how to defeat fear

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When I worked in Bucharest, we’d go out to lunch from time to time. Our office was in a building that had a soup/deli thing on the ground floor.  The other option was a McDonald’s about a block away.  When you were there in the winter, the sidewalks would be covered by ice – public services like salt and scraping were nonexistent – but that wasn’t the biggest kicker.  I had been in numerous freezing cold locales by that point:  Moscow, Siberia, Poland, Boston.  The real problem was the dogs… and the fear of those dogs.

Wild dogs roamed up and down the streets in our part of downtown Bucharest. I don’t know if they were wild dogs, or just abandoned pets, but they seemed bold enough to be wild and tame enough to shy away at the last second from a human.  They were frightening, though.  They’d gather around you and snarl and bark and generally activate your caveman brain’s fear of things with teeth.

We’d watch out the windows around lunchtime to see if the local pack of wild dogs were nearby before setting off for McDonald’s. I’m not sure if they would have attacked.  They acted fierce, and they looked hungry, but I never saw them attack a person.  They were hungry, for sure.  If they came close, I’d throw a rock or two.  Usually that scared them off.  Once or twice it didn’t, and I learned a trick – barking LIKE a dog at a dog freaks them out.  They fear that as much as you might fear them. But before you laugh at me, imagine having a pack of 10-12 hungry wild dogs snarling at you and think about what you’d do in that situation.

We would go to McDonald’s, of course. If you can look out the window and see that you’re likely to make it, you may chance it, because you can only eat soup in the company canteen so many days in a row.  A cheeseburger starts to look like a filet mignon steak after a while.

But those dogs were frightening. Years before going to Bucharest, while living in Moscow, I had read reports of a young woman torn to shreds by wild dogs a few blocks from my home.  You’d have to assume she was drunk, or stoned, or just unlucky.  But people do get attacked by dogs, so a pack of wild dogs is not something to shrug at. Week after week (I spent a lot of time in Bucharest) I’d venture by those dogs…sometimes walking through the midst of them. 

Towards the end, as I mentioned, I snarled at them. They cringed when they saw me coming.  I had little fear of them.  The first time I saw them I was terrified, and the last time I saw them I was caught somewhere between disgust and pity, but fearless. Not to go all Aesop on you here, but the moral of the story is that even things that seem scary can be conquered.  Don’t assume that you will always be afraid.  Someday – if you try hard enough, and beat away at it every day – you’ll beat it.  Fear is just uncertainty about the unknown.

photo by Javiercit0

the snowball, and links

snowballs

Not that kind of a snowball…. read on.

Why Young Entrepreneurs Should Hold Down a Job After College:  If you plan on being an entrepreneur I’d imagine a job would be a great way to learn about your industry before leaping out on your own. 

SodaStream: Product of the Year 2010: I love SodaStreamas well – having a home seltzer machine has been one of the best decisions I ever made (and it’s how I quit drinking soda).

Help with 2011 taxes

Habits and lifestyle

And more:

And I’m just starting to read this book:  The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder.   I realized after reading Andrew Carnegie’s autobiography (The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie and The Gospel of Wealth) that I can get quite a bit out of a biography if it’s well-written and the subject is interesting*.  I’ve generally shied away from biographies in favor of histories, because I much prefer the ‘grand sweep’ view of a good historical book, but Carnegie was a good writer and had such an interesting life that I decided to take another plunge (not to mention it was reasonably priced on my KindleKindle.

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by David Barrie

* I guess in all fairness that would be true for any work of literature or non-fiction, though…

why we need immigrants

What if you had nothing? No home, no DVD player, no car, no skills, no money and couldn’t even speak the language? What if you had nothing except a suitcase full of clothes and a few photographs? Welcome to the outlook for many immigrants.

Politicians roll out the immigration debate all the time, but what most people don’t realize is just how frightening the prospect of being an immigrant is. I have been a temporary immigrant once in my life, when I moved to Russia. I came with the full-fledged support of an international firm that provided housing and help with the inevitable paperwork, and I still was overwhelmed, arriving with nothing except a suitcase full of business suits.

