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Friday, March 30, 2012

Someone to watch over you

There are lots of things we encounter on the path of life. Some of those things can easily derail us from achieving what we want. I was lucky enough to have a person in my life, early on, who helped me sidestep those blockades. This may seem far off from the point of this blog, but from my own experience, many of us have people like this in our lives. 

I was not a popular kid. When I was in first grade, I lived on Long Island. The school I went to was predominantly Jewish. One day, I told my mom a girl had pushed me down and called me ‘gentle’. My mother told me the girl must have said ‘Gentile,’ because I was not Jewish. That didn’t make any sense. I told the girl that my father was Jewish. She explained to me that my mother was not, and that was all that mattered. She then told me she could never marry me. It starts young. It was 1974. I was the only Catholic kid in first grade, and that made me an outcast.

There was a boy in my class who brought amazing toys to school. He had a bag of army men and tanks. They came in two colors, grey and green. The grey ones were suppose to be the Germans. In my first grade class, we hated the Germans. The most popular playground game was ‘Hide from the Germans'. William would not let me play with his toys. He told me I was a baby. He and the other boys played with his gray and green soldiers and took turns making fun of me. William was my first bully. He pushed me around. He teased me. I hated him. My parents, who both had just earned teaching certificates, had lots of great advice for how I should handle William. I remember trying each of their suggestions and watching each one fail. The bullying got worse. Then my grandmother pulled me aside to talk to me. She said,  “Sometimes people will only understand violence.”  This sounded good to me, since all my parents' Ghandi-like advice had left me the beaten victim.  She then said, “The next time he bothers you, hit him as hard as you can. See if you can find a stick to bash him with.” I listened.

The next day, William was intent on hurting me. A new game became the rage, ‘Push Doug down’. This was a long time ago, and the playground was made of iron and metal. Everything was rusty. There was a rusty bar from the jungle gym lying in the sand. I grabbed it. When William rushed at me, I smashed his head with the bar. There was pandemonium. I found myself in the principals office. William had to have stitches. My parents were being called. I knew I would be punished once I got home.

My parents went ballistic. The kept asking why I had done this. I never once gave up my grandmother. I am proud of that. William had black thread on his forehead, sewing together a 4 inch gash. The teacher hated me now. I had to sit in my own desk far from the class. But guess what? William never once bothered me again. My Grandmother was right, he was the kind of first grader that only respected violence.

We moved to Florida soon after first grade. I had a thick New York  accent. It took me years to lose it. I dressed differently that the kids in Inverness, Florida. I seemed to be a year ahead of them in schoolwork. They placed me in a gifted program, which meant one day a week I went to a different classroom and play weird board games and  puzzles. My regular teacher seemed to resent me being gone once a week, and always made me sit apart from the class and finish the work I missed when I was in gifted. I found myself hanging out with the kids from my gifted class. One day, I got into a fight at school because another kid called me a Jew. He said, “You talk like a Jew” and proceeded to punch me. I fought back and wound up in the principals office. But the problem was my Dad worked at the school. He was the new guidance councilor. He came into the principals office and glared at me. I was punished  for this. I had embarrassed them. After they were done, my grandmother came to my room to check on me. She told me that I should always stand up for myself and never back down. That night, she made  home-made pizza, my favorite. It was her way of rewarding me. It was also her way of pissing off my parents. We lived in  her home in Florida, so there was a lot of dual parenting going on. My folks would say one thing, she would have another idea. It was like having an imaginary friend to protect you from your parents, but a real one.

Middle school was the worst part of my schooling. I doubt I learned anything there to prepare me for high school or college. I was still in gifted class once a week, which meant most of the kids and teachers were happy to dismiss me as a person. Who designs a program to help children that removes them from their peers once a week and then labels them ‘gifted’?  Want to be sure your kid gets picked on? Tell all the other kids he is ‘gifted’ and then walk away. Your kid won’t make it 10 minutes without someone punishing him for it.

I was in the 7th grade. There was a kid named Roy, who looked like he should be in high  school. He shaved. He was twice the size of everyone else.  I have seen 40 year olds who look younger. One day, Roy spit on me. I was confused by this, since I had never once said a word to him. Why did he suddenly feel the urge to spit on me? Then he called me a “Fag”. No one had ever questioned my sexuality before, at least not that I had heard. I wasn’t gay. I knew that because all my fantasies involved girls, breasts, and the magical place between their thighs that I knew I wanted to know more about. But Roy called me a fag and now other people called me that too. “Look, it’s the fag.” Such a hateful word! I only had two friends in the school. They were both guys and both in gifted. They were also overweight and, like me, terrible at sports.  I guess that made us non-men. My classmates called them my girlfriends. It was painful. I knew I could not tell my parents. My dad had become a school administrator. If I told him, he would intervene in a way that would only anger Roy. I knew Roy would kill me before anyone could protect me. He was two feet taller and a hundred pounds heavier than me. It would be a quick death. So I tried my best to tolerate it. My grandmother saw my pain. She sat with me one evening and asked me what was wrong. I told her the whole truth. She said, “You know, this boy hasn’t touched you. He has only called you names. Sometimes the best way to handle it is to ignore him. Sometimes, when someone hurts you, you have to show them it's not working.” So I took her advice. I ignored the names, the saliva, the teasing. Roy realized he was not getting a rise out of me, and moved on to easier prey.

I was 23. I had just beaten another person to death, or so I thought. I had visited my girlfriend in Daytona Beach. When I got out of my car, her new boyfriend and his pal were waiting for me. One of them had a hockey stick. I was hit once before I even knew what happened. I did not know that my girlfriend had another guy. This was how I find out, a beating? I was being cheated on and I was oblivious to it. Two days earlier, I had been told I had to repeat the year at my physical therapy program. I had been sick for some of the finals. Instead of them kicking me out, they allowed me to retake those finals the following year. My girlfriend was only with me because I was a good prospect. She was a gold digger of sorts. That truth only came out when I learned that the hockey stick attacker was the son of a general and a guy with a air force pilot’s slot. He had prospects and mine were now questionable. But I did not know any of that. I was simply fighting for my life.
In high school I took karate from a friend. I got pretty good at it.  In college, I got into kick boxing. This was 1988, long before ultimate fighting became the rage, so things were not so intense.  At the kick boxing gym, I learned how to fight and win at a contest. I also learned  I have a freakishly strong right punch. Doug, the boy who hated PE in school turned out to be a good boxer. I have long arms. I don’t weigh a lot for my size. When I fought in my weight class, I would usually win. So I fought my attackers. I fought hard. One ran away, the other lay on the parking lot, in a pool of blood. I grabbed the hockey stick and drove off in panic. I was convinced the guy was dead. As I left I saw my girl friend staring down, a look of horror and concern on her face. But not for me. For the guy I had just beaten. That was a tough lesson! I drove straight for my parents home. I was scared out of my mind. 

