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.

Unlocking Geographic Arbitrage

If you have ever travelled before, you most certainly noticed how price levels for the same thing can be hugely different depending on where you are. This may even happen within the same country.

Why is that?

[Income] earning potential, taxes, rent, everything is changing depending on where you are. It’s all about supply and demand. Some differences might also be linked to currencies, strength of economy, competition, or different methods of taxation.

Take away 1:

Things have different prices at different places.

Spend your money at the right place!

Done the right way, geoarbitrage can unlock tremendous potential.

It is a powerful tool to shorten your way to [an earlier] retirement and even without planning for the ultra long run, it can immediately boost your purchasing power to new heights, improve your quality of life and give you more bang for the buck.

Simple geoarbitrage starts with earning your money in a high earning location while spending it in a low cost of living area. More complicated versions thereof will go into details about where to source for what and optimize for the best outcome across all financial dimensions.

Take away 2:

Salary levels for the same work differs tremendously depending on where you work.

Earn your money from the right location!

The more flexible you are in terms of travel or location independence, the more you can take advantage of both sides and the higher your potential to really taking advantage of geoarbitrage.

The third area where geoarbitrage is highly underestimated is: Taxes.

In Europe tax levels even differ from village to village! Imagine how vastly different the various tax codes can be if you increase the universe of potential tax domiciles and regulations…

Multinational corporations have improved their “play” in this game to perfection. For “natural persons” you should take some time to explore differences in terms of income, property, asset, inheritance, retirement-benefit taxation – you might be astonished what’s possible.

Take away 3:

Learn how to unlock the tax-code and optimize your situation accordingly.

Geographic arbitrage – or “geoarbitrage” in short – is the concept of identifying differences in prices, earnings and taxes while finding ways to exploit them.

Geoarbitrage in the Heart of Europe

Geoarbitrage may be possible right where you are now. Take Basel, Switzerland, as an example.  Here my family lives. From our family home we can reach either Germany or France in as little as 10 minutes by car: We can go shopping in three (!) different countries – in just less than half a day!

Since we’ve been living between Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan and go crossborder grocery shopping in France and Germany, our kids have realized from quite an early age that it truly depends on “where to get what” in order to get “more bang for the buck”.

The most common example to compare price levels is the Big Mac Index.

Big Mac Index

The most famous measure to compare purchasing power globally is the so-called Big Mac Index. Since a Big Mac has to be the very same no matter whether you’re ordering it in America, Europe, Asia or Africa – it’s one of the very few items you get to purchase at the same quality across the globe.

Of course, a Big Mac may cost a very different price depending on where you buy it. Again, this has to do with many factors, mainly: purchasing power, salary levels, rental costs, availability and prices of ingredients at required quality levels.

Click here to get to the interactive page of the Economist about the Big Mac Index.

In the Basel area a Big Mac costs around €4.79 (or USD 5.60) in Germany or France while the Swiss price for the very same product is CHF 6.50 (or USD 7.05) – this is a whopping 25% price difference!

My son is a big fan of comic books and loves to read Disney comics. The german version “Lustiges Taschenbuch” sells in Germany for €6.50, in Austria for €6.70 while in Switzerland is costs you CHF 12.50 – the last price is about 78% more considering the FX rate. 78%!

Since my son uses his own money to buy these books, he regularly insists to take the 10 minute extra-trip to Germany so he can boost his purchasing power by 78%. Not bad!

Living Geoarbitrage

We enjoy visiting restaurants, pharmacies and more just across our border. Some people also travel for dentist visits, haircuts, and car repairs. The other way round our German and French friends come to visit Switzerland to refill their gas. Many also like to work in Switzerland as the salary levels are higher.

This three-country area is highly interesting for an economist like me.

In recent years and due to increased online shopping habits, the Germans have even started a wonderful business – its name is translated to “delivery address service center” (original name: LAS Burg). If you sign-up with them, you’ll get a “German delivery address” just 1 minute beyond the border which you can use for German online shopping at much lower prices. Once your parcel reaches, you’ll get a email notification and you have a few days to pick it up. The small cost for this service is totally worth it.

The internet allows you to purchase goods from a global market. You just got to understand any potential delivery costs or tax implications depending on where you get your goods delivered to.

Digital nomads live geographic arbitrage as they can easily work and live from anywhere as long as they still are somehow connected to the internet. In places such as Bali or Thailand the purchasing power of your $$$ will be tremendously boosted – sometimes you get up to 5-7 times more for your money depending on what you use it for.

