Speed Of Time

Today I’m celebrating my birthday. I’m turning 41. Translated for you: It means I’m now closer to 50 than to 30 and closer to 60 than to 20. At least that’s what I’m thinking about right now. Also, 41 years means I’ve spent now more time living after the year 2000 than before. Hell, just think about it, 1990 is now further away than 2050.

Yes, birthdays get me thinking “about time” every single time.

And I like it.

Because time flies.

The speed of time is exactly 365.242189 days per year!

Is this fast? Is it slow? Well, that’s where it gets interesting, you see:

It depends!

What’s for sure is this: Time moves forward and forward only.

The past five years I kept thinking of ways how to “slow down” time in my life. We’ve experimented a lot with life and “this time around” I’m happy to write a blog post to share my findings and thoughts with you.

Hope you too can slow down time in your life!

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been.

And the youngest you’ll ever be again.

Five years ago, on my 36th birthday my dad called me. He was 72.

He said:

First: “Congrats, you’ve already reached half my age!”

Second: “You’re catching up!”

Last: “Beware, the second half goes faster…”

Like so many other lessons I could learn from my dad:

This sunk in.

Deeply.

While I appreciate every single day that is given to me, it’s terrifying how fast time actually flies.

Where did all the time go? Tomorrow isn’t promised.

The fair part of it is: It’s the same for everyone.

Nobody has figured out how to stop – or even reverse – time.

Time keeps flying no matter what you do.

Besides eliminating Time Bandits in your life, there are many more things you can do!

Create your own life progress-bar t-shirt at NAS daily, it shows how many % of your life as vs. your life-expectancy have passed already. [no affiliate link]

Time is Relative

The futurist Peter Diamandis once said, “The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.” At first sight, this quote simply explains Einstein’s relativity theory.

But there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Let’s take the relativity theory apart and apply the findings to enrich our lives!

What does “time is relative” mean? It simply means that depending on the perspective of an observer, the passage of very same amount of time is perceived differently. I fully appreciated this meaning once we started living in Singapore.

Singapore is located almost at the equator. Every day you got about the same amount of sunshine and darkness. Further, every day, year around, the weather will be mostly the same. There is no more seasonality in Singapore as for in places where you take notice of spring, summer, autumn, or winter.

Due to missing seasonality, every day looks and feels the same. Lack of weather stimulating our brains will make perceived time speed up. It will get hard to “archive” your memories according to a season. For me in the beginning it felt like living “out of time”.

While this concept can be well explained with seasonality or the lack of it, it also works with your personal life experience.

Think of it like this: The older you get, the more you’ve experienced life, the less “interesting” or “new” normal experiences or habits will be for your brain. As a result, given no new stimulations, your brain will switch into autopilot and cruise-control through your ordinary life. Your brain zooms out!

Remember when you were a kid, how did waiting for Christmas feel? Waiting those 25 days through December? It took an eternity! On one hand our brain has a relativity function, so let’s say when you’re a five year old, your total accrued life experience is merely (5 x 365) 1,825 days, hence, waiting 25 days translates to a relatively long time as compared to your accumulated total. Once you’re turning 41 like me today, the brain has 14,965 days to put 30 days in relation to.

The older you get, the more you’ve seen and experienced, the easier it will get for your brain to essentially put your life on FASTFORWARD – if you stick to your current habits!

Have you ever watched the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler?

In this movie Adam Sandler gets a magic remote control that helps him skip the unpleasant parts of life. It learns and adapts his preferences and automatically skips the parts he doesn’t like, it helps him zoom out and by the end he missed most of his life!

You and me, we are pilots of our own life.

As pilots, there are some things we can do to slow down perceived time!

Bending Space Time

Research indicates that your perception of elapsed time is primarily influenced by the type and amount of NEW experiences you encounter!

Since we can’t influence the weather, why not focus on creating new stimuli yourself: The more “new” inputs for your brain to process, the more “interesting” your life, the slower time will pass for you!

I’ve tested this myself in the past soon five years.

After having left my 9-5 job in 2017 I’ve exposed myself intentionally to learning new things, such as blogging, starting businesses, travelling, learning other things and habits such as cooking, baking or cutting hair.

I can confirm Einstein was right: Time is relative indeed!

In the past 5 years we’ve made so many great and fond new memories as family.

If you plan to slow down time for yourself: Live life intentionally.

Keep your life interesting, expose yourself to new experiences, learn new skills, meet interesting new people, and go travel.

It’s time for a change: Bend your own space time!

Lightyears Ahead

Einstein also said: Time is relative. The faster you move, the slower your time passes!

However, if you turn the above around, the slower you move towards your desired goals, the slower your time seems to pass as you’re merely waiting for something to happen.

How does that translate to your life?

Let’s say you feel stuck in your professional life. Maybe you’ve been told to wait another five years for the next promotion. How do you feel will these five years feel if all you do is sit back and let life happen until your promotion?

Don’t do that! This is passive and will not add happiness to your life. It’s will feel like waiting forever and ultimately, in retrospect, there won’t be many memories or experiences to look back to!

Instead, try to put your dreams on drive and “jump” forward.

Recently I’ve challenged my kids with this:

I’ve given them this paper and asked them to show me the shortest way from A to B.

Sure enough they pointed out the fastest way is the direct line between the two points. In happy anticipation I kept pushing their initial findings back, asking them to “think out of the box”.

Like in this example, in life, if you follow the normal path, if will take you 36,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri [the next star system from earth]. Depending on your dreams, going the ordinary, proven path, you will never be able to reach your goal in a lifetime.

Ever.

If you want to speed up things though: You got to find the switch for the warp drive – or even better – find a wormhole!

The actual shortest way from A to B is to “bend space time”. Fold the paper and place B right next to A, find the bloody wormhole!

To move fast is to have all the time in world.

If I lost you here, please, let me try to explain: How does that work for YOUR life?

Before you speed-up, slow down. Stop!

Get crystal clear on where you currently are and where you’d like to go. If you observe your surroundings, try to see things differently, try to see wormholes or shortcuts. If not, it might be time to change your surroundings.

Surround yourself with people who would mention your name in a room full of opportunities.

Take care of your network, you might know someone who achieved already what you have in mind or who could help you on the next steps. Explore your network, learn from others, find out what’s the best course increase your options!

Then: Set YOUR new course!

Put your dreams on DRIVE!!!

Once you put the pedal to the metal and go full speed you will realize how your mindset gets equipped with a new set of priorities. When you travel high speed, you will need to be highly concentrated. Take note that by being fully focused to reach your goals faster, you will forego certain things and remove options in life. There are opportunity costs to every choice in life.

When you accelerate to warp speed, you can compare it like travelling on a highway. You will reach your goal faster and move into the right direction. However, you surrender your ability to stop at any random place at will. No more sightseeing. Your options to stopping or changing directions still exist, but they’ll be restricted to intersections or exits instead.

The faster and further you travel, the more new opportunities you will come across simply because you travelled further and saw more. Living life on a high-speed lifestyle you will embrace the importance of the bigger picture more than certain small details which you pass by fast.

By getting started terraforming your life you’ll have the ability to manipulate and enhance the quality of your time and life, also, you will attract a whole different set of new opportunities as well!

Beware, don’t forget to slow down or stop to reflect every once in a while!

One wormhole or shortcut may have worked in the past and helped you move forward. But it may not be what helps you move further towards your dreams.

What got you here, won’t get you there.

The one trick that will help you truly understand this concept for real list is:

Instead of looking at time elapsed, we should look and focus at distance travelled!

Conclusion

Become a time bender. Live timeless. Find ways to store time.

Live life intentionally, find shortcuts, live fast, slow down time. You have no time to waste. Do what you like to do now. Make the life you live right now count!

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

Time will tell.

A life well lived is long enough, but the second half goes faster. Winter is Coming.

The “faster you live”, the slower time passes. So put the pedal to the metal!

You only feel old when you stop discovering.

Explore, dream, discover!

It’s all about time.

Time to go!

Matt

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Why You Should Ask For A Slap in the Face: The Trilemma of Truthful Feedback

How often did you hear these comments: You deserved it! Very, very well done! Awesome! Wonderful! They are part of our culture. You got to be nice with each other. But is it truthful? Does it help you? Do you believe it when said to you?

Here’s the problem: We’ve become so bloody careful about how to not trigger someone else’s feelings that truly truthful feedback has almost become a thing of impossibility or at least extremely hard to get.

Most likely you would agree with me here that sometimes a good slap in the face might be worth 10x all the bullshit people tell each other just for “staying nice”.

Truthful feedback is the breakfast of champions.

The truthful-feedback-trilemma consists of three points:

  1. Staying nice: Not hurting each other’s feelings
  2. Speaking the truth: Providing truthful feedback
  3. Collaborate, learn and level-up together successfully

Truth may hurt. But I believe in the long run knowing where you’re at is much better than receiving numerous pats on the back. However, in our society you got to ask for people to be truthful. Normal people usually shy away from potentially offending someone by speaking outright what they think.

On the other side receiving lame feedback, hearing lots of nice stuff and being applauded for average performance doesn’t help you to improve at all. It’s more like holding you back in your self-chosen comfort zone. What a lost opportunity. The most valuable feedback is truthful feedback!

When my first business partner and I ventured out to kick-off our start-up a few years back, the very first thing we clarified was that no matter what: We’ll always be providing each other truthful feedback. Even and especially if it’s hard. No matter the circumstances. It was paramount for success.

A good slap in the face sometimes helps saving time and money as well.

If you want to learn and grow, you must not hide in your comfort zone.

The first step to take is to let people around you know that you’re available to get slapped in your face every once in a while. If you follow the below guide it will not hurt you! I promise. The actual value of truthful feedback is heavily underestimated in our world.

Learn to say to your closest contacts: “I’d love a slap in the face!” – in the above context. I promise, It’ll work magic. If you could choose, you’d always choose to know the painful truth over beautiful lies. Also, an upfront slap in your face is nicer than ongoing backstabbing or talking behind people.

Feedback is education to excellence.

Seek it with sincerity and receive it with grace.

Agreed, delivering the truth still needs to happen in a civilized way. There are three parts that need to collaborate to make this work:

  1. The feedback giver
  2. The feedback receiver
  3. Create a safe environment

The Feedback Giver

A feedback giver has the power to provide a new perspective to someone who’s looking to improve. If you’re asked to provide feedback, you can help another person thrive if you can be real and provide constructive feedback.

The trouble with “real feedback” is, it’s been done poorly by most of us. That’s why a “feedback giver”, should spend some time considering a few points.

Feedback, when given well, should not alienate, but should motivate to perform better.

First and Foremost: Know Your “Why”!

