Summer Break

It’s really nice outside. Quit reading this blog, hop on a bike, and do something active.

myrtleOur summer should be a lot of fun this year. We are about to head to the beach to see family! I’ll be taking (and maybe teaching) a few classes, doing lots of research, and spending as much time as possible outside. I’ve been writing a lot the last few months and I probably have about 150+ post drafts outlined. After publishing for about 120 straight weeks, it will be a bit of change to not post weekly, but I’ll continue to keep track of my thoughts and write plenty of content behind the scenes.

So, go outside, enjoy the long summer days and I’ll see you back in August! I might even have a new design for the blog.

Also, feel free to email me if you plan on making it through Georgia (or Athens) anytime this summer. I’m always up for a good chat, tasty food, and nice bike rides.

It All Boils Down To Self-Control

When you write frequently about lifestyle design and personal finance you get asked a lot of questions. What does it take to live a happy and healthy life? What does it take to be successful? What does it take to live a fulfilled life? How can my relationships be better? What is the one thing that will change my financial life? I could spend years talking through the details of what it takes to be successful in every area of life. In fact, given enough time, I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually write a post that details specific ways to address each inefficient area in our lives. However, we will all realize pretty quickly that a simple thread weaves through everything we experience in life. Self Control. It all boils down to self-control.

marshmellow testWe define self-control as the ability to control our own impulses, feelings, emotions and actions. Life is all about how good we are at defining our desires and the courses of action in following through with them. To make ourselves better people, we must actively develop our self-control. For the scope of this article, we’ll break it down into health, money, relationships, and success. Continue reading It All Boils Down To Self-Control

The Slow Creep of Discontentment

I’ve always been a goal setter. Even from an early age I would put together a list of things I wanted or experiences to try. I really enjoy the art of self-examination in almost all facets of life. Gurus like to expound upon the necessitation of creating goals and striving for the impossible. But what happens when you reach the basic ones? Sure, you could rinse and repeat, but where does it actually get us? Does it make us happier? Does more achievement, stuff, or money bring us any closer to contentment? Or does the very nature of our marketing-consumer driven economy suggest that there is always something slightly better?

bali-254077_1280I see it happen in the mirror. My life is pretty awesome. I have a wonderful wife, beautiful and intelligent kids, a paid off home, a new car, a fancy education, and a nice job. We live in a safe and peaceful county and we have the ability to spend time with close friends and family- even travel the world if we’d like. On paper, most of us have it all. In fact, I would venture to stay that most SE readers are pretty well positioned too. But, despite all of our blessings, contentment can still be elusive. A fancier house, a better school, a bigger or a prettier something. Even a few more dollars on the balance sheet. No matter where we are, there always seems to be something slightly shinier, just a little out of reach. Discontentment (even among the well off) reigns. Continue reading The Slow Creep of Discontentment

Finding Our Place In The Class Stratification

I’m not really sure what I want to be when I grow up. For that matter, I’m not really sure where I want to fit in socioeconomically. I also understand that, by simply having all choices available, I’m already predisposed to certain social alignments. I’m not a sociologist. In fact, I’ve never formally studied sociology. However, I’ve traveled enough to observe the perils and benefits of extreme class differentiation and, by no effort of my own, I’ve been exposed to the most astounding poverty and wealth imaginable.

classesIt is a strange proposition to step back and determine the way we want to define our family socially. Most likely, we simply take our cues from our parents and strive to meet their expectations. Our peer groups, school choices, career paths, and financial decisions are all heavily influenced by our home environment and exposures to unique experiences. It is funny, but most of my peers and family members would strive to be part of the “Middle Class.” But really, its more like the highest echelons of middle class or maybe even the suburban upper class. But certainly, at minimum, everyone is striving to be in the Global 1% Club. Where do you fit in? Did you choose your societal class? It is based on your family, your income, or your choices? Are you comfortable where you are? Continue reading Finding Our Place In The Class Stratification

Risk Management (Without Insurance)

Insurance is not the only way to manage risk. In the near future I will be an expert* on risk. In fact, I’m actively working on that goal now. My dissertation in Behavioral Economics and Financial Planning will be based entirely on an individual’s perceptions and measurement of risk. But what is risk? What does it actually mean? And what are the ways we can manage risk? Can we manage risk without insurance?

free climberRisk management can become a dirty word in financial circles. Although planning for and understanding risk is fundamentally necessary in all aspects of life, many individual’s interaction with sellers of insurance and risk management products are less than savory. Insurance, and especially life insurance, is seen as an entry point into the risk management industry and fraught with many inherent conflicts of interest. The underlying assumption for many individuals is that risk is managed with insurance. Sure, insurance plays an important role, but risk management is much more than simply insurance.

Risk is a broad subject. It can be thought about in terms of physical risk (safety, war, etc), financial risk, business risk, health risk, or even environmental risk. For the scope of this article, I’ll focus on personal risk, which we have some capacity to control. Continue reading Risk Management (Without Insurance)

Real Food and Plant Based Diet

Nutrition makes me come alive. I enjoy it so much that I try my best to live a healthy lifestyle everyday. I’m passionate about helping others understand nutrition and implement  changes into their own lives as well. It’s one way that I can extend love to others. Giving them the information and tools to live a healthy life and feel good from the inside out. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it! Once you decide, take action and start to experience the benefits, you will find that there is a motivation that will start to well up inside of you. Then it will come more naturally.

