Breaking Free: Moving from Planning to Implementation

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Tazkruff, a follower commented on my article quitting the rat race:I must say this resonate[s] quite well with me and I seem to always have that blueprint for financial wealth however I lack the implementing aspects which I need to start building on.”

I had initially responded to Tazkruff, but in thinking further on the question, I could see and hear what wasn’t explicitly stated. Reading between the lines, I could sense and relate to Tazkruff’s disappointment and dare I say frustration with himself. Take heart Tazkruff, you are not alone! I, and indeed many of us are here with you.

In university I did a course in Introductory Macroeconomics and was reintroduced to a concept, that from life experience, I knew all too well. “Yd= S+C”, we learnt. That is to say that your disposable income (Y) is equal to your savings(S) and consumption(C). Therefore S= Yd-C. Anyone with a basic grasp of elementary algebra could follow that. What they failed to explore in this and pretty much every other university course is practical applications on how to reduce consumption and increase savings. No such luck for this very important matter. They left us to our own self discovery and in many cases undoing. Without a clear and pragmatic blue print from an early age; many of us turned to the easiest sources of advisory. Many of us modeled our friends’, parents’, celebrities’ and the media’s take on personal financial management. The unfortunate bit is that for the vast majority of persons, these sources have not been yielding the kinds of outcomes that they would want. Sadly but suffice to say like actions produce like results.

Who amongst us cannot relate to having heard at some point in time about the need to save and invest? But as with most things, the make or break of our financial lives is in the implementation. So using Tazkruff’s comment as inspiration, I am going to share some real practical ways that I have been able to, in my small way start my quest for financial freedom. I will also explore some of my failures too; for like you I am trying to find my way on this journey.

Having been dissatisfied with the results I was getting for many years, I decided that I needed to reevaluate and radically change my philosophy. I have explored several books, audio material, videos, interviewed several successful persons. From that I have decided to adopt just a few of the elements learned, which I think would be useful as a part of my own personal philosophy. I will attempt to share a few in my own words, though it should be noted that I am not the originator and further that I am still learning as I go along:

Mindset

A lot of material has been written on the power of the mind. Without any heavy philosophical or metaphysical reference, it is safe to say that every word or action began as a thought. Therefore every element of the modern world was once a thought for someone at a point in time. The Wright brothers saw manned flight in their mind’s eye before we were able to book a flight. Edison saw the light. Galileo envisioned the telescope. The list goes on…

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What is evident is that no great achievement  comes to fruition without the seed of a thought. We must hold in our mind’s eye, an image of our best selves. I often find myself in a place of self doubt and when I do I quickly begin to count my blessings and fall back to an attitude of gratitude. I’ve learnt that gratitude should extend not only to our current state or things we have, but rather to every conceivable situation in our lives and (here’s the kicker) things that are yet to come. It takes a reconditioned mindset to begin to view your life and the world like this, but the dividends are exponential. Additionally, life is not a zero-sum game, i.e. for me to win you must lose or vice-versa. We are not kept in lack from scarcity. The world itself, has an abundance of resources to take care of us all. The challenge is we spend quite a bit of time, looking at the greenness of the next man’s lawn. “Yes the grass may be greener on the other side, but best believe it comes with a matching water bill”.  A scarcity mindset, will bring about further scarcity, just as Galileo’s mind brought about the light bulb. Fix your mind, fix your life!

Develop a plan of action

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There are many perspectives on the path to take to financial freedom. What I have discovered from my research, is that there is no one right answer. Some are believers in ardent saving, at the expense of every creature comfort. Others believe, in more of an expansionary approach, seeking more to grow income than to curtail spending. My personal philosophy is a blended one. Whilst I do not subscribe to scarcity thinking, my mother taught me quite early, “willful waste will lead to woeful wants”. Therefore for me it is a two-pronged approach.I look for an opportunity at every turn to bolster income. I love my job and career, but I have long been sold on the benefits of business ownership. I have tried several projects and initiatives. Whilst I have profited from some; more than a few ended with a less than desirable outcome. I never see them as failure though, with each misstep come valuable lessons and learnings. I remember growing up and working in my mother’s small grocery shop. Sighting the popularity and potential demand for “Cheese on Cheese” biscuit, I decided to save a little from my lunch money each day until I could purchase a case of “Cheese on Cheese”, which was placed in the shop. Being a major foodie, I remember the personal sacrifice required to get to the capital needed. It took near two weeks. However, that pain was quickly forgotten when, I started to take “drawings” from my “Cheese on Cheese business”. That one time investment paid me repeatedly. That is, until I was bought out by mother, who had much grander plans for my “Cheese on Cheese empire” (mergers & acquisitions can be a tough game!). However, from that age, it was not lost on me that from whatever minuscule income, we can and in fact should save to invest in order to create additional sources of income. To this day my quest continues.