Before you start sharing your opinions, think about what is “meaningful” feedback for the receiver and what “goal” could be achieved by providing it.

Whatever feedback you provide: Know your “why” – the purpose!

The key to giving effective feedback lies in your intentions. Not the methods.

Your intentions must be about helping others, not about yourself.

Second: Be Clear What Role You Take.

You can give feedback as a 1. coach, to 2. appreciate something or to 3. evaluate it.

Understand what the receiver expects of you. A restaurant critic that writes an entertaining article about how bad a restaurant is provides an evaluation. A loved one tells his family how much they mean to him as appreciator. And a leader coaches his subordinates to improve and get better.

Know your role!

Third: Know How to Deliver Your Feedback.

It matters whether you tell someone something in private, in front of a group, in writing, over the phone or by a simple text message. The various forms of communication allow for multiple mistakes to be made again. My rule here: Ask the feedback receiver directly how to feedback!

The more complex a topic, the closer you should be with someone and the better you ought to understand the actual purpose of the feedback. For more critical topics, privacy is better than sharing things publicly. A personal conversation can be accompanied with more emotions and mimic. A phone call may include emotions as well, but no face expressions can be captured. Written form is great for receivers that love to read and keep the content for later.

There’s nothing wrong with asking first!

Ask!

Some people need or even love the less direct way. For such receivers you can start your message with good things and appreciations, then “sandwich” the less positive part in the middle and end off by showing how to improve going forward.

I call this the “sugarcoat-sandwich”.

It works.

Others are turned-off by that very same way to communicate and prefer getting straight to the point though! Know your audience.

Once the above three points are settled, you as feedback giver simply have to focus on providing feedback that is clear, maybe includes some actionable steps for the receiver and know how to deliver the message.

The Feedback Receiver

If you’re the feedback receiver, you’re the one basically asking for a well served “slap in the face” – potentially. If that’s what you want, it’s very simple: Do let the feedback giver know you’re available for it. Make yourself available for truthful feedback. If you manage to unlock an unfiltered true feedback loop you will unlock new areas to grow.

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.

You can do certain things to increase your chances to make it happen.

First and foremost, you stand a better chance to get useful feedback from people whose mission is aligned with you. Your supervisor, some colleagues or your good clients might be very happy to let you know how and what to improve. Don’t shy back: Ask for it!

There’s two ways you can ask:

If you’re interested in other peoples’ opinions or thoughts: Ask for feedback. If asked for feedback, usual feedback givers take half a step away from you and try to think how they feel about what you do, say, write or sell. Asking for feedback will get you more diversity in new information.

If you’re interested in what you yourself can improve: Ask for advice instead. If asked for advice, usual feedback givers take half a step towards you and try to think about you and add more ideas towards what they think you could or should do differently or less/ more of. Asking for advice will get you more actionable information.

Learners need endless feedback more than they need endless teaching.

To receive useful high-quality feedback, it’s of utmost importance that you learn to become a good listener. Most people are natural “listeners to reply”. Learn how to listen someone out. Good listeners also beware of suppressing their initial natural reactions.

An expected slap in your face doesn’t hurt as much!

Control what you can control.

Keep your mask on.

They also refrain from explaining or even defending their own point of view or actions. Don’t do that. Let the feedback giver talk. The more they talk, the more information you can get. While listening, moderate your emotional spectrum and reactions. Listen to the end. Then reflect and think.

The world is giving you answers each day.

Learn to listen.

If you’re really up for “getting slapped” but you’re afraid nobody will give you the shit you’re asking for, it might be because you’re the boss yourself or your surrounding doesn’t appeal save for anyone to speak the truth.

In that case there’s a third part you got to facilitate.

Create a Safe Environment

The first two parts of the framework are key on a human to human level. They work well for 1-on-1 situations. However, if you’re in a corporate or more political situation, you’re basically asking a larger group to be upfront with you. In such environments the most essential thing to do is to create the culture and sufficiently safe environment for everyone to provide truthful feedback.

It’s scientifically proven that some companies have ended up very successful because addressing “painful truths” is encouraged – they equal better performance!

You can start this by not blaming anyone expressing out-of-the-box ideas or thoughts. In any group-session try to emphasize the value of remaining open minded and sharing true feelings and thoughts.

Second, don’t just talk about work alone. Make the members of your group get acquainted with each other. Building a team of people that understand and enjoy working with each other will unlock more potential.

Third, when talking about issues, products or processes, never frame it as “work”. Instead, talk about solving problems or learning and improving together. This will level-up engagement.

Fourth, as leader, acknowledge that you are not perfect yourself. Learn to show weakness. Showcase how you keep learning on a daily basis as well. This will create a safer, non-hostile environment where “try-and-fail” is accepted or even encouraged. If you play the strong tough guy on top, nobody will dare to tell you stuff the way it is.

Fifth, if you start to get more diverse feedbacks, you’ve reached your initial goal. Now, your challenge will be to “walk the talk”. You got to make people feel safe when they speak up and share their ideas. If at this point you blame or shame certain people or their ideas, all your previous efforts are lost.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.

Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Sir Winston Churchill

Conclusion

Make understood that you won’t be offended by truthful feedback. On the contrary, ask especially for the “less positive things” people might have to say:

Ask for a slap in the face!

It may not be what you want to hear, but most likely it’s something you may need to hear. In the short term, hearing the “naked truth” may hurt, but in the long run it’s probably what will make you improve more, it’s what will differentiate you from others and these things are so much better than the occasional put on the shoulder and “well done” kind of comments people usually exchange.

Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success.

Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.

If you’d like to read more about this or similar topics, I can highly recommend you a quirky, fun, little book: Whatever you think, think the opposite.  It’s a great source for an occasional laugh and for situations where you need a clever quote. It also does give good advice.

Now imagine how refreshing and empowering applying this method can be: Go ask for YOUR slap in YOUR face!

Happy slapping!

Matt

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Disclaimer: Please be made aware that the some of the links used above may be affiliate links for which Financial Imagineer could receive a compensation.

Eliminating Decision Fatigue: Why Less is Often More

Did you know happiness does not peaks with a maximum of options provided but with an optimum amount of choices instead? Yes, more and more is not better per se. From a certain point onwards an increase in more choices offered decreases your happiness!

Less is more.

Did you ever enter a supermarket and got flabbergasted by the sheer amount of different oils, yoghurts, breads or cereals offered? You got the cheap ones, the ones made from better or different ingredients, then you got the extra quality stuff, the super cheap ones and even more.

Which one will it be?

The modern supermarket: Nightmare or blessing? You choose!

If you go to Starbucks you got to figure out your game-plan to order a simple beverage like: “Double-shot, half-decaf, three pumps of sugar free vanilla flavored syrup, half-soy, half-nonfat, skimmy-no-foam-latte… venti-sized but with sprinkles please – to go!”

Now imagine you go order coffee for your whole family or team and need to repeat the above 10x. Ordering a simple beverage or choosing an ordinary item in a supermarket can become a real headache already!

Did you know at Starbucks you can order 87,000 different combinations of drinks these days? No kidding!

The same applies for investing by the way!

On the New York Stock exchange, you can invest in more than 3,000 stocks, and that’s just at one (!) stock exchange to start with. Most people choose to go with an ETF instead.

Same goes for whom to trust or whom to follow on Twitter.

If you want to be better equipped to make “data driven”-like decisions, consider checking out Data Driven Investor or the DDI Medium distribution where you can also find Financial Imagineer publications.

We’re living in a “multi-options society”.

We’re overwhelmed by options!

How to Make Better Decisions?

Learning how to make better decisions is a most important skill nowadays!

Deep down our culture seems to be all about having more choices.

Don’t we believe having the “ability to choose” empowers us to be the “driver of your destiny”? You are what you consume!

Simple logic would say: The more choices offered, the better your informed choices should be able to satisfy your true needs and therefore improve your level of happiness!?

Well, apparently this is not how it works.

There are two different ways how humans react to this:

  1. You’re a satisficer = you are okay with “good enough”
  2. You’re a maximizer = you want to research everything in order to make the perfect choice

Guess who’s more happy long term?

Humans are fairly hopeless in predicting what makes them truly happy, hence in the long term the satisficers have a much higher chance to strike true happiness than the maximizers. Maximizers will be struck with endless comparisons and ultimately: Decision fatigue. If maximizers finally can settle for a decision, the satisficers have made many more decisions and have moved on in life already – happier!

Think of this ancient story that still holds true:

There was a donkey standing in the middle of two large piles of hay. They are both equally big but also equally far away from the donkey. Standing right there, the donkey had trouble to figure out where he should be going first. He was indecisive. As he kept contemplating, he starved to death.

The end.

Humans also “suck” at predicting what makes them genuinely happy – in the long run. They are able to go for a new, fancy car and enjoy the first few days with it. They’re expecting buying the car was a life changing decision towards more happiness. Then, they’ll get hit with a higher monthly car payment going forward that reminds them of their stupid choice for the years to come… like a sugar rush for a toddler! It’s the same concept.

Ultimately having no choice is bad. It’s the worst of all worlds. Having choices available to you is good but being offered too many options can be causing more harm than help improving happiness.

Some successful people have come up with great ways to counter these issues.

Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs for instance worked on solutions to reduce their decisions to be made in a day and successfully boosted their mental capacity to focus on more important decisions for themselves and their companies.

How did they do it?

Just look at how they usually dress, they defined their most preferred outfit and got multiple sets of it! Zuckerberg got his t-shirt and Jobs usually had his sneakers and jeans: Problem solved. The same trick works with school or work uniforms. It reduces decisions to be made and mostly improves happiness.

The 10-10-10 Rule

If you got more difficult decisions to make, there’s actually a simple hack of how you can “feel” which way forward is the best.

Whenever you have a difficult decision to make, stay true to yourself, reflect your thoughts and ask yourself these three questions first:

1. How will I feel about this decision in 10 minutes?

2. How will I feel about this decision in 10 months?

3. How will I feel about this decision in 10 years?

This is no magic, no fancy decision making tool, but it forces you to quickly think through the short, medium- and long-term implications of what you’re about to decide.

This method is also known as the 10-10-10 rule. People like Warren Buffett use it. He likes to think of a can of coke he’s about to buy as the forgone $1mio dollars it could turn into a few decades later. No joke!

For more long-term happiness try to focus on the things that last.

For difficult decisions that impact more than just yourself, but eventually your family or more people I love to do 5-year planning exercises. Just that instead of dreaming and mapping out your future as dream team simply do the 10-10-10 exercise together with your stakeholders!

Eight Methods to Eliminate Decision Fatigue

To conclude this blog post I’ve prepared eight methods, or strategies, for you to cope and potentially even eliminate decision fatigue so you can live a happier life going forward.

