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Become the “Master of Your Domain”

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the world owes me nothing

The world owes me nothing.

The world owes you nothing. Your mother owes you nothing. The lottery corporations and casinos especially owe you nothing.

Whatever freedom or flexibility or security you can gather in your world ultimately comes down to one thing. YOU!

I’ve almost retired from my job, oh, I think it’s six, no, 7 times now.

You would think I hate my job, but I don’t. For me, retirement is all about male ego and delusions of investing grandeur. It’s about dreaming.

In my little Walter Mitty mind, I’ve always been a supreme investor à la Warren Buffett and the way that one knows they’ve arrived through investing smarts, is by retiring from productive, human-helping, paid work. The important stuff.

…………….

I’ve never made a particularly good income in any job I’ve worked.

I delivered the Hamilton Spectator newspaper for years as a kid — made pennies, maybe a buck or two each week.

LARRY SPEC CARRIER TIFF

Yep … my first job …

At 15, I made a huge leap forward in income. I got a McJob — REALLY.

Starting in 1973, I flipped burgers at McDonald’s for 4 and a half years at a starting pay level of $1.55 per hour. A full 8 hour shift poured $12.40 into my bank account. It took a lot of late night shifts and weekends to pay $1,000 car insurance on top of college expenses.

But I was a good McDonald’s man; I was an All-Star McDonald’s man, and yes, there truly are such things.

McDonalds All-Star

After 4+ years of saturating myself a few times a week in beef fat and dehydrated onions, I concocted my last Big Mac, hugged my teen co-workers so long and walked out the door. Finishing pay rate?  $3.40 per hour.

I graduated from Mohawk College with a certified-sharp hypodermic needle in hand and headed north to begin work as a Medical Lab Technologist. My first professional position at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital in the chilly Northwest Territories  — $9.69 per hour.

I was rich … for almost a week.

Then I had to pay grown-ups bills like rent and heat and groceries. Have you checked the price of milk in Yellowknife? Alta 3.9 Beer and Black Tower wine are cheaper than their more nutritious counterparts which perhaps explains why I remember so little of my time in the NWT. If only I had figured a way to milk a caribou.

I’ve moved on to other lab jobs in small B.C. communities like William’s Lake and Comox and now in Penticton and Kelowna. I won’t tell you what my hourly pay rate is today because my co-workers who make $25 per hour would be right ticked off knowing that I make 8 times their take. That’s not true, but I like to think that I’m worth that much.

Suffice it to say, I make a reasonable wage for living a moderate North American middle-class lifestyle. No complaints but I’m a good many Ironman-length distances from the elite 1% so frequently bandied about in today’s news reports.

I’ve always thought I would be in the 1%. Or at least have a bank balance that pushed close to 8 figures. So why not?

…………….

The answer? I didn’t understand the 10,000 hour rule.

I was never going to strike it rich on the employment income side of the ledger, so I decided that investing what little I did earn was the fast track to untold wealth.

In my 20’s, I believed I could just waltz in, read a few magazine articles and books, and answer the phone when my broker-friend Rick called:

“Larry, buy as many shares of JuJube Inc. as you canIt’s a certain triple in 3 months“.

Soon, buckets of investing dollars would pour over me like runny No-Name catsup over steaming, fragrant French fries.

You’re not stupid. You know how that worked out. Broker-Rick got Rich, Client-Larry got broker.

But a LOT of people invest in just that fashion.

Over years, nay decades, I discovered that money was actually Heinz ketchup and flowed slowly. Cash needs a few wallops on the back-end until it begins to pour and some compounding momentum is gained. I learned that the best one to trust in making important investment decisions is myself.

Investment success is like masturbation, only YOU truly know what feels and works the best.

I had to read the investment books, re-read the books and then live the experience and learn from the experience. And continue learning from the experience.

Every minute. Every day. Every now. Over a period of years.

Blue Chip stock investing is the perfect thing for an easily distractible fella like me. I can apply myself for an hour or two, and then walk away for the rest of the day and come back to it refreshed… tomorrow.

Today,  I’ve finally spent the requisite 10,000 hours learning my investment chops. The learning will go on and maybe before I die I’ll gradually turn green and become Investment Yoda. But I doubt it.

give-me-all-your-money-you-will

Most of us spend most of our adult lives working, saving, and investing to find a lush oasis of financial security and a fountain of funds to make our days more pleasurable. For some it means monster homes and luxury vacations, for others it means freedom to serve and assist those in less fortunate circumstances.

We all want secure money for life and we’re all looking under every unturned rock to find it. There’s a multiplicity of ways to make, invest and keep money. But we each have to find one (or more) and then settle in faithfully for the 10,000-hour learning curve.

