Thursday, January 29, 2015

#8 - Break on Through

When everyone else is doing it, do you do it, too?
(This was such an awesome game.) 
I was thinking about this because a guy I know from an online forum asked the group about money advice. 

Oh man, I had some good names and sites I could recommend. 

When I looked, there were already over a dozen comments. As I scrolled through I saw pretty much all the names I was going to post.

Ramit Sethi with Yep - was going to suggest him.

Tim Ferris. Uh-huh. 

Tony Robbins. Just listened to an excellent podcast interview of him. Of course! They must have heard of it from my blog post #4

And several others. These were affirmed with likes and repeats by a bunch of other users, too. 

I thought it was fascinating that so many of us followed the same authors and bloggers. 

Wait - were we all just lemmings thinking the same and following the crowd? Is the guy who posted the question just going to join in on the ever-growing cult of personal finance foot soldiers?

Perhaps, as the saying goes,"great minds think alike."

But let's see here. This online group is a collection of people who have sought out others on the same path. Intentional beings striving toward personal growth and self-betterment. 

So perhaps these authors and thinkers are simply doling out high quality wisdom, and those of us who persisted eventually discovered them. If something works, word will get around. 

I think this is exactly what Seth Godin call a Tribe. (Now I have to look it up). 
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” ― Seth GodinTribes: We Need You to Lead Us
To me, this means what you seek is what you find.

So if you are into cars and fast machines, you will find yourself surrounded by people who also love engines and belts and wheels.

If you love fashion and beauty, you will attract and be attracted to others who appreciate the same.

If you're into parties, you'll find yourself with a tribe of partiers.

Maybe it's not "You are what you eat," it's "you are what you seek." (if I am what I eat then I guess I'm Chipotle.)

In the end, I think for most of us this is a good thing. It means if you're at least trying and looking for something in life, you'll eventually meet others along the way to support you.

You will find your Tribe.

This whole business also connects to an article I just read in Forbes about how Steve Jobs' success was mostly due to his open network. He constantly interacted with different groups of people and therefore exposed himself to a plethora of ideas and perspectives.

He was a nexus for a variety of Tribes.

My conclusion is this: If I find myself surrounded by a bunch of others who are thinking and liking the same thing - I shouldn't necessarily panic. It doesn't mean I'm a lemming, I'm simply with a bunch of awesome and intelligent people who happen to have come to the same conclusion.

And yet I should also break out and make sure I'm exposed to other ideas from other Tribes. Purposely seek out a diversity of experiences and interactions. Open up my network.

If we're in just one Tribe, we can do as Jim Morrison said:  "Break on through to the other side."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Your Turn Challenge: Day 7 - Challenged

Your Turn Challenge: Day 7

Posting today means I met the challenge. I've posted 7 blog posts in 7 days. 

That means I posted more than 2014 (1 post) and 2013 (5 posts) combined. And more than all of 2012 (6 posts).

In one week. That's pretty sweet.

...No, not like sugary, I'm using "sweet" in a more figurative sense. Like, it's really cool...No, not meaning a low temperature, I mean...nevermind.

Today's question is: What are you taking with you from this Challenge? 

Basically, I'm taking away that I needed this challenge. I know I wouldn't have done this without it. 

Even though I had everything I needed to write all along ("Just Do It", as Nike and frustrated onlookers, say), I look back and don't see a way I would have achieved it otherwise. 

If I was going to before, I would have. But I didn't.

I had mental barriers, or invisible scripts, that were prohibiting me from taking action.

When I saw this challenge, I jumped on it. And I had no doubt I would achieve it. 

So what made the difference? 

The difference was that there were others doing it, too. 

The difference was that I was challenged by someone whom I didn't know personally, but who shared her story of frustration and failure. A story that was familiar. 

There was a community of other people all over the world who needed this too, and we did it together. 

I just needed a boost. A push. A challenge by someone who understood me and wouldn't judge me if I failed. 