1. Decide

Mostly making a decision is better than not deciding at all, just think of the donkey!

This one is simple but not easy:

Learn how to decide!

2. Prioritize

Focus on what matters the most, see the big picture and how your decision will add value to all stakeholders involved.

Know what matters!

Ingore the rest.

3. Good enough is good enough

Don’t get lost in useless details, soon you will forget about them, become the satisficer instead of the maximizer.

Don’t get stuck with irrelevant details.

Move on!

4. Apply the 10-10-10 exercise

See the short, medium- and long-term impact, this in itself can help solve many decision making problems already.

Think in different time frames!

5. Simplify

Less is more, if the world doesn’t reduce your choices for you, find ways to do it yourself.

Simplify your life!

Eliminate the unnecessary.

6. Automate

Facing similar decisions repeatedly? Define a clear set of rules and have those make the decision on your behalf instead.

Automate your investment contributions or set-up certain rules for better decision making.

Automate or delegate where possible!

7. Stick to your decisions

Take the time and effort necessary to make high quality decisions.

But once you’ve decided, settle with it.

Learn to accept and be happy with your choice.

No regrets!

8. Practice gratitude

Stop thinking the grass is always greener on the other side, focus on the positives of your choices and stick to your path!

Stop comparing yourself with the Joneses and be more happy!

The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.

If you’d like to read more about this topic I highly recommend you the following books: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz or Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

If you found today’s post helpful, kindly consider sharing it with your friends and don’t forget to subscribe my blog by email, like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.

Cheers and hopefully you’ve learned something that will help you making more happy decisions!

Matt

Disclaimer: Please be made aware that the some of the links used above may be affiliate links for which Financial Imagineer could receive a compensation.

How To Marshmallow Test Yourself

The “Marshmallow-Test” was first conducted back in the late 1960’s by a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel. Over the years and due to its results, it became one of the most famous studies for the subject of delayed gratification.

What is it about? It’s about measuring how young kids can use their willpower to delay their gratification and what impact this has on their potential in many areas of life.

The test was simple: A kid was brought into a room and given a plate with one marshmallow on it. Then it got asked to make a simple choice: Eat this marshmallow in front of you now, or wait 15-25 minutes in order to receive a second marshmallow on top!

Simplified: Each child was given a choice between having one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later. Most kids choose to have two marshmallows later. However, then they were left alone somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes (depending on age) with the irresistible sweet marshmallow right in front of them…

The test was then measuring the number of seconds that a child is able to wait. A few decades later, the researches went back to examine the life of those kids. They could prove the longer a kid was able to wait before devouring the marshmallow at age five was significantly predictive for a few very important life outcomes in their adulthood later on.

They found that kids who could wait [longer/ for the second marshmallow] where more likely to pass more difficult exams, had better social skills, where more confident, successful, healthy, and yes: Happy!

Of course, this test may have some limitations, however, the key essence holds true. More on those critical thoughts that challenge the test at the end of this post.

How to pass the Marshmallow Test?

First and foremost, it’s so simple: DO NOT EAT THE MARSHMALLOW!

That sounds simple but is not as easy as you think for a little kid.

The researchers highlighted two significant findings about how kids successfully passed the test:

First, not physically seeing their reward made it easier for the children to wait longer. This means, don’t look at the damn marshmallow all the time. Find a way to trick your mind into changing your thoughts.

Second, using distraction strategies also had a positive impact on how long the children managed to wait. Some of the kids started so sing songs, covered their eyes with their hands and arms, started to tip-toe on the floor, prayed to the ceiling and so forth. One little girl even tricked herself into falling asleep – a highly successful way to earn big rewards as André Kostolany confirms:

“Buy shares, take some sleeping pills and stop reading the papers. Many years later, you’ll see that you’re rich.”

André Kostolany

The key to success seems to be the ability to focus on the long-term goals despite short term attention magnets.

It’s some kind of trade-off.

Most people are programmed to chose instant gratification over all else.

If you find a way to trick yourself to “suffer” short-term you can unlock the door to the promised land of more enjoyment later:

  • If you exercise now: You will get healthier.
  • If you study hard: You can go to your dream school.
  • If you work smart: You will have a great career or even start your own business.
  • If you don’t eat out: You will save more.
  • If you don’t buy that toy now: You will invest more and become wealthy.
  • If you don’t waste your time and focus: Your dreams will become true!

While we are all different from each other. The remedy is the same.

The key is to find areas where YOU are capable to delay gratification.

Self-control is the key to success.

If you manage to resist short term temptations, you will go far!

How to Teach the Findings of the Marshmallow Test

While it’s easy to teach information and facts as above, the hard part is to teach methods that you can apply to actually improve your behavior and results.

According to Stanford psychology experts, the most important skill parents need to teach their kids for the 21st century is to “become indistractable”. This is a tough one in our modern society where the new currency on the street is “attention”. Even the more, it’s super important to take some time to learn to focus either yourself or teach your kids this skill in one way or another.

A counterintuitive way to teach focus was a study by Michael Posner and his colleagues at the University of Oregon who worked with 4-6 year old kids with the aim to teach them better focus skills using video games. In one of the exercises the kids had to use a joystick to control an umbrella above a cat with the aim to keep the cat dry as it runs around. Kids could manage to stay focused and kept the cat dry. Such sessions led to substantial increases of skillset in kids, including a higher nonverbal IQ level.

Another way is teaching through stories.

Sesame Street for instance has created situations in which Cookie Monster must learn to control himself. Instead of gobbling up his cookies right away – like eating the first marshmallow right away – he’s got to behave and wait. His goal was to join the “cookie connoisseur gourmet club” and – yes- for that one you got to be able to wait for your cookies. In the episode, Cookie Monster learned strategies such as “framing” where he’d pretend the marshmallows are just a picture – and because if it’s just a picture, you can’t eat it. Cookie Monster also had the idea of tricking himself into believing that the cookies are smelly fish, then he will not want them at all.

The key concept for yourself as well as for kids is to get exposed to strategies that showcase what self-control is, while having fun. The best strategies are including both: A great teachable and the self-motivation within. Kids – and adults – must want to change themselves.

Ultimately such exercises will help build character, grit, persistence, tolerance of frustration (!), gratitude, optimism, excitement and how to build energy going into a new project.

Even more important than simply teaching something to your kids is once again: You got to model it. If you promise something, you got to keep your promise. It will get tough to expect your kids to delay gratification if you are breaking your own promises to them.

Finally: Kids must understand that their behavior has consequences.

If they behave in constructive and creative ways, the consequences are good. If they behave in negative ways, the consequences are “less good”. As a parent, it’s your job to create that environment to let them become aware there’s a relationship between what they’re doing and what happens to them in the end. This way, they can internalize those lessons and have a better chance to later live the life of their dreams.

Here another post I’ve written about how to teach kids towards becoming truly (financially) independent.

How to Marshmallow Test Yourself?

As mentioned above, there are many ways to delay gratification. The essence is not to delay everything 25 years out and have absolutely zero enjoyment right now.

That’s no way to live!

However, there are many small things that you can do, to marshmallow test yourself right now, here are the five most important ones in my personal view:

1] You saw something that you’d like to buy:

Try to not look at it, hide it, wait – hold on for a few days and let your emotions cool down.

In more than 80% of cases you may as well forget about it again. If not, maybe yes, buy it.

  • remove temptation, install “spending speedbumps”

2] You check your account and see your stocks are up or down a lot – you’d like to take action:

Take some time to think again why you bought these holdings in the first place? Try to think if any of your long-term assumptions has dramatically changed? Are your emotions rather than your rational mind guiding you? Control your emotions and check the fear and greed index. Maybe sleep over it. Most often your conclusion will be unchanged from before. If not, maybe take action!

  • learn how to manage emotions and stress, align your short-term actions with your long-term goals

3] It’s late at night, you’d like to Netflix and chill – but you also have that great idea right now…

Don’t stress it too much, but do this: Take 5 minutes first, sit down, bring your idea to paper. Once you write it out, you can tell if you’d rather like to work on your idea now or still watch Netflix. Maybe you’re super tired and rather go to sleep than watch TV so you can work on your idea early in the morning?

  • prioritize your time, be intentional, beware of time bandits

4] It’s the last Friday of the month and you’ve just received your monthly salary.

It’s wonderful to see your cash account nicely filled. The weekend is coming. You’d like to go out for dinner, get a haircut, buy some new clothes and splurge a little, maybe stack-up on some exclusive artisan bread for Sunday brunch – after all: You’ve earned it! Right?

How about marshmallow testing yourself first? How? Yes, you’ve earned it: Pay yourself first! Automate a monthly deduction from your salary account to your savings and investing account. Invest into your system of abundant income streams before you spend. Then go have fun!

  • set goals, measure your progress, pay yourself first, automate where needed and control your urges

5] Last but not least, we are all human and yes, you are going to fail. It’s natural.

However, beating yourself up and being harsh to yourself doesn’t help. It’s wasted energy. Eighty percent of achieving your goal is based on your attitude. Attitude defines altitude. If you’re planning to work on ambitious goals, you’ll need time to build sufficient self-control, discipline and focus.

  • learn to forgive yourself and move on – learn from mistakes, stay passionate

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Winston Churchill

Some people have valid reservations why the marshmallow test turned out as it did. As promised at the beginning of this post, here the disclaimer: It was argued kids of successful parents are usually doing better at the marshmallow test not because they control their willpower better, but rather because those kids were around “trustworthy adults”. Thus, the kids trusted that the second marshmallow would be there in the future.

Nevertheless, I strongly believe that mastering self-control and working on long-term goals with persistence, grit and endurance is more rewarding than not. My dad had me marshmallow tested as well during my own childhood. It’s something you can learn and pass on to the next generation.

A Finish proverb goes like this:

“Life is uncertain, eat your dessert first!”

However, the average human lifespan has increased steadily. We have now more “future” than ever before to spare. Therefore, despite life’s uncertainties, try to focus on your future enjoyment and picture your imagineered life – then you can stand this experiment, this method, better.

Do sustainably, in a fun way please.

Eat more marshmallows!

Tomorrow – not today!

Train yourself!

Make it fun.

Matt

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Fear And Greed

Are you frightened when markets go crazy once again? Afraid of not making the rationally and scientifically proven right choices about investments and life? Suffering from keeping-up with the Joneses and chronic herding-fatigue?

Then you are more than ready to dive deeper into this post where we take apart the two most powerful human emotions that make our world go round:

Fear and Greed.

These emotions have the strongest impact on human behavior individually as well as on a collective level.

They impact your life and [financial] markets in a powerful way.

