3 Ways For Local Learning

Each day I look back and figure out what lesson I learned from the day. Then I share it on this blog, so you can learn with me!

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When I first moved to Tampa, Florida from Grand Rapids, Michigan I knew I there would be a lot to learn. For example, I did not know what creepy-crawly things I needed to avoid or what ocean safety tips I needed to know as a local. I did not know where the good vegan food is or what neighborhoods I should stay away from at night.

No matter where I live, there are a few resources I gravitate to for learning about the area around me. Whether you have recently moved or if you have lived in the same place all your life, you might find these helpful in exploring and learning about the area around you.

1.  The Library. What?!? How OLD am I, right? I know libraries are old school but they do not just have dusty books anymore. Most local libraries remain relevant by hosting events held by local entrepreneurs or artists. It is a great way to learn about what is going on, what the local talent is like, and what types of activities your city embraces. Oh, and you can borrow old, dusty books, too.

2.  State Parks. I always buy a State Park parking pass each year, even if I do not get a ton of use from it (I always do, though). It is an easy way to help protect green spaces for when you need some relaxing nature time. Many parks have tours of local ecology (it is good to know which snakes will send you to the hospital) and fun facts about the area’s history. Oh, and you can grill stuff there, too.

  3.  Podcasts. I am a big fan of podcasts. When I am driving or doing chores, there is almost always a podcast playing in the background. For me, podcasts are an entertaining (and free) way of learning and thinking about interesting topics or pop culture trends. Nicole reminded me, though, that I just as easily search for local podcasts by just looking up “Tampa” or whatever hobbies we are into (such as “SUP” or “Yoga” or “Bicycling”). What do you know? Now I have 3 or 4 local podcasts to find out about cool things to do and how to do those things better! Oh, and I can listen to old radio plays, too.

Here is a bonus tool, also: MeetUp. We have found local open mics, walking groups, history tours, vegan gatherings, and paddle-board excursions through this often over-looked free app and website. There are plenty of tools to help you explore locally (FaceBook, Google Now, Groupon, Field Trip, AroundMe, etc.) but MeetUp is my favorite because of its easy navigation and big population of users.

Whatever tools or apps you use, go explore. There is so much cool stuff waiting out there waiting for you, so many adventures. All you have to do is pick a direction and go. Explore.

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Why Tip?

I come up with a lesson I learned in the course of living every day, and then I share it on this blog. Here is what I thought about today…

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I am a fairly generous tipper. I always drop 20% and round-up, even if service is less than par. I am especially generous when I am recognized as a regular customer or if service is truly exceptional.

Perhaps oddly, I am actually anti-tipping. I give in to the social pressure like most people, and I empathize with service workers, but I think the practice should be done away with altogether. I will even say I think it is despicable that we allow entire industries to rely on customers to subsidize employee wages. Why do I have to help you avoid paying your people fairly while trying to run my business?

Can you imagine if every business paid all employees $2 per hour and relied on employees to subsidize the salaries of every other business? What would our cell phone bills look like then?

What is even stranger is the nearly exclusively American practice of tipping at the end of a meal or service. When I visited the Middle East, I was impressed that it is common to tip your server upfront and the amount of the tip determines the level of extra attention you receive. As far as tipping goes, I think tipping upfront is better but I still think tipping should not be an acceptable use of one’s hard-earned money. You do not spend your life working, expecting to give 20% or more of your money away (and that’s before taxes, health care, bills, holidays, and everything else).

When I tip my barista at Starbucks (which, in my opinion is the most egregious form of tipping–they literally turn around and hand me something–is that really tip-worthy?), I can not help but wonder what the point is. Even as a return customer, my latte tastes the same every time. Starbucks and other big brands have built their business on consistency. In other words, tipping generally provides no bonus for me (the customer). I do not receive an extra side perk for tipping and that is especially true if I am a first-time or unrecognized customer. I am treated like anyone else. I am just the usual cattle walking in to graze and ushered out as quickly as possible so the next set of cows can sit.

I am not advocating for everyone to stop tipping, by the way. I think it would be laudable if employers turned the practice away in favor of better wages, but until that happens, I feel compelled to tip.

