When 95% is a fail

One of my daughter’s friends asked me a question. At first I thought it would be a fun and fairly easy question to answer. But I keep coming back to this key concept that I need to explain first.

There is a study that was done at some point in the late 60s. (I’m not an expert or on trial, so I have no idea what the reference for this study is, but I trust the source that told me about it.) They took a bunch of average people that were all at about the same level of life when starting in college. Then they looked at where these people ended up, at the age of 65. The statistics broke down like this: 1% was wealthy, 2% were fairly well off, 2% had enough to take care of themselves. The other 95% had to keep working, were dependent on others to take care of them or were in complete poverty.

Keep in mind that these people were all level at the start of college, so they were not “poor” to start.  They were not unintelligent or unmotivated… they were all going to college!

So they looked into what the difference was between these folks. It wasn’t the grades they got in college, or even if they finished college. It wasn’t what classes they took in college. It wasn’t how wealthy they were to start with. It wasn’t their IQ or gender or any other predictable factor.

What set these 95% on a course for failure? What helped the 5% get ahead in this race? The 95% didn’t plan on failure; in fact, they didn’t want failure and they thought they were headed in the right direction in the beginning.  But there was a very important but missing skill.

The difference is independent thinking.

Independent thinking means looking at a situation and deciding what to do for yourself. That seems simple enough, but 95% of people will make most of their decisions by looking at what other people are doing, making sure their actions and social interactions are in line with what other people are doing, and following what is expected. The lie in all of that is that you think that most people know what they are doing.  The truth is that they are all just as insecure as you; they don’t want their actions to break the normal and they can’t bear to handle the potential shame of trying something different and failing. So the pack huddles together and shuffles in mass towards oblivion.

Random example… buying your own kids presents for Christmas or their birthday. 50 years ago, on Christmas you might get 1 present for Christmas and a few stocking stuffers. The present would be worth the equivalent of a new pair of shoes (a BB gun, a toy car, a train set, a doll, etc.) The media starts showing us pictures of Christmas trees that can barely compete with the pile of toys and gifts under them, and over the holidays we visit friends that have piles of gifts all laid out nicely, and well they seem successful, and it sure looks fun. Added to that pressure is the knowledge that your kids are going to go back to school after the Christmas break and are going to compare what they got with other kids. So you go shopping, and you make your tree look like that.

You have no idea how much debt the other people incurred to get that pile of gifts. You know you couldn’t afford it. You know that most of the gifts you bought will not get used, and will likely get discarded within the first few months of the new year, but you buy them anyway. If you keep this up year after year, you will struggle to keep out of debt and your house will be filled with junk.  If you follow this pattern for birthdays and everything else in life, your finances will be a wreck. You will have debt instead of savings or investments.  The reality is that this simple issue can destroy your life and leave you with nothing, but… you will look the part.

Nobody will stop you and tell you that you are going too far. Nobody will chastise you for your lack of planning or short-sighted thinking.  Your children will certainly not complain… All those people who are saying nothing are trying to keep up with you.  I am not saying that giving gifts is bad or that even giving lots of gifts is bad.  I am not saying that someone who gives lots of gifts is somehow making a big mistake, but what I am saying is that you have to look and decide for yourself what you can spend, and what your kids actually need and not to worry about what others think of you.

When I was a teenager, I had a friend that would come with us to Red Robbin. We would all order our meals and drinks and maybe split an appy.  He would order non-stop fries and water.  We would spend $10 – $20 and he would spend $1.75.  He would then proceed to order three or four refills on his fries and leave full.  Now granted, that’s not a well balanced meal, but its not like a bacon cheeseburger is the picture of health. He did eat well at home and he had quite enough money to order anything he wanted, but that’s not where he wanted to spend his money and he didn’t care if he fit in or copied everyone else.  Because of the way he handled his money early on, and mostly because of the way he makes his personal decisions, today he owns a web hosting company that is doing very well.  You would be blown away with the number and size of his clients while even his own company’s dated website design says, “I don’t care what other people think”. He gets so much business from referrals that he doesn’t need his website to look nice to get business so paying to make his website look current would be wasted money.

in 2007, more than 40% of teens admitted to driving high and that number is even higher today.  While that is a bad statistic and makes the roads unsafe, what I got out of it is that a whole lot of teens are trying and smoking weed. So many, that in some social situations it might seem socially awkward or bad to say “no”. So many that you might have to think, “it can’t be that bad if that many people are doing it.” But who is looking down the road and thinking about where this “95%” type activity is heading. Is this a crowd, huddled together shuffling toward oblivion, or is it actually ok? I’m not answering this question for you; I am saying you need to answer this question for yourself.

