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Archive for the ‘Opportunity’ Category

Where are you going?

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll

Imagine you’re sitting in an airplane. The captain gets on the intercom and says: “Folks, we’re 2nd in line for takeoff. Where would you like to go?”

If your perfect life is the destination, don’t you want to get there as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible? Maybe you can do so without creating a business plan, but I can’t imagine how.  A plan will help you make better and faster decisions, decide how you spend your money or time and track your progress.

Start now.

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“A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” General George S. Patton

Complete your annual plan by November so that you can relax and sit on your plan for a month or so before executing it.  Review (and revise if needed) your progress quarterly.  This is not a New Year’s resolution to be enacted in January and discarded by February.  This is an action plan that will get you to your biggest life goals.

It’s time to focus your energy onto your goals and dreams. Find a place with trees and fresh air where you can concentrate on your future.

There are myriad ways to create your plan and they all start with a vision.

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“I love it when a plan comes together.” Hannibal Smith-The A-Team

What do you want to do, be or have in 2-5 years?

What motivates you to jump out of bed in the morning, or work late into the night?

Your vision must be:

Specific- What will it look like once you’ve reached your goal? Where will you live? What will you do each day? Who will your friends, neighbors or co-workers be?

Vivid- Realism is the key to visualization so use all of your senses when describing your goal.  The goal is to make your mind believe your future outcome is happening now.  With consistent visualization, your mind accepts the image of success and suddenly you’re seeing inspiration and opportunity everywhere.

Compelling-How will your life (or the lives of your family members) improve once you’ve achieved your goal?

Desirable-Is this your dream or only something you think you should want?  The more you want the outcome, the more likely it is you’ll achieve it. If your goal isn’t compelling, you’ll quit at the first sign of trouble.

Realistic-Do you have enough time, energy and support to reach your goal? Have others done it before? If it’s been done, there’s a proven strategy to do it, you just have to find it.

Focused- Instead of creating a to-do list, concentrate your energy on accomplishing up to 3 bigger goals.

Flexible-There are lots of ways to get to your outcome.  If your goal is to provide your son with an Ivy League education instead of concentrating on just one way to get there (saving lots of money), brainstorm all the ways you could make it happen (scholarships, part-time work, etc.)

Easy to communicate- Can you describe your end result concisely in terms anyone can understand?

Close your eyes and imagine your future.

Having trouble visualizing?

Look for someone who’s already achieved your goal.  What does that person’s life look like?  Draw, paint a picture, or write a story as if you’re reporting on your future self.  Then distill that scene, picture or story into your vision statement.

Once you’ve articulated your vision, make it real.

Step 1:  Writing your goal down makes it tangible and on those days when you’re frustrated or unfocused, you can look at what you’ve written and get back on track.

The more accountable you are, the more likely it is you’ll achieve your goal. Find an accountability partner who’s committed to her own goals. Better yet, find someone who already attained your goal.  Tell that person your goals and ask for help in keeping your commitments.

Step 2: Determine what it will take to get there. What skills, knowledge and resources will you need?

If you want to live in France, you’ll need to learn French (skill), find a place to live (knowledge) and save money (resources.)

Step 3: Break each task down into short-term goals you can accomplish in 1,2 or 3 months.

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“Set your goals high and don't stop until you get there” Bo Jackson

Write down your top 5 values in order. If your goal conflicts with your values, you’ll never achieve it.

If you’re not sure what constitutes a value, this list can help. When you commit to your values and have written goals, choosing between competing demands gets easier. As does making decisions.

Sally’s top value is family, followed by financial independence.  A single mother with 2 kids, she’s been offered a job that doubles her salary but requires her to leave town every weekend. She has to either decline the job, or rerank her values.

Acknowledging your values, prioritize your short-term goals.  Your goals should have a deadline as well as a tangible, measurable end-result.  Set goals that are tough but realistic to achieve.

In On Writing, Stephen King compares writing to telepathy. Even though he writes every novel, short story, and magazine article in a certain place and at a certain time, you can be miles and decades away and still receive his communication clearly.

If writing is telepathy, planning and envisioning are clairvoyance. Planning your tomorrow today will bring your vision of the future to fruition.

What to learn more?

