Variables and Constants…Leading in the 21st Century

Reading time: 1 minute. Video time: 10 minutes.

Image

Would King David’s, General Patton’s, Vince Lombardi’s, or Theodore Roosevelt’s leadership been as effective today as it was during their time?

No.

They led in a different environment, different people, had different obstacles, and different resources.

When we think about producing great leaders today, we often look back on the great male and female leaders of their time and try to match or emulate their skills. By wholly doing so, however, we might be putting ourselves at a disadvantage. There are certainly leadership constants that will withstand the test of time, but it is the leadership variables that will separate and elevate a great leader from his peers. On the surface, I would argue that none of the aforementioned leaders possessed the variables necessary to succeed as a leader today, however, whether or not they would have adapted and developed them is a different story (I’d like to think they would have). They were too Wise, Rugged, and Brave, and in our time, those qualities are becoming less valued and quickly transitioning into the more desired attributes of being Learned, Alluring, and Careful. In turn, creating leaders who lack what it takes to continually move forward and make challenging decisions regardless of how much it might hurt. Focusing on the constants and refining the variables will help any 21st century leader produce a greater good not only in the environment in which they operate, but also the ones that surround it. Once we (collectively) begin to realize we are in a leadership drought, due to our own valuation of infirm attributes, we can begin to work towards developing our current and next generation of leaders to carry us through some challenging times ahead.

Check out this spot-on TED talk on what variables are necessary for a 21st century leader.

TED Talk on Leadership – Click HERE

Be Wise. Rugged. Brave.

Scott

Photo Source: Time Magazine Online.

Advertisements

trombones build character.

Image

Reading Time: 2 minutes. 

As I am sure it is hard for many of you to believe, I was bullied as a grade schooler…as a middle schooler…as high schooler…and even as a Cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. I can remember as far back as 3rd grade when my closest “friends” would wait for me, and my trusty duct taped bungee corded trombone case, with rocks in hand. The last 100 yards to the entrance of General Billy Mitchell Elementary were my equivalent to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. With my trusty trombone in one hand and my hand-me-down Nikes strapped to my feet I would dodge left and right, up and down as a heavy barrage of incoming rocks flew directly towards me. The goal of the Germans…I mean my friends, was to hit my trombone case and knock it out of the clutch of my hands, however, more often than not they hit me. Once I was able to successfully (on some days) or unsuccessfully (on most days) navigate my way to the entrance, I was met by an eager group of soldiers/boys (the ones that had most likely missed me with the rocks) ready to push me into a large pricker bush, which was conveniently placed right next to the entrance. I would proceed to bounce in and out of that bush until the bell rang and we were all let inside; that bell was a godsend.  Over time, I was able to adapt to these hellfire mornings by timing my arrival to about 30 seconds before the bell rang and than proceeding to sprint to doors in an effort to make it to class in time (I got real fast). Nevertheless, that dash was also a challenge, because more often than not my trusty trombone would find a way to break free from the duct tape and bungee cords and end up sprawled out onto the concrete. I often wonder if I would have been safer or “cooler” without that trombone…

My “friends” and I could tell you countless stories, about how I was bullied and picked on throughout my entire life, some of it maliciously and other times out of “good fun,” although I very rarely found it fun. It went even as far as sacrificing my two front teeth one rainy morning due to some “inadvertent” bullying. You can imagine how heart broken I was not having to carry my trombone to school until they were fixed.

Although getting picked on or bullied has its negative consequences, the positive that is born from it is often overlooked.

I truly believe I would not be where I am today without the help of my bullies and trombone. At a young age I was forced to learn to think critically, make wise choices, and be brave because my life, and the life of the trombone (what little was left), depended on it. My goal, then, was to find a way to be accepted. So instead of giving up and cowering in a corner, I did everything I could to stand out academically and physically amongst my peers. I worked harder and longer to ensure I could develop what limited talent (compared to my peers) I had, into something at least above average. Survival of the fittest, right? When I failed or succeeded, and people proceeded to tell me what I can’t do, or that I “sucked,” it made me work harder, and eventually achieve more.

