice from my wife). This is the only way to know that you are on the right track. If you can’t figure out the taste. Keep on experimenting with spices. I usually add water, salt or sugar to adjust the taste. Yes, sugar!  It removes a real salty taste (most of the time).

You can also learn by watching chefs cook (yes, even on TV!). I learned how to cook stir fried noodles when I was working in a restaurant when I was twelve. I remembered how the cook did it even without practicing it even once for decades. One day I stir fried noodles with shrimp and some veggies and my family loved it.

Keep on practicing by cooking a few dishes a week. Before you know it you’ll be an expert. Then you will have the confidence to keep on trying other things.

Happy cooking!


A Medieval Tale Continues

This is the continuation of the previous post titled “A Medieval Tale

The young boy continued to live a hard life. In addition to farm labor, he had to do academic studies and combat skills. His only hope is that he was told that if he is obedient and humble, he can be a free man in 10 years instead of the 20 years hard labor given to him by the head of the castle.

A typical day is a packed 16 hours of farm labor, feeding of farm animals, cleanup of just  about anything assigned, studying and getting tutored in arts and sciences. Then it’s sword fighting practice and other fighting skills.

All the young men in the castle were taught fighting skills so they could defend the castle. However, not everybody was given academic teaching or a very long work day.

One day he was ordered to be in charge of a group of young men tasked with cleaning the castle. The king was arriving in a few weeks and they were told to make the castle sparkle.

He completed the task a few days in advance.

The head of the castle was satisfied and called him to dine with him the night before the King’s arrival. He was shocked at the invitation because this is the first time he was treated like a normal person.

After dinner, the master barked at him “Mayhaps you wondered why you ate dinner with me tonight?”  He replied with a very soft voice “yes!”

The master continued: “Tomorrow the King is arriving in our castle to knight a young man. That man has passed every test, has improved his character, built a strong and fast physique, learned many skills, and above all, has proven that he deserved to be a knight. That man is you, Percival!”

He gasped “but I thought I was a prisoner here on hard labor?”

“Did you really think that we thought you killed the knight? The knight is equivalent to about 15 fighting soldiers. There’s no way you could have killed him. When we saw the ring, we knew that the knight gave it to you, so we started your testing and your training from that very day”, the master explained.

“All the hard labor and maltreatment were done to see if you have it in you to become a knight. Then you were taught to handle all forms of persecution and adversity. That is the only way you can be made into a knight. In the end, you will appreciate very much what you went through once you are given the title of a Knight.”

Our hero was the happiest person that night in the whole of England. The following day, his knighthood was attended by the town folks and the knights that the King brought with him.

Sir Percival became one of the best knights of the kingdom.

Did you like the story? I really loved it especially when I first read it in my mid-teens.

What can we learn from this story?

You may be undergoing struggles and difficulties today that are hard to explain. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. While there’s life, there’s hope.

Remember one time in your life when things are not going well and you’re wondering when all the suffering will end?  Yeah, I had them too. The ordeal ended, right? and then your life quality improved!

Lastly, If you want greatness, you must be willing to sacrifice. Sometimes, it means a tremendous amount of sacrifice, but in the end the rewards are worth it, and you end up a successful person.