Where do we go from here?
In my last blog I poured out my heart and soul about the role I played in creating my “retirement” years into such a condition that I have got to keep working just to pay for food and shelter, rather than having a sizable nest egg in my leisure years.
This blog asks the question, “What’s next?”
Since I last wrote here, I enrolled on and completed two courses of study to learn more about my current situation. One course helped me face the roller-coaster aspects of my life; the other, steeped in data about how to handle finances for financial security, pointed the way out.
Pretty heady stuff.
I have always thought, I am the master of my ship of life. So, when I learned recently that there are certain types of people who believe they have to take over someone else’s vessel just because their brains (or whatever!) tell them that the only way they can survive is on the backs, brains and hopes of others, and by invalidating others and making them feel insecure — ever meet anyone like that? — my eyes opened wide.
Other people target me? People who want to usurp my power over my life… WHAT?! Seriously?
Maybe they think they’re right. I think they believe they have no power of their own — how wrong can anyone be? Don’t they know who they really are anymore?
But there they are: the people who have taken in too many losses; who got stuck somewhere along the way; people who think they have to put others down to get a leg up. (Seems to me they’re more like a boat taking on too much water, which, flooded, faces extinction by capsizing or drowning: really desperate.)
Studying people like that reminded me of lifesaving techniques that I learned during my high-school summers, working as a lifeguard. The caution then was that you needed to approach a struggling swimmer, who believes he or she is about to drown, by staying well beyond their reach. No sense two of you drowning. The technique was to dive under water — they do not want to go there — and come at them from behind. You grabbed them swiftly in a lifesaving hold that allowed both of you to return to shore safely. You see, terrified people will try to stand on top of you — you’re the only thing solid around — to stay above the water line. Thinking illogically, if thinking at all, they will drown you to save their life.
The analogy works just as well for people who come after you on dry land. Only that type acts very deviously about their intentions. They will mask their true intent to stand on the shoulders of your life and squeeze the breath out of you simply because they believe that doing so is the only way they can survive.
That’s very illogical. It can take your breath away just knowing that there are people like that. But, I’ve always said to myself, the worst thing I can do is try to make logical something that is illogical, especially when it comes to human behavior.
Knocking out others’ hopes and dreams; viciously brow-beating sports team players in the name of winning; covertly wiping out a spouse’s dreams… even the harshest example, a suicide… are all so illogical. It is impossible to evaluate such circumstances logically, other than to recognize the complete desperation that must be present, and learn how to either avoid or handle them.
When these personnel depart, they take their broken reasoning and frightful thoughts with them, seldom leaving behind a journal or a textbook to explain their fearful behavior and their hidden motives. And why should they? After all, they always think they are so right! They’d be dead-wrong, if they thought otherwise.
The rest of us end up seeing the telltale footprints — too often blood drops, but when the trail stops, we find only the stale, fallen carcass, never the inner workings of their devious minds. Perhaps that goes with them. Hitler, for example, left nothing behind after he faced his self-appointed demise.
It helps me to understand that there are certain illogical activities with which others can try to affect my life, if I let them. That’s where all this dovetails for me into my last blog: if I let them. No matter how much more I learn about human behavior, I’m still going to cling to the notion that no one else, and nothing else, determines the course and condition of my life more than I do, or, inspected more closely, than my decisions do. Not even the craziest people.
Which brings me to the money! There is just no substitute for knowing as much as one can about money.
I thought I had a handle on money, but I never saved enough. I never knew that money should be looked at and treated like a commodity, meaning treated and handled like something with fixed, intrinsic limitations and rules to follow. They certainly never taught me that in school.
To me, a straight-commission salesman since I was 19, Sell something, get paid a commission. Sell more, have more to spend was the extent of my uneducated thinking about money.
I’m aware that money markets trade currencies. I know about the Fed and the networks of banks. I get that money is an easier form of exchange than barter, and all those basics. Understanding money as a commodity in that sense was always clear to me. However, what I’m writing about here is another sense of the word. Commodities are things that are real and palpable — used, traded, carried around. They are, in fact, things that have limitations of use, and rules that support their values and qualities; rules which, when violated, diminish their existence. And money follows suit.
Money as a commodity increases or decreases, depending upon how you handle or manage it. The first step, though, is you have to produce something of value to obtain money. You cannot manage or handle money that you do not have. How one goes about earning income before paying out expenses as the proper emphasis for financial planning… THAT was a new thought for me!
The first allowance money I ever received as a kid was nice to behold, but what had I produced to get it? Perhaps someone just thought I was a nice kid, so they gifted me some money. Maybe my parents liked me, after all. I remember grandparents, uncles and aunts dropping dollar bills into my sweaty palms, when they visited our house. I had a grandma who pressed hard candies and coins into my hand, curling my fingers around them and admonishing me to put it into my pocket before my parents would find out. That was sweet! [pun intended]
Maybe my “product” was goodwill. I’m not sure. I was too young for much else. Back then, what mattered as the root of my largesse was beyond my ken. If my smile or my acceptance of wet kisses from elderly ladies worked a magic on them, I don’t know. But the money was nice, and I bought a bunch of candy with it in my younger days.