It was not until very recently that the amount of positive feedback I receive began to out weigh the negative. And frankly, I am worried about how I am going to handle that shift. I thrive off of negative energy, because it is always my goal to find a way to turn it into positive energy; It truly has been the catalyst to all of what I consider to be my successes.

Although my goal to become “accepted” has long since past (result = unsuccessful), as I found it to be an idea (at an early age) which was truly unbounded, I have come to realize that it had a purpose during its time. Without bullies there is no acceptance goal, because everyone is equally cool, and everyone is safe. But the world does not work that way, there will always be someone faster, stronger, smarter, wiser, or richer than you, and because of that there will always be negative energy (it’s science i.e., protons and neutrons); it’s the balance. Bullies are a part of that balance, and will be to the end of time, so instead of investing time in finding ways to stop bullying let’s start investing our time in ways to overcome, grow, and thrive from it. Otherwise, we may find ourselves unprepared or unseasoned which could lead to getting beat up in a really bad way.

Life’s not about being safe or cool, its about taking risks, pushing your limits, making a difference, and carrying a trombone.

Be Wise.Rigged.Brave.

-Scott

give & get?

homeless_man_2

Reading Time: 2 minutes.

I have come full circle on the art of giving over the last few years. In my mind everything is very calculated, especially when it comes to the money that I have earned. In all that I do, I like to feel confident that I have received the most bang for my buck! Of course, having this mindset easily transfers to how I decided to help others in need.

I wanted to see IMPACT. Unless your organization could show me results, and a direct link to my dollar, I was not interested. Otherwise, how would I know that my hard earned money was being spent wisely?

One of the most difficult challenges for NPOs today is the ability to publish sound metrics that prove the value of their organization. If you are a school in Uganda, how many children are served, what percent of children move on to secondary education, how many meals and uniforms have been provided, what subjects are being taught, was there an exponential increase in the cognitive abilities of the children, is the faculty qualified (i.e., have valid degrees from accredited institutions of higher learning), and would my money be better spent going to an inner-city school in Montgomery, Alabama? If an organization is fighting to stay afloat, usually the more marketing accomplished and metrics produced the better chance it will have at survival.

More marketing and more metrics take more time and cost more money, taking away from the focus of the organization’s mission.

 

In our society, it is apparent we have become selfish consumers instead of selfless givers. Which makes me ask, when did consumption become a part of giving? And more importantly, when did the money that I choose to give become mine?

One of the most challenging things I have had to do, as a giver, is decouple my giving (i.e., time and/or money) from any expectations whatsoever. With that decoupling came a massive increase in faith. Faith that the money and/or time I give would be used appropriately regardless of the presence of the associated impact.

That being said, it is never wise to blindly give to any old organization. I do believe, in most cases, some form of calculation should exist when choosing where to invest valued resources and time.

2 Corinthians 9:7 states, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

When you do give, which I encourage all of you to do in some form or fashion, give without consuming anything. We have to remember we are not paying for a product, service, or even a calculated result when we give. If you expect a product, service, phone call, letter etc. you could inadvertently be taking away from the true purpose of your donation.

This does not mean organizations, family members, and charities alike are free from providing results to their benefactors. On the contrary, hopefully the beneficiary will provide some results, as it will usually encourage more giving. However, in most cases, impact can take a long time to come to fruition and even compile / properly quantify, and for this reason alone it should never be “expected.”

It is your choice to give, and it will be solely your decision to stop giving. But I encourage you never to stop because your expectations were not met. Instead make the decision to give or stop giving based on faith. No matter what you decide to give to (e.g., family, a charity, the homeless, or an organization), give quietly and walk away cheerfully without an expectation to receive (consume) anything in return. This is not easy, and it will be a challenge. But it is the challenges that help us to grow.

Let’s remove the idea of give & get, and progress to give & go.

Be Wise.Rugged.Brave.

-Scott

picture used from http://firstdayofschool.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/homeless_man_2.jpg

adventures to live for.

Adventure1915-04

Reading Time: 5 minutes.

