Sunday, 27 May 2012

Love & Peace & added value

Love and peace – you can’t have both. Money can’t buy you love and marriage doesn’t buy you peace.
If you want peace and calm in your life, it’s best to stay single or invest your time and energy with another like minded soul…..who enjoys solitude and smelling the roses.

Marriage is a relationship training ground. It’s an assault course where your vulnerabilities are exposed, your faith tested and your ego put through its paces to see if its healthy or sick. No one should embark upon this if they think otherwise. It’s not about hearts, flowers and choosing a honeymoon destination.

Marriage and relationships are a mix of the crazy and sensible. 
These scenarios are enacted as soon as the starry-eyed couple set up home. 

“But I want duck egg  blue quilts to match the curtains”, the young wife wails to her husband whose eyes are riveted to thebaseball. 
“And I want quiet to watch the game,” retorts the young husband. 
Look, listen, learn - that's love
“I want to go for a romantic walk in the moonlight,” explains the young wife. “And I want a cold beer,” snaps the husband. 

This is just the start of the downhill slide. Once the children come along there’s more conflict.
“Annie just hit Tim over the head; I’m putting her in time-out,” says the mother decisively.
 “But she’s just a baby herself and she didn’t mean any harm,” Dad says, his eyes now fixed on the computer screen. 
Dad goes up to Annie and puts her on his lap and they play a computer game together.

The teen years become even more challenging. “Why did you stay out so late?” Mum asks teen son angrily. 
“Aw, he’s just doing what comes naturally; I was just the same at his age,” replies Dad.

Once they hit the twentieth wedding anniversary. 
“Hey, I just heard that Mary and Tom down the road are divorcing.” 
Mum pauses from chopping the vegetables 
“But Tom’s so helpful; always trimming the hedges, mowing the lawn, taking the trash out, looking after the kids when Mary goes for spa weekends, cooking dinner when she works late. God, I thought they were so happy,” she sighs.

Dad sits down on the couch, thinking. I never do half as much as Tom and they’re quitting on their marriage. He watches his wife tossing the vegetables into the pan and checking the oven to see that the roast isn’t burnt.  He then sees her folding the laundry neatly ready for ironing. He notices her writing on the calendar his dental appt. God, I gotta do more around the house. I don’t want us to end up like Tom and Mary.

This is progressive thinking and most men – and women- don’t seem to have grasped it. A friend or neighbour’s divorce can be just the tonic if your relationship is in the doldrums. The divorce of a friend or family member can add value to your marriage. It forces you to take stock. It wakes you up from your marital slumber when you thought you’d always wake up and find him/her next to you. This is when you stop taking it for granted. You’ve gotta get motivated and save your marriage.

Walk or don't walk?
Wise guys wisen up and get pro-active. They start paying attention to their partners. Making dinner, buying flowers, doing the dishes or a foot rub are the ways to solidify a marriage that’s close to dissolution.

Some marriages cannot be saved. Some people in difficult partnerships have to become teachers of relationship building. Divorcees are such teachers. You can learn a lot from their mistakes so heed their advice well.

One is not lonely, that's peace
Divorce, like marriage, is a pathway to wisdom. You either choose to spend your life with a partner or as a soloist. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Both lead to enlightenment. One is not superior to the other, though the world may tell you different.

A divorce in the family or amongst your circle of friends can make you more committed towards enhancing your own relationship. If you want to try out for marriage then choose love, not peace. You may eventually find that it’s peace - not love - that ultimately adds value to your life. It’s your life so choose well.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Inner winner – Philippe Petit – small man with big faith

Lose your fear not your head!
On the inside you know you’re a winner. You know you have skills, talents, abilities and potential that don’t transfer so easily to the outside.

You can play a few chords - but inside - you know you’re a concert pianist.

You can kick a ball around a field - but inside - you’re a world class soccer player

You can paint a decent picture on canvas with oils - but inside - you could rival Van Gogh or Da Vinci.

You can write a few lines and probably more if you put your mind to it-  but inside-  you could have written books and plays as much as any of the greats.

You are financially astute and are a meticulous manager of money - but inside - you’re a dealer in shares and bonds with a yacht in a marina.

Inside you know you can be anything you want to be but doubt stops you in your tracks. If your self-belief was stronger you’d definitely be a winner.

