Tag Archives: budget

Why seas are over-fished and why most can’t save

fishEvery time I watch a documentary about over fishing and the complete disregard for our future selves, it makes me sad, angry, and makes me want to do something about it. I recently watched one with incredible camera work and explanations of many common commercial fishing methods. It included details on how long-line fishing effects bird population and how nets the size of a city block in all directions were used to capture 150 tons of tuna and everything else that just happened to be there. A comparison was made that it used to take a similar sized vessel over a year to make that catch and now it can be set up in a matter of hours.

Running my regular emotional pattern, I got sad, angry, and I thought that I should do something about it. The feeling eventually passed as it always does, but I decided to do more thinking about the human behavior that’s involved. Much of the way we behave is does well in small tribes in situations where food is sparse. They are characteristics that made our species thrive. This served humans very well 60-70 thousand years ago, when we were living in small tribes and the results of hunting were inconsistently good at best.

Now it’s a different story. With plenty of food available, it doesn’t make sense to eat everything and bulk up for the winter or long time before the next meal. However, evolving into the advanced species that we are doesn’t mean that traits that no longer serve us well have naturally, sexually or non-naturally been selected out. This means that we have to think our way out of what feels natural. A very tall order for most.

But I digress. As our species advanced, there was an advantage in sexual selection to be a good provider. Many centuries and millenia ago, it may have made the difference between life and death. As food became more plenty, the key differentiation became material possessions and its ability to indicate how good of a provider one is. The word “differentiation” itself is the key here. Even among material possessions, there is a hierarchy.

Watching sharks get slaughtered for only their fins reminded me of this. It’s not enough that someone can boast an ability to provide by feeding himself and others. An ability to do something in a way that others can’t is the key. The “delicacy” (emphasis is mine since I never considered it as such) of shark fin soup is the perfect example. It’s a delicacy because of it used to be a rarity. It was most likely harder to catch a shark without the modern methods we have now. It’s odd that the high price stuck and so did the idea of it being a delicacy even though it’s widely available now.

Sharks are just one example. And the over-fishing of sharks ties into people not being able to save for a simple reason. We have not evolved to act in our best long term interests. Evolution has always favored doing everything possible as quickly as possible to demonstrate reproductive worthiness and propagate. This demonstration of worthiness can be anything from being able to serve or eat shark fin soup or spending money on fancy clothes, house and car. A spending of money that doesn’t necessarily prepare us well for the future.

Similarly, sharks will be over fished for the simple reason that as constructive for future generations as it may be, sustainable fishing or even fishing in a way that promotes growth doesn’t meet the needs of the communal psyche and it’s demands for perceived differentiation. Oddly it would serve the purpose of differentiation much better if we did only fish a percentage of the shark population growth rate. Every year there would be more to fish and to top it off, the smaller supply would create a rarity that would increase the status of those who possess it.

I know it can go on ad nauseam about why a change that I see as positive can’t be done. In reality, I really don’t care. This has all been an exercise in applying an understanding of how we evolved and how and why people behave the way they do to a particular observation that seemingly has little to do with those subjects.

Instead of leaving on such a negative note, perhaps it’s best to focus on the things that we can change.  Even with what appears to be chaos all around us, focusing on what will get us what we really want is powerful and leads to excellent results.  Are you doing everything you can to get what you want most?

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[Personal Finance] Fight Club

fcThe value of the lessons found in Fight Club are still applicable today 10 years after the film was made and decades after the original novel was written. Even though the Hollywood version is recognized more for the entertainment value, the ideas are still constant and equally as valuable embedded in all of the cinematography and action.

The underlying struggle is between Edward Norton’s character and its alter-ego, or subconscious represented by Brad Pitt. The two have wonderful dialogue concerning how modern society has been set up to compartmentalize human beings into accepting a reward structure that wasn’t of their own making. At first Norton’s character is almost crippled by the loss of all of his material possessions which he states are his reward for his labor. He slowly sheds these chains by listening to Pitt who transforms him by being the furthest extreme of everything that conformity has kept Norton from doing.

A spectacular line in the movie is, “the more things you own, the more things own you”.  As the popularity of things such as mobile phones with infinite distractions and websites which do anything but improve individuals abilities suck up vast amounts of time and money, it does warrant asking if buying them will make any sort of positive impact on our future selves.