So, here is a piece of advice that has served me well.  10 years.  I figure that any behavior or habit or strategy in life will start to show how it pays off within 10 years.  So if I wonder what something in life is like, I will find someone who has been doing it for 10 years and ask them. When I was 16 I started working at McDonalds and back then you could smoke on your lunch break in the staff room… I know – gross! Anyway, out of pure curiosity I wondered what smoking was like.  I would watch fellow workers come running down to take their break, get out a cigarette, light it up, breathe it in deeply and exhale like they were finally at peace. It would actually look kind of refreshing. I would then ask, “why do you smoke?”

This is the part that freaked me out… they ALL (and I mean ALL) said the same thing. “Oh, I have to – it relaxes me.”  Then I would ask, “yea, but why did you start?” They would say something about who introduced them, most of the time is was because everyone else was doing it, but then ALL (and I mean ALL) of them did the same thing; they would stub out their cigarette and say, “yea, I wish I hadn’t started. I’m trying to quit now.” This all happened withing about 45 seconds, and I repeated it about 20 times with all age ranges of people.  I figured out that smoking cigarettes has got to be one of the stupidest things that you can do.  I’ve never had one.  Ever.

Ask questions about the decisions you make in life and I mean ask about everything. You will find that most people have very very shallow logic if there is any logic at all in most of the decisions they make, and a lot are regretting doing the things that they are currently doing.  Wherever you find this… think up a new plan that makes more sense and don’t worry how it will look to others.

Because 95% is a fail, but turning on your brain is free and getting at least 96% is easy.

(Feven, your question is next 8-D )

An open invitation from my daughter

xandraXandra shared the Boys, Dating, Testosterone and How To Punch Hard post with her greater Facebook audience.  It was fairly well received and in her status message she said that her friends could ask me questions too if they wanted my unique opinion or perspective on something.

I figured I would just confirm that I would be happy to take anyone’s questions.  I would find it really interesting what other teens would like to know about, and no topic is off limits.

You can post questions anonymously in the comments on this post or over on the Ask Me Here page.  I have to approve comments before they are posted, but unless you are a spammer or have something evil to say, i will approve your comment ;-).

Don’t be shy and thanks for stopping by.

How to get teens to do chores… quickly

This is not a question that my daughters have asked me, but it is a conversation we have had many times. In fact they have said, “I HATE THAT YOU’RE SO GOOD WITH TECHNOLOGY!!!”

ChoresI don’t know about you, but getting teens to do reasonable work around the house is difficult. There are so many distractions and different forms of instant communication that directing and redirecting and reminding and harping and yelling to get your teen to do one load of dishes or fold one load of laundry seems like more work than doing it yourself.

There is a solution

Grab a piece of paper and make a list  that looks like this:

Wash Dishes

1 Load of Laundry

Make Dad cookies




Now consult your internet modem instructions to change your wifi password:

Cisco or Linksys: http://kb.linksys.com/Linksys
DLink: http://www.ehow.com/

Don’t get overwhelmed by the techy stuff. This is worth learning if you don’t already know how to do it. I recommend using “WPA-Personal” when you get the chance to choose what kind of password you want.

If you are not good at picking passwords, try this handy tool: Semi-Secure Password Generator – don’t forget to copy the password somewhere so you won’t forget it.

The result is that you have just turned off 95% of whatever was distracting them and taken away most of what they want to do. So now they will be motivated to get the work done and won’t be distracted doing it. When they have checked off what you have asked them to do, you can give them the new wifi password.