Crucify him
One person who managed to break through his doubts and transform them into unstinting faith is Philippe Petit. A Frenchman and high wire walker who, in 1974, famously walked across the twin towers in New York.

Philippe Petit considers himself to be ordinary but what gives him this extraordinary faith in himself? Passion, intuition, tenacity and improvisation – that is Philippe’s unique philosophy.

He did not seek permission to walk across the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and in fact was arrested straight after his attempt. At the time he was taken into custody and charged with illegal trespass.

The world does not often recognise heroes as we know them to be. Another famous one was crucified.

Philippe Petit was a magician before he became a wire walker. He understood how easily the human eye is deceived by sleight of hand. Perhaps this is the technique he employed to achieve his amazing feats which, before the Twin Towers escapade, was the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Cathedral at Notre Dame.

Grab a piece of sky
He had to suppress his fear by duping his rational mind into believing that it was possible. Fear did not even enter into the equation as it had been overridden by passion.

In 1974, the Twin Towers were unfinished, newly built, but had no furnishings or staff. Philippe and his co-conspirators disguised themselves as security staff to enter the building and take the lift to the upper most floors (of each tower).

Philippe and his partner were in one tower and they hid under a tarpaulin for 8 hours before they attempted this astonishing feat.

In the second tower, his other partners were ready to rig the wire. On 7th August 1974, Philippe crossed the wire suspended between the towers a total of six times to stunned onlookers below. At times, he appeared to be bouncing on the wire as if dancing.

The New York emergency services were alerted and Philippe was promptly arrested and charged. His “crime” was documented as “man on wire” which became the name of a docu-film.

Shortly after, he was feted and given an honorary pass to the highest floors. Sadly, the twin towers are no more and Philippe watched in sadness as the first and second planes hit those monuments on 11th September 2001.

Stop it
Today, Philippe Petit teaches high wire walking to overcome fear. He knows that overcoming our fears increases our capacity for joyful human experience.

This work is important when we consider how we sometimes keep ourselves from high achievements due to the psychological blocks within. Philippe’s most recent crossing across the Israeli-Palestine border was a powerful reminder of how unification not division is strength. There are no boundaries in human potential and freedom of growth and movement is a divine right.

Philippe is a man who knows he is an inner winner, but outside, the world thinks of him as nothing more than a glorified trapeze artist. Philippe has no investment in popular opinion and has followed his heart and continued wire walking.

I did it
There’s no greater fix in life than being an inner winner and those who know it never lose.

Inside – you know you are – but how long will it take for you to show it?

Start counting your wins and let go of your sins.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Conscious spending - my judgement

Economical hedonist
Good personal finance is about the healthy management of your money. It’s when you master your money and not the other way around. It’s about keeping the internal financial adviser informed about your current life strategies. It’s also having regular meetings with your operations manager – your emotions.

We spend because we feel. Our feelings dictate the kind of purchases we make and how much we spend. Spending less than we earn is the ideal as is any other good habit there is to cultivate. If we were creatures of good habit we’d be in a better place spiritually.

Oops I did it again!
Conscious spending is the new buzzword for frugality I’m told. I may not be always frugal in my spending but I am conscious in my extravagance. All the frivolous things I’ve done in the name of money have had sound reasoning attached to them – at the time.

The lace dress embellished with sequins for a black tie event now looks positively garish; the red shoes that matched a particular outfit for a royal tea party now stand idle in the cupboard; the storage boxes that preserved things I wanted to keep forever now hold items that are no longer useful; novelty cake tins that I was going to use and impress family and friends with my baking skills have rarely seen the inside of an oven; ornaments that were supposed to add that je-ne-sais-quoi-to my home now look tired and dated.

Money can't buy me wonderland
Once time moves on you find that what had meaning previously has disappeared into the ether. We are agents of change so we change our clothes, tastes and minds. Change can be so powerful and subtle that it’s unnerving to people around us. They think we’re behaving out of character and too often we spend time “in character” just to live up to other people’s image of us.

The road to conscious spending is riddled with potholes known as debt and non-money sense.
I would love to say that I’ve been frugal most of my life but it would be a lie. I was hiding my head in the sand (of a sun-kissed beach in the Carribean!) and hoping that my spending would come right in the end.

I’m not a committed frugalite and I frequently fall of the wagon…on purpose. Life becomes too monotonous when you have to count every penny. I tried keeping track of everything I spent in neat columns and it revealed that my needs and wants were frequent and plentiful.

