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My 8 Unimpeachable Quarantine Goals for 2021

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A daring bloodless revolution is underway…

… not in Tehran or Washington… nope… in the confines of my home.

Do I think New Year’s resolutions are passé? … well… not so much… but…

… OK, I’m still a goal setter – and it may just be my advancing age – but it’s more likely this whole COVID thing has me becoming more discerning and self-critical.

The belly button gazing has become more intense (and fogged by fluff).

The choices and opportunities for setting goals and achievements has narrowed substantially this past year. Today…

• I substitute PBS Rick Steves episodes for international travel destinations

• CNN is a surrogate for fantasy literature stories

• baking powder or starter mix does its bubble-dance in place of hard-as-toilet-paper-to-find yeast

• energetic hikes to the refrigerator take up the sweaty role of boot camp classes

• snatching a package of toilet paper from an elderly lady’s shopping cart makes for a high-five victory (and a lap of shame too, Larry)

Author Jim Collin’s Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) remain out-of-bounds for awhile still.

So… my major mental activity these days is to categorize my minor-league goals; here are a select few of these 2021 Humbled Downsized Miniaturized Goals (HDMG):

  1. Hygiene: Brush my teeth at least twice a week. Finger rubbing between brushings scores chocolate bonus points. Avoid smiling at hygienist daughter: stay focused.
  2. Hygiene: create a small business of mobile face-mask washing kiosks outside malls and grocery stores to remove crusty spots and brown saliva stains from customer masks worn for weeks and jammed into filthy pockets.
  3. Exercise: Run 5k at least once a …. run 5k over the coming year. Marathon Stretch Goal– keep weight gain to 26.2 lbs.
  4. Exercise: Climb to the very top of local mountain, Giant’s Head, carrying a case of Double-size Charmin toilet paper, without the assistance of bottled O2 or an accompanying medic… train ahead of time with YouTube Couch Cross-Fit and BedBounce Yoga classes.
  5. Mental: Read War and Peace in original Russian… or 10 Trump tweets in English, whichever is less difficult to understand. Late breaking: No more Trump tweets, nyet… so War and Peace it is… da!
  6. Mental: Yell out in properly verb-conjugated Spanish at the neighbour’s Chihuahua when it poops on my property…. el perro gordo loco….
  7. Creative: Write 10 blog posts that don’t mention the words Trump and F*ck in the same paragraph. Also: write one full post using only my left pinkie finger.
  8. Investment: pour entire pension fund assets into toilet paper futures using Bitcoin (Larry, do you even have the slightest understanding of what bitcoin is?)

  • BONUS Goals:
    • Cooking: Work on sculpture-based meal-making using a combination of Beyond Meat and Chia Pet seeds. First up: Bob Ross Meat(less)loaf. Also: Send my 2 yr-old grandson’s famous recipe for Stinky Cheese Donuts to Tim Hortons.
    • Juvenile: Dress up as Miss Piggy and eat frog legs for breakfast.
    • Music: Write a Broadway musical about Trump called Hangry Humping On The Resolute Desk.

Welcome to silly season. So what will be YOUR goals for 2021?

Hang on cuz this will be a year of necessary continued patience and finding something funny in the absurd. Even many Holocaust survivors found room in their lives for dark humour to lift their spirits.

Those afflicted with COVID, or those with someone close-by affected, need the respite of laughter to distract and soothe. To quote my COVID long-hauler Irish cousin, “Let’s not forget all the positivity among the pain – those little glimmers of sunshine in the darkness that got us through.

Now’s a good time to start your own home-bound res(v)olution…

Are YOU a Success or SUCKCESS?

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Elton 75

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I wanna be a rock star like Elton John!

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This is what the insistent voice in my head whispered over and over to me when I was 16.

I listened to John’s Yellow Brick Road album like it held my very own magic pathway to riches and fame. Oh I’ve finally decided my future lies, beyond the Yellow Brick Roooooad….

Crazy! Of course I had NO idea what this meant in real life day-in and day-out terms. NADA!

Even today, I don’t truly know what it would have meant. And just imagine all that nose candy.

But even still, Elton was an inspiration to me.

Are you an aficionado aka sucker of motivational and inspirational music, books, memes, and talks?

If so, you’ve landed at the right place today…

And full disclosure here:  I AM the biggest “sucker” out there for this kinda stuff.

I constantly play Inspector Clouseau, seeking out the motivating tools (those that make some sense) that make me jump up and down inside like a puppy at your front door when you come home from a tiring day at the office. Woof!

It’s probably why I’m so goal-oriented, reaching towards the stars with the assistance of talented, spirited others.

I spent a pretty significant portion of my younger days pondering my so-called “achievement and success”. You too? Good, I’m not alone.

Over the years I’ve leaned heavily on real-life successful motivators (like them or not in today’s world) such as Lance Armstrong, Melinda and Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elton John, Aaron Sorkin, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Wayne Gretzky, Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama, Carole King, Harry Chapin. The list trundles on and on.

But the reason I’m even thinking about what I’m thinking about this week is because of a single word I read in a small motivational book by a young fella, Austin Kleon, titled, KEEP GOING.

keep going book

SUCKCESS.

Kleon brought me this clever word that makes so much sense…. in talking about success, he insets the letter K, spelling the word SUCKCESS.

Of course, success can mean a million different things physical, material, and spiritual – you have your own unique definition of the word –  but for many here, at least in North America…

Success= Riches and Fame

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It begins day one in kindergarten when the teacher stands towering before you like God and asks what you want to be as a big person, the real underlying question being:

How will you become rich and/or famous?

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WAIT… what’s this? Mommy said I was coming here to play games with other kids…

So what’s “suckcess”?

Kleon describes it as:

Suckcess is success on somebody else’s terms, or undeserved success, when something that sucks becomes successful, or when success starts to suck.”

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The question we might be best asking ourselves? Is the success I’m looking and hoping for an exhilarating airplane journey or a suffocating cage?

It’s a simple question with a difficult and life-changing answer… if you follow the correct trail.

Does the endorphin rush I’m looking for come from what I truly love to do – an internal drive – or is it the push from someone else’s voice or wish for me?

My Dad wanted me to become a doctor one day. He would glow when he mentioned to the neighbours that his son was thinking about medical school. The reflected prestige was intoxicating. I get it.

My father would have been exhilarated, but I would have been crushed in a vice of someone else’s choosing.

Lucky for me, I was uncharacteristically self-aware enough to know that while I was interested in the notion, I wasn’t willing to make the lifetime of sacrifices needed to make that success goal possible.

Nope! That would have spelled SUCKCESS for me.