My parents were not home. But, my grandmother was awake. I told her what happened. She just listened.  Forever on my side, she never judged me.  Her face turned  grave when I told her I had killed the boy. She asked me if anyone had seen me. I nodded. Then she suddenly stood up. She went in her room and made a call. It was midnight, who could she be calling? Returning, she handed me an envelope. Inside was $5,000 in twenty dollar bills. “You are going to go to your Uncle Howard’s house in Oregon. You can spend the summer with him. I want you to leave tonight. I won’t tell anyone where you are, so don’t tell anyone.” She hugged me and I left. I drove all the way to Portland without taking a break. I learned the boy  who attacked me was fine. I remember scanning the news for days for word about a murderer who escaped. (Me) But a friend had contacted my parents and soon my Grandmother called to say the boy was fine and no one was looking for me. She did not know that when I came to her in the night.  She had unconditional love for me, even for a potential murderer. Since I had to wait to retake my classes, I ended up spending the summer at my uncle's farm in Portland. This is the same uncle who would conspire with his brother and embezzle all my grandmother’s money, eventually leaving her penniless and sitting alone in a bus stop. But that summer was before all that happened. I had a blast learning to farm and discovering that girls in Portland could  be lots of fun.

I was alone with her. She was barely breathing. Hours before,  I sent my mom home. I had to, since each time my grandmother moved, my mom would jump up and tend to her. I knew that sometimes, you had to let someone go, so they could be at peace. My mom was not capable of that. She was a wreck. I was being strong. I think because we always lived in my grandmother’s home, my mom and I have screwed-up dynamics. Sometimes, my mom views me as her brother. In part, my grandmother's constant meddling and manipulation using money was to blame. But, my mom and I never had a normal mother/son thing. So when I told her to leave, it was not as her son, but her protector, her older brother.  We had medication from Hospice. I gave the last large dose of morphine myself, the nurse had showed me how. It was so quiet in my grandmother's little apartment. I could hear the clock tick and her very shallow breaths. They say that most older people die peacefully. Not my grandmother. She died in agony. Her breathing suddenly became labored. She clutched at her throat. Suddenly, she sat up in her bed with her eyes wide open. “Who is that? “ she asked. There was no one where she pointed.

I told her “It's me Grandma, I am here.”

She didn’t look at me but settled back. I wanted to take her hand, but I didn’t want to force her to stay any longer.  I sat by her side. Her breathing became ragged. She sounded like she was struggling. Like she was drowning.  I sat horrified. Then sounds became more and more quiet. Then nothing. I had been strong. And now, I was alone in the room. She was gone. The one person who had always been there for me had left the room and my life. There is not a day that goes by in the 10 years since, that I have not felt the loss from my life. It is not something you can ever replace.

Despite all the bad things my grandmother did and all the pain she brought on herself and my family, there was a good side to her. She had the power to make you feel loved and cared for. Her advice was often crude and brutal. It was common to hear her curse like a sailor. But when everyone else abandoned you, she would be there no matter what. That’s rare. She did leave me with a gift ; I can be that person for my own children. I can be my grandmother for them.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

How I made a lot of money in real estate.

In 2002 I sold all my stuff. Within 3 years, I had more money in my bank account that I ever thought possible. All because I stopped thinking of all those things I owned as ‘mine’. Instead, I saw them all as a way to get ahead. I sold everything - our dream home, our furnishings, all our stuff. Over the next three years, I repeated this process a second time to eventually arrive at a point where my whole lifetime of possessions  fit into 30 small boxes. I learned to place zero value on everything I owned. Everything was for sale. I was no longer married to my possessions. Ending my love affair with my stuff was crucial to not only finding wealth, but also in discovering a passion I never new existed. The joy of being a home remodeler.

Have you ever heard George Carlin talk about your stuff? It’s the thing that made him a cultural icon. He absolutely nails how we all focus so much time and energy toward the accumulation and housing of ‘stuff’. Basically we work hard at jobs, we may or may not like, to buy stuff. When we have too much stuff, we work harder to buy bigger houses to hold our stuff. Soon, we are trapped in a situation where we will lose our stuff if we don’t work even harder at the jobs we may or may not enjoy. And, the harder we work, the more stuff we buy and the further and further trapped we are.


I told you a few days ago of a dark period in my life,  the year 2000. We had built a beautiful dream home across the street from beautiful Melbourne Beach in  Florida. It was right on the Indian River. The home was a two story with a tile roof, a chef’s kitchen, and a real library with cherry bookcases that went to the top of the 14’ ceilings. This home was outrageous. I started construction when we first moved back from Hawaii. Right after I signed the papers, my wife learned she was pregnant, I lost all our money in the stock market, and the Physical Therapy job market went completely south.

 By the time we moved in, the home was killing us. Our dream turned into a nightmare. I hated that home. We both wanted to move back to Hawaii where we had been happy. But, now we had our son. I had finally found a better job. We were recovering, but barely. Then, my grandmother died. I received no inheritance because my Uncles took all her assets the year before. So not only did I lose the one person who would console me but I had no money to get me out of this situation. I worried about making my mortgage payment. I saw no way for us ever to get out of this house debt. Then came 9/11. That awful day lead to an easing of interest rates to very low levels. Suddenly, banks were loosening their requirements for financing. Clinton signed into law a bill that made the sale of your home with gains a tax free event. The housing market, long dormant in Melbourne Florida, became suddenly active. For sale signs popped up and disappeared.

Yes, this it was this nice.

I looked at my beautiful wife. She knew the remorse I had about this dream home. We had designed and built it. She knew how miserable it made me feel. She was painfully aware of how I thought this home stopped me from finding happiness. My poor wife! She was also pregnant with our second child. I think deep down, she knew this was for the best.  She told me we could sell it. So we did. In fact, it never even listed. We talked to a few agents to list. Suddenly, we receive a call from someone saying she has a cash buyer and we only have to give her 2.5% commission. We sold. We made almost an 80% profit on our purchase price. Two years earlier, I lost all our money. Here, in one moment, I made a lot of it back. Suddenly, we were not broke.  The buyer even wanted our furniture. We sold them most of it. We were really going to be free! I know some of you might not relate to this. For many, having things is the dream itself. But I had seen a different life. I knew how happy I had been just renting a home with crappy furniture in Hawaii. This dream home was not my dream. It was not me. But it did help me get to my dream.

