An Open Book

An Open Book

An open book is how I live my life. I tell people that, and they probably don’t give it a second thought. I wouldn’t expect them to. But it was a pivotal decision I made and one I haven’t regretted yet.

What it means to live your life as an “open book” is that you offer yourself to total scrutiny. Plunder, plod, and pick through anything I have to offer. If I step out of line, I welcome people to tell me so, so that I can address it and try to correct whatever the problem is.

Living life as an open book keeps me accountable and helps ensure I’m setting a proper example for my daughter. Between that and the liberation that living this type of life provides, I find it to be a lifestyle that pays many dividends.

I don’t lie. That’s a statement many people make, but I back it up. If someone thinks I’m lying about anything, they have the freedom and opportunity to tell me so, and we can discuss why there’s a miscommunication. Because I simply don’t and won’t lie. That can create some sticky situations, of course.

I don’t play into the Santa Claus charade each Christmas. It was a hard decision to make and try and navigate, but so far, so good. My daughter’s mother and her family play it up to the fullest. That’s their decision, but I’ve found it doesn’t make my stance any more difficult.

People don’t like hearing the truth all the time. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. I try to be as tactful and considerate as I can, of course, but ultimately, it’s their medicine to either take or spit out. I don’t lie to people, and I also don’t lie for people. I’ve encountered situations where someone lied to me, insisted they didn’t, and, contradicting hard evidence that it was them that fibbed, they expect me to allow it to pass by and just absorb it. In other words, lie to me. And others, if questioned about the incident. And basically for me to say I was the one who lied. But I won’t fall for it. It might seem obvious how just a little “white” lie can spiral out of control.

Living life as an open book removes the baggage that some people carry with them their whole lives. They have to remember what they said to certain people, and they have to cover things up continuously. I don’t have to do that. You can be sure that what I told you is factual as best as I know. And if it’s not, then we can make it so because that’s the point.

I’m not perfect by a million miles. No one is. Some people can’t accept that fact. They believe they’re beyond reproach. But I’m humble, and admit I screw up sometimes. Sometimes big-time. I’m only human. But when you own the mistake, people are usually more forgiving and willing to help clean up the mess. It’s when you refuse to accept the responsibility that things get ugly. I invite people to call me out. Not many people will tell others that.

There are all types of unpleasant things people don’t want others to know. And that’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t tell someone else how to live their life any more than I would want someone to tell me how to live mine. Some surely couldn’t live the way I live, and that might be for the best. But I don’t have any horrible secrets. The big things that have happened in my life that others might be inclined to hide away are opportunities for me to help others that may have experienced the same thing and at least talk about it and get new ideas and perspectives.

Lying is just one activity that I avoid. Of course, there are lots of others that I steer clear of, just like most everyone else. It requires me to make the best decision with the information available that I can, without worrying about ancillary ethical aspects.

Setting a good example is a top priority for me when it comes to my daughter. Parents can tell their children to do something and not do something, or think specific ways, and it’s going to go in one ear and out the other. What sticks is seeing what you(I) mean consistently. I don’t ever ask any more of other people than I would ask of myself, so “Do as I say, not as I do” is awful parenting, and management of any sort, strategy. You’ll never gain any respect from others being a hypocrite. If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk. No matter how hard that walk might turn out being.

But this isn’t a parenting lecture. As I’m sure, some people would render it. It’s meant to be a statement of how abundant life can be when you shed the weight that many people carry around with themselves every day. It’s consistently liberating, and it frees up time that otherwise would be spent bickering about “he said/she said” type situations. Communication is more transparent, which is an enormous advantage. Solutions should be found more quickly. That depends on the other party, which is the significant variable.

 

 

Self-Discipline, Honor and Integrity

Self-Discipline, Honor and Integrity

Self-discipline, honor, and integrity are three traits that I believe are hugely important to possess, to be known for, and consistently exhibit. They aren’t traits that are inherited or given, though. They must be deliberately and continuously built upon. Consistency is critical, as with any attribute. They are hard to imbue, but as they are consistently and deliberately kept, they become easier to form as a habit.