 

bad success

I’ve been writing this weekly blog journal as the Man On The Fringe for more than 8 years now. WOW!

Now if my definition of success was to gather a million or more weekly readers, or to amass Jeff Besos-sized sums of money from my writing… well, I botched it totally on those measures of success.

Here’s a little insider secret. Each day, my blog readership generally lands in the range of about 40-60 views.  Some days a little higher, some a little lower. That isn’t remotely successful by almost any blog writer’s dream of success. And money? Don’t interrupt my laughter please…

And yet.

This blog is a big success in my own little mind because it allows me the gift of spending a few focussed hours every week thinking and sifting and measuring the ideas and thoughts that are important to me.

It’s a morsel of mind discipline the way you might derive yours from regular yoga practice, or the New York Times Crossword, or Sudoku, or catching flies with chopsticks (thank you Mr. Miyagi)

Every week, I find myself in my writing. I come across surprises constantly. So, to my thinking… YES, Virginia, this is SUCCESS.

Returning to my teenage roots and becoming a musical success through fame and fortune… well… that was never realized, at least not in the way I was thinking at the time.

The consistently successful musical artists out there pay a huge personal price on a daily basis. Loss of anonymity, constant pressure to promote, multiple hours of performance multiple nights each week. Do I really want to play Hey Jude or Fire and Rain 300,000 times in my life?

Any “success” I found in fame and fortune in the world of music would have been realized at a cost I was not willing to happily pay.

Money… fame… misery… honestly, it does sound kind of appealing (not the misery part), but… The end result? For me? SUCKCESS.

I choose to write this blog on my terms (although I thank you for reading too!). I choose to write songs that have meaning to me (and I thank you again if you choose to listen and find some meaning in my tunes for yourself).

My version of success has no “k” in the middle…

My Yellow Brick Road to success doesn’t mean I have to fly far away to Kansas on a whirlwind.

YellowBrickRoad2

No Jabba the Hutt For Me…

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jabba the hutt.png

I wanna be skinny, buff, rich, and popular … I’m none of those right now so you choose the order for my attack.

You know how some people migrate from idea to idea, notion to notion, whim to wish to desire …

I call it Flavour of the Month Club.

Get Rich Quick Plans, Diets, Exercise Programmes, Investment Schemes… Mary Kay and Tupperware, Dr. Atkins and Keto and The Zone, Penny Stocks and High Tech, CrossFit and Tough Mudder… you get the idea.

There are millions of schemes that pitch the idea that we can be better (or Be Best according to some immigrant lady named Melania) at anything we choose to be.

There is always a better way according to the marketers, and we cast from one side of the ship to the other seeking the magic, the Heart of the Ocean, that lies in the murky waters beneath. Mostly we just vomit over the side of the boat.

And… I admit that I’m as susceptible to this movement as anyone. Probably more…

I do want to weigh less than a feather … I do want to run as fast as a cheetah (without being a cheater) … I do want my stock returns to fly.

However, my Flavour of the Month tendencies are most often directed towards learning and accomplishing goals… goals are my internal-combustion engine, my spark, my fire, my orgasm.  No goals? I sputter and conk out on the couch like Jabba the Hutt without the glitter of a brass ring to reach for.

So… onto the point I’m making…

“YOU’RE GOOD. GET BETTER. STOP ASKING FOR THINGS.” Don Draper

Around the same time each Sunday as I publish this blog, I receive another e-mailed blog post called BRAIN FOOD on a site titled Farnam Street. It floods my head with a cornucopia of ideas and philosophies and a candy store full of inspiration.

I’m in the early stages of reading a book titled ULTRALEARNING, written by Vancouverite Scott H. Young, and recommended last week in BRAIN FOOD.

After the first few chapters I’m thinking that this could quite possibly be my Flavour of the Month.

ultralearning

While not meant to be easy, the book outlines a process of learning intensively so that goals are accomplished in a compressed time frame with a focus on real world applicability and not just theoretical blabber.

I’m an impatient hurry up kinda guy and so I really like this. However, finding focus might murder my goal.

Author Young claims (I can’t confirm the veracity of this) that he:

  • Taught himself the entire four-year MIT computer science curriculum in just 12 months.
  • Learned four languages in one year (Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean) to a solid conversational level, spending just 3 months on each language.
  • Taught himself to draw realistic portraits in just 30 days.

Going forward, there are 3 areas of interest on my current stream that I want to push to the top of my goal list and make use of the process Scott outlines:

  1. Make a high quality “professional level” musical recording in my at-home recording studio. I dabble at recording, but lack the skills and knowledge for artistic excellence. My early plan here is to study the curriculum of college Music Audio Recording Art programs. I know that Coursera offers a free online course titled The Art of Music Production. I’ve signed on…
  2. Learn Arabic – Each week, I tutor an Arabic-speaking fellow in English. Now I would like to speak to him in his native language. I have some research (part of the ultralearning approach) to do first before I decide how to tackle this challenge.  As-Salaam-Alaikum!
  3. I’ve played acoustic guitar for many many years. My skills have definitely improved in this era of online and YouTube learning. But I want to take an incremental leap at this point. My early goal here is to take my fingerpicking guitar skills to a higher level by learning at least 10 from the following list of “advanced” songs (your recommendations for which ones I should choose are encouraged! Or, if you have other suggestions?):

Stop This Train (John Mayer)

Going to California (Led Zeppelin)

Nothing Else Matters (Metallica)

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (Led Zeppelin)

What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)

Angeles (Elliot Smith)

Hey Hey (Eric Clapton)

Signe (Eric Clapton)

Neon (John Mayer)

God Only Knows ( The Beach Boys)

Never Going Back Again (Fleetwood Mac)

Don’t Fear The Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult)

Papa George (Tommy Emmanuel)

Ruby’s Eyes (Tommy Emmanuel)

Classical Gas (Mason Williams)

Mister Sandman (Chet Atkins)

Big Love (Fleetwood Mac)

One Day (Martin Taylor/Tommy Emmanuel)

Embryonic Journey (Jefferson Aeroplane)

Haba Na Haba (Tommy Emmanuel)

 

“I DON’T BELIEVE IN FATE. I CREATE MY OWN OPPORTUNITIES.” Don Draper

Inspiration and motivation, creativity and reach.. these are the hyper-oxygenated blood cells that light bonfires in my soul.

I’d sooner try and fail (I seem to do this a lot!) than throw my hands in the air and say it can’t be done.

I love my Jabba the Hutt couch a lot. But it feels so much better to sink into after I’ve crossed a finish line, jumped from a plane, drilled over and over a new chord progression, had a casual but challenging Spanish conversation with a Mexican fieldworker, blown raspberries with my grandson.

