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Ponder Points

A Ponder Point is a significant, outstanding, or effective idea, argument or suggestion that needs to be weighed in the mind with thoroughness and care.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bling Bling or Freedom

The Link of the Week (http://www.word-works.com/simple.htm) this week leads you to a page by Judy and Clay Woods that discusses the concept of Voluntary Simplicity. In their view voluntary simplicity and frugality are two different things. According to the Woods, "Voluntary simplicity is about freedom. It’s about owning your own life. Frugality is living with less of what money can buy. Voluntary simplicity is wanting less."

The Woods go on to say that 25 years ago they made a discovery that changed their life. They came to realize the time is worth more than money. This is what they have to say on the subject:

"This revelation has allowed us to be content in our work or to change that work when it no longer satisfies. It has permitted us to spend less time acquiring things and more time acquiring experiences, insights, and relationships. It has encouraged us to lend a helping hand in our community, whenever the need arises, because we can make the time to do it. It has given us freedom and control of our lives.
For some reason, it seems to us that many people have failed to grasp this simple truth. They trudge off to work every morning to put in their time at jobs they despise so they can buy things. Have you noticed? The more a person hates his or her job, the more money he or she spends on toys, time-shares, new cars, the latest trendy clothes, jewelry, etc. And the more one spends, the more one needs to hang on to that job, no matter what."

Consumer debt is at an all time high according to Kim Edwards, a Ph.D. student in finance at LSU. In her paper at http://www.stretcher.com/stories/960415c.htm, she cites the following statistics:
- Consumer debt has soared 39 percent in the last five years and now exceeds $1 trillion.
- Personal bankruptcies rose by 6 percent to 832,415 by mid-1995 from the prior-year period.
- Consumer loans comprised 45 percent of bank lending in 1994, up from around 33 percent 10 years ago.
- Nearly 4.25 percent of credit card loans were written off as losses late last year, up from 3.8 percent a year earlier.
- Credit card issuers send a record 2.4 million card offers to consumer in 1994, more than double the mailings sent in 1990.
- About 376 million Visas and MasterCards were in circulation as of last fall, up 80 percent from five years earlier.
- The average household now has four credit cards with balances of around $4,800, up from two cards and $2,340 in balances five years ago.
- Consumers owe $360 billion on their cards, double the 1990 level.

I myself made the choice to leave a well paying job with a major oil company and pursue a way of life that allows me to spend more time with my family and makes it possible for me to try my hand at some endeavors that I have always wanted to try. To do this we have had to keep our overhead extremely low. We moved to a part of the country where the cost of living is substantially lower. We maintain very little debt and what debt we do have is very short term. We drive used cars that are bought for cash instead of making monthly payments and bought a fixer upper house that is still in the process of being fixed up. Basically we made the decision to swap the bling bling and the debt that comes with it for more freedom. It has been three and a half years now and we have no regrets.

There is a lot of information available on Voluntary Simplicity on the net and in books. Kim Edwards ends her paper with:

"The reasons for VS are as numerous as the ways to approach it. For some, this movement is financially motivated, and yet for others, it is motivated by the desire to get out of the rat race of the corporate world. Whatever the reason behind the VS movement, there is a cohesion and a support structure among its practitioners."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Specialization Is For Insects

In my opinion, in today’s world, the more skills and abilities that you are able to cultivate, the better off you are. The age of acquiring a specialized skill and spending your entire career utilizing that one skill for one major corporation is pretty much over. I have just finished reading the book Multipreneuring by Tom Gorman. Mr. Gorman's book presents a strategy to manage your career in a way that will work for you in a world with dramatic structural change in the workplace. He calls this strategy multipreneuring. Mr. Gorman defines the term this way:

“I’ve coined the word multipreneuring from the Latin multi meaning “many” or “more than one” and the English word “entrepreneur” which stems from the French verb entreprendre, which means to undertake. So multipreneuring literally means “more than one undertaking”.

Mr. Gorman practices what he preaches. He has enjoyed careers as an executive recruiter, commercial banker, corporate consultant and freelance writer. He is currently a middle manager for DRI/McGraw-Hill in Lexington, Mass. His strategy is to develop several streams of income rather than rely on only one corporate source. Mr. Gorman continues:

“Multipreneuring entails actually having multiple skills, so that you can develop multiple sources of income and multiple careers, either simultaneously or serially. Multipreneuring enables you to manage risks – financial risks, professional risks, emotional risks, and creative risks – rather than deny them or be disabled by them. Multipreneuring represents a continual process of learning new skills, new strategies, new fields, new businesses, and new markets and of developing new contacts, customers, and friends. Essentially, multipreneuring entails understanding the principles and practices that will enable you to prosper in times of massive economic change, like, for example, the times we live in now.”

