February 17, 2018

Persevere

Fall seven, Rise eight” - Japanese Saying

The world considers me successful. College degree, good paying job, engineer, author, married, own home, nice cars, savings, not much debt, tall, play volleyball, run, and only ~5 lbs. over ideal weight. But the world does not see how I got here.

Terrible C student: Flunked German and semester of English in high school. Bunch of D’s in Spanish, English, Math & Science. Flunked an engineering course and took an incomplete Junior year of college. Cum was 1.5 that year (2.0 is C). MBA dropout, life got in way. Yet one of 220 engineers to graduate out of 662 freshmen.

Very shy: In school, college and starting out in business. Gave an Engineering Week presentation this week. Told group am leading, I was bad at relationships growing up. Did not get married till 46. Don’t you think I was bullied, had break ups, horrible dates, dating wrong people, and lonely times? Am close with family, have great friends, and good relationships at work.

Business: Worked for companies that closed, laid off half their workforce, and been fired / outplacement. Invested in real estate and went bankruptStarted and closed my own businesses. Most of my wealth is in the last 8 years, plus buying a house at the bottom of the market. Manage projects with teams of very smart people including senior management. Mentor people on careers and business.

Fitness: 2 painful knees starting at 16. Use to go out randomly in 20s and I would fall down. Swam breaststroke in high school and college. Allergies started around 22. First shoulder injury at 26, and 4 more since including last year. Changed sports. In 40s developed sleep apnea, Insomnia, leg twitches and wonder what a good nights sleep is. Ranked as ‘A’ or ‘BBB’ level in volleyball in 40s (AAA is pro beach player). Lost 15 pounds and kept it off. Given ~90 pints of blood. Ran a mile this morning, and back playing volleyball after months of rehab.

In every area of life have failed, learned, tried again, experimented and overcome. Angela Duckworth calls this process “Grit”. Olympic athletes competing now have overcome injuries, loses, and public failures.

You have to get past negative attitudes. Try hard new things. Find out what works for you. Be uncomfortable. Struggle. Fail. Sometimes it takes years. Find people to teach, and support your efforts. Look for examples and mentors. They are out there.

Talent does not take you very far. Hard work and perseverance does. Support anyone who is trying. Help them persevere and become resilient.


"Fate gave to man the courage of endurance." - Ludwig van Beethoven 

February 10, 2018

The Correction or What Happened?

Not a good weekend to look at our 401Ks or IRAs. The Stock Market went down about 10% in a week. Depending how it was invested so did our savings.

Company earnings have not dropped. Other country stock markets have not fallen much. The Economy is still doing well. Jobs and Wages are growing. What is causing the sudden change?

It is leverage, options and derivatives. These are higher risk borrowing and insurance without reserves. For instance if you knew absolutely a stock would go up 300% next week you would buy it now as an investor. If you don’t have enough money, you could borrow to buy more shares. That is leverage. The downside if share prices fell, you would still have to pay off what you borrowed and quickly. You sell whatever has value to cover your debts. You could lose 100%.

Most people don’t know they are buying derivatives. Most of us have been buying index Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) or Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs). But now there are more leveraged ETFs & ETNs then there are stocks. Few non-professional investors understand what they own and the risks involved.

Warren Buffet has called derivatives “weapons of financial destruction.” Financial professionals have created “derivatives of derivatives” to further increase profits. However these are all powered by debt. At some point debt has to be paid.

A large number of investors have been improving profits by investing in low Volatility. Shorting VIX was the way this has been done. For the last few years it has been an ideal bet. Or was until a week ago. Some investors have lost 80% in a week. Some funds will liquidate and close.

Debt is the reason stocks fell so fast and may fall more. The average of corrections is 16%, but no correction is average. The correction may be done, or markets lose over 10% more into a recession (20% loss). Stock markets may start climbing again next week or next year. Anyone who tells you they know what will happen next is lying. Which is why am diversified and still investing for my retirement.



February 3, 2018

10 ‘Life is Hard’ Truths

You can have a good, enjoyable life. Even though life is hard we smile. Here are hard earned truths about life after 60 years of trials & errors.

1. Relationships & love are more important than wealth and fame:
Family and friends have helped me though job losses, bankruptcy, relocations, illnesses, grief, and breakups. Plus celebrated my successes. Be Kind. Listen when someone is having a bad day. (You don’t need to solve it.) Celebrate their successes. Eat together even if vegan. Have stopped at McDonald’s later, and enjoyed strange new meals with friends.

2. Help Others, Volunteer and Support Charities:
No possessions will make you happier than a kid asking you to tie their shoes or for a hug. Neighbors needing a hand with a project. Welcoming people. Doing grunt work at a volunteer event. Helping people move. Can’t pick up as much, but gotten better at packing. Always a contribution you can do.

3. Be Grateful:
What went right today? Who said hi? Write it down or review them going to bed. Most of us focus on our few mistakes or challenging people. Happy people look for good moments to savor and smile more.

4. Spend much less than you make:
You don’t need everything you want. You need peace of mind. Avoid impulse buys. When you get raises, increase how much you put into retirement or emergency funds. You will eventually need them.

5. Learn new skills: 
Be horrible at first, and work hard to be bad at it. Fail often. Became a writer because writing terrible first drafts, then edit & edit some more. Not because I was a natural. Still can’t spell nor type well. We get better.

6. Travel to see people or new places:
Go to parties. Smile. Meet new people. Vacation somewhere new. Attend weddings and funerals. Always make the funeral.

