Monday, November 29, 2010

BCBC In The Fall: Adventures with Riker

A few years ago I went to the trouble of defining what I saw as my unique roles in life - "adventurer" was one of them. When I went to school that part of me got sidelined quite a bit. Since another of my roles is "Father," I decided to combine the two. Riker and I had a little adventure a little over two month ago. He skipped school (with Jobina's consent) and we went up to the wildlands of Mennville where we stayed in the Dueck's cabin (Thanks Terry and Brian!). Interestingly, we got up there pretty late (it was dark) and it was raining. The trail was a little wet and when I tried to get my van down a "shortcut" to avoid some water I got stuck. Riker was so funny - when he realized we were stuck he actually screamed out "We're going to die!!" After calming him down we walked to Eric and Lindsey's to see about getting a little help but they weren't home. So we walked over to Walden and Eileens and not only did Walden get us out, but he kindly offered us his 4X4 truck to get out to the cabin. We were overwhelmed by his generosity and soon we we bouncing down the trail feeling much more confident. Riker was still thinking that we might meet our demise though when after bouncing down the trail for a few minutes we were stopped by trees that had fallen across the trail. So we got out in the rain and dragged those big trees out of the way. A few minutes later we reached the cabin in the dark and had a great time unloading and getting a fire started. Some highlights of that evening involved gathering birch bark in the dark, playing uno by candlelight, Riker reading me Bible stories, and triumphantly getting the fire going.
The next day we got up and Riker was in much better spirits. After breakfast we went exploring in the surrounding bush. This was probably the most fun Riker had - it was tough dragging him back to pack up. Here's me and the boy:

Riker found some "cool bones" in the forest. Here he is posing with them (with machete as well):

Some flowers growing beside the cabin:

Riker hacking branches of trees, deep in the forest:

But we wanted to get up to BCBC and help out in the remodelling of the kitchen so eventually we had to leave. BCBC is our family camp - I've been going there since I was 8 years old and it is kind of spiritual centering point for me. I'm rarely up there when it's fall, so the colors of the trees changing were quite awesome to behold. Here's a bald eagle we saw on the side of the Pine Dock road as we drove north:

I'm afraid I didn't do very much to help out (probably a total of 2 or 3 hours) but that was never the main intent anyway. Basically I just wanted to hang out up there with Riker and show him that it was important to serve. Here's a picture of Riker putting screws into the floor:

Later that day we went out to the overnight site on the point. During the summer we set up old canvas prospector tents there, but right now only the frames are visible:

Later after helping out some more, everyone left us and Riker and I moved into Robin's Nest (a cabin) and went to the firepit and had ourselves a great weiner roast:

The stars were out and the night was one of those eerily quiet ones - almost no wind. Very beautiful. That night Riker read to me more Bible stories (I get kind of choked up when I think about it - staying in a cabin at my camp overnight with my son - and him reading Bible stories to me - Wow I am blessed!) and we both slept well. The next day we took some pics around the camp and then headed for home:

It's funny, when I reflect on all the things I have done this year, this is probably at the top of my list. Spending time going on adventures with my son - that to me is time very well spent. I often have great intent, but am poor on follow through when it comes to such things. But this time it worked out and I am thankful. To keep myself accountable I told Trinity that her time is next. Hopefully we'll have a chance to do that before Christmas (or shortly afterward) . . .

Friday, November 26, 2010

Openness and Teachability

For the past few days I have been thinking alot about trust as I read this excellent book (look for a later review). Part of being trustworthy (and trusting yourself) is having integrity. The author of the book I'm reading cites this story and says there are three things necessary for integrity to grow:

1. Make and keep commitments to yourself.
2. Stand for something.
3. Be open.

I'm thinking alot about the last one. Being open is synonymous with being teachable - are you truly humble and courageous enough to acknowledge that there are things you don't know?