Ultralearning is a flavour I want to savour… at least for this month!

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F*** What????

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FuckedUpedness.jpeg

FuckedUpEdNess!

There, I said it… forgive me but… YAY!!

It’s a word I’ve anxiously saved and hoarded all of last year to make use of, so please excuse my bold application, but at last, its time has come.

And really, using it to describe my own actions (and those of the Man Down South) makes it OK to use, doesn’t it?

I’m writing this week’s post with a slightly rosy hue burning my cheeks (not the ones I’m sitting on!).

I spend a not-inconsiderable amount of time each day, week, and year, examining and studying, then finally purchasing (and selling) tiny amounts of publicly-traded companies in both Canada and the US.

My long-stated goal has been to swing a bat with care and sagacity to bring about an average return of about 15% on my accounts and those I advise on.

Each year (mostly), I happily highlight my investment acumen in the cases where I’ve made some head-swelling choices, and to be fair, grimly excoriate my less well-chosen trades on the markets.

BUT! The big bold F word above tells you which direction my choices have driven this past year… a Thelma and Louise skid off the steep cliffs of investment return. NEGATIVE!

Because I act as a kind of amateur investment advisor to my kids, I’ve already sent them each a letter of (FuckedUpedNess) apology and mea culpa for the bad news I wrought in their accounts that wasn’t so bad until … the final month of the year when the wheels were violently ripped off this market money wagon… CRASH!

To be a little gentle on myself, I know that all North American markets took a big haircut on the year. To be a little less gentle on others, I feel exasperated and irked with the Man Down South.

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But blaming others just isn’t healthy. I won’t go down that road. Please please please help me to not go down that road.

I know from lengthy experience that markets aren’t a solid, joyous ride up the rollercoaster…. on occasion, there is an underwear-staining heart-thumping tear down a steep track that we must expect.

OK… brass tacks … what’s all this FuckedUpedNess fuss about?

The bottom line: the return on my investments for 2018 was a sub-standard -1.76%.  My first down year since 2008. By comparison, the S&P 500 (the broad U.S. measure of markets) dropped 4.4% in 2018 and the TSX Composite fell 8.9%.

I hate it when I see my net worth sink even a little. When you invest on a serious level, net worth has a rough correlation with net self-esteem!

OUCH!

A negative result is different now than before.

I’m finding out in a non-fictional way today that negative returns have a real-life impact on a Retiree’s (there’s that nasty “R” word!) world… the regular bi-weekly paycheque has gone AWOL and is no longer a credit to balance the debits! The teeter-totter has lost one of its players.

But I’ve long known that a job is only one source of income. The American IRS suggests the average millionaire has seven sources of income. We should all strive for multiple streams of $, yes?

OK, enough delay… it’s time to pony up and share my results over the short and longer-terms.

I’m definitely no Warren Buffett when it comes to investing – the multi-billions keep slipping from my hands – but I’ve carried out my role in an OK kind-of-way over time, and more importantly, I love the pursuit, the challenge.

So here are my cumulative annualized returns over the past decade (to shrink my head a tiny bit, I’ve added in year 11 as that was the year of the big 2008 slide… a harrowing -37.1% return):

  • 1 year     -1.8%
  • 3 year     +6.1%
  • 5 year     +6.8%
  • 10 year   +19.7%
  • 11 year   +14.5%

Only over the 10 year period have I attained the pinnacle (15%+ returns) that I’ve been climbing towards. Clearly, my goals have outshot my reality. I’m not giving up!

And for this past year, I’m putting my investing acumen and self-accolades in the FUCKEDUPEDNESS column.

Guess I’ve gotta keep working on my swing (maybe I just haven’t reached my 10,000 hours of mastery yet). I hate those years when I strike out.

I don’t want to have to pull out that F word again next year!light sabre bat.jpg

 

It’s Been A Pretty Fine Dream Life

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Daydreaming is better than Daydrinking.

When I was 10 I wanted to be a doctor.

A rich doctor.

Don’t believe me? Here I’ll prove it to you.

LARRY SPEC CARRIER TIFF

When I was 20…

I wanted to be a singer/songwriter star. Maybe a Cat Stevens wannabe… again, let me show you.

When I was 30…

I wanted to be a blueberry and sheep farmer.

When I was 40…

I wanted to own a BunsMaster bakery franchise.

When I was 50…

I wanted to be an Entrepreneur that helped older folks write their memoirs for their kids and grandkids.

When I was 60 (now)…

I still harbour songwriting and rock star fantasies like when I was 20. Some of us never grow up, right Peter Pan?

Version 2

None of those fanciful dreams were ever totally fulfilled.

No doctor… no bakery… no sheep… no Groupies.

A lab tech… some cinnamon buns… a few chickens… and Open Mic’s.

Am I disappointed? Nope…

My happiness and success aren’t measured by the end result as much as the process.

A life of failure? Nope…

It relates to Robert Louis Stevenson’s quote:

To Travel Hopefully Is A Better Thing Than To Arrive”

Wants and dreams are the summer clouds that shift and re-shape in the sky when we lay on our backs in the cool, soft grass. One moment there’s a T-Rex, the next a leaping horse.

What’s wrong with chasing after dreams from cradle to coffin?

I’m very aware that life is finite.

Yes, Santa Claus is actually Mommy and Daddy, and yes, life ends… I’m sorry if I’ve burst your bubble…

Damn Adam and Eve screwed us and immortality all over one silly apple. Snakes.

Philip Roth, the famous, and infamously cranky American writer (Portnoy’s Complaint, The Human Stain) who died this past week said about death:

“Oblivion. Of not being alive, quite simply, of not feeling life, not smelling it. But the difference between today and the fear of dying I had when I was 12, is that now I have a kind of resignation towards reality.

Reality.

The idea that I’ll melt away into some bone meal fertilizer relatively soon is both scary and motivating.

Scary, well there’s nothing I can do about that… you know, Desiderata’s accept what you cannot change.

Psycho.jpg

But motivating, now there’s something I can participate in.

Reinvention and creativity and self-discovery are themes I come back to again and again in my blog posts because I need to remind myself ad infinitum that life doesn’t end at any particular age.

Signposts like age 65 or retirement are made-up constructs, kind of like legal drinking age. I know the law says no alcohol before 19, but that didn’t stop me and my little buddies from throwing up on homemade red wine beside the elementary school at 13!

I’m gobsmacked when I read of the young age of passing in many famous persons who imagined and created wonderful projects in such a short lifespan.

Sylvia Plath, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, George Gershwin, Martin Luther King, Vincent Van Gogh, Eva Peron, Avicii.