Imagine, however, showing up in New York City or Washington DC or Los Angeles with no knowledge of the language, no unique skills and no real savings. Imagine that hours before you landed at JFK or Dulles or LAX you were in the midst of a country at war, or a country where you were no longer welcome because of your race or your religion. Your only hope is to come to a country – ideally the US – where you will be allowed to work hard, raise a family, live in peace and practice whatever religion or custom or culture you choose.

I find it hard to believe that so many people make this drastic choice. It’s easy to flee a country, maybe, when staying means you’ll be killed or raped or maimed. But it’s less easy to imagine fleeing a country where your family has roots, you are a respected member of a community and you have a cultural or religious tradition stretching back hundreds or even thousands of years.

Yet every year someone does. In New York you see huge, thriving, vital immigrant communities. It is not uncommon to meet people in New York who don’t speak English well yet. I’ve found that it’s not uncommon even in a small town in Florida, either. It is not uncommon to meet a former doctor working as a janitor, or a teacher working as a clerk. And it is not uncommon to see immigrant family after immigrant family succeed against these terrible odds and pass on their work ethic and almost feverish belief in the American dream to the next generation.

I find it really inspiring, and when I look around my workplace I see America made more vital when I have one colleague who’s Russian, another Dominican, another African, another Australian, another Bosnian, and on and on. One of the things I truly dread when I consider leaving New York is a more homogeneous life – fewer ethnic communities, less exotic music piping out of shopfronts, vanilla accents. I know being an immigrant doesn’t make anyone a more interesting person, but I believe being around all of these different cultures and beliefs and cuisines and languages makes me a more interesting person.

I hope that the anti-immigration forces remember that immigrants are desperately hoping to come to America, not for a free ride, but exactly the opposite – to pay their fare and reach the same destination as the rest of us, financial and personal independence.

should you have children?

Sometimes it’s hard to come up with a subject to blog about, so tonight I’ll borrow Syd’s thoughts:

If you decide not to have children, you’re also going to have to learn how to fit in to a world that doesn’t understand you.  When people find out that you don’t want kids, be prepared for their shock.  But take comfort in the fact that it’s not as bad as their reaction would be if they found out you were secretly a serial killer.

from How to Fit in Without Kids

It’s an interesting debate. My wife and I certainly talk, with curiosity, about people we know who have chosen not to have kids. Yet ten years ago, I counted myself among those people. Until I met my wife I had little interest in having children; actually, if I’m honest with myself, I had none. I don’t know why, exactly – I had a good childhood, I was happy with family life. I simply didn’t care that much about having kids. When I look back, and try to be honest with myself, it was selfishness. I was busy with my life for a lot of years. I worked very hard, I played very hard… I traveled, I socialized. I spent a lot of time doing stuff for me. Children just seemed like they would be an inconvenience to that life. And I was right.

It’s a trite and tedious comment to say that once you have kids, everything changes. It’s true, though. My life revolved around ME until I was a husband, but even then I had plenty of time for myself. Bubelah and I were both working and could do things as separate people. We didn’t have responsibilities. Sure, we thought we did – we thought the family visits and the social events and work-related crud were responsibilities, but now I know that pales in comparison to nighttime feedings, pouring juice, wiping butts, preparing food, playtime, storytime, sicktime, and bedtime. And when work bummed me out I could take a vacation. You can’t do that with a kid. You certainly can’t do it with two (or more).

So I get Syd’s article. Now that I have two children I look at childless couples and – sadly – my first thought is usually “wow, too bad, I guess they can’t have kids” – as if no-one could rationally choose that path except through the accidents of biology. But then I reflect, and I think that the world would be much better off if people could seriously and thoughtfully consider their rationale for becoming parents. How often is it societal or parental or other types of pressure that lead people into thinking they ‘need’ kids? How many people NEED to reproduce? The world’s not lacking for people, last time I checked.

I’ll throw out one more trite saying: now that I have kids, I can’t even vaguely conceive of life without them. And I’m not just being sentimental, because it’s hard to have kids and many times they are just not fun. My son and I had a meltdown last night when I punished him (no bedtime book) for calling me a name shortly before bedtime. I was mad, he was mad. It wasn’t fun, and I didn’t feel the joy of parenthood at that moment. As I write this I had to jump up from the computer and put my daughter back to sleep after she cried – for no apparent reason. But I still feel an overwhelming sense of closeness to my children that’s impossible to dismiss. I’ve felt endless hours of tiredness, boredom, irritation, and so on, but those hours have been tempered by moments and flashes of pure joy – first words, hugs without reservation and the usual glowing types of experiences parents tout. They’ve been cut with many hours of cute songs, fun play, interesting outings and charming displays.