I found my niche and so I expect to keep getting rich slowly.

I might even retire on my 8th attempt.

Some believe that Jesus will save them. Or Allah. Or Buddha. Or Jehovah. Or a Lotto ticket.

Pray if you wish to a great higher power, but in the end, pick yourself up off the floor and make your luck happen.

You owe it to yourself.

Minion Dollars

I Sat Beside a Murderer in Tim Hortons…

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You can observe a lot by watching.”

                                                                                               Yogi Berra

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Can you size up a person at a glance? What they do? What their passions are? If they’re married? How many siblings?

I was in Tim Hortons coffee shop (Canada’s answer to coffee/donut heaven) last Sunday.

tim-hortons

I was tilting back my cardboard “Roll Up The Rim” cup, indiscretely doing my best Gene Simmons (KISS) long tongue-licking attempt at the last whisps of latte foam caffeine, when I noticed two mid-50’s age men at the table beside me. They looked uncomfortable within themselves as well as with each other. Their eyes were averted and mostly cast downwards.

2 strangers at tims

I don’t think these were the 2 guys I saw!

Were they twin brothers? … I didn’t think so. They were about the same age, same short, greyish scruffy short beard, same age-worn dull grey parkas.

There was a dominant/subordinate dynamic between the two…one, the more authoritarian-looking, self-assured dude and the other…there was a hangdog sadness and look of resignation, even soullessness in his eyes. An “I don’t have anything to live for anymore” sinking of the shoulders. It begins to dawn on me…

….well, I’m almost certain … he’s a paroled killer.

I’ve been looking at these guys for less than a minute and I’ve already decided that one is a murderer.

And the storyline grows and deepens: He killed his wife while drunken or drugged and has spent the last 20 years regretting the hurt he’s caused. His own two kids hate him and won’t see him. He’s been released from the penitentiary because he was a model, non-violent inmate who made one unfortunate, huge, life-altering mistake.

And now, here he sits at Tim Hortons for his weekly check-in with his parole officer.

DAMN…I do this all the time!

I see people on the street or in a store and within seconds I think I know their life story.

We may not be aware of it, but we’re all unpublished (well, most of us anyways) authors walking the streets writing stories inside our heads about the world around us. We look at strangers and based on the clothes they’re wearing, the jewelry on their fingers, the shoes on their feet, their posture, the lines on their face, the makeup worn – we immediately become fiction writers and make up a story in our heads.

I’ve watched enough detective TV shows in my life to know that we observe and record information all the time. It’s math and art combined.

To understand someone’s formula takes time. Over years, we gather a reservoir of general behavioral and physical archetypes and then store it in the back of our mind. Patterns begin to form in our head that tell us a collection of things about others.

archetypes21

And much of our world, we learn, is predictable. Pilots and cops and McDonalds workers and WalMart greeters wear their specific uniforms: bankers and brokers and realtors wear stylish higher end fashion: a heavily lined or wrinkled face suggests a difficult life filled with worry: a certain tone of voice suggests deceitfulness or acceptance.

Remember those kids’ books in school where you add one layer of transparency after another to a male or female figure. As each layer is placed on top of another, a picture emerges of who and what this person is and does. There are multiple clues that we display to the world that tell others who we are. By rights, I should wear a dunce cap, but why would I make it easy for others. You’d better work hard if you’re going to figure out MY life story in a glance!

Every day I see or meet new people and within seconds I have a running dialogue … “She must be a single Mom with young kids in hockey because she’s wearing slightly worn casual clothes with a team insignia on the left shoulder and no wedding ring and just a touch of makeup. Her hair is clean but not highly styled . The shoes are runners, likely from Winners, that are semi-stylish but inexpensive. She does a bit of dabbling in online dating but nothing seems to click from either her side or theirs.

Just another Hockey Mom...

Just another Hockey Mom??

By taking on a Walter Mitty persona, we can leave our own world and experience the dramas unfolding around us.

Just like me, have you ever sat in a restaurant and when your own conversations reach a lull, take in the dialogue at a nearby table? Tuned your ears to the couple looking in angry, hurtful glances at each other? There are lives being lived and played out in glory and pain within a few feet of our inquisitive attentiveness. Who needs CIA listening devices when in the real world, people are more than happy to share the sordid details of the reality-based chess game that is going on? When our own lives become boring or banal, we can vicariously inhabit someone else’s, even if for just a few minutes.

The reality is that there are stories and adventures and heartache and joy being acted out on the stage of real life. We all have something to cry about. No matter how wonderful or accomplished we are, there is always something down deep that resembles sorrow or sadness. And we’ve all had great moments of accomplishment and euphoria. I can see and intuit it in the multiple layers of the transparencies that make up those I see munching their apple fritters.

