Treating the Symptoms and Not the Root of Problems

These days you open the financial news section, there isn’t a whole lot of good news going on in the section.
You see news about people losing their homes to foreclosures, due to “unforeseen” results of lending.
You see news about financial and investment companies losing their pants due to the subprime heap of mess.
You see news about toys recalls and decrease of quality in other products, due to cost cutting.
You see news about people’s booty falling into piles of credit card debt.
You see news about boomers retiring with inadequate savings, due to…I really don’t know, probably a bunch of reasons (excuses).

In turn, people write and argue in the media about what methods to fix each of those problems, and in some cases, bailing out those people. I’d like to say people have gotten it all wrong. I say those problems are just symptoms of a rampant issue in society. By implementing method that solve each of those problems will only provide solutions in the short term. On the long haul, they will come back to bite us once again, and probably with a vengeance.

I say the main issue is greed and irresponsibility. People are so drugged up with greed that lead to a lot of the problems we see today. Profits, profits, profits. And with only profits in mind, people took actions in order to make profits while ignoring or denying the fact that they will be responsible for the consequence later, as is happening in the market these days. As for individual consumers, they have been irresponsible of their own financial matters and future, buy junks and luxury in the cost of future.

Hence, instead of solving those individual problems, I would urge people to put a tap on their greed and blatant ignorance to responsibility. If only people can learn to exercise self-control, maintain a clear mind, practice some discipline, understand responsibility… but those don’t sound very fun. Such boring mumbo-jumbo.

Making quick money is so much more fun!
Having all these things is so much more exciting!
Oh right, eating junk food is so much more fun too!

Perhaps I should shut up, as I appear to be the insensible one here. Or not?

Originally posted 2007-11-21 23:49:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Avoid Giving Up and Burning Out by Incremental Change

I had a conversation at dinner tonight where a friend of a friend mentioned her effort on a physical training program. Unfortunately, the attempt seemed to have come to an end after 12 days. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Haven’t we all heard this somewhere before? Maybe because it’s happening all around us. Perhaps you are one of them.

This is the exact same thing when we hear about someone’s new year resolution or someone’s birthday resolution or someone’s after-doctor-visit resolution. Somehow these certain events would provide people this sudden burst of energy and motivation. Then overnight, they transform into fanatics in exercising and gym. Amazing. But these effort usually ends in desertion and is completely forgotten after a few days, a few weeks, or at most a few months. All that effort wasted, sadly.

What went wrong? People burn out quickly whenever they abruptly change their entire routine and lifestyle in order to contribute to such total dedicaion. Let’s say your work suddenly requires you to work 100 hours per week when you usually work 40. I’m sure you will burn out quite quickly. Suddenly making yourself exercise couple hours everyday of the week when you don’t normally exercise is no difference. Despite feeling good for yourself at the beginning, such abrupt change puts so much stress, both physical and mental, on you that will easily lead to giving up.

How to avoid? First, you must understand that your goal is to achieve long-term, sustaining change. You may as well not waste your time if you don’t see it this way. You will need to implement incremental change over time, by doing it one step after another. You cannot learn to sprint without learning the proper way to breath and run first. You cannot lift 100 lbs before you can lift 25, 50, 75… lbs first. So, if you never run on daily basis, maybe start running 15 minutes at a comfortable pace. Then 30 minutes, 45 minutes, with gradual increase in speed. Find a suitable pace for yourself.

However, in order to improve, it is essential that you must push yourself a little over the limit each time. Run just a little longer and faster, lift just a little heavier, despite the diffuculty, despite the pain. Move outside your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable. In the end, it’s all worth it because you want to change, to improve, which is why you are doing it in the first place.

So far I have mostly focus on the health aspect of incremental change. However, the same princple can be applied in personal development and personal finance. If you spend $2000 in order to eat delicious food each month and then you force yourself to start eating fast food or only salads for $200 a month, the likelihood of you keeping up is extremely low. Worse yet, you may rebound and start spending more than $2000 later to make up for it. Instead, you can slowly lessen the frequency of eating out, at expensive restaurants, to give yourself time to get used to the change. Eventually, you will end up spending $200 a month. Or you can start saving $50 each month, then $100 after awhile, then $200…

It is important to understand that the incremental change principle suggested here is a healthy way to create sustaining change, applicable in all areas of life. It is not the only way, but it is a healthy way. It is about making a conscious choice for every action and doing it one step at a time.

Based on the incremental change principle, I suggested to the friend, “How about slow it down and start training 2 to 3 times a week?” for which I received a blank stare on her face. I sure hope this post is a bit more well received.

Originally posted 2007-11-16 23:27:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Excess in Our Society, Now is the Shedding Time

A friend sent me link about a new Sony Vaio laptop.

The world’s lightest 8″ notebook, the 1.4-pound VAIO® P Series Lifestyle PC does more than you could imagine–with impeccable style. Email at the airport, IM from the park, or just show it off when you want some attention.

Honestly, who really needs a laptop that is 1.4lb that is mega-expensive? What the F is a person gonna use it for? Throw it like a baseball? It’s not big enough to read and browse and work on it comfortably. It’s not small enough like smart phones, with resembling functions, for you to carry around. If you have trouble carrying around a 4 to 5 lb of very portable laptop, may I say you have a physical condition called weak, and by that I mean, weaker than a 5-year-old.