This past summer I was amused by a little contest between my brother Tim and my son Riker. We were at Tim's cabin, sitting around the campfire when a bat flew by. Tim suggested that he and Riker have a contest (best of 5 questions wins) to see who knew more about bats. Tim had just watched a TV program about a certain kind of bat so he thought it would be pretty easy. Tim asked the first question and was surprised when Riker knew it. Then Riker stumped Tim. And when Tim asked the next question, Riker got it correct again. Finally, Tim in his exasperation asked Riker if knew the kind of bat that can fly over 100km an hour. Riker didn't know. "Ha, I got you," said my brother triumphantly, "the answer is Batman!" Needless to say my brother wasn't ready or willing to be taught by an 8 year old (just like I'm often not) but being open is an attitude that is not reserved for when we are around obvious experts. Billy Graham is famous for asking other people "Maybe you could teach me something about preaching better?" True humility is open and teachable - toward anyone.

If I am honest, brutally honest with myself, I'd say that my openness/teachability waxes and wanes dramatically. Sometimes I'm quite open to what others (friends, family, clients, authors) have to say and other times I'm not. Sometimes I'm not really listening to people, I'm just waiting so I can give my retort or get in my thoughts. Have you ever been in a "discussion" where it's just people taking turns sharing what they know but they aren't really interacting and learning? It's sad really. So, how does one evaluate one's openness? Steven M. R. Covey suggests a few questions to ask yourself:

-Do I believe that the way I see the world is totally accurate and complete - or am I honestly willing to listen and consider new viewpoints and ideas?

-Do I seriously consider differing points of view (from a boss, direct report, team member, spouse, or child), and am I willing to be influenced by them?

-Do I believe there may be principles that I have not yet discovered? Am I determined to live in harmony with them, even if it means developing new thinking patterns and habits?

-Do I value - and am I involved in - continual learning?

I'm going to try and review these questions every time I start "coasting" in my openness!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Superfreakonomics

Book Review: Superfreakonomics by Steven Levit & Stephen Dubner

This book is sequel of sorts, to the best selling Freakonomics by the same authors. While I found the first book on economics interesting but lacking in purpose, this one definitely had more of a definite message. That message is this: man is moved by incentives and the interplay of those incentives sometimes has very interesting implications for the various problems and curiosities that life presents. My favorite chapter was the one on how small (and cheap) fixes are often the best fixes. The creative use of statistics is another big theme in this book. One early example of the interpretation of statistics consists of the story of a physician who found that he could reduce greatly the maternal mortality rate in his hospital if he required doctors to wash their hands before they did a delivery, and this was decades before Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria (too bad he was thought of as a madman and eventually died in an asylum!). The authors also show how children whose mothers fasted during pregnancy because of Ramadan are more likely to suffer from behavioural and learning disabilities. The chapters on prostitution, and the nature of altruism (are we naturally altruistic or not?) were also quite fascinating. For anyone who is an inventor, a free-thinker, or who simply wants to stretch their mind you will enjoy this book. I rate in 4.1 ninja stars out of 5.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When Is The Best Time?

Something to reflect on:

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second best time is today.

-Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review: The Last Lecture

Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I had heard about this book a few years back and when I saw it on my latest library excursion I picked it up without a second thought. I knew this book was going to be important for me.

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer sciences (specifically with virtual reality) at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2007 he found out that he was going to die from pancreatic cancer within three to six month. He decided to do one last lecture entitled “Really achieving your childhood dreams.” It was amazing. So much so that millions watched it online and it became a book. I think Pausch would be the kind of person everyone would want as a professor and friend. He was energetic, fun, a genius, and incredibly positive. To hear how he handled his impending death and his life reflections, well, it’s a bit overwhelming. It certainly hit me hard, talking about how he would miss his wife and his kids and what their journey was like, but it was more his optimistic way of celebrating the life he had led and was still living. He decided to have fun right up until the end. The book is full of his stories and advice for life, much of it given to him from his parents, friends, colleagues, and students. I think anyone reading this would find it inspiring, hopeful, and wise. A fascinating read that will leave you with a warm feeling in your heart (sadness and hope mixed together). I give it 4.5 ninja stars out of five.