They are traits that the military tries to instill into recruits. That usually is due to a failure of the parents to introduce it to their children. It’s not an easy thing to do because it isn’t comfortable, and they are abstract concepts whose importance is difficult to explain to a young child. And sometimes to an adult. And if the parents never were taught the importance or how to have them, it’s nearly impossible to expect them to pass them onto their children. Typically an outer force has to interject and work at it, which was the case for me. It’s easy to talk about them and claim to have them, but as usual, actions speak louder than words, definitely in this case. They are abstract concepts, and it’s possibly easier to display them than to discuss them meaningfully and adequately. I’m trying my best. I may not do a perfect job, but I’m trying to explain them and will come back and edit this as I can to try and make as much sense as possible.

A fact I observed is that these essential traits escaped my ex-wife, and mother to our daughter and my ex-stepdaughter. She wasn’t taught them, and her parents weren’t taught them, so it makes sense they escaped her. When I attempted to explain them to her other daughter, she and her daughter considered them tyrannical attempts to destroy complacent behavior. If you aren’t familiar with any of them, as they weren’t, that perspective makes sense. But it doesn’t remove the responsibility (and reward) of invoking them. And it never will. I have a feeling my daughter’s step-father is deficient in them as well, beginning by the fact he’s never bothered to introduce himself to me. Honor and integrity are already missing. That’s going to make my job that much harder. But I’m determined to teach my daughter Cecelia about them and to understand why they are important to possess.

The difficulties I face in instilling these traits are formidable. When you begin to teach someone how to improve themselves, it’s helping them move in an upward, forward direction. That often doesn’t sit well with those who stay behind. So you have people that will constantly ask under their breath or right to your face, ” You think you’re better than me?” What they fail to understand is that it’s not about comparisons. It’s an end in itself.

I have a print hanging in my home of the mural of my high school’s 1908 baseball team that’s in the lobby of the awesome sports complex that was being built as I graduated. It reads: “Effort in sport is a matter of character than reward. It’s an end in itself and not a means to an end.”

woodberry baseball mural

Effort in sport is a matter of character than reward. It’s an end itself and not a means to an end.

Those words are true when you’re striving to improve your own character as well, I believe.

The Great Santini comes to mind, which I find interesting for a number of reasons. One is that it’s written by famous SC author Pat Conroy and set in a town where I’ve actually lived, in the exact same neighborhood it was filmed, in fact, right down the street. I know this life, and this writer, and I remember my father liking this movie, which starred Robert Duvall, who has a condo in Beaufort, where this was filmed and I lived. Small world. The Big Chill was filmed around the corner and The Lords of Discipline was another movie taken from a Pat Conroy book which centers around discipline at The Citadel, where many of my good friends went, and the incoming headmaster after Mr. Wright, at my boarding school whom I talk about below, General Grinalds, became president.  Another formidable man.

beaufort, sc

Beaufort’s downtown, with its antebellum homes, has been named a National Historic District. (Discover South Carolina)

I intend to teach these attributes to my daughter and have her respect what they represent. And be able to identify them in others. When you find a person that has them, and they are fundamental in the way they conduct their life, you know you’re dealing with a person that you can trust. There aren’t many people out there that fit this description. It sometimes surfaces to appear to others as arrogance. It’s an excellent way to live. That’s not arrogant; it’s merely a fact. There are superior and inferior cultures and people and ways to do things. That’s life. To think otherwise is silly and naive. There are better ways to live life and in worse ways.

I had the fortune, privilege, or opportunity – define it as you wish – to be exposed to several people who know about these traits, what they mean, how valuable they are, and how to establish and maintain them. They are people who I try to emulate and respect and consider role models in specific ways. Not surprisingly, many of them are men, who were officers in the military, and are older than I. They have, or had if no longer with us, wisdom and experience gleaned form hundreds of years of tradition, substantial research through trial and error and living ones lives in a good way, with spirituality, chivalry, respect for others and humility all being essential aspects of their personality and lives. My appreciation for their values and efforts aren’t only noticed by me. Their names rightfully adorn bridges, hospitals, buildings of academia, medical research and hospitals, health complexes, roadways, and their legacies live on in innumerable ways. The fortunes these men have made largely go towards foundations and trusts to help and secure a future that they would have helped establish, had they been immortal. And in this sense they are.