If life is for living then living means spending. Everything I want becomes a need and everything I need becomes a want. The best way to unscramble this conundrum is to want nothing and need no thing. That’s the healthiest way to live and in the moment.

So what about food and subsistence? If we only lived on the quantity of food we truly needed for optimum health our grocery bill would be slashed. Fruit, nuts and water are the most healthful and cost little.

Consciousness to me means re-thinking and re-inventing our life styles NOT cutting down or saving a few dollars here and there. I’m intrigued by people who opt for drastic rather than frugal. Take Adam Baker of or The Dennings of They’re travelling light having life adventures instead of deciding whether to cancel their cable subscription or upgrade their TV.

My financial profile is that I’m sub-consciously extravagant and consciously responsible. I don’t need a TV, cell phone, new shoes/clothes, bread, milk and eggs BUT my family do. Due diligence in my role as a parent forces me to sift through their wants, needs and desires. Each week I do battle with the household budget to ensure that my expenses are covered. Choosing to eat less to spend on a useful object or experience is constantly on my to-do list.

Frugality, conscious spending, tight-wad, spend-thrift are all judgements and I’ve been some of them. We’re starting on a negative path when we judge others. Better that we live up to our own standards of dignity and self-respect. I’ve known frugalities who are mean-spirited in their decision making and spendthrifts who are generous – they’re my personal judgements!

I’m an economical hedonist! I love pleasure seeking – some that don’t cost a thing and some that do. I hate labels as I’m somewhere in the middle – not too far to the left or right and not on the fence either.

Diva in disguise
I encourage good financial practice. I am gentle to those who feel weighed down. I am not hard on those who fall by the wayside. Each has something to learn through hard experience.  I know I’ve learnt more from my “bad” habits than the good. I am not smug as I know how easily self-esteem can take a tumble.

 I’m more of a hero than a zero and that’s through conscious effort. My spending will come right as I do but it’ll always be a work-in-progress. Achieving at high levels requires good judgement and none of us are born with it. I’m not a guru or a wise guy…what’s your judgement on conscious spending?


Monday, 21 May 2012

Haggling.....why I don't

A haggle or two?
I love a bargain but don’t enjoy bargaining.
Perhaps I’ve not been brought up correctly or have enough financial sense.

Nevertheless I have uncommon sense – which is a good and bad thing. Good -  since it means that I approach problems from a sideways angle and bad - as it brings me into conflict with those who take the common approach to life and its challenges.

I got half a bike for half the price

Of course, people who indulge their retail desires at the top end of the market, no doubt feel that bargaining is a kind of sport. It must be great to wander into a swish luxury car dealer and try to lower those six figures on a Range Rover or Bugatti.

Also useful for real estate vendors who enjoy a spot of jousting with property prices. If there wasn’t any leeway on property nothing would ever get bought or sold!

Designing your home also entails quite a bit of larynx fatigue. Dealing with tradesmen is the way to hone your bargaining skills. Plumbers, electricians, plasterers, kitchen fitters will make you feel as if you’re at an auction as you knock down their prices.

Waterproof luxury
Perhaps the real secret of bargaining is knowing when it’s short-changing the merchant. Who cares about the merchant I hear you cry? He’s making a fortune on those mark-ups. That might be true at the luxury end of consumerism but it’s not so for small to medium –sized businesses.

Imagine you are a businessman struggling to stay afloat? Would you want to be making sales that don’t pay your overheads? Do consumers even understand that their staff work for less than average salaries with austerity measures being introduced such as the removal of tea breaks and Christmas socials?

Some businesses positively thrive on bargaining as any market trader will tell you. When you have the gift of the gab and bucketloads of confidence you can haggle to your heart’s content? But do you want to reduce a trader’s profit on a bunch of bananas or a kilo of carrots? Myself…no….I’d rather save my breath. However there are others who do.

I can see you...coming!
Empty vessels and street traders are said to make the most noise. I’m neither of those. I just like a peaceful life. When there’s leak in the bathroom pipes I call out a plumber and pay him what he asks. When I had a cracked window pane I paid the glazier what he quoted. When I needed pest control I paid them their worth.

“A labourer is worthy of his hire”, the Bible says and I agree. The Bible does not say that you negotiate yourself a good deal though I guess Jesus and his disciples weren’t in need of retail therapy.

