The Guy at the Water Machine

I am beginning a new adventure as a copywriter. As silly as this may sound, a copywriter is not about the “c” with a circle around it, it is someone who writes copy (advertising). A few days ago I bought a training course for a relatively nominal fee based on an email or a web page I read and I had started my journey.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the tap water in Phoenix is vile. I’m not sure but I think Mexican water might be worse (“Don’t dreenk dee wahterrr!”), but not by much. So like everyone else I was at the water machine filling my jugs and as it turned out, there were three machines lined up in a row. One was labeled as out of order and the next one at least looked like it was out of order, so I decided to use only the one machine that was obviously working. Come to find out, the first jug of water filled not almost to the top, it was overflowing with water and I made a point to remember that for the following week.

So this guy walks up with his empty five gallon jug and starts inspecting the remaining water machines and at the time, I just wanted to play “the good Samaritan”. I politely informed him of my newfound information (that my water machine dispensed more water that the other machines in the local area would) to which he thanked me. As I walked away pushing my cart of filled water jugs…..

.oO(What just happened there??? I changed his behavior?)Oo.

After I got home, I sat down and wrote a (crude) persuasive letter to a fictitious man such as the one that I spoke with several minutes before based on what little I had learned from the “nominal fee” course that I had purchased. Even when I was done, I knew that it wasn’t “good” copy…..but I knew that I could do it.

Being that I had responded to a bunch of copywriters that were really good a persuasive writing, they wrote another letter– that did make sense (at least at the time). They even gave a steep discount for the “additional” course. So I’ve given them (essentially) the gas money that I had preciously saved to go on vacation in a couple of months, partly for reasons/things that I (hope that I have) learned from another self-help book. Now that my ships are burned and I am stranded on the beach…..here we gooooooo!

How to Fix American Politics for Free…..

Nothing would please me more than to write this post without controversy. Wanna change a world? Read on….

  • This is not about left or right– or even green or libertarian
  • This is not about black/white/green/polka dotted voters either
  • This is not about showing ID to vote
  • This is not about fixing the Electoral College (or not)
  • This is not about lowering taxes, raising services, or other issues
  • This is about is raising the QUALITY of the candidates that we have to choose from

There is an old joke about: “Who in their right mind would pay ten million dollars for a 1.6 million dollar job?” Over four years, that’s what the President of the United States makes in terms of salary. Why pay so much money for a job that pays so (relatively) little? At that point, any sane person would have to be “on the take” to even want the job at all. Oh….I’m sorry….in polite company they are called “campaign contributions”– not bribes. That is the only way that becoming a politician– or even a statesman– makes sense. The would be successful candidate would have to either engage in bribery, other skulduggery or abuse of power that the politician (or his relatives) can profit from directly.

The base problem is that it takes to much money to get to be President– or any other politician. Tom Curry once wroteDear Sir: The short answer is you need to gather enough signatures on petitions to get on the ballot in all 50 states. And spend a LOT of money on advertising.

<Don’t bother reading the rest of the article, I was just citing him properly> So the question becomes– “What if we could make running for office– any elected office– so cheap that anyone with a few hundred dollars could do it if they wanted to?” Answer: Good people that aren’t career politicians or business people would be on a level playing field financially with the scumbags we are forced to choose from. Good people wouldn’t NEED any corporate or special interest bribery to get on the ballot for an election. We– as Americans– would be able to ditch the two-party system that we have now. And I hate to rain on your parade, but we don’t have a two-party system. Both the left and the right sing the same tune after a few months in office….we have a one-party system.

If necessary– and your cause is not too extreme– one could even create a political party to “save the whales”/fight for disabled people/promote holistic medicine/”fill in the blank”.

What if? Let’s suppose…. What if we created another Internet extension (example, .com, .net, .org) called “.cand”, short for “candidate”. I am told that this is currently “feasible” given our current infrastructure on the Internet. In some way the extension would have to be managed so that users could pick their current municipality….users in Vermont wouldn’t be forced to sift through candidates in Ohio (or Cambodia). Then, each candidate would, purchase their own hosting (say, fifteen dollars or less each month), and are limited to say thirty/fifty pages (or less) to write a biography and “state their case”. In other words, explain WHY they should be elected and if so, what they would DO with the power granted them by us, the American people. That’s what this really comes down to doesn’t it? We as voters give them (the politicians) the power to establish and manage laws that govern how we Americans are going to live without killing each other.