I am just asking if maybe the concept of tipping should be re-evaluated. Maybe there is a better way, such as the alternative used in the Middle East and elsewhere. Maybe not.

What do you think? Should tipping remain a staple of society–a voluntary but expected pre-determined way to subsidize salaries and acknowledge work well (or even meagerly) done? Should we move to Tipping 2.0, and what does that look like? Or, are you an irascible curmudgeon like me, who thinks tipping… is for cows?

 

(P.S. Tipping is not for cows.)

 

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5 Interview Questions You Should Never Ask

Today’s Lesson: Be honest. Am I a good writer?

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If you are a job-seeker, take this advice to heart. If you are an interviewer, keep this in mind. Here are 5 questions that an interviewee should never ask:

1. “How did I do?”

Asking this at the end of an interview is tantamount to throwing yourself on a grenade in an empty room. No skilled interviewer would answer this question honestly if you did bad. What purpose would it serve the interviewer? They have already decided not to hire you. They are not interested in crushing your esteem further and it is not their job to teach you how to interview better for their competitors. The only proper answer to this question, whether you did well or terrible, is “You did fine.”

If you did well, by the way, asking this signals that either you know you did well and are now being egotistical about it, or that you do not know you did well and have absurdly low self-esteem. Either way, not a good signal to your interviewer.

2. “Do you like your job?”

Yes, I like my job. Even if I don’t, I am being paid to hire people for my company and unless it is my last day and I want to burn every bridge possible, I am going to tell you I like my job. You can come up with a better question. Try, “What does your company do to recognize performance or make people feel valued?”

3. “Will I have to do a drug check?”

Yes… now.

4. “How good are the benefits?”

If you are applying to a Fortune 500 company, assume the benefits are really good. If you are not applying to a Fortune 500 company, assume they are not as good as a Fortune 500 company’s. The only answer an interviewer can give is to dodge the question, “They are not the best out there but they are definitely not the worst…” The real answer to the question, though (which an interviewer would never ask) is, “Compared to what?”

5. “Is there room for advancement?”

I truly do not know why this question persists, but I hear it nearly every time. What interviewer would say, “No”? As an interviewee, try narrowing down the actual question you are asking. “If I do well in this position, what would be the next logical step up?” or “What is the career path for this position?” If the interviewer can only provide a vague “sky is the limit” answer, it probably means the company has not planned any advancement for that position (and you might be taking a chance at being stuck in that position for a long time…).

 

There are plenty of other bad questions to ask during an interview, but those are ones I hear often. Regardless of which side of the interview you are on, I hope that helps. If you thought it was helpful, you might also want to check out (and feel free to share) If You Want To Work For Me… (resume tips).

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If You Want To Work For Me…

Today’s Lesson: Do a little work to find work. (Five tips for interviewees and interviewers.)

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I see a lot of resumes and I am always looking for the best people to add to my team. It is astounding, though, how little work most people put in to seeking work. Here are five red flags I look for on a resume. Missing the mark on a single one of them won’t prevent someone from landing an initial interview with me, but the more of these I see, the less likely I am to take a candidate seriously. If you are looking to build a team, there might be a few short-cuts here for you. If you are looking to join a team, consider how avoiding these common land mines can help you stand apart.

1. Pretend like you have heard of spell-check. Even if you are good with grammar and spelling, use spell check and re-read your resume multiple times, word by word. It is not like a FaceBook rant or blog post. Your resume is one of the most important documents in your life. Be sure yours looks like it matters to you. If you really suck at grammar and spelling and spell check is too technologically challenging for you, at least have family and friends look over your resume. Try reading it backwards to find spelling errors or missed words. My favorite is when someone has noted “attention to detail” as one of their skills but has misspelled the phrase.

2. Demonstrate commitment. It might be too late to fix this now, but if I see you have had six jobs in five years (and you were not a temp agency worker or contractor), then I will likely skip you. If you could not stick with any of your last several jobs for at least a year (the time it would take you to actually start being competent in a role), why would I hire you to drag my company’s learning curve and retention rates down? If you can not show job commitment, then highlight your degree (showing you can at least stick with something for 2 to 4 years) or a long-time hobby. Work is a relationship and most employers are not looking for people with a fear of commitment.