You pay for what you get so bartering, quibbling and wrangling is not paying for someone’s worth. All the tradesmen I’ve used have provided me with efficiency and reliablilty and I recommend them to all my friends. There’s one who hasn’t and he’s certainly not going to get any more of my business or good will.

I don’t want to mull over pricing structures when there’s water pouring down into my kitchen. I want someone who fixes my problem. That doesn't mean I have to be taken advantage of.

If there was more honesty around money then we wouldn’t need all of this consulting and conferring. The problem is one of trust. We don’t trust tradesmen who pluck figures out of thin air and try to dupe us into parting with your hard-earned cash. Many of them are mavericks and conmen but many are not.

A miserly attitude prevents us from opening our purse to a humble tradesmen. We criticise and complain about the quality of work and there are times when it’s poor.
We’ve got to understand that money needs circulation. We’ve got to remember that keeping people in work is a vital part of keeping the economy ticking over. Shopping for good and services keeps the world turning though you don’t have to shop like it’s going out of fashion.

Let’s keep our bargaining muscles toned and flexible. Use it with emotional intelligence and and keep your financial cynic in check.

Be shrewd, not mean. We’re all trying to make a living and a life. Don’t rain on a small business’ parade!

Do you bargain?


Friday, 18 May 2012

Sunshine therapy

The sun is a life giving force but many people are forced to live without it for many a good month in the year. Those of us who live in the northern hemisphere experience something called winter.

People who live in more southerly climes have no clue as to what it is to be cold. Frost, snow, fog and biting winds are things that they’ve only seen on TV. Warm winds, swaying palm trees, parrot-blue skies, torrents of tropical rain are all they know.

The sun throws its ultra-violet rays down on this planet but not all of us can bask in its rays.

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Too much of the grey
We suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) as depression and deprivation assail us.  In winter, our complexions are lacklustre and there’s a heaviness in our posture that’s reflected in our hearts.

Our bodies crave the sun and it’s good for us. People go to extraordinary lengths to work on their tan. Fake bake is all the rage despite the damage it does to light skin. Pale is unhealthy but artificial tanning could be life-threatening It’s good to walk on the light side.

People who live in warm climates don’t appreciate what they have – glorious yellow stuff pouring forth from the heavens. The sun is a friend and foe.

Vitamin D
For starters, you can’t get too close as it burns. It’s rays are fierce and you’ll feel sticky if there’s high humidity or you’ll feel as if you’re trapped in an oven. People with little melanin in their skin (white) take a long time to absorb the rays as the lack of enough pigment repels the ultra-violet. Dark skins (black, brown and olive) absorb faster and all seems hunky dory!

But we’ve turned nature on its head. Due to the new demographics that have been created by people moving around – from town to town, country to country. As a result, brown skins are found in cold climes and white skins under burning skies.

Of course, where you choose to live is a matter of economy and taste. We are evolving into location independent people as technology affords us the convenience of screen-based working and socialising. There are no barriers to travel except to war-torn lands controlled by drug barons and corrupt governments.

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Sun love
So East has met and married West.  North and South have juxtaposed as people migrate. The world is a melting pot but some dark skins are not getting their share of the yellow stuff.

Dark skins need sunshine as much as a fish needs water. Vitamin D is a necessity and when the sun barely makes an appearance in the Northern Hemisphere dark cells feel deprived! They rebel against the greyness by giving the epidermis a sallow complexion. Sometimes they see some thin, watery light spilling from the sky that masquerades as the golden sun but it’s a poor imposter.

We want the sun; we need the sun….to touch our bodies and minds. A sun bath is just the thing to soak in after a hard day. The sun provides us with a permit to slow down, kick off our shoes and lets the breeze play with our hair. Our faces lose the grimace and there's a spring in our step.

Things go a little crazy when the yellow stuff starts streaming from the sky. People drive faster and with their tops down (ooh!), they wear shades and act cool, they dust off their speedos, bikinis, tankinis and mankinis and dare to go bare.
Big sun on the prairie

Sunshine fills every dark space showing up the cobwebs and clutter. Sunshine makes everything grow faster and summer days are long.

