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Reader Note: If you are just catching on, each Thursday we’re are doing a chapter each week of a book I’m writing for Millennials – teaching the insights that will (hopefully!) allow them to live long and prosper – and be around to clean up after us Old People who made a mess of getting civilization this far.
There are three sections to each chapter. Something you can read to children, a general reader part, and the advanced/business section.
We pick up with morning like so…
We established in the first chapter that there is RECIPE for everything we do.
Chapter 2 involves understanding (and owning) PROCESSES.
Chapter 3 discusses recipes and processes of INVENTION.
Chapter 4 looked at FLOW The reason we do management reports is so we can spot problems and head them off at the pass.
Chapter 5 considered “WORLDVIEW” and how that “place we stand in our minds” determines what happens in the strange land “outside our heads.”
Chapter 6 focused on “TRAVEL” and considers the importance of travel as a way to more deeply understand worldviews since people with similar problems will come up with surprisingly different answers to the problems of Life…
In Chapter 7 “Matrix 512 is discussed as a unique way of keeping your worldview consistent and how to use it as a tool for clarified thinking in an every increasingly complex world.
In Chapter 8 we discussed the keyword “MAKE” and how it is that what we produce really is a large measure of our value in the world. Being natural DIY’ers, humans love their tools and what they can “make” with them…
Today, Chapter 9 discusses the the tradeoffs we make when a certain lifestyle is chosen for one’s time on Earth. What, after all, is “living well?”
For All Readers
One of the Royal Guards came to Tom the Baker’s office in the Royal Bakery with a request.
“His Highness, the King, would like you to visit with him in order that he can complete your annual employee performance review.”
“My what?” asked Tom. He’d been baking, cooking for the King, and traveling the world finding new recipes an ingredients for nearly three years.
“That out of state “consultant from Texas” has convinced the King that all employees of the Royal Family should have a thorough performance review and the wages adjusted every year,” explained the guard.
“Well, I have a break from 1 PM to 2 PM today because we’re making stew for the King’s dinner today…but please don’t tell anyone. It’s one of his favorite meals.”
Tom went back to work in the Kitchen with Little John, his assistant.
“Little John, ever hear of an “annual employee review” before?” Tom asked.
“Sure!” said Little John. “When I was working for Robin Hood, we had a review every year. That Robin sure knew how to run a tight ship. He even dinged me on my last review because I was stick-fighting with a dirty stick…can you imagine that?”
“Do you have an old review I could look at?”
Little John said yes, so he scampered off to get it from his cabin.
Upon his return, Tom began to study the form.
“I see one of the questions is about ‘How well do you like your work, on a scale of 1 to 5…”
“Yeah…Robin Hood was very big on doing good work,” Little John replied.
After an hour, or so, of study, the Royal Clock sounded 1 PM – an hour after noon – and Tom went to the King’s Chamber.
“Ah Tom! Come in my lad, come in!”
The King seemed to be in a jovial mood. But why shouldn’t he be? Everything in the Kingdom was humming along. Everyone who wanted a job could find one. People were inventing new things every day, and some of Tom’s ideas had been put into the Royal School’s training materials, so people had a real sense of self-determination. They knew if they worked hard, there would be rewards.
The King handed Tom a two-page document and a pencil and asked him to perform his own job review. The King began work on a similar form. As the King explained, they would compare their evaluations and negotiate any differences of opinion. Then a plan for personal development for the next year would be written.
Best of all, at the end of it there would be an open “Salary Discussion” during which Tom might be given a raise.
Presently, both men completed their forms and the review got underway.
Not surprisingly, the King gave Tom glowing marks in all categories. Tom, too, gave himself a very good review, but he was tougher on himself that the King was.
“Tom, I think you were a little hard on yourself,” said the King. “But that’s OK. My Royal Consultant says it’s always easier to tell people to be less hard on themselves. But it’s very difficult to tell someone who is not self-critical to learn to be more honest in their assessment. Now tell me, Tom, what kind of lifestyle to you plan to live for the next year?”
“My lifestyle?” asked Tom. He’d seen something on the form but just left it blank.
“Yes, Lifestyle, Tom. Everyone is always adjusting their lifestyle…every year. Take me, for example. You have fed me marvelous foods from your expeditions around the world to find new ingredients and new recipes. This has all been marvelous, but as a result, I have put on an extra 20 pounds of fat. This means I have to change my lifestyle a bit. So I have added “1-hour of moderate exercise per day” to my schedule six days a week. And, in addition, I have a small gold plate made by the Royal Jeweler that sits under my fork at the Royal Table. It says “Eat Thou No Second Helpings.” So what about you, Tom?”