Trimming your expenses is also very important. As a marketing and sales professional, I know too well the strategies employed to make us feel that “state of felt deprivation”.  However, we should try to curtail expenses as much as possible. The root cause of most cases of conspicuous consumption, can be traced back to ego. That drives the desire for one-upmanship or perhaps to belong. My love of Japanese cuisine has caused me to further explore their culture. What I have noted, is an emphasis on minimalism . Within their culture, less is more. They have been able to record high levels of productivity and growth. One key learning for me; we should try to resist the drive to acquire more things that rust, rot and depreciate.

As a teenager, I would often hang out with men many decades my senior. One nugget of wisdom I received (though somewhat controversial) is “there are three things in life never to be chased: technology, fashion and a bus en route”.  All three it was explained were very hard to catch, keep up with and stand a very good chance of leaving you standing still. I will admit to splurging occasionally, but I still believe there is some soundness to this advice, especially for those of us on our freedom journey. We should look around us for opportunities for both expansion and cost containment. The plan must be crafted for our own situation, but the fact is we must have a plan.

Get to work.. 

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Understand who you are, what drives you. What excites you and makes you come alive? If tomorrow, you had all the money you needed, what thing would you do that would make you feel most engaged and intrigued? What can you not stop thinking or talking about? Whatever that thing is, identify it and get cracking!

Nothing is wrong with being an employee. Entrepreneurship, whilst a faster path to financial freedom is way riskier. Whatever role you find yourself in today, work as though your future depends on it, because it does! Be the guy who gets to the office first and leaves last. Be the girl, who never stops until a problem is solved. Be the person who gives a commitment and keeps it to the letter. If you were like me, without a fall back plan or trust with your name on it at birth, you have to give just a little more than the next person. Just as the Lord loves a cheerful giver, employers, managers and our superiors absolutely cherish a great employee. It is true that due to your efficiency and effectiveness at executing your function, you may stay in a role for longer than you’d ideally prefer. However, the laws of physics have taught me that when any object expands to be too large for its current space, new space must be created. You can only stay in one space for so long… Keep giving more! Even if your current employer does not arrange this, life has a way of going to equilibrium and sooner or later, it will be repaid. Whether through the lessons from your current role or the diligence of your execution, you will be rewarded! Zig Ziglar once said “When you do more than you get paid for eventually you’ll be paid for more than you do.” Similarly, for entrepreneurial pursuits, do not stop trying. You may just be at that break through or tipping point for your idea/ business. The key is to find a need, meet it better than the competition, treat those customers well and take a profit.

Relationship Management

People can be a fickle bunch. But they’re all around us and as you will see in the post on Managing Burnout in a 21st Century World, our support system is needed in order to cope. Just as careful consideration and evaluation should go into the thoughts we let into mind, deciding on our vocational pursuits, and in selecting investment options; so too should we be mindful of the relationships we form. You need people in your corner who will support your every move but who are also bold enough to call you out when you are wrong. I do not want my ship to be cheered into an approaching iceberg.

Select people who, whilst different and with their own individuality, share a similar mindset and drive. Jim Rohn said “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. So therefore, do your assessment. Are your 5 reflective of the person you wish to become? Do they have the right value system, drive and mindset? I’ve found that as time goes by, my circle of close friends evolves. That doesn’t mean that old friends are irrelevant. It just means that they too have to be growing, not financially, but in their mentality.

Network frequently and effectively. Form relationships outside your core group of friends. This may be difficult for some, but is essential and should be viewed as such. I’ve found that oftentimes when confronted with a new challenge or situation, the people in my direct circle may not be able to assist in the way I’d like. It is by turning to my other associates and contacts that I am able to be pointed in the right direction. Make a habit of interacting more with people. Introduce yourself and let someone know a little bit about you. You never know when you may be called upon in some way or may be introduced to your next life changing opportunity.