Read on if you like to understand and manage fear and greed to build a better, happier, and wealthier life.

Step 1: Understand what drives behavior

All free markets are driven by supply and demand. Hence, all transactions need at least three things:

A buyer, a seller and last: The first two need to agree on a price!

Imagine an increasing number of people chasing the same limited assets or resources. The more people like to buy and the less want to sell – the higher the price will climb for supply and demand to meet.

Usually if prices do climb higher, it attracts “more eyeballs” in society and even more people join the party. That’s how greed works and this is what makes financial bubbles grow.

On the other side, think of fear as when suddenly nobody wants to buy anymore but an increasing amount of people is eager to sell.

The price will drop until someone is eager to buy again. Price level will be defined by where sellers and buyers agree to transact.

Markets reflect nothing else than the aggregated sum of individual behaviors.

And yes: It does get messy!

Step 2: Understand how markets work

In most fearful markets, people irrationally sell stock while in greedy markets people are looking to buy.

The wise ones may try to go against the heard and do the opposite, and as the saying goes, “buy low and sell high.” not otherwise.

My father has a great saying:

Some people are wise.

Some are… otherwise.

My dad

Before we draw to conclusions about how to make understanding fear and greed work for you, let’s go get a deeper understanding of them.

What is Fear

Fear is a deeply intriguing component of life.

In our culture, people believe failure is what to be most afraid about. Let me say, they got it all wrong. It’s the fear itself that is the most detrimental to success no matter what you’d like to achieve in your life.

Fear…

It helped us with surviving.

Protected us from sabre tooth tigers.

But it holds us back.

It creates comfort zones.

It keeps us from pushing onwards.

However, in our modern society, fear is mostly the source of all that is wrong in the world:

Fear of failure: “I’m not good enough!”

Fear of embarrassment: “No one will care!”

Fear of starting: “What if I fail?”

Any of these sounding familiar?

Fear is the most sinister made up thing of all time and the guaranteed fastest way to live below your meaning and potential.

Action is the savior of dreams.

When was the last time you did something about it?

Use fear as a tool for growth and challenge yourself.

Learning how to push through fearful moments is most beneficial and shaping your character.

Afraid to try or go “do”?

Face your fears!

Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen?

You either win or you learn!

Keep learning until you win.

Find a way to the other side of fear because that’s where dreams become reality.

The other side of fear is where your world starts to change, if you just allow it to.

Fear can be so valuable, but at the same time so debilitating. It’s up to you to decide whether to use fear as a tool for growth or as a reason to settle in life. Whether we bravely overcome obstacles or hide away scared is up to you!

Fear can be the biggest killer of dreams.

The sole difference is the decision of either overcoming fear and grow – or to allow fear to limit the life you dream of!

Instead of having fear killing your dreams, kill your fears!

Most of the good things in life are on the other side of fear indeed.

If you’re happy to sit at your desk and not take any risk, you’ll be sitting at your desk for the next 20 years.     

David Rubenstein

Step 3: Kill your fears!

No fear!

What is Greed

Greed is a mostly uncontrolled longing to increase the acquisition or use: of material gain (food, money, land, any possessions) or social value (status, or power). During human history, greed has been identified as “undesirable” because it creates behavioral conflicts between personal and social goals.

Greed is a powerful thing.

In my view, it comes right after fear.

In terms of motivational power, it captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed can show itself in different forms. It was and still is the driving force pushing mankind forwards and upwards – through history.

That’s why in the 1987 movie “Wall Street”, Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko preached his words: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

The problem: Greed comes with downsides. Every once in a while, greed causes asset bubbles where greedy investors keep buying and ignore all the flashing blinking warning signs of impending potential for a collapse.

The 2008 crisis was mainly caused by “sophisticated derivatives” constructs where the end product got abstracted by two to three dimensions from the underlying business case and due to broad diversification and lower transparence everything was made to look just fine.

Don’t get me wrong, being ambitious is good. Wanting to get somewhere in life is great. Wanting to learn, achieve or grow is nothing but natural. As a trained economist myself I studied how a healthy form of greed is behind microeconomic decision finding.

If free market forces are left to themselves [meaning no government interference], the “good qualities of greed” appear. Goods and services will be exchanged at the most optimal allocation for all parties involved. The equilibrium point has its corresponding equilibrium quantity and an equilibrium price which leads to the most efficient allocation of scarce resources.

Would Wall Street, the economy or our capitalistic system function without greed? I don’t think so. Economic activity depend on the profit motive. Greed as such has never been left completely on its own on a macro level. Governments across the globe kept influencing markets. However, on a personal level we know what greed can do.

For a single human being the big problem is always the question: How much is enough?

Greed is a good motivator to chase ambitious goals, but the trap is often such that goals are getting adjusted higher and higher. Too much is never enough anymore. People tend to lose control over themselves. Greed often takes over when it comes to money and power.

Step 4: Learn to control your greed.

Overconfidence, lifestyle inflation, taking too many risks and trying to play bigger and bigger will often cost a lot. It can cost love, friendships, trust, or simply some money.

Beware: Greed is frequently used to sell stuff. If it’s not for fear, marketing often appeals directly to [your] greed. People will listen and buy.

How to conquer greed?

The Stoic mindset is the antidote.

Control your greed!

Know what you have.

Appreciate it.

Avoid lifestyle inflation, don’t let hunger for increased pointless over-consumption run your mind. Forget keeping up with the Joneses. Avoid herd mentality.

That’s where it gets problematic.

Lead your life and remember: True leaders remain committed to what really matters!

You are the leader of your life.

You run your mind.

Shitting Your Pants in Real Time

In this third part of this post, we will combine the concepts of fear and greed.

The initial motivation for (or purpose of) fear and greed and actions associated with it are  the promotion of personal or family survival and safeguarding future opportunities. In our modern world, controlling fear and greed are still important as ever:

The hardest thing an investor ever must learn is to manage his emotions.

Fear, greed, overconfidence, impatience, desperation, panic… I’m certain if you read financial news every once in a while, you may have come across these concepts.

The key here is to avoid the mistake of letting fear OR greed paralyze and impact your investment decisions.

Watching CNBC on a perpetual loop will not make you a better investor. Following such news will simply give you either mental breakdowns or orgasms – depending on the “mood of the day”. Like a drug addict you’ll constantly be like “pheeewwww”, “oh gosh”, “aaah”, “yesss” or “noooo” and keep watching the garbage broadcast: Triggering you to take action when everyone else does!

You’d be shitting your pants in real time or suffer from orgasm exhaustion sooner or later.

You’d be riding the waves of fear and greed.

The wrong way.

Without control.

Yes, if you invest in stocks you will be exposed to volatility. Sometimes this volatility can become nerve wrecking. Once markets go deeply into the red, you will face the situation where you’d love to throw the towel and sell everything. On the other side when certain stocks grow through the roof up into the sky your greed will trigger the so called “fear of missing out” and you’ll join the ride at a rather stupid moment.

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

Warren Buffett

Now you’ll say: Okay, I get it Matt. Don’t do what the others are doing. But hey, how would you suggest dealing with stock market fluctuation then?

First, understand that volatility is part of the game. You and me, we can’t control it. Stocks will fluctuate today, tomorrow, next week. It doesn’t matter if you look – or not. Neither does it matter if you like it or not.

Sometimes people claim they prefer real-estate investing over stocks because of lower volatility. I’m also a great fan of real-estate investing by the way. But now, imagine you’d have a crazy neighbor. Imagine this neighbor would scream the actual real-time price of your home over the fence. Every. Fucking. Minute.

How would you feel about that?

I’d say you’ll probably get yourself earplugs.

You don’t check the real time value of your home.

So why would you do it with stocks then?

Ignore the Noise, off the media.

No worries, with time you will grow into this!

Step 5: If you can’t control it. Learn not to let it control you!

The stock market is a device to transfer money from the impatient to the patient.”

Warren Buffett

If you’re a well-diversified long-term investor, the only media I’d allow you to watch on a “red day” on Wall Street is this one here:

A Guided Meditation for When the Stock Market Is Dropping

By JL Collins

The Fear and Greed Index

In the last part of this post, we learn how understanding fear and greed can be useful whilst navigating the seven capitalistic seas.

Many traders use technical, fundamental, or other quantitative analysis. However, market swings are largely driven by human emotions. Hence, the sentimental one analysis is often overlooked.

The “Fear and Greed Index” can help you read the market sentiment. Please beware, you can never base your trading decisions just on this indicator alone. It should be used as a supplement to complement your initial strategy.

Understanding this indicator is relatively simple:

  • extreme fear indicates possible buying opportunities
  • extreme greed indicates a market correction could be expected

The key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them.

Peter Lynch

One simple way to apply this would be to rebalance your asset allocation based on certain readings of the index. If the index shows fear, you could reduce your bond or precious metal allocation and increase equity allocation. Or vice versa if the index shows greed.

This is the simple and easier way to make use of it.

Disclaimer: Beware – this is not direct investment advice but rather an introduction of concepts to help you expand your financial literacy. Execute and trade at own risk.

Having been a Wealth Manager and helping sophisticated investors with their money for most of my professional life, let me introduce to some more options here.

Greed Stage:

If markets are high and the Fear & Greed index is above 80 points, a correction of roughly 8% can be expected (data since 2011 till 2020). A high index reading usually also indicates low volatility and a good chance to reduce holdings.

Actions to consider:

  1. Sell covered call options on your holdings/ the index
  2. Use proceeds of 1. to buy put options on the same holdings to install a hedge

In short: Reduce exposure and hedge potential downsides.

Fear Stage:

If markets are fearful, volatility is generally high, and stocks are relatively cheaper. One thing is rather for sure, markets will not remain in fearful territory for very extended periods of time.

Actions to consider:

  1. Buy an inverse VIX ETN such as the SVXY – let go again once situation normalized
  2. If you plan to increase your equity allocation: Sell puts on your desired additions at desired strike price levels, collect premium and wait.

In short: Sell fear, sell volatility, potentially increase exposure.

If you’re as passionate about investing like me, learn to listen to the heartbeat of the market. Add the VIX and Fear and Greed index to your watch-list!

Step 6: Learn to listen to the heartbeat of the market.

Beware, the Fear & Greed Index is not an official index or tool, it’s a construct by CNN. Understand how it’s calculated and take note that CNN may change the way it’s calculated going forward without notification.

The wealthy know the short-term stock market is driven by emotions such as fear and greed.

The average think it’s solely driven by logic and strategy.

They fear when they should be buying.

… hope when they should be cautious

… get greedy when they should be selling

The wealthy have a powerful advantage over the average though:

They have maneuvered themselves in a position where they can allow themselves to take risks.