Tom stammered a bit and shuffled his feet. “Guess I haven’t thought much about it, your Highness…”
“Perhaps I can walk you through it, then, Tom.” The King was anxious to get their meeting wrapped up and he didn’t want to have to extend their meeting too much.
“Tell me about your Housing situation,” said the King.
“Well, the Royal Cabins you supply are spacious and all,” said Tom. “But when comes down to it, I would like to start a family one of these days. Recently, I met a young woman friend of Little John’s – Maid Marion is her name – and she and I have been dating…”
“Good. So you will need more money for a bigger home. Now, tell me about your transportation plans?” The King was smiling.
“Well,” began Tom, “You do know the price of hay has gone up 25% in the last year and I’d like to get a younger, newer, faster horse…”
“Have it you shall….” declared the King. “Now what about food?”
“Well, I have saved a lot of money on food because since the Royal Security Detail started making me sample everything I serve you – to ensure you are never poisoned – I have spent almost nothing on food. In fact, Little John has put on a few pounds, too, your Highness.”
“Excellent,” prompted the King. “Do tell next about communications…”
“We have added two new call center staff to our 1-800-ROYALLY-BAKED kitchen appliance and cooking help center for the royal subjects, your Highness…I think we could add three more phone lines to hit total penetration of the available market for that business venture,” said Tom.
“More lines! Make it Four!” The King was positively beaming.
The exchange continued as Tom laid out how he planned to manage his Food, Shelter, Communications, Energy, Environment, and Finances for the coming year.
Just as he was wrapping up a discussion about how he hadn’t been able to contribute enough to his retirement account, the King held up his hand.
“Tom, I have it. I see exactly what you need and here is the new salary figure I will be writing down for the Royal Accountant to be paying you as of the first day of this month.”
Tom graciously accepted the small slip of paper. When he read it, his heart started to pound. The new salary was…H U G E.
Again, Tom stammered a bit but finally managed to speak a question. “Why such a generous figure?”
The King beamed. “Three reasons, Tom. First is you still bake the finest breads, pastries, and treats I have ever tasted. Secondly, you have traveled the world learning as many new ingredients and recipes as I could ever have hoped to find, even in my wildest dreams. But the third reason is the most important of all: I don’t think I could ever replace you.”
Tom had never considered the idea that he might be replaced some day. He knitted his brow as the King continued.
“Tom have a perfect mix of friendliness, knowledge, skill, total honesty, and a hard work ethic. What’s more, you taste my food to protect me from harm and you are tougher managing yourself than I would ever dream of being. For that I am grateful and since you are a key participant in making this the Best Kingdom in the World – an award we have won for the second year straight – I am sharing generously and thankfully, Tom.”
Tom didn’t know what to say, but already in his mind he was trying to figure out the recipe the King had just described to him. How could he share this with others, he wondered. And how would his new girlfriend, Maid Marion, take to it?
“Thank you King. I am honored to have your support…”
“Back to the Kitchen with you, Tom. I heard a rumor among the guards that there might be a fine stew that needs stirring…”
Tom made a note to himself. “Never, ever, under any circumstances, trust the guards.”
For General Readers
The great Balanced Life begins with selecting the right levels of operation from your own Seven Major Support Systems and a right mate.
What society does a very poor job of explaining is that there are ongoing costs associated with everything you buy. It’s the mirror image of advertising – once you buy something, the responsibility to maintain (or dispose of something) falls on your shoulders.
I hear people all the time talk about “Gee, I wish I was rich…that way I could buy and XXX and a YYY and have 23 difference ZZZ’s.”
What such people forget is that 23 ZZZ’s invariably come with ongoing costs.
Let’s focus on how Housing figures into this Consumer Trap.
Say you buy a larger home than the space you are living in now. Let’s see if we can list a few of the impacts of excess consumption of Housing.
To begin with, that larger Home will cost you more money in its initial price.
Then, because it costs more money on the front end, it will cost more money on the back=end: Taxes will be higher, for example.
Going from two bathrooms to three may sound like a simple enough proposition, but if you’re not on a sewer connection, it could mean another septic system would need to be installed. Even worse? What if you needed a holding tank and electric sewage pump to move waste uphill to another existing septic system? You know county building departments will want both a perc test as well as soils engineering and lots of other red tape, too. So suddenly, such a home begins to look a little daunting.
Suppose, however, that we manage to get past the plumbing part. What else can go wrong like higher property taxes and higher sewage costs aren’t trivial?
When the Home needs painting it will require more paint and yes, more labor, as well.
Then there’s decorating. How many more rooms full of furniture do you wish to own? I went through our house the other day and including the guest quarters, we have seven computers, 12 monitors hooked up to them, and something as “routine” as a software update is a non-trivial investment of time. It can take a day, sometimes longer.