Within weeks, we had closed and rented a small affordable home. I was elated. We had our daughter, Kaitlynn in April of  2003. To celebrate, we decided to visit our friends in Hawaii for a vacation. With a 3 month old baby and our 3 year old son, we revisited our once happy life in Kailua, Hawaii. It was all still there, just as we left it. On the flight home, I felt a sense of crushing loss. How could I let all that slip through our fingers? We could have simply stayed there and avoided all this pain. But isn’t that always true? Hindsight is a bitter friend!. My wife looked over at me on that flight. She was nursing my daughter at the time. She said, “Is there some way we could move back?”  We had looked at real estate while we were there. The Hawaii market was soaring. What had cost $300,000 when we left was now approaching $600,000. It just wasn’t possible. We had been priced out of that market. I explained that to her. I will never forget what she said next, it changed the course of our lives.

“Well, if selling one house won’t get us there, what about selling 5?”

She said that. It was all her idea. So, don’t give me too much credit. I am simply the muscle and drive in the outfit called Weiss, Inc. In 2003 financing was cheep. Standards were low. My dog could have gotten a loan. I was working full time as a home health physical therapist. It’s the kind of job where you can see more patients and make more money. And I was! Between the two of us, we were making in the middle one  hundred thousands. So we had provable income, steady work, and cash for a down payment. We were a loan agent's wet dream!

Within 6 months we owned 3 homes. We didn’t stop there. We kept buying. We made deals with builders on new construction. We bought a newly constructed condo. We picked out colors and carpets for 2 custom built single family homes. We made some rules. We only bought at a price we knew we could cover with rent. We put 20% down and got 30 year loans. I wanted this to be fool proof. I knew those adjustable mortgages would eventually go up. I made a plan that within 8 years, we would have enough principle to move back to Hawaii. Then we found a run down home in a very exclusive neighborhood. We knew we could double our money with minimal work. I was becoming more and more handy. I was doing all the upkeep and repairs on our rental homes. I thought I could do all the remodeling myself and make a huge profit. So we moved in and became remodelers.

 It wasn’t that easy. I had a steep learning curve. I am fearless when it comes to jumping into things, and this usually bites me later on. Soon I had gutted and refinished the kitchen. I redid the two bathrooms. We hired a tile man to lay new tiles and a granite man to install new counters. We learned from the builders we worked with on the other homes. We chose neutral colors, selected stainless steel appliances and used only granite counter tops. We learned what would sell, and we chose accordingly. We even bought furniture to stage the home we were remodeling. We knew this was all to sell. Were attached to nothing! It was a strange feeling. It was like we were living in a hotel room.

Then seeming disaster struck. Melbourne was slammed by 2 hurricanes in 2004. Many beach homes were destroyed. But, ours were fine. The home we were remodeling was damaged, but ironically the repairs only improved the resale value. I remember the terror I felt when were in the hurricane shelter as Hurricane Frances blew outside. I pictured all my rental homes destroyed and me collecting no rent. I saw myself losing all the homes and all the money I had made. Can you blame me? It already happened once! In the middle of the night, in the shelter, I told my wife if we could, I would sell all the homes. It was too much worry! Plus, so much time. I spent hours collecting rent, showing properties, repairing things, going to Home Depot for new water heaters. Being a landlord sucked! And I was also working 70 hours a week as a therapist. We felt cash poor and land rich. Actually we just felt poor and tired most of the time. And now a hurricane was going to take it all away. 

But It did not happen. Instead, over 2,000 families lost their homes. Melbourne is just below Cape Canaveral, where NASA and the space center is. Lots of engineers with very good jobs. These people that lost their homes had to find new ones, and fast. Just before the hurricanes, the housing market had been getting hot in Melbourne. Prices had risen to a point where our formula of only paying what the rent would cover had already stopped us from buying any more new homes. (Please see that was not wisdom but luck, we had no foresight the housing market would crash in 2 years) So now all the houseless engineers were looking for homes. The market skyrocketed after the hurricanes. It was a full on mania. Just like the internet stock mania in 1999.

Our 8 year plan became a 2 year plan. All of our tenants wanted to buy the homes they were renting from us. Our newly constructed homes sold the same day we closed. In one case, we did a double closing where I never even owned the home, I simply signed my name to the closing statement and got a check. The home we remodeled turned out fantastic. We staged it to sell and it did within 2 weeks. We got our full asking price and the buyer wanted ALL our staged furniture. We closed all the deals.

It was early 2005. My bank account had a balance that made me feel wealthy. I kept looking at it, to be sure it was real. I looked at my wife and told her, we can move back if you want. She did. We had no things. No stuff. No homes, just a few boxes of household crap and photos. We shipped 30 medium sized boxes to Hawaii. We were as free from stuff as any family of  four could ever be. We had a huge bank account. We were on our way to Hawaii and happiness.

But, before you think the story ends here and that “Wow, Doug is a Rich Bastard”, I need to give you a quick epilogue to my tale. We purchased a home in Kailua, almost sight unseen, that was suppose to be our ticket back to happiness. Within 12 months, I would attempt suicide. As it turned out, in our excitement to escape Florida, we forgot to think about what we were doing. In the next 12 months, I realized that life can go down as well as up. Lets just say the bank account shrank back down as my anxiety went to never before seen levels. Our new home had rats.  Our new business had assholes. Life did not become a happily ever after story. But I am still working on it!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Turn your television off!

I loved the television show LostI wanted to know the island's mystery. I wanted to know the back stories of the characters. What was under the hatch? Who was Jacob?  It was the first time anything on television felt compelling to me. It seemed like a giant mystery. If you paid attention enough, you could solve it. Well, that turned out not to be true, but it was fun. I had theories about the mystery.  In 2004 I joined a website where people discussed their favorite theories about Lost. I discussed my ideas of how the characters would leave the island, what the island was, and who was behind everything. I became a fan of a TV show.

That was kind of a strange things for me. I usually hated TV. Most things I saw seemed contrived and not representing real life. I can’t stand sitcoms, especially the ones with laugh tracks. I absolutely hated reality shows; they seem to purposely pit people against each other. It is so obvious that the drama and tension is forced. I just can not stomach it. There was always very little on the tube that I would even tolerate watching. 

Then there are the endless commercials. They let you know what you should buy, the newest car, hairstyle, ready to eat food, politician, and what movies you need to see. TV drives those points home every 12 minutes. In the span of 60 minutes, you see 12-16 minutes of ads. That’s a lot of brainwashing!  Sure, you try and resist. You tell yourself that you're ignoring it. But it seeps in. Those ads are designed to implant subtle suggestions into your subconscious. They are telling you what to want, what to think, what you should be. They synch ads to the shows you watch. Did you notice that when you watch a dramatic love scene they often have ads for travel and sexy cars? It's as if to say "Buy this and you can have that love you just saw" It's evil!