But I’m also energized and stimulated when I see those who created their best in later decades:

12 People who found late success

Staring out my window on this summer’ish sunny morning, a lemon-yellow Swallowtail butterfly lazily rests on a pale pink dogwood bloom, absorbing energy from the sun’s morning warmth before resuming its purpose. I’ve seen this a hundred, maybe a thousand times and it still invigorates my spirit.

These are the quiet moments that recharge my batteries and lower the temperature of the boil that sometimes brings me close to the exhausted edge. It’s like cross-training my muscles so that I don’t get crippled by laser-focusing only on one area until a hurtful flame erupts. Soulful respite.

Life and vigour move along hand-in-hand for as long as our bodies, and more importantly our minds, remain awake and enthusiastic for the passions that burn inside.

This week I’m reminded of mortality since I’m practicing some music pieces like Dust to Dust (The Civil Wars) and Angel (Sarah McLachlan).

It would be possible to feel despair but what I take away is inspiration to continue daydreaming, searching those fluffy cloud formations for ideas and visions.

Do you think it’s too late for me to become a rich doctor?

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The Wish List

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wishlist

I threw up 3 times as I wandered down the dimly lit hallway between patient rooms in the early morning of the Medical ward.

The nauseating scented mixture of faeces and putrid, infected wounds came at me in foul waves, each odorous swell bringing up another heaving tsunami from stomach to throat. My head pounded, I felt woozy.

I needed a bed to lie on more than some of these patients.

New Year’s morning long ago…

Frigid arctic air wrapped itself around Stanton Yellowknife Hospital like a parka as I performed my rounds of collecting blood samples for testing I’d carry out back in the lab.

Stupid and 21 years old. That was me.

When you drink a full 26 oz. bottle of Tanqueray gin on New Year’s Eve – solo – knowing full well you’ll be carrying out medical testing at 7 am the following morning, you qualify for the Young and Stupid Hall of Fame.

drunk-larry

This is what 26 oz. of gin (and dark hair!) looks like…

On the other hand, it also meant I was living out part of my boyhood wish list; a New Year’s Wish List that I’d held in my head since I was 13 years old.

Almost from day one of our existence, we consciously or sub-consciously form visions and dreams of a surreal Sci-Fi world of who and what we’ll become some indistinct day in the still-to-come future. Destiny filled with misty water-colour visions of careers, families, activities, material accumulations.

Like a gentile’s bar mitzvah moment, when a young man like I once was reaches the age of 13, 14, 15 … he begins to fervently dream of the “Wish List”.

It’s a boy’s wish list inventory or directory of cloudy desires and unattainable-at-the-moment cravings for his personal world that hopefully… hopefully, will be.

It’s a Scrooge-like night trip of scrambling over obstacles to the promising road lying ahead.

I imagine every adolescent boy’s wish list resembles something slightly different depending on where he’s born and his siting on the social hierarchy, but my list was a triumvirate of adrenaline high, chemical high, and lustful heavenly high.

This boy’s list?

  1. DRIVING A CAR
  2. DRINKING ALCOHOL
  3. SEX  

My list was laid out in a logical chronological order according to society’s expectation, but I was more than happy to consider a re-arrangement of the list’s sequence. Yup, flexibility is my middle name.

Since I’d haphazardly discovered at 13 years old that sex with myself was kinda fun (that story may have to be shared in a later blog post…nahhhhh!), I was nervously anxious to share that fun with someone of the opposite gender in the room. As soon as possible.

Mind you, I grew up in a good United Church household that was 1. favourably disposed towards driving a car… 2. middling on the consumption of alcohol scale… and 3. dead set against penetrative sex before marriage.

In the hallways of my juvenile mind and with Christian moral STOP signs everywhere, I figured that my sex wish could be deliriously, happily accomplished should I find a willing sweet someone to kiss and a breast to fondle. It was a modest dream, don’t you think?

OK, I’ll tell you the end of the story now to quench your need to know.

In the months and years that followed, my list was fully and fruitfully accomplished – and no, not in the order listed.

Drinking alcohol was the first “wish” checked off.

In my fourteenth year, a hazy party hue of Golden Wedding Rye Whisky mixed with coke offered me by my cool, oldest sister and her husband, ushered in my first adolescent drunk night.

CHECK.

Golden Wedding Rye.jpg

A long and eventful 3 years later, I wrote my beginner’s driver’s licence test the day I turned 16.

CHECK CHECK.

Shortly after I turned 17, I bought myself a Rambler American from a sleazy used car salesman for $950. That was HUGE money to me. I was ecstatic, proud that I had saved enough after less than a year of flipping McDonalds burgers ’til 1 am at $1.55 per hour.

And, that car, well… the first night I owned it, I dropped by McDonalds where a burger buddy Brad and I somehow managed to coax a couple of fine young lady friends into our cars for a humid summer’s evening of cruising the city streets.

At the end of the long, boyishly-exciting night, I gallantly returned the prettiest of the girls back home. Although no sex (or anything remotely close) occurred, I overcame the pounding heart in my throat and somehow squeaked out a “will you”… a “could we“… and secured the promise of a date the following weekend.

You can now engage your imagination with the knowledge that this led to my first girlfriend and the attainment of the final (and most anticipated) peak on my wish list (FULL Disclosure: if you must know, it was the slightly-muted-but-happily-satisfying “peak” for a boy brought up with United Church underpinnings).

CHECK CHECK CHECK!

A few decades have unexplainably slipped by since my adolescence, liquid mercury between my fingers.

I’ve written and conjured up many many wish lists and goal lists over the years. We all need wish lists and self-promises, things to anticipate and look forward to. Anticipation of chocolate after you’ve eaten your peas.

As you awake on the first morning of 2017, I hope you don’t feel the nauseated waves I experienced back when I was 21. There’s no need for you to join me in that Hall of Fame.

Instead, may your WISH LISTS, both past and present, fill you with warm sensations, giddy enthusiasm, and youthful spark for who you once were, and have yet to become.

Cheers to you for 2017… ting!

teenage-boys-drinking-beer.jpgHere’s to cars and girls…

That Brand New Baby Smell…

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Mmmmmmmm. It’s like new car scent blended with cozy, fleecy blankets all rolled up in a warm, gooey cinnamon bun.

Anticipation is a magnificent thing. 

Anticipation of a Christmas work bonus… anticipation of a new baby… anticipation of a warm, fun, beach vacation… anticipation of the first splotch of ketchup on your steaming french fries… anticipation of a meeting with your probation officer. I don’t know. Anticipation.

For a few years now, I’ve been seeking out and lovingly caressing 12-string guitars to add to my happy family of stringed instruments… my current family constellation is two 6-string guitars, banjo, violin, mandolin, Peruvian charango.