Man oh Man! There are a few things I wish everyone in this world could experience at some point in their life. I am very grateful for the opportunities God has given me to explore and try new exciting things, and I pray each and everyone of you get the chance to enjoy some of the same experiences that I have. Some of the adventures I am about to list are experiences that may be very challenging for some to get to, however, if placed in the circumstance or given the opportunity, run after it, breath it in, and get from it all that can be taken. If you have already done what I have listed and loved it, that’s when you know it is time to take it to the next level and explore/experience it further and dig a little deeper. Now, I can only speak for the adventures that I have experienced in my short 30 years, but I will also list a few I hope to achieve at some point in the near future. Here are 20 of them off the top of my head, that really left a lasting impression on me, and 10 more that I hope will leave a mark on me in the future.

Alright, ready, set, let’s go!

1. Climb a 14,000 ft Mountain in Colorado. There is something humbling about physically conquering a challenge within the grandiose and majestic presence of a mountain. The views from the top are breathtaking and the struggle to the top is formative. If you can do this by foot, you will get a little more out of it then doing it in a car. If a car or cog railway is your only realistic approach, then do it! If you are unable to make it to Colorado, New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington up Tuckerman’s Ravine (or the road to the top) is just as challenging and magnificent.

2. Skydive in Hawaii. The first 5 times I jumped out of an airplane, I did it solo as part of my military training at the Air Force Academy. Other than my first jump, sky diving tandem in Hawaii was probably one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had. Falling towards the earth with the beauty of the soft sand and Hawaii shoreline below is comparable to jumping into a warm and cozy bed at the end of a long day, however don’t forget add the adrenaline of riding a roller coaster at terminal velocity.

3. Take a helicopter over Italy’s vineyards. This adventure snuck up on me. While I was in Italy, I was able to jump in the back of a VIP military transport helicopter and take two one hour flights over the beautiful vineyards of Italy. I was lucky enough to do it for free, but given the chance to do it again, I would save up the money. The scenery is truly priceless.

4. Take a stroll down the streets of a third world slum. Although almost as scary as jumping from a perfectly good plane, visiting a slum is worth the experience. I have done this a number of times during humanitarian missions in a few different countries, and each time it reminded me of how little I have done to help those in need. Realistically, we cannot help everyone, but what are we doing to help our neighbors, our family members and our friends? If you feel called to help in a third world, follow the call, but prepare to be broken in all aspects of the word. These visits are now a part of me, and what drive me to succeed in hopes of helping someone else in need.

5. Spend some time in the Embera tribe’s village. The Embera tribe is one of the last and truly indigenous people left in the world. They discovered things like Viagra and cures for cancer using plants from the Panamanian jungle. The cool thing about them is they are very welcoming to outside visitors. You are more than happy to welcome you into their village and homes, feed you, and even entertain you. While you are down in Panama, make sure you stop by the Canal, take a canopy tour, and go Peacock bass fishing!

6. Participate in a month long “boot camp” challenge. I have had four “boot camp” experiences in my life. Three came from the Academy and one came in the form of a month long wrestling camp during high school. Each experience pushed me beyond my physical, mental, and emotional limits. I think it is a good thing to challenge oneself in this way; it really helps one learn their limits and find out that you truly can go farther. I learned a lot about myself each time I chose to put myself in these situations. Today, I see all types of boot camps being marketed all over the place. Look into some of them, give one a try, and stick to it. You won’t regret it.

7. Volunteer in support of what you passionately believe in. I think this is something that should be done on a regular basis throughout one’s life. It can come in many forms. For me it has come in the form of humanitarian missions to third world countries, deploying to serve my country in the Iraq war, and helping at local non-profit organizations like habitat for humanity, the Miracle League, and my church. The adventures and challenges I have faced doing this have meant the most to me.

8. Get a ride in a fighter jet. Getting a flight in a real fighter jet is possible, but for most will cost a boat load of money. Nevertheless, it was incredible experience flying over Venice Italy in an F-16. To be honest, most of the ride felt like being in an airliner, but when we started the 2 v 2 air battle it got real and fast! We pulled so manny G’s I started getting tunnel vision. If you never plan on getting a ride in a fighter jet, I think I had just about the same amount of fun riding Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Ohio. I did it at night, in the dark, with a bunch a smoke filling the air. It was incredible.