Our genes are screaming for some sun. They remember where they come from. Genetics pre-dispose us to sunshine.  It’s time to get a little crazy. Let’s throw caution to the wind. Until the sun decides to shine I’m holding  on to the sunshine in my head.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A critique of criticism

Criticism, in my book, is always negative if you label it as such. It’s not often constructive and it’s sometimes used as a weapon against you. 

The test of effective criticism is that it doesn’t hurt and its’ even welcome. Hurtful words and dramatic exaggerations are not used and the recipient knows (because he receives unconditional love and lives in a supportive environment 95% of the time) that its delivered with love – that’s constructive!

 Criticism is the ego in overdrive – the unhealthy part of us – that can’t mind our own business.

It’s a great human failing that we wish to point out (and take great pleasure in doing so) each other’s inadequacies more than we remark upon each other’s strengths. We think we’re the experts on everything though our own houses may not be in order. We carry on as if we’re perfect. We’ll laugh at others’ mistakes as if we’ve never done a stupid thing in our lives.

Criticism means that you have a holier-than-thou attitude. You’re like the cat that’s licked the cream and eaten the canary. You know it all. You have an interest that you wish to protect – an inflated ego with bragging rights.

She's so perfect?!
There can be positive purpose in criticism. It might be a call to action. “I think you’re going to need a crane to get you out of bed if you don’t start losing some weight” – negative speak.
“ Why don’t we both start going to the gym or jogging in the park?” – positive speak.

Criticism rarely cures and may even aggravate emotional conditions. Anorexia, bulimia, OCD, depression, panic attacks can all be symptoms of criticism. Psychosomatic symptoms are also known to be a consequence of criticism.

Our parents puts us on the rocky road when they start venting their frustrations at us. “Why can’t you be like Mary-Beth, she helps her mother with the chores?” “When I was your age I was better behaved with better grades!” “Do you have to play music so that the neighbours are deafened?”

Hear no evil, speak no evil!
Criticism is not love as we know it, but it’s a kind of tough love. Problem being that it’s so tough it could break you. 
It certainly breaks your self-esteem until you believe you’re worthless. Childhood is a delicate time and children cannot grow healthily without love.

Sad to say, many children who are now adults have never known such love and that’s one of the reasons the world is in such a mess. To put it in a nutshell - war and poverty are caused by a huge vacuum of love (and probably criticism has made a contribution too). It may sound simplistic but it’s the truth.

Admonishments are necessary to instil discipline. Discipline is important for productivity and social order. You have to be love and then give love. Look into a child’s eyes, touch their cheek and deliver plenty of hugs. This will benefit your relationship greatly, more than treats and toys. You cannot hide the truth from a child; he knows if he doesn’t live in a happy home and that knowledge does irreparable damage.

Everyone has a dark side. There are some self-improvement blogs that advise you to examine yourself when a criticism is hurled at you. It’s a valuable tool but don’t become a door mat. 
I have a dark side but I rarely let it out and it’s kept under surveillance at all times.
 I’d rather concentrate on the sides of myself that are bright and positive, in the hope that my dark side may eventually see the light!

Constructively destructive
Criticism is most often channelled through anger. Angry faces and angry words are not going to help anyone to improve. Anger is a debilitating condition and anyone who can’t control theirs needs help or isolate themselves from the triggers…..preferably on a desert island.

Criticism can be a hidden form of abuse.
 It’s subtle yet powerful. Sensitive people are brought down by this vile display of egotism. Criticism is fruitless since the person you’re directing it at may not be able to change their inherent character. Criticism is in the mind of the other person so let your actions speak louder than their words!

Criticism is not the way to win friends and influence people. Criticism destroys relationships. Love is patient; love is kind and when the love you have is neither of those, then it’s time to get out.

Don’t become a verbal punchbag, justifying yourself is a waste of time. Get out of the habit of criticism and into the habit of gratitiude. Thank your critic for his input but leave that sh** at the door.  
Silence your inner critic and you’ll find the world a beautiful place; it doesn’t have to work according to your directives. Let go and let it be.


Monday, 14 May 2012

When two O's collide - Obama, Oprah and a question of ownership

The latest kerfuffle in the White House is about the supposed rivalry between Michelle O and Oprah W. It’s reported that Mrs Obama is stomping around the corridors of power and walking in unannounced to the Oval Office so that she can keep an eye on  her husband.