If your capability to take risks is not there yet, work on it!

Taking calculated risks and expanding your capacity to take on more risks, to build your assets and cash-flows is one of the best kept “millionaire’s secrets” there is!

Step 7: Put yourself in a position where you can allow yourself take risks.

Financial independence allows people to take more small, calculated risks – over and over again.

But remember: Pigs get slaughtered.

“Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered”

old Wall Street saying that warns investors against excessive greed

The more risks you can take, the less you will shit your pants the going gets tough and the more exposed to the upside you will be when the tide will turn once again!

Happy conquering your fears!

Matt

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Money Lessons From My Father

Any man can become a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad! I was blessed with a wonderful childhood and could learn many financial lessons from my dad.

Since almost 10 years I’m now doing my best to be a dad myself. Being a dad is one of the most important jobs any man can have.

Becoming and being a dad got me thinking a lot about life and money lessons passed down to me so I can “pay it forward” to the next generation. Following one of my older posts about how to raise financially independent children and after quite some jacuzzi beerstorming, I’ve distilled the key lessons from my dad into 25 short but important lessons that lead to this blog post.

What Is The Job Of A Father?

First and foremost, kids should be prepared to stand on their own feet.

Beyond that, I believe good dads should try to give their kids both – roots and wings:

Roots to give them bearing and a sense of belonging.

Wings to help free them from constraints of any kind.

Thirdly, I appreciate that my father truly never told me how to live my life.

He simply lived his life and let me watch him do it.

Some parents worry that their children may not listen to them; I think they should rather worry that they’re always being watched instead!

As a great parent: You got to lead.

Live your life in an inspiring way.

This will set the bar for the next generation.

You’re the benchmark!

My Early Years

What is Money?

Since I can remember, money was always something mythical, powerful and highly interesting to me. As a young kid you watch your surroundings and learn from observing. It was interesting how this thing “money” could help my mum to buy so many groceries. It was interesting to see how we could get food at restaurants or fuel up the car with it.

Most transactions used this magical tool: Money.

To my 4 year old brain the message was crystal clear: I had to figure out how to get some of this magical stuff myself! One day, my dad and I went to the city. It was the early 1980’s and one of the first ATMs got installed. My father brought me there to withdraw cash while holding me on his arms.

All of a sudden, money started coming out of a wall! The bills kept coming one after another back in the days. Finally I figured out where money comes from, from the banks of course! I asked my dad if I could take the next bill. He agreed.

I truly believed it was THAT easy back then. My dad quickly informed me that this is actually just his own money that he deposited at the bank earlier on.

Lesson 1:

Money doesn’t grow on trees: You got to work for it!

Lot’s to learn I still had.

First time in my life with a stock guide.

After having understood this lesson, we – together with my sister and some neighbourhood children – started selling fruits and garden vegetables and more in our neighbourhood.

The level-up was to bring our old toys to flea markets and we started participating church sales as well.

Lesson 2:

Learn how to sell.

Make Money Visible

Have you ever heard a kid say: “I wish I could have a phone, so I could buy stuff.”

I’ve heard this in one form or another, and it triggered me deeply.

Spend money to buy something to spend more money?

Just think of it: Money today is mostly digital.

It’s a virtual thing.

Like coin points in Super Mario Brothers.

How can children learn lessons in this abstract world?

Many young people see money as limitless.

Money doesn’t seem to be really real for them anymore.

This is exactly why I let my kids see and feel money – and its consequences.

If kids are given financially relevant experiences in their life and someone is there to help them learn the lessons from those experiences, they have a higher likelihood of achieving financial success later in their life. They need to have them early and they need to have them often.

Mentor them.

It’s paramount to educate the next generation to make financial decisions. It will give them a head start in a world where money is largely a virtual illusion but has very, very real consequences.

As parents, we owe it to them to set them up for financial success.

How to?

Imagine, my dad once gave me a loan to satisfy my hunger for instant gratification. I was about 8 years young. I borrowed around $50 from my dad to buy a fluffy toy.

Oh boy, the sugar rush lasted less than a week.

We used to receive weekly allowances.

Every week my dad would take out a piece of paper where my negative position was mentioned. He would simply make it slightly “less negative” while my sister kept receiving her allowance.

It took me a few months to pay-off my fluffy-toy-loan.

The lesson stuck!

Lesson 3:

Give kids real money and life experiences. Let them feel the consequences of their decisions.

Papa-Bank

Now I’m the father and instead of allowances, I’m running Papa-Bank.

Papa-Bank

My kids can make deposits and each week they’ll receive a 1% payout.

This means for $100 in Papa-Bank the interest would be $1 per week. For $200 it’s $2 per week. Each week they can chose if they’d like to take the cash out or reinvest. I’ll hand the interest to them physically and let them decide.

Every. Single. Week.

Yes, it seems like I’m running a ponzi scheme here [potentially] as I can’t pay such high rates sustainably. But no worries, every once in a while, my kids will use some money to buy some things again.

That’s usually when they start to feel the impact of their decision as the weekly payouts shrink along as well. Sibling and rivalry with cousins is doing the rest.

Oh ya, before I forget:

Papa-Bank is only open for business with our family’s next generation blood relatives.

Papa-Bank also extended loans before. But instead of adding interest, I will take interest on that side. My son went through this experience already to until his nice elder cousin bailed him out.

Lesson 4:

Make money visible and talk about it openly.

Teenager Years

Nothing is Forever

In the early 1990’s Switzerland got hit by the real estate crisis. Suddenly home prices dropped 40-50% in value in just a few months. There where foreclosures and mortgage fallouts. Banks got hit. My dad lost his job during that time. Suddenly he was home. With us.

Lesson 5:

Life doesn’t always work out as planned.

When our dad started to be at home more, we initially got scared. I fondly remember how all of a sudden our family started discussing options to move to another city for work.

My sister and I didn’t like the idea of moving away from our home.

Lessons 6:

Include your kids in your life, discuss what you do, how you do it and why you do it.

Shortly thereafter, dad went hiking in the mountains for a few days.

By himself.

When he returned, he had a plan: He’s going independent!

It later turned out this was a blessing and the very best thing he could do – on so many fronts.

Lesson 7:

Take risks, never stop learning or trying new things.

From now on my dad wasn’t just at home in the early morning, late nights and weekend. He was there for us for most of our time. He was here to talk about life, school and more. He also started cooking for us.

Lesson 8:

The best gift and investment you can give your child is your time.

Zig Ziglar once said for kids “LOVE” is spelled T-I-M-E!

Kids will hopefully learn that having time with money is more valuable than having to go to work and spend your time earning money.

Introducing a Budget

We were like most teenagers and suddenly got a taste for fancy sneakers, expensive hoodies and other branded stuff. We were not told off. My sister and me each had a “clothes-envelope” at home.

Each month my father would pay around $50 into the envelope and keep a balance sheet. We were free to use the contents to purchase clothes, shoes or pay for haircuts.

This was our pre-paid necessities budget.

Lesson 9:

Have a budget.

Looking back it’s a great way to make money available and visible without imposing potential arbitrary invisible barriers as to what is good and what is bad to use it on. It was clear: If we saved-up we could purchase the more expensive things. But we had to be patient.

The decision, the marshmallow test and trade-off has all been delegated to us kids.

No more instant gratification.

We had to learn it ourselves.

Lesson 10:

Marshmallow test your kids frequently and in different ways.

Learning to Help Myself

As a 13-year-old, the greatest dream I had was to have my own TV. In my bedroom. When I first mentioned this idea to my parents, my mum was fully against it while my dad simply said: “Yes, why not – but you got to earn it yourself.”

I learned that from age 14 onwards it was possible for me to become a newspaper boy. I applied immediately and got a paper-route with 400 households to serve. When I turned 14 my days changed. No matter the weather, if sunshine, snow, rain, storm, heat or cold, I had to serve my 400 households or face losing my job.

That job earned me $500/ month.

A very decent pocket-money for a 14-year-old in the early 1990’s.

Lesson 11:

Understand your kids motivations and let them go after their dreams.

After three months, I had sufficient cash aside to buy the TV. Once I got paid I rushed to the shop and bought the largest 16:9 TV available back then. It was a monster. I couldn’t transport it back home. That’s why I called my dad and told him what I just bought.

He simply said: “Oh, you actually did it. Wait, I’ll be on my way.”

One of the first 16:9 TVs available in the mid 1990’s.

A few weeks later I was enjoying my TV a lot but started to realize my bank account was almost back to zero once again while my time invested distributing all those newspapers is gone forever.

This is what motivated me to get started saving ultimately.

When kids are given the opportunity to engage in strategically relevant experiences and given the ability to learn the lessons from these experiences, will have a higher likelihood of success in their life.

Lesson 12:

Don’t just “go” through life, grow through it!

First Investment Experiences

When I was 16 years old I got a special gift for Christmas: My dad prepared an investment account with one share inside for me. Again, instead of telling me what to do and what not to do, he simply said:

“Let me know when you have any questions.”

I was bloody excited and started reading up on investing instantly. It’s amazing how this motivated me to read. Soon thereafter one of my all-time favourite books came to the market: “Rich Dad. Poor Dad.” by Robert Kiyosaki. While it has nothing to do directly with investing in stocks, it kicked-off my money book library in 1997.

The markets where exciting. Soon the new economy boom started going into overdrive. Sure enough I put the largest amount of my portfolio in Dot.com shares. They were on FIRE. By 1999 my portfolio grew nicely. Also in 1999 everyone thought Warren Buffett is too old to still be relevant.

As the markets kept climbing higher, I sold some stocks and bought a fancy second-hand sports car.

I sold more stocks to finance an apartment where I moved in with my girlfriend at 19.

Lesson 13:

Avoid lifestyle inflation.

Soon thereafter the market crashed.

My portfolio was suddenly back to square one again.

In total, it took me 5 years before I took my dad’s offer and went back to him with my first questions!

He laughed and uttered:

“Wow, that took longer than I thought.”

Do I regret going to him earlier?

No. No regrets at all.

Lesson 14:

Making mistakes and learning your lessons early in life is more valuable than just reading books.

This lesson is one of the most valuable in my view.

You see, indirectly my dad encouraged me to take ownership and fail early.

Once I understood this lesson in retrospect, it changed my mindset completely. Failure is NOT the outcome of your immediate actions.

Failure is not even trying.

Failure is standing still.

The biggest failure is not learning your lessons and trying again.

In our schools you might still get punished to make mistakes. That’s why in our society we’re afraid of trying and failing. Hence, many don’t even try anything anymore!

In our family, I’d be disappointed if my kids are not trying and failing at something every once in a while.