I love my kids. But does that mean everyone needs children? No. No more than my love of warm weather means everyone should move to a temperate climate. Choices are made about one’s life, and although we tend to make children a central life choice, it’s not the only choice and in many senses may be only one of many. Where to live, what work to choose, who to associate with as friends, religion, diet, money – these are all important, too. You can live a full life with children, but you can live a full life without – just as you can live a desperate life with children, or without.

What you shouldn’t do is judge other people’s choices. There’s an old saying that has always seemed to me to be the epitome of reasonableness and nightmarish lack of concern for other people: “the world needs ditchdiggers, too.” That’s harsh, but you know what?  It’s true. Well, in the same sense, not everyone NEEDS to have kids. Some because they shouldn’t, and – let’s face it – some people don’t want them, even if they’d make great parents. It’s a shocking thing to say, I think, coming from a parent; but it’s true. So parents – treasure your kids. People who aren’t parents – and don’t want to be – will be just fine the way they are.

small company roundup

I’m back into heavy-duty contract consulting again, after a few months of doing piecemeal work.  It’s tough, but as with any work it’s rewarding to know that you have a client who needs help doing X, and … hey, I can do X!  Here you go!  Plus I’m having an interesting experience working for by far the smallest client I’ve ever had.  I typically work for very large corporations – to give you an idea of scale, I spent a year working in Morgan Stanley’s corporate headquarters as a consultant.  So taking a brief turn here with a small company about .01% of Morgan Stanley’s size is quite interesting for me.  It’s early to make snap judgments but so far the comparison is positive.

Oh, and go Jets. 

Blogger’s Favorite Personal Finance Books: I recommended Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which should be no particular surprise to anyone who reads this blog. A few other decent selections here, too.

9 Ways to Prepare for Food Inflation: I’m not worried, but it will occur (and already has, if you like organic foods).

The Frugal Wedding: How to Save Money When Getting Married: The best way to save money getting married is to marry someone who understands what a wedding costs versus what it’s worth.

How HP/Palm’s webOS Can Compete with Apple iOS and Google Android: Well, OK. I still like the market leader, Blackberry.

Opening a Bank Account for a Toddler: Something we’ve considered but so far rejected – our poor kids keep all their hard-earned money (or gifts from grandparents) in piggy banks and "money envelopes." But it might be time to revisit that.

Vacation Without Kids: I have fantasies.

10 Wacky Safes – Home Security Safes for Your Money: Once, in Moscow, I had a fake Coke can – you unscrewed it while pressing a button on the bottom and it opened. I kept all my American dollars tucked in there. I had a big party one night and a bunch of people crashed there – friends, friends of friends; the next morning I woke up and saw someone had hacked, torn and pulled at the ‘fake coke’ with a knife trying to get it to open. Money was still there, but the fake Coke idea was, well, over.

7 Simple Tax Organization Tips To Use All Year Round and 2011 Tax Changes: I’m all fired up about doing taxes. Give me a hooah!

Eating Healthy is Becoming More Expensive Every Day: Been so for a long time. I feel it’s worth it with dairy, meat and some fruits and veggies. Not so worth it with things like juice, bread, etc. Just my medically uninformed idea, though.

25 Toughest Interview Questions of 2010: They are all tough, simply because the job market is so competitive.

What I Learned During the Year of Penury: Words to live by (reorganized slightly):

  • Your greatest asset is good health, should you be so lucky to have it and keep it.
  • You can live frugally and still be reasonably comfortable, most of the time. • No matter what anyone says about the alleged tax advantages of carrying a mortgage, when you’re unemployed a paid-off roof over your head is your second-greatest asset.
  • If you’re not in debt, you can live on a lot less than you think you need.
  • If you are in debt, you’d better have a good stash of emergency savings to cover payments.