9. Scuba dive. Scuba diving always made me nervous and it still does. To sink 40+ feet underwater while completely dependent on a manmade breathing apparatus scares me. While I never had any issues, or known anyone else to, for some reason going down under seems like a huge risk. That being said, I loved every minute of exploring the deep blue. There really is a peace about swimming calmly through the coral and seeing some of the God’s most beautiful and unique creations. If scuba is not for you, you can get a similar experience snorkeling Hanauma Bay in Oahu. Sarah and I have snorkeled there over 10 different times and each time loved it more than the last.

10. Share a cup of tea with someone in the Middle East. Whether it is in Iraq, Thailand, Morocco, India, Panama or Peru, sharing a cup of tea with a friend from a foreign country, in their country, is great way to learn about the culture. For some reason every country does tea differently. In Morocco, I am pretty sure my tea was just a block of sugar with a splash of tea; I literally had to chew it.

11. Hike the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii. Sarah and I accomplished this task on Christmas Eve of 2009, right before I deployed to Iraq. It was a quite the challenge. There are a lot of people that do the 3 mile hike to the beach and the waterfall, which is incredible and highly encouraged. But if you have the time, take this hike all the way to the end! It is about 22 miles round trip, so you will need to pack some light camping gear. Unfortunately, Sarah and I only made it 14 of those miles due to dangerously lose rocks after mile 7, but we did get the chance to camp for a night near the edge of a cliff. Also, since not many people hike the entire Na Pali coast, it feels like you get all of Hawaii to yourself. Sarah and I spent 3 hours swimming and resting at the base of a remote waterfall. We had it all to ourselves, without a worry in the world. If you are not the hiking type, you can kayak the entire coast. When we go back, that will be something we will definitely tackle.

12. Listen to your grandparent or parent’s childhood stories. Although time travel doesn’t exist, talking with your grandparents or even your parents about their childhood experiences is a blast. This one by far is one of my most cherished adventures. To go back in time to find out your roots, is exciting. I encourage you not to let this opportunity pass you by, because you never know when your opportunity will expire.

13. Watch a football game at Lambeau Field, a baseball game at Fenway Park, and a soccer game in Brazil. I consider these stadiums the meccas of their respective sports. To cheer along side some of the world’s greatest fans for the world’s greatest athletes is an incredible rush. Each one of the events is different and special in it’s own way. In Brazil, I had the opportunity to attend a soccer game at the second largest stadium in Brazil, Mineirao, in Belo Horizonte.  While cheering for the Packers at Lambeau or the Red Sox at Fenway is incredible, there is something about being in Brazil and watching soccer that cannot be topped.

14. Wander the streets of Venice, Florence, and Rome. This experience will take you back in time and revive any closet romantic’s charm.  Venice, Florence, and Rome are a must see. You can take a train between all three cities, seeing them all in one 3 day weekend if you don’t have much time to spare (like me). I would suggest taking your time, at least 2-3 days in each of them so that you can appreciate all they have to offer. You can see the David, ride a Gondola, tour the Vatican City, and gawk at The Last Supper all while chopping down on some of the earth’s best pizza!

15. Eat Dinner (Pad Thai) in the tallest building in Bangkok, Thailand, Baiyoke Sky Tower. Thailand is a beautiful country, the food is amazing, and Bangkok never sleeps! Taking an elevator to the top of a 1000 foot building and seeing the glimmer of the city lights was incredible, it has inspired me to put Hong Kong next on my plate. All that being said, viewing NYC from the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center in my opinion was just as extraordinary.

16. Visit LA, Vegas, Washington D.C., and NYC. I am not much of a “big city” guy, but seeing these brightly lit metropolises at least once is worth the set of plane tickets.  The people watching alone should make your day, not to mention you will be amazed by how industrious and creative people can be. Of the four cities listed, Washington D.C. was my favorite. There is something about seeing our nation’s capital (the buildings/monuments) that made me proud to be an American.  Viewing the Lincoln Memorial at night is worth its weight in gold.