So my takeaway - today's stupid wisdom, if you will - is that we need things like this in our lives all the time. We need people we trust, people we connect with, to challenge us. To keep us accountable. And we need to challenge others. 

We can even ask others for a challenge. Or to take part it one together. It could be awkward, sure. But asking is probably not as bad as you think. 

"Hey, could you do me a favor and give me a challenge? I'm stuck on writing for my blog." 

In a workout forum: "I haven't exercised in 3 weeks. Someone propose a challenge for me!"

"Hey, man, I noticed you stopped practicing the guitar. I challenge you to pick up your guitar for 5 minutes each day for the next 3 days. You gotta text me when you do! I'll check up on you if I don't hear from you." 

You'll meet with mixed success depending on where and when you ask. But if you're persistent, you'll find what you're looking for. 

Is there something you're stuck on? Some skill or talent or goal you haven't achieved? Let me know and I'll offer you a challenge! That's my promise to you. 

Remember, you don't have to wait until some company or famous person tweets a challenge. We can do this for each other all the time. I believe we'll all be better for it.

#yourturnchallenge #yourturn #day7


My first challenge is to myself! To continue this blog. 

I commit to at least 1 blog post per week through the month of February 2015. 

The week ends on Thursdays after 11:59 p.m. (so, Friday midnight is past the deadline).

So my next blog post will appear on or before Thursday Jan. 29, 2015. 

If you've read any of my posts this week, thank you for taking the time. I hope you got something out of it. I'd love to hear any comments or feedback if you have any. 

And if you're liking what you're reading, stay tuned for more!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Your Turn Challenge: Day 6 - Truncated

Your Turn Challenge: Day 6

I wrote for an hour straight today. And now I write some more. 

I was afraid I used up all my juice, but I still have some. 

I'm getting reactions and responses to this blog. When I reference this challenge or talk to friends, they're bringing it up. I think people are reading even though I don't have a ton of confirmation. There are signs.  

I'm not doing it for the attention, but like I said in blog post #2, I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice it. 

When I think about why I'm blogging every day this week, I think of two quotes:

  • "If it's worth doing, do it daily." - something I once saw on a person's web profile
  • "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." -G.K. Chesterton, English writer.

And so this week, I'm blogging daily even if I write posts that, well...suck.

Don't like this one?

Then I'm doing it right.

#yourturnchallenge #yourturn #day6

Friday, January 23, 2015

Your Turn Challenge: Day 5 - Confronted

Your Turn Challenge: Day 5

Today I needed to confront someone.

They said something and used words that I found offensive. I felt like they crossed the line. (I'm using "they" as a gender-neutral, singular pronoun on purpose. I realize it breaks grammar rules. Sorry, editor friends. I feel your pain, too).

The thing is, I didn't confront them at first. Not in the moment. That would have been uncomfortable, but also, perhaps, rash and unwise.

Even after, there wasn't a good time to do it.

Later on, I saw them and wanted to say something, but there were other people there. I wanted to talk in private.

I hovered.

I walked around.

I walked away.

I felt like a coward, believing I had a moral obligation to say something, knowing I had the opportunity, but not bringing myself to say it.

It seemed like it needed to have some anger behind it. If I was really offended, I should be willing to make a scene.

After some time, I ended up walking back and stating, calmly, that I wanted to talk later about what happened. I said this in front of other people.

I didn't call them out or make a scene, and this felt weak. It felt like I had taken the easy way out.

Later on we had a great conversation, as I knew we would. It was respectful, yet honest and direct.

It was a very anti-climactic exchange.

I felt disappointed that it took me so long to say something in the first place.

I felt a little disappointed that it wasn't more difficult and uncomfortable and tense when I did.

But maybe it didn't have to be dramatic.

Maybe my biggest confrontation was with my own fears, and what I thought would be a confrontation just needed to be a conversation.

Maybe feeling that a certain way is weak doesn't mean it truly is.