I have been utilizing this strategy my entire adult life but did not have a label for it. For years society has told those of us who operate this way that we were unfocused, unsettled and unwilling to commit to one career choice. We have been called jacks of all trades and masters of none. It appears that those of us with multiple skills and wide ranging knowledge have the advantage in today’s world. Our time has come!

I will end this post with the following quote from Robert A. Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. - Robert A. Heinlein

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Meaning of Life

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like an answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of the affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.--- John Gardner

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Public Schools or Sheep Factories

Education is a state-controlled manufactory of echoes.
Norman Douglas

This year we have decided to homeschool our daughter. We came to this decision after watching our bright little girl that loved to learn new things change into a child that dreaded going to school each day. Her smile faded and it felt as if we were punishing her when we dropped her off each morning. She did the work and made the grades but her love of learning had disappeared. She is only in the sixth grade! Something is seriously wrong with our public school system. Any institution that can so throughly wring the joy of learning from a child needs to be changed. Our future depends on these children! We need a generation of thinkers to tackle the problems that we face. If we raise a generation of sheep who do only what they are instructed to and have no desire to strive and learn on their own, then we are lost. We need a generation of life-long learners.

I don't know what it will take to change the public school system. All I know is that since my daughter has started homeschooling, her smile is back and she is reading everything she can lay her hands on. I can think of no greater gift to give her than a love of learning.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Get Involved and Make a Difference

When it's all over, it's not who you were. It's whether you made a difference.
Bob Dole

Recently I became involved in a dispute between my future daughter-in-law and her employer. She was being harrassed at work (sexually and otherwise) and things became so intolerable she felt she had no choice but to quit. She is a sweet quiet girl and was being bullied relentlessly. I have had some legal training and attempted to intercede and mediate some kind of resolution to the situation but my attempts were fruitless and now it is proceeding into litigation.

The point of the story is this: I believe that if we are blessed with a gift, then we have a responsibility to use that gift to help others when we can. If you are physically strong then you should help those that are weaker. If you are blessed with a great intellect then help those that fall short in that area. If you have special skills, then use your skills to make someones life better when you get the chance. If you are a good speaker, then speak up for those that do not have a voice. We all have a responsibility to get involved when we see another in trouble and utilize the gifts that we have been given!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Leadership Traits of Good Leaders

"Effective leadership is the only competitive advantage that will endure. That's because leadership has two sides - what a person is (character) and what a person does (competence)."
Stephen Covey

As in my last post, tonight's post will be on the subject of leadership and the traits that make a good leader. Traits are qualities or characteristics of a person and the sum total of these traits make up what we refer to as character. There are literally hundreds of personality traits but I want to focus on the ones that are part of a good leader's makeup. The traits needed by a good leader are the same whether you are a leader in the Marines, a large corporation, community group or hold a political office. Here are the leadership traits as defined by the Marine Corps field manual "Leading Marines".

1. Integrity – Uprightness of character and soundness of moral principles; includes the qualities of truthfulness and honesty.

2. Knowledge – Understanding of a science or an art. The range of one’s information, including professional knowledge and an understanding of your Marines.

3. Courage – The mental quality that recognizes fear of danger or criticism, but enables a person to proceed in the face of it with calmness and firmness.

4. Decisiveness – Ability to make decisions promptly and to announce them in a clear, forceful manner.

5. Dependability – The certainty of proper performance of duty.

6. Initiative – Taking action in the absence of orders.

7. Tact – The ability to deal with others without creating offense.

8. Justice – Giving reward and punishment according to merits of the case in question. The ability to administer a system of rewards and punishments impartially and consistently.

9. Enthusiasm – The display of sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of duty.

10. Bearing – Creating a favorable impression in carriage, appearance and personal conduct at all times.

11. Endurance – The mental and physical stamina measured by the ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress and hardship.

12. Unselfishness – Avoidance of providing for one’s own comfort and personal advancement at the expense of others.

13. Loyalty – The quality of faithfulness to country, the Corps, the unit, to one’s seniors, subordinates and peers.

14. Judgment – The ability to weigh facts and possible solutions on which to base sound decisions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Severe Shortage Of Leadership

As I follow the news broadcasts about the devastation from hurricane Katrina I am disgusted when I see all the finger pointing going on by politicians and officials at all levels. Everyone is trying to cover their own political butt and is blaming the effects of their lack of leadership on someone else. We have a severe shortage of good solid leaders in this country. This is true in the private sector as well as in public service. On Monday L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco International Ltd., and former Tyco finance chief Mark Swartz were sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the company. That's hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to their salaries which were probably well over a million dollars a year. Unfortunately these types of incidents occur much too often these days. The question is why are we seeing an increase in the number of people with poor leadership skills and lack of values in positions of leadership?