17. Explore Alaska! Go deep-sea fishing in Homer Alaska, visit Eagle River’s Nature Center, and take a flight over some of Alaska’s solemn glaciers. This should be on everyone’s bucket list. Go in August and you won’t have to worry about bad whether or endless darkness.

18. Take part in a disaster relief mission. We all hope and pray there won’t be any more disasters needing relief, but it seems that they are on the rise. I encourage everyone to save a little of their income each month to be reserved for helping those in need. Whether it is personally traveling to ground zero, or financially supporting those who do, this adventure is one that will help others in a time of need, build community, and allow you to partake in making the world a better place.

19. Try a Beer and Sausage in Germany or Austria. Mustard, Sausage, and German Beer oh my! While there, stop by a castle or two if you get the chance! I got to see Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria.

20. Run in the Boston Marathon. Wait don’t…well actually, I will leave this one as optional. I have ran two of them (marathons) and it has become a love/hate relationship. The secret to get into Boston, without being a champion runner, is to raise money for a charity. I figure, if you are planning to run a marathon, you might as well make it Boston! Stop at the Sam Adam’s Brewery for a tour, and make sure to hit Doyle’s Cafe for lunch while you’re in town.

Now for some of what is to come…

21. Travel to all 7 Continents. I have been to 5, Australia and Antarctica are waiting for me…

22. Hike Annapurna. I am not one that would hike Mt. Everest, but I would love to hike beside it at 10-20 thousand feet.

23. Snowboard in Montenegro. After seeing James Bond, Casino Royale, this country became an immediate must see adventure.

24. Spend a night camping at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This one I have heard a lot about. People come from all over the world to experience this great divide, I might as well climb down and take a look for myself and see what all the hype is about.

25. Go Fly fishing in Montana. Always being a bait and lure guy myself, I have never taken on the challenge of fly fishing, until now. This winter I went out and purchased my first fly rod to prepare for my upcoming adventure. I know a lot of great people from Montana, and absolutely love the movies that have been filmed there: A River Runs Through it, Lonesome Dove, and Legends of the Fall. (Although Legends of the Fall was based on a ranch in Montana, it was filmed in Alberta, Canada). I think it is time for a vacation to Great Falls, Butte, Missoula, Big Timber, and Paradise Valley. Who knows, I might even buy a ranch and retire there while I am at it.

26. Learn a foreign language and use it! I can’t wait for this adventure to begin, and the countless opportunities it will bring. It is already in the works (language TBD). I will be sure to keep you updated.

27. Play soccer with kids, barefoot on gravel, in a foreign country. While I was in Thailand I was stepping all over the kid’s bare feet with my clunky shoes while playing soccer in the gravel street. At that time, I made it a goal of mine to toughen up my wimpy feet and return someday.

28.  Take on the challenge and privilege of being a parent! Yes mom, it’s in the cards.

29.  Become the Mayor of a city. This is one of those adventures I plan to tackle after I “retire.” There would be nothing more humbling than to have the honor of being chosen to help a city, and all its residents, reach their max potential.

30. Wildcard. I will leave this one open for whatever door or doors open next. There is hardly a time I turn down an opportunity that is worth taking. Some of the most exciting adventures I have been on are ones that I have spontaneously decide to attain and that were never in the cards…

What are some of your past adventures? What do you have planned for the future? Please share!

Be Wise.Rugged.Brave.

Scott

Picture from http://www.publicdomaintreasurehunter.com/images/Adventure1915-04.jpg

Zero.

Image

Reading time: 2 minutes.

Whenever there is a massive catastrophe, there will be a ground zero. Merriam Webster describes ground zero as the central point in an area of fast change or intense activity or the point on the earth’s surface directly above, below, or at which an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) occurs. 