HONOR: I went to a boarding school that emphasized honor. We utilized an honor system that has become legendary. I was surrounded by others who were being taught honor, integrity, and self-discipline. Their fathers were men who were pillars in their communities, both business and cities in which they lived, and had the same beliefs and traits, as did our masters at the school. Many of them attended the same school and traveled the same paths. I’m a member of an order, Kappa Alpha, which I joined in college, whose motto is Dieu et Les Dames. “God and Women.” The two things that garner the most respect from the men in the order.  Two things I learned to hold in the highest.

Some of the men that had a profound impact on me growing up that I still think of and use as a role model is my headmaster at Woodberry Forest School, Emmett W. Wright, who recently passed away recently, well into his 90’s. He was from Atlanta, where I was born, and a southern gentleman and scholar, who studied English, just as I did in college as an undergraduate. He went to Furman in SC, where I’m from and is the best school in SC. We ended up having much in common, although he had a far more significant impact on more young lives than I ever will, as far as I know at this point.

emmett w. wright

The funny thing about Mr. Wright was that among the student body, I was probably considered one of the most unconventional students. And he liked me for that. The masters always had their eyes on me because of how I dressed and wore my hair, behaved, and who I dated and hung out with. I didn’t walk the straight line they expected all students to. They thought every student should act like they wanted to be a prefect. Teachers handed out demerits to me at will, but I never got a “See EWW” on the demerit board. He stuck up for me and had my back. It was a funny relationship that I’m not sure many students or faculty were aware of.

Another was the father of who I consider one of my best friends, John Buxton, and whose namesake he took. John Snowden Wilson Buxton. He was special forces, green beret, in the marines, and a father of five incredible children and husband to an equally unbelievable woman, Caroline Buxton, who I also admire greatly. He had two brothers, who were well-respected doctors in Charleston. Just a terrific family and Mr. Buxton was a man that any man should have looked up to and admired. I know I did. He taught his children what it means to be fighters, such as when my friend learned he had cancer and beat it, and how to have hugely successful and loving marriages with plenty of children to boot.

john snowden wilson buxton

I have other role models, but I won’t keep listing them and what they’ve meant, because they all have contributed the same to my life, which is a model to strive for. These are just two such men. There are a handful of others who are/were giants among men in the business world, in their communities or country, in their church, in their military group, and were successes throughout life—real people with exceptionally high standards for themselves and high-achievers.

SELF-DISCIPLINE: My mother used to make me make up my bed before I went downstairs for breakfast before school. And keep my room straight. Even my dad used to say “a place for everything and everything in its place.” And at camp and school we had to keep our beds, rooms, cabins, footlockers, and common areas tidy and clean. Every day. It became a habit.

Self-discipline becomes a strength in that it allows you to do the things you don’t want to, but know you should. And do them now, instead of procrastinating. It leads you to become an achiever and to accomplish things that others can’t.

Discipline and self-discipline are two traits that are more focused on men than women in American society. In Israel, women are expected to join the military, so it’s clearly a cultural thing. I would even say it’s a socio-economic factor. Those with self-discipline tend to do better in life than those without it. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

israeli soldiers idf

Discipline is such a big and, I believe, a valuable characteristic that I’m going to dedicate another post entirely to it. So I’ll leave this for now: Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

INTEGRITY: Integrity is often defined as what you do when no else is around. But it’s more than that. It constitutes reliability and consistency. People can rely on you to do what’s best. It’s a principle of strength. People can count on you, which means you aren’t afraid to be held accountable.

I have people tell me all the time they’re responsible and accountable, but they aren’t. Talk is cheap. Action is what matters. Action that’s exclusive of whether anyone is around or not. Always do the right thing if you see an opportunity to make something better; take it.