Count up how many places you have to “sit.” Figuring three people per couch we have 30 places to sit inside and a further 8 places on the screen porch, desk, and under the trees.
Not that this is “bad” if you have lots of friends and all, but every place you can sit is a location to be cleaned and dusted. Even the outside sitting equipment needs to be washed off this time of year when the trees go pollinating.
The roof if bigger – hence more expensive to replace – if it ever needs work. That’s always just a matter of time.
Same thing with floors. Ideally, we would have tile or stone floors everywhere, but since we don’t, there is always the matter of looking at the carpet and wondering how much that will cost to replace when the time comes.
A bigger home is more expensive to heat and cool, as well.
Then there’s the matter of crime potential should times ever get really bad. Think about this long and hard, sometime: If times got really bad, where would people go to rip of things? Big house or the tiny house next door to it?
Microhomes are not the answer, either. Oh, sure, they are inexpensive, but you can spend a lot more money on a microhome than a good liveaboard sailboat and have nowhere near the flexibility and entertainment options. And should I toss in exercise?
For the past 14-years, we have owned a double-wide modular home that we have rebuilt from the ground up. To get a home that would have the personality, eclectic nature, and “vibe” of this would probably be into six figures, but we did it on a shoe-string.
If you don’t want to overpay for a home, get a fixer-upper and do everything you can yourself. The only major items to be aware of are local regulations that are designed to “make jobs in the Trades.”
A friend of ours down in The Woodlands, Texas recently had a new hot water heater put in. It was a job that required a permit and it had to be done by a licensed plumber…so the cost was ridiculous.
Contrast that with our recent experience replacing two water heaters: $371 a pop for the units and another $30 in fresh pipe fittings. Labor was a few hours other George time that would otherwise have been larding about in one of those 30 seating positions we were talking about.
The same attitude applies when comes to cars. The general idea is shop around for a solid, low mileage well-maintained lease return car that will have adequate performance and then take care of it.
We bought a 2005 Lexus ES-330 with nav and the high end sound system and didn’t have to pay too much for it. The car has been faultless but it’s because we have all the scheduled maintenance done on it.
Explore your purpose, though when you buy. Ours was to get something that would be safe for long-distance driving trips around the country. That’s something grays like us do now and then.
My son, I’m proud to say, bought a brand new Nissan Versa in 2015 and he got it outfitted right for a young single man: Triple black, with A/C and a good radio. Four doors, too.
He’s seen the trouble that driving a “cop caller” can bring to friends. No thank you.
High end exotics are great, but having owned three Porsches (911T, 944, and 930w/t) I can assure you the boy’s Nissan gets far better gas mileage, is more dependable, and he doesn’t have a gas tank sitting over his knees in case of an accident, unlike the two air-coolers. Not that there is anything less than spectacular performance of freeway onramps; not what I’m saying. Yes it’s a song to hear a 930 gearbox. But for the few seconds per day, cost per second is really high.
Like the main point of the Finance discussion reminds us: “You can only spend it once…”
This is not to say than you can’t have a few “bulges” away from average, even if you have an average income. But those bulges, like jet skis, have to be looked at on a “per-hour rental basis.”
The old oilfield saying is “If it flies, floats, of (f-bomb’s) lease it.”
The centerpiece of this lifestyle discussion is whether “You own your things” or whether “Your things own you…”
I know people who have gotten upside down both in consumer goods and real estate, and they had a hell of a time.
Had they just lived a life to where they always could take two or three pretty good set-backs, then their personal stress levels (and eventual divorce driven by it) would never have happened.
Molding a lifestyle (consumption and expenditure pattern) versus your personal income is something you have mostly complete control over.
There’s a simple matrix here:
You can live above your lifestyle, in which case you need to have high confidence that you’ll be able to raise your income a good bit by the time the bills come due…
Or you can live a balanced lifestyle, where you outgo is pretty nearly matched to your income. In this case, you will be able to get along for a while before it all blows up. But since you don’t have a savings and investment plan, a second job in your back pocket, or any other way of pulling out of a financial dive, this one is dicey, too.
The track I have always tried to follow is to live below your income level and keep it that way. That way, if there is a medical emergency, a job loss, serious auto accident, or an unexpected child comes into your marriage, you will be able to afford it and you won’t lose the Home and you’ll still have the same dependable, well-selected car that will meet all your needs.
A word or two about Luck is in order here.
If you were to live forever, just about everything in Life would happen to you. But, since you won’t, we have three types of people: Lucky, unlucky, and somewhere in-between.
The Lucky people I’ve known have usually been that way because they look at life as a statistical payoff ratio. They don’t speed, for example, because they know that a speeding ticket is one of those “gifts that keeps on giving.” Not just the ticket, but potentially higher insurance rates.