The Lifestyle You Want: I am a long way from walking away from TV entirely, but I have come to recognize that advertising is a clear and present (and continuing) danger. It corrupts almost everything about your life, whether you think it does or not.

Caring for Aging Parents: Something us Gen Xers are going to be facing. Later rather that sooner, hopefully, but we will.

Betelgeuse to be second sun for Earth as supernova turns night into day: And finally, in the ‘holy crap’ category, we have the prospect of months without night. A supernova might cause endless sunlight for months! It’s a funny story, because the kicker is the tiny addendum I’ve seen at a few different sites stating that Betelgeuse might explode anywhere between this year and a million years hence… making the probability of a current-year explosion, eh, slightly remote.

should I get an accounting degree?

This question came up on a forum I visit, and I thought my answer was detailed enough to turn into a post. Should you get an accounting degree? I know once you’re within a field it seems obvious that everyone should understand the various specialties and their pros and cons, but if you’re outside a field you might not be aware of the possible variations at all.  I don’t know much about the marketing field, for example, but I’m sure you can specialize in many ways.  It’s hard to say exactly, since “accounting” is a rather broad field with a number of career paths and specializations.  Off the top of my head:

1. Accounting within a large company’s accounting department: intense hours at month, quarter and year end; generally low pay and non-portable skills (each company’s systems and procedures can be quite different) and usually high stress to achieve 100% accuracy.
2.  Accounting as a bookkeeper, independently or for small companies: Don’t need to be a CPA, probably don’t even need a 4-year accounting degree.  This, however, is a much more portable skill; you can learn one of the two or three ‘big’ small business accounting systems (QuickBooks, for example) and you have the possibility of self-employment, while corporate accounting skills don’t really transfer.
3.  Auditing: This is my specialty.  Generally auditing is broken down into two broad subcategories:
a.  External audit: This is when you work for a firm (there are 4 big ones that make up most of the market – Deloitte, E&Y, PwC and KPMG) and audit other companies’ financials.  Horrendous hours, high pay on an annual basis but horrible on a per-hour basis, extreme “up or out” pressure to get promoted, and stress, stress, stress.  On the positive side:  early in your career you’ll get access to high-level people at clients, so you’ll get experience dealing with very successful types, you probably can travel widely on the company dime (I had business trips to places as far-flung as Indonesia, Russia, Malta and Armenia, as well as domestic travel in the US), and if you can grit your teeth and make partner you’ll be well compensated.  Getting a CPA is a must; you will not be promoted far without one. A great site to read about the profession is Re: The Auditors.
b.  Internal audit: Currently I am an independent consultant doing internal audit work.  This means you work for a company and audit them, from the inside so to speak.  Generally easier hours, slightly better pay and lower pressure; travel can still be quite exotic (I’ve done internal work in Argentina, England, Germany, France, Portugal, Turkey, etc. plus again tons of domestic travel).  But the “end game” is less clear – generally it’s a quite specialized field, and similar to a corporate accountant you can become an expert in your company’s system, management, etc. and that skill is not very transferable to other jobs.  The CPA is helpful although the industry has a less-well known “Certified Internal Auditor” or CIA designation that’s helpful.  I’m an active member of the Institute of Internal Auditors – ask me if you have questions about that.
4.  Tax: Obviously you can also go down the tax route as a corporate tax type or a tax/bookkeeper type, similar to 1 and 2 above.  I have avoided taxes like a house on fire my whole career, but it’s probably the best route if you dream of having your own profitable CPA practice someday; and yes, if you are a tax specialist the CPA is a must.
5. Finance: It’s a bit tougher to get on this path, but with an accounting degree you could probably ease yourself over to finance with some effort in a corporate environment.  The difference, simply, is that accounting records the transactions and finance decides HOW to record the transactions – i.e. finance does the high-level work and accounting records the results.

I’m sure there are dozens or hundreds of other career paths within accounting, but those are the four biggest and the four I’m most familiar with, having spent half my career in external audit and internal audit and working daily with corporate accountants, finance and tax people as clients now that I consult.  Is an accounting degree for you?  If you’re not sure, send me an email and I’ll be happy to give you my cynical opinion.

from homelessness to success

From Peter King’s Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback column several weeks ago, I’ve got a little piece of the article pulled out for a random article here on brip blap, and I don’t know if the fact it’s a football-related piece will appeal or repel … but give it a chance and enjoy, anyway.

