Quote of the Day, July 3, 2014: “The philosophy of the rich versus the poor is this: The rich invest their money and then spend what is left; The poor spend their money and then invest what is left.”

I’m going to avoid the obvious meaning of the saying, that is money, and I’m going to offer an alternative view, albeit a parallel one.

I play piano. Better than some, and worse than others. I’ll leave it at that. Without going into my long history with the instrument, which included lessons while I was a young boy that I loathed at times, I will say that I fell in love and got the bug during my time at university.

There I met many pianists, guitarists, bassoonists, and all types of musicians of varying skill levels. Some were professionals already hoping to hone their skills under the tutelage of those even more advanced than they. Some may as well have been beginners, seemingly having had decided to make music their major at the last minute while registering for classes. I would have fallen in the latter category, with the exception that music was not my major at all, just a newfound love.

Though I started out behind most pianists I met, my deep desire aroused in me a rare type of discipline. The kind one usually notices in a man trying to woo a woman. I had a goal and a drive to attain it that surpassed my desires for anything else at the time, women included. I found myself “borrowing” any sheet music I could get my hands on. I found myself ditching class in order to practice. I may have ‘allowed’ the secretary at the music department to believe I was a music major so as to have access to pianos to practice on. It was so bad that I even distinctly remember blowing of an incredibly attractive blonde cheerleader (whom I had a pretty sizable crush on at the time) for a party that she really wanted me to attend with her, so that I could solidify a piece of music that I had been working on all week. So instead of partying with her, which would have been the “logical” college thing to do at the time, I instead was running my fingers over the smooth ivory keys of a baby grand deep into the night on a sultry Friday evening.first steps pic

To put it short. What I wanted above all things at that time was proficiency at the piano. I asked questions about the piano. I dreamt about the piano. I played air piano on my binder in class. And most importantly I spend my time and energy on my goal, the piano. Looking back, until my father’s death, which deadened my drive for some time, I practiced piano for an average of 4 hours a day. When my fingers hurt, or when the practice rooms were closed for a holiday, and I had some free time, then I’d go to the party or hang out with the guys. They understood though. They had drives too.

There were those who didn’t understand though. They said they wanted to be good at the piano or perhaps another instrument, but every time there was a party you’d be sure to see them there. Any time there was a cute girl to be distracted by they were ready to give her their undivided attention. On the occasional Wednesday leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend you’d see them in the practice rooms, mostly because everyone else had gone home and they were getting some practicing in to stave off boredom.

Now years later, my close friends, the ones who understood when I wasn’t at the party every Friday night, mostly because they were also ditching the party, and in the practice room down the hall from me, gig all the time. Many have become professionals and live completely off their instrument, or the royalties from music they write or perform. They have become rich beyond their wildest dreams when it comes to opportunities to use the musical talents they have spent a lifetime developing. Our other friends look at us and say, “Well you’re just a lot more talented than I am. I wish I was born with as much rhythm as you,” always thinking that it was some sort of luck of the draw or a genetic disposition that created such a gap in the wealth of musical ability. At this point there is not much to say that they will believe or understand. After all, way back, when we only had two pennies of musical ability to rub together between the whole lot of us, they didn’t understand why we would spend so much time in the practice rooms, giving the piano the first and best hours of our day, and saving the left overs for the parties and the hanging out. They did exactly the opposite and gave the most to the women and the good times, and filled in the gaps with cultivating their skills.

But in the end both got what they desired. They truly wanted the women and the parties and they got them at that time, but now they do not have the musicality because they invested only the left-overs. We at the time, invested only our left overs in women and parties, and often felt left out when people forgot to invite us to get together, being accustomed to us not showing up in the first place. But we gave our best to the piano, and it is what has born fruit for us and continues to grow to this day, for after all, once you’re rich you tend to get richer.

So one gets a frat group of drinking buddies that extends deep into their 20s and perhaps 30s. The other gets a skill that if nurtured, keeps growing and satisfies both them and those around them. Each to his own philosophy, investing first one way, then spending the rest another, or visa versa. The thing is, by the time you’re this age, the musician is the party and always gets an invite, where the guy who’s got no skills but is merely a good time often gets forgotten. Oddly enough the old adage is true, that when it comes to the poor, no matter what type of commodity of currency you’re speaking of, it does seem that even what he has is taken from him. Invest wisely.