Some synonyms for integrity are forthrightness, honesty, straightforwardness, principle, honor, candor, purity, and corruption. All things I strive to be and do an excellent job of, I believe, to the point that it’s too much for some people. They don’t like candor, straightforwardness, and aren’t used to people being forthright with them. They don’t believe it can even be done. But it’s like Yoda said, there is no “try.” You either do it, or you don’t. I believe that’s the same with a lot of ways to live life. Lying is something I don’t tolerate. I don’t do it. I don’t have to. I know other people do, and I know other people do it even when they don’t have to. It becomes a habit to them, where they always feel they have to make something up for every circumstance. I know a couple of women that do that all the time. And they believe all people lie because they do, which isn’t right, and is a sad way to go through life, I think. And the people they hang out with do the same thing. Birds of a feather flock together.

Something I’m placing here as an epilogue is a fact that no matter how far down you find yourself in life when other people have taken everything you have and you are stripped bare of all dignity and humility is all you have left, you will still have your honor and integrity. And that is huge when you’re left with nothing else. It will keep you motivated, and take you far.

Moving

Moving

As I sat to write this, The String Cheese Incident began singing the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place(Naive Melody).” Apropos.

I abhor moving. There’s no undertaking I like less, period. Although I’ve never been catheterized(Thanks be to God), I would rather be catheterized with a cactus than move. Yet here I go again.

I’ve probably moved twenty times in my proceedingly long life, which I’m growing more grateful for with each Sunrise. Back when I was 20, and even 30 moving was no problem. I didn’t have a lot of stuff. I thought I did, but I didn’t know what I was talking about. Now that I’m 50, I’ve picked up a few things along the way, including a beautiful little girl, who has her own set of belongings. So I happily add that to the equation.

As a sentimentalist, and collector of detria and interesting bits and bobs, and curator of the family items that were handed down from prior generations, I have a lot of stuff. Add to that my hobbies of playing guitar and tinkering and woodworking and all that and I have an interminable list of items that have to go from A to B. Every time I turn around, there’s something else that needs to go. It’s amazing. It’s like magic: “The suddenly appearing thing!”

The craziest thing is how much I’ve sold off and still have to move. My last move, which was compelled by a sudden separation/divorce, forced me to move an entire 4 bedroom house, with garage and yard and patio things elsewhere. I still don’t know how I pulled that off. My ex-wife left everything (but the daughters) and just ghosted in the middle of the night.

After living in that house, which was both a Godsend and a curse, for 3-1/2 years, I’m moving again. 3-1/2 emotionally turbulent years. I got divorced in that house. I lost my beloved dog Annie in that house. I got a great job and left a great job in that house. But the house was awesome for me and Cecelia. Plenty of room to roam and breathe and play and a creek across the street. A back deck and big basement and tiered front yard with river rocks bolstering each tier and creating a series of walls. Which was a nightmare to mow. I’ve mowed a lot of grass in my day, but that yar was the hardest to mow by far. Here’s a street shot. There are 3 tiers, down to the road.

Indian Hills house

What I have should represent the essentials. And a few “nice to have’s.” I sold 100% of my “nice to have’s” and what I’m left with is still a mountain of items.

Transferring the utilities and the internet was easy and pain-free. The movers, however, didn’t show up at their SCHEDULED time and rescheduled me for 3 days later without notice. Talk about bad form. So I have my bed and a couple of heavy/big items in the old house, another house full of boxed items and things that need to find a place to be kept, and a storage unit full of furniture and rugs. And some guy named Eli who has the rest, like my lawnmower and tools(hopefully) thanks to my ex-wife.  My old landlord is tapping his foot for me to get out of the place, and rightfully so. But: reality.

So that gives me time to set things up at the new place and find out where I’m going to cram everything. It’s a considerable downsize. No basement, whereas the last house had a basement the size of Soldier Field with a fireplace and kitchen. Perfect for Cecelia to exercise in. Her exercise at the new house will be going up and down the stairs I guess. No more “tag” with marathon laps through the old rancher. I have copious photos to remember the place by. Really I just want to remember the time I had there with Cecelia.

She’s going to love this new house The neighborhood is ridden with children. And rabbits, who we have living in our back yard.

watership down

 

It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know

It’s Not What You Know; It’s Who You Know

“It’s not what you know it’s who you know.”