Gotcha… You may need to scan your available wifi networks to see if you have neighbors with unprotected wifi access and ask them to put on a password… Tell them you saw a creepy guy in front of their house in a car with a laptop on their lap… usually does the trick.

Another Gotha… in my house no wifi access means hand in all data capable phones… those kids are sneaky.

Pro Tip… change the wifi password when you say “go to bed” to get kids to actually fall asleep faster.

Pro tip… If you have a router that has guest wifi access, change the name (ssid) of guest to “kids” and change the name (ssid) of the regular wifi account to “parents only-hahaha” and you can keep your devices connected while “motivating” your children… its a win-win.

What is the secret of success?

It should be a dream of all parents to have their children ask this question. We have had a few conversations about success and failure; what they are and how to achieve them. I am sure that I am not fully qualified to answer this, but I can share what I know.

Secret of SuccessBackground

I didn’t start off in life with any of this understanding. I was good with people and succeeded in customer service type jobs, and some were even called sales jobs. One day I was promoted from “sales” driving a service truck to actual cold-calling, relationship building, needs analysis, script memorizing sales… and I failed. I was on the verge of financial ruin, had a wife and three kids to provide for and was desperate.

I still can’t quite recall how I met Ray Yenkana, but we met and he invited me out to breakfast before work. He spoke words that my soul was starving for and they not only changed my current reality, but every day and waking thought since then. He took me for breakfast a dozen times or so, and gave me books and tapes and cds (for the kids, tapes are these square plastic things with this long brown ribbon that can hold, like 30 whole minutes of music on one side). I decided at that point in my life that I wouldn’t regret the years wasted and opportunities lost, but I would make sure my kids knew this stuff.

What is success and failure?

Success is not a lot of money or cars and houses and yachts. Think about it, if you set out to be ‘rich’, how would you know you are there? At what point would you have enough that you would say, “I have just crossed the line into success; yesterday I was not a success and today I am”? Success is deciding something specific that you want and then accomplishing it. If you decide that you want your life to be spent serving the poor of Uganda, you may never drive a sports car or own a Vancouver house, but if get there and do it, you are successful. If you decide that you want to be a millionaire, and you become a millionaire, then you are successful. If you quit on life after you have your million, then you would cease to be successful, and failure would be waiting for you. So ultimately success is the ability to be who you want and do what you desire in life. So failure would then be to never get where you want in life or be who you want to be.

Success is not one monumental achievement, but simply and consistently following simple disciplines over time. Failure is not one cataclysmic event, but slight errors in judgment repeated over time. You won’t get a heart attack from eating a cheeseburger; you might from eating one every day. There are a million little indulgences and bad spending decisions and little time wasters that people do every day. Learning disciplines is the key, and I’m not talking about stuff that’s hard to do. So what are these simple disciplines that you should follow?

There are a lot of simple disciplines that are great, but if you learn one today make it SETTING GOALS! “I will have a job by my 16th birthday”, “I will save $1000 within the next three months”, “I will improve my grades to all As and Bs before Christmas break so I can qualify for this scholarship”, “I will bench press 200lbs by the end of the summer”… A goal can be anything but make it something that you can achieve, and set a date when it needs to happen by. Write it down and keep it close to you, and read it every day out loud. This is SUCH A BORING, SIMPLE, TEDIOUS TASK, and because of that most people won’t bother.

Picture two boats. One boat has a captain and a map and some instruments to measure where the boat is, and most importantly a chosen destination. Each day the captain reads the instruments, compares his location to the destination, makes small course changes and then carries on with his day. The other boat has none of those, but is set out to sea anyway. The first boat will likely reach its destination or at least it will get close; the other will end up on some rocks somewhere. That’s the difference between setting goals and not setting goals.

Here’s another wise quote, “Success is not something you do, but something you attract by the person you become”. When you work on yourself and train yourself to do these simple things, then success will find you. Its actually a little freaky, but I am not kidding; setting a goal and looking at it and reading it every day with almost no additional effort, your goal or at least amazing opportunities to achieve your goal will come to you. So by focusing on the discipline of reading out your goal, you will become a more disciplined person, and that will attract success.