Everything I know about leadership I learned in the United States Marine Corps. One of the things I love about the Corps is that there is no grey area. There is no middle of the road. There is no political correctness. In the Marines you are taught to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. Period! Leaders are expected to lead by example and be accountable for their actions. It is understood that mistakes do occur but you are expected to own up to them and learn from them, then move on. In Jarhead speak "If you mess up, you fess up, then clean up but never cover up".

The training I received in the Marine Corps has served me well in life and in my opinion the Marine manual "Leading Marines" should be required reading for anyone serving in a position of leadership. University of Virginia professor Steve Gladis had this to say on the subject:

“Like my two daughters, few children of their generation will ever serve in the military. And like many fathers of my generation, I want them to know what I learned as a young Marine officer who served for 3 years, including a tour in Vietnam. What I learned while in the Marines has helped me as a father, husband, and professional manager more than any degrees, courses, or training I’ve received since then. The fundamentals of Marine Corps leadership can be found in its basic field manual entitled Leading Marines which contains both the US Marine Corps Core Values and Principles of Leadership. These values and principles will help anyone lead people at home, in business, industry or wherever they go. They are the best things I’ve ever learned when it comes to leading people.” Steve Gladis, Ph.D. – former Marine officer, University of Virginia professor, former FBI agent

Below I have listed the Marine Corps Core Values for your pondering pleasure. Just imagine what a difference it would make if all of our leaders were instilled with these values!

Honor: Simply put, leaders don’t lie, cheat or steal. Honor is all about trust and integrity. It is a bedrock for any group of people because without it there is no trust or justice. And without trust everyone suspects the worst of a fellow team member. It means personally accepting the consequences for decisions and actions.

Courage: Mental, moral, and physical courage distinguish leaders from the herd. To lead you must have mental toughness to make difficult decisions. Moral courage, like mental courage, means making tough calls when others around you might say, “But everyone’s doing it; it must be OK.” Finally, physical courage is placing yourself in harms way for another… placing their safety and well being before yours.

Commitment: Leaders stick with the team. Loyalty is essential if you expect to succeed. If leaders jump ship every time a better looking deal comes along, imagine the chaos that results and the people that are lost along the way. Now, loyalty need not be blind. Strong teams must question unethical or illegal conduct, but commitment must also be a bedrock value. In fact, the Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis – always faithful.

Monday, September 19, 2005

10 Commandments For A Happy Marriage

The late Ben Sweetland listed his "10 Commandments For A Happy Marriage" in his book "I Can" which was published in 1953. I think they are just as applicable today as they were in 1953. Here they are for you to ponder:

1. Keep Yourself Sold to Each Other. You created a good impression before marriage. Continue to create a good impression after marriage. This is easy to do and the rewards are great.

2. It Is More Blessed to Give than to Receive. In giving, do not be guided by what you might receive in return. The act of giving should be its own reward. Happiness comes from giving happines.

3. Marriage Should Not Destroy Individuality. Entering marriage is a partnership, not ownership of one individual by another. A yoke around the neck soon begins to chafe.

4. Never Pry into the Affairs of Your Mate. Pockets, handbags, letters and dresser drawers should be private to their owners. Suspicion creates inharmony which can have an unhappy ending.

5. Never Retire at Night with Any Differences Existing Between You. A good-night kiss should be a must in every home. This prevents little differences from growing into big ones.

6. Compliment Each Day. Giving sincere compliments each day trains you to look for the good things in your mate instead of otherwise. The importance of this commandment cannot be overestimated.

7. Never Permit Jealousy to Enter Your Home. When jealousy steps in.... love walks out. Jealousy and love will not remain together. The more you trust your mate, the more the trust will be deserved.

8. When Separated Through Circumstances, Write Love Letters. After a couple has been married a few years, and occasional love letter will keep the spark of romance brightly burning.

9. Operate on a Budget Basis. Money problems will often disturb the harmony of a home. Handle your finances sanely. Earn a little, spend a little, save a little. You can be generous with each other ...... yet thrifty.

10. Be Good to your In-Laws. There are two sets of them. If you show love and respect for your in-laws, your mate is most likely to be as considerate of yours. In-laws are real people.