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Quote of the Day, March 9, 2014: “Don’t seek gain, seek growth.” (Extended Version)

This quote comes from my pastor, but it harkens back to a conversation I had two weeks ago with another gentleman about what the trouble is with our society and business, and in particular, with Christians and business. It all stemmed from him speaking about how when he first had kids he found an interest in finding out what the best way to educate them would be. He started out looking for a concise definition that he could accept for the word “eduction.” Education is something that we speak about all the time in our society. Our politicians talk about it and how they are going to fund this school and that set of teachers, and all in the sake of education, but they never really speak about what education is or what it’s for. Our parents want us to get a good education, and our teachers push us to get good grades and go higher and higher in our education but it’s still never quite defined for us. Is an education literally that piece of paper they give you at the end stating that now you have an education? Does it mean you can recite poetry and recall obscure battles and what dates the occurred. The definition that this man said he finally settled on after years of search was this: (Paraphrase) Education is preparing someone to respond to and engage with the world in an appropriate manner. I can guarantee that is a paraphrase although I’m doing my best to recall his exact words. I do believe the ones I’ve chosen speak to the heart of what he said though. He found that the idea behind education was teaching a young person that there is a big world out there with all kinds of ideas, and tools, and facts, and dangers and wonders and that person will need the intellectual and emotional tools to be able to interact with that world in a way that is #1 beneficial to them, and #2 should be beneficial to those they are interacting with.

Now in today’s day and age we usually harp on education for one thing and one thing only. Yes sure we pretend that you should get a good education so that you are a well-rounded person, or a productive member of society or something of that lofty and idealised nature, but the real reason people say get a good education because they believe that is the way to make money, and money is how you get what you want and need in this world. It is true that without some kind of education, you definitely will not have what you want, nor what you need in terms of money or much of any other type of success. But that education does not need to come from a class room. It can come from what has become far too much of a cliche for me to use without blushing; “the streets.” It can from from wisdom passed on from your parents. Or it can come from an institution set up for the purpose of educating young (or old) people. It can come from many types of places but the reality is that if you don’t learn how to engage with the world in a manner that correlates with what you want, which usually means giving someone what they want first, then you will not make it, nor will you make anything better.

How this carried over into business, and therefore connects with the quote is this. He said that whether all of us like it or not, and whether the other half of us believe it’s still the case or not, the fact remains that our society is heavily Christianized. This means that while there are plenty of us that do not subscribe to Christianity, or even subscribe to a deity at all for that matter, the culture we find ourselves in has been created and sustained by Christian peoples for the last several hundred years. Whether you think of it as lasting influence or baggage, the fact remains that the majority of our ideals are Christian ideals. This is on a subconscious level and wont’ easily be taken from us as a culture, though on the conscious level we may seek to attain these ideals in what appear to be radically secularised ways. For example, both our political parties seek to help the poor and the needy. One party simply thinks that the other is going about it the wrong way. One says the only way to help is to teach people to help themselves. The other says the only way to help people is to sort of do it for them in a way. Independent of which one is right and which one is wrong, both  take for granted that it is a good thing to help the needy and they get their reasoning in the first place from their shared Christian cultural ideals. If we didn’t have these ideals then we would be having debates on whether is was right or not to help the needy in the first place. Aside from being taken over by a culture that has radically different religious roots we will never see a debate on whether taking care of the poor and needy is a good thing or not in North America or Western Europe. We will however debate on how  to get this done, but never whether it should be done. Christianity teaches that those who are strong should take care of and make accommodations for those who are weak. Christianity teaches that those who have plenty should take care of those who are in need. Those are the givens in our society at a subconscious level, whether there are many other cultures who teach that those who are weak should show deference to those who are strong. This is why men hold doors for women, slavery of minority ethnic groups is outlawed, and children can’t work until they are 16. The confusion comes in when they play out on a day to day basis and we can see that we still have some maturing to do as a society. One place where we seem to have gotten confused, as a people, and as a still subconsciously Christian people is in business.

