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, June 13, 2014: “Wealth gained quickly will dwindle away, but the one who gathers little by little will become rich.”

We all want to get rich quick. That’s because we all either are in a bad financial situation, or simply lack the amount of resources to do what we truly want to do, and either way we want that problem alleviated now. Enter every get rich quick scheme imaginable to play on your emotional desire to have more resources, much more resources with the promise of delivering overnight. That kind of promise gets our emotions to flare and gets us to give in to whatever the scheme is in a frenzy, not because we actually think it’s a smart idea that will actually work, but more because we want it to work so bad we almost think we can will it into existence. We become the guy who spends his rent money on an exotic stock tip that’s supposed to beat the market, or the lady who loses all her friends pushing bath soaps for some MLM, or even the guy who buys a fixer upper and thinks by adding a coat of paint and some drapes he’ll turn around and sell it for $100k more than he bought it for. Or worse yet, the person who simply thinks that by hoping and praying and going along to get along that they will someday simply be given a promotion from their job, or get another job that pays an outlandish salary and then all their prayers will be answered. And of course the worst of all, the habitual lottery ticket purchaser.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these things have a place. Investing in the market is good if you actually have the money to spare and are realistic about the potential returns. This may be heresy to some but there are even a few multi-level marketing businesses that are worth their salt, provide value to their customers and put extra mailbox money in the middle man’s pocket. A couple adept at the ins and outs of real estate who aren’t afraid of a little hammering and sawdust can make millions flipping houses. People do get raises every day, and if they are smart about their extra money, an extra few dollars an hour could mean a complete change in lifestyle. And of course while most of us don’t know anyone personally, somebody out there does win the lottery every once in a while and aside from the taxes and the lottery curse, they could fill a pool with gold bars if they wanted to (although that would be a cool concept for a magazine photo shoot but dumb idea overall).

The point with all this is this. Wealth isn’t the word I want to choose because while it’s accurate, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture in the mind. Resources fits better. There are those of us who have a serious deficiency in resources. There are those of us who are fine but also lack the resources to do certain things that we dream about or want to do. But to suddenly get those resources overnight, while it would seem to be a God-send, and granted there are those of us out there who would do well, for the most part we wouldn’t really know what to do with them. When something grows over time we watch it. We learn its habits. We learn what slows its growth down and what seems to accelerate it. We learn just how much water and sunlight it needs so to speak. It’s almost a relationship, whether it be with a plant or with money and we watched the whole process. This way we know exactly where it came from and how to keep it going. When something springs up overnight we have a rough concept of where it may have come from, but we don’t have that deep understanding that comes with watching something with patience and discipline. I might by a stock today, and for some reason the market makes a jump and I sell it in a week and make thousands. In theory that can happen and that would be very fortunate, but it would be luck more than anything else. It kind of just happened and while I might say that I had a feeling or that company’s logo is my favorite color or whatever, the fact is I don’t really understand how and where that thousand bucks came from. I won’t be able to do it again. And even if I could the odds of keeping that up are astronomical.

Now if I took the time to study changes in the different markets. Look for indicators of booms and busts over several different industries over say, 80 years, then I might have a fighting chance at making some consistent money that doesn’t just grow and then drain out with every cycle. But that wasn’t quick. I had to take the time, a long time, to develop a relationship with the numbers and the financial climate and all of that to become proficient. I know where the money comes from and how it works. Now I can make it grow dependably.

It’s almost like coming into the age of science and leaving the age of magic in the past. When our ancestors relied heavily on the inconsistency of gods and goddesses that lurked within every rock or tree, all with conflicting agendas and different sets of powers to control the environment we lived in, the world was a much darker and seemingly confusing place. The concept of magic worked simply because it worked sometimes and it didn’t work other times. Life was, as they say brutish and short. Enter the age of science and reason, and yes while it has its own problems, for the sake of the illustration I’ll point out that people began to see that there was order to the universe. All things work together according to natural laws, not the arbitrary whims of a goddess over here battling against the desires of a god over there. There was a time when horseback was the fasted mode of travel, and while we saw birds covering great distances in short timespans, we could only fantasize about riding on the back of a Pegasus through the sky to our destination. We hadn’t put in the time yet to understand that those birds weren’t using magic, they were simply using laws built into the environment. The idea that perhaps with the right magic dust or the right incantation one could fly for a moment perhaps. Thousands of years later, after much trial and error, many crashes and many deaths even, we can fly anywhere we want in the world with such consistency that you are more likely to get bucked off a horse today than fall from the sky in a plane. This is because over time we’ve put in the effort and the discipline to have a consistent resource that only keeps getting better and better as the years go by because we have an intimate understanding of how and why it works.

