Wealth and Work: In it for the Money?

Work and Wealth: In it for the Money?

Are you doing your job just for the money?

Our jobs can easily become a simple means to an end.  We work to get paid so we can pay for shelter, clothing, food, transportation and a bunch of other things we may or may not need.

The good news is we have the power and the capacity to change our attitude toward our work, without needing to change the work itself.  Of course if you have an opportunity to change jobs to better align your work with your calling, by all means seize it.  In reality, those opportunities rarely present themselves if we haven’t already adjusted our attitude in our current situation.

We have the power and the capacity to change our attitude toward our work.  [Tweet]

A Simple Attitude Adjustment Exercise

For starters, try beginning your work day writing down different ways you can best serve your customers, clients, colleagues, supervisors, and anyone else you might interact with that day.  If thoughts come up like, “I’m not getting paid enough to do that,” or “that isn’t part of my job,” write those thoughts down on a separate column or page.

Review your lists and ask yourself

  • Which person would I rather work with?
  • Which person is more likely to be given more responsibility?
  • Which person is more likely to be promoted?

Make sure you follow through on at least one of the ideas for serving others during the day.

At the end of the day take 5 minutes to write down then names of those you served, and how you served them.  Reflect back on their responses.  How did it make you feel after serving someone well?  As you do this day after day you will find your passion for your work will slowly increase, and your concern about money decrease.

You may find that your change in attitude toward your work and your increased passion to serve others well will present new opportunities or promotions, and money will no longer be something you worry about.

Wealth and Work

Wealth and Work

Vocation: A Calling

Our work, our vocation (from the Latin vocare – “to call”), is meant to be a source of wealth for us.  While financial compensation is one way for our vocation to be a source of wealth, it is not the sole source, and our pursuit of financial gain over and above every other aspect of our work may make us rich, but seldom wealthy.

The pursuit of financial gain at the expense of one’s calling may make one rich, but never wealthy.  [Tweet]

 

Finding meaning in our work and ways to positively impact the lives of others through our work is the true measure of wealth in our work.

When we continue in a job we hate, regardless of the money it pays, there is little wealth in or produced by that job or ourselves. We go through the motions, miserable and creating misery in everyone around us. This is the opposite of wealth – it is poverty.

When we do not give our all to the work set before us we are stealing from those we are meant to be helping, and robbing ourselves of the wealth gained by a job well done.

There are several reasons why we might find ourselves in such a state of vocational poverty:

The good news is we can counteract each of these with discipline and some help from friends, counselors, or coaches.

We’ll examine each of these in greater detail in upcoming posts, exposing the poverty in each, and in doing so discover the way to wealth.

 

 

 

 

 

It Was The Myth of Fingerprints…

This lyric from Paul Simon’s song, All Around the World Or the Myth of Fingerprints, popped into my head this morning as I was reflecting on myth in light of a happy convergence of three books I was reading simultaneously, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, Nancy Marie Brown’s Song of the Vikings, and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (audiobook).

Starting with Paul Simon’s lyric, what was the myth of fingerprints?  Since the advent of discovering that fingerprints are unique and may be used to accurately identify people, the term has also been adopted to mean leaving one’s mark on something.  That fiasco has so and so’s fingerprints all over it.  Or the British Empire left its fingerprint all over the globe.

Myth is what we choose to believe apart from absolute certainty – are all fingerprints unique with absolute certainty?  We can never know for certain, because we don’t have a fingerprint database going back to the beginning of human history.  So we choose to believe the myth that fingerprints are unique because it gives us (so far) a reliable framework for authenticating an individual’s identity.

Norse mythology and the Viking legend have sparked the imagination of artists, authors, and the world for years.  Wagner immortalized Sigfried, or Sigurd, in his series of operas known as Der Ring des Nibelungen, of which the Ride of the Valkyries is one of the more popular pieces.

Less well known perhaps is the influence of the Norse myths on current popular culture today – notably, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series and Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods.

Myths are powerful, and they surround us daily.

During the 2016 Presidential election I imagine citizens did not vote for Donald Trump the person or Hilary Clinton the person.  They voted for the myth of Donald Trump (Make America Great Again) or the myth of Hilary Clinton (Stronger Together).  Barack Obama was president for two terms because the majority of voting citizens believed in the myth of Barack Obama (Hope – 2008,  Forward – 2012).