We’ve all heard this saying, and I’ve heard it as much as anyone growing up. At times I took it to heart, which was a mistake. And it goes back to my words of advice on life about being careful about who you take advice from.

When I think back, most people who told me this saying all got their jobs from family members, friends, and friends of their parents. But the jobs they got were short-lived, required no specific knowledge that made them an asset for the company and were token jobs of no real consequence. Jobs such as sales, politics, and I can think of one person who parlayed an acquaintance into a lifelong career via a political connection.

But I’m at a point in my life when I have enough road behind me to see patterns clearly and realize some hard and fast truths. Which is why I’m sharing this wisdom in the first place. I don’t want my daughter to have to learn all the lessons I did by trial and error.

It in fact IS what you know, and partly who you know from knowing what you know.

To get anywhere professionally you need to know more about something than others. Even if you decide to make living with your muscles instead of your brain, you still need to know how to perform your work better than others. Otherwise, people are going to skip over you and go to the next person who is the expert.

The more you know about something the more likely people are going to seek your input and insight. And through those contacts and connections, you tend to meet the right people in a network where opportunities present themselves more frequently. Makes sense, no?

For example, I have people reach out to me often to speak about what I think the future holds for WordPress and blogging software and technological areas that I spend a lot of time immersed in. As a result, I meet and know people that otherwise would be difficult to grab some time with. And they know people that are accessible to me if I ever need the opportunity.

I’d also like to emphasize that people like to help others when they know what they want and what they want to do. Think of it as being available to pitch to They aren’t there to figure out your life for you. Impress people with what you know and they’ll introduce you to the right people to make your dreams come true. If you know nothing but know people of influence, it doesn’t matter. You’re just wasting their time.

 

Strange Days are These

Strange Days are These

With the Coronavirus keeping people shut in their houses and social distancing, quarantining themselves and self-isolating, it provides a lot of time that would otherwise be spent on productive activities elsewhere, and with people that we may not be able to spend time with. I can check both of those boxes, and on top of that, I’m making other transitions that fall right in the middle of this panic.

For one thing, I’m in the process of moving out of a house I’ve been in for around three years. The neighborhood is terrific, but the house is too much in size and cost. It doesn’t make any sense for just me and my daughter half of the time. I have a finished basement with a kitchenette, fireplace, and someone could live down there comfortably. I never even go down there except with Cecelia, who uses it like a gymnasium. I have a basketball goal, tee-pee, slide, and all sorts of forts and places to run amok down there, which she loves to do to get her energy out. She runs laps and shows me how fast she is, just like I used to do when I was a child, and my mother made me run laps around our house to get my energy levels in check. And the upstairs is Pee-Wee’s playhouse times ten.

And the upstairs is more like a clubhouse for a gentleman that’s been overtaken by a four-year-old.  It’s a brackish environment of toys and elegant interior decor. This house has been a blessing and a curse. But it’s served as a comfortable, cozy home for Cecelia and me during this tumultuous time. There’s a creek across the street we go down to and play in, and it’s tranquil and safe around here, with only one neighbor. We have deer, possums, hawks, chipmunks, raccoons, snakes, and all sorts of animals that live and visit the property.  The thing about houses is that eventually, you grow and outfit them to suit you. I have about 100 framed wall-hangings that are going to be a trick to use when I downsize to a smaller place.

And although I have a job offer on the table, I’m still looking for a more fulfilling job that suits my qualifications, goals, and desires. I’m in talks with people that can make that happen, but since everyone’s working from home, they can’t interview me, so that’s to be placed on hold until we return to “normal.” I’m very eager to get that show on the road. But it’s another transitional issue that’s currently occurring. Moving and getting a job in the middle of a pandemic. Fun.

This situation is also keeping me from seeing my daughter, who is at her mother’s house this whole time. Our house here is mostly boxed up at this point, and I sent all her toys to her mom’s until we get moved into the new place. So it’s been two weeks already since I’ve seen her, which is one of the most extended stretches we’ve ever been apart. I miss her terribly. I can’t get her and take her to a playground or library because everything is closed or in a public area where others might be. Louisville isn’t a hot spot for the virus, and it seems to leave the young and immunodepressed alone and hurt the elderly mostly, but there’s no reason to chance it.