Business has become a dangerous word because it’s a slippery slope toward the word Big business which is certainly a curse word. And if big business is a curse word then ‘profits’ must be one of the most vulgar of all. In short this is because our subconscious religious heritage teaches us that there is more to life than what can be seen or touched. That is to say that there is not only more to our existence than material world but that there are things that actually supersede the material world. And all that money can buy are material things. It also teaches us that those who place too much importance on the material, at the expense of putting importance on the immaterial are fools and can lead to wickedness. And to top it all off, we have a directive to take care of the needy, and we almost always think of the needy in terms of material resources. There are plenty out there who ignore this religious and cultural directive to the point of doing the exact opposite and actually oppressing the needy. Because our culture is rather duplicitous at the moment, being intent on freeing our conscious behavior from the tyrannical shackles of Christianity and religion, but being forever subconsciously tied to it, we start to lose track of why  we believe some things are right and somethings are wrong, but still have an innate drive to carry out those rights and avoid those wrongs. When this confusion sets in, as it has for some time our society grows more and more politically chaotic and culturally schizophrenic. Instead of the potential oppressor being kept in check so as to never fall into the temptation of using his strength for ill, he becomes the very oppressed himself, in an effort to combat the ill dreamed up in a nightmare of one of the potentially oppressed, to give the oppressor a taste of his own medicine, a medicine that he hasn’t even necessarily concocted yet. Like a doctor sues book where fictional creatures are getting stars tattooed and then removed on them so fast that nobody can quite tell who the original perpetrator was, or if there ever was one, we take what is good, but has potential for evil, and then do that evil to them in the name of what is good, convoluting both entirely. Over time this develops not only a natural hatred for those with strength, any kind of strength really, which allows for many different kinds of people to fall into the category of being loathed by a confused society that is grappling with an innate sense of right, without acknowledging its source: corporations, men, whites, the rich, the religious majority, the educated, those with white collar jobs, the banking industry, the oil industry, attractive people, tall people, popular kids in school, whoever. If they have power, even if they aren’t wielding it, even if it’s only perceived power, because we’ve kept our ideals but thrown out the ‘manual’ so to speak, they are suspect and probably got that power from doing something bad.

Business and profits are no exception. The idea behind profits though, is that in the truest sense of the word, it does not mean gain, which is n excess of wealth, of fat really. And admittedly so, it has become that to many of us. When profit becomes gain, the acquisition of more and more, the consumption of more than is sufficient, then they are tainted and not only seen as greedy or distasteful by our fellow man (usually because of his own greed and jealousy) but it also goes against how God wants us to profit. That is because it is hard to gain in the sense of acquisition without taking form others. The true sense of the word profit is to grow. When we succeed in business or in any other part of life, we often retain excess with which we use to grow the good we are already doing. Success in business finds the growth of not only the business but the customer and the laborers as well. That is why the demonization of business and profit is understandable, seeing as we are culturally too confused to recognize good strength being used well versus ill-gotten strength being used poorly, and the fact that there are plenty out there who would prove this demonization to be justified with the way they conduct themselves. But this demonization is ultimately incorrect because it cannot recognize the need for and the command to grow as being contrasted against, but equally important to our command to take care of the needy. Growth strengthens those involved, while gain decays.

In business it is always better to focus on growth rather than gain. A child that ‘gains’ retains fat that is of little use to him and often slows him down. Aside from genetic reasons this often happens because of a sort of gluttony or a greed with food or the wrong types of food which ultimately makes the child weaker and weaker. A child who grows is eating the right kinds and the right amounts of food allowing him to get stronger and grow and do even more things as he approaches adulthood.

A business have profit, presumably because they are providing a service or a product that others need. They are not only providing this to people but doing it in an organized fashion that is dependable for their customers. This is a good thing and this good earns them profits. Some heads of companies take more and more of these profits and squander them on frivolities or keeping up with the business owner down the street. This luxury will eventually turn into fat because it is neither a wise nor helpful way to use those profits. But a company may also use those profits to do the good they are already doing, but more of it, or better. This is growth which in turn helps even more people on the outside but strengthens the company on the inside. Growth and change for the better is always a good thing. Acquiring for the sake of having more and more is not and usually leaves us with less or in a weakened state in the end. That’s simple enough.