The point is that “Luck” has much more to do with conservatively and wisely living Life than most give credit.
Sure, you can read a lot of books on Luck, but if you do, let me recommend the book “How We Know What Isn’t So.”
The short version of this is simple: Humans are terrific pattern-recognition machines. It’s how we managed to live to be here walking upright instead of being in a saber-toothed tiger’s belly for dinner.
The problem with this higher mental function is that we will often “see” things that aren’t REALLY there. Runs of numbers, for example in a casino. Yes, you can get 12 pass rolls at the dice table, but not on command. You need to read statistics – a lot.
When you do, the importance of the little number “n” will jump out at you.
Touch wood, I have only been in one traffic accident, not my fault, when I was young, at low-speed and with zero injury.
On the other hand, I know people who have had accidents regularly, every three years or so.
Is that a manifestation of statistics, Luck, or is something else going on?
My father passed on some good knowledge about safe driving when I was young. He saw that the local Phone Company (*Pacific Northwest Bell at the time) was driving all their vehicles with their lights on, even during the day.
“They did a study and concluded that most accidents happen because people didn’t see the vehicle,” Pappy explained. From that point on, he’d never drive with his lights off. Oh, and he and my mom drove down to Ensenada Mexico, over to Mexico City, and then around the whole coastline of the CONUS and back across the Trans-Canada Highway with nary a scratch.
It’s not a bad habit and I turn my lights on most of the time, too, especially on two lane roads with nothing between us and oncoming traffic but that thin yellow line.
Am I saying that lifestyle selections and mental choicing have something to do with the unlucky people having all the wrecks they do?
No…not necessarily, but there is a philosophy that holds “As Above, So Below.”
When they want me to do somewhere or do something, I’d always say either “Let’s walk” or “Hey, let’s take my car…I’ll drive.”
For Business Readers
From the foregoing, you should immediately take a couple of take-aways from this chapter.
From the King (who go it from that Texas Consultant fellow) take the idea of personnel reviews and lifestyle discussions.
The idea is not to find fault with the employees, so much as it is to find fault with our own performance as well as the company’s.
The constant goal of good managers is to find ways to “Harmonize” employee lifestyles (and what they cost) with the needs of the company. A recurring theme here has been mention of how alignment between employees and organizational goals can be a magical power.
I won’t say too much about the executive lifestyle except to say some of the best advice ever given was NOT to abuse your expense account.
Another was “When on per diem, eat one meal a day at a fast food joint and you can generally afford a good lunch or dinner…”
When comes to Housing and some of other other decisions in executive life, mobility is the name of the game when you are working up the totem pole. Few people have the luxury of living in the same location and working for the same employer for more than five or six years, anymore. The breakeven number (initial cost versus sales cost less real estate commissions) is typically around 7-years.
A final caution or two about executive lifestyle?
I’ve seen several executives in my career who put their “future up their nose” and others who have “eaten their way to failure.”
The battle for a successful life is a long, drawn-out affair, and most people don’t figure this out until they’ve gone a “few rounds in the Ring with Life punching at them.”
After a while, a certain pattern emerges: You learn that there’s a rhythm to it…and that rhythm is what we call the “Business Cycles.”
Pay close attention to them. Never take on a new position in Sales when the whole industry is in trouble. Instead, look for opportunities in sales where the “bottom is in” and general interest in an item or service is expanding.
In this way, even if you are not a 24 carat genius, you will have an incoming tide to help you along and this, as we know, floats all boats.
The time to take risks is when you sense the tide beginning to turn and run with the direction your life is taking you. At these times, double-down..
When the tide turns, pull in your horns first and remember that “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.”
Last, but not least, don’t be a wild-person. Lifestyle at some level involves being able to chill and to take on the viewpoint of being a semi-detached philosopher. Know more than anyone else in your organization.
Expertise and exceptional competence has value under all business conditions.
To help with the philosophy part, please consider my two favorite two pieces of poetry that have stood me in excellent stead whether in good times or bad.
The first is Shakespeare’s:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
The other is a Robert Service poem, “The Quitter:”
When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.
“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know — but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit, it’s so easy to quit.
It’s the keeping-your chin-up that’s hard.
It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten — and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
Why that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and battered and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.
It has been my observation that it’s a hell of a lot easier to do the “keeping-on-living” part if you’ve got a little grubstake set aside, a good bit of stored food, and a solid roof over that good head on your shoulders.
Like my old airline boss pounded into my head:
“We don’t have any problems more revenue won’t fix.”
Next Week in Chapter 10: [keyword: Purpose]
Write when you get rich,