At the moment, or moments, of impact there is nothing anyone can do, only hope that you, and whoever is around you, is not completely destroyed by the power of what is coming. I think it is fair to stay that most try to keep themselves at a distance from places that may be likely to be the future location of ruin. Even after a catastrophe has hit, we purposefully distance ourselves in an effort to avoid any emotional attachment to what was once there. I am guilty. Even after 9-11, I purposefully keep myself from watching the news and all of the replays of the aircraft slamming into the twin towers. I did not know anyone who died that day, but it did not matter. Human beings died. For a large number of us, 9-11 was the first time we experienced a ground zero of such significant magnitude and it has yet to be the last. Over the past 13 years, ground zeros have been popping up all over the world; tsunamis, massive earthquakes, hurricanes, bombings, shootings, and airline crashes.

As there is exponential growth in catastrophe, inversely, there is an exponential decay of our reality. 

Ideally we would like to believe that none of these events are truly happening, but the media and the internet makes it almost impossible to distance ourselves from them. Because we are brought so “close” to each event, with nowhere to run (except away from the remote), I believe our minds naturally become numb to it, in an effort to protect us from the reality. As we continue to watch shows on television like Walking Dead or reality series similar to Survivor or even play video games like Call of Duty, it becomes hard for us to differentiate what is real and what is not. You may disagree, but the market is a direct reflection of our reality, and each day more and more people are purchasing Apocalypse Survival Kits or Dooms Day prepping to some extent. Whether it is financially, through the purchase of supplies, guns, gold, or even bunkers people are getting ready (for something?).

What do we do with the knowledge of the reality that more catastrophes are likely to come? Prepare to help those in need. I say this because it seems as if the more inherent thing to do is help ourselves prepare for an “apocalypse” rather than to save up to support those who have gone, are currently going, or will go through one.

This became real to me in December of 2004, after Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Over 200,000 people died as a result of the largest earthquake ever recorded (a magnitude of over 9.0). To be honest, immediately after seeing it on television, I felt numb to it. I could not comprehend the magnitude of the event or even how large “ground zero” really was. My mind used its good ole’ self-defense system and protected me from truth. Even after I arrived in Kao Lok Thailand, only two short months after the event occurred, the reality failed to set in. I could see, feel, and even smell ground zero. Crumbled homes, new plywood and tin shacks to replace them; the ground was burnt, dried up and scattered with trash and what used to be people’s belongings; the smell of rot, and makeshift fires filled the air. A true wasteland, something straight out of everyone’s favorite show…but the difference was, it was real. Then, about 5 days into the trip, it hit me. I do not know why it took my mind so long to realize what had happened in Kao Lok. I had been working endlessly trying to help as much as I could; cleaning and building to help those in need get back on their feet. They had lost so much, and been through even more emotionally, physically, and mentally. I was so focused on the mission, I became desensitized to everything around me, or maybe I was even before I got there. I would talk to people who had lost their who families, and see the remains of children’s clothes and shoes scatter all over, but nothing was triggered inside of me until I walked into Pub 54.

Although it was 9 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was walking down one of the main streets of Kao Lok, the building had a sign that read pub 54 restaurant. The building was cleaned out, and there was a British women on the inside cleaning up and remodeling what was once a very popular bar. The building was two stories tall, and from the outside you could see where the water mark from the tsunami had left its relentless impression. The women had purchased the building shortly after the tsunami had hit and was working tirelessly to create an english education center to help the displaced Thai people to learn how to use computers and speak english. It was her way of helping those in need create opportunity and generate hope of a new life after the terrible tragedy they faced.