Quote of the Day, November 12, 2013: “Sometimes you need to burn bridges in hopes that they can be rebuilt better and stronger than before.”

 

Guest Writer: Christina Beyler    

Burning a bridge can mean so many things but I want to focus on burning the bridge of a friend. Misunderstood anger, frustration, an argument, growing up and moving on can all lead to burning bridges. Burning a bridge is not as bad as it sounds not all the time. It’s cutting the ties off of someone that you may still care for but an event has occurred that has caused the “boat to rock,” for instance, an argument or a misunderstanding. Sometimes when people are so stubborn and something gets out of hand it might just be better for the two parties to stop and walk away. I have a particular friend that this pertains to. I love her dearly but growing up we had our issues. We have been friends for about 18 years and through those years we were not always the best of friends. In fact, we were not friends at times. Stupid fights and hormones will do it every time. We would have our time apart but would grow so much during this period we have always come back to each other as stronger friends and less stupid. I may not hear from her or see her everyday, but I know she’s there when I need her and vice versa. No maybe you care for this person but have been put into a position (willing) where you have become the “bad guy.” Friends confide with each other. Tell each other whatever problems they may be having at that time. A friend, should give support, offer advice and a shoulder to cry on right? Well, sometimes one person is the friend, and the other party may not like the things being said or just doesn’t understand. I have been in this position more than once. And everytime I tell myself never again, but what are you supposed to do when your friend comes to you crying? It almost always ends with burning a bridge, unless there is some compromise, but that’s rare. Sometimes it is good to walk away before the bridge burns to where it cannot be rebuilt. It’s only natural when you have a feeling of rocky waters to question the quality of your friendship. One key factor; trust. If there is no trust it might be better to move on and hope that the friendship (bridge) can be rebuilt stronger. Unfortunately, sometimes the bridge cannot be rebuilt but I feel that is a sign that that person does not need to participate in your life.

Quote of the Day, September 12, 2013: “Always remember, even when it’s bad…it’s good.”

So tonight’s quote of the day came at the end of the day and it was from me. I yelled it across the parking lot at a couple I had just met. The wife yelled back, “hey I think I like that, ya I really do like that.”

I had gone to a lecture that night given by Dr. Brian Hynek of Colorado University Boulder. He is a geologist by trade and has traveled all around the world from Central America, to Europe to Africa studying, what else, rock formations. But in his lecture he touched on so much more.

He’s actually done extensive work with NASA and their various Mars missions and has played a key role in their ability to study the rock samples found on those missions to better understand the makeup of the planet and to identify traces of water and other materials. The lecture was very fascinating and touched on all kinds of areas of the physics in how they play in the science of astrobiology. Astrobiology is basically a fancy word for extraterrestrial life.

He was certain to let us know that none has been found to date, but he went all through the processes NASA does to look for and identify potentially habitable planets that could possibly have life on them. Most of it involves comparing various environments on earth and how the various life forms we find here survives in some of the most hostile regions.

After the lecture I ended up meeting many of the staff members of the Colorado Museum of the West and the Math and Science Center as well as Dr. Hynek and his wife who is a marine microbiologist.

Somehow we ended up walking out, not together but at the same. I mentioned that I had overheard that they were having a baby and congratulated them. They said it was their first. I told them I was only a little ahead of them with my first being 7 months. So he shouted across the parking lot if I had any advice about starting a family. Todays quote is all I could think of.

Quote of the Day, September 10, 2013: “The easy road often becomes hard, but the hard road often becomes easy.”

Pretty sure this is a variation on one of the quotes from the past but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite sayings because as I get deeper and deeper into the trenches of adulthood it seems to prove itself over and over and over again in almost every way.

 

Today it comes from an encounter I had with a plastic surgeon. It was outpatient surgery using a local anesthetic so to keep my mind off of the tugging and strange sound of cutting that I could hear because he was working near my ear, the physician talked with me. We talked about the weather (rain), what we like to do for fun; you know the usual at first. But then said he was listening to public radio the other day and heard an interesting story.