You could now be living anywhere and selling your goods and services everywhere.

That’s the true potential of unlocking geoarbitrage.

Online Tools

The best part about geoarbitrage?

You can start comparing different options and scenarios right away from the comforts of your home.

Check out this amazing online tool to plan geographic arbitrage.

Discover a world full of adventure: The Earth Awaits!

On this website you can create custom lifestyles, compare and share cities with friends and family, and much more! The creators want to help you travel the world, live better, retire early, and have amazing adventures.

Another great tool is the UBS Prices and Earnings tool:

The bank researched 128 goods and services, and earnings for 15 professions in 77 cities worldwide. More than 75,000 data points were collected and included in their calculations. The result of this study is the so called “prices and earnings report”, a global comparison of the cost of living in cities with separated findings for prices, earnings, purchasing power and working time.

Explore the data based on one of these factors, you can find out how many hours someone must work in order to purchase the latest iPhone, a loaf of bread or, yes, the Big Mac itself.

Conclusion

For anyone on their journey to financial independence or to living a wealthier life, geoarbitrage is one of the most powerful tools to reach your goals sooner.

Please take your time to explore the options available to you.

Trust me, it’s a immeasurable lifehack!

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.

Happy lifehacking!

Matt

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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Fast Track Podcast

Yasi Zhang recently started her podcast with the mission to help people accessing the “fast track” in life. I had the honour to be invited as guest on Yasi’s “Fast Track” Podcast.

The Fast Track Podcast is all about helping YOU get the most insightful tips and advice that you don’t learn from school. Cover topics are entrepreneurship, personal finance, career development, and more. Anything helping you launch your life on the fast track.

In the show we cover many topics linked to personal and financial growth. In essence: How to Financially Imagineer your dream life!!!

During the talk I promised to publish a spreadsheet to help you plot your numbers down. Once ready and visually appealing, it will be ready for you to download right here – if you don’t want to miss it please subscribe to Financial Imagineer by email on the right hand side or at the bottom of this page.

Please don’t shy back to reach out to me in case you feel I could help you achieve financial independence! I’m planning to structure templates, tools and more to support anyone on their journey not matter what stage you’re in and what level of expertise you have.

Feel free to reach out by email.

But now, to the show, without further ado:

Website: https://www.fasttrack.life/episodes/matthiasrichter

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/1ZEiQVy1WtpSQJRujYCDxI

Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yYmQ1NDViNC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==

Anchor: https://anchor.fm/fasttrackpodcast

Breaker: https://www.breaker.audio/fast-track

Overcast:https://overcast.fm/itunes1529991741/fast-track 

Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/uphwv2tq

RadioPublic: https://radiopublic.com/fast-track-WDLXkw

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

If you enjoyed reading, please don’t forget to follow on Facebook, Twitter or by subscribing to Financial Imagineer with your email below.

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.

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!

If you want to improve your life with similar or other life-hacks and imagineer your life, please consider to follow me on Facebook or Twitter:

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

Bake Yourself Rich

We are all kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven. Baking yourself rich is not some half-baked idea but a simple proven way to up your creative skills, increase the quality of your bread and lower your expenses sustainably – so you can bake your world a better place without cutting back too much in life.

We are baking our own bread for many years already. It all started one fine day when my Singapore neighbour Jason knocked on the door. In his hands, he held a freshly baked bread – as a gift for us – thanks again Jason for sharing!!!

Jason’s bread came straight from the oven, it was still warm. The smell was irresistible. Therefore, we did the only thing reasonable human beings would do: We sat down together, got some olive oil and salt, and started to devour this loaf of goodness – on the spot.

It was a snaccident.

Imagine the crispiness, the cracking of the crust, then the fine vapor escaping the warm, moist and soft inside of this wonderful bread.

Yes, getting good bread in Asia is difficult – and I was starved.

I wanted to try to bake it myself.

Baking bread is no rocket science doesn’t take a lot of time. Hey I could do it and I’m a trained economist and banker… how hard can it be!? It’s just some flour and water mixed and baked.

Give me your 5 minutes and I shall show you how.

How to Bake Awesome Bread

My friend Jason introduced this plain simple but perfect recipe (click here to download printable PDF) to bake my own bread a few years ago:

Before you get started be sure to have:

Ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt.

Tools: a dough kneader or food processor (although you could use your hands as well – but beware, it’s a wet dough!), a dutch-oven or coverable pan (we have a Le Cleuset) and an oven.