Resources that come quickly and easily usually fade just as quickly and easily. That’s simply because we don’t really understand how we got it. Stocks feel like gambling. MLMs feel like money just grows out of feelings. Flipping seems kind of like playing Monopoly HGTV Edition. A raise or a promotion tends to feel arbitrary, and winning the lottery just means for whatever reason God likes you today. None of these things mean anything particularly useful to the recipient if they come easy or quickly. But if the skills and luck required for these and other forms of gaining resources are learned over time so that they actually stick in the mind and the mystery fades behind how they work over time, then even when things do happen quickly, the recipient has a firm understanding of the whys and hows and can use lucky breaks to continue to gain more resources is a much more controlled way.

Quote of the Day, April 20, 2014: “Why do you search for the living, among the dead?”

I wrote this this morning, as a letter to a friend of mine who is in prison. Today’s quote of the day overtook me somehow today and it made me think of him and I had to write him but looking back at the letter now, 12 hours later, it seems an informal but fitting expression of what the quote means to me. I will say that some of the language is very informal, although I’ve changed it so as to not be offensive. I am usually the first to say that anyone who uses some of the baser words in our vernacular simply do not have a large enough vocabulary to express themselves in a more accurate and more appropriate manner, and yet in this instance, I stand corrected, in that I feel as though the words I used fit exactly the spirit of what I was trying to say and what I was feeling at the time. The letter continues as follows……

[Friend},

It’s Easter Sunday. I just got home from playing piano for the 8 o’clock service at church and I’m eating and helping Felicia get the kids ready for the 10:30 service where I’ll have to play again. Denzel is now 10 days old. It’s incredible how he’s already changing, and has the face of a little boy instead of the scrunched up wrinkly face of a new born. I’m typing today because, frankly it’s faster and I can get a lot more down before my fingers cramp up, which I don’t want since I’ll have to play later today ha.

I felt compelled to write to you today because as I was driving back home, I kept singing Amazing Grace, some crazy runny gospel version I had heard as a kid. Made me think of my dad, as it usually does, but then it made me think of you, and of me. On April 26 my dad will have been dead for 9 years now. I think I’m over it but every once in a while something reminds me that I’m never quite over it, but merely distract myself with other things so I won’t have to think about it. And then I was thinking about you, and how you’re in prison and can’t be with [your wife and kids], and just how it feels like everything is just messed up. And that no matter what kind of moral code we impose on ourselves, what kind of legislation is passed, whatever, we can’t escape the fact that life is messed up, people screw up and screw us over, relationships bloom and fade, and people die and leave us. Life is screwed up.