As a teenager, I earned money with my newspaper route. Delivering papers was something suggested to me by my father, but I found that it brought me money and bonus trips to exotic places like the Atlantic City boardwalk where I paid for taffy candies and soft ice-cream. Tucked away in between banking my well-earned dollars and enjoying vacation bonuses, lay this valuable lesson: recipients gladly pay for efforts to deliver services to them that are in their demand. In my case, each holiday season meant extra tip money inside of holiday card envelopes — an unexpected windfall, which caught me by surprise the first time around.
With seasonal bonuses, and the addition of a job as a soda jerk manning the ice-cream and dessert counter at a local Howard Johnson’s Restaurant, came Lesson Number Two: if you work hard, do it with a good attitude AND deliver a little something extra, more than what people expect, they will reward you better. The nicer I was throughout the year to my customers, the more generous they were toward me. I learned to always deliver more than what people expected… one of the keys to whatever financial success I did earn!
Coming back to managing money as a commodity, I learned that money is not what it seems. Money was not those newspapers that I delivered; nor was it the hours on my bike getting those papers to different homes; not any more than it is a laborer’s hard work at digging ditches, or an auto dealer’s paperwork, a bus driver’s hours at the wheel, or a house cleaner’s brooms and perspiration. None of these are money, and money is none of them.
Money is an emissary for things and events. Money represents actual work and exchanges, but money will never be those things, for things can exist without money and have value. Money without something to represent is valueless. Money is useless paper and coinage, unless put to use as a representation of something considered to have value among people who produce and the people who purchase their productions.
People handle and manage money; the converse will never be true.
Nothing remains static, including money. Things and money expand or contract. Like the tides of ocean shorelines, money ebbs and flows by nature… and money, like waves, over time will erode the sands of its beachheads left to its own accord.
After the training I recently received, I now see that money is exactly like water. Water requires well-defined borders and an intended direction to accumulate to the power of a river; otherwise, it is just a flood, which not only ruins the land over which it spreads, but also dissipates and lays waste its strength. A flood eventually dries up, but it leaves behind a real mess.
On the other hand, a river of money, controlled and guided by men, creates much opportunity and nourishes the land, leading to more sustenance for large numbers of people. Such a well-kept river sustains its power for use again and again.
Money as a river, is a good analogy, I think. Money has its headwaters in the creation of worthwhile products and services in demand, or for which one might build a demand. Touching other life-streams as it extends its reach, money gathers strength. From a nascent trickle to a lively brook and then a stream, money can emerge as a widened river to carry sustenance and opportunity to those dependent on the river, who make their livelihoods from its flow.
I know this well, because I’ve been to the bubbling Minnesota headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi up in Paul Bunyan country, crossed a few of its many bridges in several states, and watched it in low and high-tide conditions flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
Along a river’s path, man must control and maintain its banks. The twists and turns of its rip-rap edges determines its course, and those edges need maintenance and grooming. The strength of a cubic foot of water lower in a river’s course, if nurtured and guided well, is exponentially more powerful than a cubic foot near its headwaters.
The same goes for money. Money well worked and allowed to flow within defined borders, managed well and guided, not only retains and accumulates buying power, but also gathers in size with added interest, returns on investment, and compound interest payments. And money can purchase the creation of more and better products which start the cycle all over again.
My course had more to do with managing finances in order to create more income which, in turn, made for more planning. The overall message that I gleaned was that control of my money would keep more of it within my grasp. In other words, under my control, money will work for me. Spending money that I do control wisely — always spending less than what I earn — will work to help me expand.
That works money right back to handling certain types of people, specifically, the kind alluded to earlier in this article. I believe that there is no better tack to take against the ill-will of would-be suppressor-types than to go out and prosper without fail.
These facts about people and money, of which there are so many more to know, are not new to Man. There are no secrets here. There are rivers, and people, all around us. Money flows surround us, too. The lessons of water and money and people are there for the looking and learning, and I am glad I took a fresh look at all three.
I’m not out of the woods, yet, but I feel a lot better about my chances for continued success and growth.
Proper ways to manage and guide rivers and money, and other analogies from which we can draw similar learning, have been handed down through thousands of years and hundreds of generations, by word of mouth, the written word and (these days) digital transmissions. Learning the lessons of the difference of who owns more money and who has less, begins with discovering an understanding of the rules and qualities of money as a commodity.
I studied about certain types of people and learned how to steer a successful course around those suppressors that would prevent my production of valuable products and services. I have a solid base of understanding on which to stand tall again. I can plan and create quality products and new exchanges with others to bring in more money.
My hope is to multiply my income rapidly. My dream of better days and nights to come financially (again) gives me renewed balance among my new money-earning activities and desired pursuits of leisure.
Creative abundances, numerous exchanges and well-managed money are powerful weapons to wield when sailing open waters. Wish me luck!
See you next time around, when I share more of the journey.