P.S. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the official link to the famous lecture (give yourself a good hour to watch it and reflect)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Risking It All

Last Saturday I had some guys over at my house to play one of the greatest games ever created: Risk. It was an epic game - full of the twists, trash talking, surprise upsets, and bluffing that make the game so sweet. The game lasted a few hours but was enjoyed by all six of us.

Yes, Risk is a simple boardgame. But it's so much more. I find that when it comes to truly getting to know and understand someone Risk is the best. After a few games of Risk with someone you know the answers to things like:

-What is their risk tolerance?
-How honest are they?
-Are they more task or relationship oriented?
-Are they a good winner?
-Are they a good loser?
-How patient are they?
-How resourceful are they?

Risk is also a great metaphor for life. Are you playing to win or simply not to lose? Are you willing to make alliances with people (and if so, will you keep them)? To succeed in life, you must take risks and nothing is ever for sure (hence the dice). I conservatively guess that I've played over 80 games of boardgame risk in my life and hundreds of games on my computer.

Risk is 1/3rd strategy, 1/3rd psychological, and 1/3rd third luck (my favorite part is the psychological). I love boardgames (Jobina and I are trying a new one called Dominion which is quite good) but Risk will always have the most special place in my heart. What about you, what's your favorite boardgame and why?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: Codependent No More

Book Review: Codependent No More - How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

If you live with a spouse, partner, or family member who is addicted to something, there is a good chance that you have become codependent. Beattie defines a "codependent" as someone "who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior. We believe that we'd be happy if the other person would just change." Codependency is the group of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that a person who is bound to an addict develops to try to change the other person. Codependents lose track of their own sense of self as they become lost in the world of the addict. They compensate for this by unleashing controlling behaviors on the person as a way of coping.

If you are person who feels stuck and unhappy in your relationship with an addict, this is the classic book on restoring yourself. Few people codependency as well as Beattie who is recovering successfully from a variety of addictive disorders and entanglements. In this classic work, she combines real-life stories with practical illustrations of the concepts that define every part of the codependent syndrome. I have offered this book to many clients (especially with spouses who are alcoholics) and it has been quite helpful for them. For myself, even though I don't consider myself codependent, there was definitely things that I was able to apply to myself as well. I rate it 4.2 ninja stars out of 5.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing By The Rules

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”
-Max Lucado

Conflict itself isn't bad. In fact, it's good and will help you grow. The trick is in how it's managed. One question that I almost always get around to asking couples in crisis is "What are your rules for conflict?" Almost 100% of such couples tell me they have none. If I ask healthier coupes what their conflict rules are, they will often have one or two. My conclusion; healthier couples have rules for conflict and the healthiest couples actually follow them. Rules for conflict tend exist to protect the relationship and keep anger in conflict from getting too high.

So . . . if you are in couple, what are your rules for conflict? Every couple is different and so every couple needs different rules. Three to five rules are enough. Spending half an hour coming up with a list is an excellent use of quality time with the person you love. Set some time aside at a time that both agree to and do the following:

1. Reflect for awhile on this question; "What are the top 1, 2, or 3 things that really hurt me/tick me off when we fight?" Almost everyone can come up with these things fairly easily. Some examples include:
-interrupting me
-swearing or cutting me down
-bring up things from the past that were already dealt with
-bringing up a new subject before dealing with the first one
-raising your voice (or using "that" tone)
-not giving me space when I ask for it/pursuing me when I need space

2. From these things you can find something to make into a specific rule. For instance:
-No interrupting (if someone does and it's pointed out, they have to apologize)
-No bring bringing up new subjects until the first one is finished.

3. After both people suggest a potential rule or two, they are discussed. Both people must agree to them or else they can't be part of the rules. Then, each member of the couple makes a commitment to the other person to honor these rules, no matter what. Two wrongs don't make a right and even if the other person is breaking all the rules, the other person needs to honor them. These rules have to be set in stone. They are not wishes, they are are rules to protect the relationship from harm.

4. Begin observing your rules. Be patient with each other as new habits (like observing rules during conflict) take time to become consistent. During this phase it is so important to not rebel against your partner if they slip up and break a rule. You must be committed to these rules no matter what. You can't control the other person - only yourself. If both people slip up, it's not the end of the world, they just need to debrief what happened and recommit themselves. If one or both people can't consistently honor their own rules, then sitting down with a counselor might be necessary.