 

They were doing some research on jobs and college degrees and they were on an unnamed college interviewing students about their coursework decisions. According to the radio program the last few years the most common degree by far has been psychology. The problem is that when we get out of school, psychology degrees end up earning near the bottom when it comes to entry (and long term) income. That’s because of three common misconceptions, and I’ll let you decide which one today’s quote of the day is referring to.

 

Misconception #1: Most students tend to think of a psychology degree and then envision themselves graduating and working in their own private office where people walk in, lay on the couch, look up at the fancy Kandinsky artwork on the ceiling and say, “well Doc, it all started in my childhood…” We see ourselves charging $100 and hour to talk to someone about how their mom not buying them a Lego set when they were 7 led them to their mid-life crisis now 50 years later. What we don’t realize is that we are actually thinking of a psychiatrist not a psychology. The basic difference there is that the psychiatrist is able to administer drugs and the psychologist cannot. And that apparently is where the money is, however it takes a lot more schooling and a lot better understanding of anatomy and neurology.

 

Misconception #2: Most students don’t realize that the vast majority of psychology degree-type jobs are in social work, which is usually government work. Now there is of course nothing wrong with working for the government, and it is actually really worth while and helpful work, however the government is not really known for its high paying entry level positions.

 

Misconception #3: According to the radio program most of the students interviewed picked psychology as their major because the coursework itself was said to not be very difficult. And in our Cs (and sometimes Ds) get degrees culture, that can be what a lot of students opt for. The problem is that it’s relatively easy compared to say engineering, but only for about 4 years, or a little longer if you go on to graduate work. Then you are out and the easy wears off fast.

 

Apparently the highest entry level pay these days if for a Petroleum Engineering Degree; around $120k a year. Who’da thunk? I hear it’s pretty tough coursework though.

Degrees are A Lot Like Credit Scores

Forget what they taught you in school (or what they taught you in homeschool). Degrees are like credit scores, just another way for those who are too lazy and scared to really invest in you as a person, to assess risk.

As I’ve grown I’ve found that there are really two competing schools of thought when it comes to, well, schooling. You see, growing up I always took for granted that it was very desirable to go to college and get a degree in a profession of your choice. Having a mother with a degree who made good money, and a father without even a high school diploma, who made even more money, I realized that college doesn’t make or break you. But even still I grew up assuming that if you could, you would and should. A university is where you went to learn more in depth about a certain subject and where you would rub elbows against other sharp minds and talents in that field. I often have a stubborn, or prideful side, that tends toward wanting to reinvent the wheel because being told how to do something was somehow some sort of weakness. But I had to admit that wheels had been invented before and that going to school was, in theory, joining the global conversation of what works and what hasn’t worked in the past. By being taught what the world has already discovered in this field or that, you skip having to come up wit it yourself and instead you get to be brought up to speed and put in a position to add to that collective knowledge. Not only does this enable you to skip having to make all those discoveries others have already done, but it allows you to be brought up to speed with the rest of the world in that field, who you would assume, have also been schooled in the triumphs and defeats of the past.

Later on in life I found myself around a group of people who thought almost completely the opposite. Schooling, especially higher education was a place where future drones go to deaden their creativity and ingenuity. Not much value was placed on the collective understanding of a field because the odds are, that field has been so politicized and watered down by the changing whims of society as it devolves over the years that most of the information gained in a classroom setting is less than useless, more detrimental. Instead of being seen as someone who was willing to forgo the instant gratification of a job right out of high school for the investment in their future, someone with a college degree was seen as someone who wanted to delay the inevitability of adulthood for four more years of drunken parties and a sense of entitlement once it was all over and done with. Personal experience is the only true teacher and any other is a liar and a fraud.

Both sides can get pretty obnoxious. Let’s face it. We’ve all met that girl who thinks her master’s degree in Dead Elvish Languages with a minor in Ancient Arctic Feminist Psychology makes her better and smarter than everyone around her, and if a guy doesn’t have a Ph.D. then he’s a waste of her time. Meanwhile she’s 29 and still struggles to understand why her credit cards are eating her alive between her bi-weekly trips to the salon and her addiction to collecting Gilmore Girls paraphernalia.