So that’s giving me more free time than I’m used to. I’d like to learn a new skill, but what? Anything I’m interested in I’m already into. I’ve been writing, but there’s only so long you can do that before your mind says “enough.” I’m writing here because this site needs an updated post. I haven’t been posting anything but recipes lately, it seems, which might reflect the recent lameness of my life. I’m sure of that, in fact. When I lived in SC, I always had more than I knew what to do with my time, but in Louisville, there’s nothing that interests me. I don’t drink, so bourbon is out. I don’t like basketball anymore, which is the only sport this area cares about. The notion that horse racing is big around here is a result of hyped-up marketing by Churchill Downs for the Louisville Derby. Lexington is the horsey city. The Ohio River is polluted and nasty.  The hiking around here is boring. And so on. I’ve lived here for seven years and explored everything I can.

So I’ve still been keeping my marketing chops sharp and reading business articles. I’m working on a book I want to give my daughter that details my life and our family with stories I remember about everyone. I’m the last one to know a lot about some of those things, so if and when something happens to me, it might be helpful to have those chronicles archived for posterity’s sake. And Cecelia’s. I’ve noticed that as my relatives get older, their versions of stories all change. I don’t know if that’s due to poor memory or to suit some type of desire to have things remembered in a more aristocratic and palatable way than what happened. In some cases, my relatives refuse even to believe some of the things I know happened even did. So living in denial is also a factor that dilutes these memories.

The grocery stores are something out of a dystopian movie with all the shelves cleared out. That makes eating hard for someone that typically shops for a few days at a time. I don’t stock up on foo like I did when I had a family to feed because it goes bad and expires, and I hate wasting food. So my diet hasn’t been the best during this time, which I don’t care for either. I have been able to catch up on a lot of Mystery Science Theater, which has been playing 24/7 here on Twitch.

This virus has been disruptive, to say the least. The tax filing deadline has been postponed, and the NCAA basketball tournament has been canceled (no spectators, at least), businesses have shuttered, public services all closed, schools all closed. It’s Polio all over again, with a few, but notable differences. Politically, technologically, culturally, and economically, we see what’s expected. Technology is trying to step up to the plate, politics bogging everything down, the economy taking a hit at the small business level and in the markets, and cultural divisiveness, as people have too much free time on their hands and a controversial topic being lit on fire by the media.

As far as my opinion at this moment in time on the virus, I don’t think the vast majority of Americans have anything to worry about. The people that do are the elderly and non-Americans in this country. The virus is concentrating on sanctuary cities in high-density environments. That’s the perfect place for an infection to spread, so that’s what’s happening. Children don’t seem overly prone to it, and neither do the healthy. And even though most Americans aren’t “healthy,” their immune systems seem to be ok at least. Taking precautions isn’t a stupid idea, but overreacting isn’t a solution for anything.

 

 

Do Yourself a Solid

Do Yourself a Solid

“Doing a solid” was a national catchphrase that went, thankfully, as quickly as it came. Middle America likes to adopt specific phrases and gestures and latch onto them as if they make the walking cliche’ using the fad in public unique in some way, or suddenly “cool” even though it’s been used already millions of times and wasn’t all that smart in the first place. I’m glad to see fist-bumping has been on the decline since 2016. Unfortunately, saying “I know, right?” as some insightful response is sticking in some females’ brains interminably. And even a few sad males. These types of cultural failures would be an exciting study, fer sure. That was the pinnacle of cool in the early 1980s for a few months — California Valley Girl lingo, which still contributes now and then. Black Americans seem to hold the licenses for most of what white middle America appropriates as “cool” in an almost satirical, mocking manner, but then cements it in place through popular (read: lame, brainless) media, mostly coming out of Southern California, where the black population is somewhat under-represented in many ways. Still, their equality is diligently defended with much talk. As long as they stay far away or assimilate exactly to white protestant culture, it seems. It’s the same way here in Louisville, a very blue city, also, coincidentally. Just some observations as I’ve moved around this great country.

fist-high-five-fail

But “doing a solid” means “doing a favor for,” and in this case, I mean, to do a solid for your future self. As much as you can.