The fact that he is President of the world’s most powerful country appears to be lost on her. Perhaps his Presidency is a challenge to her spousal and domestic power. In a recently published book – “The Amateur” Ed Klein alleges that Michelle is fuming about the attention that her husband pays to Ms Winfrey.

In Vogue
Mr Obama is known to have interrupted important meetings  in order to take calls from Oprah. She has unlimited “access, input, influence and power” to his re-election campaign.

Of course she does, Oprah is the champion of ordinary folk, the ones that matter in political campaigns. Her rise from humble talk show host to billionaire entrepreneur took guts and hard work. Her talk show and cable TV company connects her to people in every corner of the earth. There is no place on earth where her name is not known. Oprah’s fame and power will live on long after Barack Obama’s name has faded on the presidential hall of fame plate. 

Barack ,being the man he is, knows he has to chase power if he wants to retain the top job. Oprah is the power house and without her support his chances are shaky. This is a critical time for him, and Michelle should be understanding and supportive. If she charges around checking up on him it’ll be the fastest way to push him into the arms of a gentle and listening ear, masquerading as a White House intern.
Who's in charge?

Michelle O is an educated woman but lags behind in the wisdom stakes, if these reports are true. She is a rational woman but once in the grip of the green eyed monster her rationale appears to desert her. She’s complex and territorial but didn’t anyone tell her that a husband is not a possession?

Jealousy  is ugly because it reduces people to the level of objects. It makes you “own” and feel “owned” and that’s demeaning. Insecurity in the First llady is a surprise when she travels around the US and all over the world inspiring young women to be their own person – ambitious and aspirational. Michelle is the power behind the presidential throne so why the anxiety about who her husband’s spending time with?

Perhaps it’s due to the negative track record of previous presidents, notably JFK. He and Obama have much in common – young  and skilful orators. JFK’s libido keeps him in the headlines but so far Obama is as clean as a whistle. Michelle, no doubt, wants it to stay that way but is it up to her?
In the shade

First Ladies, bar Hilary Clinton, stay in the political background; think Laura and Barbara. The Bush ladies were happy to enjoy the perks but they remained out of the limelight. Michelle is not Jackie O, who smiled in all the right places and suffered in silence. Michelle is a forthright woman who is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep her husband on the straight and narrow.

It’s disturbing how many married couples appoint themselves as each other’s “keepers”. The marriage vows clearly state  “will you keep her in sickness and in health?” and I guess people take it literally. The only keepers I know are in zoos! Some cynics might say that marriage is a zoo and menagerie when offspring and in-laws come home to roost.

A confident woman doesn’t stoop to jealousy. A woman whose self worth is high overrides the twinges. A woman married twenty years (to the same man) knows her marriage is solid….or does she? I'm not her biggest fan as I think she tries a little too hard. She makes trite statements about family values quite forgetting that her husband is the product of a "broken home". 

Twenty years is a watershed. It’s make or break time and the Obamas are fast approaching this marriage milestone. After this length of time your feelings are either weary or warm or even a combo of the two.

Every marriage has to go through some soul searching and maybe Michelle’s on a fact finding mission to test the soundness of the partnership. Has she met her "Waterloo" in Oprah? 
Stiff upper lip

Obama needs his personal and professional co-pilots. He can’t drive this monster of a campaign if one of them bails out. It’s said that behind every successful man is a woman, perhaps two. If these two women join forces they’ll be a potent force.

Emotional intelligence and biting one’s tongue will assist the campaign. Let the White House put on the best show of unity and then three O’s will not be a crowd…and that’s a change we can believe in.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

How much of an emergency is your life?

Save, save, save - yourself!

Sage financial advisors and good old-fashioned common sense tell us that saving and savings are useful and helpful.

Sometimes it’s called an emergency fund but I don’t like that term. It brings to mind a heap of discomforting images – death, floods, famine, job loss etc. There’s nothing pleasant about an emergency!

I’m happy to be a regular saver since I think saving is a life skill worthy of cultivation – not just for the financial comfort zone it affords but saving money reminds me of the importance of saving myself too – me and my money need taking care of!

 Saving yourself is perhaps the first step in unblocking the flow of money and other good things in life – a new car, bigger house, an exotic vacation, courage, honesty and clarity. A commitment to saving is the first step in combating money non-sense and it channels your potential.