In Sapiens, Harari points out that the core of what we believe as United States citizens is entrenched in myth.  The myth that all men are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   This is the myth we choose to believe as US citizens.  Other countries and cultures have their own myths that tie them together as a people.

Myth helps us explain not only what we believe, but why.  What we must realize is that different myths are used to explain the same things in different ways, so before we criticize or denounce another’s myth it behooves us to understand how similar our myths may be, and rather than hold myth as absolute truth, see it as a story through which we can find commonality with others.

Wealth. It’s more about gratitude than greed.

Wealth. It's more about gratitude than greed

Wealth isn’t so much what we have or how much, but about our acceptance of what we have, how we use it, whether we give it freely or hoard it, and whether we are a like a stagnant pond or a flowing river, where wealth flows in, through and out again.

Wealth is what we leave behind, not what we take with us, although realizing true wealth in this life assures us of wealth to come in the next, whatever you might believe comes next.

My word for 2016 was wealth.  I bought Benjamin Graham’s book, The Intelligent Investor, planning to learn about building financial wealth.  I still haven’t read it.  My experience with understanding wealth during 2016 turned out to be less about money (and the greed often associated with it) and more about relationships and accepting the generosity of others.

Relationship

I started spending every Sunday with my godson’s family, sharing meals, spending time in conversations, helping out with projects in the yard, sharing the couch with one of two full sized german shepherds,  basically becoming part of the family.  This made me more wealthy than any amount of money I could have made.  It’s also cool to pull up outside the house and hear two little rascals shouting, “Dave Tornstrom’s here!  Dave Tornstrom’s here!” (Yes they use my full name.  Every time.  I think it’s hysterical since most of my friends from college on only knew me by my nickname, Klondike.)

I also reconnected with old friends when they invited me to their son’s 1st birthday party.  I have been back many weekends for dinner, campfires, and helping out with the odd errand or two.  If I had not accepted the generosity of their hospitality I would never have experienced the joy of hearing a now two year old yell, “Klondike!,” whenever I show up.

A good deal of time last summer was spent outside with friends mountain biking, boating, and camping, reconnecting with my love of the outdoors.  This was magnified in my mind later in the fall, when I was feeling somewhat more melancholy than usual, and I realized this was the first summer in about 4-5 years that my parents and I had not spent a week in the Berkshires hiking and soaking in the quiet of a remote cottage.

The Generosity of Others

It may seem strange, but I was also learning to accept the generosity of others and just enjoy it.  I am one of those types who, when given something, feels compelled to pay it back, or return the favor.  Thus whenever someone was generous with me I felt indebted to them.  I can’t stand being indebted to anyone or anything. So most of the time I learned to simply refuse what was offered, or awkwardly attempt to return the favor immediately.  This is not wealth.

Part of being truly wealthy is understanding how to accept the generosity of others well.  Generosity well received is a generous response to the giver.  In this way we learn the value of being generous to others.  True generosity is giving with no expectation of anything in return, except perhaps gratitude. Gratitude like love, does no harm. But even when gratitude is withheld, generosity is not nullified. In fact generosity in the face of ingratitude is the most generous, as it is easy to give when a thank-you is expected, but much harder when it is not.

I guess you could say by learning to accept generosity, what I was really learning was the practice of gratitude.  I have adopted the practice used by many of listing at least 3 things I am grateful for everyday as part of my morning journal.  It is a simple but profound exercise.

Conclusion

What I discovered is true wealth is much more about fostering healthy relationships, engaging in community with neighbors, being generous, and expressing gratitude with every breath we breathe, than it is about money or possessions.

Wealth is yours to decide and yours to define, but yours only for this lifetime.

Money Time and Energy

Money. Time. Energy.

Most of us have ideas about all the things we would like to accomplish in our lifetime, but seem to protest too much about not having enough money, time or energy to do them.

The solution is simple but hard. We have to plan.

Money

  • We have to create a budget to make sure we are setting money aside and not spending more than we make. Then we have to follow it, changing it as necessary.
  • Bust a Myth: Budgets are not set in stone, they can be changed as often or as little as you want. The only unchanging principle is you can’t spend more than you earn.