 If you want to see it really work, watch how children are affected. When we used to watch TV, my son once said to me, “Dad, I want to see the new Batman movie, it's going to be spectacular!” See, my children don’t say things like that. But the TV told them to say it. I asked my then 7 year old what “Spectacular” meant. He said “Cool?”. We went to see Batman. He was right, it was cool. I had no problem with the movie, in fact I loved it. But it did make me think what else the television was forcing on my son and daughter. There are ads for toys, movies, cars, even religious preference. For 12-16 minutes out of every 60, my kids where having the most penetrating messages hurled at them while their brain was glazed over from an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. It's really fiendish when you think about it.

So quite by accident, we ended all this. We had discovered Netflix and very quickly fell in love with the streaming TV show and movie option. I know what you are going to say, that’s still watching TV. Ok, you're right - it's still TV shows. But without the ads. And, without the wait. The first show we watched on Netflix was Monk. My daughter was 7 at the time, and identified with the main character's obsessive compulsive disorder. She only will eat vanilla ice cream as a desert, and only Safeway Select Homestyle Vanilla. Don’t even think to offer her any other flavor or even try and use a spoon that has been in another flavor to dole her portion of homestyle vanilla. She won’t touch it. So she found it easy to relate to the very likable yet dysfunctional detective named Monk. The show made her laugh out loud, as they allude to on the internet.  So we watched an episode every evening, after my newly instituted mandatory hour of reading (something we have now upped to three hours a day). Within two months, we had seen every episode. Then we moved on to Mythbusters. When that was exhausted we watched The Way Things Work.  We watch a lot of documentaries now. My son loves ones about astronomy . We all enjoyed the BBC Universe series detailing how the universe and planets were made. The best part is that they watch things until they are sick of it. Then we move on to other things. No more, going for years, watching the same show. No more having that continual influence on your life year after year. Lost lasted 6 long years. You can watch it all in a month. Better to waste a month than 6 years.

So here is how I realized this was having an effect on my kids. You will probably have trouble believing me, but I swear on a boy scouts honor, this is true. After a year of this, it happened to be time for my son’s birthday. I asked him what he might want. He said “I don’t know”. What 10 year old doesn't know what he wants for a birthday?  Of course he didn’t know, he had seen no ads for a year. He had no clue what was the hot toy. This trend repeated itself at Christmas, neither kid knew what to ask for. My son realized his bike was small, so he asked for a new one. My daughter thought she might like to sew, so she wanted a machine. The point is, I had inadvertently shielded them from advertising for over a year, and it had a real effect. Now they wanted things that would enrich their lives. My soon to be 9 year old daughter wants me to buy her Silver Art Clay for her upcoming birthday so she can learn to make real jewelry. She learned about that from talking with a professional artist. There are no ads on TV about Art Clay. But it interested her. She wanted it because she herself thought it would be fun to try.

Don't tell her, this is her birthday present.

So this brings me back to how TV and the media affect us all. More importantly, how it holds us back. It is very difficult to be original when you are constantly being told what to think or what to want. Plus, I think it creates a false sense of what you should be working for. The truth is, no one needs the newest car. It won’t make you sexier, smarter, or a better person. It will make you poorer and possibly more attractive to the kind of person who thinks displays of material wealth signify success or potential for success. Well potential gold-diggers, I have news for you. The guy in the seventy thousand dollar sports car might be in debt up to his eyeballs, married, and a chronic alcoholic. Then again, he could be a billionaire. The car he drives really doesn’t conclusively tell you a thing. But TV tries to tell us that. It says if you drive a BMW 7 series you are a rich bastard that has a beautiful house with a brick paved driveway, you're as good looking as a male underwear model, and you have a very hot lady waiting for you in a black slinky dress.  TV says, if you own that car, then that guy is you. Even if you are a fat, fifty year old, balding accountant.

You're not socially-conscious unless you drive this.

You won’t become more creative watching TV. Nor will it help your relationship with other people. It's not going to make you a better person. Not that the shows themselves aren’t funny and entertaining. They are, but you are not going to come up with something new or innovative while BMW is forcing you to equate their car with success. I really think you need to pull yourself away from what everyone else is hearing. How many times have I been accosted in my office by a Fox News lover or a Rush Limbaugh convert? There is nothing inherently wrong with listening to things like that, but when what they say and believe becomes your mantra, you are nothing more than a minion, a parrot. Not everything Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil or Rush says is good. Some of it is. Maybe a lot of it. But, be careful! I don’t listen to shows like that very much. Occasionally I visit a client in their home, and they have the TV on. I hear how Mr. Jim Cramer screams at his viewers. He tells them they should know better than to invest in this or that. He mentions how his regular viewers would ‘know better’ than to invest in ‘loser stock.’ All these TV gurus seem to want to have converts to their causes. They want everyone who watches to be on their team.  And, many times, they will tell you their team is the right one and everyone else is an idiot. They work hard at creating the myth that their advice alone can protect you.  I guess that’s how you have a popular TV show and sell ad time. But it brings my point home. Many things in the media are designed to force you to a way of thinking. To make you imitate what they want you to say, to think. I notice this only because I am not continually exposed to it. But if you spend an hour or more a day watching TV, or watching the news, or listening to the radio, your brain has accommodated to the pitch. You are not as immune to it. The constant barrage of forced opinion and forced values begins to seem normal. And they win. They get inside your mind. You start thinking about that great financing deal for a BMW. You begin to see all democrats as baby-eating Satanists. You stop thinking for yourself.

Rush wants your brain. 

It is blatantly obvious that TV and the media try to control your thoughts. I firmly believe that to find your true aim, you need to ignore the noise. You need to hear no one but yourself. Having the TV on makes that very difficult, if not impossible. The media will fill your mind with all sorts of distractions. It will make you think you are fat, unhappy, loveless, and behind everyone else. It will try and tell you what your politics and religion should be. It will tell you that what is missing from your life are things. The TV will try and keep you from improving your life. By improving, I don’t mean making more money to buy nicer shit. I mean making yourself a better person.

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? Bill Murray plays a man trapped in time, forced to repeat the same day over and over until he gets it right. At first, he gives in to all the carnal pleasures of life. He uses his knowledge of the day to obtain, money, sex, and other vices. He tires of this and tries to kill himself. Each day, he tries to end it, the next morning he starts back in the same bed. Finally, he realizes he can use the situation to improve himself. He learns to play the piano. He reads. He talks to people.  Eventually he helps people and the community. He uses his strange situation to better himself and become the person he envisioned.  I think it’s the perfect example of how someone is only better when they get away from the media, from the constant noisy message.