That’s another thing….let’s not screw this up…. On this .cand extension….there will be ZERO “advertising” ads of any kind. That defeats the purpose of the whole idea. If a candidate really does need to make money– especially to get elected– then he can do it somewhere else.

I think I’ll stop for now….I have a “nub” of an idea here….this will get the ball rolling…..

The Enemy Within…..

If becoming wealthy was only about going to school, getting a good job, working for forty years, and then retiring on a pension– like they did back in the 1950’s and 60’s– becoming prosperous would be so much simpler and done by everyone. Sad to say, for most of us at least, this is not the case in the 21st Century.

For example, as I talked about yesterday (failing or not meeting the mark), failure is how we learn. We do not learn nearly as much for our successes. Did Edison learn much when he created the one light bulb that lit up? Other than how to make a light bulb that actually worked, no, he did not. Making a source of light was the goal, not the process. From his notes of all the failures, he could then focus on what didn’t work– to make a better light bulb.

Inventing something from scratch is not an easy task– neither is becoming wealthy, learning to play the guitar, or getting licensed by the SEC. A friend of mine gave me a guitar once– a nice one actually– on the premise that if I stopped playing it for a week or more that I was to give it to someone else. Fair enough– I thought that it was a good idea at the time. Did I want to practice playing “every day”? No, of course not….but I made myself do so regularly because I wanted to develop the callouses on my fingers and learn how to play. Really what I wanted was to look cool and pick up women….ugly guitarists had been doing both for decades….why not I? So a few weeks later I had acquired the callouses…and then….the real work set in….learning to play chords. Quickly I realized that this was no longer going to be a hobby, it was going to take work. As in….daily practice like my mother had learned to play the piano. She never would have become a concert pianist but she probably could have played in a restaurant if she wanted to. Within a couple of weeks, I never picked up the guitar again. Six months later, I finally donated it to my alma matter’s music program for the kids to learn to play.

Conversely, some months later I made the decision to get licensed by the SEC. It was required in the sales position that I held at the time. I didn’t became a good salesman, but that is another story. Part of the reason I decided to do this was because the training required could be completed in a matter of weeks, not months or years. One good move I made was to pay for a set of “professional” training manuals to help speed up the learning curve. And so off I went…each afternoon or evening I would study about the different securities, regulations, and how the markets worked (among other things). Soon, the Enemy within crept into my life. I would sit there reading and….

.oO(What about the eight o’clock movie? What was it called?)Oo.

Did I want to do the work (keep studying)? No, of course not. Most of us would rather “rest and recreate” rather than work after an eight hour shift. Someone once said that the work that we do from nine to five will give us an average lifestyle. The work that we do from five to midnight will give us an above average lifestyle. I kept at my studies partly because it was a shorter term goal than a degree and partly because I realized that “an hour a day” was better than 12 hours one day a week.

“The Enemy Within” was trying to keep me at my own level– to protect me from fear of failure (by not trying at all), fear of success in that if I made a million dollars either no one would like me anymore or only like me for my new money, fear of rejection from family members (“You’ve changed! What happened to you???”), the list went on and on….

The important thing is to know that the Enemy is not without (circumstances outside ourselves). People become wealthy every day of the year, even under the most daunting circumstances. The Enemy is within. Our limiting factors prevent us from becoming who we are meant to be for fear of either losing something (friends, security by being robbed for example, or self-respect– becoming a real bastard with the money that we acquire), or by losing something that we want or think that we need. This can be the affection of a girl/boy that we think should like us (with the new money), the perceived loss of said new money due to a financial crisis, or even the perception that friends/relatives will turn away from us because we have “changed”, and not for the better.

To overcome the Enemy within, might I suggest positive affirmations? You are sure to think of a few but for example, say you want to get a better job/start a business/lose weight etc. You might start off with:

  • “There is a better job that I am fully qualified for just waiting to find me!”
  • “I will start a successful business in <fill in the blank>!”
  • “I will lose thirty pounds by next Spring!”

