Month: October 2015

Lessons From A Movie

I watched a new release movie on a theatre a few weeks ago, and it really impressed me that I wanted to share it with you, dear readers. I won’t go into the specific title of the movie but after I tell you the plot you would know what movie it is.

The movie is about a crew of astronauts that went to Mars.  While exploring the Red Planet, a very strong storm (by earth standards, the atmosphere in Mars is thin), which forced them to leave the planet hurriedly.  One of the astronauts was knocked down by a communication equipment and got blown off. They thought he was dead so they made the heartbreaking choice of leaving him behind.

They were morosely mistaken. He was alive, and using his all his mental and physical resources, he made a plan on how to survive in the inhospitable planet until the next mission arrives (four Earth years later). The survival part was the most exciting part because this is the ultimate survival story for us earthbound earthlings. He is 55,000,000 kilometers away on an environment without air, water and food except what was in the habitat.

The first thing I noticed is his attitude: instead of having a “woe is me” moment, he maintained a calm and enthusiastic demeanor.

So what did I learn from this movie?

First – It’s great to have a PhD in Botany OK, so our hero is well trained on a basic skill called planting. He used his plant growing skills to grow a plant to sustain him. In reality, a basic knowledge in growing veggies or fruits is good enough. But knowledge itself is useless if not applied to produce results. 

Attitude will transform us – Our astronaut is left on a barren and hostile planet, his nearest buddies thought he was dead and earth is several months away even at 25,000 kph. What would most of us do? Sulk? Get depressed? Feel really bad for ourselves? Instead he started recording his daily activities, cracking jokes sometimes and was generally in a cheery mood while trying to contact his spaceship and NASA to tell them he’s still alive. Cheer up and be happy that we have challenges!

Break down problems – He put down pencil to paper and wrote what he needed:  Oxygen, Food, Shelter, Communications and,oh yeah, a heater – it was about -50 degrees Centigrade there.  He broke down the problem into little pieces. Then he wrote solutions on each one. Life oftentimes presents overwhelming scenarios but the way to beat it is to step back and figure out how to tackle it – one step at a time!

Find Help – he managed to gain contact with Earth and later with his spaceship and was able to get help mapping out how he can be rescued. Most of the time, we can fix problems by listening to counsel and working with others to formulate a real solution. We can also find help in voluminous information available in books and the internet.

Less is More – When he found the advance space vehicle to launch himself  from the planet’s surface, he took off many unnecessary parts to lighten the load and have the spacecraft fly further. He even used a plastic sheeting to cover the nose of the craft.

In our lives, we sometimes carry much material baggage: just look in any garage or closet. Sometimes we think that one of these days, we will be able to use what we store. Instead the junk is piling up unused by anyone.

Excess baggage is so constricting. We need to get rid of the non essential.

Pray – it was never mentioned in the movie but since NASA made press conferences, our hero astronaut became the most popular person on earth.  Naturally, we can assume that at least tens of millions of people were praying for his survival and successful rescue.

I sometimes get overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations – before the day is over, I have already prayed a few times for guidance.

I hope you liked this movie review – because I have another one.


Early Start or Late Rally?

Have you ever played a video game where you are going so good in the first few minutes that you accumulate so many points (or minutes) which enabled you to play longer and better and made you win or set a new personal records? No???? You should download a video game right now!

Then have you played one where you started really sluggish but then halfway through the game you suddenly got your rhythm and you were blasting away at control A and B buttons and you were accumulating points faster than your monthly savings?

I have experienced both because I have played many video games. On a side note, I mentioned before in this blog that I waste time playing video games – but then when I come up with a post like this from playing – then all is not lost, right?

In life, there are people that financially get started in a good groove – and that is something I truly admire. These are the people that learned very early in life that if they keep saving and investing money without fail, they will have a financially sound future.

There a few popular shortcuts to having money early: Inherit it, marry a rich person and win the lottery. Considering that 75% of lottery winners end up in worse financial standing just a few years after winning, let’s take them out of the game. Those who inherit or marry rich don’t really count because they got it too easy. We will consider the savvy savers/investors/entrepreneurs as our early starters.