Now this week I finally brought a brand new baby 12-string home. Her name is Taylor… and she’s beautiful.

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My very first set of strings was a small brown ukulele I unwrapped on my 11th Christmas. Tiny Tim (not the Dicken’s character) was popular on the Ed Sullivan Show at the time and I learned Tiptoe Through The Tulips – his signature song – before midnight announced Boxing Day’s arrival.

I’ve been strung up on stringed instruments ever since. It’s kinda my TWANG!

With my new pre-teen passion for music, I saved dimes, quarters and dollar bills from my Hamilton Spectator paper route and purchased an electric guitar and a small amp. It was simply gorgeous.

I took some lessons from a local long-haired R&B rock and roller. He taught me some bar chords and I got hooked on the drug of harmony.

I loved playing that guitar and emulating my big brother Gord’s rock band (Sands of Time?) that played songs like Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay, the Surfaris’ Wipeout, the Box Tops’ The Letter and that super-cool sixties guitar song, Eric Burden and the Animals’ House of the Rising Sonthere is a house in New Orleans

In Grade 7 I played the Bee Gees rock ballad I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You at my middle school’s talent show. There was a sad poignancy in its lyric I liked. I figured I was a pop star and when little pixie Anne Pekaruk smiled at me afterwards and said I was really good, I might have come close to my first spontaneous orgasm.

Over the years I’ve added to my string collection.

perfect instrument.jpg

Maybe the World’s Most Perfect Instrument?

I borrowed my sister Betty’s classical guitar during my poverty-prone college years. My teenage head was filled with grandiose visions of becoming an Elton John rock star. I wrote bad songs while learning a bit about fingerpicking styles from a girlfriend who dumped me for another “John Denver”-like guitar player.

The guitar was my solace during romantic break-ups, a diversion from studying for lab exams, and laid-back exhaustion-relaxer after 1 am McDonalds’ shifts.

After starting my first lab job, my brother Gord and I both bought banjos as a brotherly bonding experience.

In the Arctic chills of Yellowknife my buddy Jimmy sold (well, almost gave) me my first acoustic 6-string that I still own and play, a Yamaha FG-160. The strings are hard on the fingertips, but it has a nice tone to it. The Yamaha is a workhorse that holds its tuning well which is really important to someone like me who suffers the fingernails-scraping-the-blackboard sensation when he hears even a slightly out-of-tune instrument or voice. It’s a curse my friends.

For many years in the decades after I married and had kids and jobs, playing guitar or any music was left largely unloved at the bottom of the laundry pile of priority. I picked up the Yamaha occasionally and picked out my favourite Bruce Cockburn, John Denver and James Taylor songs.

The kids grew up and left for university. I looked in the mirror and saw wrinkles from happy laughter and sorrowed frowns, open lakes of shiny skin where dark, thick hair used to blossom. Elton John came out as gay and Otis Redding was dead.

music-reborn

The time to return to music was now or never.

Years were slipping by like summer days at the beach and if I let time and effort go by unseen or appreciated, well, why let regret get any sort of foothold?

My next new friend was a Martin guitar…DX1AE.

From my teen years I had harboured dreams of one day owning a Martin. What the hell is a Martin you ask?  Martin is a revered name in the guitar world.

If you watch many of the great guitar players and popular artists, the Martin manufacturer’s signature can be spotted on the headstock of the instrument. It loosely correlates to a Steinway grand piano, a Stradivarius violin. Martin denotes quality and rich sound.

I fell in love with Martin and have been strumming his soft strings for a few years now. He joins me onstage for Open Mics and the few other events where I play and… he tries to make me sound better than I truly am. Good friends are like that, they build you up.

And this brings me full life circle to this week and my long anticipated purchase of a 12-string guitar. She’s a Taylor 356ce with sensual curvaceous lines, comfortable to hold and melt into. Her strings feel soft under my fingertips, so soft when compared to many other 12-strings.

There is a full richness, an orchestral resonance to the 6 sets of double strings of a 12-string guitar.

Try listening to the Eagles’ introduction to Hotel California, or  Supertramp’s Give A Little Bit, or The Byrds or Gordon Lightfoot or the Beatles… close your eyes and there’s 12-string heaven ringing in your ears.

There’s a touch of surrendered sadness knowing my years of anticipation are over, a light mourning for a cherished friend. Anticipation is such a delicious part of our slender existence.

My job now is to retrain and transform my anticipation.

Anticipation is –at its heart –  about goals and moving forward. I thrive on the carrot of anticipation and making something – a birth, something tangible or ethereal- where nothing previously existed.

Taylor and I will be spending a fair bit of time together in the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years. It will be a friendship to remember.

It’s time to get back to play.

……………..

PS. Below is a short guitar piece (not played on a 12-string) that I want to share with you. Tommy Emmanuelle is my current “Bromance” when it comes to guitar mastery. I hope you enjoy his richly harmonic heart-swelling song, ANGELINA, as much as I do.

The Determination of Creativity

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They sat around the long table glaring at me like I had 2 heads.

It wasn’t comfortable.

I was determined, more so than usual. It was the right thing to do.

So, instead of just going along with the majority opinion, I held my ground and continued to push. To push for a creative answer.

This is a tiny story with a big message.

big-dog-and-little-dog

………….

It’s beautiful isn’t it?

What’s that you say?

The magic of the creative spark.

That shaky confidence of knowing that creativity – in some configuration – always exists in each of us.

It’s like opening your mailbox and finding a postcard from an old friend you weren’t sure you’d hear from ever again. You’re pretty sure they’re out there. You hope … but you’re just not certain.

Creativity can lie latent until we call on it and obsess a bit. Latent like:

  • The oldest mature seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great’s palace on Masada in Israel.
  • A wheat seed sitting dormant in an Egyptian tomb for 1,000 years before being untombed and germinated.
  • A botulism spore patiently pacing for eons in the waiting room, longing for its chance to come to life in a jar of green beans on your pantry shelf.

Every week I sit down to write a blog post with no roadmap. Latent creativity.

I’m travelling blind, my headlight’s beam obscured by the fog.

I inch forward slowly through the mist and bit by bit the road becomes more and more visible. An idea forms, a seed germinates, a few words get typed… then more and more.

germinating seed

………….

I’m reading a book about Elon Musk.

You probably know him. He’s the creator of Tesla Motors (electric cars), SpaceX (rocket building and space exploration), PayPal (alternative payment systems), SolarCity (solar panels).

This guy – we’ve seen it many times – like Steve Jobs or Lance Armstrong, or ? … could probably best be described as an ASSHOLE. A focused, persistent, headstrong #1 Grade ASSHOLE.