For the first few hours I was at pub 54 I did as I usually did, helped clean, build, salvage, and remodel something that was destroyed from the flood. After about an hour, the women ask me if I would like to look upstairs, above the pub, at an apartment of a family that was never found after the tsunami. It was an odd offer, but I was curious. Plus, it was getting pretty hot, nearing lunch, and I needed a break from all the work, so I readily accepted. As I walked to the back of the pub, I met some stairs leading up to the apartment. About halfway up the first set of stairs I looked down at the stair railing and spotted some dried up blood. At first I did not think much of it, and continued up the stairs. Reaching the second set of stairs I noticed a dirty faint line on the wall, it was the water line, similar to the one on the outside of the building, where the flood waters from the tsunami had reached. From what I can remember, it was about 15 feet above ground level and the pub was over 200 yards from the shoreline. Immediately above that faint line was a dry and dirty red smear of blood across the wall taking the shape of someone’s hand reaching upwards above the water line towards the apartment door less than 5 feet away. Frozen in time, that moment changed my life. Hundreds of thoughts rushed through my mind, and instantly I could feel the panic, I understood the intensity of the water, I could hear the screams, and I could taste the fear…it was as if I was at ground zero as it was all happening. My mind was in shock and my heart was broken. As I continued up the stairs, through the door and into the apartment, I went back into time to before the tsunami hit. The apartment remained untouched; the turbulent waters never reached it. Family photos on the walls, newspapers on the side table, and dishes in the sink, the only thing that was out of place was the family that once occupied it.  That family, and hundreds of thousands of other families, found themselves at a central point in an area of fast change or intense activity; ground zero. They had no chance, and all the preparation in the world would not have saved them.  I found myself finally realizing it was all real; the people, the homes, the burnt ground, and the disaster, it was not just some facade fabricated by the media or hollywood.  I had woken up, and for the first time what I was seeing was less than 1% of the destruction. There were no actors or random beings  (dehumanized by the distance between us) living off in some foreign land (as seen on TV), but instead the real people were my brothers, my sisters, my mother, my father, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my grandparents, and my friends.

People just like you and me.

Be Wise.Rugged.Brave.

-Scott

A shave and a haircut that pays you.

Reading Time: 2 minutes.

Image

A shave and a hair cut for free, or better yet, one that makes money for you! When I look back on some of the best financial decisions I have made over the last 12 years (since I was 18), I have found that there are some pretty simple decisions any man can make when it comes to being thrifty and smart with his money, and that are guaranteed to pay off somewhere down the road. Being smart with one’s money is not as complicated as rocket science. I would compare it more to concrete mixing or shoe shining; a simple repetitive process that requires a little bit of elbow grease and discipline. The problem is, society seems to be through with elbow grease and self-discipline, unless it has to do with sculpting your body for the purpose of…well picking things up and putting them down of course.  Just kidding, I do cross-fit too. Here are some simple lessons and values that I believe every man should adhere to:

– The first lesson a man needs to learn is not to become ensnared by the latest and greatest, but instead be captured by the value of a lifetime warranty. You may pay a little more up front, but you will never have to pay again. Therefore, before you buy, look to see if the product you are purchasing comes with a lifetime warranty. If there are no products within that “product class” which comes with a warranty, pick the company that has been around the longest and is known for their quality. If something happens to that product within its lifetime, write a hand-written letter to the company explaining what happened and why you would like a replacement. I have done this a handful of times and have always received an equivalent replacement or an upgrade.

– The second lesson which will not only save you money, but I have found helps to make money, is learning to cut your own hair. The investment is $20 (for the clippers) the return is $4000! In the last 12 years I have saved over $4000 on haircuts (1 haircut every 2 weeks for 12 years, average haircut price $10-$15). I have since taken that money and invested it to increase my rate of return. It is simple math, and a simple decision. Sure I have had a bad outing with the clippers once or twice, but I swallow my pride, and thank to God the hair grows back (for now anyway).

– The third lesson is to understand that the price/size of an engagement ring will not make your marriage better. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they are not your pocketbook’s buddy. The average price of a wedding ring these days is almost $5300! By spending less on your wife’s ring you can use the extra money for travel, to invest, or to pay off your college loans. I didn’t spend a penny over $1500; an instant savings of $3800. What I did do is spend a lot of time to make sure I purchased the perfect ring. The diamond is less than .30 carats, and to this day it is my wife’s favorite piece of jewelry. Not to mention she receives countless comments on its simplicity and beauty. The funny thing is, we both very rarely wear our rings anymore. After a few years, we realized our active lives had us always removing the rings, so we decided to get tattoo rings. If I had only known…I could have saved another $1400.