Learn to Farm

The world is built around the law of the farm. A man of great need can go to the field and say, “please feed me”, and the field will reply, “I want to, but I require seed”. A man with barns full of grain who diligently plants seed, though he is not hungry, or in great need, the field will still grant him bounty that he cannot contain. This is not a case of rich getting richer and poor getting poorer, but how you approach life. You ALWAYS have something to give. Giving something to the benefit of others is seed. There is a law that transcends all other laws or circumstances that says that he who sows, reaps; and he reaps according to the type and quantity of his seed. I could fill up a whole blog post about the farm… maybe another day.

Xandra, you see mom and me, you see a couple that is constantly tired and working hard at the daily grind, and rarely has the chance to do anything fun or social. You have questioned before what kind of an existence that really is. What you cannot possibly see in context is that just over ten years ago I was broke, and floating like ship with no captain, very few marketable skills, three kids to take care of, an apartment that was growing mold, and insurmountable debt. By changing very small things about how I approached life, and following a few simple disciplines, I am now highly sought after for my skills. I own a nice house in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world and am almost out of all the consumer debt. You might see me working two jobs and being tired, but today I have goals, and seemingly without effort I get opportunities to achieve those goals. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work hard or sacrifice something, but it means that I have a deep inner knowing that I am going where I want to go, and doing what I want to do.

So I will wrap this post up with these words: When harvest time comes, if you find that you have very little, don’t blame anyone, don’t complain, but realize that you planted little, and rest assured that there is another spring right around the corner so get your seed ready. On the other hand, if harvest time comes and you have more than anyone else, don’t be ashamed, don’t apologize, but accept the rewards you prepared for, and don’t think that you can skip planting seed in the spring.

Angelica and Xanrda, I know you both and both of you WILL be successful!

Boys, Dating, Testosterone and How To Punch Hard

Not long ago a guy who lives in our neighborhood came over to talk to my daughter. He’s a nice kid, but socially awkward from autism and he’s about 16 (We’ll call him Joe). My daughter is just 16, tall, cute, edgy clothes and style and she’s really kind and caring (We’ll call her Xandra). So Joe puts his arm around Xandra while talking to her on the porch. She does not like Joe in that way, but didn’t want to hurt his feelings, didn’t know what to do and froze. So Joe got to finish the conversation with his arm around Xandra.

boys and girls

So Xandra and I had a talk. This is the gist of that talk:

Testosterone is like a swarm of bees flying around your head. It’s distracting, noisy, and precarious. If you want to communicate something of importance to a teenage boy, you need to be clear, direct, and loud enough to be heard over the noise of their swarm. Boys on the other hand will have a hard time communicating what they are thinking or what they want, but are more inclined to “do” something and hope their actions speak for them. So he put his arm around you, meaning “I like you, and I want to be your boyfriend and I want to connect with you and experience you”, and you said nothing, which means… “I do too”.

When he put his arm around you, he had a little bit of expectation of how things would go, and if you had drawn the line there, he would have been hurt, but that is like falling from inches. Now, he has huge expectations; he has probably spent the last few days daydreaming about what this all means. When you say “Sorry, but no” the next time you see him, and you have to address this the next time you see him, and you have to be clear enough and direct enough to be heard over his swarm of bees, he will fall from great heights, and it will hurt him. So in the end, there was nothing compassionate about being gentle and tolerant and permissive in the beginning.

You are beautiful. You are tall and you have a great body, and you have a really cute face with eyes that show caring and compassion and deep, intelligent thoughts. You have purple hair and a crazy style. When you walk in the room, you change the atmosphere; you make things more fun. When you talk, you are deep and thoughtful. And you are industrious; you can make things happen. You are powerful. You will be noticed by a lot of guys. You will be approached a lot. If you don’t recognize your own value, and decide for yourself what you want in a guy, and you are afraid of hurting anyone, then you will end up in a relationship with the first guy that asks after you are 17 (not allowed to date in my house till 17), and you will not be available for the guy that you really want to be with.