Lesson 15:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.

Young Adult

When we were in our teenage years, my dad kept telling us two things

1. He’d like us to move out before we reach 25 years of age.

2. We would always be welcome at home – in case we truly need help.

As written above, this motivated me to move out of my parents home at age 19 – I was a University freshman.

It also motivated me to hustle all kind of jobs. I worked part time as a bank teller on Saturdays, delivered pizza and later moved up to manage a pizza delivery business part-time as pizzajolo baking up to 200 pizzas per night regularly. It also brought me to work at the polling office of our community.

Due to all these activities I had a decent $1,500 – $2,000 per month salary as young student.

Lesson 16:

Learn how to stand on your own feet early.

Learn how to fish!

Thanks to my previous mistake of investing in high octane tech stocks only, I reconsidered my approach and started funding a monthly mutual fund savings plan. At first I fed it with about $300 per month but during some frugal months I managed to stash more then $1,000 per month as well.

Thanks to the lessons learnt, the pot started growing again.

Lesson 17:

Make a mistake once and it becomes a lesson. Make a mistake twice and it becomes a choice.

One evening in my most crazy side-hustling days back in 2001, I was watching “Who Want’s to be a Millionaire” on Swiss TV3. It was boring, none of the contestants seemed to make it past some simple questions.

This motivated me to write them a complaint letter.

Read here about how this has turned out for me.

Lesson 18:

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

With a six-figure bank account at 21 – I was free to explore the world.

I chose to invest in my skills, learned Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Ultimately, I ended up in Taiwan where it got really adventurous: I lost my job and working permit in Taiwan due to signing up with the wrong company…

When I called my dad back in 2004 to report to him what happened he answered the phone and replied:

“Welcome to life.”

I enjoyed that reply so much.

We laughed.

It encouraged me to stay the course.

Lesson 19:

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

Together with my girlfriend’s – now wife – help we managed to find me a second job in Taiwan. More about this story and how we planned our future together can be found in my guest post for JD Roth’s Get Rich Slowly.

Lesson 20:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Middle Age

It was the year 2015: On my 36th birthday, my dad gave me a very memorable phone call. In retrospect I could say this was probably the most valuable birthday gift I’ve ever gotten.

That’s why I’d like to share it here.

In 2015 my dad was 72 years old, I turned 36… he was exactly double my age!

I picked the phone.

My dad started: “Happy Birthday Son! You’re now already half my age!”

He went on: “You’re catching-up!”

And finished with: “Beware, the second half goes faster!”

This call stuck!

Three facts of life served up.

It got me thinking very, very deep in the days, weeks and months to come!

Lesson 21:

Time flies! Winter is Coming!

My thoughts where all about the value of time in life.

Read: Your Money or Your Life!

When you’re young, you got all the time in the world and it seems to be a reasonably fair thing to sell some of your time against some money to make a living. As you grow older, your reservoir of remaining “life-time” shrinks and in turn the remainder of your days keeps going higher in perceived value – to yourself and others. The older you get, the more it hurts if you still must sell your time for money…

Lesson 22:

Everything is about supply and demand. Everything!

During my career as Wealth Manager I was helping millionaires with their investments. Thanks to great guidance and working with inspiring people I’ve learned reasonably well how to invest and make money work for us by age 36. I’m so nerdy that I’ve actually kept a spreadsheet with all our assets, liabilities, income and expenses since the late 1990’s – it got a yearly update!

After listening to my dad’s voice about the speed of time, we started playing through some scenarios in my spreadsheet and identified two key areas for optimization:

  1. Generate passive income to cover our family expenses
  2. Activate “passive” assets and optimize our income/ expenses

Since our 5-year plan was due for discussion in 2016 I’ve added some new dream goals till 2021:

  1. Retire from my 9-5
  2. Start my own blog and business

Yes, one idea was to potentially let go of my job.

My dad used to say that each job is like a three-legged stool.

The three legs are:

  1. What you do
  2. What you get for it
  3. With whom you do it

As long as at least two of these legs are still working out for you. You’ll stay.

Also, everything is subjective. Priorities in life change.

We became parents and where looking for more time flexibility.

And maybe I was also looking for a new challenge.

Lesson 23:

You know that you’re on the right path whenever you feel things stop being easy.

This lesson is very close to my heart. Basically, it’s like if you think of playing Mario Kart on “easy”: You’ll always win. As you advance through life, also adjust the level of difficulty gradually.

After 2015 I started reading more into the FIRE concept and idea!

That’s when I suddenly read Mr. Money Mustache’s “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement“.

However, I’ve had some concerns about the “RE” (retire early) part:

  1. Don’t retire from something, retire TO something.
  2. Have something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to in life.
  3. Instead of being idle, try to find and live your “Ikigai”: Live a purposeful life.

It turned out my “RE” was more a “Retire to Entrepreneurship” – you could also name it “Recreational Employment” if you will.

Another deep concern was the kind of role-model I want to be for my kids.

  • concern of my kids not seeing me work anymore
  • live the life you want your kids to be inspired by

Whatever you plan in your life: Be a role-model for your kids.

Kids don’t quite “listen” and “follow your instructions” about living life – they rather watch how their rolemodels [hopefully their parents, make them chose YOU] live – and learn by watching!

To achieve this, be an inspirational role-model and ensure your lifestyle ticks all the boxes of lessons you want them to learn and absorb. Chase your dreams while they can watch and learn is the best starting point to set them for a happy and successful life.

Lesson 24:

Don’t tell your kids how to live their life, live yours, and let them watch!

Work is not just a 9-5-working-at-something, it can be anything – as long as you work hard towards achieving whatever goal you’ve set yourself.

Let your kids see you succeed AND fail.

This is YOUR chance not to raise “next-gen-rat-racers” or “trust fund babies” that will venture out to live an ordinary life – let them learn from you how to life an extraordinary life instead!

By mid-2017 we’ve set-up sufficient monthly recurring passive income streams from different sources and worked out a plan that allowed me to quit my 9-5.

We FIREd.

Lesson 25:

Live like a role model – work hard to chase your dreams to set an example for kids to inspire them to work hard on achieving their dreams later.

Invest in your dreams!

What advice would you give your younger self?

What lessons did you learn from your family?

“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.

Make it a fantastic one.

Matt

Disclaimer: Please be made aware that the some of the links used above may be affiliate links for which Financial Imagineer could receive a compensation.

Time Bandits

Time is the most valuable asset you got. Do not let anything or anyone steal or ruin it. In our modern world, we’re surrounded by time bandits. Identify them. Sort them out. Live life by design.

No matter if you’re a beggar or a billionaire, we each got the same 24 hours per day. The difference between moving ahead or staying back is simply in how we make use of and invest our time.

Time Bandits – the Monty Python movie.

Time bandits didn’t make history – they stole it!

Make sure you keep them at a safe distance so they don’t steal your potential, to make history.

What are time bandits?

They are those things, activities or people that drain you of your energy and time to leave you back less productive, less focused, and in the end; less happy. For many, time bandits may be what holds us back from going out there and chasing our dreams.

Time bandits come in different forms. Some of them are hard to spot. Others have already taken over your habits. That’s why this post will go in details and attempts to show some ways to dispose of your time bandits in order to increase YOUR chance to financially Imagineering your dream life!

Media

Ever heard the word “media-junkie”? Well, these are people that are hooked up with their media outlets permanently and have trouble letting go. They’ve become addicted to consuming ever more content. Whether or not they do something with the things learned is the big question here.

Media time bandits could be:

  • Watching TV/ Netflix
  • Watching the news
  • Social Media
  • Youtube
  • Video Games

Don’t get me wrong, these things are all good and fun at times.

The problem comes with unintentional overconsumption. Rather than just letting your precious time float away while engaging in any of the above, use media with intention. Watch a certain show with a purpose or target. The goal can be to simply have fun. Engage on social media for staying in touch with people you care about. Watch Youtube to get inspired, entertained or learn something. Play video games to train (not drain) your brain.

Key is to not let any of the above become an unnecessary distractions on your path of life.

What you can do about it is to ignore notifications on social media, pre-define certain times you allow yourself to indulge in media consumption or actively use those channels to get inspired and learn how to create instead of consuming only.

Losing Focus

What is important to you? What would you like to achieve? Did you set yourself certain targets for this week? This month? This year? Your life? If not, go set yourself some goals. If yes, do you believe you’re on track? If not, what are your major obstacles? A key obstacle is not being focused enough.

Focus can be lost by saying YES too often. If you say YES to anyone. To anything. Every. Fucking. Time… then you’re indirectly saying NO to other stuff. Hence, beware of what you commit yourself to and ensure that those things do align with your goals.

You can do anything in life, but not everything.

Life is a trade-off.

You got to choose how you spend your time.

If it’s hard for you to say yes or no: Think of either saying FUCK YEAH or no.

Another way to lose focus is by doing too much multi-tasking. This one is especially terrible. It’s a clusterfuck of wasting time. It usually destroys productivity AND quality. Multi-tasking works for low attention activities or for consuming content such as layering time or listening podcasts.

By multi-tasking, you keep yourself busy. You do this, do that, but eventually nothing that actually matters gets done. Avoid multi-taking if possible. Stop half-assing your life.

The god of multitasking

Learn how to focus.

Perfectionism

The third time bandit is perfectionism. Perfectionism is often used to explain why some stuff hasn’t been done yet. Instead of aiming for perfectionism, aim for making steps into the right direction. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Build momentum. Not getting started or slowing down too much destroys growth and holds back failures that could lead to valuable lessons if learnt earlier on.

Learn how to get started. Keep moving. Keep advancing.

Settle for “good enough” first. If you want to learn how to throw darts, you won’t be reading a manual about it but start by throwing the first dart, then the next one, another one, until you perfectly know how to do it.

Don’t wait. Get started now. Learn by doing.

Procrastinating

Wait? For what? Why delay something if you can do it now? Many people have adopted a habit of doing something tomorrow. By doing so, you actually “allow” yourself validating to waste an entire day before you get started. The usual pattern will extend to this becoming a habit of simply “never getting started”.

At all.

Instead of dreaming, start doing. You will never regret doing something you want to do. Your dreams and thoughts are all nicely stored and comfortable in your head. But it helps nobody if they stay there. The least yourself.

Dreamcatcher

Whatever it is you are dreaming or thinking of, stop putting it off and get started now. Use baby steps if needed but start moving forward.

If you can’t fly, then run.

If you can’t run, then walk.

If you can’t walk, then crawl.

Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Dr. Martin Luther King Junior

Not sure why you’re not taking any action? Write down your dreams and ideas. Do creative brainstorming sessions: (Jacuzzi) Beerstorming if needed – it works for me.