The only way you can ever really change is to listen to yourself. To hear what you really want, without being tempered by what everyone expects or what you think Rush Limbaugh or Oprah Winfrey would approve of. Otherwise, you are nothing more than a minion of the media.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Letter from a reader: "Finding my own Aim"

I have received a few personal emails from readers because of this blog. This letter really made me think about how finding your aim is so much more than a question of finding wealth. Sometimes just surviving and making the best of things is the best thing you could be working towards. I don't think there is anything I can say to add to her excellent letter. All I can say is that I feel her angst to recognize her inner purpose!

I can relate to a lot of what you've said, and a lot of what you've posted previously. We're the same age, and I can honestly say that finding my aim has pretty much been a life long pursuit. I'm still not sure what it is. Is your aim something that you WANT to be your aim? Or is it your aim because that's what life has put before you and you have no choice? Right now, my life is more the latter than the former, and I struggle with it daily. My aims from my childhood and teen be a nurse, a mother, and/or an artist. Well, I've become a mother and my kids are my greatest joy and my biggest accomplishment. As for never happened. It's a long story, but I feel like I missed the boat on that one. However, if someone offered to support my family while I go to school, and pay my tuition, I would still like to be a nurse. I've resigned myself to the fact that is likely never going to happen. The artist thing I can still do, but I don't give myself permission to do my art because I feel like I SHOULD be doing something else...those pesky obligations. Plus, I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my drawing...if I can't do it perfect, then I don't want to do it.

 As for what life has put before me...a very sick husband, with a progressive, incurable disease. He can't work any more and his illness holds us back from living the life we would have wanted. I'm busy working, raising 3 kids, running a messy household, managing money (rather poorly), and taking care of his personal business (applying for disability, trying to get our mortgage reduced), and all of this while trying to not only take care of him, but also have some quality time with him. My son also has ADD and an anxiety disorder, and he and my husband had a bad motorcycle accident last summer which almost killed my husband. So, the stresses have been overwhelming. So, I wonder, is this the life that was meant for me? I long for the day that I can move on and have the life that will make me happy. But, I do the best i can under the circumstances, to enjoy life and make the best of it.

Also, my husband and I started a foundation to help the families of people impacted by catastrophic illness/injury by providing assistance with daily living necessities...bill payments, food, housing payments, fuel oil, etc. It helps us make some good come out of a bad situation, and we LOVE helping other people. We have some of the best people around working with us, and we have made some amazing friends through this experience. So, I don't know...maybe that's my aim?

 Okay, so now this has become long winded, but my point is that your blog, and the things you have been through, and some of the points you have made, are helpful to anyone out there who may be going through a difficult time in life.

 I feel that I know you so much better, and you are a really great person. Keep going with this blog...I think your "aim" is correct in the direction you're taking it!


How a survival story about Auschwitz saved my life.

It was 2000, and I was in hell. I had moved back to Florida from Hawaii. We had just had our son. Things were so bad my wife had to go back to full time work before she was even done breast feeding him.  I was working three part time therapy jobs and we were barely making ends meet. Just months before, we thought we were millionaires, but the stock market proved us to be greedy fools instead. Life can change very quickly!

Bread line
This state was quite a shock to me. I became a PT in the early 90’s when the demand for PTs was huge. I just had to wave my degree and I had a job. But,  because congress had decided to no longer reimburse nursing homes for physical therapy, there were suddenly a lot of unemployed therapists. One stroke of the pen from congress and 20,000 PT out of work.  My wife and I were both therapists now caught in the sudden jobless vortex.  We had also just had a child, and the prospect of her returning to work so quickly was not what we had hoped for. My commute was over 2 hours a day. I wasn’t making a lot, but enough to survive.

 I missed living in Hawaii, where I felt truly happy. I had actually come to the conclusion in Hawaii that  physical therapy was just not what I wanted to do. It was not my aim! I realized I had more to offer the world. But all that took the back burner now. I was in survival mode. I was a mess!

Chart of my mood in 2000

The fact that I had lost all our savings in the stock market made our situation even worse. It's one thing to deal with loss, it's another to know you had the power to prevent it. That if you had been smarter, wiser, more attuned, you could have easily avoided all the pain. But I had lost all our gains in AOL stock options. Then I made the fatal mistake of trying to regain my lost gains with the purchase of more risky options. It was early 2000. By March I got a margin call from my broker. I had to sell everything. Until that moment, I at least had the hope that the market would turn. That my stocks would rise again. But I had foolishly tied our home construction loan to my stock portfolio. Now, as that balance shrank to lower digits, Merrill Lynch let me know it was time to add more money.

“Add money from where?”

“From you other accounts.”

“I don’t have other accounts.”

“Well, that’s too bad. You will need to sell everything in that case.”

The party was over. The music had stopped and I was still standing.  I suddenly knew why people jumped off skyscrapers during the 1929 market crash. I took what was left of our finances and paid down our mortgage so the margin call risk was eliminated. Then I put the rest in cash. And I went out to find a job. No one was hiring. The one thing I could always depend on was gone as well, employment. But I could do something about it. After I had exhausted all the PT job prospects where we lived, I went further south. An hour away there was per diem work. But it was only part time. I found another hospital that wanted part time hours. Then I found a company that needed a PT to go to factories to provide on-site workman’s comp care. Between the three jobs and what my wife was making with her 30 hours per week, we were suddenly surviving. Barely!

Time marched on. I began to save money again. Our son was in daycare a lot. He was unhappy. A very unhappy 1 year old. I had found a string of jobs, each better than the last. Finally I was able to get a full time staff position with a home care agency. It was at a large area hospital and had excellent pay and benefits. Soon, I was able to get my wife a job there too.  Things were better, but I was still miserable. I mourned my losses. I secretly hated my job. I despised what it was doing to my small son, to our marriage, to my life. I felt trapped. More than anything, I wanted to be free of all this defeat. I wanted to reclaim my life in Hawaii. I was still a mess.

I was at a client’s home. This was around August of 2001, before 9/11. He and his wife were both my patients, so I was there for a good two hours. First I helped her recover from her hip surgery. Then I worked with him on his stroke recovery. They both spoke with thick polish/yiddish accents. He had a great sense of humor. He liked to teach me Yiddish while we worked.

 He would tell me he was 'gornisht helfn' .

“Whats that?” I always took his bait.

“Beyond help!" And he would give me this huge grin to let me know it wasn’t what he believed.

One day, I was really down. My grandmother had died recently. My wife had told me that morning  how upset my son was when she dropped him off. I was angry at myself. I blamed myself for everything. If I had been a smart guy, my son would be home with my wife right now. Instead, we were all where we did not want to be. My clients must have read my mind. He could see I was troubled.

“So? Whats got you verklempt?

I knew this meant what was bothering me. I just didn’t want to burden him. I told him "Nothing."

“Nothing? Nothing? I will tell you for nothing!”