X: “So, what do I say to him, or someone like him?”

You say, “I’m sorry, I’m not into dating right now and when I am, I want to date someone who is first, my friend. So let’s just stay friends”

X: “But then he’ll think he still has a shot, and I really am not attracted to him at all.”

Ah, yea, so say “Joe, last time we talked you put your arm around me and I really didn’t want to hurt you so I didn’t say anything, but I am not interested in you like that, so don’t touch me any more, ok?”

X: “That seems harsh”

Yea… clear, direct, loud enough to be heard over the noise of the swarm (the million thoughts that are fueled by testosterone). If you soft-sell it or hide behind “my parents won’t let me date”, then they are not going to understand and are going to act like you didn’t say anything.

Being physical in a relationship is something you want to put off anyway. You add physicality to a relationship because you think it will add intimacy and it does the exact opposite. Break the word intimacy down into these words “Into Me, See!” When you start dating and there is no physical touch, you only have words to connect each other, so you talk. You find out about them, their favorite color, why it is their favorite color, hobbies they like, fun things they have done, stupid things they have done, how their parents divorce changed them, how they think, who they really are. You see into them and they see into you. When you finally have that first kiss, that is the last thing that you will find out about them for a while.

X: “Really?”

Yea, when you kiss, you realize that it is fun, you want to do it again, so you go on a date, thinking about kissing. You eat dinner or whatever and have light chit-chat and then as quick as you can, you get to the car… [lots of smooching and slobbering sounds].  The relationship changes. I’m not going to say that it’s not fun, but I will say that the relationship will not get any deeper, at least not for a long time. So save that stuff for someone you really want to have a long relationship with, or even be with forever.

X: “What is ‘friend zone’ and why is that bad?”

The term “friend zone” is a social meme that is used to either make someone feel bad because they are there, or to try and pressure someone into not putting them there. This is the problem with that social mirror thing I talk about. People watch the media and learn about dating from TV (cause there parents don’t talk to them like this), so based on what you see in the media a date is a ‘failure’ if you don’t get to at least first and maybe second base. So when you date someone for the first time, you have to be the one to adjust the expectations of what you want. This is one of the big benefits of going to a big youth group where they talk about dating and relationships; when you go on a date with a guy from your youth group, you will both have the same expectations and it makes things a lot easier. If they are someone else from school, then you have to say, “I’m glad to be going on a date with you, but I want to make things clear so they aren’t awkward later, I want to really get to know you first and I don’t want a physical relationship yet, so there will be no kissing at the end of this.” Remember to be clear and direct and talk above their noise. My best advise is to keep the guys that you like in your friend zone, date from your friend zone and when you commit to a long relationship, choose your best friend.

If anyone ever disrespects your boundaries, then they are not worth being with. If anyone ever tries to manipulate you into changing your boundaries, by calling you ‘cold’ or ‘an ice queen’ or anything else that is meant to make you feel bad for withholding what is only yours to give away, then… do you know how to punch someone?

[short demonstration on how to punch… lock your wrist, hold your fist tight, don’t aim for your target, aim for behind your target or you will let up when you connect and it will hurt your hand more.]

[short discussion on how to dispose of a body]

X: “Ha. Yea, well wont I get a bad reputation if I do something like that?”

No, you won’t. Actually it will be just the opposite. When you treat yourself like you are valuable and will not be taken for so low a price, then people of greater character and greater value will also see you as more valuable. Xandra, this is why it is so important for you to know how much you are worth. You are worth a lot. You are a 10. You are a world changer. You are amazing. You deserve the best. And when the offer you are presented with is anything less than what you deserve, then say “No”. And if anyone ever disrespects your “No”… [dad gets a strange, far off, almost sinister look] Tell me… right away… and they will never disrespect anyone’s “No” ever again.

X: “Ok, your face looks a little freaky, but I believe you… What would you do; kill them?”

Xandra, you are worth a lot… even a little jail time 😉

What pranks would you pull if you were a ghost?