3. Make the cover letter relevant or just skip it. A cover letter is a plus. It tells me why I should consider you over others. If your cover letter is not specific to my opening, though, you may as well just start it with, “Hi. I am too lazy to compose a unique cover letter for you so here is a completely generic one I send to every potential employer.” Making a unique cover letter for each job being applied for is a pain but it does show initiative. A generic cover letter shows that someone understands the importance of a cover letter but would rather take shortcuts than do the work. It is totally okay to skip the cover letter if your resume highlights specific skills related to the posting. It is also okay to skip it if you are too lazy to make it unique to this job. I would rather you not do it than pretend you sort-of care about getting the job… but not enough to type a few more words.

4. Lose the “Objective” statement. The only objective of a resume is to get a job and the “objective” statement is a relic of the 90’s. Use that valuable real estate for other things instead (such as expanding on work skills or accomplishments). The main problem of the Objective statement is that they all sound alike, “seeking a challenging career that uses my talents to blah-blah-blah…”. Worse, most people never adjust their Objective statement to the job they are applying for. If you are submitting your resume for a job as a mechanic, for example, an employer will dismiss you immediately if your objective statement is, “Looking to use my customer service skills to drive sales…” Those are fine skills and fake goals to have but they do not tell me anything about your mechanical aptitude or desire to work as a mechanic. I would pass–not the skill set I am looking for in a shop mechanic.

5. Use or create a professional email address. This is more of a nit-pick and I never hold a dumb email name against a candidate but there is a part of my brain that says, “Really? That’s the name you are hoping to find gainful employment with? ‘xxxstarcandykisses2005@aol.com’?” AOL?!? When was the last time you used a computer? Just use your normal name (or a close variation) at GMail, Mail, MSN, Hotmail, or Yahoo, even if it is the only thing you use that address for (which is a good idea anyway).

 

Those are 5 low-hanging fruit basic tips but for some people, I hope, they will be effective. I am not a professional recruiter, just a long-time manager who has had to review many resumes and interview candidates. If you found these tips helpful and want more like them, please share this post, favorite it on your social media of choice, or comment on my FaceBook page.

 

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Learn It to Teach It

Today’s Lesson: To be an effective teacher, you must first be an effective learner.

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As a trainer, I believe there is tremendous value in learning and experiencing the thing I am expected to teach. I see many coaches or organizational trainers who think they can enter a business blind and somehow magically command respect and disseminate knowledge.

Before I could teach people how to sell, I had to learn how to sell and experience both rejection and success in that field. I had to become at least marginally proficient at sales (I happen to be better than marginally proficient at sales but that was all I needed to be an effective trainer). It is important to note I did not have to learn to be the best salesperson in the world. If I had learned that, then I would have gone into sales and made a great deal of money as the world’s best salesperson instead of working to help salespeople become better salespeople.

Many trainees have the opposite folly of their trainers–they believe the trainer should be better than anyone else at the skill being taught. That is illogical. If Michael Jordan’s coach was better than Michael Jordan at basketball, for example, then his coach would be on the court enjoying Jordan’s fortune and fame instead of Michael Jordan. The coach’s (or trainer’s) job is not to be better than the people they are teaching. The coach’s job is to find the holes in the game and help the team overcome obstacles as they arise.

Trainers provide the skills we need to improve but to do that, trainers must also learn the basics to earn credibility.

I was reminded of this in a meeting. The person formerly in charge of a team had been recently let go and one of the main reasons why, it turned out, was because he did not understand the duties and responsibilities of the people he was in charge of. He had not gone out into the field and learned or experienced their day-to-day environment and challenges. How could he ever have led them?

One of my first duties, by contrast, was to meet as many team members as possible and spend as much time learning the company’s products, history, and team member roles as I could. In fact, most employees who chatted with me seemed surprised that I could speak to the company’s roots and history better than many of them could, even though they had been with the company longer.

In the meeting, someone pointed out how refreshing it was to hear that I wanted to travel to wherever the teams were and learn what they did. “How can I train them,” I asked, “If I have no idea what they do or how they do it?”

 

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Writing Versus Thinking

Today’s Lesson: Reading is fundamental, but re-reading is essential if you want to be understood.