In phase two, sit down and write out what scares you about your goal. This can be anything from deep down believing that rich people are assholes to thinner people are shallow or flaky. Mold your affirmations to uplift you away from those fears and say them aloud at least several times a day– the more the better.

In phase three, sit down again and write out a plan of action. By that I mean a plan. Patton once said that a good plan executed violently now is better than an excellent plan tomorrow. What he meant by that is that working toward a goal is better than just thinking about it and “doing it later”. Action is the key. The Enemy within HATES action. Action is scary. Mediocrity is so much “safer”. I hate to rain on anyone’s parade but there ARE no safe places in this life. Anyone who had stock in American Airlines (a quite stable, sound, and slowly lucrative investment at the time) on 9/10/01 proved that. Two days later, the stock wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Life is about risk. The trick is to manage it and still have a life without crawling under the bed sheets, never to be seen again.

The Enemy is Within. The Enemy Hates Action. Continued and sustained action produces progress, and progress moves toward the goal.

On Failing…and it’s OK….

I don’t know about you but as much as I enjoy it, when when it’s Christmas, I don’t learn much. When it’s Christmas– or any other really happy time– there is no motivation for me to change any of my behaviors. OK…maybe let my relatives take my picture (wish them luck).  The other side of that coin is that if every day were Christmas with all the presents, good cheer, and people actually being polite in traffic for once, then Christmas wouldn’t mean much.

What about when we fail/fall short of the mark/appear “less than”? Does that mean that we are bad people? Unworthy of affection? Doomed to a life of mediocrity? No….of course not. What it does mean is that we have become human….nothing more.

When I fail– I GET to try again. I get another chance to succeed! And in so doing…I’m still in the ring (boxing). What if Edison tried his 4,504th time and gave up? Someone else would have invented the light bulb. That’s all.

When I fail– what if “they” won’t like me? Well then, if that becomes true, then they weren’t my “friends” anyway. Time to make some new– and better– ones 🙂

The important thing is to keep making progress toward the goal. There is an old Native American tale of how a huge tree fell into a river, blocking the flow of water to the local tribe’s fields. The Chief of the tribe went to The Great Spirit asking for help. The Great Spirit then told the Chief to have his tribe pull the great big tree out of the river. The Chief asked how this would be done…the tree must have weighed at least a hundred bison. It was too heavy to lift. Then the Great Spirit said that more animals would be provided for a year so that the tribe could eat. The tree was 365 feet long and the tribe was to chop off one foot of tree per day. After a year the river would start to flow properly again and the normal amount of animals would be available for hunting.

If each of us had to be perfect in this life, none of us would succeed and no one would learn anything. We would all be perfect. Dare to fail….dare to learn….

Positive Affirmations Evolve Into a Powerhouse

I think I said it before, I’ll say it again. Positive affirmations. I didn’t think much about them years ago but now I’m working on them again. Each of us has two ears and one mouth. What that mouth is saying throughout the day keeps going back in through the ears….this reinforces our vision of the world that each of us lives in. If you still don’t want to play, what do you have to lose?

So this was my experience today (and maybe some of yesterday, but who’s counting?)….I started with two affirmations that I created some weeks ago– It is Easy to Make Money! and Clues are all Around Me! The second one relates back to the first– not just in how to make a lot more money than I do now, but a little more importantly how I want to make that money. Do I want to be a baker, a bricklayer, or a candlestick maker?

So off I go….over and over again I say these two sayings as I go throughout my day. Now the first one saw a little improvement– out of my mouth fell “It is easy for me to make money!” Do you see the distinction? In the first instance, I’m could be referring to just anyone. I didn’t see that at the time when I first started saying it. The second instance refers more specifically to me personally.

Now the second one evolved a little more so even. “Clues <as to what I want to do> are all around me!” mutated into “Clues are all around me– just waiting to happen!” In this iteration….I’m specifying to Universal Intelligence (whatever you want to call it) that the clues to help me get better are to happen “sooner, not later”. Now, this is still going to happen <grumble grumble grumble> in God’s time….but that’s another story. In the third instance….as I was still saying the second one “over and over again”…what fell out of my mouth was: “Clues are all around me– just waiting to find me!” This time I’m specifying/calling/whathaveyou tidbits of information to show me what I really want to be doing in a day to day grind that will make me a lot more money than I am making now…..