But an asshole who can change the world. With determined, non-latent creativity.

With these guys, normal rational logic goes by the wayside, cast into the rubbish heap.

Musk makes a bold decision that something – a battery-powered car – will feature a sports car look, have amazing futuristic design elements, will cost a ridiculously low amount to build.

Then he doesn’t allow ANY roadblock to halt its finality.

No amount of common sense reasoning will hush his personal batteries, his determined creative drive, down. He finds a way to make the unreasonable, the impossible… possible.

tesla car

Musk’s “boring” battery-run car …

How about a personal example on a much MUCH smaller level?

For many years, I was the treasurer of a board that administered a public botanical garden here in Summerland. The flow of funds for this non-profit group, like most non-profits, were perpetually running on fragrant fuchsia and fritillaria fumes.

The new year’s spring brought our 2 long-time seasonal gardeners, Marcia and Kerry back to the fold … to weed, to plant, to stress their bodies fashioning beauty for thousands to savour.

Our volunteer group was paying the ladies barely over the minimum wage and all the other board members wanted to freeze their meagre salaries.

I wouldn’t go for it. I dug my feet into the slippery sand.

I pitched a 2.5% increase for each. 2.5%! That’s all. They deserved it. They were loyal, hardworking, dedicated.

There are sometimes really smart reasons to wait, to pause. To let the seed spend some time in the cool earth, dreaming itself into being. But there is also a time to stick up a little green tendril, to taste the air and feel the sun.

The others argued strongly, loudly, sensibly really, that we hadn’t the dollars to reward their efforts. And it really wasn’t even a reward, just a cost-of-living adjustment.

Somehow, I convinced the doubters.

The end result of the decision to give them a raise required creativity and thought. It held my and my fellow board members’ feet to the fire.

Sometimes it’s the resolve that makes the next thing possible. It involved a mixture of creativity and blind faith.

Creativity and blind faith are partners in crime.

Creativity requires a belief in the power of our subconscious.

The decision to pay more was made. The money had to come from somewhere. We obsessed and focused on ideas that would make it possible.

Our group took a calculated risk.

We boldly increased the amount of stock plants we purchased wholesale and made available at our annual spring plant sale, filling the horticultural shelves like a popular Walmart.

A lack of vegetative sales would mean that we absorbed the costs denting our financial coffers. It would hurt, but not bankrupt the organization. Good sales would grow our financial muscle.

The garden gnomes smiled and what seemed like a bold move turned into a stroke of fortune, and a lesson learned.

An additional $5,000 of plant sale profits flowed in almost effortlessly with this small, shall we deem it, creative decision? The pay raises were easily covered.

And it sent a message to our talented gardeners that they were important to us. They didn’t ask for the tiny raise, but they glowed when told the news.

There you go… a tiny story with a big message.

This is the way I like to try to pursue much of my life – albeit in a far plainer way than Elon Musk or Steve Jobs.

Set a goal and then find a creative way to make it happen.

Elon Musk set his goals to design and manufacture a battery-run vehicle that looked and performed better than the model that had been the standard for close to 100 years.

People scoffed, people laughed, people harrumphed.

This is what people do when the “crazies” out there decide to break the mold, to do something that others haven’t done or even considered.

Steve Jobs broke the mold with the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone.

Creativity doesn’t always come from the rational, the common sense approach. Logic and creative pursuits aren’t always 100% compatible.

JK Rowling knows it. She lived in relative poverty before publishing a book or two you may have heard of.

Creativity doesn’t result in an error-free life. I’ve made and continue to make mistakes.

But sometimes to do something special you have to go off the main roads and allow yourself to be lost for a while until you find a creative path, a path that no one else has followed exactly.

A path that makes your tiny message into a big story.

cute creativity

 

 

Another AULD LANG SYNE … 2016 Bring It On!!

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Mt Everest SummerGH Everest

 

Above – the BEST (May) and WORST (December) times to run up Giant’s Head Mountain!

……………………….

I asked a person I’ve come to loath recently if he had any goals for 2016.

He said,

When you set goals you limit yourself.

To goals.”

I used to like that guy.

But his brilliant answer was too blue-chip for me to have even a modicum of respect for him after he outshone my thought process. A-hole!!!! (OK, a good 2016 goal would be to elevate my level of respectfulness, would you agree?)

A goal is supposed to be something to reach towards. A challenge. An achingly satisfying stretch that requires mental or physical effort.

Sometimes my goals even scare me because I fear I won’t make it or I’m not up to it. I hate to disappoint myself almost as much as I hate to disappoint others.

Most of us find it a struggle to reach our goals. I do that too.

But it’s a limit.

Sometimes, I realize, a goal holds me back from what I’m really capable of.

When I reach it, or gaze out towards the time horizon and see it well within my myopic sights, I relax and take my foot off the pedal. I coast until I find myself a whole new goal, which may not come until another New Year begins … or worse still, never.

An example? I took a lengthy breather this year from climbing my local Giant’s Head mountain… so-named for its gigantic facial profile when viewed from the southeast.

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Snowy Giant’s Head in December … so much easier to run up in April …

Last January I set a goal to summit the 300m-in-height-extinct-volcano –  30 times in 2015, the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.

Back then, it looked to me like a stretch goal, but I really miscalculated the “challenge” of the challenge. A mere 3 climbs each month (a 1 hour per “there and back” running time) was a simple task really.

Coasting along like a tortoise, I grew complacent, growing more and more plump and relaxed in my La-Z-Boy and found myself having to capture the last 10 ascents in the final 31 days of 2015. How do you spell PROCRASTINATION?

I know I procrastinate… BADLY. Trudging through deeper snows and bitter winds at year-end was a nasty reminder that knowing thyself is an important consideration.

When my two fellow challengees (Pam and Jennifer) finished their goal of 30 climbs within 3 months and 10 months respectively, it became readily apparent to this slacker that doing only 2/3’s of the task prior to December was foolhardy.

In 2016, I promise to work more diligently in opposition to procrastination and finish challenging projects and goals in a more timely way.

Briefly, these were some of my 2015 goals and how I fared in capturing some of those ideals:

PHYSICAL

  • 30 times running up Giant’s Head aka the Mount Everest Challenge? Yup, eventually with only 2 days to spare. CHECK!
  • 2 half marathons – I completed the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon in May and began a second half marathon in Kelowna in October (I dropped out at the 10k marker because of a dumb but significant self-inflicted injury 2 weeks prior to the race) … I say good enough. CHECK!