I only really began noticing I was doing this over the past few years, which could be for a few reasons. As we get older, we gain experience and can use history to know what we’ll need in the future. It’s like linear regression modeling but just using your head instead of plotting points on an x and y-axis. Wisdom, in other words, which comes with age and experience. I was in my 40’s when I had an epiphany that I had turned a corner and could see more clearly the world around me because of the accumulated experiences behind me. I could more easily connect dots through time and see how events led to one another, versus what had been told to me or some connections had been left unattached. I could see the whole picture. And I think that comes with age and having lived life like I’ve had to, via much trial and error. And then beyond that, into the future to see where they will lead to some extent. That’s the power of knowing regression modeling and statistics. You can tell the future to a scarily accurate degree. My statistics professor in grad school was seriously a wizard and should have been a billionaire the way he could predict the outcome of future events by manipulating numbers. It was excellent and for the very brainy. I don’t think there a whole lot of people that can do that.

I’m digressing. But the way to do yourself a favor is to go the extra mile when you’re doing a job for yourself. Delight yourself. When you do a job, give it 100%. And then give it a little more. And that little bit is often found in a reward waiting for you in the future.

 

But seriously, if you do a lot of work in a workshop, there are lots of opportunities to go the extra mile today that you’ll thank yourself for in the future. Many have to do with safety. But mostly convenience of having something right at hand when you need it — or keeping things charged. Keep the air in your spare tire filled, for instance. Most people don’t ever think to check the pressure in their spare tires, but it slowly leaks out over time, and a flat spare is no better than any other flat tire.

There are tons of little and big ways to do this. Put some cash in your suit jacket so that in church, when you don’t have some money for the offering in your wallet since most people don’t carry cash anymore, you’ll have it on you. Keep a spare set of gloves or pack of crackers or bottle of water in your car. Stupid, natural things, but things you’ll be grateful for when the time comes. Bring in some dry firewood for when you know it’s going to snow or rain. Or put a tarp over the wood. Front-load the work, and you won’t have to worry about it when you’re weary and tired later. These are just easy examples. You have to learn what yours will be.

There are more significant ways to pay it forward. Savings is one way. People don’t set aside savings first, but spend first and save what they have, if anything, afterward. I did this for a long time because I was never taught better. But all it shows you is how to be broke. And I’ve been there. There are good ways to buffer against that scenario as well I’ve learned.

When times are good, stock up on the items you know you’ll need and buy them at great prices. Don’t ever pay retail for anything. There’s no reason to anymore with the internet. And if you’re sharp, you’ll learn how to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on items each year by being a savvy shopper. But that’s another post.

When I was flush with cash and had a high income, I bought things I knew I’d need in quantities that assured I wouldn’t run out or even need to worry about going and getting the as frequently as some people do. Toilet paper and paper towels are prominent examples. The kind of shampoo I use is expensive, so I buy it in bulk, and it’s enough to last me years. I use the same type of soap, so I get it by the caseload. Same with garbage bags. And Toothpaste. And deodorant. And detergents and other sundries. And I have storage for all this out of the way, of course, so it’s not stockpiled in my living room or anything. One good thing about Kentucky is most houses have basements. Even boxes I save for the next time I have to move, so I don’t have to go box-hunting. I order a ton from Amazon and Boxed, and keep the boxes, which have come in handy. All the time. For moving or making a rocket ship or house for my four-year-old daughter. I think there’s a parable about this like the ant and the grasshopper.

But something most people wouldn’t think about is clothing. I buy well-made, durable clothing and shoes (I mostly wear men’s boots) that, if taken care of properly, will last a long time. I still wear leather Wellington boots that I bought in high school, for example. I’m no fashion plate and don’t try to be. I dress conservatively in things that don’t go in and out of fashion. Women may say they can’t do that as easily, but that’s nonsense. When most women try to dress with the latest trends, it goes horribly wrong anyway. Women’s fashions have gotten far worse if anything, which is saying a lot as someone who started noticing the horrors of the 1970s. And then the neon bubblegum 80’s and then the poseur 90’s. And then some hipster scene junk that turned into mall trash tattooed/pierced colored hair insanity that lingers, which brings us to the slovenly yoga pants/pajama bottoms and shoulderless rags and outdoor housecoats of today. Most women seem to try and dress like the other women they know, instead of what they look and feel good in. Bad mistake, all around. So far, I’ve been mightily impressed with what clothes my daughter chooses to dress in and how she puts her outfits together. She has a good eye, I believe. She loves to wear her fanciest dresses.