#yourturnchallenge #yourturn #day5

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Your Turn Challenge: Day 4 - Crunched

Your Turn Challenge - Day #4

I spend A LOT of money at Chipotle.

And it's increasing. It's getting out of hand, and I'm worried about what this will mean for 2015.

Ok, let me take a step back for a second.

First of all, this is my 4th post in 4 days. Pat on the back for me.

Now the Your Turn prompt for today is: "Teach us something that you do well."

Well, I do so many things well, it's hard to choose. The way I'm using this blog, teaching you how to sing, play guitar, perform correct squats or take amazing selfies would be challenging.

Those will have to wait until another day.

There IS one obscure talent that I possess, one that I would be willing to share with you. And that superpower analysis.

I love number crunching. Spreadsheets and charts. Especially related to personal finance. I can track spending habits and alter my budgets like no tomorrow.

I actually do this for fun, just because I'm a curious cat named Whiskers. At times I can become quite obsessive about it.

Very few people know this about me...until now.

To give you a glimpse into this deep dark secret of mine, and to reveal the magic that will make your financial life significantly less abysmal, I decided to jump onto to get some of my personal data and show you how it's done.

And that's when I found out I have a Chipotle problem.

(.......OK. I give up. 
I've been sitting at my keyboard motionless for over a minute trying to think of some burrito-related pun, but nothing's appearing. The best I can do is to say that my brain is not BEAN very cooperative...) is a website that's owned by Intuit, the same company that produces Quicken, Quickbooks, and TurboTax. 

Since I signed on in 2010, the site has had secure access (as secure as a secure website online can be anyway) to my financial accounts online and is updated automatically. It has all my non-cash spending data since Oct. 2010.

Because of this, I know how much I've spent on travel, how much I've spent on my car, you name it.

I can also separate the transaction by place.

With this, I can answer: 
How often do I go to Best Buy?

When was the last time I went to Rocks & Ropes?

What's my average spending at Target? (Answer: WAY more than I planned to spend when I walked in. $87??! I wanted 1 toothbrush!)

Hmm...places. Well, what about Chipotle? I've been wondering how much I spend there.

When I sign in tonight, I click on Transactions, and then search for all of Chipotle. This is what I find:

Notice on the left all the accounts I have linked to it. That's a LOT to keep track of, but it's SUPER easy with this site. I don't have to keep signing into a dozen different websites and remember all the passwords.

Well, I like to play with the numbers, so I need to export them to Excel or another spreadsheet program.

I click on the "Export all 92 transactions," like so:

And voila! All the data from 4 years of eating at Chipotle on one sheet.

Now I get to manipulate it how I want.

Well what do I want to know?

First, how much I've spent per year. I'm curious.

I add new rows where the years end and begin, then do an Auto-sum.

I start with 2010. $24 total. For the whole year. Ha, I had yet to be enlightened.

2011. $71. Not too bad.

2012. Now it must be noted that this is the year I met my best friend, who's a Chipotle fanatic. However, I met him mid-November, not giving much time to affect the totals. In the end I bought enough burritos and tacos to fork over $131.50.

2013. Turns out I spent $304.51 at Chipotle. I had officially become an addict.

2014. My zeal had not waned. I ended this most recent year shelling out $365. 

That's right - exactly one dollar per day.

All in all, I've spent $906 since Oct. 2010. However, I've paid cash or with gift cards. So it's probably closer to $1,000. 

I wanted to see what that looked like as a graph, and here's an example:

Now what's my future look like?
From 2012 to 2013 there was a year over year increase of 130%! Then last year that slowed to just 20%. Still, if this year holds the same 20% increase as last year, I will spend $438 in 2015. 

I think I should take some of that money and buy some shares.

Well, there you have it. This is just one example of how I examine by spending habits and trends. 

To be honest, I'm not too worried about my spending at Chipotle. It's great food, and it's pretty good quality, so I'm willing to pay for it. 