Jobina and I had to sit down a few years into our marriage and come up with some rules. We didn't really know what we were doing and it took awhile, but now the rules hardly ever are brought up because they have become a natural part of lives. Of course we each have our slips every now and then but overall angry conflict is a much rarer occurrence. Combined with following the Policy of Joint agreement (see the link) rules for conflict really reduce arguements and shorten conflict - with better results. I'm curious to hear other people's experiences with rules for conflict and also to hear any good rule that you have heard of or use. Share the wealth!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: The Island of Doctor Moreau

Book Review: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells

I thought I would add a little more variety from my reading this week by going down to the local library and wandering aimlessly until I have found four random books that looked interesting. The first book I cracked open when I got home was this one from H.G. Wells. It is a strange tale, even for someone like Wells who is well known for some of his more well known fiction (War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, etc.). The Island of Doctor Moreau is a difficult book to describe without giving away too much of the plot. It is the story of young naturalist named Edward Pendrick who through a series of unfortunate events becomes shipwrecked. Barely surviving his ordeal he finds himself on a dark and mysterious island, ruled by a cunning and demented genius known as Dr. Moreau. The entire time while reading the book, Wells hints at things not right and you are haunted by a feeling of eerie discomfort as the foreboding grows. Make no mistake, this is a disturbing novel. I finished reading it and felt like Wells had approached a line of horror, crossed over it, and then pulled back just enough to make you feel thoughtful and uneasy for the remainder of the book. Not sure if I'd read it again, but definitely an interesting mixture of survival, fantasy, and horror genres. Not for children, I rate it 3.4 ninja stars out of 5.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Black Hole

“If depression is creeping up and must be faced, learn something about the nature of the beast: You may escape without a mauling.”
-Dr. R. W. Shepherd

My church is doing a short series on the black hole of depression. An interesting choice of subjects I daresay! Since most people will have at least one period of short term minor depression and one in every 5 or 6 will experience a period of major depression over their lives, it seemed a good topic to speak about in church. Too often Christians who are struggling with depression don't get compassion from their fellow believers, they get this instead:

1. "You need more faith, what's wrong with you?"
2. "Why can't you just snap out of it?"

The stigma that goes with depression is hard enough to persevere through without Christians shooting their wounded in this way. I'm really proud of our church for presenting a seminar this coming Saturday on Depression and Mental Illness. It will focus on the why of depression, the challenges it brings, and what can be done about it. The presenter will be Dr. Mervin Van Der Spuy, one of my former professors at Providence Theological Seminary who is very knowledgeable about this topic. He has a specialization in psychopharmacology (the study of medicine/psychology to help those struggling with mental illness and problems in living). The seminar goes from 9am-12 noon at Cornerstone Alliance Church in Winnipeg and there will be time at the end for an extended Q and A session with our speaker. If you are looking for more information on how to help someone with depression/mental illness or perhaps you are wondering about assistance options for yourself, feel free to come check it out. Mervin is an expert on medication/drug options for helping with mental illness and is a fascinating speaker.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Book Review: I Will Teach You To Be by Ramit Sethi

I purchased this book for a specific purpose. I am always looking for resources for premarital counselling. I usually reccomend "The Wealthy Barber" for young couples looking to master their finances as I find it easy to read and very helpful. But for some people, the Wealthy Barber is still too much information (as easy to read as it is). And so after poking around on Ramit Sethi's excellent blog, I took a chance and ordered this book to see if it could be an even easier resource for couples to read and implement. For the most part, this book was exactly what I hoped it would be.