 

If you weren’t rooting for the interim San Francisco coach against Arizona in the meaningless game of the weekend, you should have been. He was the defensive line coach of the Niners when Mike Singletary got fired last week, and when the Niners picked him to finish out the final game of the season, all of the Bay Area asked, "Who’s he?” A football junkie, that’s who, who never took no for an answer to a career he just had to have.

Looking for a coaching job when an assistant strength coach job at Charleston Southern dried up in 1995, he moved home to Pittsburgh. No football team was hiring. He cleaned floors at a department store, then worked as a sales rep for a food distributor. Hired as a lowly volunteer assistant at Catawba (N.C.) in 1997, he sold carpeting to get by and lived in his car because he couldn’t afford housing. Hs reputation as a defensive line technician got him a gig in NFL Europe, which he held ’til 2006. The Niners hired him for Mike Nolan’s staff in 2007. "I’m a football coach,” he said last week. "I’m Jim Nobody from Nowhere. I keep my spoon in my soup. I don’t eat anybody else’s soup. I just do my job.”

West Coast scribes heard a collection of those gems last week. The Niners consider him a long-termer, and they hope the next coach hires him to stay on. It was fun to watch him Sunday. The FOX cameras caught him smiling more than the rest of the coaches in the league smiled all season, collectively. And his team-for-a-game rewarded him with a 38-7 rout of the Cards, many players hugging him afterward, thrilled for him. "At least they didn’t throw me in the trash can,” he said.

Pressed to talk about how he felt and what was going through the mind of a guy who lived in his car for weeks so that he could VOLUNTEER to coach football, he said, "It was just — that was just football, and you see those guys with smiles on their faces, and that’s — pure football, and just playing football and having fun and going through, you know … One football game is like an entire life. The ups, the downs, the turns, the curves, you know, you go through all of these things through a whole game and the team has to do it together and stay together, you know. So, I’d really just like to talk about what these guys accomplished today."

I thought that was an awesome piece from King.  It’s easy to get weepy for these "extreme" stories of last-to-first, and why not?  We loved the ’91 Braves, the ’99 Rams, the Paul Potts; all of the people who came from nowhere to become famous or successful.  It appeals to the best desires, I think, in most of us – to see people improve their lot in life, to hope for the same ourselves and (I hope) to generally rejoice in the success of others.  Let us hope.

lights! camera! roundup!

Three utterly unrelated short thoughts:

On Roundups and Linklings

1.  I’ve stopped calling these things ‘linklings’ – which I thought was clever enough but probably confused some people.  After some intense discussions amongst the Money Writers this week, though, I decided I needed to try to put a bit more effort into these roundups, so enjoy the next few weeks before I lose enthusiasm or get busy and go back to just dropping 10 links in a post!

On Inception

2.  Inception may have been the most disappointing movie I’ve seen in years.  I finally caught it on DVD and maybe I was just overexcited after seeing The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan directed both movies) but I liked Inception better when it starred Keanu Reeves back in 1999.

On disarming

3.  I am sure it will be obvious what I’m referring to here.  Kurt Vonnegut (one of my favorite authors) put these words in the mouth of a character in his novel Deadeye Dick*, shortly after his pregnant wife was killed by a rifle shot:

My wife has been killed by a machine which should never have come into the hands of any human being. It is called a firearm. It makes the blackest of all human wishes come true at once, at a distance: that something die. There is evil for you. We cannot get rid of mankind’s fleetingly evil wishes. We can get rid of the machines that make them come true. I give you a holy word: DISARM. **

* Note 1: not an affiliate link, I would not want to profit in any way from this particular event.

** Note 2: any political commentary on that event or related to it won’t make it through my comment moderation.  Go on over to Daily Kos or Red State to hash that out.  Normally I’m happy to debate things but I’ve seen how this conversation goes.  But I was saddened and thought all of the political furor on both "sides" was inappropriate.  The issue above is at the core of the problem.

On to the links

Abandon resolutions. Stop looking for a soulmate. Reject positive thinking: An interesting take on resolutions and how to make positive changes in your life. Not sure I agree, but certainly made me consider a few things differently.