When I go into my Tim Hortons coffee shop, I’m seeking out more than a caffeine or sugar fix…although I admit those are perfectly good and adequate reasons on those days when my energy levels are low. The BONUS? You never know what macabre stories will unfold in the innocence of java joint encounters.

It’s like the escapism of the movie theatre.

And the price of admission to this theatre?

One good steaming cup of coffee…

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PS: Today’s great Tim Hortons’ life lesson!

     Any cupcake consumed before 9 AM is, technically, a muffin.”

Brian P. Cleary

I Live a Whole Life Inside My Head

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Walter Mitty

(This is the 1947 film- there’s a newer version of the movie coming next year with Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty)

In Grade 9, I was in Mr. Batchelor’s English class in Ontario, where we read James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (it was made into a movie too). To this chubby, barely pubescent 14 year-old lad he was sooooo cool; the main character Walter Mitty lived a vivid and exciting imaginary life inside his head as an escape from his everyday, mundane existence. And even Mr. Batchelor was kind of a “Mitty-like” character himself- he was eccentric and also kind of groovy (that’s ’70’s speak!) in an odd sort of way. I liked him a lot!

The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreporte...

I don’t think that Walter Mitty had the same secrets in his head that Bill Clinton dreamed about!

As I age, I’m finding Walter Mitty rising to the surface in myself…I spend a lot of time inside my head daydreaming and thinking, and just generally becoming more distracted from real life. I’m not withdrawing from the world in any substantial way. It’s not an anti-social sort of event, so long as you don’t think that saying, “talk to the hand” a lot is anti-social!

It’s probably a reflection of how immensely boring I really am, but when I talk to people, I can often see their eyes glaze over. They retreat within their head to their own imaginary “Walter Mitty” world that has nothing to do with what I’m saying. Maybe they’re saving the earth from nuclear annihilation or environmental catastrophe. I can’t tell. Of course, in today’s tech-heavy world, much of what used to be internal thought and reflection has morphed into texting and online interaction that distracts folks from the here and now.

(Sometimes, the ideas flow through my head like a fountain)

We all have obstacles that surface daily and often struggle for a solution that works for us and hopefully for others too (what we like to call a win-win situation). I enjoy being on my own and just letting my thoughts flow in all directions … sometimes it’s productive or creative imagining or  “what will I do about the challenge I have to deal with tomorrow” stuff.

The subconscious is an absolutely AMAZING entity that solves problems and brings up creative ideas. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sought a fix or an idea that just won’t come to me consciously, and then, as if by magic, when I let it go and allow my subconscious to ply away in the hazy recesses of my frontal cortex, VOILA, the answer surfaces, sometimes in 5 minutes, sometimes it takes 5 days! I have great faith in the brain as a computer that works in the background even when we’re not aware.

(Just as an aside…using the term subconscious is frowned upon by the academic psychology crowd, who prefer the term unconscious. I personally prefer subconscious because unconscious implies a coma-like state to me. So bear with my use of subconscious, OK?)

But daydreams are like night dreams that you have when you’re sleeping- they dissolve quickly and can be lost forever, or at least for a long time, so I always try to write the helpful ideas and thoughts down as soon as I can. I’ve found that sending an e-mail note to myself from an iPad (iPhone or any other device would work just as well) works great day or night.

Other times, my daydreams are far more airy-fairy. I just time travel into scenes from my past and people I’ve known. Fortunately, I don’t seem to dwell on any of the negative experiences, but indulge in the fun and pleasurable moments. There’s a lot of joy for me in recounting driving my newly purchased  ’67 Rambler car when I was 16 (at least when it didn’t need repairs!), or inadvertently blocking the exits to the gym while kissing a lovely young thing at a Grade 10 dance. Being smooched on by my Aunt Nina has just a little less appeal, but it’s all part of a life, right?

I’m not completely like Walter Mitty; my daydreams don’t revolve around self-aggrandization…I don’t pilot jet fighters or do brain surgery in my imaginings…Oh alright…I might admit to sometimes seeing myself as a woman-pleasing, wonderful Latin Lover but that just might be TMI for you to handle.

(This could have been me at the Grade 10 dance…it was the only time we kissed)

I think all of us live another life inside our heads to varying degrees. It’s an escape and respite when we’re worn down and need a break. It’s a way to resolve our issues and problems that nag at us. It’s a route to accessing our inner creativity.  How much of a Walter Mitty are you and what does life look like inside your head?

(“Walter Mitty” is the ice below the surface)