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One of my favorite posts so far this year is this one, about embracing “weirdness” at organizations. It also happens to be one of my least read so far, and that was bugging me until I went back and read it.

When I re-read that post, I realized it was bloated and confusing. It was not written well. I cleaned it up a little but it is still not where I want it. This, I think, is definitely one of the trade-offs to having a daily blog. I write every day and I have a full-time job plus other hobbies and social commitments. There is not much time for refining or editing.

Typically, the process is I write it once and I read it once, editing as I go. What the wonderful spelling and grammar checker built into WordPress misses and what I miss… are missed. There is bound to be minor errors in some (probably most) of my posts but I have learned to be okay with them for the sake of moving on and continuing to put out new material.

It is rare that I go back and re-read a post once it is published, but the “Office Spaced” post, I thought, was a gem and I was wondering why it ranked so low. Was it the time of day I posted? The day of the week? The title? Keywords? Was Google not finding it?

I by no means consider myself an expert or authoritative blogger and I have never gone out of my way to build a platform and audience but I like to know what hits and what misses and have at least a general idea why.

What I have mostly found is if it is written well, people usually find it (and share it). The funny thing is, I am certain I fall into the same trap as many would-be writers. When I go back and read my writing, I fill in the blanks with my mind. In other words, I know what I meant and that is what I hear in my head.

Going back and reading your work again a few days or weeks later, and then editing, is a common trick to prevent filling in the blanks. The idea is no longer fresh at that point so you don’t remember what you meant and read it more like a new reader.

The point, as you have by now guessed, is this: it always sounds better in your head.

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5 Super-Easy Ways to Be Vegan

Eat the Rainbow, by Markus Spiske / raumrot.com / CC-BY

Today’s Lesson: Changing your life is scary, but your life is truly a matter of life or death. Making your life better does not have to be all or nothing and it does not have to happen all at once. Just take one step. Then another. Stumble. Try again. Remember, that worked for learning how to walk…

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Friends and family often come to me for advice on how to be more vegan or adopt a more vegan-friendly diet. The question has come up lately–“How do you do it?”, which means, “How can I do it?”

Usually someone is asking for advice on eating a plant-based diet to enjoy some of the many health benefits I have experienced being vegan (needing less sleep, thinking faster, losing weight, having more energy, lowering risk of diseases, etc.).

I think better health is a fine reason to go vegan. I hope that also leads to more people thinking about a better system of care-taking for the world’s other inhabitants. It would be pretty cool, I think, to have as many cow friends as people friends, or deer friends that have become dear friends. I remember the thrill of learning our cows and pigs had names when I was a kid, and then the horror of learning we were going to eat them. That was long before I would become vegan but it stuck with me.

The mistake most people make when considering being vegan (or vegan-ish)  is thinking it is an “all or nothing” game, that it is going to be a drastic and miserable life change. It can be, but it does not have to be. I see all change in life (positive or negative) as simply a system of habits. Eating one bad meal won’t kill you. Eating one good meal won’t heal you. It is the habitual practice of one or the other that will lead you to your results (good or bad).

I have five tips to offer that will help you on your way to taking the first step (which you will practice, and stumble, and practice again–remember, it worked for walking–it works for eating). I want to note, however, these are not necessarily healthy tips. These are to help you take the first step. I am not going with full-on tofu love and crazy-sounding ingredients (except one) to make you vegan like a pro just yet. This is for those of you who do not live in vegan meccas or even really have an idea where to start. These tips are training wheels to get you moving the right direction. That being said (and apologies for the long intro), here are 5 Super-Easy Ways to be Vegan (or more vegan-ish):

1. A vegan meal is just a regular meal with one or two things traded out. It’s not all tofu, tempeh, and seitan with Nori salad. Check this out.

Non-vegan plate: steak, mashed potatoes, and a side of corn.

Vegan plate: baked potato with broccoli and McCormick Bac’n Bits (the original–they have always been vegan!), corn, and a side of asparagus (or just an extra helping of corn).

Non-vegan plate: burger with beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard. Crinkle-cut french fries. Pepsi (because Coke sucks).