I need a little tender care too
Financial advisors and personal finance websites write about emergency funds as if they know your budget and balance sheet. It’s hard enough to maintain a budget let alone an emergency fund.

I've had savings but they never seem to last ….my savings cup never runneth over….and am always dipping into them – I have at least two “emergencies” per month!

I'm not a hare or tortoise in the money race. I'm an inbetweener. The slow path is for the steadfast  but there's a money bunny inside me that's playful so if I can speed things up with a little risk-taking then I'm game. 

What if my investment doesn't deliver a high enough yield? Money goes up and down, in and out of my life...I have wonderful money-led experiences and the day-to-day toil....but I look back with gratitude. I learn more about myself during the lean times.
How much money does it take to gain self-knowledge? Zero!

Saving yourself means to stop the self-destruction that - starts in the mind, trickles to your heart,  and seeps through your rationale until you are a full blown addict to all manner of things that don’t serve you.  The belief that you've had no luck with money is one to eradicate fast.

Money is attracted to me (and I to it)  so I've accepted that ours is a long courtship!
It's not unrequited love just a gentle suitor that needs a few nudges in my direction now and then.

 Creative work saves my soul
Caring what other people think and comparing yourself to them is your first introduction to the slippery slope.  So what if Sally’s got caramel high lights that catch the sunlight or if your neighbour’s son has the best grades? So what if your window frames are rotting and need a fresh lick of paint or your hedge is a tad overgrown? 

Money doesn't have all the answers so don't give it that responsibility. Engage your grey matter in problem-solving and you may be surprised to discover that money is not needed.

Count your money and your blessings. If the latter tips the scales then you know you've hit the mark. Prosperity is inner work and the reflection is plain to see.

Never apologise for not having enough so long as you are being enough.
Fill your mind and soul before you look over your budget; things will never seem as bad.

Other people’s opinions belong to them.
You may feel the weight of their stares but you don’t have to carry the baggage. Their thoughts are theirs too so use your mental boomerang and send them back! 

Thin skins are in need of a heavy sealant. I’ve found that developing self esteem is the most water-tight option. You may have to layer with confidence and a touch of courage but make it strong and it’ll stem negative ideas.

Saving yourself means also pairing and pruning your social circle. Quality over quantity is the criteria. You may know dozens of people but how many of them really know (and understand) you. How many of them would you want to share your innermost musings  with? I’ll bet not many!

Horse shaped childhood dream
To save yourself you have to give up the idea that you've lost so much time. Time is never lost to those who want to improve. Cut out the flotsam and jetsam  and you’ll find that your time was stolen. Reclaim it and guard it religiously. 

In the time you have,  ask yourself discomforting questions…..”why does my life suck”?
Go deep and find out what’s weighing you down.

Did your wishes get lost amongst dirty dishes?
Why do tears spring to your eyes as the sun sets on another 24 hours?
Has guilt turned you into an emotional wreck?
Do you talk yourself out of trying something new?

Save yourself by remembering the person you used to be. 
What was your soul’s delight before responsibility and duty took it hostage?
It’s never too late...for're just an overgrown teenager anyway.

Did you dream about a white picket fence and roses around the door? A loving partner to come home to? A career that fulfills? A hobby that could become a business? Supportive siblings?  Travelling the world? Bungee jumping? Going back to study?

Design your interiors - mind and soul
Well, there’s nothing on that list that’s out of your reach….though I’ll warn you to lower your expectations when it comes to the human elements to avoid trouble and disappointment.

Save yourself in all the ways you want to be saved. Once you know how, you can move on to maximising your money. Like Eckhart Tolle, live in the now because it’s all you have. Money forces you into the world of tomorrow but you are strong enough to resist.

There are people who’ve paid off their mortgage, have no debt or liabilities, a retirement and emergency fund but they’ve lost themselves. They’re prepared for all that life throws at them but when life throws them an opportunity they drop the ball.
They think they have it all but they don't know what "it" is??! Be aspirational not complacent.

If it doesn’t kindle the fires in your heart then move on to what does.
Perhaps that’s what an emergency fund is best used for.
Smart emergency funder!
Save what you can and save yourself too. Show generosity and kindness to yourself and others.

Don’t get smug and arrogant. It’s your duty to save yourself and repair any damage.

Being whole will stop you from making a hole in your emergency fund.

How do you save yourself?