4 Lessons Learned from Job Search in 2010: A relatively new blog to me – these are some good lessons and quite appropriate for the job seeker in 2011, as well.

Forecasting The Stock Market Is More Art Than Science: I’ve thought this for years – the stock market bears a closer relationship to the weather than to physics or chemistry. The actions and reactions within the stock market have more in common with the chaotic interplay of global climate patterns (think the Butterfly Effect) than they do with Newton’s Laws, for example.

I Just Lost My Job! How I’m Downsizing My Household Expenses: I guess the only comment I’d make to be a spoilsport is that many of these sound like good ideas even if you haven’t lost your job – why wait until you lose your job to cut out unnecessary expenses?

H&R Block Free Federal Premium Tax Filing: I have used TurboTax for years or else I’d be jumping on this offer.

Why I Joined a Gang: I’m in the same gang; I wouldn’t be writing this blog today if it weren’t for my gang, frankly. I think I might have given up by now.

» On gratification:  In this very Seth-Godin-like post, Jacob makes a good point, although I’d argue that unless you inherited the wealth, you must have done something ELSE to pay for it.  But I get his point – it’s easier to be proud of the direct result of your own efforts than it is the indirect result of working at something else in order to afford to pay someone else to build/create/do it for you (my comment is longer than his post!), which is valid.

Destroying 7 Money Myths:  I have an issue with #4, since I do believe the markets are unfairly manipulated – and as someone who’s worked at various investment banks and private equity firms over the last five years as a high-level audit consultant, I think I have some insight into it.

And a few other good ones:

how to lose weight in 2011

One of my most popular posts on brip blap for several years now has been my “101 thoughts on how to lose 100 pounds” post.  It still gets 100 or so views a day, three years after I published it.  It’s an inspirational post, I hope, based on the true story of my efforts to lose a huge amount of weight in a healthy and safe manner.  Every new year it gets a boost in traffic.

So for the early days of 2011 – when many people might be struggling with their “lose weight for the new year” resolutions, I thought I’d publish part of my post again. I need to lose weight myself.  Not 100 pounds again, but I’m not at optimal diet and exercise levels, for sure.

My before and after pictures, and some of the original article…

losing 100 pounds before and after

losing 100 pounds ... before and after

I lost a lot of weight a few years ago. I lost even more a couple of years ago, then gained some of it back when we had our first child. It’s not just women who gain weight during pregnancy! However, I have still managed to keep most of it off, and I have learned a lot about weight loss along the way. The Atkins book is where it all started for me. The following list is in no particular order. It’s simply 101 observations I had from losing 100 pounds. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist so take all of this with a grain of salt and discuss any weight loss plans with a professional.

  1. You will never lose weight because someone tells you to. Don’t even bother trying to motivate yourself to lose weight because so-and-so told you that you should. If you do, it won’t work. This may sound trite, but you have to want to do it for yourself. Then, and only then, you’ll succeed.
  2. Everyone has advice on weight loss. Mention you’re trying to lose weight and every single person will have their own 2 cents. Be patient – in most cases people are either looking to help you or help themselves through reinforcement.