snake dress

Anyway, I get my shoes and boots, resoled and clothes repaired if and when necessary. I have a lot of functional boots for various activities and spent a lot of time researching which were best and why and who uses them for what. I have waterproof steel-toes for hazardous areas I find myself in all the way to dress boots that I can wear with a sports coat. I luckily live in a city big enough to have some high-quality cobblers and tailors/seamstresses. My clothes cost more than most people’s, but they’re nicer than most people’s, and therefore they last longer than most people’s. I have lots of clothes and will never lack for decent clothing, which is a nice thing to be able to say. And I take care of them probably better than most people because they do cost more and are worth the extra attention.

Same as if you owned a Ferrari; you’d take excellent care of it, right? And the companies I buy them from stand behind them 100% so if something is wrong, they’ll always make it right, no questions asked and with a great apology. I’m very brand-loyal when I find one that’s solid. So even if I am broke, I can still dress nicely and not look or feel quite as broke, which is essential for self-esteem while getting back on my well-shoed feet, I’ve found. So that’s another way to pay yourself forward. Take care of your nice things, and they’ll be there for you in good shape when you need them — oil your boots and leather goods. I’ve bought shorts or pants/shirts/sweaters offseason on clearance, knowing I won’t be able to wear them until the next year when it gets warm or cold. And it’s cool finding a brand new pair of awesome shorts or pullover waiting for you in your closet you forgot about when Spring or Autumn comes around. I realize all this clothing talk is unrelated, but this is a life lesson, and there are things to pay attention to here with clothing.

Buy durable clothing that stands the test of time, like Pendleton, Orvis, Barbour, Filson, etc…But don’t necessarily buy brands without knowing why. Brands change over time, and usually not for the better. Burberry used to be a high-quality brand, as did Brooks Brothers and Polo/Ralph Lauren. But money is what drives those companies, and eventually, they all succumbed to clothing the masses instead of the elite. This is to say they commoditized themselves, started selling lower quality clothing in “outlet” malls, and started cutting corners, and instead of working for high margin, well-made clothing, they opted for lower-margin but sold en masse cheaply made clothing.  Sure, they still offer high-priced goods with premium margins attached, but they aren’t the same quality as they used to be. They’ll market them as “purple label” or something distinctive, to match the distinctive price.

What’s the difference, you may ask? With clothing, look at the stitching. Inspect the quality of the fabric and how it was cut. Check out the hardware, like zippers, pulls, rivets, toggles, and buttons. Is it double-stitched or single stitched? Does the material feel durable? Are the fibers woven tightly and is it heavier than it looks? Where there are ends, does it look “carefully finished” or just like “one and done?” Is the hardware genuine brass or flimsy, never meant to last plastic?

Learning to discriminate between high quality and junk is doing yourself a solid. You won’t end up wasting your time and money, frustrated with an inferior tool, garment, shoe, piece of furniture, or anything else that commands a high price. Learn to inspect the joinery and materials of furniture. There are big differences in quality and price and very often a high price doesn’t equal high quality there, either. As far as tools go, look at what the pros rely on for their livelihood. DeWalt is always a good bet. But there are others. Bosch, Milwaukee Tool, Snap-on, and even Sears makes some decent wrenches. We have so much to choose from in America, you need to be knowledgable or else marketers will decide for you, which is what you want to avoid.

geezer

Think of it like hiding an Easter egg for yourself. And when you start getting good, you begin forgetting all about them and surprising yourself when you find them, and you want to pat yourself on the back.  As I read this, it sounds like old-geezer-talk, so maybe it is something that comes with age, but I don’t see any reason not to try it sooner than later, knowing the benefits it brings.

wisdom

This is cleverly accurate