Join me on Wednesday, November 3rd at The New Orleans Marriott.

Get details and register here.

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The moment you step through the gate of The Grand Canyon Deer Farm you’re inundated by does and their fawns hoping for a treat. When they realize you didn’t pay $5 for a souvenir cup containing 2¢ worth of corn, they turn away and have nothing more to do with you.

However, you can snicker when the deer greet the next suckers (I mean, visitors) who show up holding corn.

At Old McDonald’s Petting Farm just outside of Mount Rushmore, the goats congregate around the machine that dispenses feed and look at you with hungry, soulful eyes. Even the pot-bellied pigs rouse from their midday naps, lumbering over to the food chute on the chance that an altruistic tourist might be packing apples.

To see a stark example of the major difference between captive animals and wild ones, drive a few dozen miles west to Wyoming. Offer some grain to a wild pronghorn. Not only will it reject your gift, it’ll turn tail and show you why it’s the fastest mammal in the Americas.

Captive animals equate people with food. They forget to instinctively forage for food and fear predators, making it impossible for them to survive in the wild for very long.

The same thing goes for humans. Like Sharon Jasper of New Orleans, who complained that the taxpayer-funded Section 8 apartment she moved into after Hurricane Katrina is a “slum.” Instead of thanking those taxpayers for saving her from sleeping in the park, she complains that she still has to pay her utilities and security deposit.

Jasper’s newly renovated apartment features wood floors. And that big TV must cost as much as a year of utility bills.

How about the Harper family from Georgia? They were chosen from thousands of applicants to appear on the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They received a new $450,000 home (their old house was razed) – plus a scholarship fund for their kids and a home maintenance fund, totaling $250,000. They also got an all-expenses-paid week in Disneyland while other people built their house.

Now they’re getting a foreclosure notice from the bank that gave them a $450,000 line of credit without asking them what they were going to use the money for or how they planned to repay it. Darn that ABC, why didn’t they tell us we’d have to pay back any money we might borrow?*

Evelyn Adams won the New Jersey lottery in consecutive years and managed to squander $5.4 million. She donated much of the money to slot machines in Atlantic City, and actually said “I wish I had the chance to do it all over again.”

Apparently her financial strategy is to win the lottery a third time.

These are the deer (or goats, or pigs) we create when we give people what we think they need instead of expecting them to work for what they want.

People are not forged by their circumstances so much as they are by their choices. If circumstances dictates destiny, there would never be a Sheldon Adelson, J.K. Rowling, Chris Gardner nor Oprah Winfrey, all of whom rose from modest beginnings. And all of whom chose to change their circumstances and accept the sacrifices that go along with that choice.

Self-sufficient people don’t have the luxury of being victims. They take responsibility for their actions, choices and life – and get freedom in return.

*ABC did arrange for the Harpers to meet with a financial planner.

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Update:

Now the 1st amendment is under attack as the battle for health insurance reform heats up.  Hey, Washington…free speech means we can lie, hurt your feelings and communicate with our fellow Americans in any way we choose.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson created a manifesto that transcends temporality and continues to inspire each generation to greatness.

Among the three famous inalienable Rights of Man, Life is self-evident.  We have the right to be born and the right to defend our children as well as ourselves from harm.

This basic right is at the locus of the two most debated policies of recent history; abortion & gun control.

Do you have an inalienable right to life?

The question is obviously rhetorical, but how does the answer reconcile a federal government that condones abortion?

Recent polls show most Americans oppose abortion, meaning that 2 generations removed from Roe v. Wade, maybe people are becoming aware of what an inalienable right to life means.  Even Americans who support abortion in the first trimester lose their enthusiasm for killing after the 3rd month, once an unborn baby starts to look “real”.

15 years after Jefferson wrote about the cardinality of life, his fellow Virginian James Madison introduced the concept of the Bill of Rights and its then-uncontroversial 2nd amendment.  Madison (inspired by his mentor George Mason) knew that any right to life is worthless if it can’t be defended nor preserved.

Unless each member of your family has his own 24-hour bodyguard detail, or you can somehow persuade an assailant to do whatever you tell him, you need to learn how to use a firearm.  Failing to do so is an abdication of your duty as a human. This nation would be exponentially safer if everyone took responsibility for their own safety, and developed the skill to protect themselves and their families.