The book's angle is that it is written for 20 somethings by a 20 something (an ego filled, very confident 20 something). It is not written for couples per se, but many of the values espoused by Sethi work for singles or couples. The book is structured into a six week action program to take control of your financial life and put you on the automatic track to retiring rich:

Week 1: Optimize Your Credit Card. Sethi teaches you what kind of credit cards to get, how many, how to negotiate with credit companies, how to get rid of charges from them, and especially how to get out of credit card debt
Week 2: Beat The Banks. The focus is on how to get the best deal on your banking, how to choose a good bank, how to set up chequing/savings accounts, and how to set up an online investing account. Sethi doesn't like many banks but loves credit unions.
Week 3: Get Ready To Invest. Since this is an American book he talks about setting up your 401(k) and Roth investment accounts (Canadians will substitute similar accounts such as RRSP's and TFSA's), and coming up with a plan to pay off debt. I like how he counters young people's objections for not investing.
Week 4: Conscious Spending. Track your spending, optimize your spending, create a conscious spending plan (instead of a budget), track your saving/spending/investing. For anyone struggling with budgeting, this chapter alone is worth the price of the book I'd say.
Week 5: Save While Sleeping. Integrate you automatic saving, automate your bill payments, etc.
Week 6: Investing Isn't Only For Rich People. Figure out your investing style, research your investments, start buying your investments (and set up automatic monthly payments of more).

There is a lot of great stuff in this book. Except for the American stuff that doesn't fit our Canadian context, it is all super practical. All of it. The book is all action. Sethi is an interesting author - his humor is corny and he crudely cuts down any idea he things is worthless (and yes, he does this often) but his reasons for doing it are presented so straightforwardly that it's difficult to disagree with (or fault him too much for it). If you are looking for a no-nonsense, all practical, specific advise system for managing your finances then this book deserves a look. What did I get out of it? First, his view of financial "experts" as being useless as fewer then 25% can even beat the market consistently and how you can use index funds is a complete revelation (and is backed by hard statistics). I also really liked his positive and simplified approach to budgeting (essentially his idea of budgeting is not really budgeting at all). Lastly, overall his book is super empowering - he makes it seem extremely simple for you to manage your own finances and doesn't pull punches about what he sees as "stupid" money management by many in his generation. I rate this book 4.4 ninja stars out of 5. If you are in your 20's and would like to borrow this book of me, I'd be happy to borrow it to you for a month so I can get other people's impressions before I use it extensively with others.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Review: People of The Deer

Book Review: People of The Deer by Farley Mowat

I didn't want to read this book but as I have this challenge going on right now . . . well, I picked it up. Apparently (not sure if this is true, but it's Mowat's first book. It's a book of one man's expedition and falling in love with the People of the deer, the inland eskimos who inhabit the barrens of the arctic. In many ways it is a tragedy. The inland Inuit of Canada's north in the mid/late-1940s suffered disease, starvation, and neglect by the rest of Canada. Mowat ends up finding and chronicling the fascinating people known as the Ilhamiut, or People of the Deer. Mowat tells a sad story of how an entire culture of people were set up to become dependent on white men -trading their spears and deer for guns and fox pelts- only to be abandoned when the money went (literally) south and they were left with neither the tools (ammunition) or knowledge (traditional deer hunting techniques) that they needed to fight off hunger and its attendant companion, disease. He eventually learns their language before going off on a long canoe trip to help a biologist peer find the caribou. Many crazy and unexplained things happen along the way, some which may make the hair on your neck stand up. Apparently this book was very helpful in bringing the plight of the Inuit to light for the general Canadian public. I most enjoyed the story of a culture that no longer exists. Mowat carefully shares both the good and bad points of it and you can't help but fall in love with them yourself. He gets almost a little too poetic at points (for my taste) but I enjoyed the book overall. I'd give it 4.1 ninja stars out of 5.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Real Accountability

"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
-Proverbs 27:17

I am convinced that men crave and need accountability but very few ever truly experience it. Accountability (my definition) is choosing to be real with someone and inviting them to consistently ask you tough questions about where you are at in your life, holding you to the standard that you ask to be held at.

Notice that my definition puts the onus on the one wanting accountability. Accountability forced on someone doesn't work long term. Real accountability must be embraced for it to work. When I meet with couples in premarital counselling I will ask them where things are at in their physical relationship but when it comes to further accountability I offer it but don't demand it. It is a courageous path and it must be freely chosen. And when it is, it is a beautiful thing.