Vegan plate:  burger with Portobello mushroom cap patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard. Crinkle-cut french fries. Pepsi (because Coke still sucks). To note, the buns probably are not vegan, but just worry about the basics for now.

2. Replace meat with potatoes. Potatoes are hearty and filling like meat. If you feel like Spaghetti Marinara is not real spaghetti because you need meat sauce and meat balls, then chop up some potatoes, pan-fry or roast them, and then toss them into the sauce. Add a few other veggies too, like, zucchini, mushrooms, and green pepper. Or make gnocchi instead of spaghetti. (If you have never had gnocchi, they are like ravioli but made with potatoes and super-easy to make from scratch–just search online). With all the other flavors and hearty starches, you will never notice the meat missing.

3. Replace butter with olive oil. Many top chefs already do this and the idea has been advocated on America’s Test Kitchen. Olive Oil is heart-healthy and delicious. In fact, it is not actually oil like other refined oils (including vegetable and corn oil). To make olive oil, you crush olives. That’s it. Olive “oil” is really just olive “juice”. It can replace butter on anything. Try a little olive oil instead of butter on toast (it’s awesome!). Use it on popcorn, mashed potatoes, literally anywhere you would use butter.

If a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, just use 3 tablespoons of olive oil. There are many kinds and flavors of olive oil. Find the one you like best. Most grocery stores charge outrageously high prices for olive oil and I have no idea why. You can find absurdly cheap prices if you have a Mediterranean grocery store or deli nearby (Italian deli or Arabic grocery store, for example).  If nothing else, even Amazon.com has better prices than most grocery stores, including shipping.

4. Replace cheese with Nutritional Yeast. This is the one weird-sounding ingredient that is an absolute must in our house. Nutritional Yeast is a flaky, yellow powder that adds a tart, cheesy flavor to anything. You can sprinkle it on macaroni and stir it in with olive oil for a light, zesty mac and cheese flavor. Use it on soups, salads, pretty much anything. If you can not find nutritional yeast at your local grocery store, order it online for a pretty good bulk price. In my experience, no specific brand is better than any other so just go with the cheapest (although you might prefer flakes over powder, but they taste the same).

5. Replace dairy milk with any other milk. In most local grocery stores, you can now have an abundance of non-dairy milks, either in the health food aisle or in the refrigerator section. This was tough for me, at first, because I used to drink cow’s milk with every meal. Now, this is one of my favorite parts of being vegan. There is a type of milk for every meal!

The choices are amazing. The biggest part of this tip is to try them all until you find a few that you love. You have lots of milk choices here and they are all healthier than normal cow’s milk (which was made for baby cows, not baby humans): Soy, Oat, Almond, Coconut, Almond-Coconut Blend, Hemp, Flax, Rice, etc. They are all great. My personal preference is unsweetened Almond-Coconut for cereal, Soy for coffee/lattes, Oat for drinking with dinner or just as a treat. Think of them as flavorings for whatever you are eating.

Also, you might find you like a particular brand of milk over another. They are not all created the same, so take your time trying different types of each milk. There is definitely something for everyone.

If you live where there are no store-bought options or if the alternative milks are still outrageously priced, consider buying a milk powder from Amazon or other online retailer (there is soy, almond, rice, etc…). The powders can be mixed with water and you get a lot more for your money, but in my opinion, they are not as tasty (you have to get the water to powder ratio just right!). Nonetheless, they are often a better value than what you will find in the store.

Bonus Tip: The more colors, the more nutrients. Since this applies across the board, I am not considering it one of the 5 tips. Both non-vegans and vegans have heard this advice: “Eat the rainbow,” which basically means the more colors your meal has, the healthier it is likely to be. The reason is the colors of fruits and vegetables is determined by the amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients within them (their only ingredients).

A dark, leafy lettuce, for example, will likely have more vitamins than a lightly colored leafy lettuce (it will also have a stronger taste). Have fun with colorful meals. Try to have at least 5 colors in each meal: white potatoes, red tomatoes, green broccoli, yellow corn, and orange pepper, for example, could make an interesting veggie soup! Purple shredded cabbage, brown mushrooms, tan chickpeas, dark green spinach, and blueberries might make a great salad!