Every right implies a responsibility.  (Which, according to George Bernard Shaw, is why so many people dread freedom.)

Don’t let yourself be scared into becoming a disarmed ward of the state.

Here are some excuses for not owning a firearm, all of which are easily dismissed:

Guns are dangerous

Yes.  They kill people.  That’s what they were created for, which is sort of the point when a bad guy is trying to hurt you or your family.

In the hands of a responsible (there’s that word again) person, a gun is a tool, just like a car.   If you use a car improperly, you can easily kill. But we take it for granted that the overwhelming majority of the tens of millions of car owners in this country are responsible enough not to.

Guns are illegal

No, but some states have made it difficult to buy, carry & store them. Every state allows you to keep a weapon for your home.  Why? Because it’s a constitutional right, and this isn’t the United Kingdom yet.

If you live in one of the 48 states that issue concealed carry permits*, get one once you’ve determined you know how to use a gun. It takes a few hours of ridiculously simply classroom work, along with a shooting test.

With a concealed weapons permit, you can carry a gun inconspicuously (except in those few places where it’s expressly prohibited.) Or just hope you won’t be a victim. Because that works, sometimes.

Most states’ permits are honored in multiple states. (They should be honored in all 50, like driver’s licenses are, but that’s a topic for a different post.)

My gun will be used against me

No, unless you’re an idiot. If you want to take full advantage of your God-given freedom (and the responsibility that entails), take a defensive weapon class and practice a lot.

According to GunFacts.org , “For every accidental death, suicide, or homicide with a firearm, 10 lives are saved.” Even with most Americans walking around unarmed and unaware, “the rate of defensive gun use is 6 times that of criminal gun use.” (Again, according to GunFacts.org.) The criminals are there, but fortunately, the rest of us still outnumber them.

If a preponderance of weapons leads to violence, why not disarm the cops along with the rest of the citizens?

That was supposed to be sarcasm, but sometimes the more cloistered among us have a tough time with that. Let’s hear from an academic on this issue. Val Moeller, president of Columbia State Community College**, says “…when someone comes on campus and sees armed public safety officers, it indicates that the campus is not safe.”

Which, of course, is why bloody massacres occur daily on every army base throughout the country. Ms. Moeller is not alone in her ludicrous beliefs. According to ArmedCampus.com, lots of campus police departments are unarmed.

Here’s CSCC Chief of Police Mike Stritenberg, who manages to give a lucid argument despite being hog-tied:

“Of course there are risks inherent to being an armed police officer, including attacks that result in your weapon being used against you and armed encounters that result in legally challenged shootings but that’s part of police work.  To say that because there are risks associated with being armed, police officers shouldn’t carry guns seems mind-boggling,”

You can substitute “citizens” for “police officers” in that last sentence.

Guns are loud and look scary.

Yes. This paragraph is for the ladies:

Remember the first time you went to the gym?  It’s loud, sweaty, smelly and filled with men who clearly know what they’re doing, leaving you to stand around feeling out of place.

Your first time at the range will be the same.  And, because you’ve been bombarded with messages telling you how dangerous and bad guns are, you’ll be nervous.  The first time you shoot, your hands will shake.

You’ll then notice that it takes some applied force to pull a trigger.  Guns don’t just “go off.”

Keep going to the range.  Keep practicing.  You’ll eventually get used to the noise, the gun & the feeling of shooting.  Don’t let fear stop you.

I don’t need a gun because the police will keep me safe

No. Whether you live in the city or the country, there aren’t enough cops to prevent crimes in progress.  95% of the time, an officer arrives on the scene too late.  Response times in some cities are over 45 minutes.

Freedom means you can live where you want, speak your mind without fear of reprisal, attend the church (or not) of our choice, write critical articles about your government (or anyone else) and know your home is our castle.

If you think these rights are common throughout the world, you’ve obviously never written about Muslims in Canada, tried to Google “Tiananmen Square” in China or attempted to attend Sunday mass in Saudi Arabia.

Why do so many Americans gladly relinquish their freedoms?

They become prisoners of dependency and fear because freedom comes at a price, a cost paid both by your nation and yourself.   You’ll make bad decisions on occasion. If they’re bad enough, you might go to jail, declare bankruptcy or lose your home.