That’s the plan….and I’m sticking to it. I’m Peter Shogren 🙂

Envisioning the Goal….

My stated goal is to make more money– and be more enthusiastic about it. I never argued against that. Part of the plan is to envision what Peter’s life will be like with more money in it– a lot of it. In other words, if I can’t “see” myself with more money, then I will be doomed to a life of financial mediocrity because of it. The other side of that coin (assuming that you don’t believe in positive affirmations and visualizations, and that’s fine) is– what do you have to lose?

So I got to thinking about this today and there is an old(er) movie starring Tom Hanks where he is stranded on a desert island– for years on end. Now without giving too much of the movie away, he survives the experience (this IS a Tom Hanks movie– he’s not going to die at the end) and with a good half-hour of movie left to go he has hair down to the middle of his back and his beard is down to his chest– he looks like “The wild man from Borneo”. He’s improved over the years but still every day is a fight for food, water, and survival. Almost the next day in the movie, he’s clean shaven, dressed normally in a nice shirt and slacks, and he’s doing his best to attend the welcome home party for him. In the next scene after he retires for the night, his hotel room is empty….but the light by the bed keeps clicking “on”, and “off”….on….and off….on…..and off….. The camera pans around the bed and there’s good ol’ Tom lying there in his shirt and slacks holding the clicker to turn the light on and off….re-adjusting to something that we take for granted in life– ELECTRICITY.

So I got to thinking about it today and I can’t help but wonder if that would be me– with the air conditioning in the house here in Arizona. For anyone who doesn’t know….typically in July and August it’s 115 degrees or more most of the time. It’s miserable. Now…no….NOT if….WHEN…..thank you…..we are making THAT much money….an eight hundred dollar electric bill would be unbelievable to normally waged folk…..and to me for a little while. To help get “acclimated”….I would turn the A/C on….and off…..on…..and off……why??? BECAUSE I CAN!

Life in the fast lane for newly upper class folks I guess. I’ll get over it 😉

Sidebar….later in life (i.e. my mid-thirties)….there was a time when I was so broke (poor) that I at “cheese” sandwiches. There literally wasn’t any money for lunch meat. I didn’t see it that way at the time but that’s the way that it was. This went on for months. To this day, I can’t bring myself to eat “just” a cheese sandwich. The memories are still a little painful.

When I become part of the upper class….that pain should go away. Speaking of which….I asked myself yesterday: “Self? Do I want to be part of the upper class?” Now mind you….that is NOT a trick question. All those hours of reading self-help books have started to pay off I think….it was a profound question at the time. It still is. The answer is…..YES!

So then the question becomes….what do I have to do to get there other than envision the goal, post pictures of people doing all the things that I want to do? More on this later……

On Acting as If……

There is an old saying….”act as if”. Another corollary to that is “fake it until you make it”. Someone also once said: “Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one will know the difference.” These can all be used for enthusiasm. Do I feel enthusiastic in my daily life yet? Sad to say, no. I am still in the “faking it” stage…..

I have noticed three things though. The first and a little more obvious is that with all this (alleged) enthusiasm and a little more “mild exercise”….things are getting done around here in a more timely fashion than before. For example, the laundry that I folded yesterday or the day before likely would not have been done until next weekend (when the laundry baskets would have to be emptied anyway. The mess created by the monsoon last night– a good ten minutes just to clean up the pile into a fairly neat stack– could/would have taken weeks for me to “get around to it”….possibly after being “suggested” at least once by Mrs. Shogren….she’s a keeper though 🙂

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that when I employ a little enthusiasm, my brain works differently….”better” would be another word. For example, I’ve been meaning to check part of the pool machinery “off and on” for months. The problem is that the part that needs checking doesn’t operate until the pool pump has been on for at least several minutes (and that happens while we are asleep. With the inclement/horrid weather, the pump has been left on to help keep the pool clean. This morning, I even wrote myself a note…and upon returning home from the pool store, Karen had shut the pool pump off this morning (rats!). So I practice “enthusiasm” and go out near dark (when it’s cooler) to dismantle a light fixture before the next monsoon hits. No note, no reminder from anyone, I remembered to check the pool machinery.