 

There you have it. Some super easy starter-tricks to start adopting a healthier, closer-to-vegan lifestyle. You can worry about getting good and reading ingredient labels later. You don’t have to fall in love with tofu to start (or ever). Just focus on the big three for now: meat, dairy, and cheese (I know “cheese” is dairy but a lot of people do not–it really is practically its own food group).

In the future, I will share a few super-easy vegan recipes I use for every day meals, and I mean SUPER-easy. I am the laziest cook in the world because I am busy and I need meals that are even easier than ordering from Chipotle! I’ll share a few that work for me and maybe they will help you, too.

Feel free to toss questions my way via your social media of choice (I’m “Michael Salamey” everywhere) and share with your friends–having a supporter can help you go a long way. Plus, questions help me create new blog posts without having to come up with ideas myself!

Good luck on your journey to better living.

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How Do People Know You?

Today’s Lesson: Know who your strangers are.

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I have been blogging a long time (about ten years) so it is no surprise that I my blog has an audience, despite doing virtually no promotion for it, other than sharing on social media when a new post goes up.

Other than my friends sharing posts they like, I have no idea how people find any of my articles amid the deluge of information on the internet. Incidentally, I do not think any other bloggers know where their audience comes from, either. Even those who do a lot of shameless promoting or advertising are usually just shooting in the dark and hoping something hits.

What is interesting to me, though, is where most of my audience comes from. Every day I post, I share it on Facebook and I can see when some people “Like” it, or comment, etc. WordPress (my platform of choice) and Google Analytics offers cool statistics, too, like how many times a particular post has been viewed and from what country the click originated (Brazil loves me for some reason–I’ll have to visit one day!). Sometimes (not very often to be honest) someone will +1 my post on Google or “favorite” it on Twitter.

Oddly, though, most people who like my blog do not come from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. They come from Tumblr, where I do almost zero interacting. My posts automatically connect to my Tumblr blog, which I set up a year ago and have not looked at except in passing since. If you are looking to start your own blog or want to share quirky thoughts, art, or quotes, Tumblr might be a good place to start.

 

I am glad to have an audience. It’s cool that people like what I am doing and occasionally share it. It is even cooler, though, to learn how strangers learn about you and how far your life actually extends.

 

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Three Solid Money Tips

Today’s Lesson: Money is what you make of it. (Literally.)

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“Money can’t buy you happiness,” I think, is what wealthy people say to placate poor people or what poor people say to avoid envying wealthy people. I do not know if money can buy happiness. I do know that money can buy a lot of things that contribute to happiness.

Money pays for security. People with money in the bank do not wonder if they will lose their job if their car breaks down again.

Money pays for toys. We all love toys and having fun is an essential part of living. Maybe the most essential…if you can not live joyfully, then you probably are missing the point of being alive, which is achieving personal happiness. Toys are not essential to being happy, of course, but if you like riding a bicycle, then being able to pay for a nice one will make you happier than not having one or having one that constantly breaks down.

Money pays for less stress. I have been lucky enough to make a lot of money and fortunate enough to have lost it all. I have seen both sides of the track and I can honestly tell you having a lot of money does not cure everything but having disposable income feels a lot better, safer, and healthier than worrying how you will make ends meet this week.

I am by no means a money-guru. In fact, I consider myself mediocre with money (because I have a propensity for getting rid of it) but I can share with you three valuable lessons I have learned over three decades of making and losing a great deal of it:

1. Never rely on credit. This goes against everything marketers, schools, and the government tells you, but NEVER use credit to pay for something. If you do not have the money to buy that shiny new thing now, and pay for it in full, then you can not afford it now. People tell you, “But you have to establish credit if you want to blah-blah-blah…” NO YOU DON’T. If you pay your bills on time, every time, then you automatically have credit if there is an emergency. Save up for the big purchases you want. Pay for them in full. If you are super-disciplined like Nicole, then you can buy your groceries with your credit card and pay them off the next week. I am not that disciplined and I do not want to track it, but if it works for you, go for it.