Take note and map out your thoughts. Once you get clearer, start plotting a way, a path and get on your way towards living the life of your dreams. This plan should be inspiring and motivating enough to get started on the spot instead of letting this time bandit rob you of your potential future.

Start living your dreams.

Say Goodbye to Procrastinating.

Negativity

In life you will come across people that carry a certain negativity with them. Some find a problem behind every solution.

Negative people love to complain: Yes, we all feel overwhelmed and not understood sometimes. But instead of falling into this trap, try to find other ways to blow-off steam, relax and digest your life.

Complaining is negative in itself. If you become a negative person you will scare off positive people and may miss out on what they have to offer.

Another form of negativity is worrying.

It’s one of the hardest to self-identify. Being cautious is nothing bad per se. However, worrying is unproductive and wastes your time and energy. Some “worriers” tend to blow imagined dangers completely out of proportion. Worrying and overthinking lead to stress and this in turn prevents action being taken. Stressed people don’t think clearly.

Worry less, don’t overplan.

Things change. So will you.

Instead of surrounding yourself with soul-draining energy vampires, build your own gang of likeminded individuals. Learn how to stay clear or walk away from negative individuals. Form a sanctuary of positivity.

Hard to do?

Read “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson – and become unfuckwithable.

Beware of Time Bandits

Time bandits WILL appear in your life. Identify them early. Allow them only temporarily and let them teach you permanent lessons. Sometimes it’s not about what time steals, but what it leaves behind.

Inhale the good shit. Exhale the bullshit.

Your time or “life energy” is your currency. Don’t let it go to waste or let others steal it. Understand you only live once – Winter is coming. Beware of time bandits. They feed on your energy.

Create an uplifting environment. Release the handbrakes. Time bandits are mostly some form of productivity hurdle. Switch your life into warp-drive. Start testing YOUR engine to its maximum potential.

Live life by design.

Don’t waste time.

Time is life.

Your life.

Don’t let yourself be the reason you don’t succeed in whatever you’re after.

Become a time bandit yourself and steal your own history!

Optimize your time and aim for your own “The 4-Hour Workweek“.

Control your attention and choose your life,

Matt

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Disclaimer: Please be made aware that the some of the links used above may be affiliate links for which Financial Imagineer could receive a compensation.

Winter is Coming

In this world, there’s nothing as stable as change. Spring adds new life and new beauty. Summer stands for sweet weather, sunshine and swimming in the sea. Then, all at once, summer collapses into fall and shortly thereafter:

Winter is coming!

While for “Game of Thrones” winter has already reached, in this post I refer to winter to that “thing” that happens to each and everyone of us – eventually. Winter, the seven bad years, disease, old age whatever we wish to call it: It’s coming to us all eventually!

You most likely have experienced or heard about some kind of seasonality in your life. Stories about changing times can be found plenty. The oldest stories are originating in the book of Genesis from the bible about seven good years followed by seven bad years.

Not much has changed ever since.

People as well as animals ought to build reserves during good times:

Winter is coming!

Just think of how certain animals are preparing themselves for tough times.

Squirrels prepare for winter by bulking up. Throughout fall, they maximize food consumption and body mass. In winter, when food is hard to come by, these reserves will help them survive. Groundhogs spend the warmer months eating as much as they can to build up their fat layers needed to survive winter in hibernation. There are many more examples alike.

We humans have this “alertness” embedded into our culture – depending on where we live and how much we’ve been exposed to seasonality ourselves. But more on that later.

First, let’s read a story about a businessman who goes see a fisherman:

Once upon a time, there was a businessman sitting by the beach in a small tropical village.

He was observing a local fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore, having caught quite some big fish. The businessman was impressed and went to ask the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Why don’t you fish longer and catch even more?” The businessman asked.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman replied.

The businessman then wondered, “What do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman said calmly, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman felt he better offered a suggestion to the fisherman.

“I’ve got a MBA and could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village to the big city, where you can set up your HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continued, “And after that?”

The businessman laughed heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

Once again, the fisherman asked, “And after that?”

The businessman said, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

You guessed it correctly: For the fisherman, winter is NOT coming.

You may probably have read this story in one form or another before.

I love the powerful lessons within:

1. Life is not linear and everyone has their own path. Some paths are safer and more frequently used. Other paths might be shortcuts or even detours.

2. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same – don’t let schooling interfer with education.

3.  Beware of the “deferred life plan” – money is renewable, time is not.

The main difference between the businessman and the fisherman is: Seasonality!

The businessman grew up with a different mindset and could not believe there is someone simply living day-by-day without worrying about the future and living a happy life.

When the businessman returns to his big city and fall arrives, the weather turns cold and the days get darker. This triggers a natural human instinct of preparing for winter.

Weather changes will activate our brains and concerns that we will not be having enough food or money to carry through a though winter.

As we all know, fear is one of the strongest motivators. Hence, we usually don’t get paralyzed by it but motivated to get busy preparing ourselves to pull through the dark times ahead. Bulk shopping before hurricanes, toilet paper shopping in 2020 and to preparing for a blizzard – winter is coming – is part of our DNA.

It’s our reptilian brain triggering the survival instincts.

In Europe we have countries high up north with very though, long, and dark winters. In the south we have places where winters are mild, and people are not that much bothered by seasonality. Coming from Switzerland I know that being landlocked and having survived two world wars without getting involved: We have our ways to prepare for bad times.

Like the squirrel, we are good in stashing resources.

I have met people from Scandinavia who strategically make use of winter to travel south for marketing purposes or recreational travelling when business comes to a halt at home.

Taking advantage and embracing winter to take actionable steps to move yourself forward are great ways to pass through tough times. Taking a well deserved break and flee the cold for tropical locations to “hibernate” are also legit reasons to do so.

Hence, there seems to be some sort of correlation between weather and the saving rate of whole countries depending on their exposure to seasonality. Just compare the northern with southern European nations to start with. In the north, people stash resources to empower them passing tougher times easier.

The one big exception with that regards that I’ve experienced myself is Singapore. Its founder Lee Kwan Yew [Singapore’s founding father] thought air conditioning was the secret to his country’s success!

When I started spending more time in Singapore, it was a new experience for me. Singapore is almost on the equator and weather doesn’t fluctuate too much; there’s no seasonality and most days have a similar amount of sunshine. Most days are mostly alike. Hence, less external stimulation is given and subjectively – time speeds up!

Personally, seasonality helps me put memories and events into relation with a timeline. I’ve got many memories from Singapore that I can’t assign a season or month anymore.

Sometimes it seems that just yesterday I was young and just about to embark the journey of my life. Luckily, I’ve made good use of the time given to me so far.

But still, I try to find ways to somehow “slow life down”.

How to?

You can do so by keeping life more “interesting”. Expose yourself to new things, experiences, learn a new language, new skills or do something you’ve never done before.

As for myself, I optimistically consider myself in very late spring or early summer – of my life.

Winter is not too close yet.

Readers in their early spring years have it the best. Instead of just saying: “Winter is coming” – get prepared. You know, time has a way of moving quickly, even speeding up somehow through life and ultimately catching you unaware of how fast its passing by. Build your nest-egg, start saving and investing now!

But if you’re not in your winter yet. Let me remind you: It will be here faster than you think.

When I turned 36, my dad (back then 72 y/o) called me and wished me a Happy Birthday, he said:

1. Congratulations son, you’re now already HALF my age!

2. You’re catching up!

3. The second half goes faster…

Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it timely. Plant your seeds now. Don’t put life on hold. Do what you can today. Nobody knows if you’re in your winter already or not.  “Waiting for better times” is a lot like waiting for spring to come early while shivering through winter.

Life is a gift.

The way you live your life serves as inspiration to the people around you. It is also a gift to those that come after you. Live it well, make it a fantastic one, make it count!

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.

The rest of your life starts right now!

Winter is coming!

Matt

Plant Your Dream Seeds – How To Terraform Your Life.

During the Corona lockdown we have started gardening more than ever. It was so exciting to witness how little seeds grew into plants and start bearing fruits themselves – mostly in a truly short time.

Planting a goal or a dream is a lot like planting a seed.

First, you dream. Then you plot and plan. Next, you start implementing.

By making the first steps towards making your dream come true, you plant the seed!

If you take the right steps and measures, apply focus and nutrition, you may see your idea and hard work sprout and turn your dream into reality.

Beware: Sometimes the seed doesn’t sprout or grow despite your efforts!

This may be due to the wrong measures applied, too little focus, too much sunshine, too little water or other reasons? Try to find out why your dream didn’t sprout and then decide whether you’d like to give it a second chance – or give up.

Gardening, starting up a business or doing anything you may consider “your dream” may not be easy – at first.

That’s why you shouldn’t give up too early.

Learn to accept failure as a crucial factor – towards success.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

Fail, fail early, fail forward.

Keep trying if your goal is worth your while. Like farmers, keep planting seeds and work on optimizing your methods.

Some will fail but more and more will grow.

It’s never the wrong time to start planting the seeds for your dream!

Mostly, the simple act of starting is what makes the conditions right.

Dreams don’t know any seasons.

Listen to your dreams.

We all have dreams.

Take pleasure in dreaming.

Take them seriously.

Listen to them.

This is YOU!

We all start small in life.

Important is that you learn how to plant your seeds early in life.

This doesn’t mean later in life you should stop planting though!

Plant many seeds if you can.

Don’t judge your young days by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.

All growth has humble beginnings.

Growth starts with a seed that is planted, watered, nurtured, and well taken care of.

Dreams like seeds might take a while to start growing and often sprout when you least expect it!

Keep taking care of your seeds and remain patient.

Don’t give up on your seeds too early.

Do the hard work necessary and enjoy the baby steps of your young dreams.

This is mostly the most defining moment of big dreams coming to fruition.

Once your dreams have taken an initial leap and grown to a certain size, make sure you give them the necessary space, focus and care to enable them growing into their next level.

Remember to remain patient.

Take the long-term view.

At a certain point in time your dreams should be able to “grow” legs and learn how to survive by themselves.

The phase of initial recurring, sometimes painful efforts is over for now.

This is what can also be called “habits have been formed”.

You have started to change and working on your dream has become a reality of your daily life.

Depending on how many dreams you’re chasing, in this phase it’ll get crucial to start optimizing your farming efforts.

Keep grooming your field of dreams further in a systematic way.

Keep pushing into the unknown.

Dream big and figure out how to best allocate your limited resources to face adversity and make your dreams take over previously uncontested or infertile territory.

Nurture your dreams from deep within.

This phase is usually expanding your established business further or going the extra mile once again even you may not have to.

Many people are once again afraid of pushing through this growth barrier.