CHARITABLE

  • 10% Charitable Donation boost? Both UNICEF and PLAN International received their 10% boosted payouts this year.  CHECK!
  • SOUP KITCHEN and Salvation Army hamper fill? I continued my twice a month volunteer shifts at the SOUPATERIA in Penticton and then assisted the Salvation Army crew pack and distribute 800+ food hampers before Christmas… CHECK!

WRITING

  • Write 50 blog posts, one per week … I’ve been doing this for 3 1/2 years now and in 2015 I wrote you 51 of these weekly missives. YOU should be the one congratulated for this… THANK YOU for reading my mental droppings and keeping me motivated and inspired … CHECK!
  • Aim for 75 blog views daily on my MAN ON THE FRINGE site. Although I didn’t reach my daily goal of 75 visits per day… I did have a 17% increase to an average of 63 views daily versus 54 per day in 2014 … No CHECK here, but I’m content that I have quality readers over quantity … wouldn’t you agree?

MUSIC

  • 12 String Guitar – this one just taunts and teases me and like a slippery eel, seems to keep eluding me. I play my 6-string guitar more than ever now and have chosen my ideal 12 string purchase (Taylor 356 CE). Dropping a few thousand dollars on a would-love-to-have but don’t-need-to-have item has proven more difficult than I envisioned. Stick with me and we’ll see if 2016 is THE 12-String Guitar Breakout Year! No CHECK.
  • Build a Guitar… I’m still very intrigued by the notion of constructing my own musical instrument. There are a number of different LUTHIER (guitar-building) schools to choose from. I’m gonna keep trying here. No CHECK yet … NOPE.
  • Write more Songs and perform original songs publicly. This one I happily give a HALF-CHECK because even though I haven’t developed the discipline to consistently write songs that I’m happy with, I have begun to get out there and perform. I participated in 3 public sessions (1 funeral and 2 open mic evenings) where I played cover songs as well as a bit of my own music.

 

TRAVEL

  • Visit New-To-Me Central American country. In January we visited and toured along the western coast of Nicaragua in Central America. I learned to roll my own cigar and took a cooking course from an engaging Nicaraguan woman who showed us how to prepare Indio Viejo.

    IMG_6262

    Rolling my own cigar has me prepared for the legalization of marijuana in Canada …

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Street dining in Leon, Nicaragua …

  • American States? My lifetime goal is to visit all 50 U.S. States. I’m stuck at 26 so far and added no new ones to my list in 2016. No CHECK!

FINANCIAL

  • 15% average annual return. My long-term average of +12.2% wasn’t helped along at all this year as the Toronto Stock Exchange dropped 11%, the New York Exchange fell 3.5%. And my 2015 result?? Drumroll please … +8.3%. It’s not a bad return given the state of markets in general, but I’m hopeful that I can boost myself back well into the double digits this coming year. You can do your part to bolster my year-end results by purchasing an iWatch, visiting Disneyland, and buying a John Deere tractor with a loan from the Royal Bank. No CHECK!

FOOD AND EATING 

  • Study Cooking for One Day in any Travel Destination – as I said above, we spent a morning shopping the tiny fresh meat and vegetable stalls of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua with a local lady, Teodora. We returned to her hostel where she instructed us in Spanish on the preparation of Indio Viejo (Old Indian), a traditional Nicaraguan beef stew. CHECK!
  • Develop a repertoire of Egg Recipes … we have lots of eggs but alas no new recipes (however, there is a recipe silver lining I’ll talk about below) … NOPE … No CHECK!

2015.

Done, deposited and secured in the Book of Life.

As a side note, it’s always fun to consider and embrace the unexpected.

Additional accomplishments? Unexpected Surprises. There were a few …

  • Tough Mudder – my daughter and her partner dragged me through the muck and bone-rattling chill of a Tough Mudder challenge in Whistler, B.C. Mucky, messy, difficult and yet, supremely satisfying.
  • Lake Swim – I actually do this 2.7 k swim across Okanagan Lake once each summer with my friend Jennifer. This year we did it in record time, shaving 9 minutes off our previous best.
  • Surf a Volcano – actually, it was Volcano tobogganing. Sliding speedily down a black-ash covered volcano-side in Nicaragua was exhilarating and total black-faced sooty fun.
  • Learned to Make Animal Balloons – a local artisan sale needed someone to produce balloon animals for the kidlets. I spent a couple of hours on YouTube learning the craft and pumped out blown-up puppies and ladybugs and swords. Maybe I’ll consider Cirque de Soleil next!
  • Bought and Raised Laying Chickens – after finishing coop construction this past spring, we purchased 11, day-old chicks that provide us nearly a carton of beautiful brown eggs every single day. Please drop by for a souffle! Would you, PLEASE!!!!
  • Took a week-long Bartender course in May, and then found myself a-mixin’ and a-pourin’ part time at a local Greek restaurant. My special Christmas Cocktail recipe? The SNOWFLAKE MARTINI… rim a martini glass with shredded coconut. Mix and shake some ice with 2 oz. vanilla vodka, 2 oz. Malibu Rum, 1/2 oz. blue Curacao, 1 tsp coconut cream… strain into the martini glass and a beautiful, but VERY strong ice-blue martini awaits your party sipping.

There you have it.

Was my year “Perfection”?? NOPE. I don’t expect perfection. I expect to try. I expect to feel a stretch. I expect to challenge myself.

Steve Jobs said something about challenging ourselves:
He said that you have to go out and expose yourself to the best of what others have done, and then bring some of it back and add it to what you’re doing.

This is why I look to others for inspiration. Inspiration isn’t naturally occurring.

I look to others. I listen to great harmony music. I read inspiring, positive books and articles.

I steal like crazy any and all things that make my heart beat rapidly.

And I try to stay constantly vigilant for the little – or big – things that happen in my vicinity that I can use in my own life.

My watchword of 2015 was SIMPLIFY.

Simple, right?

SIMPLIFY.

I needed to stop pushing for more and better to the point where I was beating myself up for not accomplishing something, or not doing it as quickly as I thought I should. Take the pressure off and SIMPLIFY (Of course, this excludes the procrastination point I made earlier).

Now, it’s time for looking outwards  and … forward into the future.

My Watchword for 2016?

OPPORTUNITY.

OPPORTUNITY.

OPPORTUNITY.

Rather than list a set of goals for 2016, I’m setting my sights on opportunities.

When something comes floating down the lazy river my way that I haven’t tried?

And it makes my pulse rate rise in anticipation?, excitement?, maybe just a touch of fear?

I want to try to take hold and enjoy it like smooth, creamy, delicious chocolate.

CHOCOLATE?

Yup … Eating chocolate triggers oxytocin in the brain, the same neurochemical triggered when we have sex (sorry, not you and I, but sex in general).