Click on the above links – just some recommendations: You can use similar tools as well of course.

Step 1: Mix it! Put all ingredients together and mix them for about 5 minutes.

Step 2: Let the dough rise for at least 8 hours. Cover the dough with a towel! We prefer to let this happen overnight in order to have warm bread for breakfast. Spend around 5 mins before going to bed and leave it till the next day.

Step 3: Baking: Put additional flour into your dutch-oven to avoid the bread to stick later on, add the cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Then take cover off and keep baking for about 5 minuts or until crust is brown.

Step 4: Done! Let it cool down somewhat and enjoy!

My neighbour Jason and me became good friends, he later also taught me how to brew my own beer – I used to refer to him as the Beer Doctor! We frequently savoured our own beer creations in our condo jacuzzi and brainstormed more ideas.

But that’s another story.

Rise Your Own Dough $$$

The necessary ingredients are cheap, in average it cost me less than $1 to bake one loaf following the above recipe. Depending where you live and what flour and yeast you use, there will be different costs.

Try to experiment.

For us, each bread baked results in savings of about $2-3 in Europe and even more if we are in Asia.

If you’d like to check out how small but regular savings can compound into a substantial amount of money, please also make sure to check out my recent post “Million Dollar Haircut” to save more.

For bread, money is not the main reason for us to bake.

It’s the combination of having fresh quality bread – we simply LOVE this bread over the stuff we could buy – and second convenience: Once you do it a few times, your active “working time” required is less than 10 minutes per loaf.

What is better than baking your own $$$

Conclusion

Freshly baked bread right out the oven is just so much better than buying from the store. Baking your own bread is no rocket-science. It also saves you money and you can explore more fancy alternatives if you like.

Nothing says home like the smell of of baking.

Now, don’t be procrastibaking and get started. Be sure to at least try it once.

Download the above recipe and give it a try.

Let me know in the comments how it tasted and felt to start baking.

If you like it please bake someone else happy by sharing your bread or this recipe with family and friends just as Jason did with us one day. .

Happiness is having self-baked bread!

Bakers gonna bake!

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.

If Youth Knew If Age Could

Have you ever wondered what advice you would give to your younger self? Or similarly, have you ever thought about how your future self would show up and how it would want to guide you today?

Since we haven’t built a real flux-compensator [yet], wouldn’t it be easier to simply start asking those older and smarter than you to share their most valuable lessons?

I’ve spent some time to gather some nuggets of wisdom from people I’m surrounded with and decided to sort them systematically. Maybe first and foremost, one of the key lessons that I’ve learned is that’s it worth it to pursue what your longing for, especially if it’s difficult.

The most valuable things in life are often hardest to obtain.

This rule of thumb is valid for experience, wisdom, skills, technical talent and of course wealth. At the same time, the most valuable lessons of life are often the ones you try to avoid, resist, or simply miss for years – as you’re following your current routine indefinitely.

If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard.

But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.

Life is simple. But not easy!

In this post, I’ll try to summarize all the thoughts and ideas about what I’d be telling my younger self.

No Fear

Dream big – if your goals don’t scare you, set bigger goals!

Your true potential is only limited by your passion and imagination. Imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth. What the mind can conceive and believe, it shall receive.

Work on making your dreams come true by finding your true ikigai. This planet needs more people that dare to dream – learn to dream with eyes wide open. Keep in mind that if it doesn’t challenge you, it most likely also doesn’t change you.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Walt Disney

The biggest risk in life is actually to play it too safe. You might end up with regrets for not having tried. We all just have one life. Use your time wisely. Time is the only wealth we’re given.

The biggest obstacle to get started is fear. People are afraid to think big, of trying new things and of making mistakes. However, if you think too small, you’ll only achieve small things.

Some of my friends confirmed they achieved the greatest advances in life in moments where they stayed calm and did it anyways. This is true for your career, for love and for making new experiences!

I would tell my younger self: “Trust me. The best things in life are on the other side of fear!”

“The problem human beings face is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed.”

Michelangelo

Find your true north, your direction, your why.

Then stick to who you are and keep building on it.

Do not try to impress parents, partners, the other gender, friends and bosses. In doing so, you would only head in directions that are at odds with who you really are or could become.

Yes, you will make mistakes.

Yes, you will have to learn more on your journey.

But all this is worth your while as long as you keep an open mindset and stay open to possibilities and chances.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Albert Einstein

In order to strengthen your foundation, do keep your partner and family onboard, you have higher odds as a dream-team!