As I sat there, he told me  how he and his wife survived Auschwitz. It was the most awful thing I have ever heard.  It took him two hours to tell me the whole story. I don’t think I moved a muscle the whole time. I just listened. I did not interrupt. I just struggled to understand his every word. I had never before listened to a story like this. It made me want to throw up and weep at the same time. His tale was the kind of thing that movies are made from. There was tragedy and horror beyond belief. There was endless sorrow. 

He lost his entire family in that camp. His current wife lost her family. Together they had lost 2 spouses and 6 children to abominable death. Senseless killing. But there was more than that. There was watching your children die of starvation, of gunshot wounds. Of seeing your husband killed and your daughters ripped away. He escaped! He snuck off from a work detail, only to be caught and sent back to Auschwitz. And somehow, he and his wife survived. They met for the first time in a re-integration center in Pittsburg, Pa. They had both lost everything and lived through a horror show. I learned that day that people who go through things like that must be with others who went through the same thing. It's really the only way. They moved out of the camp together. He became a tailor. He was given some money from a Jewish group to open a shop. They had two sons. Both became brain surgeons. His shop grew to become a famous clothing business in Pittsburgh.  He had survived all that and he was telling me all of this because I looked verklempt.

I realized that very day that my problems were nothing. I could easily work through everything. Nothing I had lost could not be replaced. Money can always be made again. I had a son and a wife. No one was going to take them from me. What was I upset about? Nothing!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Casey Neistat has found his bliss.

Casey Neistat was the star of the short lived HBO series, The Neistat Brothers. The show followed Casey and his brother, Van,  while they made movies, lived the life in New York, and traveled the globe. Along the way, they made some very original, quirky movies. I have to say I became a huge fan. They were first thrust into fame in November of 2003 with a video they made about Apple’s lack of a battery replacement program. The video went viral. The film quickly attracted media attention and the controversy was covered worldwide by over 130 sources. Apple officially announced a battery replacement policy on November 14, 2003. and also announced an extended iPod warranty program on November 21. They had brought the computer giant to its knees. They made a difference. 


The brothers went on to make many other films, including one about how easy it is to steal a bicycle. The brothers somehow found a way to keep going. Their film making became their life.  They perfected their craft. They found a following. I loved their recent Facebook video:


I think the highpoint of their success has to be their HBO show. They made a video of how they pitched their idea for a show to HBO and won a single season deal. I can’t link to that, but if you have access to HBO GO, I encourage you to watch it. It showed their day to day life, their video making process, their videos, and a lot about their lives. It was unlike 99% of what you see on TV. There is something about Casey Neistat that I find compelling. He looks a little out there. His hair is often flying off, on its own, in his videos. He does not seem to posses movie star good looks or even a good radio voice. He seems, well, average. Like me or you. But spend any time at all watching his videos and you will quickly see his genius. His movies are one of a kind. Every one I see tells a story in a clear and concise manner. They are almost childlike in their construction. Casey uses stop action to bring to life crayon drawings, familiar household objects, and colorfully hand drawn graphs and tables. There are also live action scenes woven together with music, voice overlay, and interviews. It's brilliant. And you could not possibly repeat what he is doing.

Casey Neistat

He is  getting paid for his art. Articles about Casey have mentioned the numerous corporate advertising deals he has made. You might have even seen his work but not known it. I recently saw this Nike video he did, for the roll out of the Nike Fuel Band. It's amazing in its simplicity, yet demonstrates this product in such a comical and straightforward way.  All his videos seem to have an element of humor along with his message. This Nike ad is the perfect example. See for yourself:


From watching his videos and the HBO show, you get a sense of who Casey Neistat is. He is just this guy, you know? He has causes, a sense of social responsibility, a few girlfriends, and he has a son. I find it very interesting that he does not hide his life the way so many actors and stars do. Instead, he exposes it. He interviews his grandmother. He makes a video of him surprising his girlfriend in South Africa.  He uses his life as a tool to express himself.

Casey Neistat is leaving his mark on society. He is offering the world something unique that he created. People watch his videos all over the world. His art influences people. I have to say, to me, he is the perfect example of someone who has met his aim. 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

7 things you can do to help find your aim

Ignore the noise. About a year and a half ago,  I tuned out. I stopped reading the paper or watching TV news. I stopped watching TV altogether. At first it was the Netflix effect. Unlimited streaming movies and TV shows I had never heard of were suddenly all available and ready when I was. The kids and I instantly adopted. We forgot about cable for a month. Then two. Soon, we were contemplating returning our cable box. Great, right? But something else happened along the way. We stopped listening to ads. My kids had no idea what movies were in the box office. They didn’t know which toys were hot or what was suddenly cool. I didn’t know which cars had just debuted. I had no idea who was running for office. I had tuned it all out.

Ignore the noise!

This is a short list of things I have found to work in helping me be creative and learn more what my aim really is. I hope you enjoy it:

And I was better for it. I was ignoring the noise. No one in my family seemed to be missing anything. In many ways we were better off.  I was making better investment decisions by not watching CNBC. I was reading books again. I was learning that the internet had more in it than porn. What was happening to me? Had TV and Madison avenue so dominated my thinking? Yes! So, I made an effort to purposely force this everywhere in my life. I stopped using Yahoo News as my home page. I stopped reading about my stocks. Instead I relied more on screening and research. I no longer care what other people thought about my investments. I stopped caring about world events. I filled my free time (what little there is) with movies from Netflix, books, and reading peoples blogs. I even stopped looking at Facebook. I am slowly weeding out everything that does not enhance my life. And I have more creativity and ideas than I ever had before. Ignoring the noise meant listening more to myself. Turns out that is the key. You have to tune it all out to hear your own music. Otherwise, you can't help but be the same. 

Clean up your life: I mean everything. I have discovered that I can not think clearly when my sink is full of dishes. How weird, huh? But it's true. I am not a neat person.  I am the messy guy in the Odd Couple movie. I frequently leave messes. My wife and kids know it. My patients know it. And now so do you. But, for some reason, I can not concentrate on my work when my sink is full of last night’s plates. Nor can I think straight with clutter on the counters. I can watch TV and play games with the kids all day long with the kitchen in a nuclear disaster zone. But, if I actually try and be productive,  it can’t happen. So, my first step in being creative or productive is to first clean everything. I clean the kitchen, I remove any mail and throw out the trash. Then I can think!

Don’t laugh, you may be the same way.  It came as a huge surprise to me. But in practice, it really works. I took this a step further to organizing closets, and ridding my life of clutter. The more I throw away the happier and clearer I am.  I also found that I needed my daily paperwork to be caught up. I needed all the things that were nagging at me to be off my plate. Then, and only then, could I really think. Otherwise, the minute I sat in front of the computer, I would be thinking of the dirty dishes, and paperwork, and that call I needed to make. It was robbing me of all my creative energy.