I didn’t ask questions 😉 ENTHUSIASM! …and with gusto!!!

Lastly…dare I dream…when I go to work tomorrow (at a job I kinda really do hate)….I just might have something that I haven’t had in a little more than a little while…..hope. I hope that something (more specifically work related) will be different. So it would seem right now…and yes if it meant saving the mortgage I would do it….short of working in a fast food joint anything would be better than my current job……

….and I’m just “faking it until I make it” (actually FEEL enthusiastic)…..

On Tenacity…..

A couple of weeks ago, I made the “mistake” of several stops along the way in my daily travel. I was getting information and questions answered at different businesses that could have been resolved with several phone calls to various places, but in each case the quick little stop was “along the way” and would not take that much longer than a lot of time on the phone trying to get to the right person to speak to. The upshot of this is that by the end of the day I did the math and I made TEN trips “to and from the car” (each way) in the hot Arizona sun.

This did not do well for my sedentary lifestyle.

Did I think I was having a heart attack? I wondered at first, but not really. Heat or sunstroke was probably what I was on the borderline of…but that is another issue. At the time I resolved that it might be a good idea to…you know….walk around the block once in awhile….get a little exercise….so that the next time a situation required a little more of me, I would be a little better equipped to perform the task. After reading the chapter on enthusiasm yesterday, I resolved that I would take that walk around the block every day at 10 PM. By then it would be cool enough to not be as strenuous and still give me time to take a shower before bed should I choose to do so.

So last night (no surprise) I’m playing a computer game and I became tired enough to stop the game that I was playing at the time (and select another one). Doink! I remembered my commitment to my nightly walk again and lo and behold, it was 10:07. THEN was the time to shuck off the computer games and get back to my chosen goal. Minor miracle involved, I did so and then proceeded to get ready to go for my new daily/nightly walk. My wife had already gone to bed so a fair amount of silence and minimal hassle would be required to keep from waking her up. As it turned out, for me to leave the house would require (among other things) putting the dog back in her crate. This is rarely a quiet task considering her crate is in the same room that she sleeps.

Was I defeated? NO….I thought about it and pondered what else I could do to achieve my stated goal– a little exercise. Granted, most would not consider this exercise in the traditional sense of the word, but when your life is pretty much going to the fridge and “point and click” even chores can be a step up in the way of health. I did what any good husband would do– I folded clothes with gusto!!!

Previously, any good workaholic would have to squint as he or she would watch me drudgingly select “an easy one” piece of laundry to fold, almost carefully fold it, and then with minimal effort place it on one of the piles before me on the bed. This time, I was committed to folding the entire basket of laundry and not “just enough to get by” (I never did finish the ENTIRE basket, but that’s another story). Did I “pick and choose” what to fold next? NO….it didn’t matter at that point anymore. I snatched the next piece on top and quickly folded it as if Jack LaLane were grading me as to my level of effort.

When I was done (almost, that feeling of tightening in my chest resumed again, I figured it was a good idea to stop). I put everything that I had folded away and then went to bed. What I DID have as I laid my head down onto the pillow was something that I hadn’t felt in a little while….a sense of…..accomplishment.

What is the Power of Enthusiasm?

I was rifling through another “spiritual gymnasium” book and it inspired me to pull a different book off the shelf. It’s been sitting there for years.

I just re-read the first chapter of a book that has likely been out of print for at least a decade– the last copyright was over thirty years ago. It talks about the power of ENTHUSIASM. Now the book itself is geared to salespeople and how to be more successful in selling (shoes, ships, shock absorbers, a turd in a box, whatever)…..but really enthusiasm can multiply success in any endeavor.

I do know one thing…when I act enthusiastic….I am more productive and better at whatever it is that I endeavor to do. If I continue to act enthusiastic, after awhile, I BECOME enthusiastic. This is another attempt to act enthusiastic! On a parting note, I will copy a poem near the end of the first chapter of that book. It was written by Herbert Kauffman:

VICTORY

You are the man who use to boast…That you’d achieve the uttermost…Someday.

You merely wished a show…To demonstrate how much you know…And prove the distance that you can go….

Another year we’ve just passed through…What new ideas came to you?…How many big things do you do?