So, why am I telling you this? As a Registered Dietitian, I want to give the best nutrition advice I can. And I’ve come to the conclusion that nutrition is constantly changing and becoming more and more confusing for the average consumer. What is the best diet? I get asked that all the time. It’s hard to pick one, but it is difficult to beat the simplicity of eating real food and mostly plants. And I want to tell you why.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” -Hippocrates

Why a Plant Based Diet?
produceI know after reading those words, there is already some push back. I hear you. I like meat too. And dairy. And eggs. A plant based diet seems impossible to many of us. Especially living in America and constantly being bombarded with the idea that we deserve fried chicken, a nice filet, or the next triple patty burger. But, have you ever considered what you are actually putting into your body when you eat that kind of stuff? There is a lot of speculation, but I won’t get into that in this post. Our bodies run off of the food we eat. We need good, nutritious fuel to keep us going. When it all comes down to it, I have realized whole foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) are truly the building blocks of a healthy diet. As Michael Pollan said in The Defense of Food, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. Continue reading Real Food and Plant Based Diet

Unexpressed Gratitude Communicates Ingratitude

I’m pretty sure we all have people in our lives that we are thankful for. I’m sure you can think of a few off the top of your head. I have more than I can count. However, it is very rare that I actually communicate my gratitude to the people I care about. I know I should be more intentional about letting people know when they impact me in a positive way, but I rarely take the time to extend my gratitude.

gratitudeOne of the hardest parts about expressing gratitude for me, especially to other guys, is the difficulty of getting over the awkwardness it takes to randomly send someone a message of thanks. It is easy after I have recently interacted with them; however, many of the people I’m extremely grateful for I do not see very often. I actually received an email out of the blue from a really good friend. It was a simple thanks for being a friend but it was very encouraging. In addition, the subtle joy of a quick message was just enough to motivate me to pass along some gratitude myself.

Who are you grateful for? I know we have moved past the traditional thankfulness season, but I think it is worth extending (and possibly building lasting habits). Have you let the people you care about know recently how much you appreciate them? Do you think it is possible that unexpressed gratitude can actually communicate ingratitude? Continue reading Unexpressed Gratitude Communicates Ingratitude

Giving Away All My Books and Reading More

I truly enjoy reading. A great book is an awesome way for me to relax, be entertained, or learn something life changing. I enjoy reading other peoples’ work much more than I do writing my own. And I like books. Or, at the very least, I enjoy the content that they contain. One of the few problems I’ve had with books is the space they occupy. At various times in my life, the physical collection of books I’ve owned has taken up shelves upon shelves (or later boxes upon boxes) of space. I don’t really bask in the aesthetics of a large library or book store, but I enjoy having access to my favorite books at a moments notice. Traveling and moving are the times when I typically notice the volume of books that come in and out of my life.

book clutterI enjoy reading but I’m not a big fan of clutter. For some reason, books were one of the last vestibules for me to give up when relentlessly evaluating the objects I own and store at my house. So, I decided to give away almost all the physical copies of books that I own. The mental decision was much easier when I realized what I enjoyed was the content in the text and not the bound collection of paper on my shelf. There are only a few books I really want to own and that I will constantly reread. For those, I have a special place that contains just a handful of books. I’ve also been slowly purchasing digital copies of many of my favorites over the years to complete my small collection. And I have a library card. Where I live, that is a pretty incredible, often underutilized, resource. Continue reading Giving Away All My Books and Reading More

Addicted To Nothing – Free From Dependency

I’ve spend most of my life addicted to something. My addictions ebb and flow and have changed over time. I’ve been temporarily addicted to silly things like email/angrybirds /twitter/news; but over time I’ve realized there are a few categories that I seem to resurface time and again. There are certain areas of our lives that seem to gravitate towards dependency. Places where subtle addictions slowly creep into our lives.

cokeIt is a lot easier to see addiction or dependency in other people. Americans are certainly one of the most marketed to population in the world and it is apparent in our appetites and habits. When we look around, we notice the people we care about and are often aware of the addiction in their lives. I like the idea of being completely free from dependency. To be independent of so many addictions that we see in ourselves, family, friends or loved ones. The notion of freedom from all addictions stems from a great lesson from Sean Seay. In one of his messages about families, he introduces the notion that the one thing we all want, at the very least, is for our family to be free from dependency. If we have children it is even more paramount. We don’t want our children or people we love addicted to food, drugs, alcohol, video games, cell phones, or spending. Continue reading Addicted To Nothing – Free From Dependency

Margin: The Key To Feeling Rich

When was the last time you felt rich? How would you feel if you made four times what you spend? Would you feel better if you had a little more breathing room? Someone making 100k but spending 120k won’t feel relaxed for long. But making 90k with typical expenses of 30k a year will give you plenty of comfort and options. The difference between what you earn and what you spend is the key to feeling rich.

brWhen I was a teenager I worked at a summer camp as a counselor. We got paid less than minimum wage but our housing, food and entertainment was provided. Not only that, being quarantined at camp (not too unlike the military) provided little opportunity to spend any of the money we actually made.So, after a few weeks of work we received our checks and promptly went to the bank to get them cashed. 18 with no expenses and $700 cash. I felt rich. Do you feel rich? Even if your income has increased over the years, have you increased or decreased your margin? There is a strange but observable tendency for Americans to increase their expenses even as they grow their income. This net effect can often lead us to feel financial pressure despite growing incomes. Continue reading Margin: The Key To Feeling Rich