– The fourth lesson a man needs to embody is to never impulse buy, and be proactive. This is a tough one, but over time, it can save you a lot of bread. Unless the item is on sale (final clearance), chances are there is a better deal out there somewhere else. Today, with the power of patience, and the internet, you will be able to most likely find a steal on the product you have been waiting to purchase. To paint you a better picture, my old pair of running shoes are on their last leg. I want to purchase the same pair (New Balance 730’s, sz. 11) but the average price right now for the size and color I want is $50. I have seen them before for under $30 so every few days, for the past 4 months, I do an internet search to see if they have come down in price. I will let you know when they do.

–  The fifth lesson that should be taken into consideration is, never spend more than 15-18% of your monthly income on a place to live. Although a bit tricky, it is possible. I learned the hard way with this one, and late. If you think about it, you spend over 75% of your day at work or sleeping. So why are we (society) paying so much for a big, new, house/apt in a “hip” location that we are hardly in? Since, learning this lesson, I have been able to allocate the additional money I would have been spending on a larger/nicer living space and earmark it towards diversifying my portfolio by investing in land. I hope this decision will help me to someday pay for a future house with cash; never paying upwards of 20% of my monthly income again for a home.

– The sixth lesson is one that I have found to be invaluable. When buying a vehicle, consider purchasing a fuel-efficient used truck. My Toyota Tacoma has manual roll up windows (yes they still have those), is two-wheel drive, and has a hummingbird 4 cylinder engine! Needless to say, it is all that is MAN. This bad boy tank gets me 24-28 MPG and has the ability to tow a boat, carry couches, motorcycles, and other miscellaneous garbage. It has aided in helping others to move from one home to another, and has cost me almost nothing to maintain. In the past 3 years, I am on track to save close to the overall value of the truck on moving costs, and discounts on furniture etc. (which I can pick up and haul free of charge). Not to mention, I took my time to purchase it and bought it for almost $4000 under the kellybluebook value.

-The seventh lesson will be the last lesson I share with you today. In my eyes, it is one of the most important lessons I have learned, through my own experience as well as through others.  Never be in debt to anything for longer than 7 years (even a house payment if possible). Now there is something to be said about “good” debt (i.e., buying a home which could make you a profit). But the key word is “could;” some are more willing than I to take the risk and endure 20-30 years of paying off a fixed or variable home loan. In the Bible, Deuteronomy 15:1 talks about how at the end of 7 years all debts should be canceled. Now let me be clear, by no means am I saying it is unbiblical to carry debt longer than 7 years, I am only attempting suggest a good practice not to, based on my interpretation of biblical guidance. Since we live in a day and age where a cancelation of debt by creditors would almost never happen due to the “free” market and lack of regulation on interest rates, I have decided to master my own finances and do my very best to make financial decisions which will not allow debt to master me, longer than 7 years. My thought behind this is simply;

By not carrying any debt, it allows one to more freely give to others in need, live in the present, and invest in the future. 

– Be Wise. Rugged. Brave.

Scott

optional.

Image

Reading Time: 1 minute. 

Whiskey neat. Something that I enjoy, but have not become accustom to yet. It smells great. The aroma of twice filtered, vanilla, carmel, and apple notes, a bit of oak, and no sharp edges. I repeat, no.sharp.edges…

To start, I want to be clear, drinking alcohol is not something that should be praised, only a justified appreciation is warranted. Too many people find themselves snared by the temptation of alcohol rather than seeking out an understanding of its simplicity. Intent is key. Better to stay away from it all together then to be swayed by its sophisticated and/or cheap charm. Good can come of it, but it will invite more evil then it is worth. So, better to stay away all together. It really is optional

Which brings me to my point. The charisma found in many things is optional, you can either choose to take it or leave it. It depends on you. Truly, the choice is yours. If you decide to indulge, it does not mean you have to become an advocate for it; whatever it is. You can choose to partake in moderation (if it is legal). Do not let it destroy you, if you do or if it does, remember it was your choice. 

I call this turf ‘n’ turf. It’s a 16 oz T-bone and a 24 oz porterhouse. Also, whiskey and a cigar. I am going to consume all of this at the same time because I am a free American. – Ron Swanson

 

Be Wise. Rugged. Brave.