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I would encourage any well-thinking ambitious person to seek out a mentor. It does not have to be someone in your direct field; this is someone whom you admire, see value in and believe that you can learn from. Choose carefully, ensure that there is synergy between your energies and a personality fit. This is someone you can turn to when life throws its curveballs as it so aptly and frequently does. They should have your interest at heart, be a good listener and should not be trying to create a “mini-me”, but “the best you”.

Keep the ball rolling

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With the growth from either your career or your business, you will soon afford yourself the opportunity to save and over time to begin to amass capital investing. This should be regarded as just that. It should not be regarded as an invitation to purchase more objects of rot, rust and depreciation. Purchase true assets. The only reason for investing is to get a  return. Seek out assets that generate free cash flow. You need things that spin off their own profits to add to your earned income. You’ve been working hard for money for years. Let’s put the money to work for you. The idea is to get your snowball rolling; increasing in size as it goes along. Be wary of get rich quick schemes and too good to be true deals. They usually are in fact so and leave you out of pocket with a lesson you could have avoided by being more prudent. Do not overly expose yourself to risk. Diversify your investments to cover you should one asset class or company go down.

The quest for financial freedom, hopes to take you away from the rat race and should not itself be regarded as a race. Even if it was a race, it would be a long distance and not a sprint event. By having the right mindset, careful evaluation/ planning, good old fashion elbow grease and making prudent investment decisions, you can break free.

 

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Managing Burn Out in a 21st Century World

“A study released in April of 500 IT administrators from various firms by Opinion Matters revealed that 72% of respondents were stressed, 67% considered switching careers, 85% said their job intruded on their personal life, and 42% lost sleep over work. Can burnout be far behind?” Fortune Magazine April 2012.

That 2012 Fortune Magazine article marked the beginning of a trend that has escalated to an astounding 40% of Americans today, reportedly experiencing symptoms of burnout. Many of us sacrifice a lot in our chase for cheese in the rat race. Not least on the “corporate altar” is our health and wellness. The Christian church has not been immune to this, with three of five pastors leaving the ministry for reasons associated with burnout.

As a pastor, wife and mom, my experience with burnout came on the heels of the birth of my micro-preemie twins. At 4 a.m. on April 16, my water broke. I screamed and argued with the nurses because it was 14 weeks too soon. It’s hard to put into words the absolute fear and the depth of guilt that goes through a mother who experiences this. In my book Under Qualified and Overwhelmed I share my journey but more importantly, I share the lessons I learned about coping with feeling stretched beyond your limits.

“When you find yourself in that position; you have to reach within yourself for something that you never thought you had. When you are stretched beyond your ability to hold on, where do you find the faith, the strength and courage to face one more day?”

It was a difficult road, and after spending three months in the neo-natal intensive care unit, my husband Tim and I were finally able to bring our children home. Until the twins were eight months old, I would spend my nights sleeping on the floor between their cribs because they still had major issues that sometimes required giving them infant CPR to save their lives.

Coming out of our experience, my husband nominated her to be honoured as a Super Mom on the Steve Harvey Show. In an interview with CBS 6 of Richmond, I emphasized that all moms of premature babies are Super Moms “because what else are you going to do when your child needs you?” More than that, the complexities of our 21st century world makes every one of us feel we need super human strength to cope sometimes.

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Two things I learned from my experience with feeling Under Qualified and Overwhelmed are:

1. We all need a village to help us cope with times of extreme stress. Stress in and of itself won’t kill us. It is our inability to recover from stress that kills us. Surrounding ourselves with a supportive community will give us opportunities to recover. Supportive friends and family can ensure we don’t neglect self care like eating, sleeping and exercising. They can even step in to help create opportunities to do that. For me, that came in the form of having someone come over to watch the twins so I could have a few hours to sleep. No matter how strong and resourceful you are, facing stress without support is a certain path to burnout.

2. An attitude of gratitude makes a world of difference. When you’re frustrated and worn out, it is easy to complain. The problem with complaining is it keeps us focused on the problem. It becomes easy to overthink the negative and make a bad situation worse. By being deliberate about finding reasons to be thankful, we change our perspective and in turn create the positive energies that lead to problem solving. (check out this post on Breaking Free)

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Taneshia Kerr is an Adventist Pastor, Wife, Christian Counselor and NICU Mom. The title of her book Under Qualified and Overwhelmed, reflects the feelings she had navigating her experience with the high stress life of being a NICU Mom. The growing needs of the twins have recently pulled her away from full-time ministry. She now dedicates her time to being a mom, writing and occasional speaking. For more information on the book, visit http://www.underqualifiedandoverwhelmed.org, email taskbds@gmail.com or find it at Amazon.