Time

  • We have to plan ahead and schedule in the important things. If you want to read more, schedule time each day to read. If you want to meditate more, schedule the time each day and meditate. Whatever it is that you never seem to have time for, schedule the time and then do it.
  • Bust a Myth: Schedules lock us in, they restrict our freedom, man. Actually, done right, scheduling in the important stuff and doing it actually frees us up to enjoy the remaining free time more fully, because we aren’t being nagged by our subconscious about all the things we aren’t getting done

Energy

  • In order to have energy we need to plan time to take care of our bodies. We need about 7-8 hours of sleep consistently. We need exercise or activity of some kind daily. And we need time for stillness, to clear our minds and just be still.
  • Bust a Myth: I have too many things to get done.  Sleep can wait.  I’ll hit the gym tomorrow.  Sitting still doing nothing is a waste of time. Time is money.  And so we burn out.  Our ability to accomplish tasks efficiently and precisely is greatly increased with healthy sleep patterns (when our brain kind of “reboots”), regular exercise (which increases the efficiency of oxygen flow to the brain), and periodic times of stillness (which gives us time to make sure we are on the right track or off down a rabbit trail).

Planning takes effort. It’s sometimes a painful process (at least at first). But the weird truth is the more you plan, the more money, time and energy you will seem to have.

3 Simple Principles for Wealth and Happiness

I know, this is a pretty big claim, but yep, I’m saying it’s pretty much this easy.

It’s also this hard.

 

1. Spend less than you earn.

If you are spending more than you earn you have only three options to correct this: spend less, earn more, or do both.

Our in-come must be greater than our out-go.
– Pretty much every treasurer in history

2. Set some aside.

Take a small percentage off the top of every paycheck and use it for savings:  emergency funds, sinking funds, vacation, retirement, etc.

“A part of everything you earn is yours to keep.”
– George Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon

3. Give generously from what you have.

Giving doesn’t always have to be financial, but giving financially helps us maintain a proper and healthy attitude toward money.

Happiness comes from spiritual wealth, not material wealth… Happiness comes from giving, not getting. If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it.
– Sir John Templeton

 

My One Word for 2017 Is…

SeveraMy One Word for 2017l years ago I started a practice introduced to me through the book One Word That Will Change Your Life (Britton/Page/Gordon).  At the end of each year I do some reflection and pick a word that will be the main focus for that year.

My One Word for 2017 came to me with some difficulty, partly because I was resisting it.

Discipline.

Yuck, right? But as I was reading a similar book called The One Thing (Keller/Papasan), the authors described discipline in a way I had never considered it before. Discipline for me was always a long term continual process that was necessarily painful in some cases, but nearly impossible to maintain and ultimately resulted in crashing and burning and starting over.

This new way of looking at discipline was as a temporary intense effort, reduced to as simple an action or practice as possible, that would eventually become habit, done automatically, no longer requiring the same discipline energy to do it.

For example, two of the big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) I set for myself in 2017 are:

  1. Read 36 books (3 per month) and
  2. Drop my weight to 220 lbs by 2/20/2017 (I started the year at around 255 lbs – more than slightly overweight for me).

The discipline I instituted was going to the gym on a consistent basis 4-5 times per week every week. To keep it simple, I decided to focus on just getting to the gym and walking on the treadmill for 50 minutes or so while reading e-books on my iPad’s Kindle app.

After about 2 weeks I started to enjoy this time at the gym. It was no longer a dreaded thing that required the same amount of discipline, but a habit I looked forward to and actually miss when other responsibilities take precedent. I converted what I thought was time consuming to something enjoyable and productive for my health and brain.

Of course I missed my 220 by 2/20 goal and am now on my 220 by 5/20 goal, but I have made progress, tracking my weight daily (“what gets measured gets managed“), and as of the past few weeks I am weighing in around 240 lbs – that’s 15 lbs since the beginning of the year.

More important than the weight loss, I feel better about my health and about myself, and hope this successful use of discipline will continue to help me with my other BHAGs for 2017, which I’ll save for a later post.

Oh yeah, what about the books?  So far I have finished 16 books and almost finished with 2 more (4 Fiction/14 Non-Fiction). that’s a pace of at least 4 books a month, so I am well ahead of my goal.  (If you want to know what I’ve been reading let me know with a comment and I’ll include in a future post).

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 


Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of More

We can’t be content with more if we have not yet learned to be content with less.