The second group are the ones that realized later in life (in their 40s or beyond) that there is a way to improve one’s financial standing: being frugal, avoiding debt, being money smart and saving and investing correctly.

The first group – the early starters – will have more challenges because of lack of experience but it will be fun because of those challenges. Theoretically, They may be able to produce more for the community because they will have more years of productivity.

The second group – the late bloomers – will have experience on their side. There will still be mistakes but not too much because they already know what to avoid and how to reach their goals.  By the way, at any stage in your life – you can still join the late rally group!

Which one are you?  At this stage of my life, I would be the latter. That’s because it’s too late to classify me as an early starter unless I live past 120 years. I like being the late rally type also because I love reminiscing about the hardships of my youth that taught me to be more resilient yet bold, plodding slowly yet content with my life.

Regardless of which group you belong, there are a few points that both groups has to practice:

*Eternal diligence – to maintain one’s wealth, obviously one has to keep track of their assets and liabilities, and cash flow regularly. By doing so, there are no sudden surprises in finding out that they may be losing money monthly.

*It’s a Gift – the wealth is never really ours. It’s a gift that’s temporary entrusted to us if we follow sound principles of money management. Proof?  Gamblers never really win in the long run. That’s because they didn’t “nurture” the gift. Give a gambler a million and within weeks or even days all funds will be gone. Give a frugal person a million and he will be set for life.

*Share – money not shared in the right way (don’t lend money to a gambler), tends to become scarce. Being generous (genuinely) brings back more gifts to the giver. Money put to good use result in better lives for people within the giver’s sphere of influence.

In the end, it does not matter which type we are. What really matters is who you become after you reach financial independence.


Judge Not

As I read comments section on various websites that promotes news and political discussions, I notice that I almost always come upon this statement: “judge not, lest ye be judge” from one defensive commenter. This is of course from the Matthew 7 verse that says exactly the same thing.

Flashback to many summers ago when I was six years old living in a relatively big city with busy highways. I was instructed that if I wanted to cross a street I was to look left and right (and even skyward to make sure there’s not a plane about to crash in front of me ), and made sure that it is safe to cross before I cross. So I did judge the safety of the street before I crossed.

Everyday, we do judgment calls. My real estate agent, who is renting out two condo units advertises to find prospective tenants. Then she interviews the prospects individually, checks their credit rating, references, etc. Then she makes a judgment call (along with her husband) based on all available information on who’s going to rent the unit.

When I walk on an unfamiliar streets in anywhere, USA or even overseas – I always do judgment. Are the people around me nice people or people about to do dastardly deeds? When I see a bunch of men hanging out in a street corner, I quickly judge their appearance and decide if I should cross the road and walk on the other side? Am I judging? I most certainly am!

So, should we judge or not?

We judge a few hundred times a day. When we drive cars or ride bicycles, we do a lot of judging. We get home safely by the several dozen good judgements (and by the grace of God).

But some would say – well, the “judgment” you’re talking about is not the same as in Matthew 7. In my opinion, it is. But it is widely interpreted as the judgment we do for the behavior of some people. And that’s where it gets taken out of context. What it really means is be aware that if we judge people, the same judgment could be applied against us.

In other words, we have to make sure first that our behavior does not reflect the same behavior that we are pointing out. First, we could lose credibility for pointing out about “drunk driving” if we are known to do the same. Second, are we doing the advice to other people out of love for the person or to confirm our own self-righteousness?

If we don’t judge, then we won’t be able to explain what is right and what is wrong. It is our duty to warn our fellow human beings about their wrongdoings. They may not be aware that it is wrong. It is up to them to decide what they want to do but the loving thing is to advice them.

What we want to avoid is condemnation. We have to judge, but we can’t condemn because we do not know everything about the other person. There is only one true Judge and that is our Creator. He can do real justice because He knows everything about a person, even behind closed doors. Condemning others does not make us a better person – it makes us the opposite, even if we felt good about the condemnation.

So what do you think? Should we judge or not?