All posts by Walter

What’s the number for 9/11?

Some years ago before the 9-1-1 emergency system was commonplace, I was involved in a situation that created some momentary anxiety and actual panic. One of the participants was scurrying around carrying a portable phone and screaming, “What’s the number for nine-one-one? What’s the number for nine-one-one?!” It took a few minutes to convince him that you dialed 9-1-1 to reach nine-one-one.

Because the incident turned out to be less than critical his question became a source of humor and he took a fair amount of ribbing for quite some time. “Did you ever get the number for nine-one-one?”
Some years later those same numbers became important for a different reason and, of course, many people called nine-one-one on nine eleven. And now, ten years later the country pauses to honor and reflect on that event.

There are lots of numbers involved–including the number of lives lost, the number of emergency personnel who responded, etc. As I think about those numbers one number stands out. Continue reading What’s the number for 9/11?

Do What?

I like that we celebrate Labor Day by not working.

My morning email included yet another email diatribe from an acquaintance who is clearly addicted to forwarding email. Dealing with his email isn’t really much work–I will usually give it a five second scan and hit the delete button.  Since I’m not working today (mostly) I gave it ten seconds. This one was a real rant and rave about the Social Security “problem” and politicians in general, closing with:

YEAH, OK, SO WHEN DO WE GET P—— ENOUGH TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ALL THIS CRAP?

95% of people won’t have the guts to forward this. I’m one of the 5%, I Just did.

He added the red for emphasis, I deleted the expletive. Perhaps because it’s a relatively leisurely day, I found myself a bit amused by the message. Permit me to paraphrase his words into the message I heard:

“I am so mad over all this crap I’m doing something about it–I’m clicking forward and sending this email to a bunch of people who probably don’t want it. It took a lot of courage for me to do this.”

I’m quite sure the world is a better place now–thanks to his courage and willingness to take on this huge task.  Call me a coward. I didn’t forward his email.

While I am a firm believer that there are times when “the work is the reward,” consideration should be given to what that work accomplishes. I know quite a few people who are (by their own admission) extremely busy. I occasionally want to ask, “What are you accomplishing?” On the occasions when I have, the reply is most often a blank stare.

I do ask myself that question fairly often–because it’s very easy to kid yourself into thinking you’re working really hard when all you’re actually doing is being busy.

Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.

One Small Thing…

 I’ve tried to “embed” a short TED presentation for you to consider… it’s only about three and half minutes long.

Many of us have heard that it takes thirty days to form a new habit. This is not about that. Well, not exactly.

What I love about this presentation is the simple elegance. We don’t need to do extreme makeovers in order to change. We just need to commit to trying something for thirty days. I found, for example, the presenter’s example of committing to take one photo every day for thirty days interesting, because I often find myself “whining” (to myself anyway) that I’m not using my camera more. Should I commit to taking one photo everyday for the next thirty?

 

Irene the Dream or Irene the Nightmare?

“I’ll see you in my dreams!” I suppose your age will affect whether the blog title reminds of a song or the current hurricane.

Fear is a powerful emotion. By their own admission many people are “freaking out” over the possibilities Irene is offering. 

On a somewhat analytical level it’s interesting to see how people are reacting to the threat. It’s reassuring when the reaction is relatively calm planning. It’s disconcerting when the reaction is “freaking out.”

First of all I’m really sure what “freaking out” is.  Apparently it has something to do with a “heightened emotional state” according to the Free Dictionary. I gather it can apply to different emotions: fear, anger, excitement.

Understand that I’m not making fun of people who are, perhaps, reacting strongly to this threat. (Notice I did not say “over-reacting.” I think folks are pretty much entitled to react as they please, up to and including freaking out.) I do think that ultimately it’s about perspective and I’m afraid I do not totally understand the value of freaking out.

I do understand the value of emotion. But as human beings we have a wonderful if mystical ability to balance emotion and logic.

How often do we say (or hear said) something about needing to accept things we can’t control? We certainly can’t control a hurricane; we can only control how we think about it–and what we do about it.

In the song about Irene the promise is “I’ll see you in my dreams.” While it wasn’t the intent of the song to imply that a dream-based visit to Irene was going to be better than a real one… well, suffice it to say there are some questions here–just as there are questions about the impending visit from Irene the hurricane.

It is easy (and in an odd way, fun) to be afraid. This Irene is not in our dreams, but we may find ourselves thinking she’s going to be our worst nightmare. Focusing on the dream or the nightmare moves us out of the natural order of things. This Irene is just a hurricane.

By the way, if you’d like to escape from worrying about Irene the Hurricane for a few minutes, you might try researching Irene the dream. I’ll bet you didn’t know (spoiler alert) that the song includes a component of using suicide as a coping mechanism.

Whatever the events taking place in our lives, there are plenty of options besides freaking out or considering suicide. We may not be able to control those events, but we sure can control how we think about them and what we do about them. Controling how we think and what we do has the power to create that balance between emotion and logic.

No dreams, no nightmares. It’s a nice place to be.

Federal Budget 101

As an instructor I’m a big admirer of people who find ways to make information understandable–isn’t that the job of a teacher? While the following email crossed my screen from a political perspective, I was impressed with the simplicity of it and how “eye opening” it is. See what you think!

Federal Budget 101

The U.S. Congress sets a federal budget every year in the trillions of dollars.  Few people know how much money that is so we created a breakdown of federal spending in simple terms.  Let’s put the 2011 federal budget into perspective:

  •  U.S. Income: $2,170,000,000,000
  •  Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
  •  New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
  •  National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
  •  Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000 (about 1 percent of the budget)

 It helps to think about these numbers in terms that we can relate to.  Let’s remove eight zeros from these numbers and pretend this is the household budget for the fictitious Jones family .

  • Total annual income for the Jones family: $21,700 
  • Amount of money the Jones family spent: $38,200  
  • Amount of new debt added to the credit card: $16,500  
  • Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
  • Amount cut from the budget: $385

So, in effect last month Congress, or in this example the Jones family, sat down at the kitchen table and agreed to cut $385  from its annual budget.  What family would cut $385 of spending in order to solve $16,500 in deficit spending? 

Now after years of this, the Jones family has $142,710 of debt on its credit card (which is the equivalent of the national debt). 

You would think the Jones family would recognize and address this situation, but it does not. Neither does Congress. 

The root of the debt problem is that the voters typically do not send people to Congress to save money. They are sent there to bring home the bacon to their own home state.  To effect budget change, we need to change the job description and give Congress new marching orders. 

It is  awfully hard (but not impossible) to reverse course and tell the government to stop borrowing money from our children and spending it now. 

In effect, what we have is a reverse mortgage on the country.  The problem is that the voters have become addicted to the money. 

Moreover, the American voters are still in the denial stage, and do not want to face the possibility of going into rehab. 

Attributed to: DAVID THOMAS, Chief Executive Officer — Equitas Capital Advisors LLC