Someone shared with me recently about how they wanted to ask for deeper accountability from some friends but they were afraid. First, they were afraid to ask. It's hard to ask someone for such a big commitment of time, engergy, and potentially awkward questions. We naturally feel bad to put someone into that situation. Secondly, we are afraid to be truly real. If I ask someone to ask me the tough questions then I will actually have to answer them! I don't know about you but admitting doubt, impure thoughts/actions, sin, etc is not very fun. I want people to think well of me. Thirdly, accountability is tough because if someone asks us the tough questions and we answer honestly then we then feel the need to take action. Choosing to change something that we know is wrong can be incredibly difficult. Lastly, accountability takes time and hey, we have such busy lives, right?

Yet, if we really want to grow, if we really want to mature, if we really want to throw off sinful behaviors and replace them with Christ-like ones then choosing the way of accountability is where it is at. It is the road less travelled. Personally, I have only experienced consistent, chosen accountability for a few very short times in my life but wow, were they ever powerful! The iron of my soul was sharp. My prayer is that someday I am courageous and blessed enough to find it again. How about you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doing the Unexpected

Check out this super cool video: of a simple and brilliant play by the football team of Driscoll Middle School from Corpus Christi, TX:

There are almost always more then one way to solve a problem. Creativity is the ability to think of new solutions to riddles and problems and sometimes the best ones are the ones far outside the box. A few things that we can learn from the above video:

-Sometimes the opposite of what we think will work will work.
-Working harder is not always the solution, but doing something different is.
-To try something different means taking a risk.
-Sometimes the solution is not in something complex , but simple.

Whether it is following God, improving a relationship, investing in your future, working a job, or anything else, doing something different then what is expected, popular, or the norm may be your wisest course of action. What's the worst that could happen if it doesn't work? May we all be courageous enough to try the unexpected today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fruit and Passion

This is not a post about a store (sorry ladies!). It's about faith.

How do you know if a Christian is close to God? I was asking someone this the other day and they told me they thought it was excitement. Passion, in other words. I have heard this answer many times. "Wow, that guy is really pumped for God!" or "Wow, that girl is really on fire!" The more excitement shown the more spiritual the person. And if you don't have passion, look out. Something is definitely wrong! For many of us passion = spirituality.

We all desire to have passion in our relationship with God (I know I do). But I wonder, what if we changed the question a little and said this: How do you know if a Christian has become "mature," "fully grown," etc? I don't think the answer would be passion. The way I read the Bible the answer would be fruit and obedience:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5: 23-34

In my mind fruit is much more important then passion. Passion (or zeal) by itself is not good (Rom 10:2). Now I'm not saying it's a bad thing. In fact in Romans 12:11 we told to "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." You can be zealous without being obedient. And you can definitely be zealous (or passionate) without having fruit.

Fruitless passion . . . sucks. We have all seen and experienced it. Zeal without love does so much damage. Passion without joy is downright scary sometimes. Being on fire but not having self-control eventually leads a person to very bad places. I find myself quick to judge my fellow Christ followers sometimes and I need to be careful of that. So many of the external things I treasure (like passion) become super important and the most important things (fruit and obedience) are minimized and ignored. Imagine if we hired and followed our leaders, not based on their passion but on the spiritual fruit that their lives displayed? Fruit doesn't lie and you can't fake it (at least for any length of time). Look for the fruit in yourself and others. This is what I'm learning right now.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Story: The Mexican Fisherman

I really enjoyed this story when I read it in The Four Hour Work Week recently:

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long it took you to catch them?” The American asked.

“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO (Initial Public Offering) and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review: The Four Hour Work Week

Book Review: The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris

This is a crazy book written by a crazy man. But I liked it.