  3. Calories, carbs, fat grams and other measures of food content are not as important as the quality and quantity of food that you eat. Each diet has some truth to it, but the secret to weight loss is simple: eat less, exercise more.
  4. Each measure of food content has some benefit, though, and each has some problems. Try not to eliminate anything completely, but a general tip is that your diet probably contains an excessive amount of carbohydrates. Look at that first.
  5. Get help. Research before you dive in. Do not start a diet before talking to a doctor or reading a book. You may be knowledgeable, but there can be weird interactions you’re not familiar with (for example, a low-carb diet gave me some really significant, er, constipation).
  6. If your dietary needs are expensive – for example, if you find that what you buy on a diet costs more than the junk food you were eating – ignore it! You cannot – I repeat, cannot – spend too much money on your health. All the money in the world is useless if you are dead.
  7. Soda has a lot of calories. Diet soda has a lot of sodium. Quitting both of them makes you shed a couple of pounds in days. Do it now. There is no reason for soda in your life as a regular drink. None. Seltzer is just as good, if not better.
  8. If you MUST drink soda, drink regular soda, not diet soda. One regular soda will at least satisfy you and fill you up for a while. Diet sodas just bloat you and fill you with sodium, not to mention aspartame.
  9. It is very difficult to cut high fructose corn syrup out of your diet, but you should. Bread should not normally need sweetener as the #2 ingredient, should it? Read labels.
  10. Once you quit eating junk food, some of it starts to taste pretty awful. Twinkies have a strange metallic taste. Have you looked at the ingredients in the food you eat?
  11. My personal opinion is that even low-calorie sweeteners like Splenda and Nutrasweet are a bad idea for dieters. Eating something sweet fired off weird hunger impulses in my brain, so I found it was easiest to just avoid every single type of sweets other than chewing gum altogether.
  12. Chewing gum, however, serves a lot of purposes when dieting. It keeps your mouth busy, it satisfies cravings for sweets and if you’re a typical dieter it hides the nasty halitosis (bad breath) that dieting causes.
  13. Ricola is an excellent herbal-flavored substitute for chewing gum. If you haven’t ever tried it, give it a try.
  14. If you have an organic foodstore near you, try some organic foods. I never would have looked twice at edmame/tofu mixes but I decided to try one at a local health foods store. It was amazingly good. Today I would rather eat that than potato chips. I wish I had some right now, in fact.
  15. On the other hand, there are some good diet aids that are non-natural, non-organic but still worth looking into. If you love sweet drinks, try Crystal Light, for example. Tea would be better but not everyone can “get into” tea.
  16. Farmer’s markets vegetables will show you why you don’t like vegetables. Once you’ve eaten never-refrigerated straight-from-the-farm tomatoes you’ll realize that the little flavorless round red balls in the supermarket are not really tomatoes. Farmer’s market veggies are a great way to fill up and learn to love veggies all over again.
  17. Almost any roasted vegetable can be made tasty with the right oils, herbs and spices.
  18. Spice has minimal calories, and so do herbs.
  19. Put enough cayenne pepper on anything and it will slow down your eating. It may even kick your metabolism up (albeit a very, very small amount).
  20. Coffee and tea without milk and sugar will taste just as good once you get used to them. Try a little less added stuff every day. Black coffee has 0 calories.
  21. Fried foods are always bad for a dieter. Always. Without exception.
  22. If you only eat foods that you have to cook or prepare, it slows your eating speed down. Buy blocks of cheese and cut your own slices for a sandwich and you will see what I mean.
  23. The exception is raw vegetables. They are very filling, have minimal calories and plenty of other benefits (fiber, vitamins, antioxidants). You can eat as many carrots as you feel like and probably only take in minimal calories.
  24. Water has volume. Drinking water fills you up, at least temporarily – but the nice thing is you can keep drinking it non-stop. You can always add a lemon wedge if you want.
  25. Alcohol has calories. Lots. I like alcohol, too, but it’s 100% unneeded calories.
  26. Some alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, are a lot worse than others. A margarita or a whiskey sour has lots of sugar, calories and carbs – almost any mixed drink is a killer. A glass of wine has some calories and carbs but there are some possible health benefits, as with a glass of beer. And one of my all-time favorites has some calories but no carbs: a dirty martini, shaken, straight up, dry with an olive and a twist. Maybe it doesn’t have so many health benefits as wine or beer, but it’s a nice way to flag the day as “over” and the evening as “beginning.” Plus, it’s hard to chug a martini.
  27. A salad bar is an invitation to disaster. 2000 calories of vegetables are still 2000 calories.
  28. Salad dressing has a lot of calories. Huge amounts, in fact. I love ranch dressing, but I stick with oil and vinegar – lots of vinegar and a little bit of oil. If you eat a salad drowned in dressing you’re probably better off just having some chips.
  29. You hear this often: multiple small meals make you feel much less hungry (eating 6 times a day instead of 3 times per day). I found this generally doesn’t work if you have a 9-to-5 type of job. What you can do fairly easily is eat a hearty breakfast, a raw food snack mid-morning (i.e. fruits or veggies), a largely raw food lunch (i.e. no heavy carbs or meat), a moderate-carb midafternoon snack (shortly before heading home have an energy bar) and then eat what you want for dinner but don’t eat too late. Trying to eat 6 equally-portioned type “meals” was very annoying. Snacking smart made better sense.
  30. Eating carbs within 3 hours of your bedtime is a bad idea – you generally tend to be at your least active late in the evening, and those carbs will not be burned off.
  31. Eating carbs for breakfast is a bad idea. You will be hungry again in an hour. Eggs, cottage cheese, or turkey is better. Fruits are OK, even though they have carbs.
  32. Eating carbs for lunch will make you drowsy in the afternoon, so it is a bad idea.
  33. Carbs are generally a bad idea. Other than natural bread once in a while, maybe rice and some pasta, there’s not a whole lot to say for carbs unless you’re training for the Tour de France. Even then, keep in mind Lance Armstrong gets his carbs from pasta, not from chocolate.
  34. Read the rest of the 101 thoughts: how to lose 100 pounds.