For those judging my spending habits, I have my justifications. Unfortunately, if somebody wanted to go into a debate, most people couldn't compare my numbers to theirs because they don't have accurate numbers. Most people don't track their spending. 

It can be a pain, and you might be numbers-averse. But it's pretty dang important, so I challenge you to look into some personal spending apps like that make it really easy. (It's free by the way). 

If you start spending a little bit of time, month by month, you can build a history that will become really useful to you. 

I'll tell you what. Start doing this, make it a habit and I'll take you out to lunch. (the first 3 people who take me up on it. 

Then we can sit down and really TACO 'bout it. 


#yourturn #yourturnchallenge #day4 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Your Turn Challenge: Day 3 - Poorly Worded

Your Turn Challenge: Day 3

I try to be careful with my words.

As a teacher, what I say to each student has great power. In fact, this year our staff read a book called "Choice Words." We spew out thousands of words each day to sometimes more than 100 students - and yet later on we'll pick apart that one word we used. Brutal, but necessary. Each word is powerful.

I'm also cautious with the words I say about myself. My best friend has kept me accountable with this, and recently commented that he's noticed a difference in my language.

For example, now I rarely say "I can't."

I can't go to your party. Or even, I'm not able to go.

I have to decline your invitation.

The truth is, I can go. I am perfectly able to attend. I'm just choosing not to.

It sounds harsh! But it's the truth.

Sometimes I'll say "I won't be going."
"I won't be making it this time."

That's an objective statement. It's just a fact.

It's a small difference, but to me it's important.

"I can't" - gives up our power. It moves the center of control to some outside force. It makes us appear helpless. The victims.

That's why I'm tempted to say it - I want the other person to believe I would go! But it's not up to me. Something else is keeping me from going. It's not my fault.

But that's not accurate. It's a facade. Because the truth, most of the time, is that I can. I do have the power.

That's why it takes courage to say the truth.

I can go, but I'm making a choice. I'm deciding to do something else.

Blame me if you choose to. Be mad at me. I won't like it, but I'll accept the consequences of my choices.

It's very grown up, isn't it?

I could also point out the word "should." I've been cringing at this one lately.

You should do you homework. You shouldn't spend so much money on shoes. I should have known better.

Really? Who the hell says so?

It kind of pisses me off. I think it should piss you off, too.

Ha! I just did it.

Who am I to tell you what you ought to do?

I mean, even if you WANTED me to tell you what to do, do you know what I would say?

Sorry, I can't. :-/

PS. What words or phrases do YOU pay attention to? What language do you want to eliminate from your (or others') vocabulary?

#YourTurn #YourTurnChallenge #Day3

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Your Turn Challenge: Day 2 - Exposed

Your Turn Challenge: Day 2

Prompt: What is something that's important to me? 

Honesty. Vulnerability. 

Today I read a blog post by author Donald Miller titled "People Who Hide Parts of Themselves Will Never Feel Loved." 

Never feel loved? That's kind of extreme. For some people, terrifying.

There's even the hashtag, #foreveralone, that sums up this sentiment. Afraid to be alone, to never feel loved.

But what's probably worse is to be with someone and still not feel loved. To be loved, but still not feel loved.

In the short post, I found what's becoming a familiar message. 
Miller writes, "What suffers when we fail to let ourselves be known is our emotional health. Being accepted as we are by others, without conditions, is the stuff that feeds our souls."

Let ourselves be known. Be accepted unconditionally.

Coincidentally, I just bought BrenĂ© Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection" as an audiobook and have been listening to it using the app. If you haven't seen her TED Talk on "The Power of Vulnerability," it's a must-watch.  There's also a follow up called "Listening to Shame." 
In the latter video, Brown emphatically states, "Vulnerability is not weakness - and that myth is profoundly dangerous."

I'm seeing this message more and more. And the times I've had the courage to experience it myself, I know it to be true. Honesty, authenticity, there's nothing like it to bring connection between people.