When James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights, Americans who made bad decisions had not choice but to live with the consequences of their actions.  Today, everyone wants to be free to make poor choices detached from consequences.

If you’re truly free, then you’re free to succeed or fail.  Failure is the mechanism through which we grow & learn.  For every bad decision made, you learn and correct course.

If you allow someone (e.g. the government) to control your failures, that caretaker will also limit your successes.

Are we guaranteed happiness?

Jefferson would never have imagined today’s Americans who expect society (government) to make them happy.  Many believe that they have a right to own a house, work at a high paying job, obtain a college education and receive health care.

And you do.

You have the right to an equal opportunity to earn those things for yourself.

Equal access to the system of capitalism (get a job, live within your means, invest the difference) is sufficient.  The rest is up to you.

Equal access is not the same as equal outcome.

According to the Department of Labor these are the 3 jobs in which the highest proportion of people doing it are women: 1) secretarial; 2) nursing and 3) teaching (elementary school level).

For men: 1) Construction (including steelworkers & electricians); 2) logging and 3) heavy equipment operator.

Male secretaries, nurses or teachers (and female electricians, loggers and heavy equipment operators) prove we have the freedom to work wherever we fit best.

Why are most secretaries and nurses female?  Those careers require levels of education and experience that fit with a working mother’s lifestyle.

Teaching is the ultimate mother’s job: you work when (and sometimes where) your children are in school.

Salaries in these professions are low because a lot of people can (and want) to do them.

Why don’t more women become electricians, loggers or heavy equipment operators?

Becoming an electrician requires a 4 years of apprenticeship, consisting of 144 hours of classroom training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.  The apprenticeships are hard to get and if you drop out in the middle, you won’t get another chance. Also, seniority dictates that you need a consistent work history to become an electrician.  Mothers are more likely to start and stop their education, call in sick and miss work.

You don’t need a lot of education to become a logger, but you might have to move, live onsite or drive long distances to get to the logging site.  The weather can be awful, and the job is physically demanding, in addition to being about the most dangerous one in existence.

Most heavy equipment operators are high school graduates with a farming, commercial vehicle or military background. In some parts of the country (e.g. Alaska), work might be seasonal.

Most women won’t make the sacrifices to go after these well-paying jobs, but that’s hardly a failure of opportunity.  Women choose a less-demanding way, and the compromise is in the compensation.

Don’t expect anyone to hand you your future.  It’s your responsibility to fight for your happiness. Thousands have died to give you the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In return, the least you can do is not surrender it.

*Illinois and Wisconsin don’t allow concealed weapons. Which works beautifully, because both states reported exactly 0 violent crimes last year.

**Last year sanity & common sense prevailed and the CSCC trustees voted to arm the campus police.

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In 1988 Ronald Reagan spoke to students via C-Span.  His words of wisdom are worth repeating:

“By renewing our commitment to the original values of the American Revolution and to the principles of  “We the People,” we can best preserve our liberty and expand the progress of freedom in the world, which is the purpose for which America was founded. Here, on a continent nestled between two oceans, our country is unique in the world. We have drawn our people from virtually every other nation on Earth, and what we’ve created here as Americans has touched every corner of the globe.

Here in the White House there’s a famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And it shows many of the great men of that time assembled in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. But when you look closely at the painting, you see that some of the figures in the hall are just outlines, waiting to be filled in, the faces have not yet been drawn. You see, this great painting isn’t finished. But what the people who gathered in Philadelphia two centuries ago set out to do is not yet finished, either. And that, I suppose, is why the painting is the way it is. America is not yet complete, and it’s up to each one of us to help complete it. And each one of you can place yourself in that painting. You can become one of the those immortal figures by helping to build and renew America.

And we’re entering one of the most exciting times in history, a time of unlimited possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your heart, and the character of your courage. More than two centuries of American history — the contributions of the millions of people who have come before us have been given to us as our birthright. All we can do to earn what we’ve received is to dream large dreams, to live lives of kindness, and to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America.

Now it’s time for me to ask you for your questions, but first I’d like to ask you one: What are some of the things that you’re proudest of and some of the things that are best about America?”

Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday also touched on a similar theme:

“No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country? “

America.  The land of opportunity.