In turn we’ve also all met that guy who dropped out of school in the 11th grade and is a self-made man who’s constantly bringing up the fact that he never went to college and doesn’t have some fancy pants degree on the wall in his office and he’s doing just fine, and then you pause and say, “Ya that’s great John, I’m just wondering why you managed to slip that in in the middle of our conversation about how my tennis elbow is really hindering my backhand.” It often seems more out of insecurity than out of confidence.

The thing about degrees is in this world of ours where we are all either too lazy or too busy to get to know one another, a degree behaves much like a credit score does. I mean seriously, what if I showed up at a bank and acted like a snotty nosed brat because I had a 750. They would say, “Great, want a cookie?” So in the same respect, why would we go around with our noses in the air if we have a degree. While only 25% of adults in the US have degrees, there’s also a sense in which, great you have a degree, who doesn’t? But at the same time, not having a degree is hardly a bragging point. “Look at me! I managed to buy this huge house and I didn’t even have a good credit score or anything!” Well that deserves a mild, “good for you.” And then after that not much more than a shrug and a, “who cares?”

What I mean is this. With all the political chatter, and emotional hype around education and what it means and what it should mean, let’s just admit it. Once you get out into the world of bills and jobs and money lenders and 401ks degrees act a lot like a credit score, not much more, and not much less. And while having a good credit score is a good thing and can often open a few doors that otherwise would have been closed, aside from their utilitarian value, they deserve neither glorification nor demonization

  • Sure in theory a degree means you have undergone years of study and are probably a lot more informed, current, and possibly even intelligent for it. – By the same token, having a good credit score, in theory means you’ve been lent money or services, and have diligently and timely paid back those who lent you them on a consistent basis. (Key phrase: in theory)
  • Because you have this degree in business, in theory, you are probably pretty good at business and therefore I feel comfortable giving you a job in my business firm, seeing as you are probably more likely to succeed than someone who does not have a business degree. – Likewise if you have a 764, in theory, you have probably paid your bills on time for a long time, and I feel very comfortable lending you money because someone with the history of bill-paying that you have, means you are very likely to pay me back this money in the future. At least a lot more likely to pay me back than someone with a 500. (Key phrase: in theory)
  • You can be the most experienced person in the world, and actually sit down and demonstrate how much understanding and knowledge you have in a field, but a large company is tied by its own policies to not hire you, while they are able to hire someone who demonstrates less ability, simply because they have a degree. This is because our society is so large and so statistically and formulaically driven, we do not have the time nor the desire to get our hands dirty to really know the person. This time and annoyance saved is actually worth the potential money lost apparently. To replace getting to know the person and their abilities, regardless of where those abilities were derived, we lazily put our trust in certifications and diplomas, reluctantly giving in to the assumption that because the degree exists, that person simply must have the desired qualities for the position. – Once again you can be the most reliable and trust worthy ‘yes means yes and no means no’ kind of person around, and you could even know the individual loans officer personally, but a bank will give more money at a better interest rate (code for they trust them more) to an obviously more sleazy person with a great credit score. That’s because while they may ask you different questions about your life and your past they really don’t care to get to know you all that well, and just rely on that score to tell them what they can assume about the odds of you paying them back.

Basically it comes down to this. A credit score is used by lending institutions, rental housing, and sometimes even jobs to assess the probability of lending you something, or giving you a responsibility, and getting that money back, or having you live up to that responsibility. There are tons of factors that go into what really makes a person reliable or trustworthy at any given point in their life, and while lending institutions do take some of these factors into account, they rely heavily on this abstract number that is a very sterile and impersonal way of determining how dependable you really are. A degree behaves in the same manner. An employer with multiple applicants certainly takes time to sit and talk with them and look at a variety of other factors, but many employers rely heavily on a simple piece of paper that has no intrinsic value or definitive meaning in itself. It allows them to reasonably assume that you’ve have some sort of background in the field they want you to be knowledgeable in and they are willing to take a chance on you because of it.

So just take them for face value. These things are good to have because they make people assume that their risk is diminished by their presence. They are certainly nothing to brag about though. And also nothing to jeer at. I’m always a fan of having more options than less myself.