Many may have overlooked the value of Fight Club as a messenger for self-exploration, but the message is clear and very applicable even today for those who look for it.

Enjoy it

surf school

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”

– Jonas Salk

It’s not too bold a statement to say that work and sleep are in direct competition for what takes up the most time in our lives. Sleep gets the upper hand because it has the weekends, but once the commute and overtime are factored in, they’re probably neck and neck again. Sleep is considered by most as a pleasant experience unless one is plagued by undesirable experiences such as consistent nightmares or chronic pain that only occurs while lying down. I offer my sympathy to those for whom it isn’t a pleasant experience and are actively trying to make it better. What about work?

We’ve all met someone who wasn’t all too keen about the work they do. That’s a waste. The activities that we do to earn money and support ourselves will take roughly half of our waking hours for our entire life. Imagine the good fortune of enjoying it.

Sometimes this requires a change of work. Other times the change requires an investment of time to get good at, or qualified for, the type of work that’s desired. And quite often, it’s simply a change in attitude. There’s much to be said about perspective. Many companies have incorporated this in order to raise employee satisfaction. Often, just knowing how the work that you do fits into a bigger picture can make work more enjoyable.

One example involves a factory making precision machinery. The after-hours cleaning staff had a ridiculously low job satisfaction rate and they were letting it be known. The owners of the company went about finding out what the source of the problem was and fixing it. In short, they found out that the disgruntled didn’t feel appreciated, or as if their work meant anything. they felt looked down upon given that so many high performing engineers and craftspeople worked at the company. But that was just a feeling. In reality, the non-cleaning staff that worked there was incredibly thankful that they had such a clean environment to work in every day, an environment that they would quickly make messy and dirty again by doing their own work. All it took was the expression of thankfulness that others already had to be communicated. The cleaning staff not only knew that their work was valued by the other employees, but valued by the company. The cleaning staff created an environment that was very conducive to others performing well. All it took to raise job satisfaction was for them to realize that they played an important role in the success of the company.

Enjoy what you do. If what you do now just isn’t for you, maybe it’s time for a change. It’s not always easy, but definitely worth it. Isn’t it worth taking a few steps no matter how difficult or easy if it meant that you could be happier for more than half of your non-sleeping life?

Set great priorities… or someone will set them for you.

priorities

Priorities are a much publicized and considered topic where it is difficult to get beyond the colloquial and thoughtless one-liners and supposed common knowledge. An interesting investigation would be to look at the way in which priorities change as apparent freedom to choose increases.

The concept of proper prioritization can be as simple as “family first” or “safety first”. Recent personal experiences have led me to the conclusion that even if family considerations are already first, there still needs to be prioritization. There seems to be an even greater need to prioritize in a situation where much time is already devoted to the family.

Average days are more than planned out with many must-dos. It is the amount of time that these consume that dictates how much thought must be placed on active prioritization. An employee or non-workforce parent has many responsibilities consuming much time. The hours which he actually controls thus expressing his supposed priorities are limited. What he focuses on at work may be in his best interests but this often excludes a bigger consideration. There is an apparent contradiction in people who use the “family first” expression as both parents go to work and pay a caretaker or daycare the equivalent of one of their salaries.

These individuals may be taking the easy way out. Those who don’t have their days planned out in a mundane way which meets almost all the standards of social conformity have more thinking to do. Ample discretionary time often leads to scrutiny of usage. Having ones priorities straight and living in a manner that creates the greatest utility for the individual not only nurtures an incredible life but also innoculates ones conscience from the undoubtedly jealous judgements of mainstream onlookers.

What may sound or look like the disapproval of others is never easy to bear. Confidence in the fact that your priorities are set correctly for YOU makes it a whole lot easier.

*he is used throughout but was chosen as the shorter of the two to represent both genders

Tyranny of common sense

sunset

Ken Robinson speaks against the “tyranny of common sense” in his second informative and entertaining presentation for TED talks. He used it to formulate an argument that speaks out against educational norms and how we force our young into linear learning instead of organic growth.

The phrase itself is applicable to so many areas of life. Until now questioning common sense was limited to observing that what most considered common wasn’t anywhere to be found. “Common sense isn’t so common,” gets thrown around as many overused and under practiced (implied action) sayings.