Health Before Wealth- exploring wellness & fitness

The Roman poet Juvenal in his book of poems “Satires X” wrote “Mens sana in corpore sans”. That is latin for “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.  For those of us on the quest for truly full living, we must never neglect the importance of having a healthy body. In our daily pursuit to quit the rat race we must always remember to place “Health before wealth”. As I lay here writing I’m reflecting on my own quest to get into the best shape of my life.  I like many of you have been less than squeaky clean in my daily habits. Late night eating, those repeated final glasses of wine at that recent event and those “I’ll just work out tomorrow” days leave us all feeling guilty and conflicted. The good news is, it is never too late for a shower of rain. Whilst I am more than a little ways away from attaining Sparta like abs and obliques, I have already been experiencing marked improvement in some very valuable ways (I will give an update on my progress in a future post.)

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Many of us are not fully happy with our current physical states and would love to better understand the various areas of impact to reach better physical conditioning. Our bodies are marvelous objects of creation, which with proper understanding and care can be transformed into a most wonderful source of expression and container for our mind and spirit. I will attempt to share with you some of my learnings and research on the topic of physical wellness. These areas include:

Diet– You are what you eat.

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The food we eat is broken down by our digestive system to provide energy and nutrients for our body’s many processes and functions. Energy is measured in the form of calories. Therefore each item of food we consume has its caloric count. The source of calories in foods can be further classified into one of three macronutrients. These are:

  • carbohydrates (e.g.: grains, juices, sugar, pastry)
  • fats (e.g.: animal and plant fats and oils)
  • proteins– (e.g.: lean meats, fish, nuts).

It is important to understand the role each of these macronutrients plays. As we go through our day, we require different amounts of calories to execute our tasks. To get the energy to run, walk, talk or dance our bodies use insulin to break down the carbohydrates we eat into their simplest form; glucose. As far as possible we should try to avoid simple carbohydrates. These are the more refined carbs (e.g.: food with flour, sugar, syrups) as these have a higher glycemic index, i.e. are broken down more quickly by the body and rush to the blood stream, spiking our blood glucose levels. Instead, complex carbs (e.g.: ground provision and whole grains) should be substituted as these have a lower glycemic index and convert more slowly into glucose.

To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, we should take in just enough calories to fuel our daily activities. Any unused glucose is converted to glycogen and is then stored in our body as fat cells for future use. However, technology and societal evolution have taken us far beyond the days of eating just to meet our daily needs. In this age of consumerism, convenience and sedentary lifestyles we have been stocking away this surplus of fat at alarming rates. This current generation is the heaviest in history. Some fats especially healthy i.e. unsaturated fats (fish oils, avocado, olive oil) are good for your heart and circulatory system. Proteins provide amino acids, which are needed to build and sustain muscle as well as for repair of damaged tissue.

With this understanding the whole matter of weight loss, gain or maintenance becomes a matter of balancing caloric inputs with caloric needs. To know how much calories you need to maintain your weight, just take your current body weight in pounds and multiply it by 14 and 17. Somewhere in between those 2 amounts will usually be your daily calorie maintenance level. For example, a 180 lb person would do 180 x 14 and 180 x 17 and get an estimated daily calorie maintenance level of somewhere between 2520-3060 calories. If we wish to lose weight, create a caloric deficit. If we want to gain weight, create a caloric surplus. To maintain your weight, simply eat just the right amount of calories. We will explore other nutrients and vitamins in a future post.

Exercise- Get Moving!

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It should be no surprise that this point features in this article. Exercise is of prime importance in maintaining a healthy body and fitness level. It is also needed to sustain our muscle integrity (especially important for those of us looking to fight gravity and the effects of aging). Nice tight muscles not only look and feel great, aid us in attracting mates, but also increase our resting metabolic rate (the rate at which our bodies burn and make use of food, while in a resting state). When it comes to exercise, however it should be noted that it is not a one size fits all approach. Whatever you do the key is to just get moving! It is recommended that we get in between 3-5 times per week for approximately 1 hr (give up 1 hr of video games or TV time). This is less than 3% of our time available each week. For my part, to ensure I do it, I treat it as I would an appointment with a client or my boss. Even if I’m not quite up to it, I get dressed and turn up for numero uno!