There is outside of the box thinking and then there is really outside of the box thinking. Tim Ferris is beyond even that! His book is a slap to the American dream - a new dream for people who wish to experience life before retirement. Yes, he really does show you how some people can live like kings and only work four hours a week. For someone like myself I wouldn't be able to remain a counselor and only work 4 hours but I could certainly cut the amount of time I work down substantially by following his crazy principles. Speaking of which after I'd read the first 60 pages I was so in shock by the radicalness of his ideas that I wondered if I was open minded enough to accept that they could be possible! That does not happen often for me. Ferris teaches:

•How he went from $40,000 per year and 80 hours per week to $40,000 per month and 4 hours per week (yes he actually did this and shows you how).
•How to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want (almost anyone can afford a virtual assistant - even me).
•How blue-chip escape artists travel the world without quitting their jobs
•How to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of a forgotten Italian economist (even the greatest skeptic in the world would benefit from his super radical time management techniques)
•How to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent “mini-retirements” (this is maybe the most amazing idea)

This is a guy who questions everything and does the opposite. His approach to life is simple and can be used by employees and entrepreneurs alike. Using the acronym D.E.A.L. he talks about:

(D)efinition: Figure out what you want, get over your fears, see past society’s “expectations”, and figure out what it will really cost to get to where you want. It can be surprisingly cheap, costing less than what you’re paying now.

(E)limination is about Time Management, or rather about NOT managing time. Instead, apply the 80/20 rule to focus only on those tasks that contribute the majority of benefit. Also apply it ruthlessly to all aspects of your life to eliminate the small minority of factors that waste 80% (or more) of your time. Forget time management, focus instead on getting the really important and results-producing tasks done. There’s a difference, Ferriss says, between efficiency and effectiveness - choose to be effective!

(A)utomation is all about building a sustainable, automatic source of income. This is a section that is, practically speaking, about Business and Business management. The trick is to avoid is building a business that requires your presence, because that just burns up all your time. Ferriss made that mistake once, generating lots of monthly revenue but ended up being chained to the machine to keep it working. Ferriss now has hundreds of people working on his behalf through multiple outsourced vendors, all operating under specific instructions that are designed to not create headaches for him while depositing those lovely monthly checks.

(L)iberation: Once you’ve successfully automated your lifestyle, liberate yourself from your geographical location and your job. It’s a lot easier than you think, once you’ve gotten through the previous three steps. With mobility comes the ability to leverage economic advantages across the world. Living in a tropical paradise and eating at 5-star restaurants everyday can be cheaper than watching TV in your house back.

I certainly don't agree with everything in this book but I plan to start using his principles for elimination starting next week and will try some of the other principles in the new year. The biggest thing I got out of this book was that "work hard for 40 years then retire and live off your savings" is not the best way to go about life. Time is more valuable then money. You don't have to be a millionaire to have freedom and flexibility in your life now. To enjoy those things now though I will have to not do what everyone else is and try something different. This realization is both incredibly freeing and a little scary as well (I'm pretty sure I terrified Jobina as I read selections from this book to her). This book is not for everyone and the author is occasionally a bit crude but it was absolutely fascinating and mind blowing. With that in mind, I rate it 4.6 ninja stars out of 5.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Slow Dance

S L O W D A N C E (David L. Weatherford)

Have you ever watched kids
on a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain
slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down
Don’t dance so fast

Time is short
The music won’t last

Do you run through each day
On the fly

When you ask “How are you?”
Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done,
do you lie in your bed

With the next hundred chores
running through your head?

You’d better slow down
Don’t dance so fast

Time is short
The music won’t last

Ever told your child,
We’ll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste,
not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die

‘Cause you never had time
To call and say “Hi”?

You’d better slow down
Don’t dance so fast

Time is short
The music won’t last

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift….Thrown away…

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower

Hear the music
Before the song is over.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Alternative Investing Opportunity

Ah, the wacky world of investing! For anyone in the Winnipeg/Manitoba area who has an extra $5000 or more kicking around with nothing to do and you'd like to earn 24% annual interest on it, I know of an opportunity that you might be interested in learning about. It's an alternative investment in a company that is expanding its operations and is looking for some capital. Your money is locked in for one year but you get interest cheques every three months. Essentially you are loaning them your money for a year and they are agreeing to repay it every three months (so 4 times per year). The interest they pay is 2% a month, so you would get cheque for 6% of your principal once a quarter. Some examples:

$5000 investment = $100 per month (or $1200 after 365 days)
$10000 investment = $200 per month (or $2400 after 365 days)
$50000 investment = $1000 per month (or $12000 after $365 days)

Like most alternative investments it's a limited time offer and the broker I use expects it to be filled up by the end of the year so if you'd like me to get you more info then leave your email in the comments or if you know my email you can contact me directly.