2. Do not balance your checkbook. Wait, what?!? This might be on the crazy side of advice but it works for me. I have less than ten bills to pay each month, including rent, utilities, subscriptions, everything. If you have so much money going out that you have to worry if you can cover it, cut the fat. I never have to set time aside to balance my checkbook and track every receipt, and hope I didn’t forget anything. I take five minutes to check my few bills once a week (on Saturday) to be sure I didn’t miss any, and I can use my bank’s phone app to check my balance anytime I need.

3. Buy less. I know, duh! Right? If you have read this blog before, then you know I am a big proponent of having less and doing more. I love technology but twenty years from now I won’t even remember what phone I was carrying today. I will, though, remember the amazing vacation Nicole and I took in Savannah, until the day I die. Spend less of your money on stuff and more of it on experiences. For every new shirt, pair of shoes, or gadget you buy, throw two things out (or give them away). You will quickly learn how unimportant some things are and which things are really important.

 

Of course, these three guidelines apply at all times in all situations, except when they don’t. My crazy ideas may not work for you or may not work for you all the time. They are just three guidelines that put my finances on track and kept them there. Take them as they are and run or twist them into something crazy and new for you (and let me know if it works), or toss them out altogether. All I can tell you is, it’s worked so far.

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You Don’t Know Jack (But You Should if You Are Buying a Mattress)

Want to sleep better? I know a guy who can help…

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I rarely make a plug for another person or business on my blog but I had an experience so good, I wanted to share it with you and make it today’s lesson.

Jack has a unique business. He runs a site called The Mattress Nerd. The site itself is a detailed review site to help mattress shoppers cut through marketing jargon and sales obfuscation and do legitimate mattress comparisons. There are many sites like that and although The Mattress Nerd is very good that is not what sets it apart that prompted my blog post.

I have been shopping for a mattress since Nicole and I moved to Tampa and have been bludgeoned into stupidity by the misdirection and intentional deceit rampant in the industry. I tripped across The Mattress Nerd while trying to decide if purchasing a mattress I have been hearing about on podcasts is a good idea. While reading Jack’s review of the mattress I noticed a link to a Comparison Shopping service (and this is where it gets good–I promise!)…

For FREE, Jack took the information I had already and I offered a little about my history with mattresses and shopping for them, and he actually comparison shopped my 3 leading choices plus looked at the box spring I had in mind, and broke down the jargon, his experience with each based on my needs, and found even lower prices than I was able to (and I am a savvy internet shopper!)!

His turn around time, by the way, was less than 12 hours from when I sent my questions! If you are shopping for a mattress, I encourage you to check out http://www.mattressnerd.com and take advantage of the Comparison Shopping Service.

 

There are three lessons I learned from Jack today: 

1. You can quit your job and make a living blogging. Jack makes a buck by using affiliate links. When I decided to buy my mattress and box springs, all I had to do was click on the links he sent me and I got them at lower prices than I otherwise would have plus Jack got a tiny kickback from the actual vendors. I feel it is important here to note he never pushed any one product over another. He gave me a straight up comparison and let me know his opinion based on his experience only. If he did not have experience with an item, he let me know as well.

2. You do not have to charge your customer directly. I did not pay a cent to Jack or The Mattress Nerd site for his help. He very cleverly has a personal business set-up like Google (who offers email for free, for example, but makes a tiny profit every time you click a sponsored link). This means Jack’s income depends entirely on the level of value for service that he provided me. If I could have found it cheaper elsewhere or if he did not provide insightful, relevant information, I would have just thanked him for his time and moved on.

3. If you are not an expert at something (like, say, climate change or politics), then do research to form an opinion, but rely on actual experts when it comes to making a decision. Mattress shopping is absurdly complicated with ambiguous jargon and deceptive marketing. I knew after my first two visits to mattress stores that I was out of my depth. I am in no way being asked or paid to endorse Jack’s service or The Mattress Nerd website, but I appreciated the help and insight so much, I had to share. Businesses like that deserve to thrive and if you know someone looking for a new mattress… you should give The Mattress Nerd a try.

 

Today’s Lessons (recap): There are infinitely clever ways to reach a goal (like starting and running an online business without charging your customers directly). Provide great value and insight without asking or expecting anything in return and you will be rewarded. If you are not an expert, don’t play one on TV. Just ask a real one for help.

 

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