But then today is Easter. I’ve known what Easter is about since I was a little kid and never doubted its truth. But have you ever known something was true but never felt it before? And only when you finally feel it do you know the difference. Well I sat in my truck and thought of all these things and sang to myself, and suddenly it hit me, Yes life is jacked up and there’s no way to fix it. And yes going to church and following the rules is a good thing and all that but that’s not why Jesus came to earth in the form of a man. He came to redeem us. To say yes life is jacked up, and no, no matter what you do you can’t fix it all, rules or no rules it’s not going to work. And yes there is suffering in this life, TONS of INTENSE suffering. But no our cries do not fall upon deaf ears and our cries for salvation do move God’s heart. Not salvation from some future hell-type afterlife that will engulf us in flames after the grave, although we don’t want that surely. But salvation from the crap of this life as well, freedom from those who wish to harm us and, more importantly, from the harm we cause ourselves. He says, “yes you’ve got problems, you’ve got baggage, you’ve got [crap], and it’s too heavy for you. There are days when you feel like its so heavy you’ll collapse under the weight and won’t be able to go on, and surely there will be a day when you will not be able to go on because it is so heavy.” But God says, “I’m strong enough to carry it for you, and I will carry it for you. I love you.” And then because we are so intrenched in our crap and our bondage to our own suffering, we out right killed him, for how dare he be such a tease as to bring up the serious matter of saving us from our mess, when surely nobody really can. We’ve tried it all before. So they killed him and that was that. And he was dead and the crap and the baggage and the suffering went on, business as usual. But then three days later something happened. He died, and was buried. I mean death is the biggest problem, the heaviest load of crap that we have in this life to deal with, and it’s above all things, IRREVERSIBLE. And Jesus died. And was dead. For a while. Three days is a while to be dead. But then he comes back to life. He picks up the heaviest of our baggage, the biggest load Satan and the crap of this life have to offer, and he says, “Is that all you got?” And then he says, “Come on, follow me. If I can carry this, the heaviest of loads and come back stronger than ever, how much more can I handle the baggage that you come with. I love you and it will be ok. Trust me and I will see you through. And one day I will wipe away every tear.”

All that was going on in my head. That that guy actually fricken DIED, and he actually fricken CAME BACK TO LIFE and then says that if you trust in me I will take care of you too. I just started balling in my car. I didn’t get out because I didn’t want [my son] to see me like that but idk man. Today is a good day. Yes I’m at home with my kids, and you’re in captivity, away from those you love, but for both of us, not so much because of what he did on the cross, but because of what he did after, because of this day, when he beat back all that suffering had to offer and came back for us, because of that, today is a good day for both you and me, and [your wife, and [my wife], and your dad, and mine, for [your kids and for mine], for your [brother] and for mine, and all of us.

Quote of the Day, December 3, 2013: “We apologize, collectively, for anyone who may have hurt you or wounded you in the name of a God they obviously needed more time getting to know, they had no right to do that, and we pray for the healing of those wounds.”

I read this quote as the tag out line of a blog that was posted on a friends Facebook. The blog was by a devout non-Christian who became one a few years back and is explaining that she now gets what all the hub bub is about. While I like that article, that’s not what intrigued me about this quote. The quote itself was intriguing because I’ve simply never heard that, now famous, apology put in those particular terms. As a “word” guy it struck me.

 

It’s an age-old complaint that so many wrong and hurtful things have been done by Christians, in the name of God. Which of course invalidates anything a Christian may ever say about anything right? Much in the same way that perhaps the fact that our country doesn’t always do the absolute, 100% perfectly right thing by people across the globe or its own citizens sometimes invalidates it as a sovereign nation right? Ok without being too sarcastic, I will mention that my personal favorite is that go-to phrase that otherwise very thoughtful and intelligent people often think makes Christianity completely tumble at the mere utterance, “What about the Crusades?”

 

Ok now that that is done, the part that I found intriguing was this phrase: “…in the name of  a God they obviously needed more time getting to know.” I’ve never heard it put that way. I suspect its because it was written by a relatively new Christian and they haven’t yet gotten the jargon down yet so they use things like synonyms to get their points across instead of the same list of approved sayings and phrases. I love it. Because that is the point. God is the all-knowing, all-loving, perfect one. He’s the one that can do it right. We Christians can’t quite do it right. That’s the whole point. We know we can’t do it right and we admit we need help. God is many things, but one of those this is a personality whom we get to know over time. The more we get to know him, just like a friend, the more we can accurately represent him. This doesn’t happen over night. This doesn’t happen in a mad passion of zealotry. It takes time.

 

So the people that go around apologizing for God all the time, as if He’s like your toddler who’s going through a rebellious stage and whom you love but he’s embarrassing you at your bosses Christmas party, that’s not where it’s at. God is the perfect one. We are the ones who are not perfect. It’s to be expected that humans will hurt each other and screw up. If there is an apology to be made, it’s not for God, but for the people who claim to know him so much that they ‘don’t screw up anymore’ and use his name to hurt other people and to do wrong when they don’t necessarily know what they are talking about.

This is a link to the original article the quote is from

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.