7. Politics are not important to your life. Turn off the news to be happier:
Most news is sensationalistic opinions to make you emotional. Neither President Trump nor Clinton would change my day today. (Voted 3rd party).
What makes you happy? Do it.

8. Be very kind. People do not want to be corrected, lectured, nor feel guilty:
If you try, you will become people they and I run from. No one needs negativity. People need to be understood. Besides we are all wrong more than we care to admit.

9. Hire people to do what you can’t:
See your doctor for physicals and illnesses above the common cold. Learn from a therapist how to cope better. Recommend the good service pros to people. Do what you are good at.

10. God Loves You:
He wants you to have a relationship with Him. Not scold you for your failings. He knows, forgives and loves you unconditionally. Be open and God will be revealed to you.

This one makes it easier to do 1 – 9. The stress goes away.

January 28, 2018

American Suicide Madness

Dedicated to Tyler Hilinski, the Junior Washington State quarterback who committed suicide. Prayers and sympathy to his family, friends and fans. Same prayers and sympathy for all those who lost a loved one from this same disease.

No I don’t know Tyler, and have no idea why a successful, popular young man thinks something is so horrible he can’t recover from it. Don’t know if it was a relationship, illness, social media, bullies, public embarrassment, being a burden, or afraid of the future. Fear is a powerful motivation.

He is not alone, nor is it a young man’s disease. Per ASPS.org Middle age men 45-54 have the highest suicide rate, followed by senior men over 85. Nor are they alone, 44,965 people die every year. For every death, there are 25 attempts. More men die, and more women try to die. The rate has been increasing over the last 10 years.

Nor is suicide the only symptom in our society. Drug addiction and overdoses are rising. Over 600,000 people died of overdoses, and the rate has been increasing for 16 years per the CDC. No one know how many overdoses are suicides versus accidental if they don’t leave a note.

Most people who try suicide really don’t want to die. Reports from Golden Gate jumpers have reactions like “I made a mistake” and “I want to live.” These people wanted someone to talk about their problems, to know problems could be fixed, or to just feel love or understanding.

Treatments of metal health issues are not working. Not enough people are identified soon enough. If someone wants treatment, there are not enough beds. The stigma of admitting you have a problem stops people from asking for help. Michael Phelps the gold medal swimmer contemplated suicide after the 2012 Olympics and his 2014 DUI arrest due to depression and anxiety. Fortunately he got help and is now speaking out to others to get help.

What can we do? Pay attention when someone changes his or her behavior drastically. Don’t be afraid to bring it up. Remind them we all have bad days and trials in our lives. Have had to overcome bad years, bad business decisions, and bad relationships in my life. Am not alone.

The main thing people in stress do is focus on their problems. Thinking about the people who care about us, respect us and love us are the antidote to issues. Spend time helping someone. Play with children in your life. Smile and greet people even when you don’t feel like it. Acting as if you are well is often a great step forward.


We have to look out for our outlook on life, and we have to look out for family, friends, co-workers and loved ones with challenges. Let them know you care. Remind them daily. And if they are still struggling, get them to professional help. Therapy with medication is successful 9 out of 10 times getting people healthy.  If the first therapist doesn’t fit with you, try another until you succeed. Do what you can where you are. And know we love you.

January 13, 2018

The Future of Our Work

We are entering a new time period. Many of us have lived through the Information Age, we are now entering the Automation Age. The combination of Artificial Intelligence with Robotics is changing our world.

This did not start recently. Been working with robots since graduating college in 1978. Computers since 1970 (more or less). Artificial intelligence goes back to mythology, and really started with Dartmouth College in the Summer of 1956 (My birth year). Autopilots were invented and demonstrated in 1914 by Lawrence Sperry. This saved wear and tear on pilots enabling longer flights. Also freed up pilots for more important tasks like navigation or bombing. Modern autopilots handle all phases of flight including taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, approach, and landing. Next step will be cargo planes without human intervention.

What is happening now is different technologies are reaching a level of maturity that will change the world. Software programing has better analyzing and self learning. Sensors are more effective, have more range and cost less. Battery life improved as weight went down. Our cell phones are mini computers. The future will be mobile.

Automation with artificial intelligence will replace most repetitive, difficult or dangerous work. Ships will not need pilots or crews for weeks on the oceans. Deliveries will not need truck drivers. Taxis, Uber & Lyft will not need drivers. Electric vehicles do not need all the maintenance of gas & diesel motors. Mechanics, Miners and Farmers will not be put at risk of injury or death to work.

But this will go further. Bookkeepers will not be needed to support accountants with artificial intelligence. Taxes will be calculated automatically. Pharmacist technicians will not count pills or type labels. Like the secretaries of old, these positions will fade away. Estimates are 20% to 40% of current blue & white collar jobs will go away.

Like the last new ages brought challenges. Moving to cities was uncomfortable for many from family farms. New skills had to be learned. Familiar places were missed. We adjusted to change. When computers came into the office, more skills were learned as responsibilities changed.

 What will be different this time is the speed of the change is faster. Technologies are accelerating and new skills are replacing old ones.


How to have job security? Keep learning and being productive. Take more responsibility. Automation and computers are not as good as with people skills. They can better maintain an algorithm for repetition. Creativity, sales and innovation are not strengths of Artificial Intelligence. Those require people. No reason it can’t be you.

Persevere

“ Fall seven, Rise eight ” - Japanese Saying The world considers me successful. College degree, good paying job, engineer, author, ma...