Challenging common sense is something that we should all do. Challenging anything common that doesn’t suit our needs the best way possible is the most worthwhile thing anyone could do. Should people wait until their 60s to retire? Should people work hard instead of smart and muddle through a unfulfilling career? There are countless examples of where things that are common and labeled “common sense” don’t need to be the case and don’t serve individuals.

Non-conformity is never easy. This situation in which independent thought is required to break free of anything that many would consider normalcy will be at the forefront of societal disapproval, or at best questioning. But the rewards are great. Many doubtful eyes were undoubtedly cast on the Wright brothers as they challenged the common sense that one take ground transportation. Anyone who retired from work in their prime years to enjoy the fruits of life would raise some eyebrows. Going back far enough it most likely seemed strange that some of our common ancestors applied heat to their meat and cooked for the first time. When it was first done, it wasn’t common at all nor were the benefits apparent.

However as much as humans crave approval sometimes the best results come from breaking free and winning the battle against what is often the tyranny of common sense.

The most rewarding parts of my life have resulted from acting independently and often in the face of the popular opinion of loved ones.  I’m sure my parents meant no harm going out of their way to express concern about going into business for myself and my friends who with great caring told me not to rock the boat because I had a great job.  It hasn’t been a bump-free ride but I certainly wouldn’t be as far along towards my dreams had I succumbed to what seemed like perfectly common sense.

Simple not easy

There is a pronounced difference between simple and easy that is many overlook. This is true for many things in life. Differentiating the two helps a great deal towards succeeding at the action in question. Success is much more probably when both are true.

There are two good examples from the areas that most can agree is important to the majority of humans. Statistics point towards the fact that there is an increasing number of fat people. There is a simple and time tested solution for this. Stop eating so much. The act of not putting food in ones mouth is quite simple. Why isn’t it easy. There are a myriad of things that could be considered. Advertising is used to make food sexy and appealing beyond its basic purpose of nutrition. It is also infinitely variable resulting in conversation. People often use it to control their state. The list is endless. As it is difficult to imagine that people would want to look physically unattractive or put themselves at risk, the simple task of not putting as much food in ones body is a not so easy task.

Another area is finance. One component to financial stability is not spending as much as you make. Again, it is a time tested formula. As simple as the idea of not spending more than one makes is, not many can manage it. The psychological traps that prevent many from doing something so simple are too numerous to list.

This distinction is important when considering any activity. Having any task be both be simple and easy maximizes the chances of success.

Freedom 65? 60? 55?

retirement

“Freedom does not come without a price. ”

Something seems to be missing. There seems to be more than enough great investment and financial planning tools out there. There seems to be more than enough “financial help” for people in all walks of life. Much consideration got me to an interesting conclusion that works for me.

Many of us seem to use generalized guidelines on work and retirement. I certainly did. I had it planned out and took for granted that I would labor until I was 60ish and then enjoy a relaxing retirement. Some countries even have mandatory retirement at specific ages. It seems that many default to the notion that everyone should, or has to work, until their 60s. In Canada there is even financial services company advertising in their name that we can be free at age 55. Perhaps they are onto the start of something.

This is only worth bringing up because of the number of sad stories that we hear about people not being able to retire at the prescribed age using conventional methods. It’s not too far fetched to see that it would be possible to retire much earlier with proper and better planning. Why 65, Why 60? Why, for that matter 55?

It would not do the process justice for me to say that all it took was challenging the commonly held belief that I should work until a particular age. But it was a great start. Wanting to work at an accelerated pace towards my definition of being financially free propelled me towards discovering what it would take. The general idea isn’t rocket science. It simply uses the same line of reasoning that gets used in conventional retirement planning.

My interpretation of the average expectation of retirement is to have a certain income so that one can do as he or she pleases. And hopefully one thrives and has a lot of fun within that income. This sound idea seems great to me. Why wait if it can be accelerated?

I can already hear the cries of “Save??? I can hardly make ends meet”. Let’s keep that discussion for a later. It’s always handy to have a room full of people who make less than you, are all happy, and doing just fine to be part of the enlightenment process. One person’s financial frustration is almost always another person’s gravy train or extra frosting on a cake, take your pick of idioms. All that is saved now can be put towards the goal of financial freedom later. The price is whatever one can manage to not spend now. The benefit is more freedom sooner.

Investigating and challenging my beliefs and behaviors that I had not considered before has been a very freeing experience. I continue to search for more in hopes that there will be additional improvements to my life.