Seeing as I don’t believe in ghosts as per se, this takes a bit of qualification.  What Xandra and I have agreed on, is that being a ghost consists of being invisible and being able to pass through walls / objects and yet retain that ability to move objects around.  I’m also going to go with immortality – or infinite existence – or whatever it is that ghosts get where they don’t go away. With that said…

I’ve thought about this long and hard…

I would travel the world looking for people who are making home movies or filming some random event and I would make really freaky accidents happen, like make a big inflatable pool rip open and dump all the people on the lawn when the big guy gets in, or throw a cat out a window to make it look like they were following a laser pointer, or make dump stunts teens do go really really bad, and then I would see how many of “my” videos I can get on AFV.  I would keep score and challenge all my ghost buddies to try and beet my score… and I would win!

Answer: Rule AFV

Why is the hemline on girls’ clothes rising?

Dear Daughter and I have talked a bit about clothes and fashion. There’s a rule in my house that you can buy anything you want from the mall, when you are out with your friends or whatever, but you have to keep the receipt because I reserve the right to say, “Take it back.” For the most part things have been good, but I have said “no” to one pair of shorts.

The problem is that there are less and less options available that I would agree to. So… Why?

The whole answer is long and complicated, but the issue I want people to think about is an issue called the ‘Social Mirror’. The social mirror is when you look at other people and you see them projecting back to you, the same image that you yourself are trying so hard to show off.  The social mirror is when you see young people in the media acting rather flippant about sexuality and having hook ups and one night stands and showing up the next day as if nothing happened or like it was the best and most refreshing thing that could have happened. So real young people act out the same behavior and feel hollow and rotten and worthless… but that’s not what it looked like on Netflix, so take a deep breath, put on a sincere smile and say the lines that you’ve been watching… So you project the image, and if the image that you are projecting is not what you are feeling for real inside then you are just being part of the mirror.

But, people want to see the fantasy of what we dream life is supposed to be like for everyone else, so we watch movies that show relationships that way, and so the media makes movies and tv shows and commercials and print ads and so on to satisfy what we all pay money to watch.

So with the media reacting to what we ask for, what about the retail stores in the mall? What retail buyer wants to fill their stores with clothes that don’t look the same as the sexualized teens in the media? What retail buyer wants to stock their store with conservative clothes that say, “I’m just a kid”? So in the end we have 8 year old kids wearing Daisy Dukes and padded push-up bras, and you have to wonder if there isn’t maybe something really broken with what we are doing.

Answer: Its a broken system, don’t buy that crap, and really, really, really be true to yourself and you are worth far more than you will ever believe.

Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

I asked her for some of her favorite questions and this is the first one?!? Going Deep to start…

OK, so this all depends on your view of creation. The first point that I always try and make is that the Bible was never intended to be an authority on science. I personally believe that the Bible is crazy accurate when it comes to references about science (check out what the Bible says about singing stars in Job, the oldest written book in the Bible, and when scientist discovered that stars ‘sing’ in modern times), but it does not go into the how or why at all.  For instance Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, walked through walls and ‘ascended’ into heaven. This, in my opinion, is not mystic behavior, but rather a demonstration of God’s control of dimensions that we can’t even comprehend (the phase of atoms, elemental properties, etc.). But the Bible doesn’t reference anywhere ‘how’ he did it.  You can speculate all you want, but it will take a lab and particle accelerators and scientists to guess at that stuff.

With that said, we have no real clue how God made us, the Bible just says that He did, and creation can’t be observed any more than evolution can, so neither qualify as ‘scientific’ discussions. The only clue we have at all about how God might have operated is that he put man to sleep, took a rib and then made woman. So if God likes to work in patterns (which is debatable) then He very likely could have used a directed evolutionary process to take a monkey and then make and ape, and then take and ape and make a man, or something like that.  If He did that, then he could have used birth as a decent place to make His various vertebrate iterations and so Adam may have had a belly button.  Eve is a complete and total guess, because she seems to have been a unique creation with a rib (marrow, undifferentiated stem cells, DNA mapping, etc), but was not born of another woman, so I’m going with “No” for Eve.

Final Answer: Yes for Adam, No for Eve