Opportunity. It makes me feel like king of the world. It makes me feel more bonded with the people around me. It makes me soar.

2016… the year of OPPORTUNITY.

I hope you have a wonderful year filled with adventure, love and opportunity.

Thank you for reading my blog and helping me live my life of opportunity, even if I am just a MAN ON THE FRINGE!

opportunity

 

 

 

Build Yourself a Toll Bridge and Find Freedom …

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For Christmas I’d like to give you a gift of 10 million dollars. And Freedom.

Not by winning a lottery or a scratch-and-win prize. Not by falling into a huge inheritance.

Nope … Those are magical tricks I don’t buy into.

I want us to create our own magic.

INVESTING!

Wall street bull

 

My real goal in saving and investing has always been to pursue personal freedom.

The ability to choose my own path and not be at the beck and call of someone else who controls my destiny.

If I didn’t like what I was doing or who I was working with, I always wanted the option of kissing it/them goodbye.

I did just this when I quit a lab job on Vancouver Island that was eating me up inside. The financial returns weren’t worth the stress and burn.

I don’t need a zillion dollars to make my life livable. But I do need a reasonable base of savings and yearly returns that give me cash flow to live on. Cash flowing in like a toll bridge.

I like toll bridges.

toll bridge

Toll bridges don’t do anything, they just sit there collecting $$.

I want to own the toll bridge that pays me for just standing still, doing nothing.

I was fortunate – lucky really – to work only 3 days each week for the past 25 years in a job I enjoyed, working around people I enjoyed working with. THAT is freedom.

While I worked in medical laboratories, dipping swabs in delicately scented stool samples and pouring tubes of straw-coloured urine like fine wine, I quietly built a toll bridge.

I love investing.  I’m always searching for a zillion dollar idea in the stock market.

People like to whisper in my ear how I can make a zillion dollars.

I decided long ago to only listen if they’ve lived their dream and made it happen in their own lives. Otherwise it’s just a puff of cancerous smoke trying to kill me.

Today I’m gonna whisper in your ear. You decide if it’s smoke and mirrors or solid ear wax.

Please understand that my whispers won’t make you a zillionaire overnight.

But let them incubate a few years and these delectable eggs may set you free.

I love reading company financial reports, looking for tiny shiny diamonds in a huge slag pile. My pulse quickens when I find an elusive gem.

I was elated in years past when Slater Steel and Western Star Trucks and Facebook, and more recently Apple and Disney and Aflac landed in my lap at fire-sale prices. Black Friday sales (and CRASHES too!) can happen any day in stock markets.

Famous investor Peter Lynch was always looking for the “10-Bagger”… a stock that multiplied in share price 10 times over. Peter Lynch was a great investor.

One Up on Wall Street cover

Honestly, I’ve never owned a 10-Bagger.

Actually I probably have owned a couple but I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t sell too early and miss the HUGE payoff. Just shoot me now.

I get skittish when I have a stock that’s risen two or three times over, even if it still holds potential for further gains.

The real goal for a true investor (not speculator or gambler) is to better the return of the stock market indices – The DOW. The NASDAQ. The S&P 500. The TSX.

If you can’t beat the stock market averages – and MOST mutual funds return LESS than the stock market averages – then sniff sniff … you’re just … average … and you might just as well stop wasting your time and put your money in an ETF (Exchange Traded Fund)  that follows the ups and downs of the whole market.

Nope. Not for me.

Over the past 10 years if you had socked your hard-earned $$ in the North American markets you would have seen yearly gains of 7.8% (DOW), 7.4% (S&P 500), 8.5% (NASDAQ), 4.7% (TSX)… not too bad when you compare these numbers with long-term GIC returns of about 3.5%.

My own 10 year investment return has been 12.2%. Not bad either, although I set my sights on 15% as a long-term goal.

Maybe I’ve set my sights too low in aiming for a 15% annual return on my overall investment portfolio. Perhaps if I looked higher in the sky, I’d make a better return. There’s something to be said for setting expectations HIGH!

This year has been relatively quiet on stock market fronts … both Toronto and New York markets have bobbed and wavered like an iceberg around the 0% change mark, sometimes slipping a bit above the ocean’s surface, sometimes dipping a bit below.

I can happily report that as of this week, I’m sitting on a 2015 investment return of 10.7%. I know it’s not an eye-popping number – Donald Trump won’t be naming one of his buildings in my honour (hallelujah!!) – but I take some satisfaction in outgunning the stock markets as a whole so far.

And my toll bridge is doing its job of sending me cheques every three months filled with $$ I didn’t have to get out of bed to earn.

But let’s end the narcissism right here.  Enough about me and my year.

What are a few names that might spell FREEDOM for you in today’s stock market world?

I’ll tell you this with one caveat.

As soon as I open my mouth publicly about a great investment, the Money Gods generally take vengeance on me by sending bolts of lightning to crush and sizzle my picks.

Of course this won’t stop me because I have a strong secular faith that markets and stocks that drop today – if well chosen – will rise like Phoenix’s from the fires and ashes and bring a financial smile to my lips.

And in the meantime, every one of these “whispers” pays a toll booth dividend to you, collecting and sending dollars your way while you stand still doing nothing. You can just take your time and breathe.

 

Here goes:

  1. Apple – the 2000’s world exists with an “i” in front of everything. Why fight this amazing colossus with ONLY $200 Billion cash on its balance sheet?
  2. Microsoft – don’t like Apple? Microsoft owns everything else in technology. Office 360 and X-Box anyone?
  3. Disney – Just watch the new Star Wars movie and Let It Go, it’ll make all your dreams come true.
  4. Aflac – the silly daffy duck that keeps on giving bigger dividends every year.
  5. Gilead Sciences – a cure for Hepatitis (HARVONI) at a bargain price of $75,000 per patient – KA-CHING!!!
  6. Alimentation Couche-Tard – the owner of almost every corner store and gas station in North America is migrating a path around the world bringing Mac’s and Circle K to the masses.
  7. Deere – you wanna eat? You ain’t gonna do it without a John Deere tractor pulling the harvester.
  8. Johnson & Johnson – I am stuck on band-aids, and AIDS treatments too. And 10,000 other products you absolutely need.
  9. Royal Bank – hate bank user fees? It hurts a lot less when you get them back in a dividend cheque.
  10. Torchmark Corp – just a quiet little health insurance company that spoon feeds all its profit back to investors.

The world needs more bridges of all kinds to solve its problems. Why not consider constructing yourself a toll booth and enjoy sleeping in late tomorrow?

Freedom. Enjoy this Christmas gift to you.

sleep in

 

 

 

 

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