So in the end, it is all about the last comment — just show it off when you want some attention — that which appeals to the emotional side of consumers. And people will fall for it too, as we have come to adopt the consumeristic lifestyle, which boomed in the past decades. Just maybe less peope will fall for it now, but such things like this laptop are the reflections of the excess in our society.

The lavish lifestyle of the super-rich.
The giant house that’s too big even for a family, let alone just a couple.
The big house that parents insist to buy because they have… TWO kids.
The ultra mega-pixel digital camera, when common users won’t even have practical usage of pictures from a 4MP camera.
The pick-up and SUVs for just-in-case big items.
Uh… Hummer!
Fancy gym memberships that 85% (or whatever large amount) of the people don’t use.
The obsessive of saving this and that, or war on this and that, while each individual has trouble taking care of the self, mastering the self.
Talk shows, reality TVs, game shows.
The amount of lawsuits, blaming, victimizing the self.

And the biggest reflection of excess is… the unhealthiness, both physical and mental, of the general population. Just look at obesity, many terminal illness, depression, people going hay-wired, rising health care cost, general uncaring-ness of each other… I believe are all reflections of the same thing.

The excessive excess we have reflects a general lacking inside. Something is amiss which causes us to be so materialistic, even though it is all about looking inside yourself. Since nobody does that, they never fulfill the lack and continue to chase materials, in the form of money, in the form of a successful career, in the form of owning things. Thus the excess. All the while, without looking at yourself and taking care of the self first, people’s physical and mental condition deteriorate because they only know to chase materials. Thus all the physiological and mental illness.

So until each individual learns to take care of the self and learns to look within rather than without, and thereby shedding the excess, our problems will always be re-occurring, if only in different forms. Look at the past 3000 years. Humans hadn’t really changed. If anything, I think we are in worse shape than ever, despite the entrepreneurship, despite technology, despite all the knowledge and information we possess now.

Originally posted 2009-01-16 01:44:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Law of Relativity Applied to the Dollar

The theory of relativity is one of Albert Einstein’s greatest achievement. Today, I apply it to our perspective on money to explain the pay for being directors and CEOs. And don’t miss out the wonders of CEO perks.

From $21,000 an hour, at your expense:

In 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available, 85 corporate directors took home more than $1 million.

From Is a CEO worth 364 times the average Joe?:

Top execs at Fortune 500 companies averaged $10.8 million in total compensation in 2006.

In terms of relativity, the passage of time is drastically different from someone sitting on an Herman Miller chair to someone sitting on a porcupine. Likewise, the value of money is different for owner of an Enzo Ferrari vs. owner of a 20-year-old rusty beat-up Corolla. In literal terms, for commoners and middle class folks, including myself, a dollar is just a dollar, but for the people who peer down on earth from Mount Olympus, they speak in terms of thousands. Base on the said theory base on relativity…

Directors who earn $21,000 on an hourly basis, that is a whooping $21 dollars. That’s a couple happy meals there.

For CEOs who make millions each year, their salaries are reduced to a couple thousands dollars. Ah, poor bunch living in poverty. No wonder they needed company-sponsored social security. With high inflation and increasing energy cost, I see them needing help from their companies more than ever.

Now that we have applied relativity to the dollar, those people no longer sound so impressive. That should bring us some solace and comfort knowing that they feel as poor as we do. Yeah! It has also become clear why they strive so hard to become billionaires because it’s no different from us trying to become millionaires!

And guess what, today’s Dilbert comic ironically is on the same topic!
dilbert20080146685118.gif

Below are some notable(laughable) perks mentioned in The worst CEO perks, though I beg the difference and would title it best instead of worst. And if you apply relativity to all the numbers by removing the last 3 decimals, then all the perks will make perfect sense. In fact, they are of the same value as the perks the white collars get – unlimited supply of paper, staples, post-its, and what not. More fortunate ones may get international long distance phone calls, like CEOs with their private jets.

  • Chairman and former Chief Executive Vincent Gierer Jr. [of UST Inc.] got $6,500 for his wine allowance, despite making more than $6 million.
  • At Anheuser-Busch, execs enjoy unlimited free beer “for personal use and entertaining.”
  • Shareholders of Nuance Communications footed the $25,911 bill for a personal assistant used by Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Ricci. [And his] $3,896 tax bill.
  • Motorola executives get personal health coaches.
  • i2 Technologies paid $942,000 to shuttle CEO Michael McGrath back and forth from his home in Maine and his office in Dallas during the year.
  • United Technologies CEO George David wasn’t far behind. His shareholders forked out $612,000 in 2006 for his personal use of the corporate jet.
  • Even CEO Martin Glynn was paid $13.8 million in salary, stock incentive grants and other pay in 2006, HSBC paid him a $177,600 rent allowance, plus an additional $150,000 to cover the tax on the value of the rent.
  • Liberty Media shareholders last year chipped in $319,278 to help Chairman John Malone pay his taxes.

After reading all that, let’s begin singing what I learned in singing class, “Oh what a wonderful day~~~”.

Originally posted 2008-01-18 15:48:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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