Think: What go you here, won’t get you there!

Our society is primed to keep people well within their comfort zone.

If you have grown to this stage, others will start to take notice how your dreams have taken shape.

This is where people will notice your growing dream.

Don’t be average.

Stand out.

With your dreams slowly becoming your reality, you will come across naysayers, haters and potential enemies.

Haters – like weeds – grow where there is nutritious ground.

If you chase your dreams, it’s normal – I would even say a positive sign – to attract these voices to your life.

It means you’ve created something too large to ignore.

You’re no longer living your life on “average” mode…

Learn how to fight those weeds in a smart way.

Don’t let them pollute your dreams.

No matter what obstacles you may encounter on your path of growth, don’t you ever think of blaming your circumstances.

Find out where you can influence the situation and apply your focus there.

Take ownership!

Wherever you are or what you do, other people have found ways to let their seeds grow before you – in similar situations.

Learn from them if needed and stay creative.

Think outside of the box: Unbox yourself.

Instead of impossible, say: I’m possible!

If you keep this course, stay patient.

Keep observing how the landscape of your dream life slowly turns greener.

You’re on the right path.

See how your dreamlife grows and how it transforms the world surrounding you.

You’re on the way to sustainably “terraform” your life now!

One day your efforts will start to pay-off.

First small.

Then increasingly more.

This is compounding at work.

Compounding works with money, with habits, with skills and with more.

No matter what you’re working on, try to be 1% better than yesterday – each day. And never stop.

This is how you can’t lose over time!

Ultimately your garden of dreams will bear fruits far beyond your wildest imaginations.

You might not be able to enjoy ALL the fruits of your dreams and efforts by yourself anymore.

This is great!

When that happens, reach out and start sharing your insights, your lessons and your harvest – the fruits of your dreams – with family, friends and anyone interested in learning.

Inspire them to plant their own seeds!

You can’t just plant a garden of dreams and be done with it.

This would be like saying “I’m done growing as a person now, what’s next?”.

Going after your dream life is more about finding ways to make the garden of your dreams more interesting, fun or diverse.

You can always find a way to redesign, rearrange or optimize further to add value to all it serves.

This is how to plant, nurture and grow seeds for successfully making your dreams become reality and terraform your life.

Keep dreaming.

Like my two your kids that have so many dreams themselves.

Imagineer your life and inspire others to do the same!

How many seeds have you planted this week?

Matt

Miles Ahead

How Travel Hacking Itself got Hacked – and what we can learn from it.

Many airline passengers whose trips got cancelled some months ago are still waiting for their ticket refunds as carriers and travel agencies are running low on liquidity. As of August 2020, airlines are withholding billions in refunds – that’s Billions with a capital B!!!

The current corona pandemic leaves airlines stretched.

They are suffering liquidity shortages. While this may seem historic for most, it’s for sure not the first time airlines are struggling. Let’s take a walk down history lane to see what we can learn from the past: This has happened before!

We shall get back to 2020 and the Covid pandemic towards the end of this post!

First let us travel back to 1981.

In that particular year American Airlines was in deep sh*t.

After the oil crisis of the 1970’s, in 1978 the US enforced the Airline Deregulation Act to deregulate the airlines industry. Just a few months later in the early 1980s the economy was in a period of sky-high interest rates and roaring inflation. In 1980 AA posted a $76 million loss while facing new competition, lower ticket prices and high borrowing costs and fuel prices.

It was a tough time and AA was in urgent need for cash. Due to exorbitant interest rates borrowing was not an option to consider.

Therefore AA came up what later got coined as the one of the most epic marketing failures ever: They started offering the best deal frequent travelers could ever lay their hands on – ever!

First Class for LIFE!

The legendary AAirpass was born.

For a hefty $250,000 the AAirpass offered nothing less than:

UNLIMITED FIRST CLASS TRAVEL FOR LIFE!

Can. You. Actually. Imagine. That!?

FYI: $250,000 would be $700,000 inflation adjusted to 2020

Over the course of the years, AA sold about 65 unlimited lifetime first class passes until they stopped selling them in 1994. Apparently, Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban said that it was “one of the best purchases he’s ever made – it opened the world to him: He could go anywhere anytime he wanted to – first class! Other notable customers included Michael Dell and Willie Mays.

And hey, it doesn’t stop here!

For some extra cash, you could also get yourself a companion pass.

First class is more fun if enjoyed together!

Originally the idea was to offer this product exclusively to existing frequent business travelers…

However, some travel hackers did their math correctly and this was how a certain Mr. Rothstein purchased his own AAirpass plus the companion pass for $383,000.

Mr. Steve Rothstein was a Chicago based investment banker and he loved the idea: “Instead of getting interest paid from a bond, you could redeem your returns in air travel.” A very fair deal in his view: “They need cash and they can pay me in miles.” Why not! Right?

Travel Hacking Itself Got Hacked

Soon American Airlines had to learn the airfare market is not comparable with, let’s say an “all-you-can-eat” buffet or “all-inclusive” vacations where customers would have natural limitations of how much they were able to consume.

When it comes to first class tickets just imagine how many folks are literally ready to go “the extra mile” to profit from such an offer.

Starting from 1987 Mr. Rothstein went many many extra miles with his AAirpass, he booked more than 10,000 flights to anywhere. Sometimes he simply flew somewhere to grab his favorite sandwich. He also frequently just took complete strangers along into first with his companion pass.

He basically used the airlines’ network like a bus…

From Chicago, he reportedly flew:

  • 1,000 times to New York City
  • 500 times to San Francisco
  • 500 times to Los Angeles
  • 500 times to London
  • 120 times to Tokyo
  • 80 times to Paris
  • 80 times to Sydney
  • 50 times to Hong Kong

Another gentleman, Mr. Vroom from Texas, even took out a loan (!) to finance (!!) the $400k (!!!) – by the time he bought – AAirpass fee.

He flew well above 2 million miles per year thereafter. Mr. Vroom sometimes simply flew to Paris to have lunch and would return shortly thereafter.

The next time AA got into financial trouble was in 2007. Once again, they went through their books just to figure this time the AAirpass program was costing the company too much. What a surprise. American calculated the two top-clients Mr. Rothstein and Mr. Vroom cost them well above $1 million in taxes, fees and lost ticket sales – per year!

What an amazing return on investment for the two of them!

They were miles ahead!!!

The Revenue Integrity Team Steps In

Unfortunately, good things seldom last. The story ended bitter for our unlimited lifetime loyal frequent flyers! Once the airlines’ “revenue integrity team” (what a name…) started to get active, their AAirpasses got revoked.

The airline claimed the reason being “fraudulent activities”. Both clients got stripped of their passes and were told they would never be able to fly on the airline again. Ever.

Nowadays, the American Airlines Airpass is merely known as an all-inclusive membership program that offers elite status, flight discounts, and other rewards. It now comes with an annual fee.

In hindsight this offer was coined one of the worst marketing disasters in human history.

According to an American Airlines spokesman, there are still about 25 valid unlimited passes out there in use as of 2018. It seems therefore unclear if all the unlimited passes got cancelled…

Let me know if you are a passholder please, leave a comment below or shoot me an email, please!

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Miles Programs Used as Collateral for Bank Loans

This is all history, so why do I write about the above story at the current point in time?

Well, due to the current pandemic, we have arrived at a similar “situation” once again. Airlines are short on cash! And as before, in 2020 airlines are reaching out to their largest customers and are offering to sell miles directly to them – to secure liquidity.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

While in the early 1980’s the largest clients where direct business travelers, the largest clients in 2020 are – yes – you guessed it: Credit card companies with reward systems such as American Express, Chase and others! These large corporations are currently winning big and can purchase points at deep discounts – just to offer them to you later.

American Airlines and United Airlines also ventured out to conduct more innovative financial engineering recently. They are mortgaging (!) their mileage programs with financial institutions to borrow against and “monetize it”. Due to this new way of “banking points” both airlines have recently disclosed valuations of their mileage programs.

The numbers are in the tens of billions of dollars!

Why is this scary? Imagine that both, American Airlines and United would be worth a negative valuation after discounting the value of their points programs…  

Here some numbers:

Just the U.S. portion of the AAdvantage program is currently valued around $19.5 billion (subtract that from it’s market capitalization of $5.6 billion…).

Uniteds’ MileagePlus program got valued at $21.9 billion (now compare this with it’s market capitalization of $10.1 billion…).

This is how valuable the reward systems have become and how crucial they are for the industry.

While I don’t believe the airlines will disappear just yet and like that, there’s a certain risk also on the respective banks’ books now. Hope they know what they’re doing. But the main point I’d like to convey today is another one.

Travel Hacking in 2020

Since Mr. Rothstein got his AAirpass, airline loyalty programs have transformed from a way to simply increase customer loyalty to a massive profit center.

The above example of how American Airlines and United are even empowered by the system to “mortgage” these hugely valuable assets – to unlock billions of dollars in bank loans to help survive the pandemic – shows the world the true size and value of their programs.

According to my opinion the most recent developments may lead to the following potential outcomes.

View from Singapore Airlines “old” Suite Class chair 3F on their A380-800s

Here my considerations for travel hacking in 2020:

  • There will be some sort of “inflation” in point values coming up – your points today are more valuable than your points tomorrow. In other words: The earlier you book your flight, the better deal you can get. Airlines are happy at the current moment for miles holders to redeem points!
  • With inflation and more points being “monetized”, the rewards, in terms of points – not in actual value – will move up in the near future. Look out for a changing landscape of reward systems and re-position yourself if needed.
  • Buying extra miles could be a true bargain during this period of time. Try to take advantage of it strategically. AA has launched a new offer allowing frequent flyers to purchase miles with up to 100% bonus through Aug. 31, 2020. This offer brings the cost per mile down to as low as 1.71 cents.
  • Be sure to understand the involved risks such as prolonged insecurity regarding flight plans, countries having closed their borders, airlines getting stretched, potential airline bankruptcies and still yes: getting exposed to the virus itself.
  • If you hold a substantial amount of travel points and miles (like me), make sure you keep them with the right “bank” – or airlines. Some airlines might go bankrupt depending on how long this pandemic will continue. Nobody knows. If your points are with them, you may lose them. One way to secure points is to keep them with the credit card company or bank first and only convert them to miles once you’re about to redeem a flight. Buy points now and buy yourself time!

Maybe as of 2020 we can’t just buy a first class for life pass quite yet, but I’m looking forward to learn more about improving deals coming our way to stay miles ahead.

How do you travel hack in 2020?

Happy travel hacking!

Matt

Picture by Christophe Randy, Singapore Airlines A350 from Hong Kong to Singapore over the South China Sea