Writing on this blog is horribly vulnerable for me. And I'll also, while I'm on the topic, admit that how I'm feeling about my blogging is directly correlated with how many likes or comments I get. Similarly, when I post things on Facebook or Instagram, I feel an exhilarating sense of approval and acceptance. It boosts my mood, it encourages me to keep posting, if only to keep the people happy. 

I don't like this fact. I often deny it to myself. But it's true. I like likes.

Conversely, in the absence of likes or virtual attention, I get discouraged. Like the last 2 days when I posted about this challenge and very few people paid attention to it. I figured there was some mistake. I was frustrated. Doesn't anyone care?!?

Bleck - this is starting to feel like a pity party. 

I like some parties, but not that kind. Maybe a pita party. Mmm, with some hummus? And fresh veggies. Hey, I think I'm onto something. (Note: pita party > pity party).  

The thing is, I guess I don't really know the line between being open and oversharing. Between being honest about how I feel and throwing a pity party. Between admitting my weaknesses or needs and fishing for compliments.

This whole thing is messy. 

I would much rather show my "strong" side to people, and not bother them with my rough edges. 
I'd rather not share at all than risk oversharing. 

But I know that won't lead to true happiness or acceptance. 

Vulnerability is scary. It leaves us exposed, like we're falling through the air on a skydive. 

It's exhilarating. It's freeing. It can be addicting. 

Ultimately, I believe that once you get used to being vulnerable, there's no going back. 


Monday, January 19, 2015

Your Turn Challenge: Day 1 - Uprooted

Your Turn Challenge: Day 1. 

I'm blogging every day this week as a part of a challenge by author, marketer and thinker Seth Godin. The challenge is being led by Seth's colleague Winnie, and it coincides with his book Your Turn.

The suggested prompt for today is: Why are you doing the challenge?

Because I want to. Because I need to. Need to face my doubt, fears?, anxiety, and indecision over what to post and why and for whom. 

Well, enough about that. I came here to write, not to think about writing about why I'm writing. 

I love to write. I also like photography, and just bought a new camera. I went to Yosemite over New Year's with this new camera (a Canon Rebel SL1), and I had a complete blast out there meandering about and click. Click. Click. I never got very far on any hike because I would walk a few steps, then see something else I wanted to shoot, and pause my journey.  

I could share an album of a hundred or more of these photos. I really want to - some of them are, in my opinion, amazing shots. Later on I might, but right now I just want to post this one. This fallen, beautifully broken tree.

I think one image can be more powerful than 1,000 when it stands alone. If you can take the time to sit with it. Stare at it. Let it stare at you. 

When I go on Facebook, or look through slideshows, it's usually like that. I probably spend less than a second looking at any given picture before swiping or clicking to the next. Which is only fitting, because most pictures are taken in quick bursts of 3, 5, or 10. I have so many albums of thousands of pictures that I took, and when I looked at them, it was a chore. I had to speed through them. Take more pictures. Swipe through more pictures. 

What happens if every vacation or birthday party or hike you could only take one picture? What happens if you could only show one that you took? Which one would you show?
What if it were 10 pictures? I think I would be much more thoughtful about my selection. It would probably be easy to pass on most opportunities. Naw, this shot's not worth it. 

My point is that there's so much going on all the time, that it feels weird to sit with one thing for too long. Even when it's not a picture, but a person. It can feel unsettling to be still and present, just talking. Or even be with him or her silently. No phones or TV usually. Just conversation. It takes some getting used to.

So whether you have a person across from you, or some photograph, try focusing on that one thing. Be still. Take your time. Enjoy the scenery on the trail. 

I would have missed this uprooted, craggly, yet majestic tree if I had been more set on reaching the destination, wherever that was. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed or appreciated it, but I did.  

What I'm starting to learn in life is that there's nothing around that bend in the trail - everything you need is right in front of you. 

#yourturn #yourturnchallenge #day1