Don’t be the guy that spent his entire life in the comfort zone.

Have no fear!

Start Now

Some say, the best time to get started was twenty years ago. The second-best time of course is today, not tomorrow. Don’t wait for the perfect time – it will never be perfect. Forget about waiting until you know everything – you never will. Start now.

The actual root of procrastination is doubt. Find a way to increase your belief and you will increase your activity. Of course you will be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t even try.

Keep in mind that people who never try are failing already.

For all you know, no one else knows what they’re doing either. Everyone feels insecure sometimes (some even a lot of the time).

Simple truth of life is: Those who keep going, keep winning.

Keep in mind: Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Take risks while you’re young and while you can.

“Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”

A. Sachs

In case you don’t like where you are now, move. You are not a tree.

Move towards your goals starting now. Other than your partner and family (teamwork!) don’t wait for someone to give you permission – they won’t.

Just start now!

Stay Curious: Keep Learning

Unless you are completely retired, earning money is still the best form of building and preserving wealth. Anything that you learn will somehow become your wealth, a wealth that cannot be taken away from you anymore.

Invest in yourself so that you’ll never have to worry about earning an income whether it be from a full time job, side-hustle, or business.

There are many ways to learn new things: Reading books, attending classes or through experience. I’m a strong advocate of learning desirable skills and my favourite way to go about it is through exposure: Experience is king.

Experience are the raw form of learning and will put you in a situation which pure (book-) knowledge cannot give. Life greatest lessons come from experiences.

Get started with learning “how to money”. Use this key-skill to buy more of your time and expose yourself to learning more: New languages, new technical skills, how to write, give public speeches, how to start a business and so on.

Make your brain faster, smarter, more confident and more savvy!

Stay curious and keep learning!

Move the Needles

How to money?

The very first step to building wealth is to spend less than you make.

Simply put, focus on increasing the gap between income and expenses.

The bigger the difference, the more “free cash flow” you have flowing and the faster you cruise towards your (monetary) goals – be it net-worth or cash-flow.

The Crossover Point — illustration from “Your Money Or Your Life” – by Vicki Robin

The higher your monthly income and the lower your monthly expenses, the more you can save and invest. The more you invest, the faster the third curve, the monthly investment income, will move higher up. Once the “passive income” reaches your expenses, you’ve reached the crossover point. Congratulations, you are now financially free!

Read more about this in the wonderful book “Your Money Or Your Life” by Vicki Robin.

Reduce your expenses by listing them all up and question them one by one. You will be surprised how much potential most people are able to unlock doing this exercise. Focus on ongoing savings, not on one-offs. Explore saving more money by going for the “Million Dollar Haircut” or work on similar new habits. A budget might help.

On the other side, work on increasing your income either by adding more value to this world either on your job or with your business or by investing more into cash-flowing assets.

Move the needles [income and expenses] into the right direction over time.

Pay yourself first!

Don’t save what’s left after spending, spend what’s left after saving.

Start Investing Now

Very often people tell me they don’t have enough money to get started with investing. Well, how much is enough? I’d say, if you found a way to have your basic needs covered, anything above that is fair game.

No amount is too small, so start NOW!

Know the power of compounding in investing in financial assets as well as other areas in life. Whatever it is you like to get started investing: Start your compounding journey with your first paycheck and keep going from there.

Never stop.

By setting-up automatic bi-weekly investment contributions to a stock market index fund as soon as you open a bank account you’ll most likely be well served. Try not to look at it until you’re much older.

“Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”

Albert Einstein

Buy Assets instead of Liabilities

Learn the difference between assets and liabilities.

Assets are anything that puts money into your pockets.

Liabilities are anything that takes money out of your pockets.

Simple as that!

Following this definition your car, expensive toys, boats or even your oversized home most likely qualify as liabilities (!) while investing into your education, equities or your business will be assets.

Never finance depreciating “assets” and be careful with financing liabilities even more. Better to purchase second-hand cars or wait until you have sufficient free cash-flow to indulge purchasing “fun-items” – if must be.

Most people can afford NOT to be a great investor, but probably can’t afford to be a bad one. Invest early in Index funds: You’ll worry less and earn more. Index and chill.

Once your assets are accumulating capital understand that capital is that part of wealth which is devoted to obtaining further wealth. This can be human capital (yourself) and/ or financial capital.

Keep accumulating capital.