how to learn about success

background - success

I’ve spent more money than I should have trying to learn about success.   But I’ve come to learn that most of what I need to know about success is available free of charge.  A good example: here’s a great list of questions if you’re interested in providing a service (a blog, a business, consulting – basically any service you can think of):

  • What needs do people have that I can fulfill?
  • What trend or trends are present here?
  • What opportunities do they present?
  • What are the current gaps in the marketplace?
  • What is the insight that can lead me to create greater value in this segment?
  • How can I leverage what I know about this category or industry that makes sense for my [work] and my brand name?
  • How can I test the efficacy of my idea?

That’s a small sample, just for illustrative purposes.  Where did those questions come from?  These success ideas came from Thomas Edison, and they are remarkably applicable 100 years after he said them. I am trying to apply these ideas to my thought process about future work after my current career winds down.  And if you don’t think that the traditional type of work most of us corporate types do isn’t winding down, you aren’t looking at the trends.

As someone who aspires to write about success, I’m always amazed at how many inspirational or useful pieces have already been written. So much of what’s written about inspiration, getting rich, etc. has already been covered better and earlier. Even what I’m trying to write about success has probably been covered better by people like Ben Franklin or Andrew Carnegie already.  It’s there and it’s available, and we (I include myself) often don’t take advantage of it as much as we could.

The simplest, most straightforward success ideas are right there. They are public domain works.  They are free lectures.  They are blogs.  They are open source software tools. You don’t need to buy anything. You don’t need to attend a seminar. So much knowledge is free already – the concepts behind wealth and health and happiness. Don’t buy another self-help book, just hit the Internet. In 10 years it will all be monetized and privatized, but right now it’s the biggest treasure trove of free information the world has ever seen.

My favorite source of free information (these days) is Project Gutenberg and blogs (mainly because I love reading the books and blogs on my Kindle

And of course hundreds of blogs and online magazines.  Any other suggestions?

tips for staying financially fit in 2011

As an addendum to my last post, my thoughts on tips for staying financially fit on Marketplace Money are up now:  you can read or listen here.

And if you’re visiting brip blap for the first time after listening to Marketplace Money, welcome! You can sign up to get my tips on wealth, work and life success – including weight loss! – by email by clicking here: sign up for email. I never spam, by the way, and I’ll never give your email away. And you can learn more about me, Steve, at my about.me page or my life story on my “about” page.  I also have a Facebook fan page for the blog, and I’m also on Twitter.

You can hear the older segments I’ve done on Marketplace Money on my media mentions page, too.

And since one of my tips involves fitness and the other ways to make money other than your job, I might as well briefly mention some of my tips on how to lose weight and ideas to make money:

2011

It is a New Year, after all, and therefore everyone is thinking about ways to lose weight and ideas to make money!

photo Attribution Some rights reserved by smemon87

my personal finance tips for 2011–on the radio

funky radio

This is a small news announcement rather than a regular post:  I’m going to be appearing on Marketplace Money this weekend (my fifth appearance, with a sixth coming up soon – you can hear all my previous appearances here) and thought I’d promote it, since I love appearing on the radio in general and Marketplace Money in particular.  You can check showtimes here.  I’m going to be giving my two most important personal finance tips for 2011 and – in my opinion – they’re a bit out of the ordinary.  Check it out, let me know what you think and enjoy the show!

photo Attribution Some rights reserved by NeoGaboX

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