Alternative investments are one of several great places to park your "pay yourself first" money. Investing such saved monies is crucial to a) avoid spending it when your will power gets low & b) letting it grow exponentially to serve yourself/others. Of course there is risk in any kind of investing but I would argue that there is more risk in not investing as you will someday need that money. You can't afford not to take some risks! I used to be quite closed to investing in anything but real estate but now I'm open to much more. Stay tuned for an update at the end of the year on my stock investing experiment.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tecnical Optimism

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review: When The Game Is Over It All Goes Back In The Box

Book Review: When The Game Is Over It All Goes Back In The Box by John Ortberg

Whew, what can I say. This book hit me hard. I'm not sure if it would hit most people that way, but without being overly dramatic lets just say this book restored my moral compass. Seriously.

The book uses a metaphor of a game to describe how to play the game of life successfully in God's eyes. It's a difficult book to describe as it hits alot of interconnected topics. I think in many ways it would be a good book for any extremely driven person or those who struggle with trying to impress people, materialism, or confusion about their purpose. Ortberg is an amazing storyteller and while none of the concepts that he gave were really new to me they were presented in such compelling & well chosen stories that they felt like a breath of fresh air to me (or alternatively a slap to the face - either way it woke me up).

I have been reading a lot of books on financial matters recently and this book helped to not just balance them but put them in their place. I highly recommend this book. There are three chapters that by if you could read just one of them it would easily be worth the cost of the whole book. I suspect that this book hit me so hard because of where I'm at in my deeper life, but I found I couldn't read more then a chapter a day as I wanted to reflect on each important point that Ortberg shared. For shock value make sure you read the chapter on The Shadow Mission - prepare for awkward looks if you read it at your co-ed small group. I rate it 4.9 ninja stars out of 5 for it's big picture excellence and easy readability.

Monday, November 1, 2010

To Honor The Self

The following is an excerpt from Honoring The Self, a book on self-esteem by Nathaniel Branden:

"Of all the judgments that we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves, for that judgment touches the very center of our existence.

. . . No significant aspect of our thinking, motivation, feelings, or behavior is unaffected by our self evaluation . . .

The first act of honoring the self is the assertion of consciousness; the choice to think, to be aware, to send the searchlight of consciousness outward toward the world and inward toward our own being.
To default on this effort is to default on the self at the most basic level.

To honor the self is to be willing to think independently, to live by our own mind, and to have the courage of our own perceptions and judgments.

To honor the self is to be willing to know not only what we think but also what we feel, what we want, need, desire, suffer over, are frightened or angered by - and to accept our right to experience such feelings. The opposite of this attitude is denial, disowning, repression - self repudiation.

To honor the self is to preserve an attitude of self-acceptance - which means to accept what we are, without self-oppression or self-castigation, without any pretense about the truth of our own being, pretense aimed at deceiving ourselves or anyone else.

To honor the self it to live authentically, to speak and act from our innermost convictions and feelings.

To honor the self it to refuse to accept unearned guilt, and to do our best correct such guilt as we may have earned.

To honor the self is to be committed to our right to exist which proceeds from the knowledge that our life does not belong to others and that we are not here on earth to live up to someone else's expectations. To many people, this is a terrifying responsibility.

To honor the self is be in love with our own life, in love with our possibilities for growth and for experiencing joy, in love with the process of discovery and exploring our distinctively human potentialities.

Thus we can begin to see that to honor the self it to practice selfishness in the highest, noblest, and least understood sense of that word. And this, I shall argue, requires enormous independence, courage and integrity.

The greatest command it to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is to love our neighbors as ourselves. May we all have the courage to do so.