Friday, 11 May 2012

Undercover boss... with a heart

If anyone has caught an episode of the eye-opening series “Undercover Boss” they’ll know that it’s a worthwhile watch. It gets me every time.

Like “Secret Millionaire” it’s about an undercover operation when the boss, usually the Chief Financial Officer or CEO, works in disguise amongst  staff who perform the most menial of tasks at the very bottom of the organisation. Members of board rooms have little idea what’s happening at the lower end. It’s amusing to see how poorly they execute some of the duties allocated to them whilst undercover.

Any CEO worth his salt knows that if the lower echelons of the organisation are failing then it’ll eventually spread to the top and affect profitability. Most complaints addressed to companies fall on deaf ears or languish in executive in-trays and are rarely followed up. That also goes for the “Suggestion Box” that doesn’t usually invoke much enthusiasm amongst staff.

One of the workers?
It’s a humbling experience for the CEO to come down from his lofty perch in the boardroom and get his hands dirty with his co-workers on the frontline. Far from the imagining that most employees are inept and lazy individuals, the boss gets an insight into their selflessness and dedication. The employees discover the human face of the company and are amazed to find that the CEO can relate.

A good many of the employees have challenging personal circumstances; a disabled child or spouse, a life threatening illness themselves, bereavement and financial hardships. Each person has a cross to bear and they bear it with a mix of bravery and good humour.

Keep your foundations strong
Some employees work double shifts, sacrificing proper rest and time with their families, to earn extra. Some do charitable work in their spare time and take their undercover boss along. He is amazed at the time they devote to philanthropy despite the fact they are suffering hardships themselves.

If roses grow amongst thorns then we see a demonstration of how these company “roses” keep hitting the target through the thorns of their personal situation. Some of their plights are heart-rending.

A cancer stricken man who uses his annual leave to attend hospital appointments; a fast food worker who regularly devises new menu items without being asked  or for extra pay, pest control operators who work without the correct safety equipment due to budget cuts, single parents working double shifts, studying and paying for daycare!

None of them appear  miserable and they wear their brightest smile to work.  The personal and professional multi-tasking is incredible and testament to human resilience and resourcefulness. Adversity is not as much a deal breaker as one thinks and it clearly tests the mettle of the best.

The boss is genuinely shocked and in awe. It provides him with an opportunity, away from the boardroom, to reflect and empathise with his employees. He is truly brought down to earth and gets a first hand experience of their kindness, compassion and diligence. He starts to understand that good people, worth keeping, work for the company with a genuine passion and pride (and meagre pay).They bust a gut to make sure the company keeps ticking over.

When he walks a day in their shoes, he knows the difficulty of buying shoes on a tight budget and working in them too!

Supportive management systems
The boss has himself undergone personal and professional turmoil so he understands that it takes an indomitable spirit to come through tragedy and be a better person.

It’s a win-win situation as boss and employee come together. Barriers and prejudices are broken down as human warmth surfaces. This piece of reality TV couldn’t work if the employee had prior knowledge that he’d be working with the boss. It would be an artificial exercise and the truth would never be revealed. Nobody’s going to feel comfortable discussing aspects of their personal lives.

The climax is when the CEO reveals himself to his shocked and surprised co-worker. The CEO then goes on to bestow a series of gifts to each of the employees he worked alongside. A new wheelchair-access equipped van for transporting a son with cerebral palsy, an all expenses paid vacation, a once-in-a-lifetime-trip to visit relatives, university loans/mortgage paid off,  six months paid leave, donations towards philanthropic projects, a business initiative promoted, are some of the ways the employees are re-paid for their hard work and commitment.

Spiritual rewards
“Work is love made visible”, says the Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran and he’s right. When we work we bring love to the jobs we do. It's not written into our job descriptions but it’s an essential quality for improving conditions. There’s nothing worse than a negative atmosphere to turn you off your job and spread unhappiness. If you keep the bottom end happy then the top knows it’s doing right when the profits start rolling in.

We're all in this together
If the giver and receiver are twice blessed then no where can you see this more than in programmes such as these. This is television at its inspirational best.

 People at the bottom need to have their contribution recognised and a chance to smell the roses of  their success  People at the top need to stop being figure heads and fat cats and feel the love.The lifeblood of a company are its employees and no CEO should ever take that for granted.

“Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret” – Kahlil Gibran

He worked for a dream not money