Myself and family, 2012, opening our spaces.

Make open space in your life. In 2005 I almost committed suicide. I was under incredible stress trying to run a practice I had just bought and I almost jumped off a cliff. Luckily, I did not. Part of my recovery was going to see a psychologist. He said something in the first session that stuck in my mind as excellent advice. Something I wish someone had said to me years earlier. Make space in your life. He felt one of the mistakes I had made was using up every hour of my day. I admit it, I worked too hard. I was working 16 hour days 7 days a week. I was committed to meeting with my staff, hours of client visits, paperwork, book keeping, and time with my kids. Before I knew it, every minute of my day was accounted for. There was not a moment for free time with anyone. So there I was complaining to this very nice psychologist about why my wife was ignoring me and he said, “Doesn’t sound like you had any moments for her to see you.” She saw me all the time. She was ignoring me. She was not helping me enough with my new business. We weren’t talking. We weren’t having sex. I was almost yelling at him. He smiled at me. “Where in that schedule did you expect her to have sex? When was the free time for a conversation with her? Where are the unaccounted moments?” He had me. He was absolutely correct. I had left no minute free.

So I listened to him. I made free times. I stopped scheduling things on the weekend. Soon, I made a no work ever on the weekends rule. Things improved. It was just part of my recovery, but an important part.  You simply can not hope to be creative if you leave yourself no time to be creative. I work like a crazy man. I will work hard every day for a year. I did that last year and it was really hard. But, I left spaces for my wife and my kids. This did not mean planning to do things with them. This meant planning to do nothing with them, planning free time. Sounds silly, but it’s the only way.

This year, I planned free time to write this blog. Two days a week, I arranged my schedule so I could be home with nothing to do. Before I wrote this blog, I was trying my hand at programming. I worked with a friend on creating C+ programming to buy and sell stocks according to our strategies. It worked, but it turned out to not be my thing. I wanted to write. So I am writing this. I did not really earn anything from the stock programming. I am earning nothing from this. But I see all of this as necessary steps to finding my real aim in life. Without giving myself the space, it will never happen.

Don’t chase the money. I can’t emphasize this enough. Doing something only for the money is the quickest path to failure I know. When I bought my physical therapy practice, I spent one full year trying to squeeze the last dollar out of it. I was miserable. My business was not growing. I was not happy. Then, I changed everything. I fired my employees, even the good ones. I moved to a smaller space. I lowered our overhead to less than 10% of our revenue. I could keep 90 cents of every dollar we made. So I could stop worrying about payroll and insurance payments. I focused on my delivery of Physical therapy. I focused on my clients. I spent all my working hours making their lives better. My wife and I were the only staff and we both cared about our clients. We saw people without getting paid. We did things that pleased the referring doctors and stopped caring about denials and insurance. We give away a lot of our services, but it's better for us to do that than worry about the last dollar. If someone can’t pay, I used to turn them away. Now I realize that it is better for everyone, including me, if I not only see that client but give him the best service money can buy. Word spread. Our reputation grew. We make more money than ever from our practice and I never spend a minute worrying about getting paid. I have applied this idea to everything I have tried. I do not chase the money. Instead, I try to focus on my product and my service. That is the key to not only succeeding but in providing yourself satisfaction.

Allow for many false starts. This is a tough one. I have so many ideas, but only so much money and even less time. The thing I have learned from my home care business is not committing yourself too much. My home care business took up all my free time after my PT business. That was foolish. I could have easily tried the home care business on a smaller scale to see if it was a good business fit for me. I didn’t realize until I had 30 employees that it was a mistake. Then I really had to keep going no matter how I felt. I had payroll to satisfy and clients who depended on me. I wish now I had just tried to have one employee and one client for  a while. Then if I liked it, I could keep going. Lesson learned.

This year, I am leaving room for lots of my ideas. But I am starting small with everything. If my test business works for me, then I can expand. The truth is, I am hard working enough to make any business work. But, will I be happy doing it? That’s what I need to find out BEFORE I commit every hour in my day. I tried the stock investing thing with a guy who is a full time trader. We were going to try and make a business of it. But I insisted that we try and first trade for ourselves for a while, mainly so I could see if I enjoyed it. I really didn’t. It made me feel so out of touch with the market, that the thing I loved most about investing was gone. I am thrilled to say, I jumped ship as soon as I realized that. Yes, I lost two months of time and a little bit of money. But better that, than jumping in with both feet and realizing I am miserable a year later. When you have an idea, recognize that you should test the idea first. Test your market, your customer, yourself. Lose some money. If your idea is good, and you turn out to love doing it, you will more than pay yourself back.

They say that franchises are much more successful than independent businesses. I would make a bet with you that’s because many independents have very little invested. So it's easier for them to shut things down when it stops being your passion. Franchises have to give a ton of money for the franchise. They have to commit to loans, leases, and 5 year contracts with the franchise. They are committed the same way a prisoner is. They have to make it work because the stakes and the stress are so high. I would never buy a franchise. I thought about buying a home care franchise. Instead I started my own with no up front cost. I was able to walk away from it with a small profit. I lost nothing. Except a year. But, it would have been way worse had I bought a franchise. I would still be doing what I hated.

Realize you have as much time as everyone in history. That’s right, your day has the same 24 hours as mine. The same as Ben Franklin, and Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. We all have the same number of hours. I feel I am lazy. I watch movies. I read fiction books. I look at internet blogs. I schedule free time with my wife. I am a lazy bum! My wife laughs when I say that. She points out that I still work with clients for 50 hours a week. I manage all our book keeping and investments myself. We have no secretary or assistants.  We home school our children.  I do all the repairs and maintenance on our home and rental property.  I also spend hours in the gym, running, hiking, and surfing. She thinks I never sit still. I hate sitting still, I feel lazy! How will I ever realize my goals just sitting. But that’s silly. Steve Jobs goofed off too. He looked at porn a few times on the internet. So did Mr. Gates. Warren Buffet probably most of all. Everyone we think works their ass off, still finds time to relax. Otherwise they would never have made it. I know I accomplish a lot every day, more than most people. Yet, I have the same number of hours they do. And I still have time to goof off, to watch a Delhi Belly, the funniest Indian movie ever. And I have time to write this blog. And work on another new business idea. There is more time than you think! 