Friday, September 16, 2005

125 Years - Our True Life Span

Is our true life span supposed to be 125 years? That is what a lot of researchers believe. Shigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University, always talked about the 'life of 125 years' theory. According to this theory, "a human being can live to 125 years of age. He will be able to live out his natural lifespan as long as he takes good care of his health". The logic behind it is physiologists say that every animal has the ability to live 5 times as long as its growth period. Since a man is said to require about 25 years to become fully mature, he can live up to 125 years of age based on this logic. Shigenobu Okuma, who was Prime Minister of Japan twice, organized his second cabinet at the age of 77 and lived to 83 years of age. He said, "I wish I could have understood this 'life of 125 years' theory 30 years earlier". But he led a regular life and lived fairly long considering the average lifespan of Japanese then.

The late Ben Sweetland also stated that he believed that 125 years is the true lifespan of humans. When asked why people do not often reach this age he said that one factor is that we are conditioned from birth to believe that 70 years is the best we can expect. According to Sweetland our subconcious works toward this goal rather than 125 years.

What would you do different if you knew you would live to be 125 years old? Go back to school and get that degree? Start a business? If what a lot of experts say is true, then 70 years old is only a little over middle age. This opens up a whole lot of options doesn't it? Heck that means I am still a youngster. Happy ponderings!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Our Children - The Secret to Our Immortality

Our parents cast long shadows over our lives. When we grow up, we imagine that we can walk in the sun, free of them. We don't realize, until it's too late, that we have no choice in the matter; they're always ahead of us. We carry them within us all our lives--in the shape of our face, the way we walk, the sound of our voice, our skin, our hair, our hands, our heart. We try all our lives to separate ourselves from them, and only when they are gone do we find we are indivisible. -Richard Eyre

I often think that I see parts of myself in my children. Even the ones that I have inherited by marrying the greatest woman in the world. Maybe our children are the secret to our immortality!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Are You Learned or a Learner?

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I was driving out to a job site which is located in the middle of the desert the other day and ran across a cactus that had managed to get a foothold on a rocky ledge. Somehow it had managed to not only survive but to actually thrive on the solid rock ledge. There it was, blooming it's heart out against all odds. Seeing it made me remember an old saying that my grandmother repeated to me several times, "Bloom where you are planted."

Many of us are always waiting for the perfect set of circumstances to do something we have always wanted to do. We think if only I had more time or if only I had more money or if I lived somewhere else or _______________ (you fill in the blank) I would do such and such. Unfortunately the perfect situation never occurs. That leaves us only two choices: give up on our dream or dig in and get started where we are in life right now. "Bloom where you are planted".

I have always wanted to write but kept putting it off waiting for more hours in the day or the perfect office, or for me to magically get the self discipline to plant my butt in a chair long enough to get something down on paper. Seeing that cactus and remembering my grandmother's words made me realize that unless I get started right now and right here that I would never realize my dream. So here I am. This blog is my first attempt to produce coherent writing on an ongoing basis. I am attempting to "Bloom where I am planted".

Monday, September 12, 2005

All Parents Damage Their Children

I am in the middle of reading "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" by Mitch Albom.
In the book on page 104 he writes:
"All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair."

When I first read this passage, I took exception to it. But after giving it some thought I realized that there is a lot of truth to this statement. All of us have heard of children who have been abused and have had childhoods shattered "into jagged little pieces, beyond repair." Often they grow up to be adults with jagged edges that injure all that come into contact with them.

Pure molten glass can be formed into beautiful and delicate items with the gentlest of touches. Every touch or action leaves a permanent impression on the glass and in the right hands it can be shaped into a beautiful vessel. But too heavy of a hand will shatter the glass into fragments that are unable to be repaired. So it is with our children. I have come to realize that every action we take and every word we speak leaves a permanent impression, good or bad, on this pristine glass that is a child. Every positive action such as a hug or bit of praise polishes the glass a bit more and slowly shapes the vessel into a work of art. On the other hand, each negative action whether it is verbal, physical or emotional creates another chip or crack in the glass and will ultimately produce a flawed vessel.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is whether our actions and words are creating a work of art or a flawed vessel.

What Is A Ponder Point?

I have found that as I make my way through this life, I often run across something that makes me pause and think. Sometimes it is a quote or a line or two in a book I am reading. Other times it is a remark that I overhead somewhere. No matter what the source, the wisdom is so inherent that one has to stop and give it some consideration. That is the genesis of this blog - Ponder Points. According to the dictionary to Ponder is to weigh in the mind with thoroughness and care. Point is defined as a significant, outstanding, or effective idea, argument, or suggestion.

So a Ponder Point is a significant, outstanding, or efective idea, argument or suggestion that needs to be weighed in the mind with thoroughness and care.

I look forward to exchanging Ponder Points with everyone and welcome any and all comments that you are willing to share.