How will you take advantage of all that she offers?

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UPDATE:

Nice to know that the always eloquent Michelle Malkin agrees with me:

“While the Rev. Al Sharpton screamed “Thank you, Michael! Thank you, Michael!” at the grotesque Staples Center memorial on Tuesday, many of us whispered in prayer: Thank you, Justin. Thank you, Aaron. Thank you, Brian. The real American heroes won’t be forgotten.”

Her column is worth reading in full.

A few people took umbrage with my disdain over the media circus that surrounds Michael Jackson’s death & memorial.  He’s a “hero” and a “role model” and that even if I disapprove of his personal life, I should respect him for his talent & charitable endeavors.

Here’s my idea of a hero:

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Mike Murphy was a US Navy SEAL awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during a firefight in Afghanistan. The fight killed 3 members of Murphy’s 4-man team…including Murphy.  The remaining SEAL, Marcus Luttrell, recounts the bravery of Murphy, Danny Dietz & Matthew Axelson in Lone Survivor .
You can read about Murphy and other real American heroes who fought, and in many cases died, to protect and defend you & me here

And for a role model?pzumboww2id
How about a man who came to this country at the age of 15 with $12 in his pocket? He didn’t speak English, nor could he write or read in his native Italian.  But he was willing to follow the rules, work hard and make a better life for his children.  The illiteracy kept Pasquale Zumbo a resident alien for life, but didn’t stop him from becoming a landowner, husband and grandfather.   He paid his taxes, took care of his family, paid his bills on time, wouldn’t have dreamt of taking government assistance, & literally worked until the day he died.

Someone in your life is a model of independence, hard work & responsibility.  It’s probably not a man who became dependent on drugs, was overextended financially & didn’t take the time to get his estate in order.

Here are the lessons I take from the death of Michael Jackson:

– Live your life today.  Tomorrow’s memorial service could be yours.
– Real heroes don’t travel with an entourage.  (Well, maybe Dwight Eisenhower.)
– Choose role models who make you want to be a better person.
– If you’re given a gift, share it.
– Even multimillionaires run out of money. Control Your Cash.
– The greatest gift you can give your family is a completed will or trust.

What lessons did you learn?

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The Las Vegas Review Journal stating:

“During these critical times, experience does matter.”

endorsed John McCain & Sarah Palin today.

The RJ editorial offered their take on the race:

“While Sen. Obama preaches “change,” he in fact proposes only to accelerate business-as-usual in Washington.

For instance, his redistributionist tax increase proposals — transferring billions of dollars from those who pay income taxes to those who don’t — would further feed the beltway bureaucracy, hurting many small business owners and crippling private investment at a time when this economy needs it most. His agenda calls for almost $1 trillion in new government spending over the next four years — on green energy, education, health care and everything else — while virtually ignoring the looming collapse of Social Security and Medicare.

Change? What change?”

And their take on John McCain?

“In contrast, Sen. McCain has a proven record of battling the drunken sailor culture so pervasive in our nation’s capital. He has been an outspoken advocate for fiscal restraint, angering many of his colleagues by embarrassing them over their penchant for pork. Sen. McCain vows to veto any bill that includes earmarks and says he will freeze spending in many areas of the budget.

That would represent real change.

…Sen. McCain opposes any tax hikes, recognizing that in these troubled times leaving money in the hands of those who earned it offers the best hope for encouraging the creativity and entrepreneurship that defines this nation’s legacy.”

Read the whole article here.

I spent the day in the sunshine, surrounded by my friends & neighbors, listening to Sarah Palin speak my favorite line of the day:

“A company’s balance sheet tallies up just the same whether it’s a man who owns the business or a woman. And women want the same opportunities as men. And they’re entitled to the same rewards.”

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This season is all about “book smart” vs “street smart.” As a member of the street smart camp, you can imagine which side I am cheering for.

Since the high school grads make three times the income of the college grads they named themselves Net Worth Corp.

The college graduates named themselves Magna Corp for Magna Cum Laude meaning high honors.

The task was just so-so although I had to laugh at Danny the Chief Morale Officer!

By the way, is it me or does the apartment seem nicer this time around? Less flash, more class.

And Carolyn’s skirts are shorter!

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