Interestingly, once we become content with less we seldom want more, but are better equipped to manage it when it inevitably comes our way.

When we are content with less, more seems to come our way, and we are more likely to give it away or share it with others. Our generosity increases as our contentment grows. When we no longer find ourselves in the pursuit of more, and begin to pursue less, our focus inevitable shifts away from ourselves and towards others.

No one can be generous while they are selfish. We can appear generous to others, but if we have ulterior motives – like having others think we are generous – this is selfish. When we do something for our own benefit it is by nature a selfish act.

Beware Tempting Mortgage Refinance Offers

Earlier this year I received a nice letter from QuickenLoans that said:

“You may be eligible to refinance your home loan at a low, 30-year fixed interest rate of 3.75% (4.609% APR). This lower rate could reduce your monthly mortage payment to $467.02!”  (Bold print theirs)

They repeat this message two additional times on the same page, once in regular type and immediately below in bold in a call out box

Sound good?  Not so fast.

I refinanced about 5 years ago to a 15 year fixed conventional loan at 3.375% with a monthly payment of approximately $916.  This new loan would basically cut my monthly payment in half!  But…

When I received this offer I had a little less than 11 years left on my current loan.   This new loan would add 20 years to the length of my loan.  It would also increase my interest rate by 0.375%.  Let’s just do some quick uncomplicated math here:

12 months x 30 years x $467 = 168,120 (remember I would be refinancing only $100,842)

12 months x 11 years x $916 = 120,912

That’s a $47,000 difference!  For the privilege of cutting my monthly payment in half, I get to increase my interest rate, add 20 years to my payment term, and shell out an additional $47,000 in interest.

Don’t forget that I am in the 5th year of my current 15-year loan, so by now, the way amortization schedules work, I am paying considerably more in principal than I am in interest (out of my $916/month payment less than $300 is interest and over $600 is paying down principal).  This is good.

If I refinance now at the offer QuickenLoans presented to me I would be paying considerably more in interest than I would against principal (out of the $467/month payment over $300 is interest at the start and only about $150 is paying down principal).  This is bad.

Anyone still think this offer is a good deal for me?  Or that this lender is really looking out for my best interest?

Remember this simple concept:  When the interest portion of your payment is higher than the principal portion, your loan is in the lender’s favor, not yours.  (Tweet)

The best part of this?  They are offering an FHA loan for which my condo unit doesn’t even qualify.  So they would likely try to sell me an even higher interest rate after going through the whole process, and I would end up with an even worse deal.

Beware the tempting offer.  Do the math.  Talk it over with someone you trust will give you the straight figures.

A Brief Reflection on Clarity, Purpose and Passion

In the midst of dusting off my resume and moving toward the next phase of my career, I have been thinking a lot about purpose, and just how hard it has been to figure out.  A long time ago I read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and have been searching for my purpose ever since.  I still don’t know my what it is.  I’ve read at least 5-10 other books about purpose since then and they’re all great, but…

Then not too long ago I was either listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast, reading one of his blog posts, or perhaps it was reading his most recent book, Tools of Titans, when I came across this great quote:

Forget purpose.  It’s okay to be happy without one.  The quest for a single purpose has ruined many lives.
-James Altucher

 

Thanks James, I mean Mr. Altucher.  That statement kind of freed me a little bit.

I also read a lot of other books about business, building a client list, how to be successful, yada, yada, yada…and they all talk about following your passion.  If you look up passion in the dictionary you’ll see a picture of me listed as an antonym (that means the opposite for those of you who were snoozing through english class).  Seriously.  A friend and client of mine even nicknamed me “Flatline.”  So following my passion never quite made sense to me – I didn’t really see my self as passionate about anything.

Then I was listening to another podcast and heard this gem:

Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.
-Mike Rowe

 

Cool.  I can definitely move forward without following a passion, but I know I come across things occasionally that get me fired up, and it’s good to know passion will be there when I need it.  It’s in my car, but it’s not driving.

Then the other day I was simply going through some past journals and notebooks gathering quotes to type into Evernote for future blog posts, and I came across this last gem, that pretty much inspired this post:

Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of…I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.
– Mother Theresa

 

I have never had clarity either, and I always thought something was wrong with me.  It’s nice to know I’m in good company, now all I need to do is work on trust…something I have had to do a lot of in the past five years.