Time…left twelve fresh months in your care…How many of them did you share…With opportunity and dare…Again where you so often missed?

We do not find you on the list of Makers Good….Explain the fact!…And no, ’twas not the chance that you lacked!…As usual– you failed to act!

As I just typed that poem, it startled me how quickly my typing speed came back to me. If you will excuse me….I’m going to go be enthusiastic in other areas of my life…other than computer gaming 😉

Ever Wonder About Fuel Point Cards? The Great Scam…..

Fuel Point Cards. Gotta Love ’em….so it seems that everyone has united in an unspoken war against not just shrinking budgets, but on the great oil companies that bilk us at the pumps every week. I can still remember driving across town to save ten or twenty cents a gallon on a tankful of gas and even feel “righteous” doing it. One afternoon I really got to thinking about it not so much in dollars and cents saved but time, rubber, and oil that I was “investing” to save my precious ten cents a gallon. Not much came out of those mental gymnastics but it did get me started thinking a little harder about those secret swindlers of my hard earned dollars. Then one afternoon while I was trying to maximize my savings, I learned (the hard way) that there is a secret little catch to those discounts. You can only claim your discount on up to 25 gallons at one time……

From a certain point of view, I get it. This prevents people from abusing the system from saving up their fuel points and then lining up all their relatives to “maximize” sixteen tankfuls of gas. To keep people from “cheating”….fair enough….but then I found another catch. You can only save “up to” a dollar a gallon. Sounds great….but then here is where the math comes in….and where I really got to thinking about it.

Okay….I can save up to a dollar a gallon. I also generate fuel points on money that (technically) I would have spent anyway on– allegedly– low, great food prices. Each point costs me a dollar and each 100 points ($100) saves me ten cents a gallon. Since I can collect my points over the course of a month, and sometimes points roll over to the next month, I’ll take it. Then it occurred to me– what would I have to spend to reach the holy grail of savings– a whole dollar a gallon? $1,000.

It still hasn’t happened yet but let’s assume for a moment that I had a thousand dollars to spend on local gas in a month. Going out of state on a road trip would really help, but most grocery store chains don’t cross state lines and even then, those that do usually don’t go to the state that you and I might be going to. Nice try there.

You guessed it. That twenty five gallon maximum comes into play. So for my 1,000 pahzoozahs, I’ve saved a paltry 25 bucks….whoohoooooo! And here is another way to look at it….for the sake of round numbers….let’s assume that a gallon of gas is only a measly two dollars in your area. How much does each ten cents a gallon save you? Remember now….you DID spend a hundred dollars to get that ten cents….. Five percent. Three dollars a gallon? About three percent. Four dollars a gallon? About two or two-and-a-half percent. Whoohoooooo!

One could argue that it’s better to save ten cents a gallon “across the street” at the local grocery store than the say two or three cents a gallon at the local chain fuel stop that’s on this side of the street. You would have spent that hundred or a thousand dollars anyway and it’s not like you wasted a half a gallon of gas to get there, right? Let me ask you this….why do grocery stores sell non-food items like school supplies, bug spray, pharmaceuticals, magazines, hand tools, and shampoo?

Profit Margin.

It’s not exactly a secret that the grocery business is so cutthroat that there is only a two or three percent profit margin on food items. No business in the world can stay afloat on that. Those non-food items? Typically there is at least a thirty percent markup or more. So in effect, it’s worth their while to flaunt fifty or even a hundred points– ten cents a gallon they hint at– for buying say your medicine at the grocery store. Really? Did you ever price those other non-food items? It may even be a dollar or two here, a dollar or two there– for the convenience of not having to drive across town which is a waste of your time, gas, rubber and oil. That all adds up. So let’s see here….you’ve spent an extra dollar on bug spray to get the fuel points because you would have spent the other eight dollars at the local hardware store anyway. That one dollar bought ONE extra fuel point. If you do the math, how much does each fuel point really save you at the pump? One TENTH of one cent (per gallon). If you had enough cash that week to fill a twenty-five gallon truck tank? In the end, you spent an “extra extra” dollar on that bug spray BUT you SAVED two-and-a-half cents!

And the crowd roars with applause! <satire>

Not even Microsoft has a marketing team that good. Do the math….think for yourself….I’m Peter Shogren.