Understand Your Taxes

The average person will view taxes as something inevitable and therefore not spend too much time understanding the “tax-code”. Each tax jurisdiction has different rules and loopholes. Understand the rules of the game before you start playing.

For most tax-codes the advice is similar: Maximize your retirement-account contributions, untap others such as health savings accounts, know how to optimize mortgages, debt, and real estate. Figure out how capital growth and dividends are taxed. Implement more tools if and when needed as your net-worth grows.

At a certain point in time you should consider starting your own business for employing yourself and/ or holding assets. From eight digits upwards the topics could be your personalized fund vehicle or to collateralize your assets within or establishing foundations and trusts with insurance shields to prepare for handing over your wealth to the next generation.

Beware, the rules keep changing.

Keep yourself updated.

Socialize with intention

You’ll become the average of the five people you spend the most time with!

Choose your friends wisely.

Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.

Seth Godin

Take people for who they really are and not for who you want them to be. They show you everyday just look. Make sure you don’t confuse looking rich, (buying fancy toys and big houses), with being wealthy. The people we think are rich are often deep in debt.

Stay away from people that think you’re lucky if you succeed or that you’re greedy if you acquire wealth. Pay no attention to them. They simply doesn’t understand. Avoid people that don’t understand.

Choose your tribe. Surround yourself with energetic people that like to discuss their ideas instead of talking about other people. Engage in some #JacuzziBeerstorming for getting more creative with your social circle. Wealth flows from energy and ideas.

It is the product of man’s capacity to think.

Build your relationships, your network is your networth.

Fuck the Joneses

Avoid keeping up with the Joneses.

Avoid herd-mentality and most money problems will avoid you throughout your life. Instead of spending too much time with what the average Joe on your street does, says or thinks of you, focus on what you can control.

Why bother trying to “fit in”?

What other people think of you is none of your business. Don’t be in a race with your social media neighbours. No one is so miserable as the poor person who maintains the appearance of wealth. Be content with enough and stay clear of lifestyle creep.

“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money”

Pablo Picasso

Never ever, ever, ever give up! Ever!

Be patient and be prepared for set-backs.

Life is not a sprint, it’s rather a marathon. The greatest of all works have not been performed by strength but by perseverance.

Be more tough!

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.

Every journey starts with a first step. Get started and then focus on daily progress. Take small steps if needed. But steps into the right direction. Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.

Aim high, be unrelenting in your pursuit of your goal, but flexible in your approach of it. Stay true to your values and don’t compare yours with anyone else’s journey. Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

„When the going gets tough, the tough get going.“

Ignored the haters in the late 1990’s and 2020 again, never give up.

No Regrets

Sometimes when you think back you will realize in your life there are certain important decisions that have led you to where you are today. It could drive you mad if you keep thinking in “what ifs” all the time.

Imagine, back in 2004 I got accepted to work for Google through an AIESEC traineeship, said no and decided for the more adventurous challenge of working in Taiwan. Was this a stupid decision? You could argue so. However, I chose to venture out to Taipei instead and got to know my wife. There are many such crossroads in anyone’s life.

My advice here: Once you’re at that crossroads, listen to your heart, your passion. Choose wisely. Make a decision. Go for it. The path you take will define and form you. In the end, it doesn’t matter which path you take, as long as you move forward. And have no regrets.

Listen to your heart – keep your passion alive.

Seriously, it doesn’t matter too much what others think.

Regrets don’t help.

Take Care of Yourself so You can take Care of Others

When you fly on an airplane, the flight crew instructs you clearly to “put your oxygen mask on first,” especially before helping others, including your own children!

Wrong (credits to “Fight Club”)

Why is this such an important rule? It’s a rule to ensure a higher rate of survival. If you run out of oxygen, you wouldn’t be able to help anyone else with their oxygen mask anymore. Put more simply: if you die, you can’t help anyone else.

That’s how to do it.

Again, the life advice here is not to push forward at any price. You got to know how to take care of yourself. Especially when to take a rest. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can experience burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, health problems, anxiety, frustration, inability to sleep, and more.

Keep in mind, whatever you try to attain here: You’re doing this to improve your life! Money is not the end goal. It’s a means, a tool, a way to have options to build the life of your dreams but not worth anything in its own right. Don’t lose sight of what really matters. Happiness over being “rich”. The journey should be as remarkable as the destination. While wealth is the ability to fully experience life please ensure to enjoy the ride: Life is about being and becoming, not having and getting.

Remember: You only live once!

What advice would you give to your younger self if you could?

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.

Financially Imagineer Your Life!

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.