It would be also instructive to spend a bit of time exploring the general categories of exercise, which should be incorporated in your program; despite whichever specific form it takes. These include:

  • Cardiovascular exercise (aerobics)– The goal here is to increase our heart rates and keep it at a safe level above its resting rate for a sustained period. This conditions the heart and circulatory system, making them more efficient at transporting much needed oxygen and nutrients around our bodies. Aerobics is also important for creating the caloric deficit and for burning off excess fat stores. You can explore running, walking, cycling, the elliptical machine and swimming. I personally prefer walking very briskly on the treadmill (gentler on my knees and back than running etc).
  • Resistance training– With muscles, you use it or lose it. Use weights, machines or plyometrics (exercises relying on ones body weight & motion) to create resistance for muscles in an attempt to make them stronger, firmer or for them to grow. To develop any muscle, put it to work in a consistent manner. This may also force the muscle fiber to tear in a very minute and harmless manner. The idea is that our bodies will repair this tear with the amino acids from the protein you eat. The body’s natural aim is to become stronger to prevent tears and be prepared for similar loads in the future. I have personally seen good results by training specific body parts once per week on a designated day. I recommend crafting a program to fit your needs and schedule.
  • Flexibility training (stretches)– The objective here is to maintain our body’s full range of motion. It pays to be able to bend to reach for that $100 bill you so fortuitously find while running in the morning. Yoga and the stretching exercises are options. Be sure to stretch before and in between exercises.

Sleep and rest

 

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Our bodies like our minds were not meant to do continuos work without breaks. Do not forget one of the most important sessions in Kindergarten, Nap Time… It is when we are asleep that our bodies rejuvenate; replacing cells and repairing damage from the previous day. Without adequate sleep (recommended 8 hours per day) we run the risk of ill health and premature aging. Be kind to your self. Allow your body to mend itself. Similarly, rest days should be strategically interspersed amongst work out days to allow for recovery. This will ensure you are in optimal form and will prevent injury during your workout program. It is also recommended that you take one full week off from exercise every 90 days. This prevents your results from plateauing as your body adjusts to accommodate its new routine.

Stress Management

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Stress is really our body’s way of responding to and coping with pressure or unusual circumstances. Just as we have an adrenaline rush when facing imminent danger, so too do our bodies react to the seeming threats and distress of daily life. That approaching deadline, mounting financial woes, relationship challenges, big presentation to the board and impromptu challenge from your coworker as you pitch your big idea to the boss all are read as threats to which our bodies respond. Some amount of stress is healthy and dare I say required. How else would you know to skedaddle and remove yourself from the path of an approaching car. That is stress playing the role of a physicist and reminding you of the impossibility of two objects to occupy the same space at once. The harm occurs when there is no release. After narrowly escaping a hit, your adrenalines subside and you go back to normalcy. However, many of us are walking around in a constant state of fight or flight mode. Though initially unnoticed; over time the effects can be detrimental. Insomnia, physical illness, nervous breakdowns and poor cognition are all attributable to too much stress. Find an outlet… Pick up a hobby (knit grandma a sweater for a change), take that long earned vacation (They will survive without you), take up meditation or yoga (shalom!) or seek professional help to cope (this is 2015, it is the new normal, no need to be superwoman/man).

In summary, it should now be apparent to each of you that when it comes to your physical well-being the following are relevant:

  • Consult a physician before you start- ensure you are capable of undertaking your planned routine. Get a check up if necessary to prevent any possible issues/ injuries
  • There is no silver bullet- Nothing replaces hard work. (sure the latest water and lettuce diet may cause you to lose weight rapidly, but it is not only unsustainable; it isn’t worth the trip to the ER! Be wary of quick fix solutions. No one element discussed above supersedes the other. All are necessary to be healthy.
  • Your physical wellness plan, like your financial independence plan is personal– Ensure your program addresses your specific needs. Whatever form of physical activity you select should be to your liking so it can be sustained. Tailor your routine to meet your needs. A personal trainer can help.

Where are you in your personal quest for physical fitness? Would like to share any tip or advice for those of us on our journey? Do you have a question on this topic? Please leave your comment or question below.