Friday, March 23, 2012

What a famous movie director taught me about finding your aim

I had a patient that was a hugely famous Hollywood Director. It was Thanksgiving day. I went down to my little office to do some work. There was a call from someone who said he was a personal assistant and he was looking for a physical therapist for his client. I told him I would be happy to see his client, not having any idea what I was getting myself into. An hour later, in through my office door walks not only the director but also his box office star.  They had just finished making a movie together. I am not going to mention names, since that would be illegal, but it was a thrill to meet the actor and see him sitting in my tiny lobby. I was a fan, so it was both exciting and awkward.  I then took the director back into a treatment room. His neck was the problem. It was, perhaps, one of the most tight necks I have ever seen. He was wracked with pain. He yelped when I touched it. “How did this happen?” I asked. I will never forget his response, “All my life, there was just one thing that I wanted to do. I wanted to do this more than anything else in the world. And now, I am doing it. And it's killing me. I spend hours hunched over a chair watching editing. I spend tense hours in a directors chair telling people what to do. Yelling at people on a phone. You have no idea how much stress I have doing what I love.”

No, it was not this guy.

I will never forget his words. This guy had met his aim, but it was literally too much for his body. I read recently that he took a break from directing. I hope he finds a way to get back to it, it obviously was his passion. I have to wonder how many other people finally reach their life’s goal only to realize, this isn’t what I thought. I have to wonder whether “meeting your aim” is the journey or the destination. I received a comment yesterday that asked the same thing. The writer hinted that the journey was the real goal, not the destination. Thinking about all the life stories I have heard, he may be correct. Getting there isn’t half the fun, it's all the fun.

I have one thing about my job that I love. It's really the only thing that has kept me going as a PT for 20 years. My patients tell me about their lives. In great detail, they tell me about their loves, losses, tragedies and successes.  I see many clients for an hour, 2 times a week, for several weeks. They may not say much the first few visits, but after two weeks, we are old friends. I have had 90 year old ladies tell me about passionate and illicit love affairs. I have heard dead hooker stories from retired Japanese business men. I have spoken to a man who owned 62 Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises but was illiterate. I have had clients that survived Auschwitz, the holocaust, the rape of Nanking, and escaped the Khmer Rouge. I had a patient who owned 3 gas stations tell me how he escaped North Korea by climbing over the mountains and making his way on foot. You would simply not believe the stories I have heard.  I believe them. The people that told me these things, did so with the passion that can only come from firsthand experience. It’s the best part of my job.

So, when I talk about finding your aim, I really have a lot of examples in my mind. I have met lots of people who never had time for such a pursuit. Life can be hard and cruel. Survival comes before your inner hopes.  But many others did pursue their dreams. I have met inventors, authors, UN delegates, ambassadors, proud parents, and real estate moguls. I have seen enough to know that finding your passion and working toward what your heart wants is not silly or unobtainable. I have also learned that it is never too late to start. Many of my elderly clients have had more than one career . Many have had that second act and it paid off. So, I know it's not too late for me or for you. I have heard the stories of so many people who started at 40, 50, and 60 and remade themselves, that I know it can be done.

So, thinking about my famous directors neck, and framing it against everything my clients have told me, I think yes, the journey is what counts. And be aware, that reaching your aim can be different from what you expect. Sometimes, when you reach the top of the stairs and open the golden door, you find another set of steps.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Finding Your Aim

I had a conversation with one of my favorite clients yesterday. I always love when she comes in, she is one of the few people that I see that I can talk freely with. She had been reading my little blog and talked to me about what I had been doing. She asked me what the point of my blog was. I had no answer!

Is she honest?

I have no idea what I am doing with this. I just felt compelled to try blogging. I decided to write some stories about my own life. Things I had experienced that other people might be interested in. I made a rule for myself to be completely honest and dig as deeply as I could with each post. That turns out to be harder than I thought. But, it's more rewarding than I ever expected. Each post has brought satisfaction, closure, and occasionally emails of support. 

I have come to realize we spend most of our lives lying. We inflate our bank accounts, our success, our penis size, our history, our happiness, our lives. It's hard to tell the truth. I look at Facebook and I see the fatal flaw of that place. It puts everyone in the best light. It makes everyone's life look perfect. But it's not true. It's not reality. It's the desert without the dinner. What you can't see is how hard people are working, how much effort they put into their marriage, their kids, their lives to make that happy picture a reality. And so, it encourages others to lie. I think this is why I never have attended a reunion. I didn't want to see people work so hard on lying. I didn't want to lie. The truth is ugly. The truth make you nauseous. The truth involves depression, suicide, and lust. But the truth is the only thing that can move you forward. If you spend your whole day dealing in lies, when will you have time to work on a better truth? 

 People want to hear that they are great, that success is just around the corner, and that the universe revolves around them. If that's what you're looking for, I can't help you. For all I know, that may be true for you. But it's not for me. I think there are a lot of people out there like myself. We want something more from life. More than the job, house, car, or career we have now.  It's not that I am 'never satisfied.' I just want to feel like I am making a difference. I want to know  I am using my abilities, in the best possible way, to express myself and make things better. But how do we achieve that? How do we find that thing that makes us better? How do we find our aim? I am not sure, but the first thing is to be honest with yourself.   I know I am not a great writer nor am I an expert on anything. I really have no business blogging. But I am an expert on myself. I am an expert on the reasons  I have not met my aim. I am an expert on the steps I am taking to find it.

I have been an avid reader and fan of blogs since the mid 90’s. I love them. I read Get Rich Slowly, The Kirk Report, Altucher Confidential, and many more. I gave up all my magazine subscriptions for blogs. I just love them. But, I never considered writing one. How could I? Sure, I have tried a lot of things and failed spectacularly at many of them, but who would be interested?

When 2012 began, I realized I needed something more from life. With my PT business still moving forward and the home care business closed, I sort of felt depressed. Like I was once again drifting along aimlessly. I focused on my kids, my PT business, my day to day life, but there was something missing. I focused some on stock investing. I even made a solid attempt at using TD Ameritrade’s code based robot stock trader called Prodigio. It was fun, but empty. Time and again I realize that the pursuit of money for money’s sake is an empty thing. It gives me no joy.

So, I thought why not give the blog a try? Why not just make a few posts and see what happens? So I did. And you know what? I am enjoying it. The more honest I am about things, the better I am feeling about it. I have never before told people about my grandmother or my failed home care business. But it actually felt good to get it off my chest. I feel a little lighter just being honest.

My client asked me about some of my posts. I told her my favorite one, so far, was about that little Irish lady I met on a ferry boat. She asked me if I had met my aim. I realized yesterday what this  blog is about. The continual pursuit of finding and defining an aim. And, not just my aim, your aim too. I know this Blog is just getting started, but I really want to reach out to all of you. Any of you.  Yes, you in the back. I want to hear from you. I want to know how you have found your aim. How you are defining it, creating it, and moving toward it. Who knows, maybe some of my experiences will help. Maybe they will just make you feel better about yourself.

I thought since this blog was only a week old, that it wouldn’t be such a big deal to change the name and address. So if you found me at the old web address, it's been turned off. I am now at